Friday, April 1, 2011

Government-Cell Mitosis

HARBESON: Building a mystery

SELLERSBURG — When I first heard the town of Clarksville appointed two people for the building commissioner position, I was confused. Not about the fact that they squeezed two people into one job, but rather why anyone thought it was odd in the first place.

Why is this news? Isn’t this a normal course of action within government? Isn’t this what bureaucracy is all about? Haven’t we seen repeatedly that governments know how to reproduce and multiply faster than rabbits? Isn’t this just another case of government-cell mitosis?

We’ve all heard the common complaint that government offices end up with at least twice as many people hanging around “working” and being paid as are necessary to perform the tasks.

Of course when people make this complaint, they are only guessing. No one can really know if a government-funded, government-operated office is performing in an economically efficient manner because it’s a monopoly. Governments aren’t guided by natural signals that occur in a competitive market.

And yet, I do wonder how this happened. When it came time to choose someone for the position, did it simply prove to be too difficult for the council to decide between the two people who now have the same job?

Maybe those involved experienced such a bad case of indecisiveness that they had to resort to a coin toss and it somehow landed right on its edge. Nothing they could do would move it. Not shaking the table. Not stomping on the ground. Not even blowing lots of hot air on the coin managed to topple it over, so they just said to heck with it, let’s appoint both guys.

Or maybe someone suggested they resolve the issue by pitting the two guys against each other, making them skip around a circle playing a game of musical chairs and no one realized until after the music was turned off that someone had set out two chairs instead of one.

And I guess the music they played must have been one of Marvin Gaye’s albums which naturally influenced them to decide that in this situation, “it takes two, baby.”

You may be wondering why I’m speculating so much on this issue. Well, it’s because I have no choice. No one in charge really wants to talk about how the town ended up with two people in one position.

A reporter for this newspaper tried to get answers and information from the council person who is the liaison to the building commissioner’s office. She should be the person most knowledgeable about the situation. However, she told him to talk to the town council president.

When the reporter contacted the council president, he told the reporter to talk to the council liaison.

I’m not sure why neither of them would talk to the reporter. Perhaps they were attempting to demonstrate how well government functions when more than one person can be in charge.

One reason I can see for handing over this position to two people, assuming they expected at some point to reduce it to one person, is to entertain themselves as they watched the two fellows fight for the job — a sort of local version of “The Apprentice.”

But if this is the case, then residents should get to enjoy it, too. Everyone should be treated to the full show, just like Donald Trump offers, complete with bickering, bleeped screaming outbursts, phony suspense and bad hair.

But I don’t think it’s going to happen because that would require the council to actually explain their decisions and actions to the people they supposedly “serve.”

— Sellersburg resident Debbie Harbeson was given a lab coat to study government-cell mitosis but can’t figure out why the sleeves are so long and tie in the back.

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