Southampton voters deserve accountability

Published 10:46 am Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A government accountable to the people it serves is the bedrock on which our nation was built. The best way, and perhaps the only way, to hold a government accountable for its decisions is to be able to remove from office those officials who don’t meet their constituents’ expectations. So what can a citizenry do when dissatisfied with the performance of local officials who are appointed and not elected? Virtually nothing, it seems. Which is why we strongly endorse a measure under consideration by Delegate Rick Morris (R-64).

Morris last year brought a bill before a house subcommittee that would have eliminated the practice of appointing school board members by way of an appointed and unelected three-member selection committee. Southampton County is one of only three localities in Virginia (Northampton County, Richmond County) that use such an outdated model, and it is a system that completely shields the school board from any accountability to the taxpayer whatsoever.

In a recent interview with The Tidewater News, Morris stated, “I feel strongly this is bad government. There’s zero accountability. That’s not good government.” We completely agree.

We also agree with his follow-up statement, “But it’s ultimately up to the people. I can’t take this up alone.” Last year, when presenting his bill, only two people travelled from Southampton County to Richmond to state their opinion on the measure. One was the chairman of the Southampton County School Board; the other was the division superintendent. Both opposed the bill, and committee members decided to kill it given the lack of public support.

It is difficult to imagine why the residents of Southampton County continue turning over such a huge chunk of its tax dollars to an unelected body without demanding some accountability in the process.

Taxpayers deserve that type of accountability, and publicly supporting Morris to bring the bill again in the next session would go a long way toward ensuring they get it.

Now if only the county had an organized group of citizens who were concerned about responsible government…