OPINION – Breaking news!
“County commissioners accused of ethical lapses regarding airport contracts will have to wait at least until May to have the complaints resolved despite two days of testimony before the state Ethics Commission that begin today.
”The four commissioners under scrutiny have said they welcome the chance to clear their names in the public forum. Instead they will have to watch silently this week as two slates of witnesses offer testimony that may show they deliberately gave airport contracts to close friends.”
Can you imagine waking up to that headline, that news bite, in St. George?
Fact is, it actually happened in Las Vegas and was reported in the Las Vegas Journal, although I’ve paraphrased it, but if you have lived in Southern Utah long enough, you are well aware that the commissioners, local leaders and legislators in this part of the state scarcely understand what it is to be on the downside of advantage.
That is because they rarely are.
Take the St. George Airport for example, where at least three of your elected city officials at the time were awarded lucrative contracts on a project they in part approved in council.
And understand something here, that very council also passed the legislation that made it legal for them to bid on such projects so, in point of fact and law, there was not wrongdoing on their part.
But, there are not many places in the country where this would pass without scrutiny or investigation and possible jail time for the offenders; as with the case in Las Vegas, where this kind of thing was not just unethical, but illegal.
And the question is why?
What is it about the predominant culture here that consistently refuses to question those who hold elected or appointed positions of authority?
With the assuredness of the saints, the majority of the constituency here placidly assume the best of these people in spite of evidence that suggests they may be using their positions for unfair advantage.
The local airport scenario is only one of many by which an intelligent mind will find itself confounded. When something so blatantly unethical as city officials being allowed to bid on public projects – awarded in part by their own votes – goes unanswered by the voting public, a greater damage is done to the community as a whole.
Those who would rightly be skeptical of the business dealings they are witnessing here will find themselves in a dilemma here as the Hans Christian Anderson abiding community assures them that those perpetrating these things have the best intentions. (What I’m likening this too, of course, is Anderson’s moral tale of The Emperor’s New Clothes.)
As this town progresses towards what some studies project as a population upwards of a half million people over the next 50 years, it naturally tips the scales from an existing population of people who are seemingly trained to not question things towards another that may be more inclined to question everything.
The airport and all of its subsequent subsidiary projects, which interestingly enough also find their way to contract awards to some of the same people, are but an example of what could arguably be called a litany of local projects predetermined to award profitable contracts to a select few belonging unofficially to an insiders group.
An insiders group who, say, might have owned the land the airport was built on.
What is more disconcerting to a counterculture group – those who question these things and call the insiders group to account – is not the notion that political corruption and corporate greed sometimes prevail within a community but that there is a ready acquiescence by the voting public to the insiders group behavior which in essence perpetuates it by doing nothing about it. This group, the counterculture group, yet bemoans and decries the injustice of heavy-handed politicians and corporate lobbyists in Washington, all the time doing nothing to curb that kind of behavior in their hometown where their voice is stronger.
Why the distinction?
I have questions. So should you.
See you out there.
Dallas Hyland is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
Email: [email protected]
Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2013, all rights reserved.