"The first step in solving a problem is admitting you have one."
It appears that the Davidson Board may have done just that Tuesday night in what was a reported discussion about the lack of diversity in interested volunteers for Town advisory boards. Having had similar discussions with multiple Board members in the past, I don't doubt the sincerity of the concern. However, I don't have much confidence the Town will be able to truly remedy this situation without also accepting the major source of the problem - themselves.
In this case I'm using "Town" to include elected officials, staff, and their associated supporters active in the local political scene. Together, this group creates a nexus of interested parties who vigorously protect the status quo.
Diversity of opinion is not all that welcome. Dissent is discouraged. Dissenters are targeted.
One has to look no further than last year's political campaigns for local office to see this dynamic in action.
In late summer of 2011, the Davidson Coalition for Fiscal Responsibility (DCFR) formed to express concern about certain Town policies - primarily around spending. The group was also focused on transparency in Town affairs. (Full disclosure alert: I was a founding member of the DCFR.)
The response was swift and concerted. The wagons were circled.
Almost, immediately a group formed calling itself "Positively Davidson". (See Davidson defenders organize new group HuntersvilleHerald.com 10/13/11.) The leaders of this group make up the core line of Town defense. Its email distribution doubled as a campaign contact list.
Letters to the editor of various local papers were written disparaging the DCFR. The word "divisive" was used repeatedly to describe anyone who disagreed with anything done by the Town. People who attended DCFR meetings were labeled as somehow not loving this town we all call home.
Emails were circulated - many, many, emails. Some on those emails serve on the advisory boards already. Some were appointed this week. Some work for the Town itself.
...and the Town wonders why they have difficulty attracting new blood from across the entire town and not mostly from the town center? Really???