Boorish Weber commissioners are clumsy too

Saturday , January 18, 2014 - 4:56 PM

Mark Saal, Standard-Examiner Staff

“Does not play well with others.”

Teachers scribbled plenty of citizenship warnings on my report cards over the years — “Mark has difficulty following instructions”; “Mark does not apply himself”; “Mark frequently has to be reminded to stay on task”; “Mark keeps eating the classroom paste.” But the one rap I never received as a child was, “Mark does not play well with others.”

Why? Because this kid was all about the playing well with others. He was courteous to a fault and believed in fairness and equality for all. Sharing, taking turns, compromising so that everyone got at least a part of what they wanted — all of these were paramount to me as a child. Indeed, playing well with others, I’ve long believed, is one of the most important traits we can develop as human beings.

Which is why it was so darned disheartening to hear of the latest nonsense coming out of the Weber County Commission.

I received several angry phone calls and emails this past week from Weber County residents, all wanting to know, basically, “What’s up with the county commission?” Well, my guess is that if you were able to somehow subpoena grade-school records, Commissioners Kerry Gibson and Matthew Bell would have more than a few demerits in the gets-along-with-classmates department.

Standard-Examiner reporter Cathy McKitrick has been all over the commission’s latest shenanigans, reporting on the shameful behavior of these two male commissioners toward their female colleague, Commissioner Jan Zogmaister. There has been a tradition among the Weber County Commission that the three-member body rotates the chair and vice-chair positions on a predictable, annual basis. It’s been this way for decades, and this turn-taking system has served the commission well. Until, that is, earlier this month, when Gibson and Bell decided to change the rules and vote Gibson back in for a second year as chair.

I know, right?

Gibson and Bell have offered the old “stay the course” line, saying the current chairman has done such a bang-up job that it would be silly not to buck this long-standing tradition and give him a second consecutive year. It’s all about effective government, they’ll tell you.

But if you don’t think this has everything to do with politics, you haven’t been paying attention. Heck, I haven’t really been paying all that much attention myself, but even I know a blatant power grab when I see it. As luck would have it, both Zogmaister and Gibson are up for re-election this year, and by denying Zogmaister her turn as chairwoman, Gibson (and Bell) can make it that much harder for her — and that much easier for him — to get re-elected. It’s a win-win.

Unless, of course, you’re Jan Zogmaister.

At a Jan. 7 meeting, when Zogmaister objected to skipping her turn as chairwoman, Gibson was quick to pat her on the head with a condescending “I think you’re making this a little too personal.”

Ah, yes. The old “Nothing personal” defense. Which is a corollary to the old “It’s not you, it’s me” defense.

One can hardly blame Zogmaister for thinking it is very personal, for feeling marginalized by the other two commissioners.

As a result of all this, some are resurrecting talk of going to a five-person county commission. And as much as I hate the idea of creating EVEN MORE POLITICIANS, there is merit in the suggestion.

But in the meantime, my suggestion to our churlish commissioners is this: Give Zogmaister her turn this year, and in 2015, when Bell is rotated to the chairmanship, he can magnanimously defer to his buddy Gibson.

If, that is, Gibson is still around by then. Because if Weber County voters have a lick of sense, they’ll see this Gibson-Bell gambit for what it is — a cheap political power play — and find a smart, capable woman to replace him this fall.

A woman who can tell him, “Hey, nothing personal. It’s not you, it’s ... wait a minute, it IS you.”

Contact Mark Saal at 801-625-4272 or msaal@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at @Saalman. Find him on Facebook at facebook.com/mark.saal.

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