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Stop the foolishness, appoint Dunlap

Jack Betts
Fannie Flono writes on news, politics and life in The Carolinas. Her column appears on the Editorial pages of The Charlotte Observer.

You. Have. Got. To. Be. Kidding. Me.

County Commissioner Bill James tried to don a cloak of civility Tuesday to block school board member George Dunlap from taking a seat he had just won on the Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners. Dunlap received the most votes by Democratic Party activists to fill the term of Valerie Woodard, who recently died.

But standing in the door of Dunlap's lawful selection were the board's four Republicans. Dan Bishop later called Dunlap “a remarkably divisive, racist member of the board of education.”

Ahem – Who's divisive?

For dirty hands in the “remarkably divisive, racist” category, Bishop need look no further than his colleague James. In fact, Bishop himself already has called James “hateful and divisive.”

That was in 2004 when James sent out an e-mail saying urban blacks lived in a “moral sewer.” His statements were so reprehensible – following a long trail of offensive comments that continue today – that 20 Republican officials including two former mayors said they “fully and completely censure” James for comments they said were “inflammatory, demeaning and inconsistent with our efforts to uplift all citizens.” County Manager Harry Jones said the comments “smacked of racism in the highest form.”

More recently, James' Republican colleague Dan Ramirez, an immigrant from Colombia, has objected to James' “denigrating statements” about illegal immigrants.

If being divisive, or even racist, were the main criterion for holding a seat on the school board or the board of county commissioners, quite a few people wouldn't qualify. Certainly James wouldn't.

The Republicans' action Tuesday was a slap at the people in District 3. Those residents know exactly who they are getting in George Dunlap. His school board district encompasses the same neighborhoods that the commissioners' seat does. Those voters have elected Dunlap repeatedly for that school board seat.

James' stated reasons for delaying a vote are specious. For one thing, he said he was concerned how the vote took place.

There's little need. The Democrats learned from the Nick Mackey debacle several months ago, in which their special vote for sheriff was overturned because of irregularities. This election involved a small number of party regulars for a district seat. The Mackey vote was for a countywide office. Plus the party consulted with the county including County Attorney Marvin Bethune before the vote.

James also said he wanted information about Dunlap's past. It's not in the purview of a commissioner to vet another commissioner. But beyond that, Dunlap has run for public office, and won, before. The citizens who voted for him know who he is.

Dunlap called the actions of the Republican commissioners “childish.” He's right. And he knows something about acting childish. He's done it plenty of times on the school board.

Dunlap can be childish too

In fact, I once wrote that Dunlap “got so bent out of shape” over some issue at a school board meeting “that he pouted, lashed out at … members and childishly tried to push through a change of his own, just for spite.”

Dunlap too often has been petulant, politically motivated, obstinate, myopic and self-indulgent. So has Bill James. So have members of a variety of elected public offices.

It's a shame these adults haven't learned what children learn – how to play nice with each other. The tomfoolery the Republicans engaged in Tuesday only highlights the childishness. And with the Mecklenburg County Democratic Party suing commissioners Wednesday, asking a judge to order Dunlap's appointment, this could be costly child's play.

Grow up. Stop the foolishness. Appoint him to the seat.

Fannie Flono is an Observer associate editor. Write to her at the Observer, P.O. Box 30308, Charlotte, NC 28230-0308. E-mail: fflono@charlotteobserver.com.

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