There is so much drama in South County Politics these days. Prior to purchasing my home in Oakville in 2008, I took the time to examine the neighborhood I wanted to move into - including things like the School District (Mehlville), the proximity of nearest Police Station and Fire House, and how close other services were to the home we wanted to buy.
My wife used to work for Mehlville (she is a stay-at-home mom now) and she told me of how people in the area would get very fired up at things going on with the School Board. As a public school teacher myself (I work in Parkway) I understand the politics behind education, and I really wasn't all that concerned. I reason that if someone is passionate enough about something to take the time and effort to voice those concerns either at a board meeting or by other means, such as writing a letter to The Call or The Patch, then more power to them. What I wasn't prepared for was the grandstanding, name-calling, and downright childish behavior on the part of my locally elected officials and the citizens who take issue with them. There are all kinds of examples out there, but I'll stay with the most recent.
Take the article that was published on The Patch about the recent Mehlville Board of Education Tax Rate Hearing. I posted a comment on that article that I felt was reflective of my thoughts on the matter. And while I was critical of Board Members Franz, Stoner and Eardley, what I didn't do was personally attack them, which was what some readers did. One poster referred to Ms. Eardly's father as Jim "Papa" Murphy, implying somehow that Ms. Eardley can't think for herself. Yes, it is interesting to know that Jim Murphy is Kathleen Eardley's father, but I have a hard time believing that he is some sort of "puppet-master" that controls her voice and vote on the school board.
Another poster accused PTO leaders (and other parents) who didn't attend the meeting of failing the students of Mehlville "yet again." I have a hard time believing that Mehlville parents would be uncaring of Mehlville school district and their child's education. Any teacher or parent who has served on a PTO is well aware and very much appreciates the hard work that these organizations do to improve our schools. To criticize them as being uncaring for not showing up to a tax rate hearing is just plain unfair.
And then there is my favorite Patch poster, Paul Revere. I do mention him by name because I highly doubt that's his real name. How do I take someone seriously when they don't use their actual name to post a comment? If you have an opinion about a matter you really believe in - then sign your name to it. Don't hide behind the anonymity of a chat board and provoke people who really want to have a meaningful discussion. What I like so much about Patch is the dialogue that can follow most of the stories that appear on this site. However, that dialogue can degrade rather quickly when someone posts comments they know will incite other posters, yet don't have the courage to sign their real name.
Some of our elected officials on the Mehlville School Board and Mehlville Fire Board gladly participate in the name calling and personal attacks that I see every week in the "Opinions" page in Oakville Call and that I read in the comments sections of The Patch. That disappoints me, because I like to hold my elected officials to a higher standard than that. You can disagree without being disagreeable. Compromise is not a four letter word. Winning a public office doesn't mean that you have free will to impose your agenda on others while ignoring the people who have different views than you. Not only is that disappointing, but it's dangerous.
The one thing that I have learned since I moved to South County is the power that the local media does have on the politics in our area. I've been to a handful of Mehlville School Board meetings, but I do rely on The Patch to keep me informed of what goes on so I can make informed choices at the ballot box. I just wish we could stay away from the Jerry Springer mentality that seems to consume South County Politics.
Thanks for reading.