Hell No, We Won't Govern


City council members in West Helena, Arkansas, have found the ultimate form of government protest: They have become elected officials who refuse to govern.

For the past 21 months, Governing magazine reports, four of the eight city council members have refused to show up for any official meeting. They're apparently upset over a variety of local issues, such as city employee salaries and pollution cleanup efforts in minority neighborhoods. Unable to get their way by vote, they've decided to take their ball and go home: Without the four, the council lacks a quorum and no official business can be conducted. The city hasn't been able to make any new taxing or spending decisions for nearly two years. When government employees sued for their pay, a judge declared that the city must function under the last budget legally passed until the impasse is broken.

Even when the town's mayor tried to meet with some of the stay-away councilmen in a restaurant to settle the problem, the local media put an end to it: The private get-together appeared to violate open-meeting laws.