Last week, in this very column, I prognosticated a vote at the Pima County Board of Supervisors meeting.
Can you picture Ed McMahon, looking toward me, bellowing, “You are correct, sir!”?
There was so much in the most recent Board of Supervisors meeting that should upset you that we can’t cover it all in one story, or even one day. Be sure to read in today’s Arizona Daily Independent how Chuck Huckelberry spent the median Pima County household income’s worth of your money–plus a 14% bonus–on United Way, and check back tomorrow for even more.
As if the aforementioned waste isn’t enough to boil your blood, I’d like to share with you the words of District 5 Supervisor Richard Elias as he told you, in many, many words, what anatomical impossibilities to perform upon yourself.
You might have heard these words yourself and not needed me to quote them if you could have attended the meeting yourself. Odds are you were at work, conducting the commerce that pays for this county to waste so profligately, and you were therefore unable to attend in-person. And that is the reason Elias went off. You see, Supervisor Ally Miller, District 1, requested an item for the agenda: Once monthly, she petitioned, the County should hold its Board of Supervisors meetings in the evenings, when the general public is more apt to attend. She cited the turnout at evening Tucson City Council meetings as good evidence.
Board Chair Sharon Bronson, District 3, quickly lied and claimed that an evening meeting would place an undue cost burden on the taxpayer; County Administrator (and snappy dresser, or at least he should be, on his staggering $374,000 salary) Chuck Huckelberry rallied behind Bronson to claim no justification for the expense.
Undeterred, Miller countered that most of the staff involved in conducting the meeting was on salary, that the hourly staff could rearrange their hours for one day a month, and that any resultant cost would be negligible. She was correct. Considering the gobs of money the Board squanders on a routine basis, the few hundreds of dollars it may cost to change staff schedules once a month is negligible and worthwhile. (How many on-the-clock hours do Pima County associates spend on the United Way campaign that the county funds, even if they aren’t supposed to work on the campaign during working hours?)
And then came Elias’s affront. First off, as part of the consent calendar for the meeting (and that’s a whole other issue we will take up tomorrow), the Board approved a schedule for Board meetings from March through August of this year. According to the published meeting agenda, however, the Board only approved the dates of the regular meetings, not the dates and times. That is important, because Elias’s opening salvo speaks volumes and belies his ignorance of the content of the matters on which he votes–willful ignorance, it would seem, considering how he rubber-stamps the Huckelberry-Bronson waste agenda. He began spewing as follows, and this is a direct–albeit extremely lengthy–quote:
“Well, we’re kind of out of sequence here because when we approved the remainder of consent that was not separated out, we approved the meeting schedule for the Board of Supervisors for March to August, uh, on item 14 on consent. So we’ve already done that at this meeting.”
Clearly ignorant to the fact that he had only approved dates and not times, he continued his astonishing pontificating: “Um, it strikes me that this is a resolution searching for a problem. Um, I haven’t heard from a single constituent, uh, regarding this issue, and I don’t see any here today, uh, that have commented.”
Here, Supervisor Miller attempted to interject that the constituents could not attend. He resumed his tirade: “Oh, well, we’ve heard about it before and, and, and it’s…”
Chair Bronson reprimanded Supervisor Miller as Elias continued to speak, “Would you let him finish?”
Elias didn’t skip a beat, “…and it’s not an unusual thing. But, as I said, starting the meeting at seven o’clock, and given, uh, the verbose nature [emphasis added] of our call to the audience section of the meeting now, those meetings could go on ’till, you know, eleven-thirty, twelve o’clock at night. That’s not good for working people. I’m sorry. You know, well, they, they need to go to bed, too. And Chris already takes naps sometimes during the meeting, and that’s okay, I respect him for that, I’m glad he’s here, I’m glad he participates, but, uh, clearly if we have an issue that…”
Here, Miller stated, “We do.” Bronson immediately exhorted, “Let him finish, please.”
He still had a ways to go: “Excuse me! It’s okay, it’s okay, everybody’s a little worked-up this morning; it must be that it’s ‘International Happiness Day.'”
Bronson piped up, “Yes.” Apparently that constitutes letting him finish.
Elias kept yammering: “Um, clearly, if we need to have a meeting at night, any member of this Board can make that as a part of a motion to continue an item so that we have that opportunity to include, uh, some different times and different places as well. Ah, I, I don’t think, well, we have, you know, meetings in, in various places from time to time, um, and then that would work, just, just make it a part of a motion. It doesn’t, it doesn’t have to be so problematic! We also, the Chair also has the authority to call special meetings that, uh, is rarely used, but for emergency circumstances, but again, could be used into the future. Perhaps the better model, and the model that worked, quite efficiently, I might add, was the Monsanto hearings that we held, um, during December and January, and, uh, they were well-attended, and they were in each one of the districts, and, uh, the public participated, and, uh, let their voice be heard. So, so, again, I-I-I-I kind of see this as a resolution searching for a problem because, I don’t know, there’s a lot of working folks over there in, in District 5, and, and I’m certainly in touch with organized labor on a regular basis, and, and I have not heard from any of those folks, any of those voices.”
And then he dropped the bomb on you: “So, eh, to me, non-issue.”
During each meeting’s “call to the audience,” which is apparently a terrible cross for Elias to bear, each member of the public who wishes to speak gets three minutes (well, unless Chair Bronson agrees with the speaker, in which case the time limit becomes a bit squiffy). This lengthy rant–which I hope you read in its entirety–droned on and on for just a few seconds shy of that three-minute mark.
In fact, Supervisor Steve Christy, District 4, called Elias on this glaring hypocrisy. Elias’s response? “Well, my momma said I had a big mouth, too, so I’m cool with that.”
He’s cool with offending the people who pay his salary. Good for him. It seems he’s also cool with assuming the only “working folks” in the County are in his district. His is the second-smallest of the five districts in the county, by registered voter. His district encompasses some of the lowest-income parts of the County: He doesn’t want to hear from the people who can least afford to leave work to attend Board meetings!
Miller moved the item and Christy seconded it. Chair Bronson called for a roll call vote, in which the Clerk asked each Supervisor in turn for a vote:
Supervisor Christy: Yes.
Supervisor Elias (in derisive, bored tone): No.
Supervisor Miller: Yes.
Supervisor Valadez: No.
Chair Bronson: No. (Just as I had predicted last week, actually.)
Lift hand, extend middle finger, wave toward your voters.
Oh, and Supervisor Elias wasn’t finished: As if he hadn’t already stuck it to the voters, he spat out this lovely comment on another issue:
“Well, I was just gonna mention that during that same 2015 bond election, [the voters] voted against the transportation package, so apparently they didn’t want their roads improved, either.”
He just can’t envision a world in which the local electorate doesn’t trust the Board to manage County funds correctly, or in which the Board uses monies it already has to improve the roads. Perhaps his constituents could have told his as much if the Board had met at a time convenient to the public and not to themselves.
He is ignorant. He is arrogant. He is wrong.
Every bond the County proposed that year failed. And Richard Elias clearly does not understand why. Is it so hard for him to understand that the taxpayers know he is part of the problem? Or could he have the hubris to ignore that fact willfully? There can be no doubt: It’s the latter.
And the fun didn’t stop there. Read along tomorrow as we expose two of the techniques the Board uses to hide their graft from you.
Well, they would use them, assuming they held a meeting when you could attend and observe.