THUMBS DOWN: Rep. Stone’s week

Apr. 07, 2013 @ 05:00 AM

Within the tight confines of the more - is extreme too harsh a word here? - wing of the Lee County Republican Party are some self-appointed stalwarts set on making things right on our corner of the world.

Don’t get us wrong. Heaven knows we need strong leadership. The vacuum created by the ineffectual tendencies of a long line of myopic elected officials has churned up a lot of dust in Sanford and Lee County over the years, doing some real good while simultaneously sweeping other important issues under the rug and leaving a layer of muck on too many visible countertops.

In our new red state/blue state Twitterverse, it’s easy to confuse “bold” and “decisive” with smart. But there’s no confusion about this: as we reflect on what we saw from one of our elected officials this week, state Rep. Mike Stone, one of those GOP stalwarts, we’re left with the head-scratching notion that whatever mandate Rep. Stone thought he won by defeating Jimmy Love Sr. in 2010 for a seat up in Raleigh, and then former Lee County Board of Education Chairman Bill Tatum in 2012, he needs to seriously re-think.

As you know, Rep. Stone introduced bills in the N. C. House this week that - in addition to surprising the potatoes out of just about everyone in Lee County, particularly those most directly impacted (although those in the aforementioned tight confines, we understand, had advance knowledge) - would significant shake up the way the policy-making boards of the City of Sanford, Lee County Schools, and Central Carolina Community College are assembled. On Monday, he introduced legislation (House Bill 490) that would make the Sanford City Council and Lee County Board of Education races partisan. Rep. Stone followed that up on Tuesday with HB 512, which would give full appointment power for CCCC trustees to the Lee County Board of Commissioners (and, for now, its Republican majority).

The bills were extremely popular with Lee County GOP Chairman Charles Staley and - according to comments he posted on The Herald’s website, Republican Commissioner Jim Womack - and some of the others who run within those tight confines. But the rest of us? Not so much.

It’s not just the content of Rep. Stone’s bills that rankled so many, as we pointed out in this space on Friday, but the way he went about sponsoring them. If Rep. Stone thinks there are legitimiate reasons to make city council and school board candidates declare a political party affiliation, and if he thinks the make-up of our community college - a gem, because it’s one of the very best in the state - is unbalanced, then hey, let’s have some dialogue. Let’s put this local matter on our own table first.

But not in the brave new world of the GOP in Lee County. With no common courtesy, nary a word of advance warning, or a hint of consideration for those he’s supposed to represent, Rep. Stone yelled “charge” when so many of the people who elected him weren’t even aware there was a battlefield. Rep. Deb McManus of Chatham County, whose new legislative district (the district Rep. Stone had a hand in chopping up, as you’ll recall) includes a large portion of downtown Sanford, wasn’t even told about it the partisan elections bill; she was among those who spoke out against it this week. As perplexing were the unreturned telephone calls made to Rep. Stone by Sanford City Attorney Susan Patterson - the same person he sat a few spots away from when he was an appointed member of the city council before ascending on high to the General Assembly.

Rep. Stone’s election, he needs to be reminded, doesn’t give him his own personal autobahn to blow past his constituency without every now and then tapping the brakes or using his turn signals or taking a well-timed exit. It’s not a license to further empower his political party or satisfy those in charge.

We hope he’ll take a look in his rearview mirror - not to see the institutions he’s left in the dust, but rather to establish a more far-sighted vision of those he’s supposed to lead. And serve.

Sometimes when you’re lost along the road, a U-turn is the best move.