BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
I cover a lot of meetings, and I don’t get to a lot of meetings, the Lee County Republican’s dinner Saturday night, just a case in point.
I don’t have a lot of free time, but since I work from home, I feel like all this time is free. Guess that means I enjoy my work a little bit.
But one of the down sides of what I do is that my job prohibits me from running for office. It doesn’t make sense to do that and would put any board in an unenviable position. But when I sit in a lot of these meetings, I can’t help but see who does what…you form beliefs, see commitments – and the lack thereof.
We elect people to represent us in official capacities and that process shouldn’t be taken lightly. In covering the Fort Madison City Council, the Fort Madison Community School District Board of Directors, and the Lee County Board of Supervisors it’s clear that a couple people aren’t living up to the faith the voters have placed in them.
In my eight months covering these boards the Lee County Board of Supervisors is to be commended on their attendance. Not one of the supervisors has missed more than one board meeting. I didn’t check on the committees as most of those are liaisons to committees.
When I look at the local school board there is one school board member, Jared Hotop, who’s only made 32% of scheduled meetings, workshops, and sessions. Hotop has made 5 of 12 school board meetings, 3 of 8 special meetings, 0 of 5 work sessions for a total of 8 of 25 called meetings or sessions from July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2017.
Attending 32% of gatherings of the board you were elected to serve is not giving the voters the value of their vote. It was my intention to call Hotop and some others listed below to ask them why their attendance is suffering in such important community roles, but I decided against it. This is my opinion and my opinion is that you need to show up or get off the board. When you run for a public office such as these, you assume a bit of public scrutiny. Here’s some public scrutiny.
I know that’s tough, but it’s a simple concept. There are procedures to replace people that resign, it’s not rocket science. Looking at the rest of the board, the other six are all above 88% attendance with Tim Wondra, Carol Ross, and Dianne Hope all making 100% of the meetings and sessions in the same time period. Timm Lamb and Gayla Young are both at 92% and Lois DiPrima is at 88%.
Major decisions are being considered including employees – both union and administrative salaries, building new schools, and other things. You can’t be absent from those votes.
On the Fort Madison City Council, looking at the same 12-month period, Councilmen Chris Greenwald and Mark Lair have the best attendance missing just one meeting each of 24; Brian Wright has missed two of 24; Rusty Andrews has missed four of 24; Kevin Rink and Chad Cangas each have missed five of 24 meetings; Travis Seidel has missed 10 of 24 meetings; and mayor Brad Randolph has missed five of those 24 meetings.
Seidel is missing 42 percent of the scheduled meetings and Hotop is missing 68% of the meetings. I’m not writing about resignations or anything, but the people of Fort Madison had faith in you to represent them on these boards and, at this point, that isn’t being done. If it’s a health related issue, that’s only minimally our concern, but I’ve heard nothing indicating that these absences are health related. Even if they were, consideration would have to be given to those whom you represent and marked a box with your name.
Decisions are made by those who show up. You’ve been elected to show up. It’s our job to mind the public’s business and the attendance of our elected officials is a matter of public interest.
Also, a shout out to a respected peer, who put in 32 years at the Burlington Hawk-Eye before the sale of the product eliminated his position. Dale Allison has always had an ear for those writing news about southeast Iowa, as well of those who just want to talk about the news of southeast Iowa. He helped create the formula for the dissemination of news in the area as well as helped mold the talents of those who did the disseminating. Mr. Allison has always had an ear for me, and although I’ve never been on his staff, despite a couple conversations on that topic, he will always be a mentor as I grew up on the Hawk-Eye.
Thanks Dale…from all of us.
But that’s Beside the Point.