Strange Craven County Board of Commissioners Meeting

Watchdog Report
Craven County Board of Commissioners
3 April 2017
 The Craven Board of Commissioners meeting last Monday evening seemed strange to me. First, judging by the agenda, I expected a short meeting. However, upon Raynor’s and my arrival, we found the meeting room at full capacity. Seeing our friend, Tyker Gonzales, among the crowd, we knew that the cause was not anything on the agenda, but the folks there were concerned about the mistreatment of dogs by some of their owners in Craven County.
Under the Petition of Citizens portion of the agenda, Tyker gave the Board a written petition signed by around 1,400 Craven residents. Please, don’t hold me to the exact number; I didn’t write it down. Then, Tyker and two other citizens asked the Board to do something (pass an ordinance limiting tethering, requiring adequate water, food, and shelter to be provided, etc.) to stop mistreatment of dogs and, in the process, cut down on the number of times dogs attack people in the county. Some discussion followed, but no real action was taken.
Another strange thing happened next. Former Commissioner, Bill Harper, started to petition the Board against getting involved with the Global TransPark again. Commissioner Dacey said they had no intention of doing so, and Bill apologized and left the podium.  Actually, Bill was right-on in spirit! At their last meeting, the Commissioners did approve of joining North Carolina’s Southeastern Partnership which is another regional economic development scheme similar to the one that the county recently separated from. And the Global TransPark is in that region!   In fact, the Global TransPark will be touted as a big draw for the region. These regional boards always end up hiring consultants, lobbyists, etc., and costing taxpayers millions. Bill may not have gotten the wording literally correct, but he was spot on about what the county is up to; it’s a case of déjà vu.
After that, another strange thing happened. Chairman Mark made a statement that he could call a 5 minute recess for people who wished to leave to do so, BUT if they did not leave now, they would have to remain for the entire meeting. I WONDER HOW HE CAME UP WITH THAT ONE? Anyway, most of the citizens left. I have been to a lot of these Board meetings and have never seen that rule mentioned before. I do remember that Chairman Mark complained once about my leaving the meeting before the Commissioners’ reports (always at the end of their meetings) because that did not give them a chance to respond to my complaints. Funny, he often admonishers citizens not to direct their remarks at any one member of the Board. I DON’T KNOW WHERE HE GETS THAT ONE EITHER. I do recall that the county attorney once advised Mr. Mark that Mr. Humphrey could indeed make remarks directed at Commission Liner’s behavior.
Anyway, enough of that.
Another strange thing happened. Two different staff members asked for budget changes, explained what the money was to be used for, but neglected to say the dollar amount of the change. None of the budget changes was something that CCTA would object to, but it was as if the staff knew that the Board knew the dollar amounts (and so did I because I print the attachments to the agenda for me to refer to during the meetings), but It’s almost like the amounts of taxpayer dollars involved is not the business of the taxpaying citizens in attendance or who will watch on TV later. Maybe the numbers are frightening. The smallest was $45,000, and then it went to an amount of $4,493,874 from the “Education Lottery.” The amount of $1,100,000 was to be used to pay down the school debt. Commissioner Jones did ask about the full amount of the debt and was told, “Around $35 million.” Still, there was no mention of how much this payment was. Odd.
Chairman Mark asked if anyone in the “audience” ( I wish he would refer to “citizens in attendance” ) would like to write to our NC representatives and request that the General Assembly restore the participation of education funding in the lottery profits back to 47% from the current 17%. I THINK THAT MIGHT BE ARRANGED.
He also wanted people to try to get HB-13 passed. It has passed the House and is in a committee in the Senate. If passed, it will mitigate the cost of providing additional K-3 classrooms and teachers to reduce classroom populations as is currently mandated, but not funded, by the state according to the Commissioners. (I believe they were relying what they had been told by members of the Board of Education on this point.) Unless that is done, it was strongly implied that Craven County taxes will have to be raised. Again.
However, when speaking with a member of the General Assembly, I was told that some of that money had been provided by the state, but the local school district chose to use it another way. This can get confusing. Who’s on first? Ah well, the Commissioners and local legislators are planning to meet soon, so that will give them an opportunity to clear up any misunderstanding about the situation.
To get back to the strangeness of the Board of Commissioners’ meeting, I believe that can be explained by my belief that the meetings are “dog and pony shows” to look like the county’s business is conducted in the open, but that it is really only an illusion.
Whatever the cause, this was altogether a very strange, down-the-rabbit-hole sort of meeting!
Respectfully submitted,

 

Hal James,
CCTA Watchdog Committee Chairman

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