Are you partisan?

You'd think that with all the issues at stake in federal, state, and local issues, there would be no problem coming up with headlines. But today, the Chapel Hill News leads with Town politicians not shy about party loyalty.

The idea is that, since municipal offices are non-partisan, those who hold them should not wear political buttons reflecting their allegiances. I find this notion to be fairly ridiculous. After all, the oath of office does not require Town Council-members to foreswear their political allegiances. Nor should it.

Elected officials are indisputably highly engaged political actors. To suggest that they should hide their allegiances during strongly contested campaigns is unreasonable. For them to do so would hardly be possible.



While Bill Clinton was in office, many Christian leaders spoke out forcefully
against his immoral positions. Now, with a Christ-professing president in
office, they have a blind eye and want to bring affirmation no matter the
facts. Some have taken the un-biblical stance of supporting the "lesser of two
On abortion, President Bush has funded through Title X such groups as Planned
Parenthood. Instead of supporting pro-life, pro-family Republican Senate
primary candidate Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania, he instead supported Arlen
Specter. Coming from the party of Lincoln, who defied most Americans in signing
the Emancipation Proclamation, Bush has stated that he will not even touch
abortion. As to homosexuality, he has stated openly, along with Vice President
Dick Cheney, his acceptance of gay relationships. Right now on the campaign
trail with Bush are many Log Cabin Republicans.

Isn't the "lesser of two evils" still evil? Christian leaders lead; they don't
remain silent and wage undeclared wars around the world while the moral fights
are raging in America and losing.

An interesting news story. Even more interesting is that the author didn't consider including Hillsborough in his report. In doing so, he might have discovered that Hillsborough Mayor Joe Phelps (a registered Democrat) has publicly endorsed Patrick Ballantine for Governor.

According to Phelps, his decision was not based on partisanship but this information would have made the CH News article a little more interesting.

HippyHill News scooped the story ...

Can anyone imagine the outrage that would ensue if a council member came to a meeting wearing a Bush/Cheney button? Not that that would ever happen.

Wasn't it Bill Strom who objected to the sign erected at Top of the Hill after 9/11? I can't recall his specific reasons for opposing it. Perhaps someone can refresh my memory.

The problem is not that our local officials share and express local-majority views (including mine) on national politics.

Instead, the problem lies in our systems of local representation that completely exclude our local counter-cultural (!) minority of Republicans and middle-of-the-roaders. Although local politics involves different issues, it draws on the same political philosophies that inform national politics.

In both Chapel Hill and Carrboro, I would recommend the system of allowing voters to concentrate all their Council / Alderman votes on a specific candidate(s).

All politics is local to someone. National reconciliation across the aisle has to start here at home. Enabling more diversity among munipal representatives would be a great way to start. And fair -- can you imagine if our national political system allowed only Republicans in Congress?

And such local representative diversity would offer the local political minority to see its views expressed by town officials, the absence of which seems at the root of current criticisms.

Here are two links to two stories by Ray Gronberg that I was able to call up as a subscriber. Don't know if they will work for others:

"Councilman Bill strom took the lead in the effort to have the mayor relay the councilmen's sentiments.

"Personally, I found the language offensive," he said. "I didn't find the 'God Bless America' offensive and appreciate everyone's show of unity. But the implied tone of 'woe to our enemies' is not the message I have been giving my child. Nor do I feel it's an appropriate banner to hang in the middle of downtown Chapel Hill."


Council members at the heart of the Top of the Hill incident defended their actions Tuesday, though Foy, like Maitland, signaled a desire to move on.

"Now is not the time for squabbles over minor things like this," Foy said. "We should be focusing on humanitarianism and patience and courage in the face of this, and not on the size of signs."

Strom wasn't so quick to back off.

"I believe firmly that Chapel Hill and Carrboro are the conscience of the state of North Carolina, and it's our role to express our opinions," he said. "Violence begets violence, and I hope we find other ways to respond to this horrible tragedy."

Jeff--I tried to start a similar conversation after the primaries:

Representation is a foundational aspect of democracy. Past election practices, including the electoral college, have outlived their usefulness. We need to look for new ways of ensuring that everyone has a voice in our political system--both locally and nationally.

Maybe Strom didn't realize he was wearing the button????


I just want to point out that while many of us found the language of the sign on Top of the Hill offensive, as Bill Strom did, the banner was taken down due to it's violation of the town sign ordinance. It was too big. It's still not against the law to be insensistive and pious.

I think that our elected officials in Orange County are pretty representative for the most part. For example, you can really see the change in the Town Council over the last few years that reflects the change in people's opinions about development and UNC. I wonder about voting by region often. I think there would definitely be some benefits (getting downtown neighborhoods represented, for example) but there might also be some dangers... look at what Bunkey Morgan did in Chatham County!

While I tend to agree with Jeff about proportional representation, that's not the topic here. My point is simply that holding elected office does not deprive one of the right to political expression.

I agree that everyone should have the right to express political opinion, Dan. But I don't think the Council room is the *place* to be expressing those opinions. Doing so introduces partisanship into a *place* that is supposed to be nonpartisan.

That article was silly. I think most of us elected officials were put in office by the voters precisely because we are opinion leaders.

Why would we shy away from calling the national political situation as we see it? Especially around election time.

Say it LOUD: I voted Kerry/Edwards and I'm proud.

Where do you get the idea that the Council chamber is "supposed to be nonpartisan"?There's as much partisanship in Town Hall as there is on Capital Hill. Just because we don't attach party labels to it doesn't mean it isn't there. We practice a system of adversarial democracy (there are other forms). Partisanship is at its heart. The citizens and the community are best served when partisanship is out in the open rather than when it is veiled behind the facade of formal nonpartisanship that some appear to advocate.

I agree with Dan and Mark. I don't see why elected officials should be any less political or "partisan" than the rest of us. Especially outside the Council chambers. But really, who has a problem with Bill Strom wearing a Kerry button during a Council meeting? I'm disappointed that more of them aren't taking advantage of that opportunity to reach so many people.

Many times our local officials have taken up national issues and while I don't want them to do it all them time, I am proud of the leadership positions they have taken on national and international issues.

So does that mean if one of the council members wore a Protect Marriage button during a public meeting, you wouldn't be offended? In both this hypothetical situation and in Strom's case, the button serves as media. Where do you draw the line between what it's OK for an elected official to advertise and where there should be an attempt to differentiate between the individual and the official?

Although I would personally think less of anyone wearing a "protect marriage" button, I wouldn't say it was inappropriate. It would certainly be remembered next time that person was up for election.

All of these national issues have local implications, so their positions are quite relevant. Remember the struggle for municipal domestic partner registration in Chapel Hill and Carrboro the 90's? There will most certainly be a discussion of gay marriage when the County Clerk's seat next opens up (2006?). My point is that "all politics is local," and I applaud our local officials for taking strong stands on issues that matter to the community. It shows courage of their convictions to wear their beliefs on their sleeves.

I may agree with you after this election, but right now I am fed up to the top with courage of conviction. That's my contribution to partisanship!
Dan may be right that democracy is adversarial, but I'm in a Rodney King kindda mood today. Why can't we all just get along? I think we do that by being sensitive to the diverse views in the community. You can have strength of conviction without having to advertise it. (I say this as someone who has a Kerry/Edwards button on my purse. I'm going in to remove it right now....but I'm leaving the sign up in my yard!)

Jeff--it is already possible to "concentrate all (one's) Council / Alderman votes on a specific candidate(s). If one is allowed to vote for three, and there is a particular candidate one wishes elected, then vote for ONLY THAT CANDIDATE. One has then concentrated one's vote. I figured this out the first time I voted...25 years ago.

I usually employ this strategy only when there is a candidate I REALLY want in office--or am concerned is particularly vulnerable.


What party was Mayor Mike Nelson affiliating himself with when he hung an American flag defaced with a swastika in his office?

I have no problem with local elected officials sharing state and national political views, it educates the voter.

I think it's a total joke that people got offended by the Top of the Hill sign after 9-11. Woe to our enemies is exactly how every real American fealt watching 3,000 of our own die in one day in a blaze of smoke. The size of the sign issue was a distraction from the real issue. In fact, the same exact sign was hung on Mothers Day last year, but the language referred to Mothers day. No complaints about the signs size then.

I don't think the owner of Top of the Hill has cornered the market on piousness and insensitivity ("Chapel Hill and Carrboro are the conscience of the State of North Carolina")??

My goodness, Todd, how will we ever tell the fake Americans from the real ones? The criterion you use (feelings of intense aggression) can easily be imitated by fake Americans if questioned. Ah well, I'm sure the fifth column will betray itself eventually.

Melanie, That one-vote only strategy, in the case of opinion minorities, only works if the local majority is evenly split among about twice as many candidates as openings, AND the local minority is lined up behind only one candidate ... which combined almost never happens. Putting all three votes on one person would count three times as much and empower ideological (or other) minorities.

Ruby, If you think the Council & Aldermen are representative of our communities, your circle is somewhat restricted. Even among my self-defined liberal friends, there are complaints about the (near) uniformity of these governments. If you want MLK Blvd now and don't have it, you might think divisions run deep; but for many voters on many other issues, the govts (esp. Carrboro's) feel unrepresentative. And that's just among solid Democrats and to their left.


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