Misunderstanding should not nix resolution

To the Editor:

Sometimes misunderstandings can get completely out of hand. Such was the case at the last meeting of the Jackson County Commissioners at which a group of citizens, including myself, again attempted to offer and gain the passage of a resolution for a constitutional amendment that would take money out of politics and bring back fair elections to our nation.

One misunderstanding took place when I spoke during the public comment period at the end of the meeting, after the commission had already voted to reject the resolution. Commissioner Doug Cody had stated that he voted against the resolution because it singled out corporations without also mentioning limitations on campaign contributions from labor unions, non-profit organizations and other groups. He viewed this as discriminatory.

I began my statement by mentioning that the actual amendment we are supporting did, in fact, include limitations on all these groups, including labor unions. Perhaps I rushed over this point too quickly because I was limited to a 3-minute comment. Commissioner Cody apparently thought I was referring to the resolution we had offered originally and on which they had just voted (not the amendment itself). Commissioner Cody and the Board can verify this by reviewing the video recording of the proceedings on the Canary Coalition webpage, www.canarycoalition.org.

Cody was correct that the resolution only referred to limitations on corporations. He was very upset because he thought I was lying to him and to all who were present. He was so upset that he would not allow me to explain myself after the meeting.

The wording of the resolution voted on that night was also a result of a misunderstanding. From previous conversations with Commissioner Cody, he and I agreed that the resolution could and should address limitations on campaign contributions from labor unions and other groups as well as the issue of corporate personhood. The problem here was that I and other proponents did not expect the resolution to be placed on the agenda that night, and we were not prepared. At the previous commissioners meeting on May 9, Chairman Jack Debnam had indicated he was not ready to place it on the agenda for the next meeting, even if Commissioner Cowan asked for it.

I had assumed that if/when this issue was placed on the agenda, I and others would have a chance to talk with the commissioners, exchange ideas and find language for the resolution that would be agreeable to all. But, that chance never materialized. The original resolution was put on the table, with no opportunity for me or any other member of the public to address it until after the vote.  

It’s nobody’s and everybody’s fault. Lack of communication and the resulting misunderstanding is the real culprit here. If we had been notified that it would be on the agenda, this misunderstanding could have been avoided and we would gladly have modified the resolution to be more inclusive as expressed by Commissioner Cody.

Likewise, if I or other members of the public had bothered to review the county government’s website prior to the meeting, we would have seen our item on the agenda.

I hope the commissioners can view the sequence of events at the last meeting in a different light after reading this. For the sake of government of, by and for the people, in a non-partisan manner, let’s work together and start this process over again. I’ll be at the next commissioners meeting with a revised resolution in hand.

Avram Friedman

Executive Director of the Canary Coalition

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