All politics is local. Longtime congressman from Massachusetts, Tip O'Neill, gave us that bit of wisdom during his 10-year tenure as speaker of the House. With the Republican and Democratic primaries looming on the immediate horizon, local politics are heating up. Pick a road -- any road -- and you will see multiple signs in almost every yard, supporting one candidate or another. Many yards have four or five signs and they seem to come in clumps and support quite often seems to be based on race and socio-economic status.
Don't pretend you are all offended by that last remark. It is true and you know it is true. That doesn't mean that there are not some forward thinking people who are willing to walk into a voting booth and cast a ballot for a candidate based not on the color of his skin but on the contents of his -- or her -- character, but those folks are not as plentiful as one might hope.
I have always wondered if yard signs are really that effective. I mean do people really vote for a candidate because that person got more people to let them drive a stake with a cardboard poster attached into the most people's property? I'm kind of the same way about the people who stand on the side of the road twirling those signs that solicit people to go in and sell their gold. Not once in my entire life have I been driving down the highway and swerved into a strip mall to get rid of my watch or class ring because some unseemly character was twirling a sign in front of a storefront where the people inside bought gold.
I cannot say that I have ever voted for a person because I saw that person's sign in a certain yard, either. That doesn't stop me from displaying the signs of the candidates I support, of course. I'm just saying.
I guess the signs do promote name recognition on election day and that probably goes a long way.
I was perusing the local paper this week, trying to get a handle on some of the hot button topics in some of our local races. There are a couple of contested races for local school board seats, which are non-partisan races and thus will be decided on the day of the primary election. The big issue in that race seems to be how to do more in our schools with less money.
I didn't really see any good solutions presented by either candidate. You cannot build a silk purse out of a sow's ear and our students deserve better than they are getting in the classroom. One candidate proposed copying what the good folks in neighboring Walton County are doing -- lengthening the school day by "a few minutes each day" and shortening the calendar. We need to add instruction time to the schools, not take it away. Adding a few minutes to each class and cutting days off the calendar will not provide the same amount of valid instruction time no matter how the math works itself out.
Students need shorter periods of instruction -- to match their dwindling attention spans -- not longer periods. They need more time to allow the instruction they receive on a given day to ferment in their brains. We do not need to steal any more time away from the teachers and the students --period. And no offense to Walton County, but a quick check of test scores will show that we do not need to emulate them.
The other opponent in that particular race had no plan at all. She promised to "look at the budget closely," however. She also wanted to "reach out to businesses and religious institutions to have them come in and better engage students."
Again, we need more time for our teachers to engage students. We certainly don't need to give away precious instruction time having ministers and others "engaging" them.
These are just my opinions, of course, but as I've said many times, mine are the only opinions I have.
In Rockdale County there is also a race brewing for the position of Clerk of Courts. Incumbent Ruth Wilson has been put in the position of having to defend herself against charges that there is a backlog of deed filings in the clerk's office -- this coming on the heels of a brouhaha about Wilson keeping all of the money collected by the county for processing passports. She vehemently denied that a backlog exists and praised her employees for being some of the best in the state. She also allowed that she expects such attacks in an election year.
A huge referendum will be on the ballot concerning the controversial T-SPLOST -- which is a transportation bill that would create a special local option sales tax that, if passed, would cost the citizens of Rockdale County $104 million over the next ten years. In return we would receive $94 million for local road projects. How do you like that math?
There was a picture on the front page of Wednesday's paper showing Rockdale County resident Clement Brown demonstrating against T-SPLOST. The picture also featured a person supporting the referendum. The supporter declined to give his name -- or where he was from.
I think I know how I will vote.
Sit back and enjoy the election season, y'all. It's going to be a fun one.
Darrell Huckaby is a local educator and author. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. For past columns, visit www.rockdalecitizen.com or www.newtoncitizen.com.