Saturday, February 11, 2012

Voting on a Jet Plane

I was recently referred to the 5 hr 30 min mark of this session of the Howard County Board of Education meeting.  It begins with an admonition by the disembodied voice of Brian Meshkin to the Board for originally disallowing his participation in the meeting via teleconference and then changing course to bring Mr. Meshkin in as a tie-breaking vote.

Then it devolves.  First at a trickle.  Then the dam breaks.

A few things:
1) Mr. Meshkin should be embarrassed that this was ever necessary.  He admits to having had to miss a number of meetings due to his business in California, which he would have certainly been aware of prior to running for office.  I don't know all of the facts, but based on the unrefuted comments of the Board members, Mr. Meshkin first requested participation by phone that morning.  If anything, I would expect him to be thanking the Board for permitting his participation in absentia, not shaming them for a perceived conspiracy to "use him" for his vote.

2) At about 5 hr 44 min, Allen Dyer requests that the Board recall its vote to impeach him.  That was a nice aside.

3) When addressing the procedures of a deliberative body, you need to presume that what is good for one is good for all.  Do we want our elected bodies to be small speaker boxes sitting behind name plates?  It is an obligation of elected office to sit before the public, face to face, and cast your vote.  Technology is not going to overcome this requirement.  Consider the legal system.  As much as we may like to challenge our speeding ticket over Skype or have witnesses in Colorado testify at criminal trials in Maryland through a television set, the law does not allow it.  In my own experience with CA, it is inevitable that when a member participates over the phone, there will be problems.  They can't hear.  It cuts out.  They inadvertently interrupt other members.  It is a mess.  So while I know there are alternative views on who is wrong and who is right, I just think there is a more practical  issue of what we expect of those we elect.  Above all things, I think "presence" is a fair preliminary.

4) Holster your weapons.  Mr. Meshkin's accusation here is so ludicrous that it almost escapes reason.  "I want to vote for this item.  You were not going to let me vote for it.  Now you are.  You are using me for my vote.  It hurts my feelings."  And the dungeon analogy?  Did Board of Education storm troopers escort you onto that plane, Mr. Meshkin?  This Board has seen enough discord and controversy that it is all the more unfortunate that this non-controversy was blown up due to the conscious choices of one of its members.

I was not going to write about this item.  I wasn't even going to post today.  But this bothers me.  We are all accountable for our own actions.  The world has enough martyrs.