“It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into”

Jonathan Swift
"The Democrats have moved to the right, and the right has moved into a mental hospital." - Bill Maher
"The city is crowded my friends are away and I'm on my own
It's too hot to handle so I gotta get up and go

It's a cruel ... cruel summer"

Monday, July 02, 2007

Can Kanelis Keep His Nose?

On the eve of the May 12 city election I was witness to an interesting exchange. Erik Williams, candidate for Commissioner Place 4, ran into a former coworker at a non-political fundraiser. The coworker suggested to the candidate that if he won he would have to recuse himself from any votes that might benefit his architecture firm. Mr. Williams responded that he would not only recuse himself from votes involving his firm, but also those which might benefit his friends, associates, acquaintances, their hairdressers or their hairdresser’s poodles.

If only our elected officials had such ethics. Joe Kirkwood, Potter County Commissioner, has earned rebuke from editor John Q. Kanelis (
Amarillo Globe-News, Sunday, July 1, 2007) for failing to recuse himself from votes which, while permissible according to the letter of the law, nevertheless benefited him and thus violated the spirit of the law.

Thus ends the saga of county crews performing work on private property, a criminal investigation, the hiring of an outside legal defense team, and the wrangling over who should foot the bill. For Mr. Kanelis Joe Kirkwood’s votes on these matters did not pass the "smell test."

Invoking the “smell test” as the principle by which elected officials should absent themselves certainly allows Mr. Kanelis to chide an official after the fact. But having done so, it now creates an interesting situation for our city commission and Mr. Kanelis in the future.

Should any issues regarding downtown revitalization come before the commission, by Kanelis’ own “smell test” over half the commissioners will have to recuse themselves as they directly or indirectly own property or control investments that would benefit from their votes. To complicate matters the Amarillo Globe-News has endorsed and supports each commissioner and the mayor.

Mr. Kanelis has made a challenge for himself. He has set out a principle which demands he continue to hold our elected officials accountable. He must remind political favorites in advance to recuse themselves, and rebuke them if they do not. Silence and editorial omission is not an option.

But there remains a simple question: will you Mr. Kanelis? As a frequent reader of this blog only you can provide the answer. What shall it be?

7/10/07 UPDATE:

HINT: John, click on "Comments" below to leave your answer.