Which brings me to February's flub. I normally wouldn't write so candidly about the city administration but they did level the first blow. I don't condone the ''eye for an eye'' philosophy but, then again, I am a writer. In an ever-so-gentle attempt to answer their recent belittling of the County Board, I will give you a first-hand account of how the city and county governments have always held to the notion that working together for all the citizens of Knox County would probably not be to the benefit of anyone. To Mr. Goddard, Mr. Jensen, the City Council, and to anyone else over at City Hall who believes you sit on the righteous side of this debate, I hope you got some nice Valentine's candy, cause you also got the Flub-A-Dub Award for February.
I was a bit surprised to see a front page story in the Register-Mail concerning the City administration's sorrow over not being able to get the County's cooperation over whatever it is we're supposed to cooperate with. As any Knox County historian might note, this has been an age-old problem dating back to Adam and Eve. Actually, for the longest time, Republicans were in control, so there wasn't much need for cooperation. They did as they pleased. It is interesting that a retiring city official would bring up the subject now. I suspect that it has something to do with a bureaucratic cleansing of the soul, along with the fact that the County Board chairman is now a Democrat. I didn't hear much from him over the last hundred years, when a Republican was in charge. Of course, it could all be coincidence.
Cooperation always seemed to me to be a two-way street. I have never had a city official ask me for anything, much less cooperation. Some have asked me to quit writing -- but I took that as a joke. As chairman of the Planning Committee over the past year, there would have certainly been opportunities to approach us. But alas, nary a sign. And admittedly, we have not gone out of our way to approach them. As has been the case over the years, our paths hardly ever cross.
This has changed some over the past couple of years. The Blue Ribbon Panel was an opportunity for City and County officials and others from the community and county to sit down and talk about some of the various issues and problems confronting us.The Planning Committee continues to periodically review some of the suggestions and has, in fact, followed up on some of them. I cannot speak for the City, but I certainly have not heard of any follow-up on their behalf. Perhaps I just missed it.
The building of the new jail has been an opportunity for us to come together, although I would hardly say that it has been smooth or forthright. It has been clear from the beginning that the City police department and City administration would prefer that the jail be built next to the Public Safety Building, if for no other reason than for their convenience sake. The discussion immediately aimed in that direction, in despite of numerous problems inherent with the site. Surel, city officials knew where the utilities were buried? When the east side site was chosen, there were immediate questions about the structural integrity of the Public Safety Building that were never answered. When the west side was proposed, the city immediately made it known that it would not close the street, which would have allowed for a more spread-out, one-story structure to be built, solving the poor soil problem. They were willing to lease us the land for one dollar per year, which was a kind gesture, although it is apparently not worth much more than that.
If one were to look closely at all the missed opportunities for cooperation between these two governmental bodies, I suspect the end result would be close to a tie. County government is not easy to work with. There has been no one in charge and too many County Board members to deal with. We are changing that so that hopefully things might improve in the future. I'm not sure what the City has done, other than to continue to maintain their self-righteous position.
Clearly, any viewer other than the Register-Mail or the City Council could easily see that the City is every bit as ineffective as the County. There are too many department heads who have been there too long and a long list of mayors who are ineffective as leaders. The leadership role has been given over to the City Manager, which makes for an ineffective city government. A city or county administrator should be helping a mayor or county board chairman to be a more efficient and effective leader, not stepping into that role themselves. The city has been slow to comprehend the wrongness of this situation. Mayor Sheehan will hopefully heed the calling, although he has been slow to respond.
Adding to a perceived effectiveness of the city administration is the fact that Galesburg is a home rule city. The rest of the county is not. This makes the ability to raise revenues much easier for the city. It has nothing to do with fiscal responsibility or efficiency but has everything to do with taxation. The City taxes us more to raise money, the County can't.
The County has been working hard to produce a more responsive and competent governmental body. It has not been easy and is met with resistance at almost every corner. The elected officials and department heads recently made it clear that they do not want a county administrator muddling in their affairs, particularly concerning personnel policies. Kingdoms are dismantled slowly.
I was disappointed to read their front page article. It's not so much that I didn't agree with it. I do. I believe the County has not done enough to work with the city of Galesburg. Galesburg is of course not the only city in the county. We have also been negligent with others. What concerns me is the self-righteous attitude of the city and their seeming belief that Galesburg is some magnificently run municipality.
I think it amounts to a lot of crying over not getting their way with the jail. Alderman Gifford states that if it were the city, they would already have the building on its way up. I don't doubt it. They already built two others on this poor piece of property. We, however, are likely not to. Happy flub.