By Carl Carter
I’m angry. I’m frustrated. And I’m ashamed of myself.
On January 30, 2018, voters in St. Clair County had a chance to provide some desperately needed funding for the area’s schools. But the referendum was rejected, 61-39%, in a vote that brought out less than 15% of the registered voters. Only Leeds voted for the kids, passing 3 mills there.
Just a few weeks ago, the county turned out enough Doug Jones votes to have passed the school tax comfortably. But apparently, we care more about maneuverings in D.C. than about the kids with ragged school books right under our own noses.
I’ve been writing for months about the need for Democrats in Alabama to pay attention to state and local races, and to get involved at all levels. I even wrote about “what happens on December 13” (the day after we elected Doug Jones), trying desperately to remind people that changing Alabama isn’t just a one-shot deal.
So what were Democrats doing to help pass a tax to better fund the schools here in my own county? I honestly don’t know. I’m sure there were some people working hard to pass it. But somehow, as politically connected as I am, I didn’t even know about the vote until I saw it mentioned yesterday on the 5 o’clock news. Never saw a sign or got a flyer. Nobody called. I rushed down to vote yes, but I’m embarrassed that I was caught napping.
Especially when the first campaign I managed resulted in a 17-mill tax that funded two high schools, a Middle School, at least one elementary school and more.
Democrats, who care deeply about education, should have been mobilized in a big way to pass the tax in a county that hasn’t passed a school tax since the 1960s.
Well, we’ve been busy, haven’t we? We’ve had more important things to do, like engage in pissing matches over whether white liberal women are still racist. We went about the really important work of dogging our newly elected Senator over his every move and comment. We were busy parsing the words of a Democratic gubernatorial candidate to make sure he’s “pro-choice” enough for everybody’s liking.
Meanwhile, you and I did zippo to help the kids in the county where I live – the county that borders Jefferson County and includes Leeds, Moody, Pell City, Anniston, Ashville, and parts of Trussville and Leeds.
We had better things to do, I guess.
I can hear somebody saying, “there just aren’t enough Democrats in St. Clair to make a difference.” I call bullshit on that. When we were energized by the Senate race, 6,212 of us turned out to vote for Doug Jones. That would have been enough to pass the tax, which would have provided an additional $4.3 million per year for St. Clair County schools, and an additional $2 million for Pell City schools.
But we didn’t get 6,212 votes, did we? No, we got a paltry 3,348. In other words, 2,864 people who cared enough to vote for Doug Jones couldn’t muster up the energy to vote for the kids.
When we actually cared about a race, we worked hard, and gave money to the campaign. People came from all over the country to knock on doors. When there was a big race in Atlanta, people from Alabama flocked over the state line to canvass for a Democrat.
I know a county school referendum isn’t going to draw an influx of people to fight for quality schools. But where were our neighbors? I wonder if a single person in Jefferson County bothered to make a call or to help get the word out. Where were we? I know I didn’t lift a finger. Because I was preoccupied with other stuff. For that, I’m deeply ashamed.
Excuses don’t buy books or pay for teachers. Votes do.
If this is the way we follow through, God help us in November.