Creating a new low in local government

Published 9:10 am Wednesday, February 26, 2014

To the editor:

Just when you think some people can’t stoop any lower, they find a way to do it.

Once again, the majority on the Polk County Board of Commissioners, led by Ted Owens, is attempting blasphemously to use the Lord as a political weapon.

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Many of you have heard by now about the invocation offered at a recent commissioners meeting by Pastor Thomas Olson, of the Missouri Synod of the Lutheran Church.  It was no accident that Olson was chosen for that task at this time.

Stepping out of the set schedule for giving the invocation or for choosing someone else to do so, Commissioner Owens directed that Olson be the person to give the invocation at this recent meeting, where Owens knew many people would be present.

The seed for doing this was sown shortly before the last election.

Two years ago, Commissioners Ted Owens and Tom Pack listed the North Carolina constitutional amendment prohibiting marriage equality on the commissioners’ meeting agenda.

The Polk County Republicans’ Facebook page proudly proclaimed Commissioner Pack did it to “divide the Democrats.”  They congratulated Pack for having done so.

The constitutional amendment was to be used as a weapon against the Democrats to win the election, even if Owens, Pack and their supporters had to lie about the Democrats’ positions about the amendment to win, which they abundantly did.

During that meeting two years ago, Olson spoke prominently, raising some of the same topics he again raised in his recent invocation.

Having heard his positions then, Ted, Tom and the BOC majority knew they would be inflammatory, would stir debate and divisiveness and they fully intended that.

Their goal: to use the Lord and citizens’ heartfelt religious beliefs to divide and separate our community, to build hatred against those whom they’ll claim disagree with Olson’s beliefs and to create a platform plank on which to win this next election.

Ted, Tom, Keith Holbert and Michael Gage know exactly what they’re doing.  They figure they used this terrible method before and it helped them, so they’ve marched it out again to use in the upcoming election.

Ted, Tom and the BOC majority are in a bad situation right now in the eyes of the public:  spending over $1 million of taxpayers’ hard earned money taking a waterline to a political supporter and crony; buying a brand new SUV for the interim county manager, when the real county manager had made do with hand-me-down cars from the sheriff’s office; using secret meetings to create a new, unneeded position of “assistant county manager” at compensation of nearly $100,000 a year to give to a political friend, without any competition for the job.

And on and on.

So, what do cynical politicians (our BOC majority) do when they’re in trouble like this? Cause a ruckus; and they surely have caused another ruckus this time.

It’s not a matter of whether a person agrees with Olson or not.

Some people do, and some do not.  No one should approve of politicians using people’s deep religious beliefs to divide a community, simply for crass political gain. That’s wrong, but that’s what they’re trying to do.

Our local governments should be places where people can come together to solve their problems and to work together to make life better for everyone in the community.

They should be places where all citizens, of whatever faiths or races or creeds, are made welcome and feel welcome to participate in the community.

They must not be a place where “certain people” are made unwelcome by the creation of a hostile atmosphere, intentionally created by the government’s “leaders” to accomplish their base, political goals.

As someone who has spent her life reading the Bible and meditating on religion and religious belief, I am offended at the depths the BOC majority are willing to go to win elections and have control over our local government, to have control over our hard-earned tax dollars to be able to fill the pockets of cronies.

They’ve gone way too far this time.

– Renée McDermott,