News and Tribune

January 26, 2013

DODD: Let’s open the lines of communication

By LINDON DODD
Local columnist

— Voices heard in the darkness:

Voice No. 1: “Here is the box of receipts we’re looking for. Quick, hand me the flashlight. It’s for a total of $7.99 at a local restaurant.”

Voice No. 2: “I can see there’s no itemization list on this receipt!”

Voice No. 1: “We’ve got him nailed red-handed!”

Voice No. 2: “What are you doing with your phone?”

Voice No. 1: “I’m texting WAVE-3.”

OK, I don’t know if there was the cover of darkness or how it was discovered, but I do have very good information that WAVE- 3 was tipped off before any communication occurred and before the meeting between the mayor and the city council regarding Mayor Mike Moore’s city credit card use. And this is not the first time that local media has known about something before one of the entities or the other. 

There is certainly no secret about the breakdown in communication between some Jeffersonville City Council members and Moore. I have heard from insiders on both sides. I don’t know who to believe. 

Hey, it’s local politics and the truth is often impossible to discern. I do know one thing for sure: When local politicians try governing through the media, it sure is a lot of fun for the rest of us. And it sure should be very embarrassing for all of the local office-holders involved. It makes everyone involved look kind of silly.

And, as a person who likes to occasionally write about such things — it’s a virtual bonanza of material. 

I don’t know for sure if anything will come of an audit of city expenditures. What I do know from working in the corporate world is that anytime there is an audit, something irregular of some nature will be discovered. Otherwise, a shrewd auditor will not earn his or her pay. Anyone who has ever had a 100 percent find-free audit please raise your hand.

What most political observers and insiders are telling me is that going to the media before talking to each other will not lead to good governance. While I am all for complete disclosure — which is always available during the open forum meetings — letting the other side know on the evening news will never make many of the parties look good before the facts are known.

News tips keep the news business going. Nobody likes to be wrong and I am not saying that there is deliberate distortion. Hey, it’s a dog-eat-dog world, especially in the television news market. 

A scoop is continually harder to come by in the electronic and social media age. Nobody can put out a newspaper or a newscast faster than a blog or a computer e-mail. It’s a real problem today. And faceless, nameless “sources” are rarely held to any level of accountability. 

It’s kind of the cops and robbers scenario. The robbers don’t tend to follow any rules.

One thing I know is a common theme among Jeffersonvillans. The constant “gotcha,” non-open communication and personal issues is not going to help anyone who pays taxes and expects their elected officials to act like grown-ups. 

Nobody I have talked to for the last several months thinks that is what is happening right now in Jeffersonville.

Let’s face the facts. It’s no longer a Democrat’s paradise in City Hall. There is going to have to be some compromise and at the very least more communication to address the issues. And most of all, when the media is alerted to a possible wrongdoing before the parties involved, no good will come of it. Leaks from the inside are not constructive to conducting good-faith business.

There is always the possibility for someone from one party trying to make the other party look bad for the next election. Part of that is the natural result of politics. But, in the end, someone needs to occasionally act in the best interest of the taxpayers.

What has become painfully obvious for anybody seeking public office is the now possibility that anyone running for an office can win and anyone holding a public office can lose. That is the only real power of the citizens is to keep politicians guessing. When they know they are a lock, well, that is not good for anybody except the politicians.

Perhaps it is time — we are well into a year in office for Moore — for a Saturday retreat where the parties are locked in a room, everybody holds hands and sings Kumbaya and nobody comes out until there is some kind of open, honest communication, and a plan to work together. 

What comes to the forefront to date are personal grudge matches, the mayor’s personal life, media leaks and noncooperation between Moore and some members of the council. 

No elected official is bigger than the city of Jeffersonville. What looks obvious to me at this time is a likelihood of a lot of one-term office holders. The past few elections have certainly proven that in many cases it’s the people and not the politicians or the parties that are holding the power. A mayor is not a dictator nor should a city council be a collective obstructionist.

Three years is still a lot of time for everyone to have a do-over since many voters don’t even pay much attention until an election year.

That should be the overwhelmingly empowering message for all sides in Jeffersonville’s city affairs.

 

— Lindon Dodd is a freelance writer who can be reached at lindon.dodd@hotmail.com