My latest op-ed, title above, appeared in The Virginian-Pilot last Thursday. It was one of the few times that what I wrote was too long for the space 😦 But the essence of it was there. Two things are clear to me:
Lack of leadership on this issue. Except for Tommy Smigiel, no one on council has thought outside the box on how to elect the school board. Council members should have known that Norfolk voters would approve the referendum for elected school boards; not a single one that has made it to the ballot has failed. Somebody should have been compiling what other localities have done and what we could do in Norfolk. I guess it was easier to just maintain the status quo – wards – than think about it more. Contrary to popular belief, one does not become a leader simply by getting elected. Leadership is doing, not a position.
Paternalism. This is neither the first – nor will it be the last – time that council thinks they know what’s better for us than we know for ourselves. This had my blood boiling:
During the meeting, Smigiel expressed frustration with those who support voting by wards.
“The NAACP sent a letter saying they don’t support a ward system. That’s the NAACP,” he said. “I don’t understand why we’re talking about it. Most of the people that came out and spoke, black and white, said they don’t want a ward system.”
Riddick downplayed those perspectives.
“They don’t have the slightest idea,” Riddick said. “Even the NAACP, I question their leadership anyway, at this point. They don’t have the slightest idea what the at-large system would do.”
As written in my op-ed, before it was cut for space considerations:
Let me remind Mr. Riddick – and the others – again of Jefferson’s admonishment: “I know no safe depositary of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education.”
Had council shown some leadership, their paternalism wouldn’t have been so blatant. To be dismissive of the citizens of Norfolk is something that this council has done for far too long.
That’s why I decided to contact my friend, Sen. Kenny Alexander, and help him put in a bill that would give the people what they voted for. The bill, as drafted, is a placeholder and a substitute will be offered.
In the meantime, I hope council will give due consideration to Smigiel’s hybrid proposal (click to enlarge). I’m not alone in not wanting wards for our school board.
My column appears in The Virginian-Pilot every week, usually on Thursdays. You can see the columns as they are published here, or navigate to them from the PilotOnline.com homepage by clicking on Opinion and then choosing my name at the bottom of the dropdown list. You can also see the columns by liking my Facebook page. Although my column appears weekly, I am not and have never been an employee of The Virginian-Pilot nor am I paid for my contributions to the paper.