Saturday, February 14, 2009

Defending the Jackson County Home Rule Charter from the Jackson County Legislature

The Committee for County Progress was formed in 1964 "to reform and restructure Jackson County government." Members of the organization helped draft the Jackson County Charter, known as the "Home Rule Charter", and worked to secure its passage with the voters of Jackson County in 1970. In the Preamble to the Charter, they set forth their purpose with honesty and integrity, for all to read:
We, the people of Jackson County, Missouri, in order to perfect the structure and enlarge the powers of our county government to insure that it is just, orderly, efficient, and fully responsible to the people, and to secure the benefits of home rule and self-government for Jackson County to the fullest extent possible under the Constitution of the State of Missouri, do adopt this Charter as the fundamental law for the government of this county.

It is time for the Committee for County Progress to rise up again, and tell our legislature that the principles set forth in that document did not fade over the past 38 years. It is time for the Committee for County Progress to once again work to insure that our Jackson County government has the powers to be "fully responsible to the people", and "to secure the benefits of home rule and self-government for Jackson County to the fullest extent possible under the Constitution of the State of Missouri," and to remind our straying Jackson County legislature that the Jackson County Home Rule Charter, not their attempts to weaken it, is "the fundamental law for the government of this county."

The Jackson County Legislature has chosen a fight with those who believe in Home Rule and in the Jackson County Charter. It has decided that home rule is inconvenient when it comes to ethical enforcement, and, in a recent ordinance, sought to strip the Jackson County Ethics Commission of the authority to handle ethics complaints against our elected officials. Instead of being "fully responsible to the people" and "securing the benefits of home rule and self-government", the Jackson County legislature wants to "outsource" ethics oversight to the Missouri Ethics Commission, hidden away behind closed doors in Jefferson City.

Where the Committee for County Progress has always stood for higher ethical standards, the Jackson County Legislature has sought to lower them as far as the state will let them. Where the Committee for County Progress has stood for Home Rule, the Jackson County Legislature has sought to outsource their dirty laundry.

It is my hope that the Committee for County Progress will take a strong stand against this attack on the Jackson County Charter and the principles behind it. I hope that the Committee for County Progress will issue a resolution condemning those legislators who do not join in a call for a return to ethical home rule. I hope that the Committee for County Progress will refuse to endorse any candidate in the 2010 who does not support ethical home rule. I hope that the Committee for County Progress will, as its mission calls upon it to do, help recruit and support progressive candidates to replace those who will not join with us for this purpose. If it becomes necessary, I hope that the Committee for County Progress will provide the funding and volunteers necessary to support an initiative campaign returning our county to its founding principles.

If the Committee for County Progress does not lead the fight to support our Charter and ethical home rule, what possible reason does it have to even exist?