Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Sen. Ralph Hise Has Watauga County Under His Big, Fat, Callused Thumb


A new local law aimed at Watauga is again moving forward in the General Assembly this morning, S 912, which will reorganize after January the Watauga Board of Education to match the County Commission districts that Sen. Ralph Hise already gerrymandered back in October, and -- more to the immediate point -- in its Part 2, command that "the Watauga County Board of Commissioners shall not change its method of election or redraw its county commissioner districts until after the return of the next federal decennial census."

Why is Part 2 of particular importance right now? Because at its last meeting, the Watauga Commission voted 3-2 to put a referendum before the people this November, giving voters the chance to vote on the shape and makeup of their County Commission districts. Hise is slapping down Watauga voters before they have a chance to speak.


When Hise introduced his local bill last October to completely upend the Watauga County Commission, he promised that "all county commissioners will serve the terms they were elected to," "no terms will be extended," and "no terms will be cut short" -- but that promise was simply not true. 

The Hise map for Watauga County Commission.
Dist. 1 in dark blue segregates Boone and AppState.
The map also splits Brushy Fork Precinct three ways
and New River 2 Precinct two ways.

Hise's promises were not true because the bill mandates that Districts 3, 4, and 5 will be on the ballot in 2024, which means that...

Todd Castle in new Dist. 5 has his 4-year term (won in 2022) cut short by 2 years.

Braxton Eggers in new Dist. 3 has his 4-year term (won in 2022) cut short by 2 years.

Ray Russell in new Dist. 2 has his term (set to expire in 2024) extended until 2026.

Furthermore, Dist. 1 (Boone and AppState) has no incumbent commissioner living in-district but is not mandated for an election in Hise's bill until 2026. The voters of Dist. 1 will be disenfranchised from representation for two years, or -- worse -- will get a commissioner appointed by the new Republican majority (early in 2025).

S 912 is on the Rules Committee calendar for a hearing this afternoon.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A school board represents the whole community’s voice in public education.
A Board of Education drawn from elected members from “districts” within a county creates the potential for divisiveness and self-interest instead of cohesiveness and 'best for the whole school system' thinking. In an at-large system, because each voter has an opportunity to vote for several candidates, he or she is more likely to have voted for at least one winning candidate. This has the potential for voters to feel more “represented” on the board.
Board of Education members in an at-large system are more likely to have a countywide focus rather than a focus on their districts’ interests while ignoring the interests of the broader county.
This bill seems to be politically motivated (as was the redrawing of the map determining how the county commissioners are elected). This is something the voters of Watauga County have the right to know about and have input on. This bill does not represent the desires of Hise’s constituents. Instead this bill promotes the interests of an unnamed few and should not be rammed through without the support of the voters of Watauga County.
Our school boards determine a great deal of our future. Our students are not pawns in a game of power or an ideological battle for control.