Apr 182012

News Channel 14 report on April 16 Board of Commissioners meeting

What you missed

Since most of the audience who attended the Commissioners meeting left before end of the meeting, they missed Commissioner comments. I have attended Commissioner meetings for 8 years and I don’t every recall a Commissioner calling a citizen a “Bald Face Liar” in public, like Commissioner Todd Johnson did Monday night. It coarsens the discourse between elected officials and the citizens they represent.

I do recall a Commissioner threaten another with a ‘Whuppin”, but most Commissioners treat citizens with a little more respect.

I am sure that Commissioner Johnson will publicly apologize for his remark. Not everybody understands how the budget process works, nor do they speak with intentional malice — they are worried about their children’s education.

The following clips from the meeting will fill in the gaps.

Public Comments by Todd Haynes

Commissioner Comments at the end of the meeting.

Jul 242011

By George Hendry

Shortly after the November elections for Union County Commissioner one of the three winning candidates Mr. Jerry Simpson closed out his campaign account on November 24, 2010.

The other two winning candidates Mr Todd Johnson and Mr Jonathan Thomas chose to leave their campaign accounts open and they remain open to this day.

In December 2010 after the elections were over, both Mr. Johnson and Mr. Thomas recieved $12,000.00 in their campaign accounts in the form of three $4000.00 checks each. Two were from the principals of Boggs Paving (Mr. David Boggs, $4000 to Mr Thomas and Mr. Drew Boggs, $4000 to Mr Johnson). The remaining four checks were from three principals of two associate firms with Boggs Paving for the Monroe By-Pass bid as follows, Mr. Jim Triplett of Charleston, SC ($4000 to Mr Thomas and $4000 to Mr Johnson), Mr. Doug Anderson of Old Town, FL ($4000 to Mr Thomas) and Mr. Brian Schreiber of White Springs, FL ($4000 to Mr Johnson). The campaign account records indicate all checks were received between Dec 7 and Dec 28 when both Mr Thomas and Mr Johnson were now sitting Union County Commissioners.

Assuming this issue comes to a vote before the Board of County Commissioners we do not know at this time how Mr. Thomas or Mr. Johnson may or may not vote assuming they do not recuse themselves. Since this is money given to a campaign account and not personal there is no technical reason to recuse themselves.

However this is a moral question that must be raised everytime a candidate or elected official receives money from a special interest. Why give the money if not wishing for favorable consideration on current and future issues that may come to the Board of County Commissioners and why accept the money if you don’t intend to try and help this special interest, if at all possible, on issues of their concern.
It will be interesting to watch how this plays out in the coming months.

New Kohls – Under construction on Rea Road.
Note: One of the 5 members of the Planning Board who approved this development (Jan 2011) is a high ranking employee of Boggs Paving.

Apr 082011

By Walker Davidson

While it appears County Commissioner Todd Johnson has not made any efforts to ease the burdens on Union County businesses, NC House Representative Craig Horn has.

In 2009 a state law was passed which requires equestrian centers to adhere to the same building code standards as other commercial businesses. It is the responsibility of the Union County government to enforce this law.

For many equestrian businesses in Union County the costs associated with meeting the new compliance standards could force these businesses to close.

Horn introduced a bill (Bill 329) that adds equestrian centers to the list of businesses exempt from the 2009 law. On Monday night the Union County BOCC unanimously passed a motion directing staff to draft a resolution in support of Bill 329.

Considering Johnson’s campaign promises to eliminate unnecessary government constraints on businesses, it should be expected that Johnson would propose a resolution in support of Bill 329. He did not.

The commissioner who recognized and acted upon an opportunity to support Union County businesses was Tracy Kuehler. Kuehler proposed the resolution. She was able to lead the BOCC to unanimous support of the resolution.

Horn cited the BOCC’s resolution while making his case for passage of the bill on the house floor. Horn was able to lead the NC House to unanimous support of the bill.

Thomas Paine said that those involved in the political process should, “lead, follow, or, get out of the way.” Union County should appreciate Horn’s leadership and his efforts in this matter as well as Kuehler’s support of those efforts. At most, Union County can only thank Johnson for once again “getting out of the way.”

Apr 082011

By Walker Davidison

The English writer Gilbert K. Chesterton said, “When a politician is in
opposition he is an expert on the means to some end; and when he is in office he
is an expert on the obstacles to it.” How are County Commissioners Todd
Johnson, Jonathan Thomas, and Jerry Simpson doing in fulfilling the promises
they made as candidates?

The County Budget

During the campaign Johnson, Thomas, and Simpson pledged to cut taxes. Although
he admitted he had not studied the budget in detail, Thomas was adamant that he
could find enough waste in the budget to cut the county tax rate.

Johnson stated that he personally despises taxes. He claimed that services such
as education and public safety could be protected while at the same time cutting

Those who had looked at the county budget in detail could see that a crisis was
looming. The county would have to carry more of the burden of funding the
schools as the federal and state governments reduced education funding. A
reduction in the county tax rate could only be achieved through a reduction in
school funding which makes up 60% of the county budget.

Thomas assured voters than no one was more concerned about schools than he was.
He dismissed suggestions that his budget plan would cut funding to schools and
said, “We do not have to cut teachers, but find ways to operate more efficiently
to ensure our teachers have what they need to provide a quality education.”

Everyone has learned a lot since the election. Commissioner Thomas reminded
voters of his campaign promise regarding taxes during a recent BOCC meeting.
However, this time he stated that his promise was “not to raise taxes.”
Apparently Thomas has become an expert on the obstacles involved in reducing the
tax rate.

What are the results from the search for significant cost savings in the budget?
County Manager Cindy Coto addressed that issue recently by saying that it looks
like the former BOCC already made the cuts that could be made without
compromising the quality of county services.

The promise to lower taxes has led to a proposed cut to school funding. The
BOCC has asked the school system to accept an $8 million cut in county funding.
Will this cut hurt the service level of the schools? UCPS Superintendent Ed
Davis said, in April of 2010, “the educational standards in Union would suffer
if the county does not recognize the schools’ need for more money.”

It is comforting to know that Thomas feels that no one is more concerned about
schools than he is. Although it is troubling that he also said there was no
bigger pet lover on the BOCC than him right before he voted to eliminate the
Animal Care Committee.

Economic Development

During the campaign Johnson criticized the BOCC for its lack of action in
addressing the county’s high unemployment rate. He presented newspaper articles
showing new jobs coming to other counties as proof that Union County was missing
out on job creation opportunities. He said the unemployment rate in Union
County had soared 25% since 2008 and suggested the BOCC was somehow responsible.
He claimed that county government put too many constraints on businesses.
However, he never listed what those constraints were.

Johnson promised that he would bring high paying jobs to Union County. His
first step in this effort would be to “establish an immediate task force of
business leaders from all around our area and many diverse industries.” Johnson
said the purpose of this task force would be to help county government learn how
to “get out of the way” so that businesses can grow and create jobs.

Since becoming Commissioner, Johnson has not provided any status reports to the
public on his task force of business leaders. He has not provided a list of the
constraints the county places on businesses that are preventing job creation.
So far it appears his only accomplishment has been to “get out of the way.”

As a candidate Thomas said, “I promise to the citizens this (attracting
businesses to Union County) will be my top priority as commissioner.” Thomas is
an investor in the Union County Partnership for Progress (UCPP). The county has
paid this organization millions of dollars to attract businesses to the county.
Since becoming Commissioner, Thomas has not provided any status reports on
UCPP’s efforts to the public.

Johnson, Thomas, and Simpson may claim that they are indeed working to fulfill
some of these promises. It would be helpful if they would update the public on
their progress. After all, they promised to bring open and transparent
government to Union County.