Adams County voters will decide at the ballot box this fall whether or not to expand their County Commission by two seats, creating a five member board in place of the current, three-commissioner composition. The proposal is a response to recent corruption in Adams County, and championed by current commissioners there as creating greater government accountability and responsiveness.
When a similar suggestion came in front of the Jefferson County Board last month, however, Commissioners John Odom, Don Rosier, and Faye Griffin scrambled to come up with any excuse to shoot the proposal down, according to a report from the Denver newspaper.
Viewed through every lens except that of a current officeholder, augmenting the Commission makes sense. Sure, it's an "expansion of government" as Commissioner John Odom whines, but it's not an expansion of bureaucracy. People complain about "big government" when they don't see or can't find the personal benefit of government services. In a county of 550,000 residents, however, a five-member commission is simply good government: additional elected officials leads to more opportunities for more constituents to have their voices heard.
Odom also notes that it isn't practical to allow the county to elect two more commissioners in part because of "additional space requirements." Is that really enough of a reason? Because there aren't enough offices? Heaven forbid the commissioners share offices, or, even worse, find space in the expansive Taj Mahal to accommodate everybody. The only reasoning more foolish than the office space canard is grumbling that there aren't enough chairs in the Commission chambers. "We don't have enough seats," Odom could say. "We looked into getting some folding chairs, but those aren't really comfortable and then we would have to decide who gets the padded seats. I guess we could rotate every few months, but it's frankly not a conversation we want to have."
Faye Griffin's remarks were equally absurd, worrying that overworked support staff would have to put even more hours in at the office. It's funny how Griffin's complaints are almost diametrically opposed to Odom's: in a five-member commission, people would have to work harder? Wait, but don't we want our elected officials and their staff to work hard to earn and steward our tax dollars? Sounds like Odom's reviled "expansion of government" may just make everybody a little more industrious, if you take his colleague's word for it.
Don Rosier grouses that having five, district-elected commissioners would build "fiefdoms," with each commissioner jockeying to benefit his or her own district. That's right, Rosier believes that having commissioners catering to the specific needs of different communities across geographically and socio-economically diverse Jefferson County would somehow be a bad thing.
So, to review, Jefferson County absolutely should never, ever have five elected county commissioners because:
1) There aren't enough offices.
2) People would have to work harder.
3) The commissioners would have to work for and respond to those living in their respective districts.
These sorry excuses, however, belie the true reason guiding the commissioners' opposition: expanding the board would dilute their personal political power. In Adams County, proponents of board expansion favor additional members because with three, after all, you only need to convince a friend to support you in order to ram public policy through the works.
Having five members, then, would lead to commissioners having to debate, consider, defend, and win votes for their proposals. Which, of course, would limit the commissioners' ability to have their way with county government.
And why have "personal fiefdoms" when the entire county can be your domain?