July 16, 2014

Rachel Watkins Will Collaborate With Others

I’ve considered Rachel the right person for the job of District 3 commissioner since before she made her decision to run. Her political views are reliably liberal, and she has been deeply involved in public education, public safety and other family-, neighborhood-, community- and people-oriented initiatives. Her approach to problems is thoughtful, and her approach to solutions is collegial. She has said she won’t be armed with all the answers in hand upon entering public office—she intends to identify and examine problems and develop solutions through consultation and collaboration with constituents and others. For me, that is preferable to having all ready-made answers and no need to acknowledge or listen to any different perspectives. 

I am not put off, as some neighbors have been, by the fact that some of Rachel’s other supporters take positions on some issues (restrictions on development, for example) that conflict with my own. I am confident that Rachel is enough of a neighborhood advocate to work to protect her neighborhood and others from inappropriate intrusions, and I intend to lobby her toward that end.

My support for Rachel over her opponent is based primarily on my desire to be represented by a commissioner who will promote the interests of my neighborhood as a member of the local governing body. Rachel comes with a clean slate, whereas Melissa hopes to join the group after publicly declaring some of its members enemies and characterizing them as liars and traitors, which I can’t help but believe would leave her at a disadvantage when she asks for their cooperation to get anything done. 

A friend has quoted Melissa touting her ability to effect a “code shift” (defined as adapting one’s manner of speaking depending on the audience). I have noticed that she has been working on that and has been dressed in her “Sunday-go-to-meetin’” manners since the beginning of the campaign, but I don’t equate that with substantially altering one’s ways of dealing with situations or people, and I have heard nothing about reversing the effects of prior offenses. 

At some risk of being misinterpreted—don’t yell at me; I’m not equating the things—I have to share my observation that arguments to elect Melissa because she’s the one to shake things up and get in the establishment’s face remind me of the Tea Party “patriots” who have been electing candidates to take down the Washington establishment, resulting only in crippling government.

None of this is intended to disparage Melissa. She and I have been neighbors and friends for years, and I fully recognize and appreciate her dedication to protecting and improving all aspects of life in Athens, not to mention the enormous investment of time and effort she makes in keeping herself and the community informed and serving as a watchdog for citizens’ interests. I recognize and applaud all the contributions she has made and continues to make, and—while at times I may wish she were a bit less inclined to invite outrage—I am grateful to her for saying many things that deserve to be said, and I agree with her conclusions much more often than not. 

The “however”—here it comes—is that I strongly believe that Melissa is most influential and effective in the role of activist/agitator/herald/rabble-rouser/etc. from the sidelines, and that her positive influence would only be diminished if she’s restricted by having to fit the relatively confining role of commissioner. For that job, my choice is Rachel.