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Commissioner candidate Tom Vanderbeck challenges opponent

Posted Tuesday, October 17, 2006

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Pittsboro, NC- Tom Vanderbeck, Democratic candidate for the Chatham County Board of Commissioners, challenged his opponent Karl Ernst to denounce the “divisive and hate-filled” rhetoric of the Association to Defend Chatham’s Heritage a pro-district voting referendum group.

Vanderbeck also proposed the appointment of citizen advisory committees for every region of the county instead of the “ill-conceived” district-voting plan proposed by Ernst and lame-duck commissioner chair Bunkey Morgan. In addition, Vanderbeck proposed scheduling county commissioner board meetings once a year in each of the regions hosted by the local citizen advisory committee.

Vanderbeck said he opposes district voting because it was designed to “silence and punish” those who voted against Morgan in the primary, by eroding the voting power of north and east Chatham, where 67 percent of the voters live.

Moreover, Vanderbeck said district voting would “further divide Chatham County” and “hurt minority representation.” He further stated that the most pressing issues the county faces, including water, sewer, education and economic development, are countywide and need commissioners with a countywide perspective. Vanderbeck said his proposed regional citizen advisory committees and annual regional board meetings are a better way to address these issues in a manner that can “unite our county.”

Vanderbeck strongly criticized the Association to Defend Chatham’s Heritage for lashing out against northeast Chatham in its brochure, which states: “Don’t Let the North and Northeast Control Chatham County.”

“Citizens of the east and northeast have had no voice in county government” during the four-year administration led by Morgan, Vanderbeck said, which has largely ignored Chatham citizens’ concerns about sprawl development and its affect on property taxes and schools.

“While other parts of the county were able to get their existing schools upgraded and new schools built, nothing has been done to improve Northwood High School or to move ahead with a new high school in north Chatham,” Vanderbeck continued.

“With my opponent’s support, they have approved this redistricting scheme in order to reduce the voting power of the fastest growing part of our county – to silence and punish the people who see how much the greed agenda of Bunkey Morgan’s bankrollers will cost our county’s taxpayers,” Vanderbeck said.

“Why does my opponent, a professed fiscal conservative, want to further silence the voices of those people who have urged the kind of balanced growth that our county’s treasury can afford?” Vanderbeck asked.

Vanderbeck questioned the intent of the pro-referendum committee. “What ‘heritage’ are they defending?” he asked. “Is it the ‘heritage’ of the pre-1975 ‘Jim Crow’ era when no African Americans or women could be elected under a district voting system in Chatham? Or are they defending the ‘heritage’ of only the people who were born in Chatham County? Clearly their attacks indicate they favor district-only voting as a way of punishing the voters of northeast Chatham, many of them newcomers to the county, by disenfranchising them.”

“I believe strongly in democracy and government by all of the people, regardless of gender, religion, race and national origin, or where you were born or raised,” said Vanderbeck. “I would like to know if my opponent has that same belief in democracy and majority rule. If he does, he should denounce the divisive and hate-filled rhetoric used by the Heritage group in support of district voting.”

Vanderbeck proposed a system of regional citizen advisory committees to provide input to the Board of Commissioners on problems and county policies. “That is the essence of true democracy, and it would be a vehicle to bring all citizens together, to plan and implement a bright future for this county,” said Vanderbeck. He asked, “Will my opponent join me in endorsing these approaches?”

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