Letters to the Editor, Week Of Oct. 24
Present system isn’t broke
As I approached the ”Vote Yes” booth at Warsaw Fest and read its poster I thought it was odd that it made no case for how it would improve education in Richmond County. Not one word! Then I read Mr. Cupp’s Op Ed piece in the October 17 News and he too vigorously reinforced that voting ”Yes” in no way profits our children. So if it’s not about the kids, why vote ”Yes?”
Richmond County has a school system that most people are proud of based on the views of county residents documented by the News in the current capital improvement debate. What’s broke in the current system that needs fixin’?
The ”Yes” position ignores this question and warns us instead that residents are being denied something they should not live without. Mr. Cupp invoked the ghosts of our founding fathers and presidents from Virginia suggesting that public positions in the U. S. are best served if elected by popular vote. Wow! He must have skipped a whole boatload of history classes where he would have learned about the Supreme Court, the vice-president, federal judges, the Cabinet, ambassadorships, etc. etc. The founding fathers, Virginians included, resoundingly rejected elections for these important positions. Elections don’t automatically make things better; they just make them political.
In addition, elections would eliminate the current qualification process for school board applicants and replace it with a system that severely limits the potential candidate pool–whether qualified or not–to rich people or people who can raise enough money to run. Why is that important? Current school board members already have two jobs: one that feeds their families and one that serves the school children of Richmond County. Elections doom these hard-working souls to taking on a third job: raising money and campaigning for office. Running for office takes significant valuable time away from both their families and our students. School board members would no longer be employed on merit, but on the wallets and whims of campaign contributors, many of whom are people with no children in the school system. Non-partisan elections do not mean you don’t have to run. Candidates without an R or D after their names are still forced to eat a lot of rubber chicken and kiss a lot of babies.
Personally, I’d rather school board members read their own kids a bedtime story than spend night after night and Saturday afternoons kissing the rings(?) of fat cats.
It’s not surprising that a lawyer like Mr. Cupp prefers that money determine the course of our kids’ education. As he eloquently inferred by his glaring omission, it’s not about the children.
The present system ain’t broke. Their is nothing to fix. Vote ”No.”
Jim Kurdziel, Farnham
Where is burden of proof?
I read with great interest the information about the School Board Referendum in Richmond County. While I did sign the petition to have this issue on the ballot I have been unsuccessful in finding reasons why we should change the current appointment system. I had hoped that I would read compelling reasons for change in last week’s Northern Neck News.
I was not only a debater in college but coached national championship debate teams at that same level many years ago. The first rule of debate is the team advancing a change in the status quo…ie the Vote Yes side…must clearly prove that there is a harmful and significant reason to change the current system. I thought I was going to find that/those reasons in Mr. James L. Cupp’s rationale for voting “Yes” on this issue. I was sadly disappointed.
Mr. Cupp writes long and elegantly about our Virginia history and our rich legacy of presidential quality persons. He further educates us on the options that are available to the counties of Virginia. He is most certainly correct in noting that “The most important job Richmond County has to do is to educate the leaders of tomorrow.”
There was no mention of any reason for this change. In short this side of the “Vote Yes” argument did not fulfill their burden of proof.
I did read what was written under “Vote No” and must agree that the current system has served the citizens of Richmond County very well in the past and will no doubt continue to do so in the future.
The most compelling argument made, in my mind, was that by Jackie Emery in her letter to the editor. She brings up the Concerned Taxpayer group who seem to want to control local issues and the education of our children becomes a lesser goal. Who are these people and why do they want to change a system that is working so well.
My late father used to say, “If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it.” I am going to vote “NO” on this referendum and I invite you to join me.
Dr. Tommy Neuman, Warsaw
Capability over Campaign Dollars
I took the opportunity to sit in on the interviews held by the School Board Selection Commission on May 18th, I was able to get a true firsthand experience as to how the process works. The selection process to appoint School Board members is an in-depth process. where the public can also voice their opinion and concern. While sitting in the public gallery during the interviews, one question in particular resonated with me: Do you have the time to serve? Two of the candidates had to be interviewed by phone. This in itself speaks volumes. Another question asked during the interview process was: What qualifications do you have to serve as a member?
If the School Board was elected instead of appointed, these questions and the many others asked during the process ‘would never be asked, ans\vered or analyzed. Is that what we want for the children of Richmond County? There are self-serving individuals who would never be appointed to serve on the School Board. but want to skirt the process by throwing money into a campaign in hopes of being elected. The appointment process is a democratic process. There are many appointed positions in Richmond County, including: the Industrial Development Authority, Planning Commission, the Wetlands Board. Board of Equalization and the Board of Zoning Appeals. There is a reason many local boards are appointed, and a reason our founding fathers created two forms of selecting officials. In my opinion, the biggest reason to have an appointed board is so we can select people based on their capability, not because they have more campaign dollars or because they are more popular. [vote for capability over campaign dollars any day.
Don’t put the fate of the school system in the hands of special interest groups with a political agenda. It is time to stand up for the children. If you truly want your voice heard, come out to the School Board meeting held every month, and ask questions. Keep the current appointed School Board, a Board that has proven to do a great j ob for our County. Please join me on November 6th and Vote No to an elected School Board.
Harry F. Smith Jr. ,Haynesville
Choose our Children, Vote No
On Nov. 6 the voters of Richmond County will decide whether to change the method used to select members of the school board. We have a simple, clear choice. Is the school board’s job to provide for the needs of our children? Or to look out for the interests of property owners?
Please choose our children and vote NO on Nov. 6.
Ira Packett, Warsaw
Democracy Alive and Well in Process
A referendum has been placed on the upcoming ballot in Richmond County to institute a change in the selection process for school board membership. If passed, this deviation in the current selection process could have a profound negative impact on our educational system and our children.
Please do not be confused, this isn’t about building a new high school and it’s not about taxes. It’s not even about elected vs. appointed positions on a broader scale; it’s about an issue unique to Richmond County right now. A select group of individuals want to take control of another facet of our County for the sake of their own financial prosperity by calling for an elected school board. If passed, these folks will use their campaign dollars to secure spots on the school board without having to prove any qualifications or interest in the school system. Please ask yourselves: have you heard a formal group step forward and take credit for this initiative? Probably not, because there is discord among their membership on this issue as well as others including the circulation of the “Truth Tribune” and the unveiling of student’s names and addresses.
Our education system is one of the few aspects of our community that we can be proud of and we need to protect it from these local volatile politics. It is being advertised that electing school board members is the only democratic way to ensure that you have a voice in the selection process; the fact that democracy is alive and well within the current process is blatantly omitted. The current appointed selection process ensures that the most QUALIFIED people are selected to serve on our school board; it negates special interests while still encompassing public input.
I was present at the nomination meeting held on May 18th, and observed the process first hand. Everyone in attendance, including those who participated via teleconference, was given the opportunity to speak and voice their opinion. I witnessed the interviews and must say that the individuals possessing the genuine interest in the school system were ultimately selected on June 1st without prejudice. Their competitors clearly resonated of their special interest in controlling spending and not raising taxes; this is a platform better suited for those seeking positions on the Board of Supervisors, not the School Board, a non-taxing authority.
Our appointed school board system and the many individuals involved in that process have served our County well for many generations. I know of no other school division that has been able to do as much with as little as Richmond County. They deserve commendation for their achievements despite their stringent budget constraints, not condemnation.
Please “Vote NO to an Elected School Board and Keep our Schools the BEST in the Neck”. If you have questions or desire to learn more about the referendum item, feel free to contact me personally or visit: www.votenorc.org
Kathy Morse Clarke, Newland
Appointed Board Shows Dedication
As a graduate of Rappahannock High School, as a parent of children who attend RHS and RCI, and as a teacher of twenty-five years in the school system, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the past and present members of the Richmond County School Board. Your commitment to the educational excellence of our school has been unwavering, and the children of the county have reaped the benefits.
Each of you serve the school system to the best of your ability, unhampered by politics, owing no favors to any special interest groups, giving your time and energy to a school that most of you or your children attended, and earning the respect and appreciation of all who work with you. I believe the effective working relationship among school board members, administration, and teachers is directly related to the appointed process. By maintaining an appointed board, we maintain a board that is solely devoted to doing what is right for our community and our children.
I encourage the voters of Richmond County to vote NO to the elected school board referendum. Let the students, parents, teachers, support staff, principals, superintendents, and school board continue to be the Best in the Neck!
Beth France, Warsaw
‘No’ vote means disenfranchisement
Don’t give up your right to vote. Who would even imagine doing such a thing? When the polls open on Nov. 6, every citizen over the age of 18 will be able to cast a vote. It is a right we take for granted, one that defines our nation as a democracy. The right to vote is universally recognized as a fundamental human right.
One of the most critical ways that individuals can influence governmental decision-making is through voting. Voting is a formal expression of preference for a candidate for office or for a proposed resolution of an issue, i.e. to have an elected school board or an appointed one. Voting generally takes place in the context of a large-scale national or regional election; however, local and small-scale community elections can be just as critical to individual participation in government.
The issue at hand is the election of the school board. The question on the ballot will read “Shall the method of selecting the school board be changed from appointment by the school board selection commission to direct election by the voters?” The important language here is “election by the voters.” To vote “no” means that you are giving up your right to vote for school board members now and will not be allowed to vote for them in the future.
Not being allowed to vote is being disenfranchised, and no American who is qualified to vote should ever be denied the right and opportunity to do so. That seems so simple, so basic. How can “government by the people” work if the people are not allowed to vote for a select group of county officials, that is the school board? I urge all to vote “yes” for the direct election of school board members so that you will have the opportunity to elect them in the future.
R. C. Wellford, Warsaw
Appointment history in Va. is an ugly one
In response to the letter of J. Gregory Lewis and the opinion piece entitled “Vote No” in your last edition, I must note the following corrections of fact:
According to the State Board of Elections, and confirmed by contemporaneous press accounts and by Sterling E. Rives, III, Esq., Hanover’s County Attorney since 1987, Hanover County held its first – and only – referendum regarding the election of its school board at the November 8, 1994, general election. A majority of Hanover County’s voters rejected the change, making it one of the only three Virginia jurisdictions (out of 115 that have voted) to do so. (The City of Danville, one of the other two, later approved an elected school board referendum, with 82.7% of voters in favor.)
Furthermore, none of the 113 Virginia jurisdictions that passed a referendum changing to an elected school board has subsequently passed a referendum reverting to an appointed school board, according to the State Board of Elections, and none has a referendum attempting to do so currently pending. In fact, King George County is the only Virginia jurisdiction that has ever even attempted to do so and that attempt failed by a nearly 3-1 margin.
The “Vote No” editorial intimates that the selection commission system originated with the Founding Fathers. In fact, according to the lengthy history of school board selection in Virginia recounted in the federal court’s decision in Irby v. Fitz-Hugh, 692 F.Supp. 610 (E.D.Va. 1988), the system we have in Richmond County today dates back to the “Byrd Machine” – specifically the 1926 session of the General Assembly – which passed legislation (subsequently signed by Gov. Harry F. Byrd, Sr.) that provided for a three-member “school trustee electoral board” in each jurisdiction, with all members appointed by the local circuit court judge, to select members of the school board. While a type of selection commission existed in Virginia as early as 1877, it is quite misleading to imply that our system originated with the Founding Fathers.
It should also be observed that as early as the 1901-02 Virginia Constitutional Convention, the Convention’s Committee on Education recommended the election of school boards. According to Irby, a proponent explained that the rationale for the change was “that the current system resulted in nepotism, inefficient school systems and a lack of responsiveness to the people.” Immediately, the proposal was amended to retain an appointive system, based upon delegate concerns that voters would elect African-Americans to school boards. Later, in 1956, Arlington County’s authority to elect its school board was taken away by the General Assembly and Gov. Stanley after its school board agreed to desegregate in compliance with the United States Supreme Court’s seminal decision in Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954). The real history of Virginia’s school board appointment process is an ugly one, largely based upon racial prejudice.
This is an important issue. Richmond County’s voters should have access to accurate information in determining whether or not to support the election of our school board.
James LeRoy Cupp, Warsaw
Other letters to the Editor
Platform based on fiction
It’s interesting to note that Mitt Romney decided to plagiarize his new slogan, “Clear eyes, full heart, can’t lose” from a fictional TV show, Friday Night Lights. His reliance on fictional philosophy is similar to that of his running mate, Paul Ryan, who bases his personal and economic philosophies on the fictional writings of Ayn Rand, an atheist. Ryan says that she “taught me quite a bit about who I am and what my value systems are and what my beliefs are.” Their plan for Medicare is also fiction, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office.
The non-partisan CBO’s analysis of Ryan’s budget, which analysis Ryan himself requested, gives the real story behind the Romney/Ryan campaign’s fictional assurances that their plan will reduce costs for Medicare beneficiaries. The CBO has concluded that Ryan’s plan would more than double the health care spending of the average 65 year-old. And, because Ryan’s plan would eliminate the mandatory coverage provision of Obamacare and raise the Medicare eligibility age to 67, Ryan would leave many retired 65 and 66 year-olds without any health insurance coverage. This is because they would not be able to afford the very high private insurance premiums for their age group.
Ryan’s plan requires congressional approval. Adam Cook supports continuing Obamacare and will not vote for the Ryan plan. Romney and Ryan want to replace Obamacare and current Medicare benefits with higher costs for all and no health care coverage for many. Buying into their fictional assurances will buy you nothing but debt. Vote for Adam Cook on November 6 if you want to preserve real Medicare and health care coverage.
Dan Morissette, Heathsville
Obama vote puts us in deeper
I risk offending some of you with this letter. But in view of the threat to our Country, I need to try to convince you to help the country by using logic and not emotion to decide how you stand.
I believe President Obama wants to cut America “down to size.” His actions clearly demonstrate that. Does it matter whether he does it on purpose or not? He is quite successfully destroying the united states economy.
Mitt Romney may be the most qualified Presidential candidate ever! He worked at Bain Capital for a reason; he has a unique understanding of economics. His record in Government and in the private sector confirms this.
If you vote for Obama, things will get worse for every American. It doesn’t matter if this is intentional.
If one dollar is one second, a trillion dollars is approximately 32,000 years. At some point, either spending will be brought back to reality or the system will collapse.
I am not running for anything. But just like you, I live here and have friends and family here. I am deeply concerned about their future if things are not corrected. So I would be pleased to sit down with anyone who would like to discuss the future of our country and share their views. We’re in this together.
Dave Bailey, Callao/Warsaw