Show Your Work, Damnit!
by Austin Rhodes It is time for me to apologize to virtually every math teacher I had from fifth grade on. These hard-working educators were the targets of untold tens of thousands of derogatory thoughts and comments that spewed daily while under their tutelage, particularly when reminded that we must always “show your work.” What a pain in the ass. My theory? “I know that 1,200 divided by 30 is 40. Anything written on the paper other than ‘40’ is purely an exercise in banality.” At the time my juvenile understanding of the process rationalized that “busy work” and “nit picking” was all the old biddies had in mind when issuing such an edict. Of course now I know the motives were sound and completely legitimate. First, they wanted me to prove that I understood the process. Second, they wanted to be sure I wasn’t cheating. It is with this example firmly in mind that I admonish our elected commissioners in both Augusta and Columbia County that it is not good enough just to show up at meetings and declare “this is the answer.” Taxpayers want to see how you got there, and the process that brought you to that decision. In math class “showing your work” ensured credit for getting the right answer. In government, it means preventing a lawsuit when you get the right answer. Only a moron would argue that the firings of Teresa Smith, Chiquita Johnson and Eugene Jessup were not justified, yet Jessup was the only one who did not get a fat check as he was shuffled out the door (in the form of “lawsuit settlements”), and that was likely because he had only been around a few months. With both Smith and Johnson, no one had bothered to document their numerous and well-known professional deficiencies. The lack of said paper trail resulted in both getting large checks. Having seen first-hand what happened in both cases, I can tell you that Augusta leaders in both cases did not understand the process and they were cheating, even though they stumbled into the right answers, which were the terminations in question. The proof they “didn’t know the process” was their lack of documentation. The “cheating” was that neither was fired for incompetence; they were fired because of the political fallout their failures had created. In Columbia County we have the Magnolia Trace debacle, which we are told was born in a sneaky 2009 private meeting between the county attorney, who had billed the developers involved for work on other projects, and two commissioners. Why two and not three? To avoid the open meetings requirements, of course. In December, offended citizens and inquiring media were told repeatedly that because the property had already been purchased, there was nothing they or the government could do to stop the massive “rent assisted” development. At that point, they were right. As we discovered recently, though, in an email between county attorney Doug Batchelor and the legal echo machine hired to ponder any possible solutions, when that first meeting took place, the land had not yet been purchased. Had Ron Cross and Trey Allen been told the truth about the nature of the development (they insist they were not), the whole thing could have been moved to a more “neighborhood friendly” location or scrubbed entirely. See what happens when you try to come up with the right answer while hiding your thought process? Back to Augusta, where they are neck deep in bizarre complications stemming from public projects in all stages of development, from the near finished (Tee Center and parking deck) to dreamscapes still unhatched (new ball parks and renovated theaters). Administrator Fred Russell, who I am amazed has enough follow through to get both shoes tied in the morning, and Tee Center/parking deck project attorney Jim Plunkett are telling the world that all the promises of free land, tax liens, land swaps, air rights, management agreements and closed-door negotiations aside… just hush and watch how this beautiful project will all come together. Pardon me for laughing out loud, literally, at the thought. If it does come together, it will likely be dumb luck… or some cheating going on in the process, because God knows they don’t have a clue as to how to handle this business correctly. You want the public to have faith in what you do, show your work. Not only is it a good idea, it is the law.You Might Also Like:
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