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SENTRY JOURNAL » 2010 elections, Boss Hogg, Corruption, Hazzard County, Local Politics » “Hazzard County politics" is very real in much of small town America

“Hazzard County politics" is very real in much of small town America

Today I wanted to take the time to build off one of my recent posts “Start Thinking Local” and show first hand why it is so important to stay engaged at the local level when it comes to community issues.  First off I will try to do my best in mapping out a personal experience that I have encountered and how my own lack of involvement helped this along.  How many people remember the TV show from the early 1980s The Dukes of Hazzard?  If you don’t I’ll provide you with the basic theme of the show with the help of Wikipedia.

The television series The Dukes of Hazzard follows Bo and Luke Duke, two cousins living in a rural part the fictional Hazzard County, Georgia with their cousin Daisy and wise old Uncle Jesse, racing around in their customized 1969 Dodge Charger, The General Lee, evading corrupt county commissioner Boss Hogg and his inept county sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane.

Before I start I want to state that this is my own opinion and nothing more.  I know some or maybe many of you can relate to this story or at least the principle behind it.  As stated above Hazzard County was a fictional place in TV land; however I’m here to tell you that it is a very real place in many small communities across our nation; mine is just one of many.

I grew up in small town America and as a child I was shielded from any hint of local corruption by my parents.  They knew all too well who was crooked and who was honest.  When you think about we all know who is shady and who is honest in our own local communities.  For the most part all I cared about was fishing, HS football, girls, and my 1971 Chevy Camaro.  Don’t get me wrong there was plenty of time for many hard days of work during my teenage years; however the last thing on my mind was local politics and corruption.

The older I got I became more engaged in issues that directly affected me; I began to see the things in local politics that my parents had shielded me from as a child.  I saw the dark side of people and how the system really worked.  It wasn’t about what you knew, but who you knew.  It was an eye opening experience.  From the small town I was raised in to the small city I currently reside in it appears Hazzard County politics is alive and well.  So this brings me to my latest encounter with what appears to be Hazzard County politics in play.

Just over a year ago my wife and I moved into our neighborhood and we both love the location.  It is quiet and clean and there is a sense of community.  My neighbors seem like very good people with good character.  There’s a plot of land behind my home that is an open field surrounded by trees.  I asked one of my neighbors when we first moved in why the land had not been developed and was informed that the reason was because of water drainage issues.  I was happy to hear this because the scenery behind our home is simply amazing.  For 47 years the city has always turned down development plans for this area because of this water problem.  Each time that some developer tried to buy the land or attempted to get it rezoned for some type of project the neighborhood was notified when the city council was going to meet and discuss it.  This notification allowed my neighbors to attend and express their concerns.  Things changed this summer.

A powerful local developer had his eyes on the land and all kinds of rumors swirled as to what was going on.  I watched him walk the field and count off potential lots.  Then one of my neighbors received word that the city council had called a meeting to discuss the issue two nights before and the green light was given to develop the land.  No notification was sent to neighborhood about this meeting; not a word of it was in the local newspaper.  One of my neighbors told me that something didn’t feel right.  I was new to the community but I wasn’t new to local politics.  I had seen this tactic many times before; used to cowardly slip under the radar controversial decisions made by elected officials.  Phone calls were made and we determined through those calls that there was very little chance of anything happening because there were some ownership issues going on with the land.  As July slipped away and August arrived I noticed that the realtor selling the land took the “for sale” sign down.  Most in the neighborhood breathed a collective sigh of relief and thought that the issue was dead.  How wrong we were.

Two weeks ago I was in my backyard and an individual approached me at my fence line.  He introduced himself.  He was the developer from the summer that I had seen counting off lots on the undeveloped land.  He informed me that he had just closed on the land the day before and also bought the land directly behind me.  His property now butted up against my fence line.  I inquired as to what his plans were and he said to develop it.  I then asked about the water issues I had heard about and he dismissively waived off my question as if it was no big deal.  Something seemed wrong with all this.  Something indeed appeared on the surface as fishy

The next day I informed a few of my neighbors about my encounter with the developer and a look of concerned washed over their faces.  I told them that I was just the new kid on the block and really didn’t have the history that they all had with the land behind us.  The first thing out of my neighbor’s mouth was there is something rotten about all of this.  I couldn’t agree more.  Nothing had changed with the water drainage problem and yet things had changed.  I was told that an individual they knew who sat on the city council was suppose to inform them if anything was going to go down with the deal.  The look of disbelief in the neighbor’s eye was revealing.  It was a look that screamed betrayal and frustration at the same time.  I then asked when the monthly city planner’s meeting was held.  The neighbor replied two nights ago.  Now in my mind this is where things really started to stink.  So on the day the developer closed on the land deal, the city planner’s meeting was held…hmmmm.  Are you seeing where I’m going with this?  You know something is wrong, you can’t really prove anything, but you know it in your heart something is amiss.  I looked at my neighbor and said; well it’s time to vote that person out of office.  If you feel it in your bones that something is not right with this call this city councilperson out on it and tell him that you will no longer support him.  My neighbor with eyes glossed over in frustration just looked away.

The point I’m trying to make is that corruption and shady deals are not just things that happen in a far off place; they occur in our own backyards.  We in our neighborhood decided to let the chips fall where they may and we allowed ourselves to be controlled by circumstances and not control the circumstances.  You see this is the kind of stuff that happens all the time in local communities.  It can involve anything from an unexpected increase of property taxes to deciding what type of curriculum is going to be taught in our schools.  When people are not engaged at the local level, the impact of a decision made there can have a profound effect on each of us.  If we choose to look the other way when we know something is wrong then we deserve the government we get.  It’s time we take our national goggles off and start looking at local politicians with a more critical eye.  We need to start placing them and the issues under consideration under a magnifying glass.  This needs to happen in our towns, cities, counties, and state level elections and it needs to happen this election cycle.

Can I prove that a “Boss Hogg” type developer who owns everything and throws a great deal of money around my town did anything wrong?  I cannot.  Does it all appear shady?  Yes it does.  Is it partially my fault this has happened?  Yes it is.  When I chose not to stay engaged I forfeited my voice on this issue.

But the one thing I do know for sure is that the fictional County of Hazzard is not so fictional in many towns in America.

Stay engaged and don’t become another victim of local circumstances.   Just make sure you do it minus the “compound bow.”

Liberty forever, freedom for all!

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Filed under: 2010 elections, Boss Hogg, Corruption, Hazzard County, Local Politics

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Comments
  • Right Hand Man October 9, 2010 at 4:42 PM

    Love the post, but let's face it…the picture is priceless!

  • John Carey October 9, 2010 at 4:50 PM

    The pic is priceless Right!

  • LD Jackson October 9, 2010 at 4:53 PM

    Great, great post, John. I remember The Dukes, as we called them, very well. Compound bow and all.

    You are right on target with your assessment, just as you were with your previous post about keeping our focus on local government. We would do well to remember the lessons you have shared with us in both articles.

  • fleeceme.net October 9, 2010 at 5:58 PM

    If I may quote from "Rules for Radical Conservatives" by David Kahane (get this book!) –

    "We (progressives) turned fat old Tip O'Neill's tiresome bromide about how 'all politics is local' right on its head. Instead of going door-to-door like some cheap Chicago alderman with a basketful of promises and his hand out, we took advantage of our increasing majorities among academics and journalists and began to focus everyone's attention on Washington, D.C. Okay, so your alderman was a crook, your mayor a corrupt idiot, your governor headed to the hoosegow. And, of course, they were all Democrats. So what? We convinced you that the only place such problems could really be solved was the District of Columbia."

    The result of course is we took our eye off the government that influences us the most, local government. Your post is a perfect example.

    I would argue most people think the Federal government decides local school curriculum. So they don't even know how to question "their" government when they have a problem with what little Billy is learning. You tell people long enough they can't change "progress", and people eventually believe it and give up.

    Keep doing the good work of citizen journalism, and stay on your city council's back about this.

  • Gorges Smythe October 9, 2010 at 6:03 PM

    I'd venture to say that such things are the rule, NOT the exception in ALL localities. That's certainly the way it is in my neck of the woods.

  • John Carey October 9, 2010 at 8:31 PM

    Thanks for the kind words Larry.

  • John Carey October 9, 2010 at 8:36 PM

    Thanks Fleeceme. I think we all need to focus on these folks that make decisions on a daily basis that impact us. If we desire to rein in the federal government it must start at the city, county, and state level first.

  • John Carey October 9, 2010 at 8:38 PM

    I couldn't agree more GS. It is indeed the norm and not the exception. This is what makes it truly sad because we can have the most influence at this level of government.

  • kingshamus October 10, 2010 at 5:28 AM

    Corruption is much easier to live with if you have a certified hottie like Daisy Duke on your arm.

    Seriously, as bloggers our writing focus is often on the national level. In our personal lives, we've gotta make sure our local scene is as Boss Hogg-free as possible.

  • John Carey October 10, 2010 at 12:31 PM

    I hear you KS about Daisy Duke. She was indeed a hottie. I agree with you when you said that bloggers tend to write more about national politics then local. I get caught up in the national scene myself because it is indeed very important. However of we hope to truly restore the republic it must start with a fresh look at federalism and federalism starts and ends in our backyards and local pubs. Thanks for the words.