Friday, June 25, 2010

SWAC newspapers agree ... staggered supervisor terms deserve a chance

In a fairly rare occurrence of both SWAC area newspapers agreeing, the Waynesboro News Virginian and the Staunton News Leader feel the issue of staggered terms for Augusta County's supervisors deserve a chance to be heard.

Augusta County stands alone as the only government body in the Shenandoah Valley that does not stagger its terms. Indeed, almost two-thirds of Virginia's counties have staggered terms for their supervisors.

On Tuesday, the News Virginian opined:
Some of the reasoning troubles us. Riverheads Supervisor Nancy Sorrells said politics would impact decisions in a staggered format. “You may not get the wisdom of decisions clear of the political arena.”

Translation: Supervisors will begin making decisions simply based on their desire to win re-election.

A better translation: Supervisors fear voters. Good.

Staggered terms would have made last year’s reassessment fight especially intriguing, which is doubtless a primary factor in Pyles’ mind. Conveniently, county reassessments are set on a schedule that distances them from elections by two years. Imagine how the vote might have gone had some supervisors faced an election last year, a short time after increasing appraised values by almost a fourth.

Sorrells apparently has imagined precisely that. Here rises vintage hubris. If voters object so strenuously to an act of their elected officials, it might be considered that perhaps the voters have a point. If a supervisor believes strongly that they do not, he or she should possess the pluck to act rightly, the wisdom to explain it and the conviction to face defeat if necessary.

Elected officials lacking on these points don’t deserve the public’s confidence.Tell us staggered terms will cost more. Tell us the logistics make the switch prohibitive at the moment. Don’t tell us supervisors can’t handle the politics. It’s a political office, remember?
Today the editorial crew at the News Leader added to the discussion:
It makes sense to separate the terms. When close to one half of the elected officials are up for re-election every two years, you have a better chance of experienced leaders staying in office. It's business continuation and it makes sense. It's rare for any elected board to run all its candidates on the same cycle.
[The supervisors who voted against it] claimed the staggered term measure would add more politics to the arena. How could that be? Of course there should be politics in elections, as well as opportunities for public comment.

Politically speaking, an election of seven supervisors in the wake of a firestorm controversy could see them all turned out. Would that be in the best interests of the county? Hardly.
It is an interesting issue that has not caught the interest of the public but, if bantered about enough, perhaps they will pay attention. That remains to be seen.

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