Learnard: ‘Stop the insanity!’

Section 2 of the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965 prohibits voting practices or procedures that discriminate on the basis of race, color or membership in certain minority groups.

Most lawsuits that arise under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act involve challenges to at-large election scenarios like the one we have here in Fayette County.

Section 2 litigation usually involves a claim that an entity such as a county, a city or a school board is in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, resulting in an inability of minorities to elect a candidate of their choice.

Invariably, the county, city or school board settles the case. “Settling” typically means the at-large voting system is replaced by a district voting system. A new map is drawn and candidates are elected by district.

More than one hundred such cases have been filed and settled in Georgia, all resulting in a change from at-large to district voting.

In the greater Atlanta area, Butts, Carroll, Cherokee, Clayton, Cobb, Coweta, DeKalb, Douglas, Fulton, Gwinnett, Heard, Henry, Lamar, Meriwether, Pike, Spalding and Troup counties have changed to district voting.

Here in Fayette County, a lawsuit was filed in August of 2011. Plaintiffs are ten individuals and two organizations, the Georgia State Conference of the NAACP and the Fayette branch of the NAACP. Defendants are the Fayette County Board of Education and the Fayette County Commission.

In 2011, the Fayette County Board of Education wisely decided to settle the case. The plaintiffs agreed to settle, to work together to establish voting districts, and to assure the Fayette County Board of Education liability would not exceed $5,000.

The Fayette County Commission later objected, however, so the settlement with the school system was vacated.

It helps to understand the precedents in Georgia. The list of lawsuits resulting in a change from at-large to district voting in Georgia counties reads a lot like, well, a list of Georgia counties. In every case, a lawsuit was filed claiming the current at-large voting policy was a violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act; over 100 cases were settled by changing to district voting.

In March of 2014, the Fayette County Commission and the Fayette County Board of Education decided to appeal U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Batten’s ruling that Fayette is in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.

The notion that Fayette County can be successful in this appeal has no reasonable basis in legal precedent. An appeal makes no legal, political, or financial sense.

And taxpayers bear the costs. Thanks to the Fayette County commissioners’ 2011 objection to a settlement, the case has already dragged on for nearly three years.

Because Fayette County lost, taxpayers must now cover the plaintiffs’ legal costs and expenses, a figure in excess of $900,000. That figure doesn’t include the cost of the county’s own lawyers, expected to have reached $300,000 so far.

What could have been settled in 2011 at a cost of only $10,000 – $5,000 for the county and $5,000 for the school board – now costs us $1.2 million. With an appeal, this figure could multiply. Fayette County taxpayers, get out your wallets.

I understand that Fayette County’s defense attorneys have indicated they could take this case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Well, sure, I could too if I was billing Fayette taxpayers $300 per hour.

$1.2 million is real money that will not go to music programs in our elementary schools, parapros in our first grade classrooms, or much needed infrastructure repairs countywide.

Fayette taxpayers have had to pay too much already. It is time to stop the insanity and end any further legal action that will only serve to pad the pockets of high priced lawyers and waste more of our hard-earned dollars.

Kim Learnard
Peachtree City, Ga.

[Ms. Learnard was reelected to a second four-year term on the Peachtree City Council last fall in an at-large election with no party labels.]

Husband and Fat...
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Ms. Learned's letter

First, I didnt like the judges decision because I want to vote for what's best for all of the county. I am a republican, but have no problem voting for a democrat, African American, Catholic, Jew, or Muslim if that person is the best candidate available.

If the BOE is not party (or paying party) to the appeal will the BOE voting stay in districts should the appeal win?

I am a parent of 2 in the county schools and see first hand the affects on class size, lack of para pros, and other cuts. If I am correct, only 2 of the 9 elected officials have kids in school. Keep the school funded portion out of the fight and allow the commission to finace this appeal alone, but also for the BOE. We're supposed to be in high cotton soon anyway according to commission. Keep our kids funding out of it and reenact funding similar to the resources afforded past students.

In addition, if this was about democrats using the NAACP, to gain a voice in the county, then our commission, BOE, and it's lawyers being paid 3/4 million dollars all need to be ousted, if no one figured this out beforehand. It also requires that those in district 5, actually come out and vote. I don't think it's sustainable based on voting records.

Costs or time should not get in the way of fighting for what's right. However this should not preclude logic. I still haven't seen or heard any argument that would convince an educated person, that this will be overturned. Most arguments I have seen are simply emotional that lack any supporting precedence.

PTC Observer
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H&F - It

It will not be overturned. The law works against this as an outcome.

Those within the new district are not required to vote, there will be enough political activists to vote for their "vision" of "justice". AKA power to use the law to change much of what's "wrong" with Fayette County.

What does that mean for you and your children H&F? Well look at outcomes elsewhere for an indication of what's ahead. Socialism, does not work. You may want to consider home schooling, charter schools or private schools. You will not have a better outcome in public schools, it's nearly guaranteed.

Good luck

Citizen_Steve
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Thanks Kim

I do not want to finance this legal battle which will accomplish nothing in the end.

The NAACP's position that black folks are handicapped and need special help to succeed saddens me.

brewster
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colored skin

Black skin is a handicap that requires special help - up to a point.

stranger than f...
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Thank you Ms. Learnard

You clearly elucidate the District Voting issue and give a reasoned prediction of the futility of continuing to fight a losing battle. Our current School Board (save Mr. Presberg) and County Commissioners are wasting our resources fighting for a lost cause. Instead of fiscal responsibility, they are voting for tea party ideology. I certainly hope the citizens will remember their foolishness and wastefulness when they return to the polls.

Best voting guide - If the tea baggers endorse the candidate, vote for the opponent! Vote for sanity.

Truth is stranger than fiction.

Gort
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If the citizens of Fayette

If the citizens of Fayette County demand that the BOE continues to challenge the judges ruling on district voting, it may be time to change the name from Fayette to Flagellate County.

Fayette is too French anyway.

The Apolitical ...
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Power of the Peachtree City Council

Dear Kim,

Operating Peachtree City government is a responsibility of persons who have been elected or appointed to serve the common interest of Peachtree City residents.

Your opinion regarding how to operate Fayette County government has been freely expressed and prominently given weight in The Citizen's Opinion.

Your opinion on how Fayette County government should be operated impressed me as a the leanings of a free thinking government apologist. Your argument rested on the fact that if government employees can reduce legitimate government expenditures, (when such expenditure may best serve the interests and public opinion of its citizens), in order for government employees to control a larger share of public tax revenues, then somehow favoring government control over government service is justified.

When you represent Peachtree Council, please base your administrative opinions as if you were serving the interests of Peachtree City residents and were respecting their common opinion above that of your own self-interest.

Your portion of the political arena involves serving Peachtree City residents and Peachtree City residents' interests are best served by you when you focus your political actions on the operation of Peachtree City government.

Peachtree City government should not coerce Fayette County government to resolve its responsibilities; the way an affiliated public official's individual opinion can be coercive, regardless of whether it might be sincere or intended to dupe its audience.

Thank you for your service to Peachtree City government and Peachtree City residents.

Peace and Justice and Truth

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Seeing SB go down may be worth it..

I don't think district voting is the end of the world, I just don't see what Fayette was doing so badly as to deserve to be sued to make it happen. IF we had the worst of anything in the Metro, maybe it would have been a valid suit...but we all know what the suit was about...not what's best for Fayette for sure.

G35 Dude
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Ms Learnard - How do you define insanity?

We could lay down and give up as you suggest. Save a few bucks. But how does that stop the insanity? The insanity as I see it is allowing others to move into your county and upset the system that has been so successful for so long. Will we be happy when our schools are just equal to the schools of the counties that you listed? If anyone could tell me how black kids have been harmed by receiving a Fayette County education and how that would be fixed by guaranteeing a black majority district I'd be happy to listen. But this isn't about helping the kids. To the NAACP they are just pawns in a political game. They'll suffer in the long run if we allow this to happen. Some times you have to fight. Even when the odds are against you. We would still be under English rule if you had been in charge during the American Revolution.

Another point I'd like an answer to is this. Why do you think we'll have to pay the NAACP's costs if we lose? That is not usually the case.

http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/attorney-fees-does-losing-side-30...

borntorun
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A Few Bucks G35?

You and I apparently are of different socio-economic structures if you consider a couple of million dollars "a few bucks". You harp on wasteful govt spending on these blogs and yet you are advocating wasting a couple of million dollars on a lawsuit you have virtually no chance of winning. Tell me....what will be you legal stand for an appeal? You don't like it? Its not the way we've done it in Fayette County? Tell me what you think will convince a court to overturn the original decision.

G35 Dude
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BTR-$30 or so

Lets say the county spends 3 million to fight this. With a population of over 100,000 that equates to less than $30 a person. If you don't think the future of our kids is worth $30 then I guess we just agree to dis-agree. I'm not a lawyer so I have no clue what our chances are. I just feel that some things are worth fighting for. Even if the odds are against you. So are you a lawyer? Do you know that we have no chance? You know sometimes as a kid when a bully attacks you, you fight back. You know you'll probably lose but you also know that if you don't fight back other bullies will line up to take their turn humiliating you. So you make his victory as costly as possible so that future bullies will think twice.

borntorun
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Worth Fighting For G35 Dude?

Even when you have no legal basis to overturn the appeal? That's just lunacy. Especially when that three million dollars could be used for some infrastructure issues the county is facing. I don't even think The Brown Clown believes the county will prevail. I think the reason he is pushing the appeal is to appeal to the conservative base in the county knowing he is in a dogfight to keep his commissioner seat. He knows district voting is unpopular and is using the incumbent bully pulpit to stay elected. Don't underestimate the political animal within Steve Brown. He will do anything....yes even whizz away three million dollars of our taxes when he knows the county won't win to stay elected.

G35 Dude
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BTR

So then you are a lawyer? Please tell me how many others have appealed these decisions and how they lost them? Again, if you think rolling over and playing dead will discourage these idiots from coming back to do more harm in the future, then I think you're sadly mistaken. To me the definition of lunacy would be to feed this stray dog by giving them what they want and think that they won't come back for more.

borntorun
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Faulty Logic Car Dude

No sir...I am not a lawyer. Nor am I a doctor but I know when I'm sick. Nor am I a mechanic but I know when my car is having issues. Not sure what the hell me being a lawyer or not has to do with anything. So you think after the county files an appeal (still waiting on what grounds you think the county can appeal....doubt I will ever get it though) and loses the NAACP will cower and say..."Gee, we better not mess with that county again!" Seriously? Your logic here is about as loony as your food stamp and cost per person to fight this losing battle arithmetic. Whatever. Moving on.....

G35 Dude
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You're right BTR

You're right it is time to move on. We just have a difference in outlook. You'll lay down to save money. I'll fight for our kids even if the odds are against me. But then again, I'm not borntorun.

suggarfoot
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G35

what you say is so true

Busy Bee
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$30 Per Person

Of course that population figure of 100,000 includes everyone, including children. So the $30 per person would work out to $120 per household for a family of 4. Just saying...

G35 Dude
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Yes Bee

You are correct bee. So what price do you put on the future of our kids?

suggarfoot
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good points G35 Dude

The lawyers for the NAACP know they can't get their legal cost back. They just want to prey on the fear of those that don't know better.

Their legal machine only churns up more BS to make their paychecks fatter. The NAACP has long ago departed from helping the needy blacks.

They area sick, entitled, bunch who seem to swill up the donations in their paychecks.

Robert W. Morgan
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If the judge is dumb enough to issue a racist ruling

like "we have to make this district 51% black even though the entire county is only 20% black", then he's dumb enough to award attorney fees. Of course all that goes away if the appeal is heard by someone who recognizes the obvious racism in Judge Batten's decision.

Here's a survey question that might be interesting -"Considering the NAACP lawsuit over district voting, the allegations made in that suit and the decision by the judge - do you, consciously or subconsciously
a. Have more respect for our black neighbors in Fayette County
b. Have less respect for our black neighbors in Fayette County
c. No change in feelings about our black neighbors, but I sure think the NAACP is stirring up a bunch of trouble we didn't need and didn't ask for
d. No opinion, don't care, doesn't affect me, don't want to spend money on an appeal

borntorun
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Common Sense Kim

Thank you for being the only adult in the political room Kim. My goodness...some elected officials as well as people on this blog think it will be Armageddon if district voting is enacted. And as you point out, other counties that have district voting seemed to have survived just fine. And the flippant comments about we don't care how much money it will cost the taxpayers would be laughable except we are talking big bucks for a losing cause. Appealing this decision is a losing battle whether or not you agree with district voting. Sort of like I'm pretty sure I'm gonna die if I step out in front of that oncoming train....but I'm gonna do it anyway. Time to move on.

Cyclist
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District Voting

It's time to move on.

Husband and Fat...
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At first glance

I thought the title was Leonard especially when the commentary began with legal information. It wasn't until I read Kim, that I realized who wrote the letter. Lol.

While I think the ruling stinks and I try to instill fight into my kids, one does have to utilize logic and odds when it comes to the fight. Until our elected share with us the logic behind this battle, it's throwing good money after bad.

Whether were spending money that could be used for teaching kids or providing clean water, our leaders owe it to the people to be good stewards of our money. A simple explaination of the strategy devoid of emotion is all I ask.

PTC Observer
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Councilwoman Learnard

Exactly

Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act

If you don't like it, repeal it, otherwise, it's the law.

A law (tool)(force) that is used for political purposes, to advance an agenda, that has nothing to do with race.

An agenda that deals with power, treasure and redistribution. In that order.

Welcome to social democracy.

Robert W. Morgan
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procedures that discriminate on the basis of race, color, etc

So then, Kimmy. What the heck is the gerrymandered 5th District doing? It is a district created only looking for blacks. I even think they passed over black non-voters so they could be sure of the activists having some influence to get a black elected.

Understand the spending money problem, but I will be glad to pick up your share and maybe one other person. That gets my contribution up to about $120. No problem.

After all, I am paying for at least 2 other families because of the way our health insurance premiums increased. They can't pay for some reason, so I have to do it for them. No problem. Happy to help.

Of course there is this:

Section 2 of the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965 prohibits voting practices or procedures that discriminate on the basis of race, color or membership in certain minority groups.

Hmmmmm. Love to put that on a whiteboard at the U.S. Supreme Court. Is that still 4 liberal tools vs. 5 adults?

moelarrycurly
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I think the

insanity stop is so that there can be moolah for charter school(s) and for a career education academy that she has been trying to get off the ground. Or has everyone forgotten that. Agendas, please. Stick to the agenda.

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