By: Steve Trubilla
The safest position for a politician to take when questioned is to remain neutral; never answering a direct question. Sit on the fence, do not take a position, let all sides believe you stand with them.
A seasoned incumbent once told me if you understand fences you will understand winning in politics. He said fences are used to control all manner of things. If strategically used with people you can keep them out of places, and cause them to go in any direction.
I shared with him another story a farmer had shared with me about fences and pigeons. The farmer said he did not like pigeons. They sit on my fences all day going nowhere, and dirty everything up with their droppings, he said.
The seasoned politician laughed, saying the farmer had a point and he could see the similarities to politics. He said it is not about going anywhere, it is about staying where you are by getting re-elected. Most people, he said, will get used to the pigeons and the droppings so long as they do not have to deal with either.
I feel this kind of sums things up when one asks why it is that questions never seem to get answered, and the piles of dropping, keep getting bigger.
It is true most people are happy just sitting on the fence, but not all people are. A few are willing to tear down the fence. Locally one of these people is a very successful retired local businessman named Bruce Allen.
Over a number of years he has been sounding the alarm about issues at the Franklin County Airport.
He is uniquely qualified to speak to these issues because he was a valued county employee with in-depth knowledge of every aspect of the airport.
Try as he did to bring attention to things it appeared many local officials simply were not listening to him. I suspect they were hoping he would just go away.
Well, for reasons that contradict the safe political sit-on-the-fence approach to issues, about midway through 2015, Commissioner Sidney Dunston issued a challenge to citizens saying if they had ideas on better ways to do things they should bring them forward. On June 1, 2015 at a county commissioners meeting that is exactly what Allen did, and not in a small way I might add.
He did a powerful presentation complete with hard facts, slides, and documentation. His rendering exposed inefficiencies, safety problems, and environmental concerns at the airport. He backed up what he had to say with federal aviation manual regulations.
Specific issues included the costly repetitive replacement of fuel pumps at the fuel farm, faulty runway wiring for lights, oil/water separator failure and a general lack of maintenance.
He brought into question how hanger fees are assessed, stating they were not applied equally. More than this he demonstrated it to be fact with documents. He presented concerns of conflict of interest with those that may have personal business interests.
Allen's presentation was so fact filled it appeared to overwhelm some officials. I was present at this public meeting when an attempt was made to stop him from continuing by limiting him to speak for only five minutes.
As board members discussed if he would be allowed to continue Allen challenged the objection, pointing out the five-minute rule did not apply to public hearings. By so doing he demonstrated his knowledge of public meetings and processes.
Comprehensive does not begin to define the detail in which Allen answered Commissioner Dunston's challenge. He even provided an alternate budget plan for the airport, and with specificity, laid out cost savings.
Allen's testimony at this public hearing can be found on the official Franklin County website; http://www.franklincountync.us/. Navigate to the commissioner's tab, county commissioners' minutes, for previous minutes click here, then select 2015 June 1 meeting.
As of 4:30 p.m. on Feb. 8, 2016, Dunston had not responded to Allen's answer to his challenge. It has been 251 days. The pile of droppings continues to grow.
It has been reported that Commissioners David Bunn and Harry Foy have asked if Allen's concerns have been addressed by county officials. I could locate no evidence that they had.
Mr. Dunston, "Tear down that fence." Allen and the citizens of Franklin County deserve answers.
I will go further than this, Allen is deserving of public recognition for the service he has rendered to his fellow citizens. I ask that the Franklin County Board of Commissioners do so.
As of today there are 21 days until early voting starts on March 3 for the 2016 Primary election.
Franklin County has an opportunity to tear down many other fences. Two commissioners, Don Lancaster and Shane Mitchell, are not seeking reelection, and Commissioner Sidney Dunston faces a Primary challenge from local businessman Johnnie Clifton. At the end of this term Dunston will have been in office 12 years.
It is appropriate to thank those that have served.
We need to get out of neutral and drive forward toward economic development with new leadership.