Monday, March 20, 2006

Nominated: 3 whites for 2 seats: First black mayor calls for racial quota on Council

(Charlottesville Independent Media, Mar 5 2006)

Yesterday, a hundred-fifty Democrats nominated Dave Norris and Julian Taliaferro for the two Council seats up for election on May 2. Today, 13 Republicans nominated Rob Schilling for a second term.

Despite rumors that Republicans would offer a stealth candidate, none materialized. Democratic leader John Conover revealed his party's campaign strategy: just say Schilling abstains on everything.

Rob Schilling responded today in his nomination speech by saying he has never missed a regularly scheduled Council meeting, implying that all 4 of his colleagues had missed at least one meeting.

If you miss a meeting where a vote is taken, your vote is recorded as an abstention. Besides, you're ethically bound to recuse yourself when there is a clear conflict of interest, according to Schilling. And sometimes you must vote no and make the hard decision.

The strategy to focus on abstentions explains why the Democrats asked Charles Barbour to speak. Locally, the most famous abstention controversy is the Downtown Mall.

It was approved in 1974 with 2 Yes votes and 3 abstentions. The state attorney general issued a legal opinion that it was a valid vote. Charles Barbour and Mitch Van Yahres voted for the mall. Francis Fife was one of those who didn't support or oppose. But that abstention didn't seem to hurt him any.

Barbour said that Thurgood Marshall spoke in 1958 to his senior class at Jackson P. Burley High School. Barbour claimed that the Council of 1970 was the first after integration and the best Council ever. He listed the Democratic Party's main accomplishments since 1970: downtown mall, more swimming pools, more bus service, more zoning, increased from one to two blacks appointed to school board.

"The things that happened in the '70s we're all enjoying today because we had the guts and determination to make a change," declared Barbour.

Since 1970, there's been only one black Council member at a time. Barbour challenged his party to have the courage to make a change and have two blacks on Council from now on. Such a challenge would make sense except the party had just nominated 2 white guys.

Barbour's speech was symbolic of the division between the leadership and rank and file in his party. He represents an old paradigm of race-based demagoguery. Both Bern Ewert and Al Weed, Democratic hopefuls against Virgil Goode, did not speak even though they have active campaigns.

To sum up Charles Barbour: It's time to make a change so let's expand whatever we've been doing since 1970, the best Council ever.

The Republican convention was much different, much smaller, and much more substantive.

John Pfaltz and Charles Weber nominated Rob Schilling. Bob Hodous, who is retiring as party chairman, agreed to stay on until after election for the purpose of continuity through the campaign.

His likely successor is Charles Weber, who has been active on the property tax issue. No one thinks the property tax rate would have fallen from $1.11 to 1.05 without Schilling. The rate reduction has only mitigated the actual tax increase because of rising assessments. The city budget has been outpacing inflation for decades and high taxes make living less affordable.

Schilling asked that those who voted for the elected school should vote for him so he can help guide the transition and because all four of the other counilors have stated opposition to the new board. If you voted last November but don't usually vote in the May contest, it's important to vote in this last spring election.

High voter turnout carried the school board. High voter turnout will decide if there is a sustained mandate for a democratically elected school board. If re-elected, Schilling would still be the only one on Council who supports the elected school board.


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