Wednesday, June 22, 2016

A ghost(writer) in Davidson Town Hall!?!?

This week's edition of the Lake Norman Citizen features a piece on last week's Davidson Town Board meeting where Commissioners addressed Mayor John Woods's June 8th trip to Raleigh to meet with Senator Berger regarding the recently deceased HB954.

While The Citizen depicted the Board's comments as a harsh rebuke of the Mayor's actions, but the Board's actions could be more accurately described as a slap on the wrist.  A good bit of the article was devoted to a transcript of the Mayor's statement attempting to explain himself.

A little digging would have shown the whole exchange for the kabuki theater it actually was.

Fortunately for readers, aShortChronicle has done that digging.  A public records request was done on the subject meeting and the results - as usual - show there is more to the story.

It may come as a surprise (or not) that Mayor Woods's speech was not entirely his own words.  He engaged a ghost writer for a little fancy wordsmithery.

According to the records request, on or about June 12th Woods engaged a local firm called "A Way With Words" - run by long-time former Commissioner Margot Williams - to spice up his presentation.

Williams served as a Davidson Commissioner from 1995 to 2011.  In 2007, she along with Woods voted unanimously with the rest of the Board at the time to form Mi-Connection, so it's maybe not all that surprising to see her helping him with the current hot topic of the I77 HOT lanes.

The wording of the draft speech was so that Woods could own his "authority as mayor".  To that Woods responded "Excellent! Thank you!"  The draft included these lines.

"I voiced my own opinions, based on hundreds of interactions with citizens and law enforcement, on the need to improve traffic congestion in our region.  As mayor I am accessible in town and constantly approached by citizens about the current crisis, placing me in a unique position to gather information and concerns on a daily basis."

While Woods spared citizens those lines in his town hall speech, he did use them in at least one response to a supporter per the public record.

While Woods clings to the position throughout his comments that he was only expressing his opinion and not acting as "mayor", these missing lines from his comments at the town board meeting show that his opinion was formed precisely because of his position as mayor.  His response of "Excellent!" to the idea that the wordsmithery was done to "subtly" have him own his "authority as mayor" also belies the true situation.

It's hard to believe that a ghost writer was needed for small town politics.  It's really a sad statement on current affairs.  What's next - a TelePrompTer at Town Hall??

However, there is a lesson in it.

Remember to not always believe what you hear.  There might be a ghost in the room.


  1. Don't think it's a good idea to censor an elected official for speaking their opinion as an individual or elected official. You might as well say that a teacher should not criticize school administrators, or a citizen should not criticize the police, or a journalist should not criticize the government. You don't give up your right to free speech because of your job. Of course people, companies, and institutions try to do it all the time. Official censorship is poison to a democracy, and it's pretty shocking that some Cornelius and Davidson elected officials seem so eager to shut down the free speech of someone they may disagree with.

  2. Thanks Bob for the comment.

    I wouldn't disagree on the point of censorship - except that's not what this is.

    If Mayor Woods had the courage to write an Op Ed for the paper stating his own personal position, that would have actually been refreshing to see.

    However, that is not what he did.

    He used his position as mayor, an elected public office to represent the people, to get a private meeting with arguably the most powerful politician in the state, to supposedly represent only himself.

    There is a big difference between the two.

    One might be seen as admirable, the other more likely not.