Saturday, August 26, 2006

Mr. DeLay Arrives on the Midnight Train

It’s depressing that our lame duck commissioners, Emerson, Outz, and Morgan, have chosen to bring Texas Republican politics to our County. Morgan must have figured out his nifty plan even prior to his decisive defeat in the primary back in the spring, since he had two years to work on it. (Not that this is a surprise really—Bunky was a Republican before he switched parties purely as a tactic.) His defeat was fair and square, just like the Connecticut Primary just past. And just like Mr. Leiberman, Bunky and cohort have a fall back plan. In fact, their plan is even slicker than Joe Leiberman running this fall as an oxymoronic “independent Democrat.”

According to the Independent Weekly (why not according to the Chatham News; well, that’s another story I guess), our lame duck county commissioners have voted to redraw district lines in such a way as to pit two elected commissioners, Mr. Barnes, and Mr. Lucier, against each other in 2008, while at the same time the same redrawing allows Mr. Morgan to run yet again from a new, presumably safer district, two years sooner than would have otherwise been the case. It’s unfortunate that the two non-lame-duck members voting against this blatantly self-serving proposal didn’t do what the fine Democratic legislators of Texas did a few years back—remove themselves to New Mexico so as to remove the possibility of a quorum. DeLay tactics deserve delay tactics dontcha know. It’s unfortunate that Messrs. Cross and Barnes were unwilling to stoop to such games. Perhaps they felt—correctly of course—that such tactics were not what they were elected to engage in.

There is another aspect to this maneuver. As well as redrawing districts—with zero input from the northeast area of Chatham where more than half the population of the county now reside—the lame ducks have also put on the ballot in November a referendum to change commissioner election in subsequent elections starting in 2008 to district by district. In other words, Morgan, Emerson, and Outz will not have to face county-wide voters next time they run. And this even though all three were at some point in the past elected county-wide, and were most recently un-elected county-wide. What’s not working?

Get the drift? Here’s the obvious, self-serving goal of these lame-ducksters. Let’s make us some safe districts and get our power back. A majority of voters in our county don’t think we did a good job, so next time we won’t let a majority of voters vote. That’s the plan, Stan. (And why the News and Observer, in an editorial on Monday, Aug. 29, on this obvious sleight of hand, was unwilling to actually characterize it as such, but simply mused about how, possibly, the lame ducks were playing slick, I’m confounded to guess. What does it take to call a spade a spade over on McDowell Street? Has that old red rooster they used run on special occasions ended up in the pot?)

Ok, thanks a bunch, Bunky. You’re one hell of a politician. You the Hammah! Single-handedly, you’re dragging a nice, basically rural, friendly county-wide community into the unnecessary divisiveness that is demolishing our national politics. Chatham County surely has a unity, a singleness of purpose, and at the least a sense of community strong enough to work together, north, south, east and west, town and countryside, black, white, and Hispanic. It’s not us again’ thems over thar. We must not allow Bunky and his ilk—including Siler City’s jesfolks AM radio editorial voice—to create divisions in the good will of our county which are otherwise nonexistent. We share a landfill, for heavens sake, not to mention the air and water. We share an area code, a school system, a big four-lane east-west highway. We will all suffer if this County returns to district-only voting for commissioner. The only beneficiaries will be Mr. Morgan, his followers, and whatever large outside business interests pull their strings. Maybe they should rename Siler City “Deadwood.”

One of the great losses, by the way, will be the erosion of electability of minority candidates such as the popular Carl Thompson. County-wise it is clear that racial bigotry no longer holds sway—thus Mr. Thompson’s recent primary victory. But in a district-only vote there is a much smaller pool of voters, and there is no black majority district. This means that tactics such as single-shot voting are nullified, and it may well be that old racial prejudices will re-emerge with decisive results. If that’s not an argument for voting against this district-only plan, I don’t know what is. It’s one of the reasons Chatham County did away with district-only voting in the first place, by the way. (And the N&O editorial got this aspect of the plan backassward.)

Or think about it this way: with county-wide voting, every commissioner cares about your vote to some extent. With district-only voting, four out of five commissioners may not care at all about your vote. Which odds do you like better? Ask the folks out in the Siler City Extra-territorial Jurisdiction who just got a quarry dropped on them by the Siler City Town Board they didn’t elect and can’t vote against next time.

November is our last opportunity to vote countywide for commissioners, should this referendum pass. The solution is obvious. Vote the damn thing down, decisively, for the pernicious, divisive monkey-wrench it really is. And be real sure that Mr. Morgan hasn’t managed to word the referendum in such a way that you have to vote yes to say no. I haven’t seen the actual wording of the statement, but I’ll guarantee Mr. Morgan and his advisors are calculating which way to write it up so as to cause the most confusion, and the most favorable outcome to themselves. Like Woody Guthrie said, “some will rob you with a six gun, some with a fountain pen.”

--Bill Hicks, Albright Township, Chatham Co.
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