Debate over partisan staffing gets way too personal
We, the media, all got the unsigned letter last week. It came from someone inside the Metro Council, typed but poorly constructed, outlining four jumping off points for investigations into a body seeming more worth investigating as each day passes and each new accusation ends up on TV.
I say that mostly because in the past two weeks, several members of this body have taken a detour from the decorum they at least tend to maintain in public. And when you can’t keep up appearances anymore, something is seriously wrong.
Let’s look at Tina Ward-Pugh. Our tipster informed us that the 9th district Democrat had planned to hire Jennifer Green, the daughter of new 1st District Councilwoman Judy Green, in exchange for Green’s support on changing to non-partisan staffing (more on that later). Green turned out to be the deciding vote on an issue that has harshly divided Democrats. Green’s daughter bailed on Louisville for another job.
Of course, Ward-Pugh denies it. She has been on this body more than eight years, starting as an alderwoman for the pre-merger City of Louisville. In real life, she owns a contracting and restoration business. On the council, she has a solid record of supporting Democratic causes. Perhaps the lasting impression you have is of her work on living wage issues and the Fairness ordinance.
And let us not forget: Tina Ward-Pugh is gay.
That shouldn’t be a shocker. People are, in fact, gay. She has been open and honest about it, and should be applauded for being forthright in a place where, obviously, stupidly, such a thing could be used against her. Government is a place where plenty keep sex on an intra-office level.
WLKY-TV reported the latest luge down Bullshit Lane on Friday. Ward-Pugh sat in a chair in Judy Green’s office, indignant that a fellow Democrat had tried to dissuade Green — who told reporter Andy Alcock she’s no homophobe — from working with Ward-Pugh by reminding her that Ward-Pugh is, you know, uh, gay.
“I’m insulted that these people would stoop to this,” Ward-Pugh told the TV station.
So am I, and I’m not even gay! Imagine the nerve!
I am loathe to waste time with homophobia and its constituents. As a believer in evolution, I’m certain that over the next few generations we’ll reach a tipping point in America where hating gays will become more taboo than being gay. People get old and die, sweet relief for those of us patiently waiting for Dumb to go out of style. Politicians and pundits use homophobia to appeal to society’s lowest common denominator, that cadre of white-knuckled pussy lovers who’d bash a doctor’s face in over a prostate exam. We’ve seen what happens when jocks run the country. The last seven years have been hellish in America, and judging purely on percentage, a bunch of those swine have to be gay. Right?
This came up because President Rick Blackwell, D-12, has — with Ward-Pugh working the Vice — pushed an initiative to rid the council of partisan caucus staffing. The justification is twofold: save some taxpayer money by consolidating the two caucuses, and cut down on partisan bickering. Opponents say neither of those things would occur, particularly the second part, and that caucus staffs are essential components of representing both the majority and minority parties in the council.
The Democratic caucus voted two weeks ago to go ahead and lead the way, offering its formerly partisan staff to the whole council. It was by way of a trim 8-7 vote that left the party bitterly divided. In a profoundly weird show of meta-partisanship, there are now these charges of homophobia coming from within the party.
My proposal: If you really want to get rid of partisanship on the council, make it a non-partisan council. Eliminate the caucuses. Offer no single group the power of the majority. Force prospective council members to campaign solely on ideas and merit. That may be an actual way to get past partisanship.
But actual debate rarely sneaks through the impervious wall of distraction, as we see here. So I say this to the secret council Democrat who tried his or her hand at gay baiting: Way to keep the bar high! Don’t try to hang your suits on it, though, because they’ll drag the ground.
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