Friday, November 4, 2011

What do you mean by a 'united front'?

There's a paragraph in the election preview story, "Candidates running own campaigns," (Amy Revak, Oct. 16, 2011) that we really wish the newspaper had followed up on.

It reads:

Lohr said the three commissioners on the board need to present a united front, even if they despise each other personally.

Given the propensity for government entities to have meetings before the real meetings, to cut deals away from the public spotlight and, especially in Fayette County, to tamp down or eliminate dissension (which can also mean tamp down or eliminate opposition), we wonder what Lohr means -- and what this approach would mean for the concept of open government.

For example, if there is an issue on which he disagrees with the other commissioners, would Lohr be prone to say, "You know, I disagree with you 100 percent on this matter -- so much so that I despise you personally. Now let's get out there in the public meeting and present a united front!"

We certainly hope that would not be the case, because if it were, the public would end up being the big loser. There's a reason the system is structured so that one minority party commissioner is elected, and that reason is to prevent complete one-party dominance. The minority voice can be very effective in policy debate -- but only if that voice is raised. In public.

We wonder how Lohr's stated philosophy would have played back in the late 1990s, when he felt that voter fraud at personal care homes had contributed to his 1995 election loss and was a blight that needed eradicated. Lohr took a great personal interest in the voter fraud investigation matter, which at the time was being single-handidily pushed by Democrat commissioner Sean Cavanagh, who most certainly was not presenting a "united front" with fellow commissioners Harry Albert (Republican) and Vince Vicites (Democrat).

In short, without a county commissioner who was more interested in seeing justice done than in presenting a united front, there would not have been any uncovering of absentee ballot voter fraud at a large personal care home. Lohr was very much in Cavanagh's corner on that one, and Cavanagh's two terms as county commissioner are very much the antithesis of any "united front."

It would have been great if, which champions the need for open government, had asked for, and provided to, its readers a fuller explanation of Lohr's "united front" comment. On face value, it's a pretty strong statement about how one intends to approach the job. And in our view, not a very good one.

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