Sunday, May 17, 2020

Of Robin Hood and Hobbits

What the heck? I thought this was a political campaign not a book or movie review? Yes, yes. Very fair. The fact of the matter is that Robin Hood and Hobbits share something in common with our quest for answers about the County Board of Commissioners. Shires.

Shires were first created by King Ine of Wessex in the 7th century in order to better manage his kingdom. English common law is the foundational basis for much of our governmental principles and structures and shires came along for the ride. The name got changed over the years and we Americans don’t have a King, but the principle of the shire exists to this day.

The place where Bilbo started his journey shows us the important elements of a Shire. A Shire has regions like Bilbo's Farthings, Marches, and Fields and population centers like Bywater and Hobbiton. Lenawee County here in modern day Michigan has townships like Madison and Raisin as the regions and population centers like cities, such as Tecumseh and Adrian, and villages, such as Clinton and Deerfield.

Lenawee County isn’t ruled by an absent King at war in the holy land while his brother’s Sheriff robs and murders the people in the King’s name nor is it a completely autonomous patchwork of independent self governing entities within a forgotten backwater of the Kingdom of Gondor. Lenawee County, legally, exists as a matter of State power expressed via the Michigan Constitution of 1963. As we have seen, long before 1963 the people of Michigan recognized that exercising direct control from Lansing would be extremely difficult and shifted responsibility for various administration and enforcement duties to local authorities.

Who are those local authorities? The County Sheriff, indeed, the Sheriff of Nottingham from the story of Robin Hood as we know him was actually known as a Reeve. The modern day English word Sheriff comes from combining Shire and Reeve. Then there are the various local courts. And, finally, the County Board of Commissioners. Which is where we started this whole journey in the first place, isn’t it?

Well, if you haven’t figured it out by now, we aren’t going to answer very many questions here in this post. In fact, a curious person might argue that the number of questions just increased by a fair bit. Having said that, I do think we can answer the question in a very general sense. The County Board of Commissioners is vested with power by the State of Michigan to oversee and administer various functions as outlined by the Michigan State Constitution of 1963, decades of authorizing language from the Michigan Legislature, and various amendments.

Next time perhaps we can finally answer the question of how the members of this body are elected.