Monday, February 15, 2010

Konop didn't get his way so he's not running again

According to today's paper, Lucas County Commissioner Ben Konop has decided not to seek re-election.

In a 1,644-word article, he details how he hasn't gotten his way as a Commissioner so he's giving up.

He claims it's because the area is so adverse to change. And he may have a point, though not for the reasons he believes.

He points to the massive and unified rejection of his idea to fund a scholarship program with public tax dollars.

"That meeting was probably the most clear-cut example of the good old boys circling the wagons to just shut down even any discussion of change," Mr. Konop recalled last week. "It's a win-win, logical program that is much needed in our community, and it was within 30 minutes just shot down by the entire status-quo network of northwest Ohio."

Actually, it nothing to do with status-quo and everything to do with the serious unanswered questions and faults with his idea.

He proposed paying for the scholarships by savings from various changes and efficiencies in county government. At the time, I stated that several of the money-saving ideas had merit, but what is the point of the county saving money in one place only to spend it in another to benefit some - not all - county residents?

The ideas to cut expenses in the county are admirable. I'm still not sold on open-source software, but a four-day work week, energy efficiency and privatized EMS ambulance service are terrific ideas. (I must remind Comm. Konop, though, that he opposed new windows for one of the county buildings - windows which would have improved the energy efficiency of that building.)

But if you can do these things and save $4 million, why don't you do it anyway, even if you don't pay for college for everyone? And since the county is planning on laying off people as of the first of the year, why aren't we already taking such steps to save money? And if you can save $4 million a year, the county can certainly lower the taxes (sales or property) so taxpayers don't have to pay so much. I'd much rather have the county apply such savings to my tax bill so I can further my own education - rather than pay for someone else's.

While Konop saw this rejection as a penchant for the status-quo, most others saw it as one more example of his failure to present ideas that had any merit. He was described as having 'big, bold, fresh' ideas, but most of them lacked details, enhanced government - not the individual, attempted to 'spread the wealth' by taking from all to provide for a few, and didn't address all the questions and/or issued that people had when they heard them.

Then there were the few ideas he did get passed, only to see them fail. Remember his Art Assist program that cost the county around $8,000 in interest and had to be cancelled because of lack of interest? What about his trolley idea to move people to points of interest? I think that only lasted a couple of weekends.

How about his effort to destroy the Lucas County Improvement Corporation? This is the only public entity that joined together the jurisdictions of the county to work toward a common goal of economic development. But because he couldn't control it, he decided it had to be destroyed. At one meeting, his outlook on his failure to kill the organization was very clear:

In the meeting, Konop exhibited paranoia (thinking all the people were there to try to intimidate him), hypocrisy (questioning an employee's qualifications despite not having any himself), and class warfare (accusing others of meeting at the exclusive Inverness Country Club while he was meeting with union members - duh! Where does he think people who 'create' jobs are? in union halls????). He also threw in a few catch phrases like 'mismanaged bureaucracy' and 'good ol' boys' just for good measure.

This sounds like his 'explanation' for not running again.

Konop complains that he was out-voted 2-1 on his initiatives. That was because his initiatives weren't good ones - at least, not from a detail, planning or implementation perspective - though most of them were consistent with the general philosophy of the other two commissioners.

I know how that feels because I was often outvoted 2-1 when I was on the board. But I went in the office expecting to not have the support of the two Democrats for my efforts to keep spending under control, limit the intrusion of government into individual lives, reducing taxation, following the state law about the limits of the commissioners' authority, and doing things that lead to a business-friendly environment.

I often say that my biggest success in office when it came to actual votes was that really bad ideas weren't nearly so bad because of my input. That's not something one would normally look at as 'success,' but in Lucas County, that was major.

Of course, for taking such 'no' positions, I was called an obstructionist and described as 'difficult' and 'stubborn.' Konop, however, gets praise for his opposition. But then, again, this is Lucas County.

The problem was that much of Konop's 'ambitious agenda' was more of the same political philosophy that got us into the mess we're in. His ideas might have been new in certain aspects, but they weren't new in terms of what's been tried before - and failed.

The article also quotes Konop as saying he didn't form enough political coalitions to get his ideas passed.

"That's a good lesson I think I've learned, that you can't just rely on the integrity of your argument. You have to build some sort of political coalition to push it through," the commissioner said. "Whether that would have been enough to overcome this circle-the-wagons mentality - who knows."

Note that he criticizes other political coalitions as 'good ole boy' networks. They're the same things, Ben. Calling your 'network' a coalition while describing other networks in a negative manner doesn't work.

I believe Konop had unrealistic expectations of what he could do as a commissioner. I know he didn't understand the limits state law puts on the authority of a board of commissioners because several things he said he wanted to do during the campaign the BCC had no authority to implement. I think he expected the support from The Blade and its publisher to mean more than it did to his fellow commissioners and other elected officials.

I also believe that Konop's unrealistic expectations are a sign of his immaturity, and that immaturity is clearly demonstrated by this article. The article is not flattering, making it look as if he's quitting because he didn't get his way. While that is part of it, I think he knows he wouldn't win if he ran again, and he's choosing to quit rather than lose.

What this means for Lucas County is that there will probably be contested primaries in both the Republican and Democratic Parties. Toledo City Councilman George Sarantou and Springfield Township Trustee Andy Glenn have said they will run. On the Democrat side, there is talk that Edna Brown is being encouraged to run for Commissioner rather than State Senate. Former Oregon Mayor Marge Brown and current Maumee Mayor Tim Wagener have also been rumored to be interested.

Lucas County will have good choices this year - from adults - now that the little boy is taking his ball and going home.

Side Note: Did you notice the box off to the side in the article titled "The Ben Konop File"? It says:

• Political endeavors: Elected Lucas County commissioner in 2006; ran unsuccessfully in 2004 against Republican Mike Oxley for Ohio's 4th Congressional District seat.

Now why, do you suppose, it fails to mention his most recent political endeavor of his failed bid for Mayor???

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Young Ben's future as a bureaucrat is bright. Mousy Kaptur is rewarding her young friend while the getting is good. The brakes will be thrown on this fall, and Ben won't be able to get a cozy desk job as easily.

His future as a pol is over. The flag issue and "boo Ben Konop" will follow him forever. I doubt the federal job he is "negotiating" for is even in the area. I suspect the job will be in Washington, which I feel is where Ben has wanted to be all along.

I feel there is one big question left for Young Ben. Will he serve out his term, or will he resign and allow the party to appoint a replacement who can run as an incumbent. I won't at all be surprised if the job offer is contingent upon Ben stepping down early. The "negotitations" are probably Ben trying to have some influence on who the replacement is.

But nonetheless, I think Young Master Konop is going to learn just how hard his party's policies have made it to sell real estate here in Lucas County. His loft with nice tax abatement will sit vacant long after he's moved back to DC.

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