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Friday, April 04, 2003

Seven White Men

They are so white they tend to blend in with the room's lightbulbs. The cabal consists of a man from the mountains, a man of the religious right, a man of old school white thought, a newbie I privately have been calling the Hitler Youth, a man of two faces, an old cop, and a vampire. They sit among a smaller mixed-gender group of white and black faces that is consistently rendered irrelevant.

That is the County Council.

The body's history is long and storied, but its recent actions threaten to overshadow any good it has done in the past.

The short version of the story goes like this: The vocal minority on the council introduced legislation that would provide county employees with a paid holiday to honor Martin Luther King Jr. The silent majority shot it down, as routinely as it had done on previous occasions. However, this year holiday supporters fought back. The Rev. Jesse Jackson, a man of a questionable background himself, came to town. Council meetings fell apart after that. Racial epithets overrode committee votes. Sixties-style sit-ins ensued. For two months, the only business was King business. There was no compromise. The white majority questioned King's background and the cost of providing an eleventh paid holiday to its employees.

In an inspired moment, the council decided to form a community committee to study the holiday and report back. The committee was viewed in several different ways, good and bad. But it was something, and that was about all anybody could ask for after six consecutive meetings that were nothing more than free-for-alls.

The committee did its work and reported back with two options for compromise: 1) Create a new holiday in honor of Dr. King or 2) Substitute an existing holiday for a King Day. While #2 was not exactly what holiday supporters had asked for, it seemed to be the best compromise. Whispers around County Square indicated #2 was a lock. The controversy would be over.

Then, as things have a tendency to do in council chambers, everything went to hell. The man of two faces (some whispers say at the urging of the vampire) introduced a new so-called compromise: County employees would be guaranteed five holidays a year (New Year's Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas). At the beginning of each year, county employees would vote by secret ballot on which other five days out of the year they would have off. Those can be any five days, including my birthday or Bradoween if I can build a lobby fast enough.

If that sounds so moronic that you can't even comprehend it, don't worry. Nobody else understands it either. Imagine only knowing of a few holidays you'll get each year and then your other holidays falling at the mercy of all of your fellow co-workers--every year. It's bad business and it is exactly what we've come to expect from the seven white men.

The seven white men have now alienated just about every person of importance in the county. The top business leaders (most of them also white) have denounced the decision. The county's delegation to the statehouse has denounced the decision. A Congressman with his eye on the Senate has denounced the decision. Companies with a huge financial interest in doing business with the county have withdrawn their bids. And now, Jesse Jackson is threatening to lobby major corporations against locating in what could be the biggest development to happen to the state in decades.

All because of seven white men.

The hardest part to understand is the simple fact that a majority of the people who live in the county continue to elect these guys. In short, it is our fault. The only solution will come at the ballot box. The scariest part is that I'm not sure if the people who live around the state's most progressive city will actually vote the seven white men out of office.

Wait...that's not the scariest part. This news just in:

Vampire For Congress 2004.

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Rapid Eye Reality is the personal blog of writer Brad Willis, aka Otis.
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