Wednesday, July 27, 2011

County Commission Throwdown: Leader

Roberts has shown an aversion to conflict that serves the role of board chair poorly. A few board members are peeved that she won't rein in the occasional long-windedness of commissioner Vilma Leake - "She is afraid of Vilma," fellow commissioner Bill James says of Roberts - but her worst errors have come in not demanding accountability from staff, specifically county manager Harry Jones.

An example: When the Observer revealed earlier this year that county staff was misleading commissioners and the public on a $99,000 payout to former mental health director Grayce Crockett, Roberts repeated the deception instead of standing up for transparency and truth.

Again, there's not much to go on yet with Cogdell. He's been shaky in meetings with the basic rules of order, but that can be learned. His most public leadership opportunity came when the board was forced to confront member Bill James in January for bigoted and inaccurate remarks about gays. Cogdell played a large role in a subsequent resolution pledging the commission's support for tolerance and diversity. We wish the resolution had more bite to it, but Cogdell has at least shown less squirminess in taking on the uncomfortable moments that confront the commission.

Next up: Bridge-builder.