May 7, 2014

This Election is Critical

Pub Notes

Competence or Politics

Quick! Wednesday night, May 7, from 7–8:30 p.m. in the ACC library auditorium at 2025 Baxter St., you can hear six or seven of the 16 candidates running for state school superintendent. The parent-teacher-student organizations at Clarke Central and Cedar Shoals have set up this forum so that we can get a look at candidates for this office which is so critically important to our state educational system. This a rare opportunity that should not be missed. Friends active in local education tell me that Valerie Wilson is the candidate to watch.

Bach or Beethoven

The Athens Master Chorale, under the direction of Joe Napoli as always and accompanied by a fine orchestra, celebrated its 25th anniversary in Hugh Hodgson Concert Hall on Friday evening, May 2 with a stunning performance of Haydn, Mozart, Bach, Beethoven and others, including six Robert Frost poems set to music by Randall Thompson. The Chorale took no break but sang steadily for an hour and a half in a beautifully selected program that thrilled the listeners and brought them to their feet in a heartfelt standing ovation at the end. This was another evening that did Athens proud to have so much talent and dedication among us and such a grand facility to showcase this fabulous performance. Among the many thrills of the evening was the bow taken from the audience by founding member Lane Norton, who has fought back from a devastating brain aneurysm during the past year.

Honey or Vinegar

Last week I offered my opinion that the Commission District 3 race shouldn’t be about candidate Melissa Link’s personality. In truth, that’s what it is about. Everyone agrees that Melissa is energetic, intelligent and committed to what we would call a progressive vision of Athens, and that she is not afraid to fight for that vision and knows how to dig up facts to support it. Many people also feel, however, that Melissa is too prone to get those facts wrong and to go overboard and insult and alienate not only her opponents but also those who want to be her allies. Thus, many people who agree with Melissa’s principles cannot support her because of her personality and tactics. 

Supporters of Rachel Watkins in District 3 have the opposite problem, in that Rachel is perceived as knowing the issues and the district and having the charm and tact to get on well with friends and enemies alike but may not be bold enough to confront an anti-progressive mayor who stifles dissent. More than one observer has longed for Melissa’s aggressiveness and Rachel’s personal touch, but we can’t have both, and indeed we could get neither. 

This whole debate is the result of the Republican gerrymandering that took our most progressive precincts, Cobbham and Boulevard, out of District 5 and threw them into District 3, a formerly relatively safe African American district. The cynicism that drove that redistricting must only be relieved by the enjoyment the Republicans derive from watching the progressives fighting to see who gets to face off against the African American candidate. 

If Tim Denson should be elected mayor, he will need help from like-minded commissioners. If Nancy Denson is re-elected,  Athens-Clarke County itself will need help from like-minded commissioners. It is crucial that Rachel or Melissa be elected in District 3, and of course Jared Bailey in District 5. Athens cannot afford four more years of a do-nothing commission stifled by a developer-controlled mayor.