We need a Sally Kurtz on this Board of Supervisors.
Maybe not Sally herself. She earned her retirement after serving three terms as the board’s Catoctin District representative. Placing her back on this all-Republican Board wouldn’t be fair to her.
But Loudoun County would benefit from someone like Sally – a Democrat or Independent with backbone, who isn’t afraid to stand up and challenge partisan comments by the Republican supervisors.
Here’s just one example of why I miss Sally.
Years ago, when the board led the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance at the beginning of a meeting, I heard a jumble of voices from the dais after “…liberty and justice for all.” Later I asked someone who was closer to the action what had been said.
I was told that Sterling District Supervisor Eugene Delgaudio had begun a practice of inserting the words “born and unborn” at the end of the pledge. In response, Sally Kurtz, standing next to Delgaudio, had started adding her own coda: “gay and straight.”
It was the perfect response to needle Delgaudio, who makes a living opposing civil rights for gay people.
I realized that I missed Sally while watching the webcast of the board’s September 4 business meeting.
During board meetings, each supervisor is given up to five minutes to make disclosures and comment on public issues. During their five minutes, they are free to say just about anything they want.
On September 4, Leesburg District Supervisor Ken Reid closed his remarks by saying, “I’ll probably be going to the Lyme Disease Commission Meeting tomorrow night… and I’ll be seeing the Giants play on TV. I’ll be at NVTC on Thursday, so I have an excuse not to watch the Democratic Convention.”
A few minutes later, closing his remarks, Catoctin District Supervisor Geary Higgins turned toward Reid and said, “I don’t know who needs an excuse not to watch the Democratic Convention. I don’t.” Delgaudio could be heard guffawing in the background.
Although the comments, taken at face value, might seem relatively benign, there was a not-too-subtle underlying message: Democrats are the enemy, and not worth paying attention to.
I had the unsettling feeling that I was looking in on a Republican Party gathering, rather than a business meeting of the Board of Supervisors, in which the supervisors are supposed to be representing the interest of all residents, not just Republicans. When they dismiss Democrats, even in jest, they are dismissing a sizable segment of the constituency they represent.
Had a Sally Kurtz been sitting on the dais, the Republican supervisors’ comments might have been seen as good-natured ribbing, and Kurtz could have responded in kind. But it doesn’t come across as good-natured when there is no one there to rib.
Later, during his comments, Chairman Scott York concluded with an unusually emotional diatribe, at times pounding his hand on the dais.
“Looking at the last several years in many jurisdictions, and particularly states, trying to make sure and secure the integrity of the voting process, trying to require voter ID, so that actually the person coming to vote is a citizen of the United States of America…the Obama administration [is] fighting every tooth and nail to make sure that it doesn’t happen,” York said. “Guess what folks. You have to have a photo ID to attend the Democratic National Convention. That is hypocrisy.”
Well, maybe not. At least, it’s a comment that deserves a response.
A Sally Kurtz might have pointed out that York was making an apples-to-oranges comparison – that voting is a fundamental right while attending a political convention is not. She could have expressed the concern of many Democrats that Republicans are trying to suppress the votes of groups of eligible voters who are more likely to vote for Democrats.
She might have said that there is little documented evidence of people fraudulently impersonating registered voters at the polls. But there is a long, sordid history, especially in southern states, of the suppression of votes of minority groups, particularly African Americans – people who might be less likely to have government-issued photo IDs.
I assume that the nine Republicans board members were elected fair and square – that they were not swept into office by a surge of voter impersonators who fraudulently cast ballots for Republicans. So, under the rules, they are entitled to their five minutes of comments at every meeting.
I just wish there was someone like Sally Kurtz on the board who could respond to their partisan comments.
Oh, and to the Republican supervisors who avoided watching the Democratic Convention: You missed a pretty interesting show.