Negative politics lost in Tuesday's election

October 9, 2013 

Despite Wake County’s history of supporting school bonds, there’s always a measure of apprehension in putting a bond issue to a vote – especially this time. Would the contentious relationship between Wake commissioners and school board members hurt the bond proposal? Would some of the knee-jerk, unfounded criticisms of the schools stay in the minds of voters? Are there more seats at the tea party table than there appear to be?

But now progressive-minded residents of Wake County are breathing easier. The $810 million bond issue to build new schools, renovate others and provide updated technology passed in a landslide with 58 percent of the vote.

In addition to supporting their own school system, Wake voters repudiated the rhetoric of small-minded Republican legislators who have been making targets of public schools and even of public school teachers. We’d like to think the state GOP might take a lesson from this, but, alas, we doubt that will happen.

But Republican commissioners, particularly Chairman Joe Bryan, are due credit for supporting the bond issue and putting aside differences with school board members, mostly Democrats

Clear support for education

Voters signaled their support for that school board, electing a solid slate of members who believe in the cause of public education. They’ll do a good job, and, one hopes, at last put the disruptive days under the 2009-2011 rule of Republicans to rest. In that era, residents unhappy with the school administration took out those frustrations at the polling place, but the results were not what they expected, with schools the loser in the end. This election shows just how strongly Wake residents feel about the importance of public education.

In the Raleigh City Council races, progressive voices also prevailed, with Mayor Nancy McFarlane winning an overwhelming victory and other incumbents also winning handily. Randy Stagner was the one incumbent who lost, to Wayne Maiorano, a newcomer. Stagner was not a bad council member at all, but he got himself in a bad position when he appeared to be pushing for the ouster of former City Manager Russell Allen over a parking space. Stagner could be valuable in public service through a significant appointed position from the council, which should consider it.

Comfort in the capital

Things are going well in Raleigh, and when that’s the case, incumbents win. But in the next two years, council members need to avoid behind-the-scenes divisions and work together, not in lockstep but with openness and candor. And they need to keep their eyes on developing problems before they become big ones, such as the lack of oversight and the fiasco involving a downtown business incubator.

Mayor McFarlane has been a good representative of the city and, like predecessor Charles Meeker, has a formidable intellect with a grasp of both the big picture and the details of city government. Her nature is to work quietly, and that’s not all bad. Indeed, the mayor is disinclined toward the spotlight, but she is known to be working behind the scenes to advance the city’s cause, rather than draw applause lines. Her margin of victory indicates the people like that.

It is comforting – yes, comforting – when residents of a growing city, one that has experienced its share of growing pains along the way, demonstrate through their votes a positive, forceful attitude toward the future, a faith in the ability of the city to address its problems and also (here is where the successful transportation bond issue comes in) a willingness to invest in its future with policies that look to anticipating what’s ahead and not just managing the “right now.”

With these votes and these leaders, there is reason for boundless optimism about the future of the place we call home.

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