A Seventh Seat?
By Alex Saitta
December 20, 2013
I wrote about this in a letter to the editor recently.
The local state delegation is considering adding a seventh seat to the school board, and they are seeking public input on the idea. BR Skelton (Six Mile) and Davey Hiott (Pickens) introduced a bill to add a 7th seat to the board, an at-large seat. Senator Martin (Pickens) has suggested a plan to add a 7th single member seat in the Easley area.
Some have said they fear too many tie votes on the six member board. Thatís an understandable concern, but the voting record doesnít justify that fear. The school board has cast hundreds of votes and only seven had 3 to 3 votes. Six of the seven of those votes were met with a compromise in that meeting or the meeting after, and the issue was resolved with a majority vote. For example, in the 2011-12 budget session, where significant spending cuts were made, three alternative plans were proposed that night. The first two plans failed 3 to 3, and the third passed 4 to 2 and the board passed its budget in short order.
Others have said Easley is under represented. This is simply untrue. The concept of one man/ one and equal representation is protected by the US Constitution, Consitutional case law and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Those laws are enforced by and the sizes of the voting districts are reviewed by the US Justice Department and the state. If anyone was under-represented, the size of the voting districts would have never been approved, or the county would have been sued long ago.
Those supporting this 7th seat have argued the Easley school attendance zone has only 1 representative on the school board (the Easley trustee) but the Pickens zone has 2 representatives (the Pickens and Dacusville trustees). Close inspection of the school board districts reveals this also not true.
Most of the area represented by the Dacusville trustee spreads into Easley school attendance area. The northern part of Easley and most of the eastern half of Easley is represented by the Dacusville trustee. The Dacusville seat covers areas of Easley were students attend Crosswell, McKissick, East End and the Forest Acres elementary schools. In fact, seven of the Dacusville trusteeís ten polling places are in Easley. According to Larry Martin, 68% of the voters in the Dacusville seat actually are in the Easley attendance zone, while only 32% are in the Pickens zone. Thus, looking at the facts, you can make the opposite case; the Easley attendance zone has nearly two representatives and the Pickens zone has only one.
The reason for the push to add a 7th seat is political, in my opinion. The spending, tax and borrowing group that ran the school board for years (from Easley and Clemson), overdid it with the Greenville Plan and raising property taxes a record 40 mills, so they lost a few elections. To regain a majority on the board, they are trying to gain an advantage not by winning the next election, but changing the rules for the election.
My hope is the members of the delegation will see this for what it is, they will not add another seat to the school board and let the voters of Pickens County determine in the November 2014 election whether or not the next step of the school board remains conservative, moderates or swings back to the left.