By Brian Bloom
Bigger is not always better.
Shelby County’s Commissioners don’t seem to understand that as they’ve moved forward, over County Mayor Mark Luttrell’s objections, to advance the Shelby County Board of Education from seven to 13 members.
Commissioners mistakenly believe more board members equate better representation. Those in support of the resolution claim there are neighborhoods not represented yet the reality is, if the resolution is allowed to go forward, 11 of the 13 board seats will be commission appointees further watering down suburban interests.
We are all too aware of the county commission’s inability to effectively represent the electorate. Now we expect these same individuals to increase appointments to a school board that must have “all” interests at heart and not hindered by geographic demands.
The challenge to the new Shelby County Board of Education goes beyond one neighborhood’s representation. The challenge is to bring a diverse community and culture under one umbrella and offer equal opportunities for all students regardless of neighborhood.
Tennessee’s state Senate seems to be taking cues from Shelby County’s commission. How else can you explain a bill that would take the away the voter’s rights to choose party nominees?
Sponsored by Strawberry Plains Republican Senator Frank Nicely, the bill would allow the party caucuses in the state senate to pick the parties’ primary candidates. Once these hand-picked candidates are chosen, the people, Nicely argues, would still be elected in the general election.
Supported by Senate Speaker and Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey, the idea was to keep individuals of questionable character from garnering senate seats. Based on this bill’s language, we’re beginning to believe it’s too late for that.
Ramsey and Nicely need a lesson in constitutional governing. Popular elections were ratified by the 17th amendment as a mechanism to eliminate the cronyism and corruption that was rampant within the political machines that managed government.
The bill, initially set for vote this week, has been moved to the last day of the session in April. While we are pleased the senate is not interrupting important business to debate this issue today, we wonder if it was moved so that quick passage will not allow time for debate later.
From our earliest days we have been told the importance of our voice. We lament low voter turnouts wringing our hands that so few care so little.
Nicely’s bill will effectively take away our right to vote – to choose those we feel best reflect our personal values.
Last year Tennessee legislators put a stumbling block in front of voters with the voter ID law. This year some want to eliminate our ability to even make our own choices.
We urge you to tell you legislator enough is enough. They serve at the will of the people. It’s time we remind them of that.