Where does the "buck" stop when it comes to holding elected officials accountable for what they do, and or what they say they will do? It stops at the ballot box.
Four years ago there was an election. Economically, things were not good for Franklin County. The train, if you will, was just sitting at the station. At that time, and since, many have tried to move the train down the tracks by asking the question of what is the strategic plan for economic development in Franklin County.
It is not a secret financially we are struggling. Ask any business person in Louisburg about their crushing utility bills. Not that long ago I was in an attorney's office on Court Street. I found him sitting in the dark. It was early afternoon on a regular work day. I made a joke of it saying, "What, did you not pay your light bill?" His answer transported me back to a scolding I once received by a teacher for not having done my homework. She was not entertained by what I had to say about not meeting my responsibility, and he was not entertained by my joke. After the awkward moment passed I changed the subject.
Elections can be where preparation meets opportunity. The economic recovery other places in North Carolina are experiencing is not the result of them just having good luck. It is the result of having good leadership. The train will never move if the engineer is asleep, or has no idea of how to point it down the tracks. At some point, if people want to get where they are going, they resolve to change the person driving the train.
So who really drives the economic train here in Franklin County? It is the county leadership, and everyone else is just along for the ride. To ride they have to pay. Many in office four years ago had been there for a long time and remain today. On March 3 early voting starts for the 2016 Primary Election. They seek to continue riding the train for the next four years.
Of course, with the election on the horizon, the same promises they used in the past have been dusted off. Why change them, they have been working for years?
No one is talking about things like the $1.5 million paid to settle a lawsuit for what was done at the airport. Mr. Commissioner, I have a question: Why did that happen? Well, during a February 2015 meeting Commissioner Shane Mitchell said it happened due to poor past leadership. There is that word leadership again.
If this was the consequences of poor decision making by leadership as stated by Commissioner Mitchell, who was held accountable? Did anyone lose their job? Did the commissioners take any action to further probe the matter? I can find no evidence of either of these things happening. What did happen was Commissioners Dunston, May, and Mitchell, voted to approve the $1.5 million settlement. Commissioners Foy and Bunn voted against it.
Commissioner Foy voiced strong opposition to the settlement, stating the county has a history of settling lawsuits rather than fighting them. Now, no one is talking about this. So Mr. Commissioner, yes I have a question!
Given the mess our county leadership created in all of this, the settlement was most likely prudent. This said, I agree with Foy, the money spent to settle these lawsuits is staggering. Note the county does carry insurance. However it should not be used to cover bad decision making.
I call you to look at those in office when this all played out. There is a time for accountability, and that time starts on March 3, 2016. There are some people willing to take up the challenge of driving our train, the little train that can, in a new direction.
Commissioner Dunston faces a Primary challenge by Johnnie Clifton, who is a lifelong Franklin County resident. His view is elected officials are accountable to those that vote them into office, and minimally, out of common courtesy, should respond to questions they are asked. Others have stepped up to fill seats held by Commissioners Lancaster and Mitchell. Neither will seek reelection.
If you are a property owner, how do you feel about the prospect of yet higher taxes, and the possibility of your property losing value in the upcoming revaluation?
As of today, there are 48 days until March 3 when early voting starts. Primary elections traditionally have poor voter turnout. This year please vote, and take a friend or family member with you, together we are many.
Franklin County's North Carolina economic development train is about to leave the station.