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Neighbor VS. Neighbor: unintended consequences of the redistricting process

March 23, 2017

It's safe to say there has been a lot of emotion and heated discussion during this whole process.  Across the county, whether affected by it or not, people seemed to have an opinion. Which is great, we need involvement from all county citizens to get what Stafford County really deserves...a comprehensive plan for the infrastructure and schools needed to support all of this out-of-control growth...so DON'T stop being involved. 

 

Unfortunately, some people didn't really have an opinion about the options or actions of the School Board but of the neighborhoods involved and their residents.  Fear can bring out the worst in people and I heard some nasty comments and accusations, aimed at various neighborhoods, that weren't productive and only muddied the already murky waters.  

 

Of course, not everyone can get along and heated words can be expected when serious issues that could change our lives and the lives of our families confront us head on.  This is to be expected...especially by those who are causing the potential drama in the first place.  Stick with me here...

 

The School Board has been dealing with this issue for months, much longer than the public in general was aware of.  They had discussions, documents, numbers and data long before the work session where the first set of options, 1-7, were adopted on February 16th.  Granted, they didn't have ALL the data they needed at that point but they did also have 1) years of experience (for the most part) dealing with these issues and the public 2) guidance from the superintendent about how many students to move and 3) time to figure out what would be best for the county as a whole. However, you wouldn't think any of that was true if you were at that work session.  

 

This was the first work session I attended and it seemed to me, at the time, to be a bit of a circus.  It seemed that no one walked into that room with a plan or productive, thought out ideas, just an agenda.  To be completely honest, and I know this isn't the case, it felt like these people walked into the meeting cold with no prior information upon which to make their suggestions except "keep my district off the table."  That was my honest perspective as an outsider.  It was surprising but I just took my notes and figured they were the grown-ups in the room and knew what they were doing.  I know some of these people personally and I know they are not clueless ding-dongs.  I gave them the benefit of the doubt and I still do, their job is not an easy one.

 

However,  by pulling so many neighborhoods into consideration in the FORMAL options, some of  which never had any kind of chance of being selected in the end,  caused the whole county to lose their collective minds. It unintentionally pitted neighbor against neighbor and opened a flood gate of hostilities.  Ironically, none of the communities who expressed, ahem, unpleasantries about "rival" communities, ended up in the final two options, A and B.  Not one.

 

What's my point?  The School Board has a responsibility to not only represent their districts but to deal with the public in a responsible manner.  They KNOW they have information the rest of us don't , they KNOW they have the power to change all of our lives.  With great power comes great responsibility, right?  Well, local government power may not be "great" but it does come with that level of responsibility.  I would think it would be much more productive for the SB to come out with only a few well thought out options that only bring in the neighborhoods with the highest likelihood of being moved.  Think about how much LESS drama there would have been if the SB had come out with these two options weeks ago, instead of last night.  I honestly do not see why that couldn't happen, at least in the future.  This is their job, after all, and if people question why certain neighborhoods weren't considered, you explain it.  Online, in person, on the phone, via carrier pigeon, whatever works because that is the JOB. Communication is key.

 

Now, whatever prejudices and preconceived notions some neighborhoods had about others have been reinforced.  The SB looks bad because people think, once again certain communities "pay the price" while others always manage to avoid it.  Worst of all, preemptive battle lines are drawn in preparation for the next go'round.

 

Stafford County is a great place to live, with fantastic people in all parts of the county, all neighborhoods, all schools.  As this redistricting initiative winds down, let's all try to remember that we are all neighbors and we all want the same thing: for Stafford to remain a great place to live.

 

 

 

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