Lawsuit surrender, Dial’s ambitions, parties


The curious and the curiouser: Enquiring minds want to know . . .

The Fayette County Board of Education has snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in capitulating to the NAACP district voting lawsuit shakedown, a suit totally unwinnable by the Democrats on the face of it.

As a result of members Terri Smith, Janet Smola and Leonard Presberg, every Fayette County voter has just been 80 percent disenfranchised.

Up until now, every voter got to vote on every member of the board that spends most of our local tax money. Now, thanks to the NAACP and Smith-Smola-Presberg, all of us get to vote on only one of the five members, and only once every four years.

The abject surrender — devoid of any public input or participation — likely will lead to both racial spoils and ward politics. Whatever leverage the voters had over the school board now is reduced by four-fifths.

Enquiring minds want to know: Was the fix in with Presberg’s appointment? What is the rationale of the three who voted away our rights to vote?

You ask, so what would you do different? How about fight the suit and win it? If that meant laying off some teachers and parapros to raise the money to pay the legal fees, that’s exactly what I would do. No apologies. The right to vote is worth a few jobs.

So, Mayor Eric Dial of Tyrone is the new Ken Steele wannabe. The mayors from those metropolises of Brooks and Woolsey (you didn’t even know Woolsey had a mayor, did you?) voted for the regional governance-friendly Dial as if the voters just two months ago had not banished Steele from elective office for his wrong-headed votes for regional transit and regional taxation.

Those three luminaries — previous backers of Steele in his quest to make Fayette County into a proper metro county, transit buses and all — outvoted the mayors of Peachtree City and Fayetteville and chose Dial to carry the regional governance standard into battle.

Let’s see: Peachtree City and Fayetteville contain about five times the combined populations of Tyrone, Brooks and Woolsey. And yet the mayors representing more than half the people in the entire county were shut out of this process. How’s that for fairness?

Enquiring minds want to know: What political prize does Dial have his eyes set upon? One senses in Dial a hunger for higher office than modest little Tyrone can provide.

I propose that all current elected officials in Fayette County be forced to declare for a particular party in order to appear on a ballot. Or at the very least, before getting our votes.

I said last week I embrace increased partisan labeling as a means to signal to voters how a candidate might treat public money under his/her authority.

Some disagree. I suggest true believers in what they call “non-partisan” elections labor under a significant load of naiveté. I repeat that column’s title: “Nonpartisan: Who are you kidding?”

The only true nonpartisans are those who are ignorant of the issues of the day, true blank slates. Yes, there are plenty of truly ignorant Republicans and Democrats holding elective office, but at least they did not run on a platform that proudly proclaimed their ignorance.

The only true nonpartisan in American politics was George Washington, and that was only because the parties had not had time to officially declare themselves. Mr. Adams and Mr. Jefferson soon brought that nonpartisan era to a close.

As for nonpartisanship lessening political strife, I present the Peachtree City Council as rebuttal witness number one. That nonpartisanship has really done well in Peachtree City, don’t you think?

Just for fun, let’s have a guessing game about the REAL political allegiances of those holding elective office in Fayette County and its municipalities.

I’ll start it off with a litmus test: Who among our local officials do you suppose voted for Barack Obama in 2008?

On the current PTC Council, I’d guess a minimum of one out of the five, and maybe two.

On the current school board, I’d guess a minimum of two out of five, and it might even rise as high as four out of five. Oh, wait, all the elected board members ran as Republicans, right? Yeah, right.

If this were 2004, I’d replace Obama’s name with that of George Bush. But you have your own fun with this little guessing game.

And by the way, the U.S. of A. is indeed a free country and you have the right to vote via secret ballot for whomever you choose. But, honestly now, wouldn’t you really like to know before you press that touchscreen ballot just what your candidate really stood for?

My argument is that requiring a candidate to make a party declaration is the minimum step required to figure out a candidate’s governing philosophy. The label doesn’t protect the voters from candidates who lie, deceive and cheat, but it does help to narrow the blame.

Voting for a nonpartisan candidate is like queueing up for a pricey movie ticket and being told at the box office, “You don’t get to choose which movie. It’ll be a surprise, and you don’t get your money back.”

[Cal Beverly is editor and publisher of The Citizen.]