A few years ago, I posted a poll. Here’s the results:
Today, this was published by the Fayetteville Observer:
Where’s Our Leadership?
One would think that if our Mayor and City Council voted to pay 18 Million Tax Dollars into a public-private partnership with a development company, and then the development company failed to develop, that our Mayor and City Council would do something to try to get our money back.
I just voted. If you do the same and you live in Fayetteville, you’ll be asked to vote “yes” or “no” to four different questions.
The back of the ballot looks like this:
Bonds = Debt
Our city leaders want to borrow $97,000,000 for various projects in Fayetteville:
$60,000,000 for Public Safety
$25,000,000 for Streets and Sidewalks
$12,000,000 for Housing Benefits
Most people are in favor of public safety, good roads and sidewalks, and affordable housing. However, is it a good idea to borrow close to $100,000,000 as we head into a potential recession? Moreover, can we trust our current leaders to spend the money in an effective and efficient way? A recent example is the parking deck across from City Hall. We borrowed close to $20,000,000 to help construct the deck and have little to show for it in the form of economic development. It just sits there, rarely used, as we continue to pay to park each time we go downtown.
Bonds have to be paid back over time, with interest. If these bonds pass, a tax increase is likely to follow. Vote accordingly.
Charter Amendment = More Representation
At-Large seats on our city council would be a tremendous benefit to our political system. The proposed change gives voters more choice and will increase interest and turnout in our local elections. It would also force candidates to build consensus and appeal to the entire city to get elected. Encourage everyone you know to vote “YES” to the last item on your ballot. This graphic illustrates the proposed change:
Early voting started today. Get out and do your part.
A few years ago, I represented a bail agent in a case before the North Carolina Court of Appeals. The facts were simple: A man was locked up in a Virginia jail and missed court in Fayetteville. His bond was forfeited for failing to appear. The bail agent filed a form to “set aside” the bond forfeiture, but she checked the box for incarcerations in North Carolina, not incarcerations in other states.
In North Carolina, forfeited bond money goes to the local school system, so a lawyer representing the school board objected. The matter went before Judge Jim Ammons.
At the hearing, the school board attorney argued that the form controlled and the defendant should forfeit $25,000 for missing court. Judge Ammons ruled that he would not forfeit the man’s bond because the wrong box was checked. The school board lawyer appealed Judge Ammon’s decision.
I made a late appearance in the case and stayed up all night writing a last-minute brief on behalf of the bail agent. We won in the end. The defendant didn’t lose his bond money because the wrong box was checked.
Ammons Rules in Favor of “Vote For Six”
A few weeks ago, Judge Ammons ruled in favor of several “Vote For Six” petitioners in his courtroom.
The Fayetteville City Council had voted (6-4) to stop a ballot initiative to put four “At-Large” seats on the council because a particular form wasn’t filled out at the start of the petition process. The Petitioners asked for emergency relief from the court. Judge Ammons ruled in their favor.
“Quite frankly, at the end of the day, a group of concerned citizens circulated a petition that the City Council fully knew about,” Ammons said. “They needed 5,000 signatures. They got those 5,000 signatures. Apparently, six out of 10 of the City Council arbitrarily decided that they weren’t going to allow the ballot to be printed.”
“I want to point everybody to the North Carolina Constitution, Article I, Section 2: Sovereignty of the people,” Ammons said as he announced his decision in favor of Vote Yes Committee members Bobby Hurst, Karl Merritt and Suzanne Pennink. “All political power is vested in and derived from the people; all government of right originates from the people, is founded upon their will only, and is instituted solely for the good of the whole.”
As it stands today, if you’re a citizen of Fayetteville, you will get to vote to alter the makeup of the city council in November’s election.
Colvin Appeals Ammons Ruling
After losing, Mayor Colvin called an emergency council meeting. Three members didn’t show up. The council voted (4-3) to appeal the decision.
The Court of Appeals recently ruled that the matter would remain on the ballot. However, the court has yet to decide the legal validity of the petition.
The result of all this is flat-out worrisome. We’re going to have an election in November where the citizens of Fayetteville will decide whether to change the makeup of our city council. Mayor Colvin and the council could then try to overturn the results by challenging the legal validity of the Petition in the North Carolina Court of Appeals.
All because of a form…
Battle Continues on the Air
Mayor Colvin went on 640am a few days ago and continued to fight the petition. To discredit it, he stated that there would be “six at-large seats” in the new arrangement and that these six would be a “controlling majority.”
Ultimately, Benavente admitted he had no evidence to support his claims.
A Final Appeal
This isn’t going well, folks.
We’re spinning off the rails here, heading full-speed into a political nightmare, and there’s no good reason for it. Colvin recently stated that the purpose of the appeal is to seek “clarity.” I’m forced to ask what clarity exists in trying to overturn the results of an election. Recent attempts to do so only caused hate, division, violence, and distrust in our system of government. If you want “clarity,” let the people decide, and then honor their decision.
Politicians like to stay in power. As a result, they’re unlikely to change the method of their own election, if they can help it. Such is the case in Fayetteville at the present moment.
North Carolina law provides a way for citizens to change the way they elect their municipal leaders:
In a Chapter entitled “MODIFICATION OF FORM OF GOVERNMENT” lives this statute:
§ 160A-104. Initiative petitions for charter amendments.
The people may initiate a referendum on proposed charter amendments. An initiative petition shall bear the signatures and resident addresses of a number of qualified voters of the city equal to at least ten percent (10%) of the whole number of voters who are registered to vote in city elections according to the most recent figures certified by the State Board of Elections or 5,000, whichever is less…
Upon receipt of a valid initiative petition, the council shall call a special election on the question of adopting the charter amendments proposed therein, and shall give public notice thereof in accordance with G.S. 163-287. The date of the special election shall be fixed on a date permitted by G.S. 163-287. If a majority of the votes cast in the special election shall be in favor of the proposed changes, the council shall adopt an ordinance amending the charter to put them into effect….
A group of people in Fayetteville wanted to change our city council from nine single-member districts to five single-member districts and four at-large seats.
Everything was on track to have the issue submitted to the voters of Fayetteville in the upcoming November election.
Colvin and Company
Mayor Colvin and five members of the City Council recently voted to table the issue. They won’t give voters the choice in November.
The reason they give: a form wasn’t filled out.
I’m not kidding.
Here’s the law they say wasn’t followed. It’s in a different chapter dealing with “Petitions for Elections and Referenda”:
§ 163-218. Registration of notice of circulation of petition.
From and after July 1, 1957, notice of circulation of a petition calling for any election or referendum shall be registered with the county board of elections with which the petition is to be filed, and the date of registration of the notice shall be the date of issuance and commencement of circulation of the petition.
Colvin’s been against at-large seats from the start, arguing that they will dilute minority voting power. This is incorrect, as I pointed out last year if you’re curious: