Fiscal Responsibility Is Always Patriotic

July 14, 2019 Off By Jay Hubbard

It’s been a while since I’ve offered much in the way of analysis of recent board meetings, but vacation is over. it’s time to get back to work. We have an election heating up and there will be lots of opinions thrown around, and based on past experience, no small amount of underhanded slander as well.

First, let’s back up a bit to the June 17th meeting. That was a special called meeting, and the agenda for such a meeting cannot legally be changed during the meeting except in cases of emergency. The mayor, less than 48 hours prior to meeting time, wanted to add in a resolution of support for the work of a group called Piedmont Legacy Trails, but it was too late to legally do so. I’ve already written about that in detail here, so I won’t rehash it all here.

Needless to say that resolution, as non-controversial as it was, was illegally added to the meeting agenda, and the mayor knew it was not proper. When Mr. Shaw is about to do something he knows could get him or the board into trouble, or likely to be unpopular, he gets nervous and tries to rush through the process. He gets ahead of himself. I he’d be well advised to only play poker with machines, because the man has no poker face at all.

Now let’s jump forward to the July 1st board meeting and let me point out the wasted time, roughly thirty minutes, that was spent on presentations by representatives of Piedmont Legacy Trails and Republic Services. Both these presentations were unnecessary due to the fact that the items these folks were invited to discuss were voted on and passed at the July 17th special meeting.

Don’t get me wrong,  the commissioners all needed to have this information, but they should have gotten it on or before the day when that they voted on them. Instead, half an hour was spent on these subjects, and several members of the audience left the meeting before local issues directly affecting our town came up for discussion. Was that by design? Intentional? Certainly seemed so from where I sit. I’m sure the mayor will disagree with my opinion and claim he doesn’t make the agenda, but in most cities in our state mayors take an active role in setting meeting agendas since it’s their job to chair board meetings.

Next Mr. Ron Lewis, representing a group called Foundation Forward, Inc., a non-profit working to place permanent copies of our nation’s founding documents – the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights – in every community across the state of North Carolina and beyond, in the form of brick and mortar monuments or “settings” as they prefer to call them.

Who could possibly be against such a patriotic civic cause? I think having a permanent copy of the Bill of Rights on public display in our town would be great, especially since several members of our current governing board are in desperate need of a refresher course in basic American civics. As elected officials they all took oaths to defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Those elected officials who are veterans took a similar oath upon enlistment in our military.  Some of these folks seem to have lost the plot somewhere along the way given all their talk about cease and desist letters and shutting down websites and social media groups critical of their behavior over the last six months.

Mr. Lewis’s presentation went on for about half hour and by the time it was over I don’t think any member of that board knew with certainty what they were voting to do, but it was patriotic, and that’s what mattered most. It struck me more like an election year stunt than anything else. Cost figures were thrown around ranging from a few thousand to tens of thousands of dollars, with timeframes that spread from several weeks to a year or more for completion, and where will this setting be placed? Mr. Lewis seemed enamoured with the idea of placing it next to the municipal building, but I think Leonard Park or Ramseur Lake might be better options. Maybe you have a better idea.

Here  we have a proposal that amounts to our citizens purchasing a luxury item, a patriotic monument, that I think most of us would all like to have but isn’t crucial to the operation of our town. We’ll need to find a location. The site will need to be graded, footers dug and poured, masonry installed, and the “documents” set. Then there will need to be landscaping, perhaps a walking path of decorative pavers or stones, decorative security lighting, and maybe even a flag pole. My point is that all of this costs money and I don’t think anyone behind that desk had time to fully think through the costs involved that night.

What really struck me the most was Mayor Shaw’s enthusiasm for the project. The man sat in a budget ordinance meeting a few weeks before and accused the Board of Commissioners of reckless spending, and now here he was cheering this project on. Can we really afford this while we have ancient water lines delivering water of questionable quality under streets that are crumbling? If we can’t afford to pay our police officers and firefighters enough to hire and retain quality personnel, can we really afford this thing? Or is  this really just an election year stunt meant to play on our patriotism and paint those with cooler heads as unpatriotic?

This subject deserves much more discussion before any commitments are made or one shovelful of dirt is moved. Unfortunately, those of us who would prefer to move forward in a fiscally responsible manner will be accused of being unpatriotic, but that, I believe, was entire the point of taking this action at this time.

Great pains were taken to point out that Commissioner Cheek had brought this patriotic project to the board, and Mayor Shaw made a point of stating that he had invited Mrs. Pugh, from Piedmont Legacy Trails, to address the board about a resolution they adopted weeks before. This seems like another example of Mr. Shaw’s inability to focus on the important issues at hand in favor of political grandstanding in an election year.

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