To the editor:
For the past six years we have watched the government of Swansboro become a quagmire of hand-picked panels, studies, rewritten ordinances, well-paid consulting firms (which anyone – even non-residents of North Carolina – can answer), grants, loans and backroom deals completed before residents even know about them. We now are invited to take a course in how to understand our town and navigate the bureaucratic maze town hall has become.
Has the emphasis on parks and rec been for the people of Swansboro or is it to provide a selling point for developers who want to bring high-density housing to this area? Since much, if not most, of this development isn’t within city limits, those of us paying taxes will watch our money used to provide services and “amenities” for this development while the real value of our property falls. A ride through town will show a whole lot of for rent and for sale signs. And even though the town has lowered the tax rate, the next revaluation will undoubtedly raise property values – which means higher taxes on existing property, even if sale or rent of our property is depressed by too much new construction.
We were presented with a “done deal” to use grant money to build a marina; not for the people of Swansboro but to provide for transients who will dock for a while and spend a few dollars in town. The people of Swansboro will pay for services, insurance, utilities, staff and repairs for at least 20 years. Where is the grant money or allocation of tax money to provide the sidewalks the town is determined to require (whether they are wanted and appropriate or not)? It is hardly comforting that, at the manager’s whim, we can simply pay the town not to force us to install a sidewalk. To call this a form of tax is much too polite a term for what it really is.
Our elected officials have given an enormous amount of power to an unelected manager who need not answer to anyone. After all, his contract insures his position through the next election. It does not matter how competent or likeable a manger is. What matters is who manages a manager? It is not the voters of Swansboro.
Those who disagree with the direction the town is headed are dismissed as negative, anti-progress or wishing to return to candles and privies. Many are not afraid to speak out, especially at public meetings, for fear of being belittled or worse, ignored. We’ve seen petitions ignored or deemed too biased for consideration. We’ve seen workshops (where citizens cannot speak) replace the open forum of a true town meeting. And town meetings, which appear to be well controlled and scripted to produce pre-determined votes. Town hall ignores opposition then claims they have the support of the people because no one opposes them!
When the town pays Wooten more than $20,000 to bury the overwhelming support for a 35-foot height limit, is it any wonder the people don’t attend so-called “public meetings?” The spin that using tax money to benefit a few will, somehow, be good for us all will continue. Maybe not all oppose current policies, but many do and they cannot be heard through a stone wall.
Perhaps we don’t need a course to understand our government and navigate the maze of town hall. Maybe we need town hall to understand common sense and the meaning of government of, by and for the people. Let us hope a few citizens who see through the hype coming from town hall and who have no self-serving agenda will come forth as candidates for November’s election. There is still time.
Mary Ellen Yanich
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