The Daily Chronicle published a story last week about the DeKalb city clerk’s absenteeism at city council meetings. Sasha Cohen’s attendance record since taking office is running about 50%, and the city council is whining about it.
Unfortunately, the article is missing context, such as the double standards and hostile environment at play. While I’m not thrilled about the clerk’s absences, I’m likewise unhappy with the city council’s attendance over the same time period — the worst I’ve seen in more than 16 years of watching these meetings. Yet instead of addressing their own failures, mayor and aldermen spend their time amplifying the clerk’s.
This is nothing new. Over the last decade, city leadership has defaulted to bullying clerks they don’t like — even the exceptional ones — to try to force them out of office and put in their guy. Sometimes they’ve succeeded.
Sasha Cohen has made mistakes, he’s not everybody’s cup of tea politically and certainly not above criticism. Yet I hope the civic-minded might consider the strategic consequences of going along with its city government acting like goons to subvert the will of the voters.
There’s also the ballot nomination process to think about. Assuming he completes his term of office, Clerk Cohen will oversee that process for the 2023 and 2025 city elections, and we’ve seen how that can go wrong. The same independent streak that has made Sasha Cohen a target at city hall is our best chance at ensuring ballot integrity in an otherwise toxic culture that clearly does not honor it.