Botched Snap

C. Ellen Connally is working from an outdated playbook

Cuyahoga County Council President C. Ellen Connally has a workplace problem: an apparent issue with authority figures.

If she worked in the corporate world, such a tiff would be addressed by a soft-spoken person from human resources, who would administer a multiple-choice test to better understand her disagreeable nature.

HR would be more politically correct than I am going to be.

Connally appears clueless, haughty, and short on common sense. She does not understand that those in authority — the voters — put her in office because they were sick of the arrogance, insincerity, incompetence, and self-interest of their public officials.

I am one of those authority figures with whom Connally is having trouble. So is my wife, my friend Ed, his wife, and Dunbar and Al at the Winking Lizard on Miles Road. In a moment of uncharacteristic civic fervor, I urged all of them to vote for Connally last year.

Back then, she said the right things, pledging support for an open government. But shortly after her election to council, she orchestrated a secret meeting in an effort to pave her way to the presidency. When challenged, she reacted in a shrill snit that seemed a weak imitation of former city council president George Forbes, the acknowledged oracle of obstreperousness.

Connally demonstrated how out of touch she is when council considered acquiring software that would enable the public to better monitor government activities. She said it was too expensive, but when queried about the cost, she had no idea. Connally then deflected the question by saying she was more concerned with feeding the poor. (She apparently did not know that her county executive had just negotiated an agreement between the Foodbank and the Hunger Network that would ensure the area's poor will be fed.)

Connally issued the cheapest of rhetoric rebuffs because she is apparently more interested in being an irrelevant irritant than understanding that the public wants to rid the county of its culture to nowhere. The first step in that direction is open government.

She went on to say there are more pressing issues than providing a system for the public to monitor government. Frankly, she may have a point. There is the botched acquisition of the Ameritrust Building, which cost us more than $25 million. There are questions concerning the cost of the juvenile court land. The county-run hospital, MetroHealth, appears to be a charity for consultants, including former county commissioner Tim Hagan. These issues should concern Connally, and she would do well to have open hearings on them.

When, after two centuries, voters decided to change the shape of their government, it constituted a revolt. One hopes that Connally has heard about the other ones in Egypt, Libya, and Syria.

Here and elsewhere, there is a striking similarity in the reasons why people showed their opposition to government. In each case, the government failed to perform; it was corrupt, it offered no economic future, and it threatened individual quality of life.

Connally's challenge to the authority of the newly created inspector general's office is yet another instance of her meddling. She does not want to give that office the authority to provide information on questionable government activities to other agencies. Could be the same kind of arrangement that Pakistani intelligence had with Osama bin Laden.

Connally is a product of a political environment that tolerated wholesale patronage, rampant corruption, double dipping, and the work ethic of Cleveland Clerk of Courts Earle Turner, who reportedly logged seven-hour weeks.

Think Jimmy Dimora and Frank Russo wish today there had been more enforced transparency in their time in office? Such a check might have stunted the temptations to which they succumbed, the ones that will likely cost them the rest of their meaningful lives in prison. The ones that could still take down today's politicians too.

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