Mayor Dana Outlaw’s appointment of the conservative founder of the Citizen in New Bern Facebook page to the New Bern Housing Authority Board of Directors has drawn scorn from civil rights activists.
“Abhorrent action taken by Mayor Outlaw in appointing Chris Ormond to the Housing Authority board — a committee that disproportionately impacts the lives of our marginalized communities here in New Bern,” Kelly Rogers posted to the Facebook group, NB Against Racism.
“Atrocious action by the New Bern Mayor appointing a hateful bigot such as Chris Ormond to the housing authority. What does Chris know about these issues? What experience does he have? He has used his platform on Citizen in New Bern to attack a black female elected by the the vote of the people of New Bern, endangering her life and attacking her personally. All politics are local. This is repulsive because Chris is an ignorant and willfully hateful person,” said a post of the self-identified libertarian Facebook page, Citizen in Craven County.
And this from the Project Restore Facebook page: “What do we do with ‘citizens’ in New Bern who have a history of harassing or endangering the lives of black women elected or appointed to positions of power, and that moderate pages that continuously slander and insult the ideals and struggles of our black and brown communities publicly? We appoint them to the local Housing Authority Board, and then hold the meetings in a historically relevant establishment in the black community further adding insult to injury. Thanks City of New Bern, NC Government, for continuing to deflate our confidence that you’re erecting the best the community has to offer to ensure fair treatment of ALL New Bernians and not just the people you like!!! #PayAttention #GOTV“
Mayor Outlaw appointed Ormond to the board.
Ormond, who used to produce a videoblog called “Asked and Answered,” said he had no comments about his appointment to the board, adding that he is not an elected representative. The implication is that only elected representatives need to answer inquiries from the press.
However, minutes after being contacted by the Post, his page posted a screen shot of a message he received from Mayor Outlaw. The message, which Ormond said he did not post, had a time stamp but not a date. It said: “Mr Ormond. While I did not get a chance to talk with you at the recent Housing Authority meeting I did want to thank you for all of your hard work and questions you are asking to ensure that the residents of New Bern receive adequate affordable housing. The quality of life for our residents is much better under your leadership because of your concern for accountability.”
For his part, Mayor Outlaw had this to say when asked about the appointment:
“I would encourage you or any other concerned individuals to do your homework prior to making any comments on the performance of Commissioner Ormond on the Housing Authority.”
Outlaw did not respond to a request for clarification and further information.
Ormond created the Facebook page called Citizen in New Bern in 2017 (it was called Citizens of New Bern back then) to go along with his video blog. What started as a mostly hyper-local commentary on New Bern issues has evolved into a curated collection of conservative memes and comments.
Ormond has been critical of Alderwoman Jameesha Harris, rallying his 51,830 Facebook page followers against what he characterized was anti-free speech and anti-gun rights stances.
The Facebook page, which he says is moderated by several people who he has not identified, regularly posts Pro Life, pro-MAGA, pro-Trump, anti-Democrat, anti-BLM, anti-LGBT, and other anti-progressive comments and shares.
One video posted on the site earlier today was from a church pastor condemning gays.
“You may have heard of the page ‘Citizen in New Bern’ that regularly engages in hateful rhetoric to divert attention from the very real issues that our friends are suffering under every single day in this town,” Rogers posted. “This is a grossly negligent act on behalf of New Bern City’s government and should be addressed with urgency. The Housing Authority has failed at keeping low-income residents in safe, affordable housing and should be held accountable for their inaction on behalf of our most vulnerable populations. We value their safety and expect the advisors to hold the same level of respect and care for them as they would their own family. Housing Justice is a human rights issue and a systemic racism is a housing crisis — join me in advocating for his immediate removal and replacement by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org with a detailed note explaining the harmful nature of his decision (because apparently that’s not glaringly obvious enough for him).”
Rogers is active in the New Bern Black Lives Matter movement and other civil rights causes. Her comment drew a number of comments from group members.
“This is terrible! What kind of recourse do we have? There must be something,” one said.
“Why does someone like that want to work on public issues, except to break stuff?” said another.
“It’s not like Mr Outlaw is any better, the both of those ignorant goons need to be gone. Only reason we don’t hear Outlaws disgusting way of thinking in the public is because he wants to keep his kush position,” said another.
Dana Outlaw’s Housing Authority
Outlaw, meanwhile, has been active in shaping the New Bern Housing Authority for years.
The board had been expanded in order to muster enough votes to oust an executive director who disagreed with the official vision for Craven Terrace. In exchange for a severance package, the outgoing executive was subject to a non-disclosure agreement — something common in private business but unheard of in public government (at least until President Trump took office).
Craven Terrace management was outsourced and some buildings subject to flooding were razed, while other buildings were renovated. Meanwhile, Trent Court, located on the banks of Lawson Creek, was ravaged by Hurricane Florence with buildings closest to the water condemned, including the Housing Authority headquarters.
The Housing Authority is building an apartment building off Carolina Avenue to house some displaced Trent Court residents, and the plan is to raze some Trent Court buildings and redevelop the ensuing vacant land under the auspices of the New Bern Redevelopment Project.
Outlaw has indicated he does not plan to run for re-election next year and ran unsuccessfully for the late U.S. Rep. Walter Jones’ unexpired term. Outlaw ran as a Democrat, but has since re-registered as a Republican, he told the Post in a previous interview.
Aldermen and mayor candidates will be running for a five-year seat next year, with following elections being held in normal mid-term election years for four-year terms.
Kelly Rogers said it is disturbing to have Ormond on the Housing Authority board when there are so many others in the community who would be better suited.
“The role of Commissioner on the Housing Authority Board is essentially advocacy work — the solution to the current crisis facing our low-income families is going to take strategic decision making and skilled, holistic analysis of the systemic inequities that regularly bleed into workforce housing,” Rogers told the Post today.
“This next batch of incoming developments will be crucial in supporting an invaluable facet of our infrastructure that dictates whether the population that it serves will be housed or homeless. New Bern is facing a very direct struggle with unethical managerial practices in existing subsidies, and I would hate to see those struggles perpetuated by individuals who may not see them clearly in the first place. I believe we have many compassionate and qualified citizens that are able to fulfill the role and strongly encourage that the decision be re-examined or at least justified in some way. The only available source for doing any type of research currently is through his often anonymous, online presence with his Facebook group. That is concerning when we’re talking about appointed officials in our town.”