Taxpayers simply aren’t getting what they’re paying for from Grand Traverse County commissioners.
Only a handful of weeks after giving themselves a 72 percent raise, county commissioners wasted yet another meeting on a symbolic resolution that would have them wade into politics well beyond their purview. It’s a frustrating trend that seems driven by board Chairman Rob Hentschel and vice-Chair Ron Clous as they appear bent on using their office to trumpet political stances on taxpayers’ time.
This time Clous dragged the board into the fray with a resolution to applaud U.S. Rep. Jack Bergman, a move that drew both kudos and criticism from constituents during hours of public comments. The document listed a litany of Bergman’s actions from the past few years — some topics folks from across the political spectrum could agree are positives, and plenty of others that dove into hyper-partisan territory.
The latest overture, like others that came before (including ones on Line 5, the Second Amendment and public health orders), monopolized meeting time when commissioners could be setting policy for the county they were elected to govern. County commissioners should focus their sparse meeting time on debating issues over which they have actual sway.
And again, we were left wondering how our county board couldn’t find something more constructive to do with its time? Are they not concerned about providing taxpayers some value in return for our investment in their salaries?
How about working on solutions for the county’s ongoing child care drought? Or doing something meaningful to address the county’s aging, cobbled-together jail? Or working with the city to build a new senior center? Or a deep examination of its pension and retirement health care debts? Or a few minutes to consider ways to better support the county’s public health workers as they spend their time in the trenches battling the ongoing pandemic? Or planning for future capital improvements? Or any one of the issues highlighted in the community survey they spent $16,000 to conduct?
The list of issues Grand Traverse County commissioners could spend their time examining could go on for pages before treading outside their purview.
This is not an “all commissioners” issue either. We were proud Wednesday to witness a bi-partisan split between those commissioners who see their office as a pulpit to serve their egos and those who believe they were elected to serve their constituents.
Commissioner Darryl V. Nelson gets it. He said “I’m not on the board of commissioners to give my personal political opinions. I’m on the BOC to do what’s right for the county, long-term.”
Likewise, Penny Morris, a Republican, joined the board’s two Democrats to oppose the divisive measure.
We hope the four commissioners who recognized the frivolity of yet another symbolic resolution can help steer the board toward more meaningful use of their time.
But we aren’t holding our breath since, for some reason, a few leaders on the commission seem fixated on tossing around their two cents on our dime.