There was an air of excitement, confidence and achievement at the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce’s Annual Gala last Friday night. And why not? It was the perfect end to a week celebrating what appears to be a brand new beginning for Fayetteville.
On Tuesday, March 15, to the surprise of many Fayetteville residents, the local $35 million parks and recreation bond was approved by Fayetteville residents. Maybe I should say “overwhelmingly” approved. Not only did it earn nearly 60 percent of the votes; almost every voting precinct in the city gave it an enthusiastic thumb’s up. This was a huge win for our community. Now, we can begin enhancing our community with amenities and quality-of-life venues that will allow us to catch up with neighboring North Carolina communities. Senior Centers, splash pads, skateboard parks and a riverside park are not the ultimate solutions for a community suffering from decades of neglect, but it is a good start.
The outcome could have been different, but I think we have learned some major lessons here.
First, the bond opposition that was organized and characterized as the Hate Eight, failed to effectively articulate their number one objection to the bond proposal: Property tax increases. The opposition adamantly declared they were not against parks and recreation but rather against increased taxes. Their words rang hollow when you look at the miniscule tax rate increase. The mere fact that they organized against the bond, regardless of reason, was enough to rally, activate and mobilize pro-bond people, businesses and organizations. This force was partially responsible for one of the largest voter turnouts we have seen in Fayetteville for a very long time. Without this surge of support the outcome could have been very different.
Second, the City of Fayetteville initiated one of the most impressive educational media/marketing campaigns we have ever seen in this community. Kevin Arata, the new city director of corporate communications, executed the nearly perfect multimedia program needed to guarantee success. He reached out to every resident and touched every neighborhood, using buses, radio, social media, daily and community newspapers and an effective speakers bureau. In other words, they got the message out. The city educated the public on what the parks and recreation bond represented, what it would do and how much it would cost. There is no substitute for good communication. In this case, the city gets an A plus rating and should adopt these techniques to better serve and communicate with citizens on an ongoing basis.
Third, the Mayor and the City Council worked together with other pro-bond advocates who got out and worked hard and diligently to educate the public on the need for and importance of the bond and the impact it will have on Fayetteville’s future. To this end, no one worked harder promoting the bond than District 2 City Councilman Kirk deViere, who literally spent hours upon hours nurturing this project as if it was his and his alone. His efforts serve as the perfect example of the type of energy, enthusiasm, dedication and leadership we need in all of our city and county leaders. No longer should we tolerate “placeholders” whose main objectives are to occupy an elected seat and contribute nothing to our community.
We need people with ideas and ideals.
We need people who are willing to speak out and execute those innovative ideas.
This kind of leadership is extremely lacking at all levels of our local government. I overheard someone assess our local elected leadership as follows:
Cumberland County School Board - incompetent
Fayetteville City Council - arrogant
Cumberland County Board of Commissioners - complacent
That’s pretty sad.
Don’t shoot the messenger. Perception is reality, and we all are responsible and need to work on this.
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