Well, you can talk until you are blue in the face about escalating Fayetteville and Cumberland County’s image and quality of life by increasing local amenities like parks, swimming pools, a river walk, a downtown performing arts center and baseball stadiums; however, the reality is that the absence of honest, local leadership coupled with an overabundance of political shenanigans, seems to be imbedded in Cumberland County.
While local politicians (note politicians, not leaders) remain silent, local residents scratch their heads and shout out loud, “Are you kidding me?” Such was the reaction of residents last week as our local county commissioners clandestinely agreed to enlist our local legislative delegation in a plot to hijack the $5.6 million hotel occupancy tax, which is collected annually. Currently, the money is split between the Arts Council, Crown Coliseum and the Fayetteville Area Convention and Visitor Bureau. No more, if the county commissions get their way. Why? They won’t say. No transparency and even less explanation.
The commissioners, without explanation, except to say they are not pleased with the way the money is being spent, want to take the money away from the Tourism Development Authority, a board appointed by the commissioners. Hmmmm? That’s interesting. They are not pleased with the board that they appointed and are unable to deal with the situation to the point that they enlisted the legislature to change the law. That kind of judgment raises eyebrows and fosters distrust in our political leadership. It’s the near perfect example of the self-serving, backdoor politics that has stymied development in Fayetteville for decades in both our county and city.
Fayetteville activist Sharon Valentine wrote a great opinion piece in last Sunday’s Fayetteville Observer. She expressed her displeasure over the way the Fayetteville City Council disrespected her friend, Councilman Bobby Hurst. Hurst serves as the chair of the appointment committee, whose task was to screen applicants and make a recommendation to the city council on someone to fill the expired PWC term of businesswoman Lynne Greene. I’m not sure what the qualifications are to oversee PWC’s $500+ million annual budget, but Hurst wanted to appoint Juanita Gonzalez, who many perceive as Hurst’s unqualified plant to undermine and dilute PWC’s authority. An action, I might add, that the disputed 100-year PWC Charter was designed to prevent. However, in a brilliant and unprecedented maneuver by the majority of city council members, local resident Evelyn Shaw was nominated for the position from the floor. Checkmate! Consequently, Shaw was voted in, Gonzalez out and Hurst was outraged.
Why? Because the process was violated? No. Because his misuse and abuse of his political office was trumped by his political peers. He was outmaneuvered. Yet, in life two wrongs do not make a right. Nonetheless, this is bad news for the “good guys” or in this case, a community, like ours, with awesome potential and a desperate need for 21st century leadership.
It’s not at all surprising that the three 2016 Presidential front runners are Trump, Carson and Fiorina–all notable Washington outsiders. Why? Because career politicians are more and more being perceived by the American electorate as untrustworthy, self-serving, unreliable and unaccountable. The old saying all politics are local, leaves us hoping that the citizens of Fayetteville and Cumberland County will pay attention to these recent abuses of trust and authority and encourage good people to seek leadership positions. This is the only way we can restore faith and trust in government and successfully move our community forward. Stay tuned and thank you for reading Up & Coming Weekly.