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Tuesday, July 29, 2014
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Published: Friday, 7/25/2008

Against all odds

WITH three Democrats comprising the Lucas County Board of Commissioners, it wouldn't be surprising if those officeholders voted similarly, if not together, on many occasions.

But what are the chances that two commissioners would vote differently on only one vote out of more than 6,200 cast over the past three years? That's the odds-defying record compiled by commissioners Pete Gerken and Tina Skeldon Wozniak since 2005.

We agree with Ben Konop, their Democratic colleague, that this extraordinary and altogether unbelievable demonstration of unanimity on the part of Mr. Gerken and Ms. Wozniak is a sign that something odd is going on at Government Center, and it isn't good.

Either one commissioner is blindly following the other on virtually every issue that comes before the board, or the two are somehow aligning their votes in advance on policy issues so there is no disagreement. The first explanation, if true, would be merely shameful; the second would be criminal.

Ohio's "Sunshine Law," which requires open meetings, is very specific. Public officials are obligated to deliberate on issues in public before they vote on them. Backstage coordination isn't permitted.

If Mr. Gerken and Ms. Wozniak are conferring with each other in advance, they're breaking the law. Ditto if they are arranging their votes behind the scenes through some intermediary, such as a county staff member. They deny any collusion is taking place.

Beyond the strictures of state law, there's another principle involved.

The public wants its elected officials, regardless of political affiliation, to be strong, independent, free-thinking individuals, not mere rubber-stamp clones of each other who go along to get along.

Unfortunately, the political representation on public bodies in Lucas County has been largely one-sided - read Democratic - for many decades. The resulting uniformity of views has sapped the vitality from discussion on many public issues, not just the effectiveness of the Lucas County Improvement Corporation, on which Mr. Konop differs from Mr. Gerken and Ms. Wozniak.

The best antidote to a stultifying status quo, of course, is to shake things up. And the next chance for voters to do that will be on Nov. 4, when both Mr. Gerken and Ms. Wozniak stand for re-election.

Mr. Gerken is unopposed but Ms. Wozniak's Republican opponent will be Jan Scotland, a former member of Toledo City Council.

Mr. Scotland, an insurance agent, has said he would bring a business perspective to the board of commissioners, which wouldn't hurt. And, if he cares to take a close look at the all-too-cozy voting records of Ms. Wozniak and Mr. Gerken, it could be the best issue he's got.



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