It isn’t very reassuring when the Mayor of Fayetteville, elected city officials, and paid city staff ignore the people’s will. Especially when they are dismissed with an incredibly high level of incompetence, as we witnessed at the District 5 hearing for a Special Use Permit for our Haymount neighborhood.
These meetings are significant since they can dramatically change the character of a neighborhood. During the past two years, Mayor Mitch Colvin and City Council elected officials have totally and irresponsibly destroyed the trust and confidence of the people who elected them and entrusted them to look after the interest of their constituents.
Many expect our elected officials to be responsible, competent and laser-focused on making advantageous decisions for their constituents. However, not so much anymore.
This situation is even more dire now because our community lacks objective and accurate NEWS reporting, making it difficult, if not impossible, to understand important issues, get the facts, or even glean half-truths about essential matters at City Hall.
Doing a deep dive into these critical issues and providing the facts and information affects every citizen’s livelihood and quality of life. This lack of transparency allows our elected officials and city staff to maneuver, scheme in the shadows and operate with impunity.
Seeing is believing. On May 22, and again on June 26, the residents of District 5 in Haymount witnessed firsthand one of the most inept and unprofessional fiascos by our city’s elected officials when Mayor Colvin, City Attorney Karen McDonald, and members of the Fayetteville City Council attempted to conduct what was called a quasi-judicial evidentiary hearing for a Special Use Permit (SUP) allowing ShineLight, Inc., an autism services business owned by Fayetteville native Nikki Creesy, to build a multi-family duplex in a single-family residential neighborhood.
The session was an abysmal example of the embarrassing, inept leadership in place at City Hall, making it abundantly clear that the majority of the council members, including Mayor Colvin, Craig Harmon and the city planning staff, and City Attorney McDonald were grossly unprepared to address the issue, and had no grasp of the governing ordinances in place, nor did they have any clear idea as to what their responsibilities were to residents or the proper way to conduct a quasi-judicial hearing.
One newly elected Council member, Mario Benavente of District 3, tried to bring logic, a sense of reason, and fairness to the meeting. However, he failed to get attention or support from his peers. This was most disappointing. It was nothing less than horrifying and discouraging to watch as the Mayor, Council, and city staff blundered their way through this primary concern of so many loyal taxpaying residents.
It became apparent to those who witnessed this fiasco that they had weaponized ignorance and incompetence with the city leadership’s abundant misrepresentations, misinformation, operational confusion and inappropriate motions.
The meeting was poorly run and negatively charged. At one point, District 2 councilwoman Shakeyla Ingram insulted those who opposed the SUP by stating that those in opposition were prejudice toward people with special needs. How ridiculous it was. Yet, it was not an unexpected gesture from the uninformed councilwoman when confronted with a logical situation for which she had no knowledge or intelligent response.
Rezonings and SUP actions should always be handled with integrity and intense research. Most importantly, each council member should visit the neighborhood or property in question.
Making rezoning decisions that benefit only a single business or petitioner without research while turning your back on an entire established neighborhood is inexcusable.
Following the decision to approve the SUP in favor of ShineLight, Inc. had even Mayor Colvin feeling compelled to admit that the meeting, procedures and the decision to approve the rezoning were made inappropriately and improperly and allowing the vote to go forward was undoubtedly an act of poor judgment and leadership.
Especially concerning was that the District 5 representative (Johnny Dawkins) recused himself from the final vote — leaving District 5 with absolutely no voice, which many interpreted as being a cowardly thing to do.
The City Council and elected officials should work for the taxpayers who support the city. Election day is Nov. 7. It is imperative you know the candidates and who you are voting for. Pay attention to how they vote, support issues and react to constituents’ needs. We must not be victimized further by people making inappropriate, misguided and incompetent decisions on our behalf. The hostility and arrogance expressed by several sitting council members toward residents of this community is unacceptable, especially given their incompetence.
Thank goodness for Up & Coming Weekly newspaper for allowing the people’s voices to be heard. Without a media voice for truth, reason and fairness, we are left vulnerable to acts of impropriety.
Fayetteville needs a transparent government and competent leadership. After all, WE THE PEOPLE, have control of those we elect. When it’s evident that they are not acting on our behalf or in our best interest, perhaps it’s time to look for those who will. Fayetteville, it is time!
Editor’s note: Lois Kirby is a former City Council member representing District 5, and former Mayor Pro Tem.