Thursday, November 16, 2017

Lame duck Davidson advisory board appointments are not binding

One of the items passed by Davidson's outgoing "lame duck" Board on Tuesday included appointing 21 people to Davidson's various advisory Boards including Planning, Design Review, Public Art, and Livability.

The tradition of the outgoing Board making these appointments has been going on as long as aShortChronicle has been covering Davidson Town Hall.  In most cases, there isn't really anything wrong with that since as the saying goes "the new boss is the same as the old boss" after most elections.  However, that certainly is not the case this year.

aShortChronicle has learned that these appointments are not binding on the incoming Board of Commissioners.  With that in mind, it is strongly recommended that the new Board consider rolling back these appointments until they have time to review.

This is not a statement against any specific appointee.  However, in the wake of the wave election just completed the new Board of Commissioners and Mayor deserve to have a say in how the advisory boards they will be dealing with are populated.  Not only is the 21 appointments a large number, there are multiple new seats that have been added to these bodies as well.  At a minimum, the new Board should take a look at the new seats.  However, looking at the entire list to make sure it gets new blood and new thinking into town government is also warranted.

What aShortChronicle has learned is that while appointing bodies can make appointments for terms starting in the future, those appointments are not binding if the appointing body is not in power when those future appointments start.  Check out this article from the UNC School of Government for the details.
In the case of the advisory board appointments made by Davidson's lame duck Board of Commissioners, none of the advisory board terms start until January 1st.  Davidson's current Board leaves office at the December meeting.  aShortChronicle checked with Professor Frayda Bluestein with the UNC-SOG who wrote the article linked above to confirm that understanding, and per her response these appointments do not appear to be binding.

While certainly, taking an action like rescinding these appointments would be uncomfortable, it would also provide the newly elected officials the opportunity to open up local government to more new thinking.

Davidson's new crop of elected officials needs to know they have the opportunity and the authority to do so.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Election ballot count update...no recount for Davidson expected!

aShortChronicle learned earlier today from a source who contacted the Mecklenburg BOE that after counting the remaining absentee and provisional ballots the race for Davidson's 5th place finisher in the Commissioner's race is unchanged.

According to the source who spoke with the BOE, both David Sitton and Shana Erber received 9 additional votes in Mecklenburg.  (No additional votes remained to be counted from the Davidson Pointe neighborhood in Iredell.)  That means Sitton maintains an 8 vote lead headed into Friday's election certification.

aShortChronicle contacted Erber to see if she planned to seek a recount which is her right as a candidate due to the closeness of the race.

Erber responded this evening saying that she would not.   Her exact words were...

"I wanted to let you know I do not plan to ask for a recount. I am happy to concede to David, who I think is going to be a great Commissioner."

aShortChronicle complimented Erber on her campaign pointing out that it is no small thing coming in ahead of two incumbents in the race.

Erber responded saying "I was proud of the effort and it was a positive experience that may lead to other opportunities to get involved. So, I was not disappointed by any of it."

A class act throughout the campaign, Erber is to be congratulated on how she handled herself in what was obviously not an easy first run for office in a crowded field with significant controversy and serious issues.

Erber's decision to not seek a recount means it is all but certain that David Sitton will be the 5th Commissioner for Davidson's Board when this election is certified on Friday.

aShortChronicle also contacted Sitton for this update but has not heard back from him yet.

Board thumbs nose at town on way out the door on Hotel


After a marathon meeting lasting over five hours, Davidson's Board voted 4-1 in favor of the controversial Griffith Street Hotel.

Only Commissioner Jim Fuller voted against the proposal.

One might think the shellacking of incumbents at the polls last week with only the more citizen friendly Jim Fuller winning re-election, the Board might have thought twice about pushing this controversial project ahead.  They didn't.

And let's be crystal clear about something.  Even though Commissioners Beth Cashion and Brian Jenest did not run again, there is really no reason to believe the outcome on election night would have been any different if they had.  Both of them have stood shoulder to shoulder with losing Commissioners Rodney Graham and Stacey Anderson on most or all of the bad decisions over the past few years.  With Graham and Anderson trailing well behind the top six vote getters, there is really no reason to believe Cashion and Jenest would have done any better.

No, the mindset that brought on election night was not tempered by its results.  Instead, the results only seem to have hardened it.

This vote on the way out the door is the only thing these four Commissioners will ever be remembered for by many in this town, and frankly, that is just about all they really deserve.


Commissioner
Stacey Anderson

Commissioner
Rodney Graham

Commissioner
Brian Jenest

Commissioner
Beth Cashion

Monday, November 13, 2017

Pack Davidson Town Hall on Tuesday

With multiple controversial topics on the agenda and coming on the heels of last weeks shakeup election, Davidson Town Hall is sure to be packed on Tuesday.

The Board is slated to "consider" aka vote on the following:
  • The Griffith Street Hotel
  • The route of the Potts-Sloan-Beaty connector road
  • The appointment of 21 new advisory Board seats
There will also be a hearing to advamce
  • Text amendments on more multi-family housing types for the Village area
Public comment at the beginning of the meeting can be used to address thd Hotel and the PSB items.  There will be a special public hearing on the text amendments.

Meeting starts at 6pm.  Grab a friend and head to Town Hall early to get a good seat.

Davidson election ballot count update...the wait continues

Previously, aShortChronicle told readers that the outstanding provisional and mail in ballots for the local elections would be counted today at 5pm.  That was the plan as of last Thursday.  However, it looks like the waiting will continue a little longer.

According to the Mecklenburg BOE office, a quorum could not be gathered for the counting and it has been rescheduled until Wednesday at noon.

Also, the number of outstanding ballots to be counted is getting narrowed down.  Per the BOE, there are 6 additional mail in ballots and 12 provisional ballots for Davidson.  Depending on the breakdown of the provisional ballots (whether they are "full" or "partial" ballots) there may or may not be enough to swing the election results for 5th and 6th place between David Sitton and Shana Erber.

A "full" ballot is one where the person voting is maybe in the wrong precinct but still receives a ballot for all their races - going to Town Hall instead of Hopewell on election day if you live in River Run for example.  You would get a full Davidson paper ballot and all of the choices and races would be there.  A "partial" ballot is where someone went to the wrong precinct on election day and only gets to vote on the items that would have been on the ballot in their correct precinct.  An example of this might be a Davidson voter who went to a precinct by where they work in Charlotte thinking they could vote there.  On election day that Charlotte precinct would only have paper ballots with the Charlotte races and the CMS school bonds.  The Davidson voter could only vote for the school bonds because it is the only race that would have been on the ballot in Davidson as well.

So, right now,  with only 8 votes separating the candidates it looks like there could be enough votes to swing the race outcome, but the odds are unlikely that it will.  After Wednesday comes "canvasing" on Friday, and then if anyone wants a recount it can be requested then.  Regardless of Wednesday's outcome, that's certainly a possibility.

And you thought counting votes was simple...

Sunday, November 12, 2017

7 things the new Davidson Board should do immediately...

This transformative election for Davidson provides the opportunity for this new group of elected officials to make their mark on trust and transparency in local government.  Trust and transparency, or the lack thereof, in Town Hall was the underlying theme that drove this past election and moving swiftly to take definitive action to improve public perception on that front will be critical to the new Board's success.

Here are 7 things that can be done immediately and at no cost to positively impact these areas:

1.  Pass a resolution stating that neither the mobility bonds approved this cycle nor any other Town funds will be used to support land acquisition or use of eminent domain for the Potts-Sloan-Beaty connector project or any multi-use path construction along Potts street.

2.  Publicly instruct the Town Manager that town communications should no longer be conducted in a manner that resembles a coordinated information campaign unless it involves improved public safety.  Press releases should come out immediately after relevant events (3 business day delay maximum).

3.  Commit to providing a public access terminal for public records at Town Hall.  Also, instruct staff that if records requests compiled by the Town have documents pulled due to any valid reason under public records law, state the number of documents that were withheld due to said reason.

4.  Pass an updated Rules of Procedure that allows two Commissioners to add an item to a regular meeting agenda.  Currently, agenda items can only be added if the Mayor and Town Manager agree.  While this probably won't be an issue under the new administration, it is still good public policy.  Agendas should also be structured such that the most pressing issues for the public are discussed first to accommodate citizen schedules.  Less important agenda items or presentations should not be used to draw out meetings in hopes the public will leave prior to getting to the items of public concern.

5.  Pass a resolution or add to the Rules of Procedure stating no informal polling of commissioners via email or otherwise will occur prior to a public vote on any subject.  Polling violates the spirit of open meetings law and makes a farce of the citizen public comments at the meetings themselves.

6.  Eliminate or strictly constrain 2x2 meetings with staff and Commissioners done to avoid public meetings law.  This is where staff meets with Commissioners in groups of no more than 2 elected officials.  More than 2 would require it be announced as a public meeting.  These 2x2 meetings should be eliminated completely for planning related topics or anything requiring a public hearing.  All other topics discussed in 2x2 sessions should posted on the Town website.

7.  Post all development projects in discussion on the Town website under a pre-proposal section.  Townspeople should no longer be surprised by proposals that show up on the town website only when a fully completed proposal is submitted often after months of discussion and negotiation with staff.  This would also apply to planning related changes initiated by staff or electeds.  This would provide a single place where citizens could find notice of new projects or potential zoning rule changes.



These changes or some variation would cost nothing and would give citizens a good feeling about where the Town is headed when it comes to greater transparency in government.  They would also help prevent any slippage back towards the behaviours that got us to the point of falling Citizen Survey scores when it comes to trust in local government in the first place.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

There should be no "lame duck" Griffith Street Hotel approval

After the electoral defeat the current Davidson Board took on Tuesday, one would think, one would hope, they do not do things on their way out the door to further inflame tensions in this town.

However, they will have the chance to pour gasoline on the situation this coming Tuesday with a scheduled vote on the proposed Griffith Street Hotel.  The vote was tentatively planned prior to the election, but now definitivy appears on the agenda for this coming Tuesday - ensuring another packed Town Hall for another contentious decision by this outgoing Board.

Approving this zoning change as lame duck electeds, a change that was unanimously voted down by Davidson's Planning Board, would be an ignominious way for these elected officials to leave office...whether they stood for reelection or not.  The election results on Tuesday clearly showed the voters of Davidson want a change in direction.  They want a change in how things are done.  They want a change in what it means to listen to the public.

This Board has one last chance to get this right.

Conversely, it would be a disservice to the town for the current Board to move this project forward under these circumstances.  If they do, it will be what they are remembered for by many for a very long time.  It will be their albatross.  That is a certainty.

Let's hope they do the right thing for this community.  Let's also encourage them to do so.  Before Tuesday, send them one last message to politely ask them to not move this project forward.  There is no compelling reason for them to do so, and there are many compelling reasons to not.

The entire Board can be reached at Board@townofdavidson.org.