Chris Graham: So much smoke and mirrors

Not a lot makes sense with the politicians these days. And no, I’m not ranting about how Congress is talking about raising taxes on working-class and middle-class families at the risk of pushing the economy back into another recession.

Looking here at my hometown of Waynesboro, where the City Council suddenly wants accountability from its School Board when it comes to budgeting. I’m all for enhancing accountability from any and all in government, so at first glance, I want to say, Good for you guys. Except that it’s not really about accountability. What we’re seeing here is yet another power grab from a City Council that has done pretty well for itself in that department.

Consider the politics that led to the current makeup of the City Council. All five can attribute their seats to campaigns that made early and often reference to votes by previous City Councils in favor of $700,000 in city funding for the $7 million Wayne Theatre redevelopment. We can now see that the repeated claims that those City Councils were engaging in the diversion of public money for a special-interest group were nothing more than a smokescreen considering the boondoggle that is the $3.4 million purchase of scrub land from key campaign donors ostensibly to go toward a 20-year plan to develop a city commerce park.

But that’s getting away from the current generated controversy involving school budgets. The big issue, says the City Council, is the recent $8,600 raise that the School Board gave Superintendent Robin Crowder. Somehow that $8,600 weighs more than the $367,000 that the City Council is holding hostage from the education of our students with its insistence that the School Board make up the difference from the elimination of a state-funding source that was used to fund school-construction projects in the 2000s.

The stubborn defiance of City Council is taking hundreds of thousands of dollars out of educating students. But don’t look at that. It’s the raise that the School Board gave the superintendent that is the real issue.

And don’t look at $3 million-plus for scrub land for a commerce park that will never see the light of day as a kickback for helping the current City Council get elected. The reason the city is in any kind of a budget hole is because of that $700,000 for the Wayne.

The next City Council elections are but five months off. And rest assured, accountability will be a key issue in May 2012.

Column by Chris Graham. Editor’s Note: No, he’s not running.


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