By Kathi Bliss
I was forced to consult the giant Webster’s Dictionary behind my desk again this week, when I started wondering if I really understood the meaning of a word that I hear bandied about quite a bit.
That word is “transparency,” and it appears to be a favorite word among politicians. What I understand “transparency” to mean is somewhat different than what I see in politics, so I decided to check myself to make sure I’m understanding correctly.
“Transparency,” it seems, is the quality or state of being “transparent.”
It follows that the most relevant definition of “transparent” is easily seen through, recognized or detected.
Because in point of fact, yes, it seems that many of our politicians are transparent. But I’m not necessarily using that word as a compliment.
This week, I’m going to talk specifically about our county government, although my rant could most likely be taken at face value all the way up to the Oval Office. Today, though, I’m referring to the glass tower that has become the Caldwell County Courthouse, and the politics at play there. Those politics, in actuality, are very transparent, insofar as the motivations and behaviors seem apparent to anyone that cares to look.
Unfortunately, the administration itself does not appear to be transparent… at least not in the way we were promised. We were promised that we would have a clear picture of what happens in our county government, and why those things happened.
In this one woman’s opinion, what we’ve received is anything but.
Case in point, the Commissioners voted a few months back to eliminate the County Administration Department. It was the opinion of the majority of the Court that the position was not necessary, and therefore should be eliminated.
Notably, that department remains in the budget for the coming fiscal year proposed by Judge Tom Bonn. Upon questioning, he responded that the position is a “matter of litigation,” and something that was discussed in executive session on Monday morning.
That answer isn’t good enough.
Judge Bonn has maintained from the day of the vote that it was “illegal,” and that the Court had no right to eliminate the department. Rumor has it, he even approached area District Judges seeking an injunction to block the Court from eliminating the position, and that those requests were denied.
What’s interesting about that is, the Court has eliminated other positions. They effectively eliminated the Indigent Health Department when they entered the 1115 Wavier Agreement with Seton. Judge Bonn himself unilaterally eliminated the 9-1-1 Department, and those actions were apparently perfectly legal.
I don’t recall ever having the difference explained. I don’t recall ever hearing why the action to eliminate the County Administration Department was “illegal,” when similar actions weren’t.
And to use Judge Bonn’s own words, “You haven’t made your case to me…” as to why that position needs to be in the budget. It was eliminated by a majority vote of the Court. That money could be used elsewhere – for instance, to fund the bailiff positions that are so desperately needed for courthouse security.
So why is Judge Bonn so adamant to defend a position that a large chunk of the constituency (along with 60 percent of the Commissioners Court) thinks is unnecessary?
Is it on the advice of the “Think Tank” with whom he said he meets monthly, back in 2011 when he pitched the Administrator in the first place? I don’t know. I’ve never heard it said.
If we want to talk about transparency, let’s talk about transparency. If Judge Bonn really wanted to be transparent, he would have identified this “Think Tank” two years ago. I’ve never been able to find anyone who can say for certain who this “Think Tank” is that’s apparently calling the shots in our community. I’ve never heard Judge Bonn cite a code or statute that makes the Court’s decision to eliminate the County Administrator Department illegal.
So why, Judge Bonn? What makes this situation so different, and what REALLY makes you so passionate about it?
You promised us transparency… and now you owe us answers.