Thursday, January 31, 2013

THYME Magazine

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume V, Issue VII

Rising Independents, A New Voice

In the last issue of THYME, we looked at The Art of Leadership [click to read], specifically as it relates to the diversity of representation in Israel's Knesset. The American two-party system seems to dictate sort of an all-in or all-out rolling possession. Yet Augusta County's Independent Supervisors might just have set a precedent for how we might govern in a way that better represents the people.

Independent Thinking in Augusta County

"What's your guy, Karaffa, up to?" my neighbor asked me, "he's talking about RAISING taxes!" He was referring to the recent debate over a personal property tax increase as opposed to 'borrowing' from the capital fund? Conventional wisdom has it that the Conservative will NEVER raise taxes, but conventional wisdom often fails to dig deeper and examine the nuance and complexities of actual problems.

My response was that a little background was in order. First of all, the new Board of Supervisors came into a situation where everyone knew tough choices were in order. Then candidates Karaffa, Pattie, Michaels and Pyles devoted much of the campaign to informing the electorate. They held town hall meetings and laid out the needs of educators and public safety people. They referenced the last botched reappraisal but offered solutions.

The debate over providing essential services/tax increases was held in the open. The skewed appraisals had resulted in a decrease in funding returned from Richmond. Now it was time for the hard choices. Debate over whether or not to use capital fund money occured at a reasonable point in the debate (and in the open), then the tax debate was again held in public view. In the end, none of us likes paying more car tax, we would like Richmond to pony up, but unlike Washington, Augusta has to pass a real budget.

If you were listening, no promises were broken. Hard decisions were weighed and made. In 2011, in the wake of a flawed assessment process and a host of other concerns, David Karaffa, Kurt Michael and Marshall Pattie, along with sitting supervisor Tracy Pyles had begun their respective campaigns as independents promising just such open debate.

Boots on the Ground -- Door to Door

Tommy Kelly, Karaffa's campaign manager, recalls how they laid out a strategy to personally knock on as many doors as they could, taking their message directly to the voters. Capitalizing on the feeling of disenfranchisement many had after the assessment debacle, the independent candidates laid out a comprehensive overview of the issues they promised to address. In the end, three of the four candidates Won Seats [click to read]. The campaign showed that, at least on a local level, a richer representation of the people could be achieved.

Though painted as in 'lockstep' by the Media [click to read], the candidates themselves brought a new depth of diverse ideas to the board. Hearty open debate makes for good governance when the parties involved come with a commitment to serve their constituents and address their concerns.

Conventional wisdom has it that this works on a local level but is much more difficult at the State level. As Lt. Governor Bill Bolling contemplates an independent run for Governor, he faces the hard truth that he's polling in the mid-teens. He would need to be hitting thirty per-cent to have a real chance of winning.

Chris Graham of the Augusta Free Press [click to read] says: "There is a silver lining in the numbers, which have Bolling viewed significantly more favorably than either of the presumptive major-party nominees. The survey from Public Policy Polling had Bolling with a roughly 2-to-1 favorable/unfavorable rating among voters with an opinion of his job performance."

So with McAuliffe and Cuccinelli, the Democrat and Republican presumptive nominees both enjoying much more limited support, here's one analyst who thinks Bolling might be able to pull it off. The trick will be reaching the voters directly in a much larger arena.

This week the 'other' weekly news magazine features: The Rise of the Drones [click to read].