POLITICAL COLUMN: Forest City’s Smoke & Mirrors Issues

Campaign season has opened and rumors are flying. Occasionally one grabs my attention and clings to a thought wave and won’t let go. So this whisper had my attention—”Did you know that Forest City is going to hire Mike Hager as a lobbyist?”

Now why would Forest City hire a lobbyist? Our district already has an elected official, Mr. David Rogers, to represent our needs in Raleigh. Even more to consider is whose interest would Hager represent. Hager was elected by us to serve as representative and resigned (or was asked to) before fulfilling his term stating he wanted to spend more time with his family. Only after the appropriate waiting period, Mike Hager signed up to be a lobbyist. So we asked the questions.

“Mike Hager is currently not on any agenda at this time.  However, that doesn’t mean he might not be in the future,” Town Manager John Condrey responded to my question.

Then we asked the mayor and members of the Town of Forest City Council about their plans for a lobbyist.

Commissioner Justin Conner, Commissioner Dee Dee Bright, Mayor Steve Holland,
Commissioner Shawn Moore, Commissioner Chris Lee and Mayor Pro Tem David Eaker.
(Contributed photograph.)

Currently there are no plans to hire a lobbyist for the Town of Forest City.  If that changes it would be by Council discussion and vote at a Forest City Town Council meeting,” John Condrey’s response to our request for comment from the Forest City Council.

The next council meeting is Monday evening.

Hager offered his service for a healthy fee to the local governments earlier, but was rebuffed. When I asked what could a lobbyist offer to the Council, I heard the following alleged purposes:

  • Now that Forest City has an 800-bed hotel, the Council allegedly wants their own own percentage of tourism’s occupancy tax under their control to fulfill the Town’s marketing needs. Currently the county collects the occupancy tax, determines the collection rate, and the full amount at this time has been used to fund the Tourism Development Authority (TDA).
  • a new UNC institution to be built in Forest City. The new school would not be making use of Isothermal Community College. No plans have been announced by the NC Board of Governors for new schools.

If the Council is following open meeting laws, then discussion of these matters should be held in open session and not passed through the rumor mill. Forest City residents need to know how their monies are being spent. They deserve a voice for their community.