I decided to run for the Champaign Unit #4 school board because I was tired of complaining in my columns and to others of my dissatisfaction with Unit 4. I ran to try to be part of the solution, not to be another pundit engaging in a blog B&W session. For this, I have been rewarded with being accused of 83 felonies that carry a maximum penalty of 457 years in prison and that’s not even counting the misdemeanors.
It’s not that I have a problem with Mr. Brayfield challenging my petitions. It’s not a problem that he sees problems with the school board and is trying to do what “one man can do” to help fix it. It’s that his attacks are personal, destructive, and undemocratic.
Despite claims to the contrary, these challenges are not democratic. Democracy entails the freedom to choose when voting. That freedom is not enhanced by one person showing up in a hearing in which the public can witness but not participate (except for public comment which has no bearing on the objections themselves). That freedom is not enhanced by attempting to take away people’s right to choose from a variety of diverse candidates and making sure they are only presented with candidates that fit some preconceived ideological mold. These objections aren’t democratic, they are undemocratic and they are an affront to everyone who has fought and died for democracy to suggest otherwise.
I will criticize no one for attempt to contribute constructively to Unit 4. Even if I disagree, I will welcome any participation. If you have ideas, I will make sure you have the resources to bring solid and complete proposals to the Board, even if I disagree with them. However, that does not give license to individuals to contribute destructively by disparaging people in the press and in objections for running massive criminal enterprises just to get 50 or more signatures to run for the unpaid position of school board member.
I, and the other 4 candidates, have been accused of fraud, perjury, forgery, and conspiracy and on that basis we should be removed from the ballot. These accusations are not presented with any factual basis whatsoever. One candidate, a bank executive, has had to explain to his superiors and co-workers the nature of these allegations of fraud. Fraud, for a bank executive, is a career-ending proposition.
All that Mr. Brayfield has accomplished with this stunt is to discourage honest people running for school board in Champaign. Why would anyone submit there name to have the Brayfields of the world run to the press and start accusing them of being criminals? It has been said that there is something about running for and holding office that will turn honest people into felons (ok, I said it), but this is a little off the mark. The biggest threat to democracy is that only a certain class of people runs for office, and Mr. Brayfield is part of the ongoing actions that discourage all but the most pathological from running.
It is clear from his selection of candidates that he objected to, that he has an ideological agenda and has engaged in a radical smear campaign to destroy the integrity of the people he disagrees with. If he has a problem with a candidate, then those issues can be addressed on April 17th in the ballot box. Exactly the way democracy is supposed to work.
John Bambenek is the Assistant Politics Editor for BC Magazine and is an academic professional for the University of Illinois. He is a syndicated columnist who blogs at Part-Time Pundit and the executive director of The Tumaini Foundation which helps AIDS orphans and other children in Tanzania to get an education. He is the current owner of BlogSoldiers, a blog-only traffic exchange.