Lights, camera, grandstand

Published 11:43 pm Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Three, two, one. And let the grandstanding begin.

A lot has changed about the Adams County Supervisors meetings in the last three years. From 2004 through 2006 the supervisors were my beat, and their meetings were my second home.

But I hardly recognized the place Monday.

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The bottom half of the windows in the meeting room now sit covered with black cloth, blocking out the light.

The men at the table have on sport coats and nice jackets.

Board members don’t carry on cell phone conversations from the head table during the middle of the meeting as often.

And everyone is performing.

The board president doesn’t even begin, end and determine breaks for the meeting now. The television cameraman’s “three, two, one” countdown in the corner does.

The show is for you — the voter.

Monday the studio audience, if you will, made things more interesting.

The Natchez Board of Aldermen and the Economic Development Authority Board came over for a visit to discuss EDA funding.

But supervisors’ President Henry Watts didn’t want to share his TV time until he’d performed his greatest monologue.

So for 22 minutes, Watts read from his script, throwing punches at everyone in the room — except his best buds —along the way. He took jabs at fellow board members, he attacked this newspaper, he undercut years of work by EDA Board Chairman Woody Allen, he devalued the men serving on the EDA board, he showed further disrespect to city leaders and he was even rude to a public citizen who just came to the meeting to listen.

Like EDA board member James West said, the supervisors had already thrown a stone at the EDA when they cut funding with no notification.

Monday was a meteor shower and everyone in the room needed to take cover.

TV cameras don’t only add 10 pounds; they must add spite as well.

Watts didn’t invite anyone to Monday’s meeting to hear their opinions.

He invited everyone to come hear his.

And his opinion was laced in a sarcastic tone, degrading phrases and a smarmy smirk.

He hasn’t always been this way, so I think the TV cameras must bring it out in him.

The camera hasn’t only changed the appearance of the men and the room; it’s changed the way the men think.

It seems they don’t think, “What is the best decision in this matter?”

They must think, “What will my voters think of me based on what I say about this decision?”

Henry Watts is going to appear to be a man in charge when the broadcast of the four-hour-long meeting airs on TV.

He’s going to look like he’s done his research, knows his facts and should be believed.

And he’ll come across like every thought he’s ever had is in the best interest of the Adams County citizen.

He should win an Oscar.

It was a beautiful monologue, a wonderful performance.

Don’t get me wrong, I whole-heartedly support many of Mr. Watts’ political beliefs. Government should spend conservatively. Taxes are bad. The good-ole boy system is wicked. And common sense decision-making is best.

But sometime between Watts’ first campaign and the cameraman’s “three, two, one,” Watts stopped caring about what’s best for the taxpayer and started caring about what makes him look best in the taxpayers’ eyes.

This newspaper can take the stone throwing; it’s part of our jobs. But the volunteers on the EDA board don’t deserve it. The city leaders haven’t earned it. And the citizens simply deserve better.

Julie Cooper is the managing editor of The Democrat. She can be reached at 601-445-3551.