From the Clocktower – Heckling and the grand comedy of politics

From the Clocktower – Heckling and the grand comedy of politics

By Kathi Bliss


I’ve thought for several weeks about jumping into the fray about the “situation” at the Caldwell County Commissioners’ Court. I’ve resisted, because I’m not sure I really want to draw anyone’s ire. If I do decide to draw ire, I’ve been uncertain of whose crosshairs I want on my forehead, because most certainly, someone’s will be.

So, in the grand tradition of tightrope walkers everywhere, I’m going to go ahead and draw bullets from both sides. Because this is a problem that everyone created, and it’s a problem that it’s going to take both sides to stop.

Commissioners’ Court has been a circus for weeks. We might as well just get a tiger tamer and an elephant, and hold court in the field behind the show barn. I’ve never seen anything like it, in my entire career of covering political meetings. And Commissioners’ Court is the ONLY place I see it.

Citizens are incensed because they don’t feel as though they’re being heard, and Commissioners are frustrated because they’re being prevented from doing regular business by a constant barrage of heckling.

I’m not talking about the public comments. I’m talking about the heckling. I’m referring to the out-of-order reactions, the sniping, the rude comments, made during the Commissioners’ discussion. Speaking your mind is one thing. Being flat rude is another thing entirely, and it’s gone too far.

In no other meeting I’ve ever seen would this be allowed. And Judge Bonn has tolerated it far longer than, perhaps, he should have. Now, he’s trying to put the genie back in the bottle, and I’m not sure that’s going to work for him.

But rather than to rewrite the rules of procedure that have dictated every Commissioners’ Court, city council, school board and public entity for as long as anyone can remember, it seems to me there is only one rule we need to bring back to the Scott Annex on Monday mornings: The Golden Rule.

People are upset because Judge Bonn and some of the other Commissioners seem rude. To some degree, what I see is them responding in kind. They’re giving as good as they get. Should they be above that kind of reactionary behavior? Possibly. But elected officials or no, they’re human like everyone else, and if you push them far enough, they’ve no choice but to push back. Again, that doesn’t make it right. It just makes it real.

I challenge the hecklers to try that behavior in any other public meeting, and see how quickly they find themselves either called to order, or shown the door.

On the flip side, I’ll also concede the point that many of responses coming from the Court table seem dismissive on their best day, and occasionally flat-out rude on their worst. That makes it a chicken-and-egg question. Are people being rude and disorderly because they’re being dismissed, or are they being dismissed because they’re being rude?

I don’t know. I wish I did.

But as with any negotiation, one has to give in order to get. These days, I wonder if it’s simply become a question of, “who’s going to blink first.”

I think that everyone needs to blink. I hope, by Monday morning, everyone on both sides of the coin closes their eyes, steps back, and considers how their behavior might be impacting the greater good, and causing the effectiveness of Commissioners’ Court meetings to deteriorate. Then, maybe, we can all come back to the table with a new attitude and a new direction.

Otherwise, I’ll bring the cotton candy if someone else will bring the peanuts, and it’s back to the Big Top we go.


  1. Karen Strawn says:

    Great article! I look forward to what is to come.

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