Thursday, June 01, 2006

Should school board be at-large? Daily Progress says yes

cvillenative Says:
May 23rd, 2006 at 10:35 am

I’m still waiting for someone to explain why it’s okay to appoint by district but not okay to elect by district.

“Ward system should wait” May 23, 2006, Daily Progress editorial.


No obvious need has been presented to date for a change from at-large elections to any sort of system involving two, three, four, six or seven wards for selecting school board members. Most obviously, Charlottesville has no track record yet on the impact of at-large elections on the overall quality of representation on its school board. For a judgement to made on that impact alone, it would appear prudent to allow at least four years or more to elapse under this new at-large election method.

Therefore the city should allow at-large elections to continue.


Charlottesville has between 20,000 and 25,000 voters and is likely to stay about that size for a while.

If four or more wards were drawn for election of board members, candidates could win with a much smaller number of votes than the 2,300 to 3,200 votes cast for the winners this month.

Does the city really need or want school board members elected by fewer than 1,000 voters?

There is no need to Balkanize Charlottesville for such elections.


Fearmongering? Electing school board members [by ward] will lead to a war between the wards, much as Yugoslavia fell into chaos when the communist government was deposed and decentralized.

The top vote-getter this year Dave Norris was elected at-large with 17% of the voters. If the 25,000 voters were divided into 6 wards, Norris would represent one ward. How is this not a weakness in the at-large system and a clear call for district-based elections?

In this editorial, The Progress continues an at-large tradition– ignore minority voices and support majority rule over minroities with restraint.

“Interest in mayor system ignored,” August 30 2004, The Daily Progress

Letters, The Daily Progress, P.O.Box 9030, Charlottesville, Va. 22906

Dear Editor

I would like to provide balance for The Daily Progress editorial (”City system not broken,” Aug 19 2004) defending the current appointed city-manager, one-council system with 5 councilors elected at-large, modeled after corporate governing boards, which in 1922 replaced the old system of a directly elected mayor, Common Council and Board of Aldermen each with 6 members, modeled after the state and federal systems.

The rhetorical device of the editorial is to exclude all counter-arguments and then declare that “there is no clamor in Charlottesville for a strong-mayor system of government.”

The Democrats supported a directly-elected mayor in their campaigns 4 years ago. On March 22 of this year, Democrat Meredith Richards and Republican Rob Schilling gave a presentation on ward-mayor systems at Tonsler Park. That sounds like bipartisan support. The Progress did not cover the forum.

At that forum, moderator Corey Walker said that many cities adopted at-large systems in the early 1900s as a way for the elite to maintain political power. Because of immigration, neighborhoods would become ethnic enclaves. If a neighborhood is a ward, well, that means a minority sitting at the decision-making table.

If the purpose or effect of adopting an at-large system is to consolidate political power in the hands of a few people who live in a few neighborhoods, then switching back to ward representation would be the right and democratic thing to do. The Progress did not print this spring’s election results by precincts, departing from its journalistic tradition.

If there’s no demand for an elected mayor, why is a task force studying that possibility? Why did three elected officials vote the task force into existence and appoint its members if it’s a “yawningly academic waste of time?” How can the Daily Progress dismiss so many people and so much information?

The task force will hold a public forum on these issues in the coming weeks in each of the 8 precincts beginning with Carver in ward 2 at 7pm Thursday September 9 at 327 W Main St. #101, hosted by the Quality Community Council.

Blair Hawkins
Charlottesvile, Virginia

Read entire CvilleNews thread and context


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