Council members’ motivations are suspect

Published 2:05 pm Monday, May 10, 2010

Monday, the Selma City Council will discuss further their intentions to fill the open city councilperson seat for Ward 1. At their last meeting, Council President Cecil Williamson polled each council person with the majority indicating their preference to allow the registered voters of Ward 1 to voice their opinion, through a special election, on who they feel is most qualified to represent them.

It’s my understanding that some on the council and in city government do not want to conduct a special election because they feel it will be too expensive. At least that’s what they’re saying publically. I will agree that, economically, the city is struggling. City sales tax collections are down year-over-year and the high unemployment rate in Dallas County is further exacerbating the effects of a waning national recession.

But I’m a firm believer that there are some things that are more important than money. Those who would even consider quashing a citizen’s right to vote because they feel it’s too expensive might need to go back to their history books for a refresher course on what it has taken for citizens to have equal representation at the voting booth.

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Our history is rife with examples of people fighting, and sometimes dying, to attain the right to fair and equal representation.

As I type this, I see from the window of my office one of the most, if not the most, symbolic images of the voting rights struggle – the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

It was on that bridge in March 1965 that an estimated 600 civil rights advocates, black and white, were tear gassed and beaten by law enforcement officers in their quest to abolish a corrupt unbalanced system that sought to deny them their right to equal representation.

The irony in this situation is the city councilpersons that expressed their preference to appoint someone to fill the Ward 1 seat, thus denying Ward 1 voters their right to equal representation, are African-American.

What is the message they are sending to those who were part of the struggle for voting rights? I was speaking to someone about this issue and pointed out that if the decision to hold an election was based solely on whether a municipality, county, state or nation could afford to have one, the election would probably never happen. Yes, they are expensive, but aren’t some things more important and precious than money?

One of the most well known phrases that goes to the core of what our country was founded on, and what some consider to be the most “well crafted and influential sentences in the English language” strikes at the heart of what our city council members [and others] should remember as they consider their next move:

“We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Taking it a bit further, I propose that any city councilperson that chooses to appoint someone to fill the Ward 1 seat, thus denying the voting citizens of that ward equal representation, is only doing it out of greed for power and self justification. I wonder what our Creator will think of that.

Dennis Palmer is publisher of The Selma Times-Journal. He can be reached at 410-1712 or by email: