Sandy Selvy from the SNAP released an article that I find irksome on more than a few levels. First, it appears to attempt to shape public opinion, rather than just inform; from the title to the rhetoric insinuated within the article itself.
A lot of things about the article reek of what I find wrong with government today, and with the people that wonder why government is… well, messed up and useless.
And as if that’s not enough, the article goes on to inform the user just what the SNAP feels should qualify a candidate for office.
“City council, county commissioners and school board members have been elected to cheerlead as well as lead.”Paragraph 7 of the article
They later say this:
“Showing up at events is part of that. Plus, those hours spent at ribbon cuttings, chicken dinners and the “bingo hut,” as Lowder said, gives local leaders a unique opportunity to hear what people are talking about and ask question.”Paragraph 8
And finally she says:
“ If Lowder is unwilling or unable to interact with the people she represents, that unfortunately makes her a less informed and less valuable member of city council. That is something she and the voters should consider when election season comes around again. “
Ok, not only did the author just decide what they felt the job descriptions of a council member (or commissioner apparently) are supposed to be, but they then go so far as to flat out state that not showing up for Trunk or Treat makes her a less valuable member of city council?
Since the author bothered to paint all of us elected officials with the same brush, I guess I’m going to take an hour or two out of my day to put this article together and rebutt some of this nonsense. (I mention that because this is one of those times when people like myself, as elected officials, would much rather be sitting on the couch beside my wife relaxing on a Friday night, but no… apparently I’ve got to take time out of my day to correct someone that should know better, AND do it before too many people read it and accept it as gospel.) So when the author is wondering what we might be doing that takes up too much of our time to go to certain events, I’d like to enter that SNAP article as Exhibit A for the defense.
Most people that know me and know Shirley Lowder know we don’t often come down on the same side of things. We’re both on the CHSA board and hell, we’ve yelled at each other across the room sometimes, so let’s be clear – this isn’t a response written from me from the perspective of a dear friends. We’re not dear friends.We’re not even friends. We are acquaintances that work together sometimes. But when you throw someone like that so vehemently under the bus for no reason, I guess someone’s got to step up and call a spade a spade, so for now that’ll have to be me. And while we’re at it, I’m speaking up to defend the rest of us that could have just as easily been the target of that article.
Speaking of being involved in government: We had a Consolidated Board of Health meeting on Thursday. Where was the SNAP? Oh yeah, they didn’t bother to come. Seriously… you’re going to bash an elected official for not coming to an extracurricular event but you didn’t come to the ACTUAL GOVERNMENT EVENT that might have had something worth sharing with the county’s readers? Well, don’t worry. The coaches were there doing their jobs (Shirley Lowder included). Maybe that’s why they couldn’t make the ice-cream social…
Since they started out with the idea that a council person or commissioner is expected to be both a cheerleader AND a leader, I’d like to mention how absurd that idea is. If the SNAP and the average Joe at an event is there to show support for the county, or for an event, THEY are the cheerleaders. The council members and commissioners and school board members aren’t cheerleaders. They’ve been given the sometimes unwelcome mantle of COACH and guess what? The coach has a job, and the cheerleaders have a job. And they’re NOT the same job.
No one pulls cheerleaders aside and says “Can you put down your pompoms for a minute and let’s talk about my tax incentive for my new business?”
Gain some perspective.
Somewhere in that article, and in the previous article they wrote about it earlier this week, and in the Facebook comments from BOTH articles a common theme seemed to emerge. The theme seems to be a sentiment that apparently one of the following must be true:
- Commissioners/councilpersons have no desire to be involved in events and think its beneath their office.
- They have a disdain for these kinds of events.
- Apparently they must be too old and infirm to attend.
Did it ever occur to anyone writing that article that maybe we’re just too damned busy doing our jobs to make it to even one quarter of the stuff that goes on around the county? I mean here’s my calendar for last month…
Now I can’t speak for city council members, or even any of my fellow commissioners, because we all have different responsibilities on any given year, but I can speak for myself and my priorities.
I’m not retired. I’m assuming you would rather have a person in the seat that’s actually in business in the current political climate; someone that actually has to deal with the struggles the rest of the county faces. You want someone that has to work for their money, pay their taxes, and doesn’t just sit back and govern from what they think they remember of working in business 25 years ago, right? Well that means we’ve got lives of our own.
On an average month this time of year I’ll give you a glimpse of what our calendar looks like.
Assume the following:
- Most of us have a spouse or significant other we’d like to spend time with.
- About half of us have school-aged kids, some more than three!
- Most of us work at LEAST 8-5 M-F. I work about 60-70 hours most weeks at my primary job, depending on the season.
- We will probably want/need to spend Saturday taking care of the stuff we didn’t get to do just like the rest of the world does, maybe get the car’s oil changed, maybe cut the grass, maybe go bleach that 9 acres of pasture fence my wife needs done occasionally, etc.
- Some of us are employers, which if you’ve ever been one you’ll know means adding at least 1-2 nights of work each week to your schedule handling the things that require your attention.
Now, on top of that same grueling schedule most of you have, I’ve got the following:
- First commissioner’s meeting of the month.
- Second commissioner’s meeting of the month.
- CHSA Board meeting
- RRRPO Board meeting
- Probably a Republican Party meeting
Every one of those meetings can have somewhere between 2-6 phone calls and half a dozen emails surrounding it. On top of that, ALL our elected officials are dealing with projects that mean something to them – things they spend extra time on because someone has to in order to make progress.
Some of my governmental interests that I’m devoting time to are:
- Changes to animal control – that’s probably one or two lunch meetings a month plus phone calls, emails, etc.
- Changes to the board of health going on right now – another one or two meetings that need to be worked in there one of the few nights left.
- Solar Farm projects: Those are causing constant uproar so it’s lunch meetings with voters, landowners, maybe even the solar farm company, follow-up calls, telephone conferences, etc.
Who has the time for Halloween?
So a council member had better things to do on Halloween? Big deal. So did most of the world. I mean unless 8500+ people showed up, then at least 51% of the county had other things taking up their time.
Most of the events – we never hear about.
I remember getting my ass politely chewed out earlier this summer by a fire chief who shall remain nameless. (Chief TJ Smith will remember this. He was there with me). I made a comment about riding in a particular parade. I’ve got a motorcycle. I like parades. Maybe I’d get to throw an American Flag on my bike and ride in the parade? Right? Good idea?
HOLYCRAP the earful I heard about how the commissioners can’t be bothered to RSVP to the fire dept when they’ve been getting us a truck ready to ride in the parade every year and no one ever shows up.
After letting that particular gentlemen vent his rather large load of steam my way, I simply told him “Dude… I have no idea what in the hell you’re talking about.”
No one told me about a parade invite. No one told me I’m expected to sit on a fire truck. Whose fire truck? What time? Where?
Apparently an email went out…. oh yeah, that’ll do it!
Someone sent an email to our clerk six months ago and somehow expected THAT to get to the top of our list of things to do.
Was that before our three day trip to Washington DC to meet with the White House or after the NCACC three day conference we had to go to to teach us about local budgeting, or was that after the three day conference in Raleigh about Medicaid Transformation that I had to attend because the general public voted for me and now I have to figure out how to vote on medicaid expansion and how to help our county figure it out.
Pick up the phone
If you want us to show up to an event, pick up the phone and call. Please, for the love of God, don’t send me any more flyer junk email. I get enough of that every single day to last me a year. It blows my mind that my GOVERNMENT email address gets abused nonstop with stuff I have no way to unsubscribe from because it’s sent to everyone in the county.
You might think I’m joking or being harsh, but it’s true. That’s a government account. If it doesn’t involve the running of the government or my function therein, I don’t want the email… because I’m already drowned in ACTUAL government conversations and projects that require my time.
No, I literally do not have the time to attend the 27th barbeque plate fundraiser for whomever. I’m too busy actually trying to respond to people’s concerns about their property values as it relates to the potential solar farm impacts, etc.
And on the off chance that I do physically possess the free time in which to commit going to another function, there’s a 50/50 chance that to be bluntly truthful with you – I’d rather spend that afternoon home with my wife, playing with my dogs, or spending time with friends trying to NOT be the CEO, the IT consultant, or the commissioner for a day if possible.
Truthfully, we all feel that way from time to time. Shirley Lowder was just probably at the end of her patience one night and said it in a way that the SNAP just couldn’t stand not printing.
Every single person out there reading this article does the same thing. Ooh, there’s an event to night at River Wild. I’d love to hear that band play…. but do I really want to get dressed up, drive 30 minutes, and then drive home later? You know what.. I’ll catch it next time.
To be clear – the public did NOT elect us because they thought we’d attend ice-cream socials, and banquet dinners, and covered dish dinners. That’s absolute bullshit and the SNAP ought to print a retraction for even putting that into words.
They elected people they thought would do a good job reflecting their interests, and that they HOPE will go the extra mile on their own time to diligently research the issues, have meetings to address those issues, and respond to them when they NEED them, not shake hands at someone’s birthday party.
We’re not going to call you. You have to call us.
The SNAP mentioned that these little gatherings are “a unique opportunity to hear what people are talking about and ask questions.”
No, they’re not. That’s a horrible time to try to get a commissioner’s attention, or a council member’s attention, or the sheriff’s attention. They’re there to attend a public event, so you know what’s going to happen? I’ll enlighten you. We’re going to shake 100 hands, and MAYBE get to talk to 4-5 people about issues important to them before some other voter or member of government catches our attention for something else.
I spoke to a gentleman the other day, can’t remember his name now, but he’s a property owner. I had to spend the first five minutes of the conversation explaining to him that no, he wasn’t bothering me at all, and that yes, I was literally quite happy to sit and talk with him in detail about his issue.
People believe that calling their councilperson, or their commissioner, or even their sheriff is like they’re trying to get a meeting with the Pope.
Listen up, ok!
WE ARE LITERALLY PAID TO TALK TO YOU AND ADDRESS YOUR CONCERNS! IT’S OUR ACTUAL JOB! YOU VOTED FOR US JUST SO YOU COULD CALL US AND TELL US YOUR PROBLEMS!
If you have an issue near and dear to you, just pick up the phone and call your commissioner. If it’s a town issue, I might tell you to call your council person, or maybe the sheriff, or whomever, but all of us are here to serve you.
I have another dear friend; he works for the county and had a county question one day I didn’t know the answer to. I picked up the phone and called the board chairman. If that guy could have sunk any further into his chair, he’d have fallen out of the truck. He was mortified that I “took up the valuable time of the chairman” with his little question…. what?
Another time someone had a question about concealed carry permits that I didn’t know the answer to. I picked up the phone and called Sheriff Crisco. Boom. Answer in 2 minutes. You’d have thought I’d broken every rule in the book.
Guys, gals, midgets, and squirrels: Seriously.. we have phones. Use ’em.
This whole BS content about it being less offputting to speak to an elected official in a public gathering is just crap someone needed to fill space in their article. If you catch me at a public gathering, chances are I will want to spend time answering your questions but won’t have time for all of them. I’d much rather you call me on a Saturday, Sunday, or ANY day of the week and we either chat on the phone or meet and have a coffee. Off the Square has GREAT coffee, and they’ve always got at least one seat open for a quick meeting. Call me anytime. I’d much rather sit down with you and give you my undivided attention than try to sort out all of life’s problems during the middle of a parade or fundraiser.
All our phone numbers are on the county’s website, right there for the public to see. So are our email addresses. And I’m on Facebook basically daily, so you can find me there as well.
Just because we get too busy doing the actual job you hired us to do to sometimes make it to social events isn’t a bad thing. It’s just called life.
PS: Dear SNAP, please go back to reporting actual news, not stirring up bullshit for the sake of smelling it… it stinks.