cross-posted at dKos
Mecklenburg County Commissioner Bill James' outrageous suggestion that gays are "sexual predators" exposes a much larger problem with the political culture in North Carolina. Specifically, the fact that county-level posts in this state--and a good number of other states--are elected on a partisan basis.
My home of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County is headed by a nine-member county commission. Six members are elected from districts. However, the districts are so outrageously gerrymandered that the district's minority party has next to no chance of winning. While this may seem to be yet another consequence of elected officials drawing districts for themselves, you really have to wonder--why are local government elections even partisan at all? After all, counties deal mostly with quality-of-life issues, most of which should never be partisan. To my mind, it's not enough to take redistricting out of the hands of county commissions. To get the politics out of local government as much as possible, county elections must be decided on a nonpartisan basis.
One major benefit of this would be to force civility on our local-level electeds. James, for instance, represents the most ridiculously Republican portion of the county. To my knowledge, he hasn't faced a Democratic opponent at all since his first run in 1994. Is it any wonder he can put out emails suggesting that one of gays' favorite pastimes is "feltching"? It's a pretty safe bet he wouldn't send out such garbage if he had to run entirely on his record, and not just have to rely on people voting for him just because he has an "R" next to his name.
You might be wondering, "Why not just have the districts drawn by a nonpartisan commission?" Well, I offer you as an example our school board. Back in 1996, after it emerged that the majority of the board lived in the eastern part of the county, it was decided to have six of the members elected from the same districts as the county commissioners. The result? Even though the school board is officially nonpartisan, the board has been infected with partisanship in an area where it DEFINITELY doesn't belong. Solve one problem, create another--the last 14 years have seen near-constant bickering, to the detriment of Charlotte's kids.
Until we get the partisanship and politics out of local government, in all likelihood we'll keep getting more idiotic statements like the ones made by James--and not just from Repubs either.