Archived Opinion

The school board, economics and political insight

By the time we hit the streets with this edition and this column is read, the election that has been dominating the news will be behind us. Talking heads and columnists will be digesting and spinning the results, givingtheir take on what it all means. As of this writing, though, we don’t know who will win.

So while that commentary is on hold for a week, a little housecleaning is in order. Here are a few thoughts from the paper-filled corners of my desk drawers, filing trays and muddled brain:


We’ve printed several stories about how the Haywood County School Board has made some poor decisions when it came to flood reimbursement money, but those stories don’t appear to have resonated with readers. One exchange between members of the building and grounds committee, however, bears pointing out again in hopes it will lead to a better way to managing the public’s money.

I believe the most fundamental responsibility of elected officials is to be fiscally responsible. It’s not their money they are spending, it’s ours. The school system’s building and grounds committee met on Sept. 16, 2005, to scale back $28 million in projects to a price tag that would be acceptable to county commissioners — $25 million. The board members knew they needed to modify one or several of the construction projects to honestly reduce the package by $3 million, but instead they took another path — they arbitrarily reduced to total to $25 million without making the cuts. Here’s part of the exchange at that meeting:

“Maybe what we need to do Monday (when school officials were to meet with county commissioners) is be very vague about where we’re going to reduce this thing,” says school board member Mike Sorrells.

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“The less (county commissioners) know, the better off we are,” adds Jonathan Woody.

Look, break it all down and democratic government is an agreement between like-minded people to pay money (taxes) in order to get what we believe society needs — schools, roads, armies, police protection, trash pick up, clean water, etc. In this instance, there was a conscious decision to hide the real costs in order to get county commissioners to OK the bond package that offered false hope to many different communities and then to get citizens to vote yes.

This is all being reported long afterward, but it is simply outrageous behavior.


Why does it seem that in America’s version of 21st century capitalism, so many things that are good for the economy don’t speak to values that most Americans believe in. So says a letter I recently received from a reader, one that wasn’t for publication but just to chew on. For example:

• If the economy is sluggish, we are told that consumer spending needs to increase. In the next day’s news, we read how families are running up debt they’ll regret for months or even years and that Americans aren’t saving enough.

• Big cars made by U.S. automakers may be inefficient and poorly-built, but hey, buy American and help Ford and GM out of their slump. Waste gas, waste resources to build big cars, continue to hog the world’s raw materials, but at least we’ll try to save these poorly managed companies and their jobs.

• Got a nice house? Doesn’t matter, it’s time to upgrade to something bigger, nicer, more expensive. Got to keep the construction industry rolling along.

• And don’t forget Wal Mart, where we can get cheap goods — and, of course, send all our jobs overseas — which helps us afford big, wasteful cars and bigger houses.

We could go on and on with these examples. Unfettered, capitalism craves all things in larger slices. At some point, the pendulum has to begin its swing back the other way.

OK, the letter wasn’t for publication, but the thoughts were.


The letters and columns regarding this past election have been indicative of strongly held opinions. Nothing, though, beats humor. I always scan all the papers for the letters that stand out, and on this one I’m sure to be accused of partisanship, but who cares.

My friend Jim Joyce had the wittiest of lines in a letter published in the Waynesville Mountaineer in which he chastised Republicans for their failures. Here’s just a short excerpt from what he wrote: “North Korea: Bombs away! Iran: Right behind them. The deficit: Appalling. Medicare: A sham. Moral high ground: Paging Mr. Foley. Fence our borders: Is Haliburton in the fence business?”

Funny, true and insightful. Good stuff.

(Scott McLeod can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..)

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