Let everyone have a real voice in Chatham County government by eliminating the at-large system

by Brian Bock

Brian Bock of Chatham County

Brian Bock

Pittsboro, NC – I want to address the effort to expand the county board of commissioners one more time. This is a big issue and deserves much more in-depth discussion than it is currently receiving. Like many issues, the headlines don’t tell the whole story, reveal the true purpose, or achieve the stated objective.

The latest effort to get traction will come tonight at the Siler City Town Board meeting. Former Mayor Randy Voller, and Town board member Mike Constantino have drafted a letter they hope will be signed by the entire Siler Board expressing support for the expansion. If approved, the letter will be sent to Commissioner Hales.

Messrs. Voller and Constantino lament the fact that no member of the County board has lived in Siler City or Pittsboro in over 20 years. Creating two at large seats will do nothing to address this. There will be nothing compelling candidates to live within the town limits nor should there be. Mr. Voller, or any other Pittsboro resident could have run in 2008, 2012, or 2016 but did not. Mr. Constantino could have filed to run this year but did not, publicly stating he didn’t want to run against an incumbent. We shouldn’t expand a governing board to protect incumbents.

Hopeful candidates from Siler City have two opportunities to run for a seat on the county board as both district 4 and district 5 include portions of the town. Pittsboro candidates have the opportunity to run in District 2.

Adding more at-large seats will only dilute the influence of Siler City and the western part of the county further. The shear number of residents in the Northeast easily drown out the voices of the west in an at-large race.

We can ensure everyone has a real voice in county government by eliminating the at-large system altogether. Let the districts vote on their representatives without concern of being overwhelmed by voters from other districts. We don’t need more commissioners, we just need to let residents from each area of the county elect their represents.

Rather than debate this topic on the Chatham Chatlist or in three minute intervals at a BOC meeting, I would like to invite Commissioner Hales to join me in a public debate and discussion to more fully explore both sides.

Brian Bock is a former Chatham County commissioner running for a seat on the Chatham County Commission in 2018.