At the LaFollette Press, we believe democracy still works. But to aid the democratic process, elected officials have to show up — and they have to vote.
That’s a lesson some of our county commissioners apparently need to learn.
Two failed to show up Monday night for a contentious vote that could’ve potentially stopped a toxic coal ash fly landfill from operating near Duff. Three other commissioners abstained from voting on Jackson’s Law — a measure that would’ve granted autonomy to local officials to stop the dump, if enacted.
Now, any decision will likely be made by bureaucrats and paper-pushing permit regulators with offices far from Campbell County.
We don’t care if you’re for or against the dump, however, few can argue that such a major decision is best made outside of Campbell County.
But that’s exactly what commissioners did: They relinquished the power of their own people and are allowing it to be settled elsewhere.
While we think it’s a cop out for officials to abstain from an important vote, some officials did offer an excuse for not voting.
District 2 Commissioner Bobby White said he failed to do his homework on Jackson’s Law and therefore didn’t know enough to cast a ballot.
District 1 Commissioner Marie Ayers said she’d studied the law for four to five hours, but still had lingering questions on it — especially because a conflicted county attorney couldn’t confer counsel to the commissioners.
Those two abstentions could’ve made the difference in a 2/3 vote that required nine supporters— by some estimates — to pass.
To be certain, a “yes” vote on Jackson’s Law wouldn’t have automatically killed the dump Rather, it simply would’ve given the commission the ultimate authority in the matter at a later date.
That’s even something that District 4 Commissioner Sue Nance told fellow commissioners. After all, Nance apparently did her homework. She ultimately voted in favor of Jackson’s Law.
To Nance —and eight other commissioners — The Press gives a gold star.
We’ll even give a silver star to District 3 Commissioner Rusty Orick. Even though he voted against Jackson’s Law, he reasoned that ultimately he had to stand with Campbell County’s coal interests — on which he says the county was historically founded. While we disagree with Orick’s stance, we respect his opinion — though we hope he consulted with at least some of his constituents before casting a vote.
But we can’t forget the worst offenders of democracy: those commissioners who failed to show up for the important vote.
Commissioners David Adkins and Wendell Bailey — shame on you.
Not only will constituents likely never know where your interests lay with the proposed landfill, you serve as a poor example of democracy in action.
We’d be curious to know if your votes would’ve ultimately swayed the commission’s decision.
We bet some of your constituents would be, too.
So as a service to them, we’ve printed your phone numbers here.
We encourage readers to call these commissioners and ask where they stand on the issue.
While you’re at it, ask them why they also missed an important question-and-answer forum last week that aimed to better educate the community on the proposed dumpsite.
We encourage our thousands of readers to put pressure on other commissioners as well, to use their political power to somehow reverse this decision.
(You can trust, that we’ll be doing the same.)
Let’s make sure commissioners attend important public meetings and cast appropriate votes when they affect us.
And if they don’t comply? Let’s return the favor by not showing up to the ballot box when it comes time for their re-election.
Commissioner David Adkins: 566-9485
Commissioner Wendell Bailey: 566-3524