Matthew Tilley offers:As a concerned Stokes County citizen it's this dirty insider politics that makes it difficult, if not impossible, for real people with a heart for the county and a real interest in good government to get elected. Those of us with real jobs who're working hard to raise a family just have to throw up our hands in disgust when no one seems to really be representing us at any level of govenment -- especially where'd you'd expect it most, at the most local level.
While I've met and actually like everyone of the current county commissioners, I'm not so sure they're all looking out for me. On the other hand, the way that Dr. Carroll is approaching things doesn't seem very productive at all. I'd prefer not being completely represented to the rancorous attitude on display here. Not sure that things are as black and white as he's making it out or as some of the folks on the other side are making it out.
Sure, I'm sounding pretty wishy-washy, but at the end of the day, we do all have to live here. How do you break the vicious petty cycle and move the county forward? And don't give me that get involved stuff -- that's just too hard! (yes, of course, I'm being sarcastic!)
I think that states it pretty well, actually.
One of the interesting aspects of county government is that it is portrayed as representative government and its artifacts as deliberative bodies (well, at least the Board of Commissioners are). The simple facts are that the list of things County Commissioners cannot do is far longer than the list of things they can do. There are 13 elected county-wide offices in Stokes County: Five commissioners, five LEA (school board) members, the sheriff, the clerk of the superior courts, and the register of deeds. We also elect member of the soil and water commission, but, as you'll see, that is a complete waste of time and money (the vote, not necessarily the position). Given the structure of county government, I can't think of a single reason to elect any of those positions. Electing the sheriff is a holdover from the antebellum county government structure. The sheriff is a law enforcement officer, he should be appointed by the highest elected officials overseeing county administration. The clerk of courts and register of deeds are clerical and administrative positions. In many cases, forcing elections for these offices just about guarantees you will not get the best person for the job. Stokes County is exceptional in that at the moment as both positions are held by highly competent administrators.
The LEA was created by the NC legislature to protect their little Marxist indoctrination centers against the ravages of both common sense and conservatism. In Stokes County, the LEA has learned from masters of deception like Ron Carroll and Frank Sells (well maybe I'm giving Frank too much credit) how to co-opt the commissioner elections as well. By hiding roughly 80% of their budget from the public, they create the perception that stingy commissioners are starving the schools. Electing the LEA is both a joke and a local government disaster. While some kind of citizen oversight of the schools is definitely a necessity, holding a beauty pageant every other year to determine the oversight creates a travesty of republican democracy.
That brings us to the commissioners. I am of two minds on this. From a strict policy point of view, I can see no problem with the board being appointed. The question arises, who will do the appointing? Constitutionally, counties are simply a political subdivision of the state government. Allowing the General Assembly to appoint commissioners is completely unworkable. This would vest total control over local government in the hands of two people: the House of Representatives member and the state Senator. The model for local government is intended that the County Manager serves as the executive while the Board of Commissioners serves as the legislative (if you will). The problem with that model is that it doesn't fit reality. The legislative powers of the BoC are minimal at best. A better model is the corporate one, with the County Manager as the CEO and the commissioners as the board of directors. If the office was apolitical and you could get the Democrats to drop their silly ideas of participatory democracy, the natural extension of the model is that the county shareholders (i.e. anyone who lives or owns property in the county) should elect the board of directors. In fact, the natural working model for this would be to limit election of the board to property owners only (something that was in the US Constitution and should be brought back, but I digress...).
Obviously, changing the system can't happen locally. That's why electing people to the NCGA who are solidly grounded in the principles of republican democracy is so important (republican, not Republican, don't start whining at me).