How the whisper campaign costs taxpayers
County politics in Sussex County was once a village. It was more than close knit, it was closed. This presented a problem for reformers. In closed societies, people tend to overlook the corrupt practices of others, so as not to rock the boat. Go along to get along.
The problem with this is that corruption ends up costing everyone who pays taxes -- everyone that is except the people making money off the corruption.
In closed societies like this anyone who identifies or even talks about problems is considered "impolite". Steve Oroho was impolite in 2004 and especially so in 2007. Parker Space was impolite in 2010 and Gail Phoebus in 2012. Space, Phoebus, and George Graham have been very impolite this year, because they asked that a deal that was sold to the Freeholder Board with false promises be investigated and that those who made money by ripping-off Sussex County taxpayers be held to account.
Reform is Rude in Sussex County. At least as far as the county's political class is concerned. The fact that all of those mentioned above romped to victory (some by big upsets) indicates that most residents of Sussex County do not share the same opinions as the county's political class.
When he was United States Attorney, Chris Christie used to talk about the "corruption tax". This was the extra-cost to taxpayers that came from the single-bid wired for a political insider or from hiring someone "connected" instead of someone competent.
Because it is such a closed society, county politics in Sussex County was once largely controlled by an exclusive group whose business was politics. That is how they made their money. Turnout at elections was low and campaigns were conducted mouth to mouth, whisper to whisper, for in politics here it is rare for people to be straight with you. To your face it is all smiles, behind your back, it's the whispers.
And then along came Steve Oroho. He hired a consultant who worked with him to expand the number of residents who participated in politics. Turnout at elections went up and the mouth to mouth campaign counted for less. No longer could you get over on someone by pretending to like him while helping his opponent, because it didn't matter as much.
Steve Oroho opened the door to allow new people to participate and voter turnout went up. It also let the fresh air of reform in. It became safer to speak the truth and identify bad practices.
There are those who long for the days when they could ostracize anyone who dared blow the whistle on corruption, theft, or malfeasance. Those days are gone and, though some may try, they will not come back.
The voters will not allow the county political class to steal their government from them. They will not be content to "shut up and pay" ever rising taxes so that this "wired" county politico can get a no-show job in order to qualify for a state pension. They will not "shut up and pay" so that local elected officials can be a sales reps for vendors who demand government use a product that nobody asked for. This is the past and those who benefitted from these corrupt practices had better get used to it.