“I believe that government is a threat to personal freedom and individual liberty. Therefore, I will attempt to reduce the power and influence of politicians and bureaucrats in order to maximize the freedom of the people of North Carolina.”
— Trudy Wade, 2012
Having already spayed her local school board, Trudy Wade, a veterinarian by trade, has set out to neuter the City Council.
If past is prologue, the planned surgery will be quiet, but invasive. It also will be a long-distance procedure, performed from a dark room somewhere, possibly in Raleigh.
And it could hurt us a lot more than it hurts her.
It’s hard to tell, since Wade hasn’t made clear what she intends to do. Who knows? She may amputate an arm or lop off a leg. She’ll let us know when she feels like it.
Our story so far: Wade, a Republican state senator and former county commissioner and city councilwoman, already has used her connections in Raleigh to turn Guilford school board elections into partisan affairs, trim the number of board members from 11 to nine and redraw the districts.
There was no public outcry for those changes. And the school board staunchly opposed them. Didn’t matter. Wade says anonymous constituents did want a truncated board. So she happily whipped out her scalpel.
Now comes Wade’s impending makeover for the City Council — a councilectomy, if you will — that may reduce the board’s size from nine to six. Again, with no demand from the voters. And again, at the behest of a murky group of unnamed advocates whom Wade describes as local business people.
At least one businessman, developer Roy Carroll, has said publicly that he supports changes that would enable more business-friendly people to be elected. (Um, maybe more business-friendly people should run?) The rest must be hunkered in a cave somewhere.
All of this seems so, well, un-Republican-like, this incessant meddling with local affairs. Remember the invocation of “States’ rights!” when Republicans in the past have felt the federal government was overreaching? Or the grumbling we’ve heard (as recently as, oh, five minutes ago) that the imperious Barack Obama was hammering the democratic process with executive orders? What about the hammering of counties and cities by GOP lawmakers in North Carolina?
But Trudy knows best. So we maybe should just shut up and let her fix what’s ailing us, even if we didn’t know we were sick. The school board change passed and henceforth local education policy will have the tags “Democrat” or “Republican” attached to it. Eureka. What the world surely needs now is more partisan politics. Another effect of the school board changes is the disenfranchisement of unaffiliated candidates. Now it is next to impossible for someone who is neither a Democrat nor Republican (and there are a lot of us) to run for a school board seat, much less win one.
As for the City Council, it has heaved a collective sigh and gently stomped its foot in protest. While voting 6-3 to oppose any changes to council’s makeup, it also voted 8-1 in favor of longer terms. That seems to signal to Wade a concession: Give us longer terms and we’ll give up.
The council shouldn’t play this game at all. Even if there are valid arguments for longer terms, such a change should come because the people here want it, not as a consolation prize. And not by fiat from state Senate leader Phil Berger, who has already offered his stamp of approval for Wade’s fiddling. “I think she may very well be on the right track,” he says.
No, she is not. Wade was elected to the Senate in a gerrymandered district. She is using her influence to bully Greensboro with no transparency or direct accountability to the majority of the 280,000 people she’ll affect — they did not elect her and cannot vote her in or out.
She is, in effect, the nonelected mayor of Guilford County and local officials are reluctant to resist for fear that she and other lawmakers will retaliate with funding cuts and even more meddling. Time was when lawmakers would defer to the wishes of local leaders on bills that were specific to certain communities. Now that courtesy seems only a quaint memory. In the new normal, there are 552 towns and municipalities in the state and at least 552 opportunities to micromanage.
If people want change, Wade should prove it. Put out a plan in the open. Schedule public meetings. Let them vote on it.
Otherwise, go away and leave us alone. This is not representative government. No one elected you the Grand Potentate of Guilford.
Contact Allen Johnson at email@example.com or (336) 373-7010