Well, last week wasn’t a good week for me. In fact, the past thirty days have been pretty much a disaster for the entire Fayetteville-Cumberland County community. They say bad news comes in threes, well recent actions, decisions and events add validity to that adage.
First, the city council did not approve the resolution to bring the Vote Yes Fayetteville initiative to the city’s voters. This problem is not dead yet, only seriously injured. It seems that the courts will have to intervene.
However, it is a near-perfect example of how our city’s leaders disregard their citizens and limit voter turnout and involvement in local government.
Currently, citizens of Fayetteville are only allowed two votes in a municipal election where nine district representatives and the mayor are elected. Approving the Vote Yes proposal would add four general districts giving each citizen six votes to decide the direction of our municipality. Six votes to two. What’s not to like?
On August 22, he was voted down and voted down 6 to 4 by the mayor and five inexperienced council members who put fear and personal agendas ahead of the welfare of the citizens of Fayetteville.
Then, second, came the stunning announcement from the Arts Council that there will be a rebranding of a successful Fayetteville tradition that brought over 25,000 citizens to historic downtown Fayetteville to celebrate the holiday of Christmas and kick off the holiday shopping season. Dickens’ vacation is over.
I highly doubt the idea to dismantle one of Fayetteville’s most successful events came from the Arts Council board and staff. Those of us who have worked on Dickens Holidays over the years know how much time and effort they put into making this community event diverse, accessible and inclusive. That was decades before diversity, equity and inclusion became “a thing”.
It’s laughable that any so-called “internal review” finds or could find otherwise. And since the City of Fayetteville and Cumberland County fund the Arts Council, many know where the mandate came from and where the resistance came from.
He seems to be racially motivated. Fayetteville is a very diverse community but not a racially divided community as members of our city and county government would have us believe. Leaders in city and county governments have mastered the game of playing the race card to amass personal power and prestige without regard for their constituents and without accountability or concern for the resulting consequences.
This kind of behavior in government will continue until all citizens, black and white, who love this community stand up and say enough! This tendency to create divisions by encouraging and promoting division and making false accusations of non-inclusion will only continue to deteriorate the foundations of our community.
As I write this editorial, my storefront has been ransacked, people have defecated in my parking lot, and the homeless are walking the streets of downtown toward their encampments in our downtown while officials ignore this egregious situation and have the citizens of the community sit by in the dark, silent and afraid to speak out for fear of being undone.
Many leave this community to live elsewhere. Those who remain, sitting on the sidelines, no longer engage or contribute their time, talent and resources. Fayetteville and Cumberland County are on a bad streak with a serious leadership crisis at all levels which brings me to the third unfortunate development last week.
We have lost one of the smartest, hardest working and most dedicated CEOs since former House Speaker John Swope. His departure should serve as a resounding wake-up call to all who love and care about this community. Public Works Board executive Elaina Ball came here because she wanted to make a difference. She was aggressive, methodical, and unafraid to take on the great challenges facing Fayetteville and Cumberland County. She turned us away from the ruse of Bernhard Capital Partners, tackled the Texfi contamination situation that would have turned Fayetteville into a toxic wasteland in 20 years. Additionally, she was taking care of the Chemours problem, working to bring clean water back to the community of Gray’s Creek.
Anyone close to Ball or working with her knows her greatest frustration has come from local government processes that move slowly and with little sense of priority or urgency. Communications between local agencies were often extremely poor or non-existent.
Ball is a dedicated CEO who helps those who help themselves. She’s moved on to bigger and better opportunities and we’re glad she left her mark here and a better off community than she was. We wish him the best.
In the meantime, I hope these situations over the past few weeks serve as a wake-up call to our local leaders.
Time is running out and our time is running out to make Fayetteville a viable community we can be proud of.
Thanks for the reading Up and coming every week.