From the ‘Adverse’ Press

It is easy to blame others when things aren’t going your way. Particularly when the ‘others’ are the Media.

No one likes those guys.

And while the Media with a capital “M” may indeed be to blame for some unpleasant things (“Here Comes Honey Boo Boo,” for example), the News Media can hardly be blamed for much at all, save for not doing even more of what makes the ‘hit dog bark,’ as they say. Blaming the Press is an old trick, and a poor one. It is like cursing the mirror when the ultimate fault lies instead with the reflection within.

We were therefore disappointed last week when the County Council Chairman, as part of his closing remarks at Council’s Dec. 9 meeting, blamed “adverse” press for making it difficult to attract new industry to Fairfield County. It was a hit below the belt; unexpected and undeserved. And inaccurate.

For one thing, there is no such thing as “adverse” press. There is no Good News and there is no Bad News. There is only News. The Press has a responsibility to bring that news to the public, and the public has a right – a responsibility, even – to be informed. Armed with such information, the public can then make educated choices, whether those choices are about which doggie treats they should buy, the best snacks to leave out for Santa or which candidates and issues they should support, excoriate or ignore.

The Chairman, perhaps, should be reminded that it was not the Press that nearly fatally mangled a deal to bring water to the County’s industrial park, nor was it the Press that cached a stockpile of naughty pictures on a taxpayer-owned computer. It was not the Press that took monthly expense allotments without receipts, or took cash payouts in lieu of supplemental health insurance or did any of the other things that the Press only actually reported on. And yet, according to the Chairman, it is the Press making economic development difficult for Fairfield County. Based on that logic, one wonders that if the Chairman had a broken leg, would he blame the X-ray machine?

No doubt, there have been better years for Fairfield County government, and yet Council has made some effort to address many of the items brought out by a noisy public and an ‘adverse press.’ Financial statements are being posted to the County’s website. Allotments without receipts have stopped. Cash payouts in lieu of supplemental health insurance have also stopped, although their payback will now be up to the Court. Though these changes are small, one would hope that they are the first steps toward a more transparent, more by-the-book local government; and none of these changes would likely have come about were it not for a noisy public to demand them and a Press to report them.

There are more changes to be made, and it is unlikely the public or the Press will sit idle until they come to pass, particularly when it comes to attendance and how Council members are paid. Last month when Council amended their bylaws, their feeble attendance policy only fanned the flames of an already irate citizenry. Though a punitive attendance policy may indeed be unenforceable, a payment policy is entirely different from an attendance policy. Council could, by ordinance, change the way members are paid. Their $15,000 a year base salary could, if they so desired, be chopped up and divvied out by the meeting, with members paid only if they attend. It works for other councils and boards, and it is perfectly legal. Special meetings and work sessions could be estimated in at the beginning to the year when the meeting schedule is set. At the end of the year, if Council has had fewer than expected special meetings or work sessions, they could be paid as if they had them. Consider it a bonus. If, on the other hand, they held more than expected special meetings or work sessions, they would not receive additional compensation. Plan better for next year.

It is not a new idea, nor is it a bold idea. But it is a good idea. And for a Council looking for ways to offset the Adverse Press, such an idea would go a long way toward doing just that.

Santa: Are you listening?

Comments

  1. Norm_Nav says

    Exactly!

  2. Wanda Carnes says

    Spot on James Denton. I encourage everyone to attend these council meeting! It is free entertainment. Not like we have anything else to do. No shopping, no dining, no recreation, etc.

  3. Terry D. Waters says

    Well said Mr. Denton.

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