So, the latest "Town Message" has come down from Davidson Town Hall...
Soon-to-be-former Town Manager, Leamon Brice, rightfully had a lengthy farewell in his final quarterly Manager's Report column. Unfortunately, he used a good bit of it to take a swipe at citizens who don't listen and those who have disagreed with him over the years.
Brice describes those who have opposed town hall as little more than whiny children.
"Davidson is different because elected officials have been willing to look at new and innovative ideas and try them, sometimes in light of tremendous opposition from citizens. This opposition reminds me of sick children who bitterly fight to avoid taking their medicine, not understanding that once they do, they will feel better."
Did he really say that? Yes. Yes he did.
Brice sites examples like the CVS downtown and other developments that have been successful. However, his comment was clearly a swipe at those who opposed to the Downtown Catalyst Project as if that project was the same type and scale of anything else ever proposed by town hall. He conveniently makes no mention of Mi-Connection a decision he supported, a decision opposed by many of those same "sick children", a decision that has been the a disaster for the town.
Brice also laments citizens who don't listen to how well town hall communicates while taking a good swipe at the media in general and "social media" specifically.
"Don’t look to the rumor mill or social media for the truth. While the other media outlets portray themselves as your savior whose sole aim is to make sure you have all the information you need to stay 'in the know,' I am certain exaggerated headlines are for selling ads and not conveying accurate information."
"Other media outlets"?
Brice is clearly equating the town run "media" with your more traditional media outlets.
In most places, government run media goes by another name. That name is "propaganda".
A few years ago, the town board was considering making a change to 4 year staggered terms for elected officials. That's a setup which makes it impossible for a majority of elected officials to be voted out in a single cycle. If it had gone forward as originally planned the change would have been made unilaterally by the Board without even putting it to the voters.
That misguided and cynical power grab was only derailed by the efforts of "social media" and those citizens who would not just accept what was being "communicated" from town hall.
Can you imagine facing a challenge like the Catalyst Project with only half of elected officials up this cycle and the other half not up until 2017 - after any project would likely have been started?
Yes, this election cycle has a shortage of candidates, but at least the public has it's say.
Outside media also played a role in the town's recent approval of the Narrow Passage project. Some may not like the outcome, but the Board eventually voted unanimously to support the project. That unanimity was a surprise to many who were following that decision closely.
Do you think that would have happened if only the information from town hall staff had been made available to the public? Town staff vehemently opposed the project along ideological lines while a majority of commenters at the public hearings showed opinion was much more evenly divided among citizens.
Has Leamon Brice done a lot of good for the Town of Davidson over the course of 25 years? Yes, of course he has. However, his final message to the citizens of Davidson shows clearly why it is now time for a change.