Friday, April 6, 2007

The Wisdom, Not Politics, of Brunner's Administrative Oversight

Especially in light of some of the false verbal and attempted spurious legal attacks by past Board Chair,Bob Bennett on Secretary of State Brunner, claiming purely partisan interest as she removes the past Cuyahoga elections board, and puts the newly arriving staff and board under the Ohio Secretary's Administrative Oversight, it's important to note the non-partisan wisdom of her actions.
Mr. Bennett, in his panic of losing his own and partisan control from fear, is only projecting himself on to Brunner's wise actions.

Brunner, as a past elections law attorney, and with broad experience, intelligence and insight about
• management;
• true leadership that develops people rather than questionably and confusingly demands, with fear as consequence;
• and about the importance of fair, transparent, verifiable citizens' elections to all our futures, is determined to develop Ohio's elections system as one of professional knowledge and qualified merit, (instead of closed political patronage and dealmaking) on the inside, and transparent, accurate, and fair even to citizens who must depend on the fair system we need, expect and pay for.

In another post I will outline the little-seen dangers we've endured to democracy and to we, the majority - consequences of Mr. Bennett's and others', old political hackery method of running past Cuyahoga (s)elections.

Here, I will deal mostly with the false charges that by removing the board and putting Cuyahoga under oversight, Dem Brunner is moving to have government control the people's elections; and/or particularly, from the old traditional dualistic way of thinking, to have blindly partisan Democrats take over the larger power. Neither is true. Again those are merely fearful, false projections from an immediate and hopefully soon past reality, into what can potentially become a far healthier and truer election system for us all - the kind of election system that from 6th grade democracy classes and with the help of alot of false pictures painted for us with our own dollars, most have mistakenly been assuming has been producing "election results" thus, choosing our future leaders.

Not only have such false charges come from some Republicans trying to ward off Democrats now getting to use blind partisanship to run our societies forevermore, instead of themselves, but some concerns have come from well-respected election integrity activists as well.

Respected election attorney, Paul Lehto said in one communique with his first reaction to the Administrative Oversight:
The conflicts of interest when government runs elections essentially by itself are rife, and will not be solved until the public's active and direct role in public oversight of elections is created and restored.

Below is a paraphrasing of my reply to Paul.

I absolutely agree with your above statement on its face.

In this case, however, SoS Brunner has demonstrated NO plans to run Cuyahoga's elections by her office alone. In fact she has demonstrated the opposite.

Soon after taking office, as one her first steps, she developed professional means for wide and serious inclusion of individual citizens, groups and election officials from across the state to truly work together and closely with her office, to bring Ohio's election systems and processes to model fairness, transparency, accuracy, and integrity.

Her visionary Voting Rights Institute, comprised of members of both parties and Independents; election integrity advocates and election officials; and group representatives and individuals whose common goal is passion to better Ohio's election systems is one example. Because of great interest expressed by people not among the first core VRI group, a core group originally designed to change and spread each year, she has also developed means to include all those interested in helping get the work of change done.

In the case of Cuyahoga, you may have missed the point. Even the statutory requirements to conduct elections demand a board of elections, and often a director and deputy to take ultimate and legal responsibility.

Currently we have
• no board, (only the one person who has refused to resign and is, still for his own devolving political reasons is suing the SoS... and letting taxpayers pick up the tab for his legal bills,)
• an interim director,
• and no deputy, with only a joint committee having reviewed applications for the above two and ready to suggest how to fill those positions.

The new board cannot be completely chosen and seated until Bennett's war cries and legal circus is done. The new director and deputy cannot be chosen, nor can those applying for top staff, feel comfortable accepting the positions until the new board is seated.

So at very base, someone needs to take the legal responsibility and give guidance for the current staff's day to day actions right now. There is currently a fast upcoming May election that is being prepared right now, that demands, by law, even such things as some legally valid superior's approval of such things as purchases of supplies and vendors, additional staff and pay, etc.

Even when all the above positions are filled, the above new leaders to the CCBOE will be just that - new. Some may have absolutely no elections experience, or partially skewed elections or political experience.
• They will all need some compass point "north" in Ohio election guidance and continuity, as well as skills training, but from ones who won't do their actual decision making for them.
• They will need someone(s) there to rely upon for practices and procedures, where there are currently none - or only a lists of disjointed tasks often developed by a staff person who was left to somehow wade their way out of some non understood overwhelming task...and on time.
• They will need guideposts of betterment and possibilities, to move from what the staff has collected from the long-past, closed culture of indifference, cover-up, and top management by fear.
• They will need modeling of the dynamics of sound management in a legally and ethically bound agency that is there to serve the people, but which currently has in every major department only an interim manager - a previous staff person of the above culture, taken from another department to "temporarily" fill a management void through recent years of people leaving or being forced out of the culture, and was just left there.
Those departments, without guidance and confidence themselves, could only continue to feel it's right and safest and best to keep citizens from seeing in.

The SoS/Cuyahoga Oversight agreement,for the above sound management and support reasons, is being developed with the current interim director who has herself shown herself responsive and open to citizens input and oversight, and who is doing an amazing job, with literally the entire agency suddenly on her shoulders.

So far the Oversight, has also been generally laid out fluidly, allowing the Oversight to end before the stated 2008 time, should the CCBOE be able to begin operating and operating well and newly, as an agency there to serve citizens with fair, accurate, transparent elections, while allowing citizen oversight, before that time.

Just as citizen oversight in a democratic (small "d") process, is not citizen "takeover, SoS oversight also does not mean government TAKEOVER!

Your comparison to the concept of Blackwell taking over the Cuyahoga board is hardly apt.
Even when there was a full complement of board and top management in Cuyahoga's BOE, Blackwell's authoritarian style was one of making big decisions for the locals, often ones that seemed quite politically beneficial for himself and his party- but often taking NO responsibility for those decisions especially when what he told boards to do was legally, financially or operationally questionable; nor any responsibility for making his directives clear and implementable.
Bob Bennett followed along, however (or "helped" Blackwell) and pressed his man Vu and the agency into service - usually and worse, with no one quite understanding even what they were doing, let alone why.

Brunner's, already widely demonstrated style and idea of what good management and good elections must be, on the other hand, actually seems aligned with your statement :
"The conflicts of interest when government runs elections essentially by itself are rife, and will not be solved until the public's active and direct role in public oversight of elections is created and restored."

She, unlike Blackwell, has never demonstrated that she wants government to run elections, only that we all have the ability to oversight, and make elections better - ones that truly deserve our real confidence. She unlike many "leaders" we've experienced, is a leader, not a ruler. She is in her own life a parent, and recognizes when she can offer help and a necessary fall-back, until a fledgling gets off the ground, confident enough itself to open the confidence of the many.

This Cuyahoga election oversight, just like citizen oversight, and like the every huge issue before the nation today is NOT a partisan issue. To reduce it to one is to again fall far short of the real question of what do we need to make things better for the most number of people - black, white, purple or green; Republican, Democrat, Independent, or Other.
To reduce it to one, or to accept such dualistic perception, just continues to demonstrate (thank you Mr. Einstein) the level of actual consciousness that got Cuyahoga's system and the nation's election system into the mess originally.

If the Republicans are shaky about it, let them come and help, and work for a fair system, one with NO partisan agenda, that can then hold the partisan conflicts of campaigns with a fair hand.

Another of your statements in your email disturbs me even more, however:
"But government has numerous levels of conflict of interest. They ALL get all their money and power from elections, yet are counting the votes if not personally on their own race, it is still for their "company" the government. They have conflicts because they are self protective like all human beings and don't fall on their swords the moment a problem comes up, they instead engage in CYA. EVen long time activists pull punches to as to preserve some form of relationship with certain politicians, and this so-called "Collegiality" is much strong between most government agencies. Bureaucracy itself is a force to slow down the truth and defeat its progress in its general slow pace."

I agree in some part with your last sentence, though I think it's also far too great an oversimplification in this context.

As to your blithe acceptance of government and activists "leaders" engaging in CYA - instead of defining the real systemic problems, and truly calling upon others, to work with others as peers, not overlords or gurus, to solve them - I strongly disagree.

Such blithe acceptance is exactly the cop-out that some "integrity" activists also use to salve their souls when they too have sold them for their own good over the whole, just like the "leaders" they say are so "bad" and are working against.

It's only non-blithe-non-acceptance of such behavior, to really model and help one another in the human evolvement of which we are all capable, despite the fact that we see it so little, to the next step of recognizing and honoring everyone as much as ourselves, that we can begin to crawl out of this mess. Yesterday's tsunami in the Solomon Islands is a tragedy to and of each of us. And maybe, just maybe with real fair and tansparent elections in the US we can eventually lead the end of killing the living earth on which we all live, instead of continuing for the "good" of a few CYA'ers.

Brunner's oversight is for just that reason. In Cuyahoga we've had devolved CYA to blatant , impacted, and incompetent cover-ups for so long, she wants to make sure that as "we we're getting back to good" (as they say is first step in the mold removal business,as they remove all the fungus infested wood) that a supported "health" of the CCBOE can emerge into its own system - so THAT can take over, with citizens on board, on it's own.

Without the Oversight, all we get is the fast track of CYA to incompetence and corruption all over again.

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