Wednesday, November 14, 2012
751 South development proves the price to gain office may be too expense
My deepest fear is unfolding before my eyes. I saw it coming like a prophet in exile on the Island of Patmos.
Commissioners’ Chairman Michael Page has taken a page from an old gangster flick by reminding members of the Durham City Council not to move on his turf without permission. Page’s unfortunate tirade was reported by Jim Wise in the News & Observer. Could this be the type of leadership Durham can come to expect over the next four years?
Members of the City Council and Board of County Commissioners were discussing new policies on annexations and the extension of utilities beyond the city limits. Mayor Pro Tem Cora Cole-McFadden, who was chairing the meeting, began to walk out when Page made personal attacks.
Page argued the City Council showed disrespect for commissioners by approving the new policy without consulting them. “Truth be told I think this was underhandedly and sneakily handled,” Page said.
Page claimed the new policy is aimed at blocking the controversial 751 South Development, and blamed City Councilman Mike Woodard for the policy.
“I’m sure you orchestrated with this as well,” Page said.
“Because I know you,” said Page.
“Oh, my goodness, this is too much,” McFadden while walking toward the door. “I’m out of here.” She stopped when Page objected to her leaving.
“Now you all have gotten into arguments, this heated discussion,” she said. “It’s not professional. ... You called us sneaky, underhanded and I’m not going to sit here and tolerate it.”
Wise reports the meeting resumed, but arguing continued.
Like I said, is this what we can come to expect over the next four years? I saw it coming. I hoped voters would put an end to the cycle of dysfunction that has plagued the Board of County Commissioners. I fear we can expect more of the same.
At the center of the battle is the 751 South Development project. Members of the City Council voted against extending utilities to the controversial development. In doing so they blocked the plans of developers endorsed by Page, Commissioner Brenda Howerton and former Commissioner Joe Bowser.
Durham has been locked in a fight ever since. Last week’s election for the five seats on the Board of County Commission pitted the two sides in a war that exposed wounds that will take group therapy to overcome. Page’s antics reflect tensions not only among members of the Board of County Commissioners, but hostility between members of the City Council and commission.
Durham can’t afford this type of hostility. We have worked too hard to overcome the name calling and back biting that once made Durham the laughingstock of the state. Voters were given a chance to remove the cancer that hinders county government. They voted. We are left with a mess that will keep us SMH.
Behind all of this is a lack of integrity and civility. Page made it personal. He’s developing a reputation of being hard to work with. He treats politics like a war were it’s his way or no way. Voters deserve better than that; however, they weren’t given much to convince them to vote another way.
Omar Beasley offered hope for a troubled commission. Sadly, his poor judgment circumvented what could have been – a voice of reason.
In endorsing Beasley, I contended the board needed a person who could be objective on development issues. Durham voters needed a person who could hear both sides, and vote with integrity. I supported Beasley due to countless discussions on this matter. He convinced me he could remain objective.
I’m disappointed to hear he received a campaign contribution of $1,050 from developer Neal Hunter. Hunter is the backer of the 751 South development. When it was reported that the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People received a contribution from the super PAC supporting the 751 South development project, I made a distinction between support for the Durham Committee and the support of Beasley.
Beasley failed to take a position on 751 South. His critics argued he was a supporter, but failed to make that known. I defended Beasley’s not taking a position. I envisioned compromise. I was wrong to make that assumption.
I accept Beasley’s reasoning for accepting money from developers. He says he refused to accept money until the end of the race. “I made a decision to finish the campaign in the black and not the red,” Beasley says.
You can’t blame him for that, but it’s a rationale that exposes an inability to function in the way I expected when I endorsed Beasley. Durham needs leaders who will refrain from taking the bait. We need leaders who will remain clean from the tarnish that comes with being fed by those with an agenda. There comes a time when you have to say no to the money, even when it means you suffer for not taking the cash.
Maybe this is the price we all pay for having a system that required candidates to beg to get elected. I want politicians untainted and pure of heart. How can they do that when so much of their identity is tied to those who keep them in office?
I expect four more years of this mess. I’m hoping new candidates will emerge for future elections. I hope and pray they will place the needs of the voters ahead of their desire to get elected. If not, this is what we can expect.
What does it cost to win an election? Or, what good will it be for a person if they gain the world and forfeit their soul?