Bret Callentine Gives The Answers He'd Hoped To Hear To The Observer County Executive Questions
1.) If elected to the position of County Executive, what three or four goals would top the list of things that you’d hope to accomplish during your term in office?
Anyone elected should take a lesson from the NFL, NBA, or any other professional sports league. The goal of an administration should be that of any good referee: make sure the rules are applied evenly and never take over the game. The best official is the one you rarely see, and one that is always honest and fair. Government, on any level is no different.
2.) What do you regard as the major challenges that must be met in order for the new system of county government to succeed?
The major challenge isn’t getting the system to work, it’s just in figuring out how the system is supposed to work. Check out the county website and you’ll see a long list of departments, boards and initiatives. Any candidate who suggests that they have a clear vision for the direction of the County Government isn’t being honest, because nothing in government is clear. There are overlapping fields of responsibility, job redundancies, hundreds of cracks to fall through, and thousands of loopholes to hide behind.
3.) How do you define good government?
The best government is minimally invasive, modernly efficient, and maximally effective. But, since the next time that is accomplished it will also be the first, how ‘bout we just start with something that is completely deficit neutral: financially, intelligently, and, given what we’ve been living with for the past couple of decades, especially morally and criminally.
4.) Do you believe the new County Executive/Council structure can put an end to the corruption and patronage that have dominated news headlines for the past several years?
Systems aren’t corrupt, people are corrupt. The real problem is that society doesn’t see the violation of public trust for what it really is: treason. When you abuse the office you’ve been elected to, you subvert its authority and deteriorate its ability to affectively govern for years to come. You’ve not only broken the law, but weakened the sovereignty of the law. If the goal is ending corruption, forget about setting up new government oversight structures, and just bring back public executions.
5.) Under the new charter, several top county officials who in the past were directly elected by the voters will now be appointees chosen and approved by the new Executive County Council. Do you see that as a positive step?
No, I see it as a meaningless one. I could care less how they get the job. I only care about what they do to keep it. If making those people appointees means that it’s easier to fire someone when they prove to be completely inept, then I’m all for it. Whether you are elected or not means nothing in proving your ability to get the job done once you’re there.
6.) What approach would you take to working with the new County Council to keep lines of communication open in order to achieve consensus on major county wide objectives?
With all due respect, real leadership rarely comes out of a committee and even less often is the result of a ‘consensus’. As long as the door is always open for creative solutions and constructive criticism, I want an executive that doesn’t worry about political posturing and pompous pride.
7.) When will Cuyahoga County voters know if the new government structure is working as envisioned and how will they know?
They won’t. Or at least, anyone who has a life outside of politics won’t. The way we’ll know our government is working is if we no longer hear about it in the evening news. What’s good for the County is what’s bad for any career politician: obscurity. If, by the next election you don’t even know who your County Executive is, and better yet, you have no reason to know, then he or she should probably be given another term.
8.) Do you believe the new structure has the potential to spark economic growth and job creation in Northeast Ohio? If so, how might that happen?
Only if that is not its mission. The role of government is to set the rules, not determine the outcome. And nothing stifles industry more than politicians constantly tweeking the system in hopes of spurring its growth.
9.) There has been much talk about “regionalization” as a mechanism to improve government efficiency and hopefully, reduce the tax burden on the citizens of Cuyahoga County. Do you view the new government structure as a positive step toward achieving these goals?
If anything can increase services and lower taxes I’m all for it, but when’s the last time ANY government entity accomplished that task? I fear that ‘regionalization’ will only become a method for local officials to hide their inadequacies in a much larger pool of public failure.
10.) In your analysis of Issue 6 the charter amendment that ushered in the sweeping changes in county government, what did you find to be its strong points? And what, if any, weaknesses did you detect?
I once lost a lot of money to a kid hustling me at pool with a house cue. It’s not the stick, it’s the person wielding it. The trick is to know the person’s strengths and weaknesses before they take all our money.
11.) Do you see a need for further “tinkering” with the County Charter to improve prospects for a successful transition? If so, what changes would you hope to see incorporated?
The success or failure of this county will never be dependent on the wording of any charter, or for that matter, the response to any interview question. It has only the collective strength, perseverance, knowledge, wisdom, honor, and faith of its people on which to depend.