Friday, November 7, 2014

Charlotte's leadership continues to give us good reason to be cynical

Posted By on Fri, Nov 7, 2014 at 11:43 AM

If there’s one unifying message to be gleaned from this week’s mid-term elections — something the voters were trying to say to politicians and other public officials across the board, coast to coast — it’s that we’re all really sick of what you’re doing “in our name.” We’re disgusted by “the process,” and if not the outright lies, then the half-truths, the spin and the way in which our “leaders” try to put “lipstick on a pig” to cover their own butts. And in that respect, there are three major developing stories relative to the residents of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg area that we simply can’t ignore as the weekend approaches.

Let’s start by updating you on the situation concerning the “resignation” of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools superintendent Heath Morrison. We were among the first to tell you, Monday morning, that something very strange was up concerning the guy once named National Superintendent of the Year. We had gotten word that he was about to be fired by the School Board last week over both what amounted to his insubordination in moving forward with programs that had not been approved by the Board, and in the abusive, disrespectful ways he had been treating staff members.

But the day passed with no one being willing to either confirm or deny those reports, let alone whether or not Morrison was leaving, until late in the day when we were told an absurd story about how he had resigned to care for his ailing mother. Really? On about 24 hours notice? Right before a critical vote involving a sales-tax referendum to increase teacher salaries was going before the voters? Did the School Board think we were all stupid?

Evidently so. It appears they think we’re all still dumb, because on Thursday, behind closed doors, the Board finalized a separation agreement with Morrison — without disclosing the terms of that agreement. And that’s where the lessons of this week’s elections have been ignored. Hiding behind bureaucratic gibberish about laws concerning an employee’s privacy rights, we’re now told they can’t tell us what really happened — even if it involved official misconduct on Morrison’s part.

Here’s the truth: Everyone’s covering their butts. And that’s not OK. But that’s just one story concerning the failures of our leaders this week.

On Tuesday, Mecklenburg County voters overwhelmingly chose Pat Cotham as their top choice as an At-Large member of the Board of County Commissioners. Ella Scarborough returned to public office and came in second, 18,000 votes behind, and Trevor Fuller came in third, trailing Cotham by 22,000 votes. Those are not small gaps — those are landslide results. Traditionally, the top vote-getter of the majority party becomes the chairperson, so that should be Cotham. But Fuller is the current chair, having taken that post when the position was stripped from Cotham in an ugly fight late last year.

Cotham could have taken her cookies and, smarting from that slap, slinked off into the night. But she didn’t do that. Instead, she rededicated herself to her job, arguably working harder than anyone else, going to more community events, reaching across the political divide (which probably led to her removal from the top spot in the first place) and holding her head high instead of pouting. Clearly, the voters noticed. They liked what they saw and have now spoken.

Meanwhile, Fuller is the one who stumbled. He made a total mess out of the move to put a quarter-cent increase in the local sales-tax on the ballot, to increase teacher salaries and for other needs. A bitter fight ensued, not just over the merits of the measure, but in the manner in which it was done. And on Tuesday, that initiative was defeated, soundly, by a huge majority.

But here’s the mystifying development that’s arisen behind the scenes over the past few days: The talk is that Fuller is going to try to hold on to his chairmanship, and that Scarborough will take the No. 2 spot. Really? How, exactly, is that responsive to your constituents? It’s not, and before that's official, you, the voters of Mecklenburg County, need to make that clear, again, to the commissioners who will be choosing their chair on Dec. 1.

One more outrage of the week: We’ve all heard by now that Charlotte’s former mayor, Patrick Cannon, has shown himself to be so ... stupid ... as to have illegally voted in the recent election. That’s exasperating enough, but doesn’t, by itself, merit its inclusion in this listing. What raises it to that level is the fact that Judge Whitney yesterday, instead of sending Cannon immediately to begin his prison sentence, merely sent him to home confinement, with an ankle bracelet to monitor his movements. How is that punishment worthy of his crime? How would that go to reassure us that a message has been sent to those responsible for upholding the integrity of our voting process that such wrong-doing will not be tolerated, and that there will be severe penalties going forward? Answer: It doesn’t.

One would like to think that our leaders might have gotten some messages from the voting we did this week. We’d like to believe someone’s listening to our angst, and that there were a few individuals in positions of responsibility who were dedicated to doing the right things, for a change.

But, sadly, it looks like we’d be wrong. And that’s not just cynicism talking — it’s being observant of what’s happening right in front of our eyes. We’ll stay on this, doing our best to hold their feet to the fire. Obviously, someone has to.

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