Early voting begins on October 20 and voters have a golden opportunity to fill three seats on the Board of Commission (BOC) with folks who actually have our best interests at heart. Here are just a few things to consider.
In one of the most asinine actions ever, all five current commissioners passed an unneeded resolution earlier this year supporting HB2. Many think the law only addresses which bathroom we should use when in actuality it affects us in other ways such as denying local governments the ability to increase the minimum wage above the state’s minimum wage.
Since its passage, HB2 has cost the state $400 million in lost revenue from the cancellation of sporting events, concerts and employment opportunities. But the biggest danger is the $4.5 billion in annual federal funding we’re at risk of losing as the Justice Department has notified the state that HB2 violates nondiscrimination clauses in seven federal laws. Imagine the potential impact on our local school system, among others.
As I said in an earlier commentary, it takes a special kind of ignorance to support a measure openly embracing discrimination and bringing national negative publicity; particularly when the county relies on tourism as a major source of income.
The 18 month debacle surrounding the High Impact Land Use Ordinance (HILUO) is another major consideration. Initiated when Appalachian Materials Group asked to build an asphalt plant in Glendale Springs last June, the request ultimately resulted in the BOC brow-beating its own planning board and unanimously approving a setback making it virtually impossible for new industries to locate in the county with the jobs they’d bring.
While I agree the planning board’s initial suggestion of a 1,000 foot setback wasn’t enough, the BOC countered with a ridiculous mandate of a 2,500 foot setback. Commissioner Roark made clear the Board’s real intention on March 7 when he expressed his disapproval of another asphalt plant, with its jobs, locating in the county. “I have no intention of padding the wallet of someone outside Ashe County,” he emphasized.
At the time, planning board member Arvill Scott said he was insulted by the BOC as the HILUO was not intended to single out one industry. When it was later pointed out that a 2,500 foot setback allowed for only one site in the entire county, the BOC approved a 2,000 foot setback that only makes a few more sites available.
Rather than working with the planning board to reach a reasonable compromise setback protecting citizens and making it inviting for industries to locate here the BOC again acted foolishly. Regrettably, long-time planning board member Scott, acting on principle, resigned. Said Scott of the decision, “It eliminates all industry from coming to Ashe County, but if that’s what the commissioners want, so be it.”
In yet another stunning move of financial irresponsibility, Commissioners Roark, Rose and Richardson voted to extend County Manager Sam Yearick’s contract for two more years and increase his severance from $85,000 to $170,000 should a future BOC terminate him. Voters can smell the putrid stench of their fear swirling in the air as this is obviously a move to make it difficult to fire their ideological hand puppet should competent candidates be elected in November.
Defying common business practice dictating contracts are typically extended when they come due, these financial midgets acted even though his current contract doesn’t expire for more than a year. They did the same thing recently with the Ashe Medics contract.
But the commissioners went even further and granted Yearick a $600 monthly car allowance to drive his personal vehicle, adding $7,200 to his annual salary. Will that money also be used to pay for Yearick’s commute to his home in Caldwell County? Many readers may be surprised to learn our county manager bunks at his mother’s house here in Ashe County during the week and commutes to his real home on weekends. Why, commissioners, don’t we have a county manager who’s actually invested in our county and one who has to live with the decisions he makes?
Gary Roark is the remaining member of the Poe, Price, Roark legacy that fired two highly competent county managers without providing any public explanation. Before Roark invited me out to the Hardee’s parking lot earlier this year, he made sure to brag about how much he, Judy Poe and Gerald Price had done for the county. What he really meant was what they’d done to the county. That’s who Roark identifies with: the ethically disgraced Poe and government-hating sovereign citizen Price. Roark is a special case who needs to be voted off the BOC, like Poe and Price were, so he has more time to do what he does best, pontificate and share tall tales with his posse at Hardee’s.
We need competent people and fresh ideas on our BOC. We need commissioners who act in our best interest rather than their personal ideological beliefs. We need three new commissioners elected next month and we have a slate of highly qualified candidates to choose from. Vote for the best people regardless of party affiliation.
Ken Lynn is a retired USAF colonel. He’s an adjunct online instructor with the USAF Air University. The views expressed here are his own.