This blog has been pretty quiet lately because it’s hard to type with one arm. Amazing how much a torn rotator cuff and bicep muscle impingement surgery can impede normal life. Instead of Richmond history, I want to write a bit about the upcoming election day and simply ask that you (1) be an informed citizen and (2) that you get out there and vote…which will, in turn, make history for our future generations. Next time, we’ll talk about neighborhoods.

I realize that the majority of voters don’t devote much time to researching the candidates and vote on either party lines or for less-than-significant reasons (“He’s cute…She was a teacher…I knew his cousin”) but please, please take the time to check the information you receive in the mail or in commercials. There is no policing or accountability for truth in the fliers you get so deciding your vote by that method could be disasterous for your community.

An example of this is the race for Board of Supervisors here in Chesterfield County, Virginia. My district is Matoaca and this week I received a flier from Steve Elswick who is running against the incumbent, Marleen Durfee. His full ad is below but here are a few key statements from it. “Since Marleen Durfee was elected Chesterfield has lost 298 teachers.” I called as many localities in the state as I had time to and every one had lost a substantial number of teachers…due to the economy. I would have gotten them all if there had been a way online to find that information but there wasn’t. Oh, yeah, and the supervisors do not control the School Board administration so Marleen did not “lose” those teachers. However, other information IS available online. Elswick’s statement “Marleen’s Record for our Schools CROWDED CLASSROOMS, STUDENTS IN TRAILERS-EDUCATION AT RISK” offended me for several reasons.

First, that situation was in place years before Marleen’s election. In fact, nine of us filed a lawsuit against the county nearly a decade ago to prevent rezoning cases when infrastructure couldn’t support additional students and other health and safety needs.There were 20 trailers at our middle school and we were more overcrowded than any other district in the Commonwealth. Decisions made by previous admistrations created the crisis. The present admistration had to deal with that crisis and if you check into our budget and compare our position with other localities, you might be impressed. I am. I attended a county meeting where staff reviewed our financial position and services.As a taxpayer, I appreciated the creative ways staff was shared during slow times in various departments to reduce costs and other ways finances were handled more responsibly. These changes were a result of Board of Supervisors’ direction to find sensible, effective ways to manage with less money, a result of the national economy.

Second, I was referred to the State Department of Education site where Elswick’s statement “Our student to teacher ratio has increased dramatically” is undeniably refuted by the DOE site’s statistics. In 2007, Chesterfield’s student to teacher ratio was 13.5. In 2010 (2011 isn’t completed yet), the ratio was 12. 4. I know “new math” is different from the old days but I still think that 12.4 is smaller than 13.5. So, under the present supervisor, our students have a better situation than under former adminstrations. The flier is misleading. Well, actually, it’s untrue.

This is what I mean by being informed. Education is a hot button for parents and many will read this flier and make a voting decision based on it without further investigation. I’m not telling anyone how to vote this Tuesday. I’m just asking that you go beyond the ads. If there are debates online, listen to them. In this case, go to http://www.votemarleen.com and you can watch the video of the debate between Marleen Durfee and Steve Elswick. Whatever district you vote in, learn the facts. Go wherever you can to see track records and participation of the candidates in committees and groups that are doing good in our areas. Look for candidates on committees with regional emphasis since no man (or county or city) is an island. There’s not much time before Tuesday but if you vote without the facts, you may well regret your vote. And if you don’t vote at all, you should CERTAINLY regret it. We have the freedom to choose our leaders and the responsibilty to choose them wisely. Go to the polls and vote.

 

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