Beaufort County Commissioners Vote 6 to 1 on Everything: Pass the County Budget, Make Fools of Themselves in the Bargain
Published: Friday, July 3rd, 2015 @ 3:22 pm
By: Stan Deatherage ( More Entries )
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Publisher's note: I wish I could write this piece in a dispassionate 3rd person voice only; I can't; I know too much, and I am too honest, so I have my limitations here as most have their limitations in one thing or another. To compound the matter interminably, I will indelicately move from a 3rd person to 1st person voice, and if I do so too erratically in this measure, I both warn you and apologize at this moment, all in the same prosaic breath.
Beat and Hippie generations prose master Hunter S. Thompson once coined this phrase, which I often refer to when discussing any observation bordering on abject sophistry, which this was:
"When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro".
Last Monday night, June 15, 2015, the Beaufort County Commissioners were in congregation mid-month, 6:00 pm, to decide how much to tax the citizens of Beaufort County. Never before in the last two decades, has this 5 term county commissioner, of some estimable intellect on these pertinent matters of the People's business, witnessed commissioners, and their appointed staff take a more flippant, patriarchal attitude toward the welfare of all of our county's citizens - not just the "Sheeple", who voice far too much concern over commissioner conjecture, and far too little over real substance - but those who actually know enough to realize that they are part of a Representative system that is running far too fast on the wrong track to a bad (some)where.
At this infamous meeting of extreme short duration, about 1 hour and 20 minutes, I witnessed the People's business on the county budget turn from unusual to bizarre, culminating in a cataclysm of profound wrong that left me, knowing all that I do know about how all this is supposed to work, with a sense of political shock ... and then a series of aftershocks of 'they really did do all of this, and you, People, voted for them, and the rest of us will pay for that, all of that.
I would recount a well discussed budget, of some indepth detail, but I can't. The budget, as per the board appointed clerk, Katie Moser, was only 9 pages short. I will tell you that the board, by the now infamous 6 to 1 majority, voted to raise spending by about 4 million dollars, but somehow kept the tax rate static, remaining at 53 cents per hundred dollars valuation. What would have evolved into hours of public discussion, after multiple budget workshops, concerning budget narratives of hundreds of pages of detail, has now devolved into 3 very short budget workshops, a 9 page budget of no real details, about one hour of predetermined deliberation, and an improperly advertised public hearing, which was summarily cancelled without notification. No one at the county office informed me of such.
But an 'improperly advertised public hearing'? Let me explain this extremely bizarre turn of events, and you be the judge.
The 'improperly advertised public hearing' was a county commissioner approved time and place displayed here on Beaufort County NOW, but was provided by the board's one Conservative commissioner, Hood Richardson, not the county. To be perfectly honest and clear, the Gary Brinn/ Ken Windley administration does not send out press releases, and for some months, no notifications at all to the media, so independent news sources, such as BCN, is dependent upon the honest transmission of facts from others; in this case Beaufort County's most knowledgeable, and most honest county commissioner/ administrative representative - Commissioner Hood Richardson.
Now to continue, the county government, by a poll vote of 6 to 0 (Commissioner Richardson was not notified as the administration advised the public that they had divined what his vote would have been), elected to not have the public hearing at the court house, in the larger superior court room, without any subsequent notifications to the media. No one will ever know how many folks stood outside the locked court house; blaming someone for their inconvenience, maybe even BCN, while the 6 to 0 group of county commissioners made policy in private, intentionally excluding Commissioner Hood Richardson.
All of this abject nonsense prompting Commissioner Richardson to remind his fellow administration team, and their staff, 'that it might be wise not to decide how this duly elected commissioner might vote, as per any poll, on any given issue'.
Is this private meeting's behavior reminiscent of the illegal meeting series to hire the new county manager Brian Alligood?
It matters that this past bad behavior is an affront to all good governing precepts and the essence of North Carolina's open meetings law, yes, but what really matters is: Will this bad behavior be allowed to remain in effect. Will the two nominal Republicans (as proved by their earlier actions). Frankie Waters and Ron Buzzeo, gravitate toward ("co-") Chairman Gary Brinn's RINO behavior, or will they develop a thirst for governing knowledge and a streak of working honesty that is at the core of any real Republican.
Continuing what is truly real: Commissioner Hood Richardson's proposal, if for no other reason but to debate the obvious, to lower the tax rate to 48 cents per hundred dollar valuation received not a second to continue the debate and the question. All was already decided before the meeting, before the their 6 to 0 majority "bait and switch" public hearing.
This was both of the new commissioners' first budget, and as difficult as it may seem to their young governing minds, and as unimpressive as they may appear in the wake of this, their rather inauspicious first budget, please be advised of this from someone who has been a young county commissioner, and did live to tell this: Lose the "deer in the headlights" approach to governing.
To put a finer point on the issue: "Yeah, I remember my first beer too", so stop acting like you now have this hugely difficult job that few will ever know, where only political heroes tread. Trust me on this, the only people who will buy that line are your family, and your close friends who won't tell you the truth, or worse, don't know the realty of it to do so. Your job is not so difficult, and I know this better than anyone living in Beaufort County, and if you will follow these simple precepts, you should persevere: Learn the reality of governing - everything; develop a deep honesty with yourself and others; learn simple math and be wary of those that don't - you will meet them along the way; and listen to people that are considerably smarter than you are - in this case 'The Hood'.
Both of you new nominal Republicans have acted as if you know none of these truths; however, I will allow you this first budget, this first year; but next year, I expect to see some real knowledge and leadership out of the both of you, or there is a truth that you must be aware of: You will begin strong upon the path of becoming sorry commissioners of infamous renown, and whether you are re-elected or no, the only votes you will receive will be from the uninformed or the dishonest, or both, and that electorate will make you despise your position, what you espoused to do when you ran that first time. Then again, if you are patently dishonest people, "it's all good".
When asked what he thought of the unison voting patterns, which suggested the obvious silent, dark governing sessions of sophistic county commissioners, Commissioner Hood Richardson could only respond: "I am puzzled by the behavior of the so-called Republicans Frankie Waters and Ron Buzzeo. They don't act like Republicans, they act more like nominal Republicans, we both remember, that were eventually controlled by Democrats and RINOs."
To conclude, as the Beaufort County Taxpaying public is driven headlong to a very expensive governing proposition by the amateurs that need to quickly find a more stable equilibrium, I restate the echoing words of "Doctor" Thompson: "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro."
This is my greatest fear for Beaufort County's government, and if you are honest people, it should be yours as well.