Democracy is so overrated. This was the belief expressed by the fictional politician Frank Underwood in the hit Netflix series House of Cards. The incoming member of the general assembly from the third house district seemed to agree with the statement and decided to channel his inner Underwood recently. Mitchell Horner is a newly nominated Republican running unopposed in the November general election for house district three. Under cover of darkness, he delivered an unstamped parcel to the mailboxes of every Catoosa County Commissioner on Friday night. Take a look at the contents.
Was e-mail down Friday night? Cell service out too? There is a lot to unpack here. First, a little context. Last week, the Catoosa Board of Commissioners announced a proposed millage rate increase of 1.75 mills or about 30% to 7.568. Three public hearings would be held before a final vote on August 19th. Naturally, no one is happy about a tax increase, but is it a crisis? Below is the history of county property tax rates for Catoosa and neighboring counties.
If the proposed tax increase is enacted, Catoosa’s rate will still be the lowest in the region. Certainly not a crisis, but let’s say Horner is right. In any event, why not offer up some suggestions? Every commissioner would surely welcome it from any citizen. That could have been achieved with an email attaching the proposed budget changes, or sending them to the county clerk, or even a text message. Rather, Horner decided to present his proposed budget not in person at a meeting or by knocking on the commissioners’ door, but by placing it in an unstamped parcel in their mailbox.
As well as an edited budget, the parcel contained that delightfully self-aggrandizing note. There’s something hilarious about the note. Instead of simply offering his input to the duly elected county commissioners for them to consider, Horner tells them he will make his proposed budget public if they fail to respond by 9 AM Monday morning. An ultimatum is always the perfect complement to an offer of assistance.
Ever the selfless, he finishes with a reminder that he is here to serve.
Put yourself in his shoes for a moment to decide whether what he did was the best option or even a good option. What would you have to believe about yourself, about Catoosa County citizens, and about the elected officials receiving the package for the actions he took to be your best choice? Or simply a good option at all?
The amount of ego needed to believe this was the right course of action is astonishing. It appears that Horner believed that if the county commissioners refused to agree to his proposed budget, then the voters would side with him and oust the bums in the next election if his budget was not adopted.
Maybe Horner’s confidence is justified. Can Horner expect such devotion based on the vote totals from the recent primary? Although Horner won his primary, how did he perform in comparison with other winners? Catoosa County Commissioner Chuck Harris faced a vigorous challenge in the primary. His opponent was supported by Horner and Catoosa GOP leadership. Because Harris’s district falls entirely within district three, every voter had both the house and the commissioner races on their ballots. Which candidate did better with voters, Horner or Harris?
Since Horner’s Machiavellian gambit was exposed, he has attempted to portray himself as a humble servant who simply offered up his budgetary genius to the county commissioners. He echoed similar rhetoric during his primary campaign whenever questioned about what it is he actually does, who he works for, or any other detailed inquiries into his business and entrepreneurial claims. A sense of supreme confidence and boasting backed by little or no evidence.
Apparently(in this situation at least), Horner views politics as a real-life version of House of Cards, in which he plays the lead character, Frank. As entertaining as the show is as fiction and art, its political tactics and strong-arm theatrics are ineffective and ludicrously counterproductive in reality. Miscalculating individuals who try such things are quickly exposed as incompetent. Here we are.
As Mr. Horner is bright, idealistic, and ambitious, I hope this event will inoculate him against the belief that politics works the way Hollywood (and Georgia, according to film tax credit records) portrays it.
***Credit and my thanks to David Moon for the graphics for this post.