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There’s a moment in William Golding’s classic novel, “Lord of the Flies,” and it’s chilling, and it reads exactly like this: “Maybe there is a beast … maybe it’s only us.”

For students of literature, you already know the novel details of the complete disintegration of democracy under the most savage of circumstances.

You can now set down your books, because that same disintegration is happening at the Houston County Board meetings, and it’s by no means fictional.

A visit to a county board meeting is equal parts demoralizing, dispiriting and denigrating these days.

The five-member board, whose commissioners have long ceased to function in any reasonable way, offers us disintegration in the word’s coldest and cruelest definitions: The process of losing cohesion or strength, and the process of coming to pieces.

There are serious flaws in commissioners’ practices, decorum and their adherence to the necessary rules of democracy, and how they’ve been allowed to come to such a dire-that-won’t-end should frighten every citizen in Houston County.

The meetings, which have long since turned into battling matches between chairman Judy Storlie and commissioner Justin Zmyewski, often detract from serious violations from the other commissioners with a ring-side seat.

Commissioner Teresa Walter, at the board’s Jan. 12 meeting, wandered in and out of the meeting (a presenter was running late), missing key discussion points.

Most egregiously, Commissioner Dana Kjome has ceased to vote (other than to dissent, which he usually does in lock-step with Zmyewski). He neither speaks, nor nods when votes are called. There’s been no official response to his behavior, although it’s been indicated that this is just his “way.”

As for commissioner Steve Schuldt, he remains ominously silent and pursed-lipped through most of the meetings. He often sits through the verbal boxing matches around him, eyes lowered. It’s understandable, because the rhetoric he’s being asked to endure along with the rest of us is shame-inducing. His silence, however, is also rather enabling.

In one corner, often violating every level of civility with condescension dripping from his lips (at one time actually offering to speak more slowly so he could be understood), is Zmyewski, who seems to take his principal aim at Storlie, who’s often so shrill in her counter-attacks she seems to be smacking down clowns in a carnival dunking tank.

This is theatrics on a grand scale, if, like me, you subscribe to the notion of how critic Walter Kerr once defined theater: A cross between a lie and a sport. “It’s a lie because what’s happening isn’t true,” Kerr said, “and it’s a sport because everybody knows it isn’t true.”

At the county, it’s blood sport.

With all the caterwauling of late about who is lying and who is telling the truth from their elected seats, the truth is these commissioners are all lying to themselves.

They are not governing you, and every single one of them should be replaced.

This behavior isn’t relegated to the board, it’s saturated the gallery. The public gets its turn in the ring, although just when and for how long has recently been yet another relentless hammering job amongst the commissioners, and adopts its tone from its elected officials, often cruel, threatening, and sometimes downright incendiary.

I’m afraid there’s no maybe about it, Mr. Golding. That beast is there, and it’s all around us.

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(8) comments

xvsdvre

Disintegration of the democracy is the actual question and concern of the individuals. All the challenges of the democracy and uk essays reviews have been prepared for the motivated items or the humans who are connected with democracy.

DF

I agree with all the comments about Ryan Schotts article. Now what do we do with these two commissioners, Steve Schuldt and Judy Storlie. How do we stop their reign of terror? Who is controlling them?

LEWRES99

Hmmm.... seems Mr. Stotts has forgotten about this article from 2013.
http://lacrossetribune.com/houstonconews/news/local/a-youthful-servant-of-the-people/article_202053e6-75f9-11e2-b8e6-0019bb2963f4.html
Though he seems to praise Justin's "youthfulness" on the board back then, it seems like Stotts had a less-than-enthusiastic assessment of Kjome then as well ("...still trying to find his footing on the board...") Kjome may not be very vocal, but he does a darn good job representing his district. In this article, "He neither speaks nor nods when votes are called..." Open up your eyes and ears, Ryan! An elected official cannot and will not "just sit there" and say nothing. I guarantee you that if you check with Char (the lady who keeps the minutes) that Dana votes on EVERY SINGLE VOTE. Not every vote is a roll call vote, so it's often hard to individually discern a vote, especially if they are gentle or soft-spoken. I think the HoCoNews needs to think about replacing a reporter...

Armstrong

"Most egregiously...Commissioner Dana Kjome..." Really?! Many of us have witnessed, for years now, this honest and gentle man spoken to in the rudest manner by people on the planning commission.

There are dozens of candidates who would qualify for "most egregious" including a now former employee who threatened to tear down a pregnant woman's house for reasons he knew to be false. Or how about the Planning Commissioner who lied to his fellow commissioner's about Houston County's authority to act on the Erickson permit?

The people who know about these and the many other egregious goings-on would be angry wouldn't they? People like Justin and Dana. They know. And they care. The other three commissioners know, because they've been told, and do NOT care. That is egregious.

Ken Tschumper

Ryan Stotts has never done a good job of reporting what is happening at Board meetings. Like so many people in journalism he seems to have little in depth knowledge of information, like zoning, environmental issues , how government operates, etc, Has he ever read the County zoning ordinance cover to cover? Does he know what a non-conforming use is?
The mainline media today is full of the practice of "false equivalency", blaming both sides " for the inability of government to identify, deal with and solve the problems facing this country. They do this because they are afraid to offend business groups and various other groups in our society by reporting accurately who is to blame for gridlock in Congress and yes in Houston County.

Yes Justin and Dana may not be perfect. No elected official is but they are honest and straightforward. Judy, Steve and Teresa are manipulative, dishonest and beholding to a small group of business people who want to do frac sand mining in this county.

Lets B Real

County Commissioners are behaving badly. Their proceedings lack decorum. They bicker in public. Some are even disrespectful to the public. But, is that the story?

Regular attendance at board meetings shows Zmyewski does his homework. He understands local and state law. Unlike Storlie, Schuldt and Walter, he knows his responsibility is to REPRESENT the people and protect their health and safety.

To say, "every single one of them should be replaced" is superficial and lacking in substance.

There are deep-rooted issues of corruption in the county - county officials retaliated against people for speaking up, even threatened to tear down people's homes. (You can't make this stuff up.)

Why is the commentary about lack of decorum and bad behavior? When did journalism disintegrate into reporting on personalities, rather than the substance of the issues?

Someone, please, objectively report on the issues.

Eden Paradise

It's obvious Mr Stotts is trying to give a "balanced" report, but the bottom line is Mr.Zymewski is the only one questioning the " questionable" issues brought forth on the agenda. Mr. Kjome may not be very vocal, but one needs to admit that when he expresses his opinion, it is profound. I quiver to think of where this county would be if these two weren't on the board, in my opinion, and that is that probably more attempts at "railroading" than has already occurred when it comes to ordinances for favorites. May the truth, fairness, and transparency prevail.
Joan of Paradise

RYT

While Mr. Stotts is correct that there is no democracy in Houston County, he doesn't really know what is actually going on. He only recently started attending the Commissioner meetings. What he failed to report is how Judy Storlie & Steve Schuldt beat up on Mr Kjome. They often completely ignore him. Storlie, who is quick to yell "personal attack" anytime a public commenter mentions any name in any context, has now taken to allowing actual personal attacks against Mr Kjome. She ignores this normally quiet man when he stands up for himself. Mr Zymewski has done his best to voice opinions in favor of the community, and to actually read and follow County ordinances.

Those of us who have attended and tried to voiice opinions are now often upset, but this is out of frustration. Storlie, Schuldt, and Walter (who is the one in lockstep) apparenty haven't read, or refuse to follow State statutes and County ordinances. They should resign, but won't. Let's vote them out of office this year.

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