May 172009
 

R
ule stretching politicians is not something new, but most don’t rise to the level or the prison digs of North Carolina’s former Speaker of the House Jim Black — but it’s not from the lack of effort. Officeholders with the kind of honor, honesty and idealism as depicted in the Frank Capra classic movie “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” may not be commonplace anymore, if they ever were, but wouldn’t it be great if they were.

The close of this week ended yet another chapter in what has become a rite of spring for NC House Rep. Pryor Gibson, as he tries to manipulate democracy to keep his developer friends in control of Union County. I know of many good souls in eastern Union, who have been bamboozled into thinking that Mr. Gibson is trying to help them, but the record shows a consistent effort to keep ‘certain’ influences in power. This year’s attempt is no different, just more blatant.

Like the Capra character Senator Joseph Paine, Pryor Gibson is serving the special interests, which benefit by keeping Union County citizens divided and untrusting of one another. Divide and conquer – a strategy older than dirt.

mr_smith_goes_to_washingtonAs apparent by the first version of Mr. Gibson’s bill, the idea was to divide Union County in half, the west with three commissioners and the east with two. Only eastern voters would get to vote for their two commissioners, as would the west vote for their three, thereby forging separate constituencies and permanent jealousies.

Mr. Gibson even had the gall to boast in the presence of three witnesses, that he called Commissioner Parker Mills to ask which district he’d like to be drawn into; Mr. Mills chose the east – of course. It is plain to see that Mr. Gibson is trying to micromanage Union County’s government, pulling the strings of it’s citizens as the developers pull his.

In a quote in Friday’s EJ article by Billy Ball, titled “District bill misses deadline but not dead”, Mr. Gibson said when asked about his bill failing to make ‘crossover’, “You can always make bills eligible if there’s a will and a way”. If Pryor had a mustache, he would have been curling the ends up while making that remark.

This should serve as a reminder that Gibson is the kind of politician that will not let the House rules prevent him from achieving his ends, a “Capra-esque” arch-villain, made to order. Our only hope is that the majority of the House members have grown tired of the embarrassment brought upon them by Pryor’s corruption.

An important part of the story not mentioned is the successful effort made by NC House Rep. Curtis Blackwood to derail Gibson’s bill in committee, preventing it from moving forward. While Curtis is not the Jefferson Smith character as played by Jimmy Stewart in the movie, he did use his low profile mannerisms to help the committee members to see Mr. Gibson’s bill for what it truly is – the disenfranchisement of all Union County voters.

Mr. Blackwood was certainly aided by the incredible display of arrogance as Mr. Gibson offered a number of substitute revisions to his bill, each more objectionable than its predecessor.

Curtis Blackwood did yeoman’s work and deserves proper recognition for his efforts. And, I’d also offer three cheers to the members of the Local Government II Committee for their clarity of vision – sans Rep. Pryor Gibson of course.

 Posted by at 7:30 am
Apr 122009
 

F
or the third year running, NC House Representative Pryor Gibson (D) is looking to deconstruct democracy in Union County, by once again proposing arbitrary commissioner voting districts.

salamanderActions like Mr. Gibson’s is often referred to as ‘gerrymandering’, a term coined in 1812 when Massachusetts Governor Elbridge Gerry and his party created a voting district that was shaped like a salamander, the word comes from the resulting combination. For almost two hundred years, gerrymandering means drawing a district to give unfair advantage to one party or group in an election.

This spring Mr. Gibson continues to turn fair representation on its head by dictating from Raleigh, a scheme to dilute the greater western population with disproportionate districts. How ironic is it that Mr. Gibson, an Anson County resident, is himself a beneficiary of an illegally gerrymandered district as described in the North Carolina case recently decided by the United States Supreme Court.

A Little History

In the 2007 election, Mr. Gibson’s first intervention to reshape the political landscape in Union County was foiled when 60% of the voters rejected his referendum. Gibson’s plan for districts was incredibly skewed to favor his eastern constitutes; three western districts averaged 25,000 registered voters and the two eastern districts only 12,000. Voters recognized the inherent unfairness.

In 2008, Mr. Gibson again tried to force districts on Union County after the lame-duck majority of Commissioners Baucom, Mills and Pressley voted to ask Gibson to expand the Board of Commissioners from five to nine seats. Fortunately for citizens, the plan was stymied by short session House rules that required a local bill be non-controversial.

The current session of the General Assembly does not have any such restrictions on local bills, so as expected Representative Gibson filed yet another bill to create two districts this time, an east and west. It doesn’t take a cynic to argue this new plan will only serve to codify in statute the cultural divide that seems to exist in the minds of many eastern county residents and promoted by certain special interests.

Reaching Out

One the first acts by the new Board of Commissioners last December was fulfilling a campaign promise to create a Governance Committee whose membership is to be comprised of representatives from the 14 municipalities and nine members from unincorporated Union County. Their task will be to research and recommend a governance plan to be placed on the 2010 ballot. The first meeting takes place next month.

Mr. Gibson was quoted as stating the Union board was moving too slow and as a result he had to file his bill. He further stated the issue required “immediate attention”. I don’t suppose the Governance Committee actually doing its job has anything to do with his urgency?

Would you be surprised to learn that ‘Section 1’ of Mr. Gibson’s bill prohibits the Union County voters from making any changes to our governance method, leaving that power in Mr. Gibson’s hands and that of the North Carolina General Assembly?

The remainder of Mr. Gibson’s bill splits Union County geographically into halves, with residential requirements that dictate three commissioners reside in western Union County and two in the east. Some critics have labeled this portion of the bill as the Allan Baucom re-election Bill #2. The first bill was hatched in July, 2007 when Representative Gibson created a voter district plan allowing Mr. Baucom and Parker Mills to extend their current terms by two years.

Violating the Constitution

Out the window goes ‘one person, one vote’ guarantees of our Constitution, since Mr. Gibson is apparently not interested in waiting for the 2010 Census to provide a true picture of the County’s population demographics.

If you review the history where commissioners have resided since 1990, you’d note that the balance shifted between east and west very consistently, in fact 1990 and 1992 terms was the last time all the commissioners were from one side – the east. Since then it’s alternated 3-2 from one side or the other.

So what’s happened Mr. Gibson? Why the urgency to create an electoral Berlin Wall down the center of Union County?

Taking a clue from the TEA Parties planned nationwide for April 15th, it’s time Union County citizens take petty politicians who do nothing but foster division and throw them into the drink.

DOCUMENTS


This column appeared in the Waxhaw Exchange on April 12 and Enquirer Journal on April 16, 2009

 Posted by at 8:00 am
Jan 132009
 

L
ast month I wanted to put together a year-end summary, revisiting the notable quotes from politicians and editorial writers for the past year. Unfortunately, I didn’t have an efficient method to retrieve those worthy quotes, so with that in mind, I have added a new topic category called ‘Notable Quotes’.

Notable Quote #1

There’s a concentration of population and if we’re not really cautious, we’re going to have a minority of the county that’s going to be controlling the entire county,” Baucom said. “As we look forward, it’s extremely prudent that we make sure that the entire county is represented.

via Panel to study expanded county board? – The Enquirer-Journal.

The minority is the majority

During the last two years, we truly had a small minority, the partners of a special interest group, as the Commissioner majority, to use Mr. Baucom’s words “controlling the entire county”. It wasn’t prudent then, but it is now. The ever benevolent Allan Baucom.

For years now, the population and tax revenue contributions of western Union County has vastly out weighed the eastern side of the county. Part of the reason of course is there are more people in a subdivision than a farm. Second, Charlotte being the employment center, people like to live close to work and considering the regions 3rd world road system, it is a necessity.

What hadn’t happened until 2008 was the majority of the Board of Commissioners coming from the western side of the county and being newcomers as well. Apparently, as is human nature, Mr. Baucom and his allies are struggling to accept the loss of power and authority; his oligarchy put asunder – the minority no longer rules like the majority!

Staying in power

If you take Mr. Baucom’s actions as proof of his opinion, then you shouldn’t be surprised. Let’s not forget the Parker Mills and Allan Baucom conspiracy with State Representative Pryor Gibson (view House Bill proposal) to create voting districts in Union County where Mr. Baucom and Mr. Mills’ terms would be extended two years. Lest we forget the effort last summer by the previous Commissioner majority have the state legislate districts on 2000 census data.

A breath of fresh air

Lately, Mr. Baucom is taken up a new theme – transparent government. I am amazed he doesn’t need a Heimlich every time he utters the phrase; the last two years of opaque government was the favored style of the ever autocratic former chairman Allan Baucom.

We finally have a Commissioner majority who know the meaning of the words “open government – transparent government”.

 Posted by at 10:32 am  Tagged with:
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