Commissioner Ridgeway doesn’t like the Commissioner recall bill, it needs some work, but she’s mostly wrong, as usual

Posted: February 21, 2019 in Clay County Commission, Missouri House, Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , ,

For those that don’t know, State Representative Ken Wilson has introduced a bill for the recall of County Commissioners. It’s HB 580 and you can read the full text here. This has been at the pushing of local activists that have been involved in the audit movement.

Full disclosure, this bill would give us no ability to recall the two commissioners we’re most frustrated with. The idea arose among many of us that are involved as a way to insure the future.

Last night, I saw Commissioner Ridgeway’s testimony against the bill posted on Facebook. I thought I’d go through her response as there are a couple pertinent points. As usual though, there are multiple things wrong and we learn a little more about her disrespect of the people she represents.

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Commissioner Ridgeway, Representative Wilson doesn’t owe you a thing. He never needed to discuss this legislation with you. He represents a portion of your district in the state house. And most importantly, he represents the people of his specific district. Personally, I hope he represents your full district in a couple years.

Furthermore, I know that you think when you speak just accept what you have to say, but you and Commissioner Owen don’t speak for the full Commission, and the only time the Clay County Commission speaks as one voice is when it passes a resolution that is unanimously supported by all three of your voices. This hasn’t happened, but yet you use that language.

You’ve been asked by Commissioner Nolte to stop doing this. As is usual with your behavior, you demonstrate an outright disrespect of the Commissioner that represents the full democratic voice of all of Clay County. You and Commissioner Owen represent political subdivisions and represent the voice of the democratic body from over two years ago. More importantly, that majority voice just spoke months ago when it told Commissioner Nolte that they were content with his representation, and I’d argue his continual oppostion to you and Commissioner Owen.

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This section of the letter is just an absolute mess. Fundamental proof that just because someone has a law degree, it doesn’t mean they know anything about the principles that founded our country.

An election is not a recall process. It’s a chance for the democratic body of a political subdivision to decide who they want to represent them going forward. A recall gives a strong minority voice of a democratic body the chance to further check the majority.

Sometimes the Democratic winds shift, and not neccessarily at the time of an election. A recall gives those winds a chance to be tempered, but also heard. Tempered by a barrier through a limit on the amount of petition signatures, heard in the form of an election if necessary.

The founders of this country were terrified of the majority voice as they knew that it from time to time makes mistakes. You’re correct in the sense that an election is one place that we can right a majority wrong, but a recall mechanism, rightly constructed, further gives the body politic a chance to correct a mistake. In today’s world, a world that is arguably quicker paced due to various reasons, a recall process makes sense and still pays respect to the construction our representative Republic.

The state constitution currently provides for 3 county commissioners whose terms are staggered. Every four years we allow the full body politic to speak in the form of Presiding Commissioner, then offset by two years, we allow smaller democratic bodies inside of the full body politic to speak.

Since you were last elected we’ve seen a growing movement of a frustrated minority that opposes your actions, the winds have shifted and they blow harder with every news report it seems, but we currently have no check on your actions due to the construction of the Commission.

Commissioner Ridgeway, people often mockingly call you the Queen of Clay County politics. And you’re writing above demonstrates that that sarcastic quip is not completely off the mark.

You’re worried about a minority harming the majority?

You don’t even respect the will of the full democratic body of this County as we just elected Commissioner Nolte for another four years. You and Commissioner Owen seem to care little about what Commissioner Nolte says, and you refuse to listen to the growing minority opposition. If we had a recall option, I suspect your behavior would be markedly different. You’d definitely be listening more than you are. You’d probably be open to compromise. And you’d be acting in ways that you showed you care about the minority criticisms.

I guess that’s maybe what you meant by this sentence:

“The net effect is that every officeholder subject to a potential recall will always be looking over their shoulder for any vocal minority in opposition.”

From your vantage point, I suspect this is terrifying to you based upon your actions of the past years. In my estimation, this should be a feature, not a bug of a well constructed representative democracy.

It was an irate tireless minority that threw off the shackles of the King of England to found this nation. Heck, even the Revolutionary War was supported by a minority of the total population.

You’re just flat wrong here.

In fairness, I always believe that you should give people you vehemently disagree with credit when they are correct. Your following criticisms of the bill are valid and deserve to be listened to.

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I agree. I see no reason to limit this recall bill to just County Commissioners. Let’s put every elected official in the state on notice that if you don’t listen to the people, that you absolutely could face a recall. The natural result of this would be better governance and politicians more in line with the democratic bodies they represent. Yes, action might even be slower, but again, that should be a feature, not a bug. We want quick action only when an overwhelming majority feel it is necessary.

I find the bill language about defining a reason for the recall unnecessary. If you’re going to start a petition, you’re going to define that in your appeal to the public. This shouldn’t be written into law. I don’t think it really matters.

I completely agree that 7.5% is way too low of a barrier for the signatures. I think this bill should be amended, and the amount of signatures increased. She’s right. If we find precedent in statute in Missouri for 25% it’s probably prudent to go with this. I agree with Commissioner Ridgeway in the sense that you don’t want too small of a minority able to do this. A recall should not be a walk in the park and we do not want too small of a minority able to interrupt majority will. The balance is probably debatable, but I think 7.5% tilts way too small.

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I’m not clear on where you’re getting the statement about a recalled Commissioner being banned from being a candidate. If you read the bill in its entirety, you don’t see a clear statement on this. I’d actually agree, I don’t think a recalled Commissioner should not be allowed to run. This would respect the tension that we hold in our form of government between majority will and respecting the minority.

I believe you’re wrong on the last concern. From what I understand, Missouri law provides for solutions to your conerns. You can still have a quorum with 2 commissioners. If you lost 2 commissioners to recall, the Governor can appoint one. If you lost 3 commissioners, decisions of the commission are kicked to the presiding judge of the circuit court.

I agree we need to improve this legislation, but there’s no reason to not support the general goal. I applaud Representative Wilson for being a leader on this bill. I look forward to supporting his primary challenge of Commissioner Ridgeway.

It will truly be for the Best of Clay County.

Comments
  1. John Sanderford says:

    Another concern is that there must be a preclusion to spending County funds to in any manner oppose the recall process, otherwise Commissioners like Ridgeway and Owens, can you imagine the legal bills that taxpayers would shoulder.

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