Confehr: Public service is always complex

Friday, April 2, 2010

A couple of things have popped up that deserve a little sunshine.

One is from friends who must remain anonymous. They say there have been inquiries made to people seen as prospective successors to Lewisburg's city manager who wants to retire in October.

Recently, the tale of a good steward in public service was told here. He wanted to move to another career and got permission to hire an assistant to step into his shoes if he met an untimely demise. A few years later, the assistant became the department director.

There's no assistant city manager here. Maybe it's not necessary. But, if Lewisburg is going to hire someone to be city manager within a year, shouldn't it be advertised publicly? The town has a policy for that.

It's complicated. The current city manager hasn't submitted a formal letter of resignation, probably because October is so far off. It's better to do something instead of nothing, but people talk, stories spread and interpretations change with assumptions.

An ambitious person would, probably should, ask about being hired. Still, there's a body of thought that the national search for a police chief was remarkably successful. And there are merits to hiring a local person.

Tennessee's open meetings law was adopted to have the public's business conducted in public. If some city officials are being asked, or asking around town about who would be a good city manager, wouldn't it be a good idea to put it on the City Council agenda as a topic of public discussion? If there's a majority on the Council that's pleased with current management, should there be a vote of confidence?

The second thing arose near the end of an interview with a female candidate for her party's nomination to run for Congress.

The lady from Murfreesboro was asked what people are telling her on the campaign trail.

She was consistent with the points made in her campaign literature: People are dismayed with the way our federal government is working and she wants that changed.

She said she wouldn't accept the privileges that congressmen take, or use.

Really? Yes.

At first, she said no, but stopped when asked if she knew what the franking privilege is.

Told that members of Congress can sign their name in the upper right hand corner of an envelope, instead of using a stamp, the candidate indicated she didn't know about that and that she'd get more information.

Here's something found since that Friday afternoon. Franking comes from francus, Latin for free. A satirist referred to it as the Franklin privilege because Ben Franklin was a postmaster. Congressional franking is limited to official business and the Postal Service is compensated through postal budgets for members of Congress.

If you've received mail from a congressman, you might have noticed their signature reproduced near your name and address. The letters MC are included to indicate the signature is that of a Member of Congress.

There's a difference between absolute franking privileges and a congressional office's postal budget. The most obvious difference is there's no stamp.

Maybe that should change to stop confusion and reduce public perception that congressmen have special privileges.

It's complicated. The learning curve is steep. Most folks work hard and do their best.