Monday, November 5, 2007

Making a tough decision

On November 6, District Five residents will cast a vote that will determine the future of our schools and our entire community.

As a result, the pages of this newspaper are full of letters, articles and advertisements trying to persuade readers to vote for or against the bond referendum.

It is the policy of this newspaper to try to allow all sides of issues to be presented through letters to the editor, which we always try to publish… whether we agree with the position or not. We believe that’s the proper role of a community newspaper. (In some cases, advocates or opponents of an issue feel strongly enough about it to purchase additional advertising space to make their case.)

Invariably, several things happen.

First, there are usually more letters for one side of an issue than the other, which sometimes leads readers to believe the newspaper supports the side with the most letters. That’s not the case: we just happen to get more letters from one side than the other, and we try to print them all, space permitting. (That’s why many people believe this newspaper has opposed all past bond referenda.)

Second, there are usually many letters written by key supporters or opponents, but signed by other names. This is done to create the appearance of widespread support or opposition to the issue. We know it happens in our newspaper, just as in every other newspaper. We don’t try to police it, because the signer of the letter always consents to have his or her name used in this way.

Third, many of the letters contain statements or statistics which are designed to confuse, mislead, or distort. If you’re shocked, don’t be. That’s the nature of campaigns: well-meaning people trying to win a majority of the votes… invariably believing that the end justifies the means.

As you read through the pages of this paper, you’ll see examples of all of the above. Understandably, you’ll be confused.

Which is why I have decided to try my best to offer you an honest, unbiased opinion about the tough decision we must make on Tuesday. (Hopefully, free from the confusion.)

First, let me clarify my position. I am NOT involved in any campaign -- neither for nor against the referendum. I have many, many close friends working both for and against the bond referendum. In the past, I have generally opposed bond issues, usually out of distrust for the school administrations at the time. Also, like the majority of the residents of this area, I am a fiscally-conservative Republican, and am therefore inclined to always want taxes as low a possible.

This time, however, I will be voting “YES”.

And there is a very simple reason I will vote yes: We need the schools.

As a newspaper publisher, I’m forced to keep up with the growth in our community. But even if I was not in the newspaper business, I could tell that our growth rate is staggering. All I have to do is ride around. Thousands of new homes have sprung up in recent years. We are one of the fastest growing areas in the Southeast.

We need more schools.

If I were trying to defeat the referendum, I could easily provide statistics that seem to demonstrate that we don’t really need new schools. And I could probably make you believe it… unless you opened your eyes, looked around, and used your common sense.

I could also pick apart the proposed plans for our schools, and find some part of those plans I personally don’t like. I could probably use that to incite you to vote against the entire thing. But that would be like deciding to oppose a strong military for our nation just because you think we pay too much for spare parts for tanks.

We’re a fast growing community, and we need new schools.

If I was trying to defeat the referendum, I would try to confuse voters by raising so many questions, some voters would simply say: “I’m not really sure, so I’d better vote no.” Confusion is a tried and true political tactic.

Frankly, all political issues seem complicated these days. Can we ever really know for sure about any issue?

That’s why we have a rather unique system of government in America. We elect our neighbors to study complicated issues to make tough decisions for us. And that’s where we in District Five are very fortunate: We have a school board which thinks like we do.

Although school board is a non-partisan position, the majority of our board has made no secret about the fact that they are solidly conservative Republicans… just like me… and just like the vast majority of the citizens of Irmo, Dutch Fork and Chapin. From the very beginning, they joined the school board for one key reason: to watch out for the taxpayers. For the last three years, that majority has worked diligently to make sure we were getting the best value possible for our tax dollars.

If our tight-fisted, fiscally-conservative school board majority tells us that we MUST build new schools, then we must. They have NOT been taken in by distortions and confusion. They know the truth about our growth, and our needs, and the millions of dollars which will be wasted if we delay the schools we need.

Like me, some of those conservative, Republican board members voted “No” on the last bond referendum, because they were not convinced. This time, however, we understand we must vote “Yes”… not just for our schools, but for our entire community.

It’s a tough decision… especially for those of us who are conservative Republicans accustomed to voting “no”. Voting "yes" is a tough decision.

But this time, it’s the right decision.

No comments: