As much as I would rather ignore Heather Hirons's letter attacking me and other members of the Prince William County Taxpayers Alliance who are also active on the county Republican Committee [Prince William Extra, July 25], her letter is so outrageous it demands a response. I've never been called a racist or a sexist before.
First, a quick background on the May county committee meeting she referred to. This was the first meeting of the newly elected county committee. At the first meeting, the committee is required to elect a vice chairman, a treasurer, a secretary and district chairmen.
Some previous members of the committee failed to file for reelection to the committee at the county Republican convention as required. But it's fairly pro forma for people to join the committee at any meeting to fill vacancies. In 2003, a policy was adopted to vote on new members at the end of the meetings to avoid "packing" meetings. That's where someone recruits a lot of new people to come to a meeting so they can join and vote on something at that meeting.
To accommodate a number of previous members of the committee who failed to file for reelection, it had been stated that, as a courtesy, new members would be voted on at the beginning of the meeting rather than at the end.
But when more than 100 people showed up in a clear attempt to "pack" the meeting, the existing members of the committee voted to abide by the previous policy and vote on new members at the end of the meeting.
Now, I don't see how existing members of the committee can "hijack" a meeting from people who aren't members. And a majority vote of members doesn't meet any definition of "hijacking" I've ever seen.
Mrs. Hirons also says we took the focus off the 2004 elections to focus on 2005. Huh? The only people in the room who were focused on the 2005 lieutenant governor's race were Mrs. Hirons and other Sean T. Connaughton supporters who were packing the meeting. I'm sorry if they're upset that many members of the Prince William County Republican Committee leadership support candidates other than Board of County Supervisors Chairman Connaughton. But that was their focus and motivation, not ours.
Now for the most serious charge. Actually, it would be laughable if it weren't so serious. She notes that many women and minorities were among the people who had to wait until the end of the meeting to join the committee (thus not allowing them to vote for officers), which somehow makes those of us who were following the "anti-packing" policy racists and sexists.
Although there are many responses to this outrageous and irresponsible charge, one will suffice. The candidates who were elected in the two contested races, over the candidates Mrs. Hirons supported, were an African-American man and a white woman. Exactly how does that make us racist and sexist?
The two candidates Mrs. Hirons supported were both white men.
Panel Followed Rules
Even as Others Didn't
In her letter [Prince William Extra, July 25], Heather Hirons misrepresents what actually occurred at the May meeting of the county Republican Committee. Members of the Prince William County Taxpayers Alliance did not take over the meeting, and nobody denied anyone the right to vote.
As it happens, some members of the Taxpayers Alliance, an organization committed to lowering our taxes, are also members of the Republican Committee. What was unusual was the fact that this meeting attracted a bunch of new faces. The chairman had said that new members would be accepted at the beginning of the meeting instead of at the end so that they could vote on the election of officers. Thus some people running for party offices took this as an opportunity to pack the May meeting with folks who had never before attended a party meeting.
Unfortunately for these candidates, the chairman's promise exceeded his authority. The majority of committee members who paid their dues on time and regularly attended party meetings decided the chairman was being too nice; they nixed this idea.
Any organization is entitled to control its leadership and agenda. Any organization is entitled to establish reasonable procedures and processes. Even the government requires voters to register well in advance of Election Day. Thus, while the May meeting resulted in a bit of melodrama and wry amusement, nothing untoward happened.
There was certainly no discrimination against women or minorities. In fact, women and minorities are represented in leadership positions of the Prince William County Republican Committee. They obtained those positions the old-fashioned way: They earned them. By suggesting otherwise, Heather Hirons shames herself.
Richard T. Salmon
In Defense of Connaughton
And His Board Record
State Sen. Bill Bolling (R-Hanover), a candidate for lieutenant governor, charged that Sean T. Connaughton has raised taxes since becoming chairman of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors. Sen. Bolling didn't go into any detail about our fair county. One must assume that he is parroting the line from the small band of right-wing activists who have great records in winning Republican primary elections but are otherwise arithmetically and financially clueless about government funding.
With all due respect to these right-wingers, who think they are providing a great service as they go about trying to tear down everything that is important to our communities and families, they are still waiting for their first idea on how to fund the school system, transportation network and all the other operations that go into the government that belongs to the rest of us.
Chairman Connaughton has done a good job in leading the county since he was elected five years ago. When he came into office, Prince William had 277,000 residents. Today we have an estimated 337,000, an increase of 60,000 -- almost 22 percent. Much of this increase is in the number of school-age children, as evidenced by a front-page story in Prince William Extra [July 22] saying the county must create 300 teaching positions this coming year just to keep up with growth. It will take years to make up the taxes to pay for the infrastructure needed for new residents.
Anyone, including Sen. Bolling, who protests our tax levels might want to do some arithmetic on the issue before speaking. Sen. Bolling's recent votes on the state budget reflect a complete lack of understanding of state and local government finances.
Sen. Bolling also brought up Chairman Connaughton's campaign contributors, without defending his own record in securing campaign funds from the agriculture (tobacco?), insurance and health care lobbies -- strong lobbies whose agendas are often at odds with public interest.
Chairman Connaughton's record in addressing county growth and related fiscal needs is admirable and certainly far better than that of any other Republican candidate. Sen. Bolling and the small band of local right-wingers might want to take a closer look at the record before commenting on things they seem to know little or nothing about.
Kevin M. Raymond