Friday, January 27, 2006

Redistrictgate 2006: Inside the Commission

As promised, here are a few thoughts on Wednesday’s meeting of the Mayor and Commission.  There’s not much to add on the opinion front; JMac’s got you covered there.  (  

We exchanged few emails with sources close to the Mayor and Commissioners with respect to Wednesday’s meeting.  First of all, the two Commissioners not in attendance at the meeting were District 5 Commissioner David Lynn, and District 6 Commissioner Carl Jordan, both for pretty good reasons.  Jordan is currently in Idaho, as we mentioned previously, and Lynn had a death in the family.

Obviously, the big news coming out of the meeting was Tom Chasteen’s nay vote on the comdemnation measure.  Sources close to the Commission tell us that Chasteen’s fellow local electeds were surprised that he wouldn’t join the “Magnificent Seven.” (Eight if you count the Mayor, who didn’t vote, but has made her position on the issue more than clear.)  The conventional wisdom around the Commission, according to one of our sources, is that Chasteen made a massive miscalculation.

One source with close ties to the ACC government tells us that Chasteen’s move is less a vote on the issue, and much more of a way to pre-emptively differentiate himself from Heidi Davison, who is looking more and more like a candidate for re-election.  In an email we received today, our source informs us that, in some Commissioners’ opinions, Chasteen’s brand of amoeba politics might have backfired on him among his colleagues.  According to our source close to the Commission, words like “weak” and “lack of leadership” are coming up in private conversations among some Commissioners and their confidants in reference to Chasteen.

Chasteen is running for Mayor, and yet he chooses to vote against the condemnation because he’s afraid that it will piss off our state legislators?  Well, if you’re looking at mayoral candidates, we reckon it’s good to know that without a single vote being counted, Tom Chasteen has already placed himself and Athens-Clarke County in a subservient role to Ralph Hudgens and Bob Smith.  

Do what you want with us, Mayor Chasteen will say, we don’t want any trouble.

Will Chasteen’s dodge work for him this November?  Probably not, in our opinion.  Heidi Davison may or may not be a candidate again, but you can bet that she’s going to have an effect on the election either way.    In or out, the Heidi effect will not be beneficial for Chasteen.

And let’s talk about the Mayor for just a moment.  We’ve been critical of her in the past.  There are a number of issues upon which we respectfully disagree with Heidi.  But, we’ve got to give her an A+ for her behavior lately.  Her work on the poverty initiative is one reason, and this whole redistricting imbroglio is another.

Whether you like her or not, if you’re opposed to redistricting, you should thank Heidi Davison.  She’s been out there working her tuchas off and tilting at every windmill she can find to make sure that people know how absolutely opposed most of Athens is to this.  We all know that the petition isn’t going to do any good, and we all know that condemnation from the Mayor and Commission isn’t going to change any minds in Atlanta.  It would be easy for Heidi to make some sympathetic noises and write redistricting off as a hopeless cause.  

But she didn’t.  She sent emails to everyone and their brother with a link to the petition.  She called a meeting and pushed the condemnation through.  She’s been to Atlanta, and, knowing Heidi, we’re sure she rattled every cage she could get her hands on while she was up there.  Why?  Because dissent is important.  Because open government is important.  Because unlike Tom Chasteen, Heidi Davison knows that there is a time to stand up, and that people don’t want someone who acquiesces to bullying simply to make nice.

We’ve disagreed with the Mayor in the past, and we’re sure we’ll disagree with her in the future.  But, on this issue, we’d much rather have her in our corner than Tom Chasteen.

Related: Athens Banner-Herald: Commissioners condemning Clarke split” 01/26/06
             Athens Banner-Herald Editorial:  Vote could hurt Chasteen’s run for mayor’s seat” 01/27/06
             Athens Banner-Herald Letters:  Steve Wiktorski: Chasteen showed courage in stand on redistricting” 01/27/06


hillary said...

Concurrence. Heidi has whipped out her balls on this one, and it is much appreciated.

Anonymous said...

Preach it, brother. Amen!


Fishplate said...

Has Tom stated that he's in favor of the split? I don't think his position on the resolution makes that clear.

Until he says one way or the other, I'm going to reserve judgement. He has a point, after all, and tilting at windmills sometimes gets you smacked in the head, as I recall.

Publius said...

Actually, Tom has been practicing his usual amoeba politics, if you consider his disapproval of the redistricting before meeting followed by his no vote on the resolution.

Truth is, I don't know which of those two positions taken -what, an hour apart - reflects Chasteen's true opinion, and I imagine that not many other people know either. Heck, Chasteen himself may not know.

But I know that I don't want a mayor who sticks his finger in the wind every time he smells a whiff of controversy. Think about it for a second. How many completely non-controversial issues come up before the Mayor and Commission? Not too many, and Chasteen is going to be so busy trying not to piss people off as Mayor that he's going to be completely ineffective in the job.

Sure, tilting at windmills gets you smacked in the head, but I'd rather have a leader than someone who doesn't even have the backbone to hold a consistent position for more than two hours. Wouldn't you?

And, to me, the subtext of Tom's vote Wednesday night is, ok, some people think this sucks, but I don't want to piss off the state legislature. I'd rather my unified government work with our state government, not for them.

Publius said...

On the state level, we've lost the chairman of the state ethics board, tried to make an unconsitutional poll tax into law, continued to screw the teachers (notice I said "continued," some things that should have changed haven't), closed the shades on internal government workings, and redrawn the electoral maps twice in four years (the first of which was undoing an equally egregious gerrymandering, to be sure.)

How many more "changes" would you like?

monticello_pres said...

I was thinking about Comm Chasteen when struck in the head by "unconstitutional poll tax". Holy absurd and inaccurate propeganda, Batman!

Why is it a good idea that we show an ID to buy Boone's Farm, buy Marlboros, write a check, pay by credit card in some places, enter government buildings, fly on a plane, drive a car, and countless other activities yet it's a bad idea to have an approved photo ID to vote? Add in provision for free IDs if necessary and it's relatively well considered. Long overdue if you ask me.

Back to Comm Chasteen. I would argue that it takes a certain size of balls, Heidi, to stand against the chant of a vigilante crowd of liberal Commissioners and vociferous crowd of Democratic voters. I have not heard Tom stand in agreement of the redistricting. I have simply heard him say we have to deal with it regardless so let's not stomp around like 3rd graders. That may not make you popular with the 3rd graders, but it may help you succeed with some of the upper classmen when your time comes to do so.

Anonymous said...

did you actually see the resolution they passed? I did. It was mostly condemning the method - the lowdown, sneakyness of the way it was handled.

And Tom showed "courage" by refusing to condemn that? I think he showed compliciancy (sp?) more than anything.

monticello_pres said...

I did see the resolution. But I'm not sure how sneaky this could be when it has been in the middle of the news for so long.

Heck, Senator Hudgens has made it clear for quite some time that this was coming.

Criticize the partisanship leading this. Criticize the stubborness of the process. But I personally do not think sneaky or lowdown (ok, maybe lowdown) are appropriate. Just my 2 cents.