Sunday, September 23, 2012
Metro columnist Dan Casey: Disagree, but show all due respect
- Precinct problems need to be fixed
- Commerce Park news is greeted with yawn, sigh
- Journalist recovering remarkably from crash
Read Dan's blog
Last year and this year, the Roanoke Tea Party waged a long and so far losing fight against the Roanoke County Board of Supervisors. That concerns the county's membership in a do-gooder environmental group, the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives.
The first casualty in this months-long battle has been the truth. That's because tea partyers have trotted out every ridiculous assertion and eye-rolling conspiracy theory they can invent to argue against ICLEI and the $1,200-a-year membership.
Unfortunately, they've won over two of the five members on the board of supervisors, Butch Church from the Catawba District and Ed Elswick, who represents Windsor Hills.
Now we have the second casualty. Her name is Nell Boyle and she lives in the Windsor Hills District. Until very recently, she has served as a volunteer on RC-CLEAR, a 13-member group that includes 10 citizen volunteers. The volunteers are appointed by supervisors, two per district.
The group's charge is to implement energy-conserving and pollution-reducing strategies they learn through the county's association with ICLEI.
Boyle works for the city of Roanoke, but her background is in the construction industry, with Breakell Inc., a respected Roanoke company. She was appointed to RC-CLEAR by Joe McNamara, the former Windsor Hills supervisor.
She served for more than three years, devoting four to eight hours a month. When her term expired on Aug. 31, she was RC-CLEAR's chairwoman.
"She's an articulate leader. She's very focused, and she works well with volunteers. ... She has great people skills," said Dave Wymer, who serves on RC-CLEAR and on the Roanoke County School Board. Other terms he used to describe Boyle were "influential," "effective," "supportive" and "diligent."
But rather than reappoint Boyle when her term expired, Elswick appointed someone else, a guy named Jim Gray.
Elswick did it without even the courtesy of a phone call to Boyle -- even to thank her for her long-running community service.
Boyle found out she had been unceremoniously booted from the panel in a Sept. 10 phone call from Clearbrook Supervisor Charlotte Moore, who also serves on RC-CLEAR. Moore discovered it while perusing an advance copy of the supervisors' Sept. 11 agenda and saw that Elswick was appointing someone else.
"I was disappointed and, quite frankly, hurt that he didn't contact me in any way. It would have been nice not to have been blindsided," Boyle told me Thursday.
Here's how the tea party figures into this: They've been slinging horse manure about ICLEI for months now, proclaiming one-world government rubbish and all sorts of other so-called "constitutional" nonsense to the board of supervisors. More recently they've targeted RC-CLEAR and its carbon emissions-reducing campaign, Save A Ton.
Members of RC-CLEAR, meanwhile, have lobbied to preserve the county's membership in ICLEI. And Boyle has led the Save A Ton initiative.
Boyle told me she believes tea party pressure led to Elswick's decision not to reappoint her. He denied that had anything to do with it.
"Nobody influences me, Dan," Elswick said. "I do what's right for the people.
"There are a lot of reappointments," Elswick added. "I have people who request to be on certain commissions. And if I get a request, I respond to it."
In this case, though, nobody had requested Elswick appoint them to RC-CLEAR. Elswick told me he had to go out and find someone to serve -- in this case Gray, a Windsor Hills resident whom Elswick said he has known for years.
"He comes to all the board meetings. Jim's whole career is in the energy field," Elswick said.
Elswick also said Boyle had not requested reappointment. Boyle said that was true. She was unaware her term had expired. Other RC-CLEAR members have been more or less automatically reappointed when their terms ended, she added.
"Why didn't you call Nell Boyle and thank her for her service?" I asked Elswick.
"Why is that any of your business?" he shot back. When I explained it was common courtesy, Elswick said: "I didn't know I had to. I didn't know her that well. We have never talked. I guess I didn't think about it."
Boyle said she and Elswick have talked on a number of occasions.
Elswick had every right in the world to appoint whoever he wanted to that panel. Here's the rub, though: Talk to enough local government officials and you will soon hear them moan how hard it is to get citizens involved in government as volunteers.
People are busy raising their families, or their jobs take too much of their time. There are a million reasons, and most of them are good ones.
When you have a citizen like Boyle, who has the time and energy and willingness to volunteer in a way that's meaningful, you need to treat them with respect.
At a bare minimum, you need to call them and say, for whatever reason, "I'm not reappointing you. Thank you for your service." It's the smart and decent thing to do.
You don't offload them in the passive-aggressive way Elswick did. Actions like that smack of score-settling.
The people deserve better from their elected officials.