Edgefield County As It Happens
Edgefield County, South Carolina

March 29, 2005

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Dividing and conquering?

web posted March 29, 2005
Editorial Staff

The Edgefield County School Board has voted on a new map for their respective districts. The first comment we have about the new map is, it’s about time. The map should have been resolved years ago as required by law after the 2000 census numbers were in.

Not that there were not attempts at doing so, it seemed that the past board could not put together a map that they, and the legislators, would have approved and also gotten the nod from the Justice Department.

The one thing past maps did contain was the agreement that the board would not force two sitting members to face an election in the same district. That agreement evidently changed with new board members Scott Chitty (vice-chairman, Merriwether District 7) and James Bibb Jr. (Trenton District 3) being elected. The map they drew up and passed forces former chairman Brad Covar (Edgefield District 4) against Andy Livingston (Johnston District 2). That seems a bit vindictive on the part of the board. Whether that was intended or not, the general perception of the map, members, and leadership provides that very impression.

For a board that has been enthralled in votes on hotly contested issues going along racial lines it would seem they would have taken a less seemingly power grab move that will not bring more residents together, but divide the county more. We think that is sad.

We have spoken to present and past board members and most say there is a divided board and that division will not be healed, ever. That is even worse.

Furthermore, the map the majority has accepted divides in its very design.

The political subdivisions, or communities, are being divided in that their representatives will no longer be a voice of the entire local community. A good portion of Merriwether will have a board member that will not live in or understand the needs of Merriwether, but rather one who lives in the north side of Edgefield.

This plays out several times in the map by basically splitting four of the five major population centers, Merriwether, Bettis Academy, Trenton, and Edgefield and gives Johnston two members rather than justifiably to Merriwether. We just find it hard to believe that a better solution couldn’t be found.

Splitting neighbors up is not a way to represent the “one man one vote” rule set forth by the courts. Whether this map will meet those constraints, or even get legislative and judicial approval still remains to be seen. However, the way it was done and the final result will still sting in the minds of county residents and community leaders.

Of the nine who spoke at the school board meeting, eight are closely related to the board’s majority; Nathaniel Jackson and Rev. Griffith of the NAACP, tied to Chairperson Sallie Cooks; and the entire school board of Fox Creek high school and Danny Bishop who all are directly tied to former Fox Creek founding committe member Scott Chitty. That just doesn’t look good when people understand the who’s who of lobbyists in our school board meetings. 

We hope the school board can heal the rift that divides them. A divided board creates a divided community as a direct result, not the other way around. But pitting two of the longest serving members against each other is not the way to do it. If anyone should face each other in an upcoming election it should be two of the most junior members, not most senior. That just doesn’t make sense, unless there is a motive behind it. We hope there wasn’t.

The board, as a whole, is a lot more open to speaking to people than before. That much we will give them. Thankfully the members who now are accessible were the ones who, in the past, refused to comment privately or publicly. We think that this shows growth and maturity on their part and we commend them for it. We hope this openness will spread to other county governmental bodies. We also hope the board can come to a more amicable solution for the sake of the county.  The present map, in our opinion, should be withdrawn.

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