Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Sharp Politics - it's Everywhere

The Freda Markley Early Childhood Center in Hickman Mills had a ribbon cutting this evening. Since it’s the first building to be built in the district in something like 30 years, it seemed like a pretty big deal so I went. There were all the usual speakers: school board president, superintendent, principal, namesake Freda Markley, architect. Everyone said how exciting the new building is and how they’ll now be able to offer services to more kids. They even thanked the community for passing the bonds that paid to build the facility. Then there was Councilman Sharp.

Of course he, too, said how great this is for the community. He said it would provide an anchor for the Bannister Road redevelopment; leaving me to wonder what development he was talking about. The only major redevelopment to have been brought before the community was the Wizards/retail/office building debacle and we all know how that turned out. He then went on to say the City is in the process of adjusting the city council district boundaries and there are those that want to divide the Hickman Mills School District in half. (If, indeed, that is true, someone must have come up with a new map since Saturday because there wasn’t a map there that took half of the school district. Far from it.) Of course we can’t have that.

It wasn’t enough that the Councilman called his groupies and asked them to attend the redistricting meeting Saturday. He had to take advantage of the crowd at a purely non-political event. All this because he is afraid that losing part of the sixth district will mean losing part of his base. It’s sad that he needs to be that worried. If he were confident that he has served his district well, there would be no need for such concern.

It’s also said that he seems to care more about preserving his political home territory than he is about the Voting Rights Act.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Method to His Madness

I attended the redistricting meeting yesterday morning at Hillcrest Community Center. From the beginning it wasn’t pretty.

It was supposed to start at 9. When I arrived some minutes before that time, there were already a number of people there wanting to take a look at the proposed maps, but they were all waiting outside. It seems the building doesn’t open until 9. You would think whoever scheduled the meeting would have made allowances for that.

Once the meeting started and comments from the community began, it was obvious that it was simply the John Sharp Show. Patron after patron stood up to say how the Hickman Mills School District should not be split up. Many even threw in comments about what a good councilman Mr. Sharp has been. While I hate to jump to conclusions, I have to wonder how many of the commenters received the email from Mr. Sharp’s office stating “One proposal being considered by the panel would drastically alter the boundaries of the 6th district putting much of the 6th district northeastern portion in the 5th district. This would split up the Hickman Mill School District (which is now currently in the 6th district).” Actually providing talking points is always a good way to insure that your message gets out there.

The majority of the those not wishing to see the school district divided between council districts were the usual suspects; those who openly and somewhat nauseously support Mr. Sharp and who have used the public platform in the past to promote his issues. Sadly, all but three of the speakers live east of 71 Highway. That’s not very representative of the sixth district; however, it is representative of Mr. Sharp’s base.

Other than the obvious patronage that was demonstrated, there are other issues that need to be explored.

None of the these speakers seemed to care that Center School District is in more than one councilmanic district or that, at one time, so was the Hickman Mills School District. They also didn’t seem to consider that being in more than one district might give the schools more representation at the City level. What is truly more detrimental to Hickman Mills is that it’s in two different cities.

Only one person spoke who was from the west side of the district which begs the question of how well the meeting was even publicized. Personally, I only happened to hear about it from a friend who has been attending the meetings at city hall.

It was interesting that Bonnaye Mims actually admitted that she didn’t know what she was doing. That proves just how well the sixth district was represented in this process and seems to verify what many believe: that Councilman Sharp appointed her simply to draw the sixth district lines to suit his interest; that the whole process has been orchestrated in such a manner as to help ensure his job security.

It’s all very sad because Mr. Sharp could probably be a very effective council member if he would only put the interests of those he represents ahead of his own. There was a time when many felt the sixth district had to fare better under anyone other than Chuck Eddy. How wrong that was.