Too often, the governed feel a disconnect with the governing.
Elected officials are perceived as being ensconced behind the fortess-like walls of Capitol Hill, isolated and removed from their constituents.
   Well, those walls will officially come tumbling down Feb. 9 when the citizens of Cumberland County get the opportunity to meet, greet and (gently) grill the folks calling the shots in D.C., as a who’s who of North Carolina-based politicians — U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, U.S. Congressmen Mike McIntyre, Larry Kissell and Bob Etheridge, and N.C. Sen. Tony Rand — will be at Fayetteville Technical Community College for a Congressional Community Conversation — a forum free to the public.
   The event is sponsored by the county’s three leading schools of higher learning — FTCC, Methodist University and Fayetteville State University.
   The program is the brainchild of a group of private citizens, including local attorney Gardner Altman Jr., who sees the public forum as an opportunity for input into the decisions that affect our lives.
   “We wanted to get these folks together in one place and let them know that they represent us,” said Altman. “This will allow our elected officials to take a few minutes to listen to the concerns of their constituents and our community. So many people have told me that they don’t get an opportunity to talk to their elected officials ... Well, here it is.”
   The program will run from 4:30-6 p.m. and will be held in the Tony Rand Student Center on the campus of FTCC, which seats more than 600. A host of local officials and politicians will also speak, as well as introduce the visiting politicians. Fayetteville Mayor Tony Chavonne will welcome everyone, followed by an overview of the program and the introduction of Brig. Gen. Paul Dordal, who will give a presentation on perhaps the single most important issue confronting the future of Cumberland County — Base Realignment and Closure.
   “I will discuss the latest as far as what we have done and what we still need from the government as far as getting funding for BRAC,” said Dordal. “These politicians have been so supportive of our efforts to do what is best for Cumberland County as the BRAC deadline bears down, but more is needed to be done.
   {mosimage}“For example, our latest information shows us that there is probably going to be the biggest influx of families moving into the western part of the county,” said Dordal. “Right now, it looks like Jack Britt is going to be the most popular school system of choice for these families and there will be an influx into gated and/or golf communities such as Gates Four. We need to get federal funding to improve our infrastructure and we need to make our case to these politicians.”
   After Dordal’s presentation, Hagan is scheduled to speak for 20 minutes, followed by Etheridge, McIntyre and Kissell, all of whom are scheduled to speak for 5-7 minutes. There will then be a question and answer session with questions from audience members lasting approximately 20 minutes. According to Altman, questions will be written down on index cards by audience members and submitted to the moderator.
   Kissell says he is particularly looking forward to the event, both to meet with his constituents and to pick up pointers from his fellow congressmen.
   “I think it’s important to communicate with the voters ... and not just to answer questions ... but to really listen,” said Kissell. “And I can’t wait to share a stage with Congressmen Etheridge and McIntyre — there’s a lot I can learn from them.
   And the BRAC discussion will be very important. I am a big supporter of Fort Bragg and want to help make this transition as smooth as possible.”

Contact Tim Wilkins at tim@upandcomingweekly.com

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