By Gene Wallace
H.L. Mencken, a great author of the 20th century, wrote; “For every complex problem, there is an answer that is clear, simple and wrong.” The never-ending ideas of the reinvention of government are fertile ground for non-responsive, non-accountable forms of consolidation.
The framers of the Oklahoma Constitution appeared to be driven by a consensus of thought: that local problems and services can best be addressed and solved by local people within their county, thus the creation of county government. Local governments such as elected water board members, school boards, cities and towns and the constitutional county government is the bedrock and gold standard for accountability that answers solely to its voters.
The Wharton School of Business, one of the nation’s finest, found in a study that while the media spends its focus on state and national issues, local government accounts for over 80 percent of all the rules, regulations and services that affect the citizens of a state. They provide the vital and emergency services, with a face, name and home within their community. There is an obvious commitment of accountability to serve locally that translates into efficiency of taxpayers’ resources.
The framers had it right and creative minds of ‘progressive’ ideas should proceed with caution. The voters demand and deserve government they know and trust and would be very reluctant to trade local control to a telephone recording that takes their request for services that affect their communities.
It is a unique opportunity for all citizens to attend a meeting of local matters and business by a local board in pursuit of transparent governance. Votes are not a product of smoke and mirrors, and discussion agendas are open regardless of your standing within the community. The goal of electing the mirror image of the community is successful every election cycle, with the stark realization that voters are really in charge and affect discipline or reward based on performance.
Oklahoma is fortunate to have the dedication of those proud elected officials who, regardless of circumstances, are willing and eager to provide those critical services. They recognize that there are plenty of folks far more interested in the rededication of revenue than the delivery and efficiency of service. In short, they would prefer to have a government they can control. Consolidation can only be enacted by constitutional change and in the vision of Mr. Mencken, a bad idea’s time never comes — the voters always have the final decision.
Gene Wallace is a Muskogee County commissioner and president of the Association of County Commissioners of Oklahoma. Email Wallace at firstname.lastname@example.org.