It has always been one of the interesting ironies to me that the same business community that demands a free market also tends to rely--with a few exceptions--on centralizing power in order to solve problems. Hence, it seems no accident that the one of the Nashville Chamber of Commerce's endorsed School Board Members, David Fox, has come out today calling for centralizing the School Board Member selection process into the Mayor's Office.
It is true that democracy is messy, inefficient, and that it lacks the effective execution of power concentrated in one chief executive. However, Mr. Fox ignores the risks of using executive power absent the electoral process to place officials who should be publicly accountable. He makes an unwarranted leap to maintain that putting the responsibility in the Mayor's hands will "ensure that people with the appropriate expertise and experiences" will govern the school system. That assumes that every Mayor will always appoint in the best interests of parents and students. It assumes that Mayors would not patronize political friends with appointments or stack a School Board that serves his or her office rather than the constituents.
There are no assurances that just because the Mayor is Mayor he or she will appoint those with expertise or experience. In fact, given Metro's strong executive form of governance, the opposite is just as likely. A bad Mayor would amount to bad School Board appointments. What should we do then? Executively appoint rather than popularly elect the next Mayor? While Mr. Fox's recommendation seems well-intended, it sounds like wishful thinking and bad governance.
Mr. Fox refers to Mayor Karl Dean as the perfect fit for what he has in mind, and that seems to be part of the problem: that he does not seem to be looking past this Mayor (whom we cannot yet judge in terms of his policy initiatives on education). But Mr. Fox's other problem seems to be that he is not looking within the system itself. A strong executive--who was hired for his educational expertise and experience--helped create many of the problems we have in this school system. He was criticized for his autocratic managerial style.
Meanwhile, other Nashville leaders argue persuasively that with Mr. Garcia's exit management and responsibility needs to be site-based rather than concentrated and that the Board needs to be more legislatively accountable to the Council. Going in the direction seems a more reasonable and progressive first step than cocooning the School Board inside a strong Mayor's Office far away from voters and distant from all accountability besides that which an executive demands.