Friday, February 27, 2009

Roanoke City Democratic Committee Meeting – Lacking Socio-economic diversity

It still stings! I attended the Roanoke City Democratic Committee meeting for the first time since the reorganization took place in December of 2007. I finally paid my dues and am still Northwest District Leader. I did not feel comfortable – I kept thinking how much easier it would be as an independent. Lets face it I’ve always marched to my own drummer as does my daughter – heaven help her. Back to why I felt uncomfortable – there are still hurt feeling regarding the ouster of longtime Democrat Sen. Granger MacFarlane and Mayor Bowers’ mother at the last reorg. Membership seems top heavy with the more affluent and influential. I never understood why they “hated” and I mean “hated” the previous Chair, Carolyn Word so much. There are longtime democrats that have never returned. Council members, Rosen, Mason, Trinkle, Price, and Vice-Mayor Lea were there. It seemed more like a Council meeting or briefing. Lea did not acknowledge me or look me in the eye – I wondered why he was there since he previously relayed to me he would be out-of-town. Bill Bestpitch did all the talking. Tony Reed, the Chair, said very little.
What a surprise though to see my “blogging dueling partner” there. Yes, the one and only Hank Bostwick of Star City Harbinger fame. His nomination for membership will be voted on the next meeting. I OBJECT … just kidding, Hank. We had a laugh but I suspect we will be at odds again soon. Could it be that we are two extremely “passionate” people?
One thing I did notice there was little eye contact from some that speak to me more freely outside of the committee. They seemed to fear acknowledging my presence. However, I was greeted with a big bear hug by the Secretary, Joanne Edmunds who had been urging me to come back.
Why did I go for the first time since the reorg? I went because I wanted them to have a chance for the quorum they had been lacking. No, they were not the bylaws I spent 100s of hours revising in 2007. Yes it “stung” when Secretary, Joanne Edmunds was applauded for revising the bylaws knowing their resistance to the bylaws I had written with their input. Councilwoman Anita Price came up to me and did look me in the eye touching my arm “knowingly.” Anita was there in 2007 when the bylaws were voted down by just a few votes short of a 2/3 majority. She was disturbed about it then and was communicating to me what no one else in the room acknowledged – the “unfairness” of the past. Rich Cranwell did not vote on my bylaws but he voted tonight and did not make eye contact nor acknowledge me. Cranwell was on the the bylaws committee years ago when Sam Garrison was the Chair of the bylaws committee. Sam Garrison before his death and in declining health charged me with completing the bylaws saying “I was the only one who seemed to care” about getting them done. I took that charge seriously. Cranwell contributed nothing – actually no one did – there were no plans to vote for them as long as Carolyn was the Chair, as a member I ran into a year ago openly confessed to me. Isn’t that a kick in the pants?
These now enacted bylaws are way too long and fraught with redundant wording. The bylaws had stated that any changes to them during current committee should not effect any current member or officer. However, these bylaws do just that – they reduce members in one district and increase them in another due to using the 2000 census. They should have been revamped including the excessive number of Vice-Chairs – 6 is too many. To enact bylaws that effect members or officers it could not take effect until the next reorganization this December. I have no idea how these bylaws came about or what happened to my meticulous calculation of assigning the number of members for each district. I had come up with a formula not based on population but on the number of registered voters in each district and increased the member numbers according to Democrat/Republican percentage in the last major election. This rewarded the more Democratic leaning districts with maybe one more member and possibly would reduce the Republican areas by one. The current population in Northwest (very Democratic and predominantly African-American) would barely hang on to 8 members using the latest (2000) census – under my calculation they would have had 9 to 10 members. The Republican districts of the city have gained population but would not have been awarded additional members. The calculation actually resulted in an almost even split of members for each district. Those in control of the RCDC live in the Republican districts with increasing population. Representative members in diverse Democratic districts are being marginalized. A similar member apportionment was used in another jurisdiction. I voted for them anyway. NO other city or county committee has bylaws this long and cumbersome. Check out Charlottesville’s bylaws of ONLY 6 pages, Norfolk City bylaws of 13 pages, and Alexandria’s bylaws of 8 pages. Norfolk even has “associate” members with no voting rights.
Though the bylaws should follow the Virginia Democratic Party Plan closely it seems every jurisdiction in Virginia makes their own rules and they don’t seem the worse for it. The bylaws I wrote were 10 pages. These bylaws are 30 pages. Don Caldwell, Commonwealth Attorney, did make a parting shot at the previous committee and the lack of cooperation in handing over the membership list before he left to return to court this evening. Don Caldwell runs the City Committee – I could tell you stories of his attacks on Carolyn Word in an attempt to discredited her in open meetings. Its about CONTROL not diversity.
Councilwoman Gwenn Mason brought former Council member, Rupert Cutler to the meeting. He is favored by Mason for appointment to the Council seat vacated by Councilman Alvin Nash. To her credit she did acknowledge me as one of the applicants for the seat as well. Cutler’s first attendance to a meeting I presume. I overheard someone tell Cutler that “he got it.”
A QUESTION I’d really like for someone to answer – why do some find it so easy to gravitate to those in power without a second thought on who they left behind while others just can’t seem to stomach doing so … I want to take a stab at the answer – IT IS CHARACTER – now a plug for my new board position on Valley Character CLICK HERE!
Signed: Poor schmucky Idealist!

Posted By Valerie Garner

Categories: Politics, Roanoke City Politics

Tags: ,

Comments (2)

Bill Bestpitch

March 24th, 2009 at 5:06 PM    

Your post is full of incorrect assumptions. For example, Rupert Cutler was elected to the City Committee at the re-org meeting in 2007 and has attended many of its meetings since then, not just the one in February. He was not “brought” to the meeting by anyone. Granger Macfarlane and Mary Bowers were nominated for membership at the re-org meeting, and other people were also nominated for the same slots. As in any contested election, there were winners and losers. Isn’t that how any democratic process works? No one could be “ousted” at the re-org meeting, because no one is a member until the meeting is held. As to your comments about the revised by-laws, I chaired that committee and would be glad to discuss the process with you if you like. It’s too complicated to go into all the details here, but I will say that no changes were made to the district representation. We have initiated discussion of future changes, and your input is welcome. Finally, I share your interest in socio-economic diversity, and I wish that more of the less affluent members would attend on a regular basis and stay involved. Unfortunately, they choose not to do so.


March 24th, 2009 at 7:18 PM    

OK, I’ll correct that Rupert had been coming to the meetings. However, overhearing many who did not know who I was tell him congratulations on his appointment before the announcement made it clear the decision had already been made.

As far as members being “ousted” you know how that was carried out to make sure the “affluent” took control and oust those who may have voted for Bowers as chair. The “right thing to do” would have been to vote the long-time faithful democrats in as members. Voting them out showed poor judgement and left the less affluent with a poor impression of the current leadership. We voted in Tony Reed in NW though we knew he was running for Chair. That is called “character.” The meeting I attended was more like a Council meeting. By the way are you running for Commissioner of Revenue? Tommy Jordan said you were.

I WAS told by a member at last years St. Patrick’s day parade (I won’t name here) that they “wouldn’t vote for anything” if it had to do with Carolyn Word. Comments like that shows poorly on the current committee.

Comments are not moderated. Notify any abuse at put ABUSE in the subject and the offensive post.

Leave a Reply