Category: New Bern Post
The board of aldermen without a ward system might as well look like this photo, taken just before new board members took their seats on Dec. 12. Post photo
I keep hearing that New Bern’s ward system is outdated and unnecessary, and that all members of the Board of Aldermen should be elected at-large, the same way the mayor is elected.
Getting rid of the ward system would accomplish two things:
- It would put serving on the board out of reach for all but anyone who is wealthy enough to buy their way into office.
- It would leave New Bern’s less affluent neighborhoods without local representation and focus the spending of tax dollars on parts of the city that need it the least.
Imagine a city without a ward system in which you have a problem and aren’t getting anywhere at city hall. Who would you call? Would you pick an alderman at random? Or call the mayor?
Now, at least, you have an advocate who lives in or near your neighborhood and who is directly responsive to your needs and, if he or she fails to do the job, can be unseated much more easily than someone who is elected at-large.
Without the ward system, money would flow to a specific few who would do the best job representing those who have money.
The closest we have come to an at-large alderman just left office: E.T. Mitchell. When Pat Schaible resigned her seat as Ward 3 alderman, Mitchell was hand-picked by certain members of the Board of Aldermen.
During one of those “public meetings” when it is clear the board had no interest in listening to what the public said, the board room was filled with people supported one applicant for the job: Retired New Bern fire chief Bobby Aster. A petition was presented with hundreds of signatures from people supporting Aster.
E.T. Mitchell wasn’t at the meeting, and there was not one person in the audience there to support her being appointed as alderman.
In short, the board ignored the wishes of Ward 3 residents by appointing Mitchell over Aster.
Mayor Dana Outlaw said Mitchell brought experience and skills to the board, whereas all Aster brought was his experience as fire chief (his job before he retired). Never mind that Aster had filled many key positions in city hall, up to and including city manager.
So what did Mitchell accomplish during her year as an alderman?
She worked on goals set out for her by the mayor and other members of the board (which means, mainly, Ward 6 Alderman Jeffrey Odham).
On its face that sounds great, but it put her in a sort of unique position on the board: no other alderman or the mayor had their agenda set for them by other members of the board.
While Ward 3 may have been represented, it was the only ward during that year whose alderman’s main purpose was accomplishing tasks set out for her by aldermen from other wards.
Ward 3 is a fairly affluent ward: it includes New Towne, parts of Ghent, Taberna and Carolina Colours — just the sort of people who would spend money to elect their kind of alderman. Yet their wishes went ignored. I wonder, how did that make them feel?
Now imagine a board of aldermen where all seven members come from New Bern’s most affluent neighborhoods. How well do you think those members would represent residents of New Bern’s middle-income and low-income neighborhoods?
I remember a “let them eat cake” conversation between Pat Schaible and my wife. This was at a time when the Board of Aldermen was trying to shove the City Market idea down the throats of the Farmer’s Market board.
My wife was alarmed that the City Market concept included a band shell. City Market, located on First Street, backs up to the Ghent neighborhood, and my wife pointed out to Schaible that there are babies living right across the street from the band shell location, not to mention a whole neighborhood of families nearby.
Schaible said she would love to have a band shell in her neighborhood. I rather doubt that.
But Schaible wasn’t representing residents of her ward. She was representing “the city.”
You have to be careful when your elected leaders represent “the city” over its residents. Just ask people in Ferguson, Mo., and Flynt, Mich., about that.
Keep power as local as possible, and the only way to do that is preserving the ward system.
Posted in Aldermen, Board of Aldermen, Mayor, New Bern Post, Opinion Tagged with: opinion
Odds and ends I’ve collected over the past week.
Could it be?
In October, aldermen approved $15,876 to allow for New Bern Police special operations to attack the opioid epidemic. I sent an inquiry to the city for additional information about this. Here is the response:
Chief (Toussaint) Summers is at a conference & I (city public relations director Colleen Roberts) wanted to make sure to touch base with him about the New Bern Police Department budget and your inquiry. He has responded that the money will be used for special investigative purposes. That is all the detail that can be provided.
Well that wasn’t very informative, but a law enforcement source I spoke with this week speculated the money could be used by undercover agents to buy drugs from drug dealers. Sort of a revolving loan, so to speak.
If you build it, will they come?
Coming up Tuesday at New Bern’s Planning and Zoning Board is a proposed subdivision of 546 acres to create two residential subdivisions totaling 253 lots near Carolina Colours and almost as big as it.
Like Carolina Colours, Taberna and Greenbrier, it would replace former Weyerhaeuser timberlands with a fairly dense residential neighborhood. Collectively it will be called Bluewater Rise.
GIS map. Parcel is outlined in aqua. Craven County GIS
It has been more than a decade, before the Great Recession, since a housing development this large has been proposed for New Bern.
Hutton Pointe at Bluewater Rise would subdivide 115 acres into a 151-lot planned unit development.
Bendigo Bay at Bluewater Rise would subdivide 61 acres into a 112-lot planned unit development.
A knowledgeable source was hoping the units will be in the $200,000 range rather than the $300,000-plus range at neighboring — and not yet built-out — Carolina Colours. New Bern still has a surplus of 300k-plus housing, while houses in the $200k range are selling well, my source said.
Bluewater Rise joins Craven 30 (off U.S. 70 and the N.C. 43 Connector) as major housing subdivisions in the area that are envisioned but not quite there yet.
An idea whose time has past
Craven County Commissioner Scott Dacey was ready to jump at the opportunity for the county to convey its tax office for a city parking structure at Craven and Pollock streets. His idea was for the tax office to move into the New Bern-Craven County Public Library building on Johnson Street, and move the library to the campus of Craven Community College, joining a library project that is being planned and is already funded there.
Dacey’s plan included enhancing public transportation to get people to the new library location, with the added benefit of providing better transportation service to the college.
His idea never got off the table; he could not muster the support to form a feasibility study committee.
Dacey is giving up his seat on the Board of Commissioners and is running against U.S. Rep.-for-life Walter Jones.
The Craven County Board of Commissioners meets at 7 p.m. Monday at the county administration building on Broad Street. Among other things, the board will select a new chairman and will hold a public hearing on a proposed animal cruelty ordinance. A key provision of the ordinance is a rule that says that animals will not be tethered, unless they are. Agenda details here.
Hat’s off to the Firemen’s Museum
The New Bern Firemen’s Museum dedicated a fire house bell on Friday commemorating the three
Dedication of the fire house bell at the New Bern Firemen’s Museum on Friday. Facebook Live
firefighters who gave their all in the line of duty. The New Bern Fire Department has a long and rich history, and the museum is filled with a treasure trove of fire exhibits, vintage firefighting equipment, a narrative history of the Great New Bern Fire of 1922, and one horse head. Really, you need to go see it all. The building and collection are owned by the city, but managed and funded by volunteers who raised around $1 million to move into the current location and enhance the exhibit. More here. Videos here.
Docks are installed at Union Point Park on the Trent River to replace docks damaged and destroyed during Hurricane Matthew. City of New Bern photo
In your face, Matthew!
From a City of New Bern tweet: Perfect morning to be on the dock! The docks at Union Point Park that were lost during Hurricane Matthew have been rebuilt and are being installed today. Thanks FEMA.
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Posted in New Bern Post, Opinion
You should know that the original version of this article has been taken down following a cease and desist demand from GateHouse Media.
I was the executive editor at the Sun Journal until October 2017, when I resigned for personal and professional reasons.
Once I discovered that at least one Sun Journal telemarketer was misrepresenting the circumstances of my departure from the company, I posted my resignation letter along with a memo I wrote just prior to my resignation. A short time later, GateHouse Media sent me a cease and desist demand, which I present here in its entirety:
December 14, 2017
Mr. Randy Foster
Re: Your Legal Obligation to GateHouse Media, LLC
Dear Mr. Foster:
I am General Counsel of GateHouse Media, Inc. (“GateHouse”). GateHouse Media is the ultimate parent of the publisher of the New Bern Sun Journal (“New Bern”). I write to remind you of your continuing legal obligations to GateHouse under State and Federal law.
While you were employed by GateHouse, you were given access to unique, confidential, and proprietary business information including information regarding management options for potential layoffs. It has come to our attention that you are publishing such information on your personal blog – http://newbempost.com/myside. Under State and Federal law, the use of such confidential and proprietary information in this manner is prohibited. Further, State and Federal law dictate that you not disclose such confidential and proprietary information to anyone, or use such information for your own benefit or the benefit of others.
To the extent that you are using such information, we request that you immediately cease and desist from such use. Should GateHouse discover that this practice is continuing we will seek an injunction against and damages from all appropriate parties for such misuse.
We certainly trust and expect that you will fully comply with your obligations to GateHouse under State and Federal law, and that no legal action by GateHouse to protect its rights will be necessary. This letter sets forth our position on the matters contained herein and should not be deemed to restrict, prejudice, waive or limit any of our rights or remedies under contract, at law or in equity.
Very Truly Yours,
Polly Granfield Sack
Sr. Vice President, Secretary And General Counsel
I responded that I complied with their demand and took the memos offline, but made a cease and desist demand of my own:
Dear Mrs. Sack:
I am sole owner and operator of the local news website, NewBernPost.com, and a former GateHouse Media employee. I have complied with your cease and desist request in your Dec. 14 letter to me. I removed the article from public access on the evening of Dec. 14, along with social media links to the referenced. It will remain offline while I discuss the matter with my lawyer.
Meanwhile, I am requesting that GateHouse Media and Coastal ENC Group, their officers and representatives, cease and desist from misrepresenting the reason for my resignation from GateHouse Media, and cease and desist from disseminating private personnel records and information about me in violation of state and federal laws and your own company policy.
I expect a timely reply in which you explain steps that will be taking to satisfy my requests. Should I discover that this practice is continuing, I will seek an injunction against and damages from all appropriate parties for such misuse.
I certainly trust and expect that you will fully comply with your obligations to me under state and federal law and GateHouse Media policies, and that no legal action by me to protect my rights will be necessary. This letter sets forth my position on the matters contained herein and should not be deemed to restrict, prejudice, waive or limit any of my rights or remedies under contract, at law or in equity.
Very Truly Yours,
Posted in New Bern Post, News Media, Opinion
It’s been about a month since I launched my local news site, https://www.newbernpost.com, as a hobby and as a personal mission to keep a journalistic watch over local government since that responsibility has been shirked by the local corporate-owned news media, including the Sun Journal, where I was executive editor until last month.
I don’t post every day … early on, I posted once or twice a week. This week, it looks like I will be posting most days. But this is a hobby, a spare time thing, and I have a day job and other responsibilities.
Over the last two weeks of October, starting with the launch on Oct. 17, my site had 210 visitors, with 741 views for 16 posts. I had just started the Post’s Facebook page.
Today, following the first two weeks of November, my November numbers are 1,215 visitors, with 3,593 views for 21 posts.
My Facebook wall has 281 likes and 296 followers.
The audience numbers are nothing spectacular, but enough to lull me into thinking my time spent on it is worthwhile.
There are many more things I would like to do, but they are all of the scope that would require me to pay full attention to New Bern Post, which I can’t afford.
Meanwhile, a reader asked me if I would be selling advertising or subscriptions. My answer about advertising is, no. I don’t think I have the audience number to deliver value to an advertiser. As for subscriptions, I don’t want to restrict access to my site because I think it defeats the purpose of shining light on what local leaders are doing.
I would not turn away contributions from people who value my work, or sponsorships from businesses who think what I am doing brings value to the community. That’s why I am adding Paypal Subscribe (and Unsubscribe) buttons to the site. If you are a business owner and want to discuss sponsoring the Post, please email me.
I have already reached the point where I am turning away news tips and offers for help from other local journalists, because they would open a floodgate that would be hard to close unless New Bern Post was my full-time job.
I have, however, partnered with another one-person local news site that specializes in community news and events (Wendy Card’s amazing New Bern Now site, http://www.newbernnow.com), because I think our content is complementary. We run the other’s RSS feeds on our respective websites.
If I have accomplished nothing else, I did this: the Sun Journal has resumed coverage of local city meetings. I sat next to its reporter at Tuesday’s Board of Aldermen meeting, the first time I have seen a reporter from any local news service, including TV, radio and print, since I started this site a month ago.
It delighted me to see the Sun Journal back where it belongs, and to spend time with a former colleague who I respect and admire.
Comments? Contact me
Posted in New Bern Post, News Media
Coming up Tuesday in the New Bern Post: Full coverage of the last Parking Advisory Committee meeting Tuesday afternoon and its final recommendations to the Board of Aldermen, and top-story coverage of Tuesday evening’s Board of Aldermen meeting.
Later this week, I’ll drill down into the minutiae.
Because I’m not looking to build an audience. I’m looking to build community awareness and civic involvement.
~ Randy Foster, New Bern Post
Got tips or comments?
Posted in Aldermen, Board of Aldermen, Mayor, New Bern, New Bern Post, News Media