Account for your time

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 9, 2003

The size of egos among politicians never ceases to amaze me. I’m sure possessing a larger than average one is vital to success in the field.

To a certain extent, anyone involved in it must thrive on adoration, the feeling that they are somehow special. However, the trick to parlaying that into political success is to at least appear to be humble and have some grasp of abstract concepts like &uot;government of, by and for the people.&uot;

Councilman Charles Brown appears to be struggling with that.


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Brown, as you may recall, came under fire from City Council watchdog Leroy Schmidt recently for his participation in a three-week program last summer at Harvard. The program was reportedly intended to teach administrators and elected officials how to do their jobs better, but may well have been a program to track down terrorists, sponsored by the CIA, based on the secrecy surrounding Brown’s participation.

Schmidt raised valid questions about why Brown was chosen to go when it appears members of the city’s management team may have been better suited, and about how much taxpayer money was used for the trip.

Tuition along for the Harvard course totaled $9,200. City records show the city footed the bill for $3,462.53 of Brown’s trip.

According to published reports, Council’s work session last Wednesday ended in some fireworks when Councilwoman Linda Johnson had the audacity to suggest that council members who go on city-sponsored trips give reports on what they learned. Mayor E. Dana Dickens III agreed with her.

Apparently feeling a bit cornered – this newspaper made the same suggestion in an editorial last week – Brown lost his cool and bizarrely lashed out at women.

Brown said he’s &uot;not a secretary,&uot; and will &uot;not take notes.&uot;

Even forgetting for a moment the arrogance attached to such a public remark and the demeaning manner in which it portrays a large number of hard-working people who are trying to support their families to the best of their ability, oftentimes having to deal with arrogant buffoons for bosses, it’s telling on another level.

Human memory is faulty. It’s been my experience in life that anybody who does not take notes about important events or ideas is either a genius, or completely disorganized. I’ve had to learn to take lots of notes.

I wonder how Mr. Brown juggles and keeps a record of the myriad weighty matters with which he is charged with dealing, matters that impact more than 60,000 souls. What’s even more interesting is that he will not take notes in a classroom environment. To me, that means simply that he is not serious about his job, the subject matter and has no intention of attempting to retain the material.

Frankly, I think what Councilwoman Johnson suggested is not only not unreasonable, but falls far short of what the public should demand from its &uot;public servants.&uot;

Not only should council members who go on taxpayer-funded educational trips be expected to take notes on what they learn, but they should be required to produce a detailed action list based on what they learned and a timetable for applying same to benefit the lives of the people they represent – and present the plan at a city council meeting. It’s the least they can do.

I have no interest in funding educational trips for city council members that are purely for their personal enrichment. We’d be better served by using the money to give every secretary in City Hall a big bonus.

Andy Prutsok is editor and publisher of the News-Herald.