Letter to the editor: County board members should be elected by district

Published 2:09 pm Friday, November 26, 2021

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To the editor:
Kudos to Commissioner Benita Finney regarding her observations concerning community feedback, or, actually, the lack of diversified community feedback, when it comes to sensing sessions and other citizen interaction opportunities.
I attended the FountainWorks session she addressed and had the same observation concerning participation. The check-in map, adorned with round yard sale stickers placed on your home location, was densely populated in two locations: Mocksville proper and Advance/Bermuda Run. The reason for this is known, albeit not discussed. It comes down to representation in the democratic process, or more accurately, the lack of such.
Being fairly new residents we have inquired of our neighbors about such things and, almost universally, have received the same response: “It does no good to get involved because the decisions being made are already a fait accompli – our wants, needs, desires are not considered important.” Others with “influence” are calling the shots, apparently. The bottom-line observation: the citizenry has been relegated to “sheeple” status, the powers that be “know better” and there are those with inordinate influence involved. This is the reason that participation in things such as the FountanWorks meeting from other than the “usual” places is so bereft.
Apparently, this has been going on for years and folks feel there is no way to effect change. But there is a way, and it comes down a political solution.
The current at-large process does not seem to serve since it contributes greatly to the “I have no representation, no voice.” Some even eschew voting given the decades of the same results, i.e., the elected officials all seem to be originating from, for the most part, one geographic area with a dense population. A quick look at addresses, and the historical record over the past decade or more will show this to be demonstrably true. The solution is, in order to change the apathetic attitudes towards participation, to institute a different representation model, in short, representation by District vice at-large. Three forms are statutorily allowed: at-large county-wide; by district; or at-large by-district. The current form is obviously not working if public participation in sensing and other forms of democratic voice are any indication.
So, perhaps a move to a District-type, with the tickle down effect on planning boards and such by district dommissioner appointment which would follow, would be the tonic needed to bring about true county-wide citizen participation in the processes.
This is not a new thought. In discussions with neighbors it was discovered that the district form, they were “told,” could not be done. This is not true. The form can be changed – it has in the recent past for other North Carolina counties. Since 2008, for example, Hyde County went from at-large to district-at-large (resident in district but nominated and elected at-large). Buncombe County went from at-large to a combination of six by district and one at large. Such an arrangement would work for Davie, e.g., the current precincts could easily be arranged into five districts, providing the capability for five by-district, or, if an at-large component fits, five by-district and two at-large for voting purposes. Chatham County, in 2018, established a task force to this end. Perhaps it is time for the same in Davie in order to establish a form of government that will truly garner interaction, and the desire for such, with “we the people,” thereby enhancing and not diminishing the commonweal (as seems to be the current state of affairs).
Possible results? Using a similar size county in Southwest Virginia (intersected by two major interstates), recent Board of Supervisors members have consisted of, for example, the following: two cattle farmers; a school bus driver; one towing company owner; an engineering firm owner; a court bailiff; a deputy sheriff; an investment firm employee (CPA); an independent recycling company owner; a retired school principal; and a homemaker. The county is agrarian with one major population center at the county seat and utilizes district representation. The point being that a good cross-section of the population is available, and assured, from districts and the citizens are represented by their neighbors and peers. Why not the same here?
William Vaughn