Cuyahoga Commissioners: Be Still, Thy Peasants, and Don’t Talk at Our Meetings

County commissioners have hired a new consultant (pictured above) to help them open greater dialogue with the people they represent
The Cuyahoga County commissioners, noted defenders of freedom and leading financial scholars [“Lose Excess Wallet Weight!” December 12], have come up with a new version of democracy for our little kingdom. Traditionally, the public comment period at their weekly meetings had been open to anyone who signed up to speak. Participants were allowed to tackle whatever topic struck their fancy — be it salt trucks or construction contracts. It was one of the last great holdovers from an era when citizens actually felt they could influence their government. But the commissioners have now decided that freedom is way overrated, especially when granting it to the commoners. Too many people were spouting whatever was on their mind. This meant the commissioners had to endure angry ramblings, and the public often had to wait until the end of the meeting to speak. “It was really all over the place,” says Joseph Nanni, the county’s director of human resources. So commissioners have instituted a gag rule. If you wish to address a subject not specifically listed on the agenda – like, say, how the commissioners managed to blow $34 million on a new headquarters they’ll never build -- you must call ahead and tell them what you want to discuss and when, so they can schedule it. “Just so there’s some order,” Nanni says. A desire for decorum, of course, is understandable. But it also seems the commissioners have been boning up by reading Democracy the KGB Way!, the new autobiography from Vladimir Putin. Don’t expect expedient scheduling if you want to discuss Tim Hagan’s notoriously slim work habits. – Lisa Rab