OPINION: Commissioners, stop scapegoating others

JoAnn Kalenak, DCCR Senior Blogger — With all levels of government working to do more with less, you’d expect a heightened interest in improving cooperation among government organizations. It stands to reason that better cooperation and savvy negotiation, could provide better service to the public at a reduced cost.

Why then are we seeing dismissive and sometimes openly combative attitudes from two of our County Commissioners when it comes to working with local and state entities?

Over the past several years, I’ve listened to half a dozen Delta County Commissioners as they’ve conducted the county’s business in open public meetings. I’ve heard many disputes between local municipalities — the latest example was the almost unilateral dissolution of local Intergovernmental Agreements concerning land-use boundaries.

But lately, I’ve noticed a growing trend by County Commissioners to openly disparage other government entities especially at the state level. Two weeks ago, Commissioner Don Suppes spued accusations that the state was somehow short-charging Delta County in COVID-19 vaccine distribution. He went on the state that he thought the reason for this supposed shortfall was politically motivated. These statements were off the cuff and without adequate data to back them up. Later, research revealed that it is unlikely that the county was being short-charged but rather that distribution counts are very difficult to completely track.

This past public meeting, Commissioner Wendell Koontz, new to the board, echoed Commission Suppes’ often expressed distaste for state officials saying, “We’ll get no help from Denver,” during a discussion about a health care program.

Well Commissioner, you’re unlikely to get help with this childish, unprofessional and short-sighted attitude.

Party aside, shouldn’t we all expect certain abilities from our elected officials? A vision is an oblivious start but without the ability to build a consensus around your vision, you might as well be whistling into the wind.

Commissioners Suppes and Koontz, rather than passing-the-buck or scapegoating others, why not present solutions? Why not work with agency professionals — many of whom have a lot more experience than yourselves — to develop coalitions and negotiate mutually beneficial programs?

And if you can’t do this, please keep your divisive rhetoric to yourselves because it won’t get the job done.