COBB Talks City Politics with TBC
Jan 27, 2017
The Buckner Clarion (TBC) sits down with Mark Hohler and Benjamin F. Ross of Citizens Organized for a Better Buckner (COBB) to find out the mission of this organization and how it benefits Buckner.
Q. TBC: Explain what a PAC is and how it works.
A. COBB: (Mark) PACs (political action committees) pay attention to politics whatever level they want to whether it is local, state or federal. They pay attention and they try to get change in whatever way that they can. So, they will pick a side on an issue. For example, the city wants to put in a new street, PAC will decide whether this is a good or bad idea and then lobby for or against it. We do take action by putting flyers on doors whether we do or don’t want this. PACs try to stir the issue in the way they want it to go. Issues could range from as small as a new street to gun control or a political candidate. We do this by building awareness. PACs also try to get politics or other people to run for seats in the government. If we hear the city is going to do something, we decide on whether it’s a good idea, bad idea or we remain neutral and just let things play out. A lot of times we have an opinion. We are registered through the state and can accept contributions. We have to do a quarterly report about where money comes from and expenditures. Our money has to go to the PAC or a non-profit. PACs are all over the country and state for many things. We like to stay local.
Q. TBC: How will Buckner benefit from having a PAC and why was it formed?
A. COBB: (Ben): Started initially when I was running for mayor and we started by going door to door talking to the community and then it came to a point where I knew I couldn’t run for mayor anymore because I took a job that would consist of lots of travel and I did not find that fair for the citizens of Buckner to have a mayor that was always traveling. I decided not to run but I didn’t want to give up on the city. Going door to door I noticed a lot of input that citizens had and realized how bad the communication was between the citizens and the city. We believed by starting a PAC we could still be involved by getting information out to the citizens. It was formed to help fix that communication barrier between the city and the citizens.
(Mark) We went door to door at least three times and talked to people and the one thing we heard a lot was that nobody knew what was going on or when they found out it was too late. Like that show, Outlaw Country, we hated Outlaw Country, it was terrible and made Buckner look really bad and like a drug haven and nobody knew it was coming and didn’t have any input until it was too late.
It is beneficial because we get the information and communicate it to the people through our Facebook page, newsletter or paper that we deliver to people and an email newsletter. We go to public hearings that happen the first and third Thursdays. Those are meetings that you have to attend to know what is going on. If you do not attend, you have no idea what is being said, so we go to those and then tell the people what was said at those meetings.
For example, three months ago they voted to have pitbulls allowed in the city, which used to be illegal, but without us telling the city no one would be aware that law got changed. We also keep the politicians accountable because before they were working in a vacuum where nobody knew what was happening or could critique them or comment. They worked in isolation with nobody watching and just by us watching these past nine months you can see their behavior changing because now they are being watched. Just watching them makes a difference. They are much more self-conscious now because they know anything they say or do the people will see.
Q. TBC: Who makes up the PAC and how were the members selected?
A. COBB: (Mark) Ben is the CEO and I’m the COO and we basically run the show and then we have a group of neighbors that are loosely associated with us. People get confused and think we are a civic organization that goes around and does good things but we are a political organization. We do some good things because we want to, like last spring we cleaned up and planted flowers at the veteran’s memorial here in town and we were able to get five or six people to go down there with us.
(Ben) A lot of people are intimidated by the city government and are afraid to go say anything so a lot of times they come to us and we aren’t afraid so we will go to meetings and bring it up. Our goal is more to empower and give knowledge to citizens. We are not really looking for members. Our job is to more give information.
Q. TBC: What is the best way to contact you with complaints or request newsletters?
A. COBB: Email. (email@example.com)
Q. TBC: What results would you like to see come from COBB?
A. COBB: (Ben) Communication. It still hasn’t improved much between the city and the people but the main thing is come to the meetings because that’s how you find out what is going on.
Q. TBC: What initiative do you have planned for 2017?
A. COBB: We are trying to get people to run for the Alderman election this April. That is our push for the next three months because there are three Aldermen that are up and we are trying to find people to run against them and be active participants in that election.
Q. TBC: Do you hope to build a better relationship with City officials in the future?
A. COBB: We are very open to communicating with them. We wish things would change to where city leaders would be more open with us and not have such a hostile relationship like it is. It has changed more since getting a new city administrator unlike that last administrator. More of a working relationship would be nice.
TBC also reached out to Alderman Darrel Box to get his take. Here is what he had to say:
“It is always disheartening to hear that any member of the community feels that we have not lived up to the ideals of good governance and have to be hyper-vigilant to assure that we act in a manner consistent with community standards.
“It may be that when we look with our own eyes and listen with our own ears we learn that the rumors and innuendo were not founded on fact, so the apparent improvement in behavior may be simply a better data collection method. That being said, it is great to see a group of concerned and engaged citizens stepping forward who share our goal of making Buckner a great place to live. You cannot have too many good ideas and we welcome them from everyone.
“As an alderman I agree that no citizen should feel the city leadership has an adversarial relationship with them. Mr. Childers is a seasoned professional and I am glad to hear his interactions with the public have been favorably received.”