Playing ‘gotcha’ at local level

Published 6:40 pm Friday, July 29, 2011

When you stand before a public elected board or committee, and denounce their policies, and demand retributions, resignations and investigations, its always a good practice to confront the accusations with solid facts.

And if elected officials themselves get into the fray, they too need to be up on the issues.

We heard this week from some minority taxpayers who charged the school system’s hiring policies were based on discrimination, favoritism and cronyism.

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That’s big stuff.

If you make those kinds of accusations, it should be done after completing exhaustive homework on the issues.

These charges, if they are nothing but bold rhetoric, an attempt to embarrass or coerce, will not solve problems if they exist.

The minority ladies in question who appeared before the Board of Education this week, no doubt had good intentions, and if wrongs exist, certainly they should be corrected.

Who would not want it so?

So here’s how one goes about getting problems solved. First, you do it with extreme courtesy. It’s obvious today that nothing gets done in Congress because everyone is playing “Gotcha,” which leads to deadlock. It’s easy to follow the same path using innuendo and falsehoods to get attention.

If you think you have discovered a wrong, it’s always wise to do as much investigation into the subject as possible before going before an elected commission or anyone with demands. No one wants to reply to claims that on the surface sound like politicking.

On the charge of racial discrimination in hiring, the citizens have asked for an investigation of those who have been hired, those who have sought positions, and those who have been turned away.

Certainly on the face of it, why not?

It would not hurt to examine hiring policies, especially a government agency, to be certain you are not in any way discriminating against anyone because of their minority status.

Ever since the Civil Rights movement began in the 1960s, those hiring workers always have been suspect of discrimination, offering the explanation, “well, none of the applicants were qualified for the job.” It’s an explanation easily bought into.

That phrase is still with us today, and it’s the minorities who are now challenging, that they are “qualified.”

And I can grant you, any professionally trained minority person today in any kind of position probably gainfully employed.

These charges probably would not be raised if everybody had a job, we had full employment, or unemployment here in Decatur County did not top double figures, or that the local, state and nation’s economy were not in the tanks, that the local Development Authority was hauling in new jobs by the carload.

But it isn’t so. Any vacancy today in the job market is worthy of careful examination of who you hire.

So let’s look at the discrimination charge. Let’s see if it exists. With all due respect and courtesy by all sides. It’s an issue that should not be settled by innuendo and false charges, calling for people to resign positions before all the facts are in.

If the facts prove there is no discrimination, then the minority members of the BOE and the ladies who brought the charges, should apologize and feel satisfied that their concerns had been dutifully heard.

If the facts prove there is discrimination, then the majority members of the BOE and the staff involved should apologize and fix it.

In the meantime, everybody needs to sit around the table and hash it out, politely. There’s only one decision, and that’s one based on truth.

Jim Smith writes a weekly column for The Post-Searchlight. He can be reached through his email at:, or by cell phone (229) 254-2753.