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April Fools might be on you

Every year, somebody gets pranked today, on April Fools' Day.

The past year shows in York County, sometimes the joke is on us.

If you told somebody in Kansas -- and I drove through there recently, twice -- you live in a city without a jaywalking problem in its downtown, yet the city enacted a jaywalking ban for Main Street, that Kansan would ask, "Say what?"

April Fool? No, that hap- pened last year in Rock Hill.

If the Kansan asked if you had a drought -- and many did ask, and we do -- and you told him the government that sells water was considering raising water rates because use had dropped dramatically because of mandated government restrictions, the good Kansan might ask, "Why? How can the government penalize you for doing exactly what it said you needed to do?"

Apparently, less water use means too much money being cut from government coffers. Again, an idea being considered by the city of Rock Hill.

If you told the Kansan you pay school taxes to a district that is struggling with serious problems in a state that ranks near the bottom in schools, but spent about $1 million on artificial turf and an exploding scoreboard for a football field, that guy would say, "You must be kidding!"

That happened last year in the Rock Hill school district.

If a county board voted to spend almost $100,000 on a study to figure out if a horse show arena is a wise investment, when in the same year that board told taxpayers some road construction projects will take years longer, a Kansan might just shake his head in bewilderment.

The York County Council just voted a couple weeks ago to spend that money on studying the horse arena: An "agriculture and tourism center." And "Pennies For Progress," the one-cent tax that taxpayers voted onto themselves that pays for those road improvements, remains largely unfinished.

This is a council that argued for most of the past two years about where to put dumps.

I asked Rick Whisonant, who teaches political science at York Technical College and is one of the foremost local watchers of all things political, what could happen next.

"Maybe all these politicians will hold a press conference for April Fools' Day and say all this stuff is a joke," Whisonant said.

Nope.

No wonder why every county council incumbent faces a challenger this year. Many of these challengers are brand-new candidates. York County Council members aren't alone. Most races from Statehouse to coroner are opposed.

Whisonant said the tide is changing, that people are not willing to let the "old guard" rule anymore.

"As little as 10 years ago, this never would have happened, all these challengers," Whisonant said.

In August, filing begins for some seats on all four county school boards for November elections. Voters, residents -- showing through new and more candidates in the other races -- are demanding to know "Where is the money going?" Whisonant said.

I asked Whisonant if the jaywalking in Rock Hill, the turf for the schools, the "Pennies for Progress," would come up during the elections.

"Absolutely," he said.

All this is healthy for democracy for sure, he said, but a certain warning for politicians: "People are watching."

And they aren't fools.

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