You have to wonder what Del. Mary-Dulany James and Del. Dan Riley really think about the people they represent. Maybe we could get them on “Moment of Truth”, that new reality show where people are hooked up to a giant lie detector and then asked embarrassing questions such as:
Do you think your constituents are incapable of electing their own board of education?
That would be one way to get at the truth. Or we could just take a look at HB 806, the legislation James and Riley put together to thwart the elected school board bill being sponsored by the rest of the Harford County delegation.
The short version is that the bill establishes a nominating commission and names nine special interest groups, each of which will get two votes, regardless size. So a group like the Chamber of Commerce which has over 1200 members, will have the same number of votes as the Harford Business Roundtable, which has about 30. And the most under-represented group, if you don’t consider the public (and this bill certainly does not consider the public) is parents. All together, the parents in Harford County who send nearly 40,000 students to public school, and who have written letters and signed petitions and sent e-mails and made phone calls in support of school board elections get, you guessed it, two votes.
If you happen not to be a member of these nine groups, some of which are quite exclusive, don’t feel left out, even though you are. Being on the commission doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll have a say in the selection of school board members anyway. The bill requires the commission to send a list of candidates to the governor, who may choose the candidate who got the most votes from the commission, or the least. Or he may reject the entire list. In that case, the commission must come up with another list, until the governor finds a candidate to his liking. All of which sounds like a smoke screen for business as usual; political appointments based on the recommendation of whichever special interest group has the governor’s ear at the moment. So who supports this sham? The only support so far has come mainly from a few of the same special interest groups named in the legislation and the board of education itself. What a surprise.
Mary-Dulany James’ and Dan Riley’s attempt to create the illusion of public involvement in the selection of school board members is not just bad legislation; it’s an insult to the voters. No matter, the plan is to try to kill the elected school board bill in committee and then bamboozle the rest of the Harford County delegation into accepting their charade as a substitute.
Whether or not James and Riley succeed depends on whether anyone in Annapolis reminds them that we still live in a republic, and we aim to keep it.
If you missed it, please check out “A Republic, If You Can Keep It – Part I”