Reader: Off-year elections important to the city

We’re in midst of the filing period for candidates for our November city elections. It’s high time to pay attention.

There’s an old saying “all politics are local.” A great example is how much the aftermath of our last city election is like the aftermath of last year’s presidential election. The “ in crowd” thought Clinton would win but voters thought otherwise and she lost. Since then she’s been pouting and blaming everyone else. Her party and her supporters have been doing all they can to damage the Trump administration.

Likewise our last city election saw a commissioner run for mayor and some RDC-type friends run for three other commissioner seats. They felt they would win but voters didn’t like their plans and all of them lost. But what have we seen since? More pouting, blaming everyone else, and trying to damage the rest of the board. A lot of that has taken place behind the scenes, but I’d say it came out in the open when Commissioner Yokeley made his inappropriate little speech in the last city meeting. He lashed out at everyone but himself.

Some may have forgotten what the RDC was … and why it had to be dissolved. RDC was the “Redevelopment Commission” which was created by the city board a while back to manage and oversee the Spencer project. Steve Yokeley was chairman. The board set guidelines and limitations for the RDC to go by. All sounded good at first but quickly got out of hand. The RDC group didn’t want to go by the board’s rules and began overstepping them. They wanted to greatly expand the territory it could control. This would have meant RDC could require property owners to renovate their buildings to suit RDC. That could also open the door to the possibility of “Eminent Domain” which could force owners to sell their property. The RDC had grandiose and very expensive plans for the whole area; like an absurd “roundabout” at intersection of Pine and South Streets. The RDC fought against the City Board and its supporters put up candidates for the election to try to take control of City Government.

Thankfully the citizens saw what was going on and turned out in record numbers to vote against the RDC candidates. But that apparently wasn’t the end of it. The RDC supporters didn’t accept the loss, they just got quiet and kept planning. The RDC gang’s plans were all about “tax and spend” (and they still are).

Just since January Yokeley himself put together a $32 million city spending plan and has pushed the board hard to approve it. It appears to include replacing most all city equipment from file cabinets to firetrucks, renovating all city buildings, re-roofing and repaving all city property, plus many costly luxuries like $300K for an indoor walking track at Reeves plus $250K or more for an elevator and new windows. The list goes on for 51 pages. To the board’s credit it has not approved this plan … but a different board might. This $32 million plan would need large borrowing, and loan payments would need tax hikes. It is a tax-and-spend (and borrow) plan right out of the old RDC playbook.

This upcoming election is an “off year” one, which means it only involves city offices. That could mean a low turnout and bad candidates could get elected. Maybe that’s what the remaining RDC supporters are counting on. The filing period ends 7/21 and so far only one person has filed. Others are waiting to see who else files. I’m betting we’ll see some more RDC-type candidates make another run to take control of the board. We know there are not that many RDC voters because we saw their totals in last election. The danger is that they will go vote and others will stay home. Don’t let that happen.

John R. Pritchard

Mount Airy

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