The Hope Mills Citizens for Change PAC, which began with just four founding members, has grown to 24 members in the last few weeks. The group, which unofficially refers to itself as the “Getting Stuff Done Committee,” has wasted no time getting stuff done. Last week, the group filed with the Cumberland County Board of Elections as an official political action committee and purchased signs to support its first objective: convincing the public to vote no on the four-year referendum in Hope Mills.
The PAC formed due to a shared concern over the actions of the Hope Mills Board of Commissioners. During their short tenure, the board members have doubled their salaries and given themselves stipends for travel and cell phone costs as well as other benefits. But by all accounts, they haven’t accomplished much else.
In early February, Commissioner Mike Mitchell suggested changing the town’s charter to allow board members to serve four-year staggered terms beginning with the 2019 election. The mayor and the top two vote-getters would all serve four-year terms while the remaining three seats would convert to four-year terms in the 2021 election.
The Hope Mills Board of Commissioners held a public hearing in April to consider citizen’s input. After citizens argued against the referendum, the board immediately voted to move forward. In July, the board voted to approve Resolution 2018-10, and the referendum was placed on the November ballot.
It’s been argued that four-year staggered terms would lend continuity to the board and decrease the period of adjustment for freshman commissioners. Mike Mitchell served four years and then took a brief hiatus before returning to the board in 2017. Since returning, he’s struggled to re-acclimate himself. During a January meeting, Mayor Jackie Warner had to remind him of details that had been discussed years earlier during one of his previous terms.
In July, the board voted to hold a public hearing to get public input on the offer made by Lone Survivor Foundation to buy municipal land. A week later, the board voted to cancel that hearing until they’d received the initial results of a Hope Mills Parks and Recreation survey. Board members were told in January the survey would not include detailed instructions on how to develop the available municipal lands.
The board received those results Oct. 1, and LSF president Tim Byrom submitted a second offer to purchase land the same day. He also asked to be added to the Nov. 5 meeting agenda to formally present his offer and field questions. While citizens waited for the board to set a date for a second hearing, the board voted to reject LSF’s offer.
Hope Mills citizens have used social media to express their disappointment and to accuse the board of wrongdoing. It’s been suggested the board never meant to hold a public hearing, fearing the results would be overwhelmingly in favor of the sale to LSF. To date, three citizens have publicly spoken against selling land to LSF.
It’s also been suggested the board voted quietly and quickly because Commissioner Jerry Legge would be absent during the November board meetings. With his absence, the vote would have been 2-2, and Warner, who has consistently supported the sale, would have been the deciding vote.
Grilley Mitchell, a founding member of the PAC and one of the citizens who spoke against the referendum, has lost faith in this board. He said, “I want someone in office that will only vote on the facts and do what is best for all of the people. Someone that will allow the citizens to have a voice to address issues that matter. Someone that will share the whole truth and not bits of information that only complicate issues.”
While the PAC was only established in the last few weeks, its members have created a long-term agenda to address the systemic issues plaguing Hope Mills politics, and they’re optimistic about creating positive change.
You can help by staying informed. Up & Coming Weekly is committed to bringing readers news from Hope Mills every week. Also read hopemills.net. Every article posted is full of links to tangible evidence of the board’s wrongdoing. And you can get involved by joining the PAC. The group is on Facebook at www.facebook.com/HopeMillsCFC.