I’ve known my share of gadflies in the communities where I have lived and worked.
You know what a gadfly is, yes? My trusty desk dictionary describes them as “persistent, irritating critics” and “one who provokes or goads”; the third definition describes a bug that bites livestock … which I guess is about as productive as the first two definitions.
Politics has its share of gadflies. Amarillo City Hall has had one among its City Council members for the past two years, but Randy Burkett has decided against seeking a second two-year term on the council.
Most of the candidates seeking spots on the new council are serious about public service. They are thoughtful and constructive in their approach to governance. I don’t claim to know all of them personally. I’ve met some of the candidates and I have a tiny bit of history with a couple of them.
But the city doesn’t need any gadflies sitting on the council, which is why I continue to support a particular slate of candidates and hope they get elected one week from today. Thus, I am hoping for a council that comprises Ginger Nelson as mayor, Elaine Hayes in Place 1, Freda Powell in Place 2, Eddy Sauer in Place 3 and Howard Smith in Place 4.
Political gadflies do perform a useful function in communities. They help officeholders stay focused on the issues. The tactic they employ is to gripe about what they consider to be wrong about certain public policy. Governing at every level — from City Hall, to the county courthouse, state capitol, the nation’s capitol and, yes, the presidency — require solutions. They require constructive — as well as critical — thinking.
That’s my hope for the next City Council. I want it to comprise individuals who are far more interested in pushing forward solutions than in looking exclusively for the things they believe need repair.
I want the council to comprise individuals with a demonstrated record of civic involvement.
Amarillo voters in 2015 experimented with significant “change” in city governing policy by electing three new guys to the council. One of them, Elisha Demerson, came to the job with prior governing experience, with service on the Potter County Commissioners Court. The other two were government novices.
But the council had a gadfly in its group. That would be Burkett. His presence on the council didn’t always work out. At least one of the challengers running this year qualifies as a gadfly. James Schenck, running for Place 2, keeps saying he knows what’s wrong with city government. I haven’t heard any solutions from him.
There need not be any more gadflies taking the oath of office after the ballots are counted next week. We need forward-thinking individuals who know how to govern as a unit.
I remain cautiously hopeful, moreover, in the collective wisdom of the city’s voters.