Stinnett: Watchdog group not what it seems



Cannon County has a new political watchdog group. It is called Cannon County Concerned Citizens Committee (C5); however, it feels more like a Milli Vanilli tune.

While it sounds good, it is not what it seems.

Community watch groups and activists are good and they are important during election years when the idea is to educate voters on job descriptions, what particular district they are in and the voting process in general.
In order to work these groups must be without political bias or an agenda.

On the surface the C5 ideas are solid. Underneath, it is not a committee that is free of political bias or without an agenda; therefore, it will never work.

In fairness to every candidate on the ballot for the General Election in August, I believe it is necessary to inform citizens of information I am privy to regarding this committee.

For starters, C5 is running an ad in this week’s Cannon Courier informing citizens of a “Voter Education Opportunity.” The plan is to have a political forum and invite all candidates in all races. They will have a chance to present their platform and there will be questions. Exactly who is asking the questions is still a mystery.

The concept of the committee began roughly six weeks ago. That’s about the time I was approached regarding my interest in joining the group. I was interested but my position at The Cannon Courier, plus the fact I cover County Government, led me to believe it would be best not to be on the committee; a position affirmed by Courier owner and publisher Ron Fryar. Nonetheless it was agreed I would cover the meetings and events.

Then a comment was made that concerned me. A charter member informed me this group wanted to “get rid of Mike Gannon.” I wanted nothing to do with any committee that would have any political agenda so I opted not to participate.

Weeks passed following that initial meeting and then I was informed the C5 Committee would be having its first official meeting Tuesday (June 27).

One day after this initial meeting candidates were being invited to a political forum that appears to be very poorly organized. As a result, many candidates don’t have time to organize or already have plans for the day of the forum (July 12) and will opt not to participate.

Those who don’t attend or participate should not be viewed as unwilling to put their views out for public consumption. Rather, they probably would have preferred more prep time for such a forum.

Civic groups or activist groups will never work when political bias is involved. This one reeks of such. The disclaimer at the bottom of an ad running in this week’s Cannon Courier reads “paid for by: Cannon County Concerned Citizens Committee (C5).

This is also misleading.

When the advertisement was placed the cost was to be billed to a political candidate running for a position in Cannon County Government; however, that candidate’s name is not associated with the advertisement.

Perhaps candidates have caught wind of this group’s political bias and opted not to participate in any forum because it is clear the committee is not without political bias. To form such a group and reach out to candidates under the premise of informing citizens when it seems more of a set-up to blindside certain candidates is a concern.

According to its purpose and vision statement, C5 hopes to increase interaction between the electorate and our elected county officials. It hopes to increase citizen knowledge of the issues facing Cannon County. It hopes to increase voter knowledge and understanding of the candidates running for elected office in Cannon County and their qualifications, platforms and ideas for addressing the challenges facing Cannon County. It wants to serve as a conduit for raising public awareness of issues and challenges for Cannon County. It also hopes to serve as a monitor of Cannon County Government’s compliance with the open-government or sunshine laws.

These concepts are good; however, the C5 Committee was sunk the minute it allowed itself to organize with a political agenda. As a result, I believe the group will never make it.