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...

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Buckingham School Board Petition: "Trust, but Verify"


"Trust, but verify." - President Ronald Reagan

A new twist in the Buckingham School Board Petition effort. Buckingham Supervisor Brian Bates said he acquired 512 signatures in support of a referendum on this issue.

The Iconoclast would like to independently verify these signatures. Consider this a respectful challenge!

Regular reader of the Iconoclast are aware of an on-going story involving Buckingham County's Vice-Chairman of the Board of Supervisors, Brian Bates, and the County's elected School Board.

In summary, it appears that in the past the two elected Boards have had a few "issues". In regard to the "issues" the Iconoclast isn't inclined to chose a side, instead we hope the two Boards will work out their differences for the good of all the citizens and children of Buckingham County. We still feel this can be done...

You might recall that this past July Supervisor Bates - acting as a "private citizen" - proposed (in the eyes of many) a fairly radical solution to the disagreements between the two elected Boards. Supervisor Bates stated he would spearhead an effort to collect signatures in order to put the issue (of elected versus appointed School Boards) back to the voters of Buckingham County this coming fall.

The July 7, 2006 issue of the Farmville Herald stated, "Brian Bates is spearheading a drive to gather singatures on a petition supporting a local referendum on changing from direct election of school boad members to an appointment process."

If Supervisor Bates was looking to stir up a "hornets nest", he was successful. Reactions from citizens, local media, silly internet polls, and the Iconoclast wasn't too supportive of Supervisor Bates' propostion to eliminate the direct election of School Bord members in Buckingham County. After all, it was only a few years ago that voters in the County overwhelmingly voted in favor of direct elections for School Board members.

As I stated previously, anyone who actually believes that voters would willing chose to take away their right to vote for something, is living in "la la land". But that's just my opinion.

Additionally, Bates' proposal for Buckingham appears to be having the opposite effect in nearby Prince Edward County. As we speak signatures are being collected in Prince Edward in support of a referendum (which would appear on the ballot in November of 2007) to directly elect School Board members in that County.

Though I personally feel that Supervisor Bates' proposal is tanatamount to political suicide, he absolutely has the right - per the Code of Virginia - to petition the citizens of Buckingham County in order to place this issue on the ballot. Fair enough....

So how did Supervisor Bates' recent petition drive go? According to Supervisor Bates pretty well...

Supervisor Bates recently told the Farmville Herald that his drive to collect 865 signatues (or ten percent of the registered voters in Buckingham County) has fallen short just before the deadline, August 9, in order to have this issue appear on the ballot this coming fall.

The August 4, 2006 issue of the Farmville Herald states,
"Brian Bates, who spearheaded the effort, said that 512 signatures were acquired....Bates launched the petion drive druing the first week of July and faced an August 9 deadline for filing the certified petition...Bates said that he was not terribly surprised given the time-frame and added that he should have started the effort earlier so that he would have 60 to 90 days to collect the signatures. Noting that over 500 signatures were gathered in just a few weeks, he offered, "That's pretty respectable"


INDEED SUPERVISOR BATES, THAT IS PRETTY RESPECTABLE, BORDERING ON AMAZING!

We here at the Iconoclast just happen to know a little bit about collecting signatues for a petition. Sure, it might sound pretty easy? right? Well guess again!

I've had the opportunity to collect signatures for a petition in a large urban area, where registered voters are plentiful. I found out when people sign petitions, they generally like to know exactly what they are signing. Therefore, it's not unusual to take up to 15 minutes (and often more time) explaining to voters exactly what they are signing.

Now imagine doing this in a large rural County with only 8,649 registered voters covering 581 square miles! In case you're wondering that's approximately 15 registered voters per square mile. Even if you put aside the fact that such a petition would likely be highly unpopular with voters, it's easy to see that such a task wouldn't exactly be akin to shooting fish in a barrel. Petition drives can be tough, tedious, and exhausting work!

Consider these issues as well:

In 1992, only 800 (18 percent) voters suppported appointed School Board againts 3,630 (82 percent) who suppored elected School Boards.

Accepting the claim that there were 512 signatures, Bates obtained in less than a month a number of signatures equivalent to 64 percent of all voters who voted for appointd School Boards in 1992.

Assuming Supervisor Bates was able to obtain one signture every 10 minutes of canvassing, his signature campaign would have required at a miniumum of 85 hours of total survey time.

Considering that for every voter in 1992 who voted for appointed School Board members, there were 4.5 voters who voted the opposite way (for an elected School Board), the probability of getting one signature every 10 minutes during a 85 hour effort, is while not physically impossible, highly doubtful.

Considering that the ability to obtain one signature every 10 minutes, during the 85 hour effort, would require in a span of 10 minutes the surveyor to explain what the petition was about to several people who were not likely to sign (on average 4.5 persons), convince them to change their minds, or alternatively go on to the next person, repeat the process again, and have them print out their name and address and sign the petition.

Maybe Supevisor Bates had lots and lots of help gathering signatures? I think it would be more reasonable to assume it would require an average of more like 20 minutes on average per signature, or 171 hours.


Quite simply we here at the Iconoclast have our doubts. Therefore, we respecfully challenge Supervisor Bates to show a mutually agreeable third party the 512 signatures within two weeks from today's date.

Honestly, if Supversisor Bates did gather 512 signatures in such a short period of time we would be extremely impressed! Additionally, we would hope that Supervisor Bates would continue with these efforts, and again attempt to gather enough signatures to place this issue on the ballot for the 2007 election. If Supervisor Bates gathered 512 signatures in such a short period of time, he should have an easy time gathering the same signatures, plus the needed addtional signatures by next August. Indeed, this is his democratic right!

All we ask is that Supervisor Bates contact the Iconoclast (commonwealthiconoclast@yahoo.com) in order to work out the details to have a mutually agreeable third party view the 512 signatures. Supervisor Bates has corresponded with the Iconoclast in the past, so we know he is able to contact us if he wishes.

We here at the Iconoclast are not attempting to "beat our chest" in some sort of silly cyberspace bravado. If we can verify the existence of the 512 signatures we will gladly report this to the readers of the Iconoclast. We are simply following the advice from our Nation's 40th President...

"Trust, but verify"


We look forward to reporting to our readers the results of our inquiry.

Stay tuned....

12 Comments:

  • At 8/07/2006 2:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Yes, when I read the article in the Herald the word "said" sort of jumped out to me to.

    It would be nice if someone could actually verify the existence of these signatures.

    Did anyone reading this blog actually sign the petition?

     
  • At 8/08/2006 8:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Don't hold your breath. This is typical BB behavior. He has to get the last word, even if he looks alike an idiot doing so. We're use to it here in Buckingham.

     
  • At 8/08/2006 4:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I predict Bates will accept this challenge right around never. I smell something stinky.

     
  • At 8/09/2006 10:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I'M SORRY SENIOR KNOW-IT-ALL BUT WHOSE FREAKING IDEA WAS IT IN THE FIRST PLACE TO HAVE A RECALL FOR THE SCHOOL BOARD MEMBERS?

    THAT WOULD BE A MR. BRIAN BATES! A PROFESSOR OF NOT-SO-SMART-BUT-FULL-OF-HIMSELF-WHOSE-NEEDS-TO-GET-THE-HELL-OUT-OF-PUBLIC-SERVICEOLIGY

    PLEASE, HOW SO BATES OF HIM, TO START A FIGHT, AND THEN WIMPER AWAY LIKE A LITTLE SCARED TRICK...

    I'LL CALL IT LIKE IT IS, BATES IS A LIER...PERIOD.

    BUCKINGHAM VOTERS AREN'T GOING TO FORGET YOUR SILLY ASS LITTLE ANTICSS ANYTIME SOON KNOW-IT-ALL...

    SOON BATES WILL BE JOINING SHERIFF STOOTS, BOOK IT!

     
  • At 8/10/2006 7:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Tom - if you read the code, it appears that if Bates did collect the 512 signatures he could use them at a later date. IN other words, if he feels so passionate about this issue, then he should finish collecting the signatues and have this put on the ballot next fall (2007).

    I agree, it appears that Bates is now trying to sweep this silly idea under the rug. But, as always with Bates, he feels the need to get the last word. Hopefully the voters will not soon forget this disingenuous proposition.

    I'm sure Bates would love to forget it all. Don't let him!

     
  • At 8/10/2006 10:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    if Bates has a modicum of self-respect, he will resign at the meeting on Aug 14th. It would be in the best interest of the citizens of Buckingham - but since when has he had their best interest at heart? He loves himself best

     
  • At 8/10/2006 2:52 PM, Anonymous a supporter said…

    Let me take up for Supervisor Bates for a moment.

    Yes, I agree that the question of how the school board should be constituted is controversial. But I think it is a fair question to ask. Supervisor Bates was bold and perhaps took a political risk in asking the question. He should get credit for asking the question that others were too afraid to ask.

    Having come to Supervisor Bates' defense for raising a fair question, I will however hasten to add that I hope that he doesn't now cave in and abandon those of us who might actually agree with him just because he gets a little bit of political heat.

    A strong leader leads by example. A strong leader shows resolve and is not detered by minor set backs.

    No matter how much icing you put on it, to drop the referendum now would be a sign of weakness and political cowardice. Now that this issue is finally on the public's mind, Supervisor Bates needs ride his initiative to its logical conclusion- win or lose.

    Given the enormous importance of the Buckingham County schools and the costs as a large part of the County budget, this is unquestionably one of the most important issues facing Buckingham County and its citizens.

    I hope that Supervisor Bates will not run from this challenge after getting such a strong start.

     
  • At 8/10/2006 6:51 PM, Anonymous a concerned parent said…

    Tom, thanks for the link to the actual legal requirements. This is helpful in understanding the actual mechanics and scheduling of a referendum.

    I tend to agree in part with the previous comment. Why stop now?

    Mr. Bates has started a fight. Now, he should held accountable. Put this measure on the ballot for November 2007 when Mr. Bates runs for re-election for the Board of Supervisors. Let the voters decide two important questions at the same time - the method of school board organization, and the future of Mr. Bates' political career.

    I have a feeling that two problems will be solved in one election.

     
  • At 8/10/2006 8:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I would probably trust Tana if she did a follow-up article on the Bates petitions. If Tana says that she saw with her own eyes 512 signatures on Bates's petition, I would tend to believe it is true. Otherwise, I have my doubts.

     
  • At 8/10/2006 9:46 PM, Anonymous South of Scottsville said…

    super point! bates can still use his 512 signatures for the ballot in 2007. We should all volunteer to sign the petition so bates can run side-by-side with his referendum!

    Wouldn't that be perfect!

     
  • At 8/11/2006 1:50 AM, Blogger Ralphie said…

    The captain needs to ride his ship to it's ultimate destination even if it means riding it down to the bottom of the sea. It is called leadership.

     
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