This isn't intended to evoke a wave of sympathy for politicians. Lord knows I don't want anyone to think they should feel sorry for elected officials.
But watch these folks long enough, and you can't help but get frustrated on their behalf at the number of things they get blamed for that aren't their fault and the number of things they're called on to fix that aren't their responsibility.
The No. 1 scapegoat around here, for everything, seems to be County Commission Chairman Ron Cross. It goes with the territory, of course. He's been elected county-wide twice, and the longer he's around the more people will focus their unmet needs on him.
My favorite story he tells is about a man in an Evans neighborhood who called because he'd seen a roach crawl from his neighbor's garbage, across the street, and onto his yard. "What are you going to do about it?" the man demanded.
Since when is the county on Cockroach Patrol?
Many of the criticisms aren't so trivial, but are nearly as misguided. For example, letter-writer Richard Netzley today aims a sarcastic comment at Cross for the appearance of Washington Road in Columbia County.
The unsightly Martinez corridor was already ugly long before Cross was ever elected to anything. And it's only under Cross that commissioners have actually tried to improve it - yet it was voters themselves who shot down the Tax Improvement Districts that would have helped!
Another letter-writer, this one in The Chronicle a couple of weeks ago, criticized all the commissioners for improving Wildwood Park while neglecting nearby boat ramps and the dock at Keg Creek.
Just one teensy problem: The Keg Creek dock is a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers facility. The county has nothing to do with it.
And how about the fellow the other day who blamed commissioners for failing to cover up ditches on Oakley-Pirkle Road? He criticized the county for filling the ditches on Evans-to-Locks Road when they built a bike path for (presumably) rich people.
Except for one detail: The Evans-to-Locks Road ditches are still there, right next to that bike path.
Yet another writer complained about commissioners doing "nothing" to spray for mosquitoes. Actually, Columbia County long ago determined that such fogging brings in even more complaints, and is far less effective than the less-visible practice of spreading larvicide in places where mosquitoes breed.
There's much more, of course. Commissioners took a beating for months because of construction delays on Furys Ferry Road, even though that was entirely the fault of a private contractor employed by the state department of transportation. In fact, the county's only involvement was to convince the DOT to allow the county to put in the landscaped islands instead of sterile concrete - hardly something to criticize them for.
And traffic signals? How many times have you heard, "I guess the county just wants someone to get killed before they put a traffic light at so-and-so." Again, most of those cases - say, Gibbs at Washington roads - are state highways.
The county isn't entirely prohibited from working on state roads, but when the county tries to fix a problem, it's only after cutting through a lot of red tape.
That's how the county was able to fix the Evans stretch of Washington Road to add a turn lane, and that's how they'll soon add the turn lane at Goodwill (which includes being extorted into paying more than $200,000 to "encroach" on railroad property).
So c'mon, folks. At least if you're going to beat up on county officials, do a little homework. They aren't perfect, but they don't screw up nearly as much as some make it sound.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to barry.paschal at newstimesonline.com.)
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.