Dear Decaturish – Deafening silence from the DeKalb Democrats
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Quite bluntly, I’ve had it. I am so over-the-top sick and tired of hearing how corrupt DeKalb County Government is. I am sickened by what I read and sickened that I can’t bear to read beyond the headline itself. I am just done.
But honestly what sickens me the most is the silence among the politicians and pundits within my own party who have always failed to stand up and call for resignations when it is so incredibly apparent that it has to happen. For the good of the county to say nothing of the Party, is there nobody willing to stand up and say they have had it? Is anybody, pol or pundit or party hack, willing to stand up for anything at all?
For the last twenty years, the DeKalb Democratic Party has done nothing to foster a civic virtue or maintain a culture that incubates a professional and ethical political class. It has failed to vet candidates; it has failed to recruit or build a pipeline for the future. The immediate result is that wannabe candidates can ignore the party organization, but clothe themselves in the once proud and now tattered brand.
The intermediate result of this fundamental neglect by the DeKalb Party of its core responsibilities is that partisan pride and common sense is continually trumped by a certain blind, vapid tribalism that apparently is entirely tolerant of cronyism, corruption and incompetence. So while the electorate seethes, the DDP shrugs and claims that it is neither their fault nor their responsibility.
The long term result of allowing this cancer to germinate and fester unchecked for decades is corruption “investigations” and whitewash; convictions and intervention by the Governor, calls for new cities and separate and unequal school systems; huge economic growth on the Northside and nothing south of Decatur. We are where we are because the DeKalb Democratic Party has shirked its responsibility.
I don’t know if Lee May needs to resign or not. But given that we are just a month away from the vote to create LaVista Hills, he continues to prove an incredible tone deafness to the politics of the moment. You can count on one hand the number of leaders in this county capable of bridging the abyss we are all staring at. The Interim CEO is not one of them.
At the core of the rush to create new cities and at the core of the desire for separate school systems is a revulsion at the status quo to be sure, but more fundamentally LaVista Hills is mostly a huge clamor for someone, ANYONE to step forward on a white horse or a black horse, to unify the county and lead us out of the muck and away from the brink. The fact that Taylor Bennett beat J Max Davis rather easily ought suggest that the clamor for clean government has no partisanship.
And the County Party does not lift either a finger or its voice to champion change.
Democrats in DeKalb County are going to have to figure out for themselves what they are going to do with their party organization. It has become an absurd institution that has no ability to turn this county in a new direction. The four or five Democrats with the political skills, ambition and courage to lead DeKalb County back all ignore the institutional party because it is so poorly run and its meeting so sparsely attended. It has ceased to be a useful entity for either elected official or the voters. Ninety-nine percent of the County’s voters could not even name it Chair.
Creating new cities will never be the antidote to corruption and cronyism – Brookhaven has certainly proven that. Republicans are never going to win a race for CEO or control the School Board. So the hard truth of it is this county will never enjoy political renaissance we are all so desperate for unless Democrats get their act together and find candidates and party leadership that the voters can embrace as competent and ethical and post-tribal. Until that happens the County will continue to struggle to find its way back.
– Steve Perkins
Perkins is the most recent First Vice Chair of The DeKalb Democratic Party and has also served on Georgia’s Democratic Party Executive Committee. He now leads a non-partisan effort. SaveDekalb.com