Closing Arguments

November 3, 2019 Off By Jay Hubbard

Late this week it came to my attention that Mayor Danny Shaw finally got the hint and started a Facebook page for his re-election campaign, Re-Elect Danny Shaw Mayor. He’d been getting grief for months from angry citizens whose accounts he has blocked from seeing his ramblings. I guess someone finally convinced him that it’s illegal for public officials to block their constituents on social media.

Courts have ruled that a social media account where public business is discussed or reported, such as the Facebook page Danny Shaw: Mayor of Ramseur, are an extension of a public office. Posts and comments made by the public officials or the citizens they represent on such websites become public documents in all but a few very exceptional circumstances, and as such cannot be legally deleted without strong justification. Mayor Shaw has a well earned reputation for doing all of the above at one time or another over the past few years.

After establishing his new campaign page, Mayor Shaw immediately set about making a case for why he should be re-elected, and laying out the differences between himself and his opponent, Mayor Pro Tempore, Commissioner Vicki Caudle.

I’m only kidding about that last paragraph. Danny Shaw has done no such thing. Instead, he has focused his thoughts there almost exclusively on slandering me. To be fair he has also made a few efforts to tie his opponent to me. I can only suppose he thinks that if he can make his fellow citizens despise me enough that Vicki Caudle will be guilty by association and have less support. I hate to be the one to have tell Mr. Shaw this, but I don’t work for Vicki Caudle. If anything she, like the mayor and all the other commissioners here, works for me. I know she understands this because she has said so in a few of our conversations over the past year.

In fact, that’s why she and I and Commissioner Overman get along with each other. They realize that they are servants of the citizens of our town, and of other people who visit our little corner of the world while they are here. When I’ve asked one of them for anything they have done their best to provide it, whether I needed help with an issue, or access to public documents, or a few minutes of their time to bounce an idea back and forth. I have never once gotten the impression that either has held anything back or hesitated to try to fill my requests. That’s the difference between true public servants and wannabe dictators like Shaw or Grant Cheek.

With the mayor, and his administrative sidekick, Commissioner Cheek, I have only ever received obstruction, incomplete information, or outright lies. Remember, I have a standing request for all emails relating to public business to or from any elected official in this town. When I first made that request, Bobbi Hatley, our former town clerk, took it upon herself to forward many emails to me on their behalf. I’m guessing that based on her experience she knew that some of the board members would either refuse to comply or be incapable of figuring out how to forward an email.

Mayor Shaw’s track record in this regard is a little bit better than Mr. Cheek’s, but inconsistent. For a while he did send me at least some of the email he receives, but after I exposed his lie of omission regarding the OSHA inspection fines a few months ago, the emails I received from his desk all but dried up.

When I heard about the mayor’s new campaign page I decided to simply ignore it, but since he’s decided to make me the primary target of his rants, , rather than his opponent, and his statements have become progressively more slanderous and combative, I suppose a response is required. We’ll begin at the bottom of the page and work our way up.

Note the top and bottom posts in the image above. The first post Danny Shaw made on his new page says, “Due to some technicalities I have started an new e-mail.” The technicality is the rule about not deleting content or blocking constituents I mentioned at the top of this piece. Here’s Danny Shaw, showing us once again that he doesn’t know the difference between email and a facebook page. The comment at the top of the above image states that he has deleted his “former e-mail” Danny Shaw Mayor, by which I can only assume that he means the Danny Shaw: Mayor of Ramseur page, which has definitely not been deleted.

True to form, Danny Shaw either doesn’t know what he’s talking about or he’s leaving some details out. Either way it’s typical Shaw behavior, and from the outside looking in it looks like another attempt to deceive or distract some of us.

Next there was a post about an incident at the Day on Main Street Festival a few weeks ago, which the mayor admits he did not witness.

Near the end of the festival, when vendors were preparing to tear down their booths, there was a miscommunication between a citizen, a commissioner, and a police officer regarding traffic control. The Commissioner, David Overman, having spent the entire day and part of the night before working to make the festival happen, he was tired, his nerves were shot, and he made a mistake. He caught grief from me, from his wife, from the police department and others. He soon realized his error and I saw him apologize to everyone involved over and over again. I don’t rake people over the coals honest mistakes that they admit and try to make right.

If you’ve never run for office, especially in a small town like Ramseur, where rumors spread faster than truth, you have no idea the amount of stress it places on a candidate or elected official who truly desires to serve. I chose not to report that story because David Overman is a good man who tries to do the right thing, and when he makes a mistake he owns it like an adult, unlike a certain mayor we know.

I’m far more concerned about the fact that Commissioner Grant Cheek is a functional illiterate and has been left in charge of our drinking water, our sewage treatment, our public works contractors, and our water bills for most of the last four years, than I am with a relatively minor incident involving an honest mistake.

Grant Cheek was not seen by anyone at this year’s festival, because he didn’t show attend, and Mayor Shaw did nothing but walk around all day campaigning. Commissioners David Overman and Vicki Caudle, as well as candidate J.C. Parrish, with assistance from many other members of our community, made the event the success it was this year. Grant Cheek and Danny Shaw contributed none of their personal time to helping produce the festival. Answering the phone or taking vendor payments in the office doesn’t count when you’re already being paid to be in the office.

Next, Mayor Shaw posted an update about a paving project on Brooklyn Avenue. Unfortunately, barely sixty people saw that message since he didn’t post it where it belonged, on his Mayor of Ramseur page, which has over 280 followers, or the official Town of Ramseur Facebook page, which has over 3,000 followers and hasn’t been updated since last July.

A mayor in North Carolina has pretty much one job, communication, and Mayor Danny Shaw fails at almost every turn. In a world that runs on computer networks, where people expect to get accurate information at the touch of a button,  Danny Shaw either doesn’t understand this technology or he refuses to learn. Either way, that’s a problem.

By this point Mayor Shaw had begun using his new Facebook page to attack me personally. I understand why he might feel persecuted by my work, but as I keep saying he brought this on himself. I’m not doing this because he and his puppets didn’t appoint me to late Commissioner Lineberry’s vacant seat in 2018. I do this because Mayor Shaw, Commissioner Cheek, and others have given the citizens of this town valid reasons to question their integrity, not to mention their ability to do the jobs we elected them to do, over and over again. This wasn’t personal until Shaw and his cronies made it personal by attacking the messenger rather than the message.

You can read the post he’s referring to in the statement above by clicking here. I’ve already addressed what this project is about and why it was started so many times that the mayor’s assertion that it’s all about revenge doesn’t even merit a response. I addressed the statement above in the Ramseur Watchdog Facebook group Saturday afternoon, so I won’t repeat it all here, but I will elaborate on the mayor’s question about why I haven’t gone after other board members.

I haven’t gone after the others because most of them complied with my public record requests and have done the right thing more often than not. Yes, some of them do things I would do differently, but there’s a big difference between people lying or refusing to comply with a simple request for copies of emails and having an honest difference of opinion. If anyone on the next board displays the kind of arrogance and dishonesty I’ve seen from Shaw, Cheek, and now former Commissioner Smith, I’ll be here ready, willing, and able to hold their feet to the fire.

As for why I do not allow comments to be made directly on this website, that’s because I hope readers will share what I write on social media pages and groups where more people can see it and respond. And I have made corrections when they were brought to my attention and I was proven wrong. I’m grown up enough to admit when I make a mistake, but I’m not going to allow people from who knows where to come here and turn my work into a pubic free-for-all. That’s what social media is for.

With no outside comments on this site I can take full responsibility for every word written here. My name is on every post. When I started this project the mayor and others were whining about anonymous comments made about them at the old Ramseur Watchdog 2 Facebook page. Now they are being criticized by citizens who are no longer afraid to speak their minds, for the most part, and they can’t stand that either. Why can’t Shaw and Cheek just admit that they don’t like the very American concept of freedom of speech?

Moving on, the mayor next posted about his pet project the Deep River Rail Trail, which he has been leading for many years now.

Those unfamiliar with this issue you should click here and read the article I wrote earlier this year in response to what I saw as an incomplete report in the Asheboro Courier-Tribune. In the statement above, Mayor Shaw says that the second phase of the project is now complete, but this past Friday morning, in a conversation in the Ramseur Events Facebook group, under a share of my  article exposing the mayor’s foiled attempt to misappropriate a bag of cereal belonging to the Ramseur Food Pantry, the mayor told our neighbor Sandra Bullin that gravel had not been placed on the section of trail on the disputed Norfolk-Southern Railway property. Without gravel the trail isn’t complete.

When the grant application was originally submitted to the Randolph Community Health Foundation, it stated that phase two was to run from the south or east side of Harlan’s Creek to Brooklyn Avenue, leaving only the footbridge over the creek to be constructed upon completion. Now the mayor has decided that phase two ends at the edge of the property in question, well short of Brooklyn. Since the property in question is not owned by the Town of Ramseur, as stated in the original grant application, I think most reasonable people would agree that the application contains false statements. Again, this is a typical Shaw bait and switch; change the story to fit reality after the fact. Sorry Danny, we’re not buying your bullsh*t anymore.

The documents Mayor Shaw refers to are all linked to the article I wrote, so not only does he have them, so do I, and so can you should you choose to download them. That’s why Danny Shaw wishes social media and the Internet didn’t exist at all. This technology makes it nearly impossible for public officials to tell people stories that don’t match and get away with it. Ain’t that a shame?

Finally, unless he’s posted something new since I began writing this report a few hours ago (Saturday morning), the mayor took one more swipe at me and his opponent.

In the comment above Mayor Shaw states that Commissioner Caudle and I were “instrumental” in having Ramseur’s polling site moved from the municipal building to SE Randolph Middle School. While each of us may have played a small part in helping bring the issue to the county board of elections for consideration, I’m afraid he’s way off base beyond that point.

Mayor Shaw says that Commissioner Caudle asked me to attend the meetings. This is not true. The first meeting I attended happened on August 13, and I learned about it barely an hour before it was to start. You can read the full account, written the day it happened here.

I hadn’t even thought about our polling location until Mayor Shaw posted about it on his Facebook page. When I saw the mayor’s statement I read it to my wife, who, full disclosure, is an officer in the Randolph County Democratic Party. She knew that a regular Board of Elections meeting was going to take place that afternoon. She put two and two together and that’s when I found out and decided to attend. At that point I didn’t even know for certain that Ramseur’s polling place would be discussed. By the way, most municipal elections in North Carolina are non-partisan, but you wouldn’t know that talking to Mayor Shaw.

Commissioner Caudle did tell Mayor Shaw that she was behind the movement to get the polling place moved. What she didn’t know at the time was that my wife has had casual conversations about this matter with the county director of elections several times over the past four years. Those conversations started because someone we know was turned away from the polls in 2015 without being offered a provisional ballot. If a voter’s registration or residency is in question all poll workers and judges know that they are supposed to offer a provisional ballot to the voter.

I did make several arguments in favor of the change in the run up to the final decision, and in the end a majority of the board voted to move our polling place to the middle school. We could have had it moved to one of several churches in town, but those churches refused to assist our community in holding fair elections. One statement made during one of the meetings indicated that Mayor Shaw was overheard saying that he would speak to one of the pastors and keep their church from participating, and it had nothing to do with a separation of church and state. Churches, and public schools, are used as polling places all across this nation.

There were many valid reasons for moving the polls to a more accessible and neutral location, but Danny Shaw and others cannot accept those facts. He prefers the narrative he has invented in his mind where evil outsiders (in this, case people not born and raised in Ramseur) have come to town for the sole purpose of destroying the community. Surely I’m not the only person who see how ridiculous that sounds. I’ve far more enjoyable things I’d rather have been doing with all the time I’ve spent on this project over the past ten months.

Danny Shaw and his family and friends have been spreading things like this about me for four years now. His wife even called me “scum” in front of several witnesses during the festival a few weeks ago. With people like that hating me I must be doing something right.

I hope by now those of you whom I’ve gotten to know, and who read this space on a regular basis know better. I didn’t come here to destroy anything, but sometimes when a body is infected the best remedy is to rip open the wound and expose it to disinfectants such as sunlight.

In 1979, when the Pell Reservoir (Ramseur Lake) and the municipal building were completed, the town had about 1700 residents. A Google search for the our population today yields a 2017 figure of 1,691.

Ramseur has been stagnant for forty years. In that time our population has barely grown, and by some accounts may even have declined. Living things that do not grow, whether people or towns, eventually die from stagnation, and we are well on our way to that end here in Ramseur. I believe we can turn this thing around and salvage the best of what made Ramseur a great place to live, but clinging to the past will not make it happen.

Ramseur was home to one mill or another that employed about half the town for most its history until 2009, when Ramtex laid off its last 200 employees. Whether Ramtex was destined to leave or chose to is a subject that has been debated around town for past decade, and no one will ever be able to prove it one way or another to everyone’s satisfaction.

We need a new direction, and that will only come from new leadership with new ideas. Danny Shaw has no new ideas. He’s dropped the ball more times than anyone can count, and been caught twisting the truth more times than anyone remembers.

Grant Cheek has shown himself to be both ignorant and arrogant. He has refused to comply with even the most simple requests for information that require only a few keystrokes on a computer. He has been caught lying about his email usage, abused his authority as a commissioner for the benefit of himself and his neighbors, and cost this town much more than the $15,000 he was awarded after suing the town over alleged racism which was never proven. He even filed a complaint with the local chapter of the NAACP against this reporter and a hand full of other citizens in a misguided attempt to stop this work.

We cannot afford four more years with either of these two men in our local government. If you haven’t already voted, this coming Tuesday, November 5, if you love this town, please vote for anyone but Danny Shaw and Grant Cheek.

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