02ShamefulMore and more I hear comments from ordinary citizens about how frustrated they are with Washington and our “do nothing” Congress. Their frustration and disappointment are warranted. With Republicans controlling both the House and Senate, their lack of communication, cooperation and progress in advancing major legislative initiatives only amplifies the lack of leadership and vision provided by our nationally elected officials. It also exposes their misplaced priorities of putting their personal and political agendas above the health and welfare of the Americans they represent.

Of course people are frustrated and scared. And because leadership — both good and bad — comes from the top, I’m afraid this kind of selfish and self-centered governance is having a negative trickle-down effect on North Carolina, our city and our county.

Case in point: the serious situation we have in our community and in eastern North Carolina concerning GenX, C8 and other various and potentially harmful pollutants threatening our local drinking water and the health and future of the Cape Fear River.

Both the Republicans and Democrats are accusing each other of playing politics with these serious issues when they both are. Shameful. This begs the question: When will the needs and concerns of the citizens be addressed? We’re talking about drinking water here! We’re talking about leadership that is systematically cutting environmental funding and protection and knowingly and willingly creating their own Flint, Michigan, style catastrophe.

Water is the lifeblood of human existence, and our General Assembly in Raleigh is playing a game of “political gotcha.” This politics over people scenario is sad and scary. One pathetic example of this comes with the introduction House Bill 56, which Governor Cooper recently and rightly vetoed. Among other things, HB 56 would appropriate a measly $435,000 to locally research the possible dangers of chemical pollutants like GenX contaminating the Cape Fear River and our drinking water. This would have come in place of the $2.6 million Cooper requested to purchase equipment, hire scientists, chemical experts and professional researchers to pursue testing in the quest of finding out the true cause and source of the contamination in an effort to protect the health and welfare of North Carolina citizens and the future of the Cape Fear River.

Protecting our environment, rivers and water supply should not be a partisan issue. Another example of North Carolina’s politics over people approach is the request to repeal the 2009 ban on plastic bags on the Outer Banks, overruling the objections of local leadership. The Dare County Board of Commissioners, Outer Banks Chamber of Commerce and dozens of area towns and municipalities wrote letters to protest the repeal resolution, citing many tangible and successful beautification and environmental outcomes.

Why would the politicians so blatantly go against the people’s wishes to maintain the plastic bag ban? Answer: Politics before people. The North Carolina Retail Merchants Association is a powerful lobbyist and a big donor to those in political office in Raleigh. Why not throw them a bone to keep the money flowing, even if means betraying a trust or knowingly destroying the environment?

I’ll close with this: If our North Carolina leadership cannot come together to protect our rivers, wells and drinking water, they are not protecting the people. So, I wouldn’t spend too much time being concerned about fracking, coal ash, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, global warming or North Korean missiles. Without clean drinking water, it won’t matter.

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