RDC does as it pleases, without fear of consequences


In much of the everyday work world, if a boss gives those serving under her specific instructions, and those employees simply refuse to follow instructions, that usually ends up in the employment of those underlings being terminated.

Of course, politics is a different matter entirely, evenly locally, as we’ve continued to see with the Mount Airy Redevelopment Commission (RDC). Last week, the commission essentially gave its approval to the redevelopment plan it has put together, forwarding the plan on to the city’s planning commission. In so doing the RDC has done a nice job of painting the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners into a corner.

As we’ve reported on a number of occasions, the RDC developed a plan that includes somewhere in the neighborhood of twenty different properties, all in this grand redevelopment proposal a handful of folks seem intent on forcing on the rest of the city.

During last week’s public hearing on the proposal, the RDC and some of its supporters reiterated their contention that the city must move quickly or face the prospect of losing out on some supposed grant money deadlines (though we have yet to see any such deadlines actually listed).

It’s been a nice little dance the RDC has been doing, and while we disagree with virtually everything that body has attempted to do, we have come to admire its tenacity, its ability to simply ignore its bosses (the city board of commissioners), ignore the people it’s most affecting (the property owners whose land has been swept up in this plan without their consent or support), and even its ability to completely ignore the public at large, who voted down every single candidate backed by RDC supporters in the November elections.

After all of that, here we are, the RDC still attempting to force its plan onto Mount Airy.

Perhaps readers will recall the fact that the RDC was formed and given a very specific set of instructions by city commissioners: Put together a redevelopment plan involving the former Spencer’s property, and only the Spencer’s property.

The RDC ignored those instructions, putting in this grand plan of building a “gateway” to downtown, and in the process declaring certain properties blighted or ill-used.

When city commissioners said they would not support such a plan, RDC supporters went on a smear campaign, calling everyone who opposed their overreach “closed minded” or “anti-development.”

When called out on the inflammatory rhetoric, the RDC supporters took a different strategy — running candidates in the November election in an attempt to essentially take over the board of commissioners. After every one of those candidates lost, the RDC tried the carrot instead of the stick method, offering grants to some of those downtown property owners for renovating or razing buildings on their land.

While that proposal had, and still has, some merit worthy of consideration, it’s still city taxpayer money the RDC wants to use for those grants, and the RDC hasn’t been able to give a credible limit on how much the grant program might cost the city.

And now we’re back to attempting to manipulate the city government with this latest maneuver. The RDC, in moving forward with the larger plan opposed by virtually everyone involved, has dropped the ball into the laps of the city commissioners with the warning that delaying further, or sending the project back to the drawing board to include only the Spencer’s property, would cost the city thousands, perhaps millions, in grant money.

The unspoken meaning of that action, of course, is that now the RDC either gets its way by browbeating the city commissioners into approving the plan, or if the city sends the proposal back to the RDC and there are some sort of grant deadlines the city misses, RDC members can sit back and tell everyone it was the commissioners’ fault the project hasn’t come to fruition.

Again, we have to admire the scheming and manipulation involved, but we also have to ask one question: Why hasn’t the city simply disbanded this troublesome, out-of-control group, or at the very least replaced the members with people who understand how to take direction from their bosses?

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