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Posted: April 23, 2011 7:12 p.m.

Tread lightly when stepping into local affairs

In case you missed this, there is a bill calling for the governor to be able to remove members of the Atlanta School Board if they keep chicken fighting among themselves rather than doing their job.

The idea of a governor being able to remove local elected officials is a slippery slope and one which must be tread upon lightly. At first blush one would think this is a local matter and better left to the voters of that particular community.

The difficulty with this position is that a screaming nutcase or mental defective incompetent may have two or three more years to serve before the voters have the opportunity to correct their mistake, and then the damage can take years to repair.

Certainly voters have the option of a recall, but in the real world a recall is a difficult process even for the most sound of reasons.

Naturally, valid reasons must be offered to remove someone from an elected position before their term expires.

Criminal misconduct can certainly be justified, but the question becomes more difficult if you are talking about conduct that may be viewed as incompetence or plain stupidity.
Having elected officials behaving like toddlers or snapping turtles may not seem sufficient grounds for removal but if that behavior paralyzes the operation of a body in carrying out its duties then it may very well be that to have them continuing to serve would be at the long-term detriment of the community.

This is serious business and not an easy call. This is why local elections are so important.

The reality is city councils, county commissions and school boards have more direct everyday impact on your life than the General Assembly or the yahoos in Washington. Yet in many local elections a candidate may get into office with only a handful of votes.

It is not enough for someone to say they are a parent and care about children or that they want to be more involved in the community so they run for a seat on the school board or city council.

Caring about and wanting to serve your community are important considerations - you certainly do not want to elect someone who doesn't care- but voters should demand more.
Voters should ask if the candidate has an understanding of how government operates, ask about their level of education, inquire about their business or work experience and perhaps most basic of all, do they understand the nature of the position they are seeking and what it calls for them to do.
And believe me, no matter what the office, having a hissy fit or pouting because things don't go your way is not part of the job description.

Naturally, this does not mean candidates with all the great looking qualifications cannot turn out to be a blithering idiot. And this is not to say someone who has never served in elected office or with little work experience could not be an excellent public servant.

But when it comes to selecting the folks who decide who picks up your garbage and when, where a water treatment plant will be located, what your tax assessment is, which school may close, who gets the contract to build a gym or if it is time to buy a new fire truck, it calls for more on the part of the voter than flipping a coin.

If a local elected leader fails in their duty, not as a result of an honest mistake or error of judgment but because of arrogance, petulance and self-aggrandizement, that person needs to be cashiered, and the sooner the better.

Perhaps the saddest thing about a bill allowing the governor to remove locall officials is that such a bill is needed at all.

Ric Latarski is a freelance writer who writes on a variety of topics and can be reached at Rlatarski@aol.com.

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