The Executive Committee of the Columbia County Republican Party would like to respond to the May 2 News-Times editorial, "Only a resignation will end conflict." We do this because we strongly believe that Columbia County's quality of life is the best in Georgia, and the way to maintain that quality is to have open, honest airing of ideas. We also take this step because of several misconceptions in the editorial.
The first fallacy ... is that our chairman, Lee Muns, rules our committee as if the rest of us were automatons, incapable of independent thought. People who know the 15 of us know that each in their own right is strong, independent, knowledgeable of the issues and able to make individual decisions on our own. The question at hand (foreign language in kindergarten through fifth grades in Columbia County), as well as all of the proposed questions on the Republican ballot, came to be as a result of a rigorous, multi-stepped process, not by fiat from the chairman.
In fact, we all had a chance to participate -- to put forth our own ballot questions and to comment on others' suggestions. Our intention in developing these questions was to stimulate debate among the county's citizens. In fact, there were some questions submitted that divided the Executive Committee. However, in the end, we all felt that dialogue and improving our county superseded our personal opinions.
Incidentally, our rules state that the chairman can only vote in case of a tie. None of the questions came to a tie, and thus Muns never voted. Although ruling by decree has taken place in the past, it has not been so with Muns.
The editorial's second mistake was that the Executive Committee "rejected" the BOE's wording on the language issue and "substituted its own wording." This also is untrue. Using a tiered approach, a subcommittee of the party had crafted the question (and all questions) before the BOE was heard from. All questions from this subcommittee were discussed by the entire Executive Committee at length -- with the proposed ballot question on language clearly taking the most time. Legitimate concerns arose, such as:
Who makes the decision?
Is it to be instituted countywide?
Are there different ways in which it could be funded?
Shouldn't the school system be putting their emphasis on other priorities such as discipline and the "3 Rs"?
Because of the potential for controversy associated with some of the questions (many were thrown out), the chairman and all Executive Committee members agreed not to discuss the questions until they were finalized by the entire Board of Education.
We were painfully aware of the difficulty the Board had been having with the language question for some years, with no resolution in sight. Consequently, we asked for their input -- something we were not required to do. And the BOE responded. Unfortunately, the question the Board submitted was a "ballot killer" from the outset. The way it was worded smothered, rather than stimulated, debate.
Also, the BOE's submittal would have been the only ballot question framed in this manner -- asking voters to state an opinion on a definite cost when the question had not been adequately debated and studied in the public arena. Also, the question asked for money first, not really the way the Republican Party of Columbia County wishes to address issues. We desire all other avenues of funding be explored prior to committing more dollars.
Columbia Countians agree on much more than on what they disagree. Let's discuss our disagreements above-board and not balkanize a wonderful place to live. ...
Deborah McCord, first vice chair
Christopher Noah, second vice chair
Thomas Blalock, third vice chair
For the Executive Committee of the Columbia County Republican Party
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