Pretty sure that Pete’s been watching too much World Cup this week, based on his cartoon distortion of Athens-Clarke County Commission and commission race activity (Pub Notes, July 2, 2014). To read his analysis, you’d think that just like the ease of telling whether the USA or Belgium scored the last goal, there are just two breeds of commissioners: the hell-raisers and the equivocators. Unfortunately for Pete, policymaking isn’t a sport with just two jerseys, and like most reductionistic portraits, much is lost in the mix.
The most important loss is the sense that being on the commission is a job. J.O.B. Job. One in which the expectation is that work must be accomplished in a tough, complex, resource-challenged environment. There are a host of skills required for this work: willingness to reach out to others, to listen, to interact, to draw conclusions based on facts and to develop creative approaches to solving problems. District 3 voters are fortunate to have Rachel Watkins as a candidate with these abilities.
There are great arguments to be had over how to use the county's staff time, energy and dollars, but Pete advocates for a method that is demonstrated to fail again and again, as he boasts of Melissa Link’s door-busting abilities. The losers in those efforts are her prospective constituents who would have a marginalized commissioner more interested in raising a pitchfork for the very sake of that action, rather than ready to use facts and action-steps. As an advocate for stronger environmental measures, a safer Prince Avenue and better support for small businesses, I would fear for the future of those interests should Melissa be elected to the commission, based on her history of alienating people and participating in ad hominem attacks.
In under a year, three colleagues of Melissa’s contacted me separately to apologize for her actions during advocacy campaigns. One went so far as to note that the group she was working with had limited her ability to post information online on their behalf because of how counterproductive she had been. This reflects my experience of Melissa as someone very passionate and clearly concerned, but who mis-stated (or misunderstood) facts of history, geography and policy, then used those distorted beliefs as a pretext for public comment, or worse, for attacking others that pointed out her flaws in understanding.
If District 3 voters truly want an advocate who shares their concerns and has the skills to advance them, they should vote for Rachel Watkins. And if Pete McCommons wishes to be taken seriously as a commentator, he needs to step away from the cartooning and draw a more realistic portrait of how needs are met in this (or any) town.
Girtz is the ACC commissioner for District 9.