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Ugly Politics? Welcome to Mecklenburg.


It’s been an ugly two days on a couple of Mecklenburg County boards.

On Monday, the new town of Huntersville board was sworn in and shortly thereafter returning mayor Jill Swain called for a vote on her committee recommendations…recommendations that altered tradition and left top vote getters off of important committees.

House Guest Rick Short discusses the situation HERE. also chimes in with the following observations.

It didn’t take long for controversy to rear its ugly head in Huntersville.  Shortly after Thom Tillis swore in the new Huntersville Commissioners, Mayor Jill Swain asked for a vote on her committee “recommendations.”

Other towns give the voter a voice on where officials will serve. For instance, the top vote-getter in Cornelius serves on the critical CRTMPO (formerly MUMPO) committee.  Not so Huntersville.  Swain makes the appointments… on her own.

The result: despite dropping from the top vote-getter to fifth, despite this egregious action against the people she is supposed represent, Sarah McAulay is back on CRTMPO.

In fact, the Julian/Neely/McAulay slate fared pretty well. Out of thirteen committee assignments, they were appointed to ten even though they finished three/four/five in the election.

Swain limited the non-slate candidates to a single committee each. Mayor Pro-Tem Melinda Bales was appointed to the ineffectual LNTC.  Local businessman Danny Phillips, the second highest vote-getter, was appointed to the Arts & Sciences committee. Freshman Rob Kidwell was appointed to the Olde Huntersville Historical Society.

Meanwhile McAulay will serve on three committees, Julian and Neely two each.  These include powerhouse assignments like Planning, Chamber of Commerce, and CRTMPO.  Swain decided to leave vacant the CHEC (Community of Huntersville Education Collaborative), a seat Melinda Bales had filled.  Bales, the only commissioner with school-age children, had served on the CHEC previously and has been credited with rebuilding and revitalizing it.

Perhaps because of that last point Bales spoke up forcefully about the impropriety of the whole process. But in a sign of things to come, Bales, Phillips and Kidwell voted against Swain’s recommendation and Julian, Neely and McAulay voted for.  Swain broke the tie.

What does this have to do with toll lanes on I-77? We caught a glimpse of how Huntersville politics works. The results speak for themselves: the voice of the voter is ignored after Election Day.

Meanwhile, on the Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners, Chairwoman Pat Cotham was ousted from her position on Tuesday evening by fellow Democrats in a 5-4 vote.Cotham had been a voice of reason and fairness on the BOCC, and also instrumental in making some important changes…not the least of which was the termination of long time County Manager Harry Jones.

Her replacement will be Trevor Fuller, the first term commissioner who placed third in the at-large race.  Dumont Clarke was elected as Vice-Chair.

It’s clear that there is going to be a change of tone coming from this board.  That’s disappointing.  The first test will be how the continued search for the new County Manager proceeds…and whether the current pool of candidates will be scrapped.  It was leaked by Commissioner George Dunlap that each of the finalists was white.  How will this sit with new management backed by Commissioner Kim Ratliff who famously proclaimed her desire that the next manager not be a white male?

I guess we’ll see soon enough.

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