TOWN BOARD FAILS TO QUESTION THE DELAYED PERMIT AND WANTS COMMENTS LOCKED UP TIGHT
For the past couple of months, Hope Mills has been going through a delayed permit process that has cost the town time and money on the dam rebuild. Someone did not file the paperwork in a timely manner. How much time and money? $150,000? $350,000? Who’s responsible? No one really knows for sure, because no one really seems to know who will pay for the delayed permit. In the end, we know the Town will end up paying, like usual. (See: other dam rebuilds.)
As part of that delayed permit process, some lake advisory committee members have expressed their opinions and discussed what’s discussed at their public, non-restricted meetings in other public places, including WFNC and social media. Committee members from other committees have also discussed their opinions in public places.
At one of their meetings, some of the lake advisory committee members got curious. They actually asked questions the board members hadn’t bothered to ask about the time and money involved, and who was responsible. The board seems just excited to finally have the permit, and wants to “move forward” without thinking (at least publicly) about the time and money. Eventually the dam will be rebuilt, so time will work itself out, and by then the money will have to come from somewhere.
At Wednesday night’s town board meeting, there was a move toward getting any commentary to the media from town committee members approved by the board before it goes to the media. Kind of a public relations gatekeeper to abridge the citizens’ First Amendment rights and make the board look good, or keep them from looking bad. Committee members’ comments would be restricted to committee meetings. Some board members have even discussed doing away with several of the citizens’ advisory committees.
Last year, there was mention by some board members that we need to have the town manager or someone else on staff (the town attorney was also mentioned) to respond and “rebut” things that appear in the media that make the town look bad. Mostly the board members who brought this up seemed concerned about how they were covered. Luckily, the town manager can’t keep up with what he’s already been assigned and what freewheeling things the board allows him to do, and so nothing seems to have come from that idea.
When policy decisions/indecisions are made in secret, or not made at all, when consequences and responsibilities are glossed over when they fail to stay hidden, and when our leadership try to cover up their actions, for whatever reasons, there are public relations consequences. When permits that shouldn’t be an issue become a costly issue, there are public relations consequences. Or at least there should be, if anyone cares to pay attention to government before government gets out of hand. There seems to be enough covering up that goes on in Hope Mills already. Adding another level of “protection” just makes the town board seem more dishonest. The town can, apparently make employees sign gag orders (See: 11-month fire department “investigation”) but they can’t gag order citizens, too.