The Commonwealth Iconoclast

A site dedicated to covering issues relevant to the Commonwealth of Virginia, and nation at large, plus other interesting things too, as I see fit...

Monday, August 21, 2006

Buckingham County: What is the measure of political leadership?

What role does honesty play in political accountability?

Supervisor / Vice Chairman Brian Bates still silent!

Questions of accountability continue to mount!

The interesting story in Buckingham County concerning the impasse between the Buckingham County Board of Supervisors and the Buckingham County School Board continues unresolved with little sign of political leadership on the horizon… least of all from Buckingham County’s own Supervisor and Vice Chairman of the Buckingham County Board of Supervisors, Brian Bates.

It seems that Supervisor Bates has started a war but is now heading for the hills leaving others to clean up the mess. What started out as a legitimate question of general public policy has now become a question of political accountability by one of Southside Virginia's up and coming political leaders.

Some history might be in order here.

For the past year, the Buckingham County Board of Supervisors and the Buckingham County School Board has been at an impasse as to how best to address the County’s school facilities needs. Such disagreements are not uncommon but the Buckingham County impasse is conspicuously entrenched in the local politics.

Considering that the County school program represented about 70 percent of Buckingham County’s total budget for the year ending June 2004, plus the fact that the impasse hurts first and foremost the school aged population of the County, this is a very serious problem with fair arguments on both sides.

In July, the impasse led Supervisor and Vice Chairman of the Board of Supervisors Brian Bates to come up with a bold and novel solution, that being to wipe the elected Buckingham County School Board off the face of the earth through a new referendum that would replace the elected school board with a new school board appointed by the Buckingham County Board of Supervisors. The local news paper, The Farmville Herald, characterized Supervisor Bates’ plan as the “nuclear option”… an apt description if there ever was one.

This bold and novel “solution” to the impasse problem was made by “private citizen” Brian Bates as he explained it in his own words and the voters were encouraged not to confuse the interests of private citizen Bates with the political interests of Supervisor and Vice Chairman Bates. (Please remember that these are two entirely separate individuals with no overlapping interests.)

By August 4th , Supervisor Bates… I mean private citizen Bates… had proudly announced that he and his supporters had collected 512 signatures of the 865 signatures required to get the measure on the ballot as a special referendum but had fallen slightly short by the deadline of August 9th to get the matter on the ballot for November 2006. He lamented that he should have initiated the effort earlier so that he would have had 60 to 90 days to collect signatures.”

Private citizen Bates was effusive in his quoted comments to local newspaper saying among other things “That’s pretty respectable” and “this has been a positive experience” and perhaps most significant “Even the people who disagree with the notion of an appointed school board agree with the course of action by the Board of Supervisors”…

Please remember that this is private citizen Bates speaking and not Supervisor / Vice Chairman Bates who may have some interest in that “course of action by the Board of Supervisors.” (I apologize if this gets a little confusing at times.)

Citizen Bates was also outspoken against certain unidentified individuals who might question his plans labeling the concern that he was trying to take away voters rights to directly elect the school board as “dubious at best”.

Of course private citizen Bates was not trying to take away citizen rights to directly elect school board members… never in a million years! It should have been intuitively obvious to anyone that what private citizen Bates was trying to do was to wipe the elected Buckingham County school board off the face of the earth. It had nothing at all to do with voting rights. If there is nothing to vote for there are no voting rights to take away.


Two weeks ago, the Iconoclast asked the obvious question: What is private citizen Bates going to do with the 512 signatures.

If indeed they exist, this petition drive is nothing less than phenomenal, a mandate to continue and to get this measure on the ballot for a special referendum in the November 2007 election… the very next election cycle.

At the same time (two weeks ago) the Iconoclast issued to Supervisor and Vice Chairman Bates… or Citizen Bates… a challenge to allow an independent verification that he had truly collected 512 signatures in support of his bold and novel solution to the impasse problem.

So far, neither citizen Bates nor Supervisor/Vice Chairman Bates has chosen to step up to the plate and be accountable for either his personal or political actions.

No word … no independent verification of the 512 signatures. Mmmm….

If the special referendum on the method of establishing the Buckingham County School Board was a good idea for November 2006, why wouldn’t private citizen Bates continue on his phenomenal trajectory of success and give the citizens of Buckingham County the choice they so richly deserve?

The Farmville Herald revealed in a recent op/ed piece a certain squeamishness about this referendum saying that “Thankfully, that petition drive failed to get enough signatures to put the elected School Board issue on the ballot in November. There is no need for Buckingham County residents to give up their election of School Board members and if enough signatures had been collected to put that question on the ballot it would have certainly created additional delay in settling the school construction issue.”

The Iconoclast respectfully takes issue with our friends at The Farmville Herald and particularly with the logic. With a phenomenal 512 signatures already collected in less than 30 days (according to private citizen Bates’ unverified accounts) the issue demands an final resolution by the voters on November 6, 2007. As for the Herald’s presumption that the referendum would “would have certainly created additional delay” there is no plausible logic to suggest that the future is limited to only that one pessimistic scenario.

In fact a pending referendum could be the catalyst to propel both the Board of Supervisors and the School Board to be on their best behavior this coming year and to finally get the job done. Either that or risk political extinction in the next election cycle for all concerned.

Coincidentally, Supervisor /Vice Chairman Bates… no relation to private citizen Bates… is up for re-election in November 2007.

The Iconoclast is of the view that failing to pursue the referendum idea now, considering its phenomenal public support so far (according to private citizen Bates’ unverified accounts) is tantamount to “sweeping the problem under the rug” for others to clean up later. This would be the lazy and easy thing to do... but not the right thing to do.

Of course, if private citizen Bates’ petition drive was a failure… and we are not saying it was… the Iconoclast would certainly understand why private citizen Bates would choose to suspend any further pursuit of the special referendum in 2007.

But according to private citizen Bates, the petition drive was far from being a failure and in fact was a phenomenal success… vindicating the Board of Supervisors position all along… a position that he… private citizen Bates… has no stake in.


Frankly, the Iconoclast is beginning to wonder if Supervisor /Vice Chairman Bates is being entirely honest with the citizens who he serves.

If Supervisor Bates has the 512 signatures he claims, it would be a very easy matter to have those signatures independently verified. This has not happened.

Why not?

And, if Supervisor Bates has those signatures, why is he not pursuing the referendum for November 6, 2007, at the same time he is running for re-election as Supervisor?

In the final analysis, this is a question of political accountability.

What is it that we look for in our political leaders?

Is it firm conviction in ones vision for the future? Is it determination to get the job done? Is it the ability to compromise and find consensus among diversity of views? Is it the ability to act with bold wisdom?


What role does honesty play in political accountability?

What would it mean if Supervisor Bates can not or will not submit to independent verification of the 512 signatures on the petition he initiated?

What if the 512 signatures do not exist? Not saying that they don't... but what if?

Would it really matter to the voters in 2007 if Supervisor candidate Bates gets an “A” for boldness and an “F” for honesty?

The Iconoclast is not impugning Supervisor Bates’ integrity but is wondering why he has not responded to the simple request for independent verification of what he is publicly claiming? This is an important question and it deserves an answer.

So again Supervisor Bates, if you have the goods, you deserve credit for your initiative and success. The Iconoclast will post the findings as soon as they are independently verified. If you do not have the goods, we would be interested in hearing your explanation. So please contact

Let us get this matter resolved.


Gavrilo Princip, unintended consequences...

Buckingham Official Evokes "Nuclear Option"...

Buckingham County: The Battle of the Boards


  • At 8/21/2006 11:29 AM, Anonymous Alive in District 5 said…

    I live in District 5, and made what I'm starting to believe was a mistake by voting for Brian Bates in 2003.

    Our last Supervisor, Robert Samuels, use to speak before he thought things through sometimes. But in retrospect Mr. Samuels was good officials who wasn't afraid to let you know where he stood.

    As far as I can tell, Mr. Samuels didn't get involved in silly tickey-tackey poltical games.

    I'm real dissapointed in Brian. Being that he is young, many of us old timers here in his district had hopes he'd bring some youthful energy to the board. Instead, Brian's only brought trouble and backdoor ego-driven politics with him.

    Too bad. Brian deserves to be challenged on this issue.

    I pretty much know everyone in District 5 since I've lived here for 62 years! And I can tell you since Brian said he collected 512 signatures I haven't talked to a single person who signed this petition.

    I'm not calling him a liar. I, like you, am real suspicious at this whole fiasco.

    I hope he will respond to the challenge, I'd love to give Brian some benefit of the doubt before I totally jump off his ship before next November.

  • At 8/21/2006 12:57 PM, Anonymous Ivory Tower said…

    While you don't come right out and say it, the implication is clear that this blog may not believe that Supervisor Bates is telling the truth about the petitions.

    What the blog fails to note is that Supervisor Bates is also Professor Bates at Longwood University. The idea that a university professor would knowingly mislead or lie to the public is almost beyond my comprehension.

    If nothing else, intelectual integrity reigns supreme in the halls of academia. I am confident that Professor Bates will quickly address and resolve this issue once and for all.

    You have a right to ask the question, but I resent the implication of dishonesty. Will you be as quick to print an apology when Professor Bates produces the petitions?

  • At 8/21/2006 1:19 PM, Blogger Tom Wise said…

    Absolutely. If Supervisor Bates agrees to have the signatures independently verified, and he has indeed collected the signatures, then this will be covered with an equal amount of attention and veracity...

    As I've said all along, collecting 512 signatures in such a short amount of time would likely indicate substantial support for his proposed referendum. Therfore, he should definately attempt to get this on the 2007 ballot.

  • At 8/21/2006 6:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Alive in District 5 stated:

    "I pretty much know everyone in District 5 since I've lived here for 62 years! And I can tell you since Brian said he collected 512 signatures I haven't talked to a single person who signed this petition."

    If "Alive in District 5" is the real deal, then I think we have our answer about Bates' so called petition.

  • At 8/22/2006 7:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Why hasn't The Farmville Herald asked these questions? It almost seems like the Herald has gotten out of the business of reporting the news and now perfers to craft the news in a way that sounds more to their liking. Let the people of Buckingham have the truth.

  • At 8/22/2006 1:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Questions for Ivory Tower:

    If Supervisor Bates - who happens to also be an untenured professor at Longwood University - is indeed fibing about actually collecting the 512 signatures, do you think this could have repercussions?

    Will Longwood's administration seek to eventually distance themselves from a Professor who appears to be blatantly lying to the public?

    Would this be appropriate?

    There are others on Longwood's staff that served as elected officials in the larger community. In Supervisor Bates' defense we all know that somtimes elected officials are on the opposite spectrum of the actual truth. We sometimes come to expect it.

    But Supervisor Bates' situaiton does appear to be somewhat different. In this situation there doesn't appear to be room for typical poltical hyperbole or nuance. Either you have the documentation of the signatues or you don't.

    Do you think the University will become uncomfortable if the overwhelming perception is that Professor Bates is lying to the public? Or do they not care?

    I look forward to your response.



    I agree with the last message. It's too bad that the Farmville Herald is not persuing this story with the same commitment as Tom. I think the points here are valid and deserve better coverage.

  • At 8/22/2006 7:56 PM, Anonymous ivory tower said…

    As a member of the Longwood University community,I think that it is intellectually unfair to imply that Professor Bates is lying about the petitions. If he said that he has them, he no doubt has them and will produce them in due time for all to see.

    The idea that a faculty member would fabricate a story of such public significance is inconceivable to me. In the academic environment we live in, intellectual responsibility is expected of all in our family.

    As this blog is seemingly making its rounds here on campus, I am sure Professor Bates is keenly aware of the challenge and will set the record straight in the very near future.

    Thank you.

  • At 8/22/2006 10:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I agree with ivory tower, Dr. Bates is a very smart man and knows what he is doing. I have faith and confidence in Dr. Bates as a supervisor, professor, and political leader. And to think that he forged one of the 512 signatures is inconceivable. Dr. Bates is a citizen his rights as an American citizen and he should not let this blog or any other talk break his stride. Dr. Bates is a political leader with high morals and will continue to be.

  • At 8/22/2006 11:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hate to burst your bubble, but I heard by the grape vine that his cats ate the petitions. Opps.

  • At 8/23/2006 9:56 AM, Anonymous Fly on a Wall said…

    I don't care if Bates is an a**hole or mother Teresa! I just want to see the damn petition. This is a simple request. As I see it SupervisorBates didn't mind going public about his referendum idea, or with telling everyone he gathered 512 signatures in support. So if he doesn't mind going public with these things, why not just show the signatures to a third party and be done with it. Put Tom Wise in his place. Seems easy to me. Tom does bring up a good point though, why quit now? Seems logical

    Bates might not know it but folks are reading this blog at Longwood and Buckingham, and word is getting around he's backing down from a challenge.

    Show us you got a pair Brian!

  • At 8/23/2006 10:31 AM, Blogger TOR Hershman said…

    “What part does honesty play,” HONESTLY!

    It’s all ‘Might Makes Right’, that’s all.

    Stay on Groovin’ (DNA Jungle) Safari,
    TOR Hershman

  • At 8/25/2006 10:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Tor, you my man sound like you know Bates very well.

  • At 9/06/2006 4:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    We have such outstanding leadership in Buckingham. I understand that our Chairman of the Board of Supervisors is spending weekends in jail in Albemarle County. Tsk, Tsk - I think this should be investigated and brought out in public. If Mr. Bates is anything like our Chairman - and I think that he probably is - the citizens of Buckingham are in a shitload of trouble.

  • At 9/07/2006 8:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    What is wrong with the citizens of Buckingham? They should appear at the Court House en-masse and demand Chamber's resignation. If he had one shred of decencny in his dishonest body, he would resgign for the good of the community. If his fellow board members truly wanted to do the job they were elected to do, THEY would have demanded it months ago. Where is the County Attorney in all of this? Is it not his job to legally protect the citizens of Buckingham? The question many Buckingham taxpayers would like answered is " how on earth did he ever get chosen as Chairman" ? Guess he fit the bill of puppet like much of Buckingham's elected officials. Just attend one board meeting and it is obvious who controls the county - - albeit from the sidelines

    Oh, well - - the times they are a changing and I think Nov 07 will be a blow to not only the Supervisors but the School Board as well... and who knows? Maybe some of the other "chosen few". We can always hope people will wake up and get their heads out of the sand or wherever they have chosen to stick them

  • At 9/07/2006 11:37 PM, Anonymous DeDe said…

    What's with this? Somebody, please explain what exactly we are talking about. I know that there are some problems. But what is going on with Chairman Chambers? Also, what is going on with Vice Chairman Bates? Is he still alive? Or did he flee jurisdiction?

  • At 9/12/2006 12:06 AM, Anonymous ralphwhitus said…

    Y'all ever hear back from Dr. Know-It-All? Or is that boy hiding under some rock a hoping and a wishing that everybody will forget that dumb assed idea that he had of taking over the world, starting with Buckingham County. Somebody told me he had a PhD, which in his case stands for BS Piled hip Deep.
    I'd like to get that boy out on the river to see just how slippery he can be. That ought to be fun.

  • At 9/12/2006 12:30 AM, Blogger Ralphie said…

    I am sorry. I was in temporaily insanity condition, disembodied from my computer, and more or less forgot that I am supposed to be an official blogger. I guess old age is getting to catch up with me. But my fans need to know that I am still here at least some of the time. Bout ready to strike again. Heard some stuff from my in-laws. They got some real mess up there in Buckingham Courthouse. Kind of funny. But kind of pitiful. I got to get my thoughts in order, but I expect to say my piece in a few days when I am so moved assuming I am not doing something else. Oh well, please understand that I am not really all that good at this blogging thing.

  • At 11/29/2011 4:43 AM, Anonymous images and pictures said…



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