Government isn’t responsible for everything

Kevin W. Johnson - First Ward Councilman

Dear Editor,

As a citizen of and elected official in Portsmouth, it is always a delight to read of positive actions taken by citizens in our city and county to make our area better. And today’s edition (July 17) featured three articles under the banner of “Live together, serve together” encompassing articles about Christians Beyond Church, Serve Day 2017 and changes to the Portsmouth Wikepedia page narrative. Each article encompassed various aspects of citizens serving our greater community. All extremely positive — with one exception.

The Wikepedia page narrative improvements, as noted in the article, were brought about by the efforts of Dr. Sean Dunne, Shawnee State student Cody Smith, Professor Anthony Dzik, Dr. Andrew Feight and Jason Kester and Adam Phillips of the Southern Ohio Port Authority. Unfortunately, Dr. Dunne blames local government for the information previously contained in the Wikepedia page concerning Portsmouth; stating “Trolling is something that represents a failure of the local government, specifically the city council for allowing this to happen.”

This statement by Dr. Dunne is deeply disturbing in many ways and I must conclude that Dr. Dunne does not understand the authority granted to or the limitations of local government.

The Portsmouth City Charter, in Section 3, states that “Except as otherwise provided in this Charter, all legislative powers of the City shall be vested in a Council…” The term “legislative” is defined as “having the power to make laws.” Nowhere in the city charter does it grant Council the authority to manage news about Portsmouth; whether it be to change a Wikepedia page or an article in the Daily Times. Such is not a legal legislative exercise.

It is unfortunate that some believe that government is responsible for everything. It is true that our city government has expanded in responsibilities since the City Charter was enacted in 1928. Times change, people expect more, government expands and taxes increase to pay for such an expansion. There was a time when the city did not provide its employees health insurance or other benefits. It now does. There was a time when the city did not have a health department. It now does. We may now have a professional, full-time paid fire department, but we did not always and, in 2010, 70% of all firefighters in America were volunteers. Some governments choose to depend upon volunteers; we do not.

However, in no instance before has it ever been suggested to Council that it monitor and change news about itself. Until now. I suggest that Dr. Dunne discuss government, and specifically its authority and limitations thereto, with any noted professor of civics and/or history at Shawnee State.


Kevin W. Johnson

First Ward Councilman