Our View: End the Dukes of Craig
It's been said before, and it's being said here again: perception is reality.
And the reality is a contingent of people perceive the Craig City Council to be a good old boy network; i.e., the Dukes of Craig.
How or why this perception has come about is conjecture.
Perhaps such perceptions are just rural town realities. Perhaps it is because people don't believe enough information is out in the open. Perhaps the problem is both views, with one perception feeding off the other, creating a vicious cycle.
If that is the case, then the solution is as simple as changing the equation, and spinning the cycle the other direction.
And the easiest way to do that is to be as open as possible, starting tonight when the council appoints a new member to its board to replace Rod Compton, who resigned from his seat in January to move.
Traditionally, the council has conducted secret ballots to make such appointments, each councilor writing the name of the person he or she wants to see fill the position.
In other words, there is no accountability to the public for a decision made by an elected official.
There is debate about whether secret ballots violate open meetings law, and there is a case working its way through the courts that we hope will put an end to it.
But to get caught up and wait for the ruling in the court case is to miss the point entirely: The public has a right to know how its elected officials vote.
Especially in this case, where candidates have connections to various councilors. Not conducting the vote in the open may lead to further speculation about the good old boy network picking its own.
We urge the council to select the best person for the position, and a secret ballot could lead to speculation that didn't happen.
The public's best interest is seeing government at work.
City staff says a new method is going to be presented to the council this time around. The plan is as follows: councilors will conduct vote via paper ballot, and each councilor will sign his name to it.
Although it's not the way the Editorial Board would like to see, it is a positive step, in that it provides some accountability to who voted for whom - that is, if the votes are announced or made available to the public. There is no guarantee that will happen.
Nor is it certain that the Council will agree to this plan, and could instead opt for the secret ballot, keeping with tradition.
This tradition, the Editorial Board believes, is simply wrong - government should be open to the public - and it hurts the council. Although it might save some hurt feelings, it helps maintain the good old boy stigma.
We ask the current councilors to part from this tradition, and conduct this matter in public, as it should have been done in the past.
We ask the candidates who seek the position to ask for the same, and protect yours and the public's right to know.
In the words of "The Dukes of Hazzard" theme song, we know you "never meanin' no harm" and you're just "makin' (your) way the only way (you) know how," but keeping up the same tradition only hurts the council.
And in the end, when the court case if finally ruled, it also could prove this tradition "was a little more than the law will allow."