Home > Political Animal > Shine, Bwana Crawford, and the County Commissioners

Shine, Bwana Crawford, and the County Commissioners

By Jim Sack

Fort Wayne Reader

2014-08-16


News that Steve Shine had taken it upon himself to save the union movement in Allen County set a lot of heads to scratching. Steve, the chairman of the Allen County Republican Party, seems to have watched with horror as his fellow party members on Fort Wayne City Council in one vote after another gutted collective bargaining, the most important of all union rights. So, after the matter was decided Steve stepped in to protect local workers from Councilmen and fellow Republicans Russ Jehl, Tom Smith, John Crawford, Mitch Harper, Tom Didier and Marty Bender.

Naturally, some critics called Mr. Shine’s after-the-fact efforts cynical. Was he playing good-cop, bad-cop where he comes in to show compassion after his comrades have used the brass knuckles? Other malcontents saw his effort as divide and conquer by hosting a few malleable unions, and leaving the majority of less local unions on the outside looking in to his negotiations. Or, was it just creating fog to obscure the obvious anti-worker nature of the Republican Party. Could Steve really be that devious?

Even though nine councilmen, the city administration, numerous lawyers and scads of citizens had fought over collective bargaining for city workers for months it was only well after the final vote that Steve announced that he would stepped forward in labor’s time of need to present a fresh approach to the whole matter and find a way to protect innocents. Really?

Would it be cynical to think all Mr. Shine wanted was a banner headline in the News Sentinel, or a chance to air his mellifluous tones on an adoring WOWO? Does anyone believe his discussions will change anything or were even meant to change anything in the first place? Could the real goal be to strike the “constructive leader” posture and pretend the Republican party really does cares about working people, despite what Jehl, Crawford and the others said in public about driving down wages and benefits, including yours.

The Great White Hunter

You may have noted Dr. John Crawford was missing in action from council when a key vote came up on the matter of delisting city unions, a bill he had authored. You may wonder why he was not there to shepherd his signature piece of legislation through the twists and turns of Roberts Rules and the unpredictability of the likes of Mitch Harper.

Well, turns out the healer was out in the wild killing things for the thrill of it all. Seems he likes to kill. Seems he gets a rush from killing and a sense of self-worth from showing off his trophies to his friends, neighbors, fellow council members, fellow doctors, just about anyone who might be walking unawares past his front door. “Hey. Fred, wanna see what I killed this morning…?” As one doctor friend of his put it, “it is ghastly.” He was referring to Dr. Crawford’s in-home collection of stuffed victims from deer and bears to whatever is big enough to fill his sights. Chocolate Lab Rampant, anyone? He kills them while they eat, while they defecate in the woods, while they are caring for their young, sleeping, nursing, making puppies, or just quietly contemplating the meaning of life. He proudly points to the animals he has killed. At council he hawks pictures of their bloody faces next to his broad grin. To say his actions are sadistic is to say the obvious, to say he is a sadist is to conclude the thought. It seems so contradictory that someone who spends so much time and energy healing people would find his joy in killing, and killing and killing. Dr. Jekyll meet Mr. Crawford.

Executive Matters

In November we are to vote on whether to keep the institution of three county commissioners or reduce the number to one. On face value this would seem to offer a foregone conclusion: reduce the number to one. Why? Well, Republicans all foment to reduce the cost of government and Democrats would like to cut the number of Republicans holding office. It has been decades since a Democrat held a county commissioner’s office.

So, if the Republicans really want to reduce the cost of government they will certainly vote “aye,” wouldn’t they? Not really. The Republicans in Allen County still enjoy the advantages of patronage, meaning they hire Republicans from the rank and file to fill positions in county government. Seldom does a Democrat find work in county government. First, county officials want their own team behind them, and secondly, office holders need loyal workers to “volunteer” during campaigns to plant yard signs, to go door-to-door and to ferry voters to polling places on election day. In more than one way do their jobs depend upon “volunteering.”

Politicians will blow plenty of smoke-screen about three commissioners making for better service, but the really opposition traces its roots back to the ancient patronage system. Those county workers supporting those three county commissioners underpin the Republican Party. But, don’t be too angry with the Republicans, the Democrats, given the chance, would do the same.

The commissioner trio harkens back to the days when horse was the only way to reach Scipio Township, not to mention most of Wayne Township, so three commissioners were needed to manage Indiana’s biggest county. Cars, cellphones, SKYPE, and a dozen more advancements make the triumvirate an anachronism that is impossible to justify.

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