From Monday night’s meeting . . .
Good evening gentlemen, it is good to see you all and be back in this chamber again. I felt compelled to speak to you tonight about the current events that are happening in our county as well as our nation. As we all know Covid-19 is having a devastating effect on the populace as a whole and our numbers here at home continue to climb. Also we are at a crisis point with our trust and belief in our government officials as well as law enforcement agencies. These are truly perilous times in our community.
You do not have very much control or say about things on a national or state level but you do have a unique opportunity here on a local level to restore confidence to our community. The people need to feel that they do have a voice and their concerns matter. If we ever want to bring unity back to this country as a whole it must start in our own communities.
This body has not only a responsibility to see to the well being of our county’s financial matters but also to the trust and confidence of the people you serve. The last two are in short supply these days. There is much being said about the political divide in this country but something that does need to be emphasized especially here at home is that no matter what political party you are affiliated with while running for office, once you are elected you represent ALL people regardless of party.
Our county has basically become a one party county as far as government representation goes. That being said the people from all parties generally want the same things at home. Maslow’s triangle of needs (physiological, safety, love and belonging, esteem, and self-actualization) does not have a political level in it. They are the same for all people. Again, you gentlemen are now representing ALL the people of Rutherford County.
With power comes responsibility. We are in the midst of a storm that is only going to get worse. Religion is being put on the back burner, education is becoming secondary. Corruption is becoming commonplace and to a degree acceptable to the populace because of their inability to do anything about it. The lines of communication are being blurred with half truths and misinformation.
You gentlemen are on the front lines. You are the ones who must lead by example. You must be transparent and communicate with the people and hold not only each other but all elected officials accountable for their actions. This is not an easy task and will require great effort on your parts but it is not insurmountable and you actively sought to represent the people in this role.
Restoring the trust of the people will not be easy but it begins by being available, by communicating effectively and by showing that you will reach across color lines, religious lines, and yes, political lines. So far that has not been the case here. For years things have been handled very much the same. Appointments are made by who you know, what political party you belong to and specific people are asked to fill specific roles based on these things. Many people who have wanted to serve have been disenfranchised by the process of board appointments here. I know as I have been one of those negatively affected by this process.
This must stop. If we are to survive this storm we must all work together. It will take us all. The political party structure of this nation is changing. In Rutherford County we have 19,114 registered Republicans, 12,156 registered Democrats, and 14,431 registered Unaffiliated citizens (NCBOE.com). 14,431 Unaffiliated….. people are sick and tired of partisanship. Partisanship has no seat at the table when it comes to local government. We are neighbors, friends, family. We are so much more than a an initial on our voter registration card.
We also have a terrible situation with trust in our law enforcement community. I do understand what your role is when it comes to affecting change in law enforcement but most of the citizens of this county do not. You are required by law to fund the sheriff’s office yet have no say whatsoever in how it is run. That effectively leaves you between a rock and a hard place when something negative happens concerning their department.
Again it comes back down to communication and transparency. Starting a County Police Force would take an act of the Legislature but it has been done before. Exploring and discussing options are never a bad thing. In the meantime having a Citizens Review board to go over complaints and reports of malfeasance in the Sheriff’s Office would not be a bad start to restoring the people’s trust. It would, however, have to be approved by the Sheriff as it is his office. Your role in that matter would be helping him to see the importance of it to the citizens of this county.
Also, dealing with the Health department and their reporting to the state. Again, you are required to fund but have no active role in the organization. This is becoming more and more important as Gov. Cooper is actively asking local governments to “police” their communities for compliance to his Covid mandates. You here too must explore your role and options in getting accurate information to the people. You cannot ask people to trust and comply in the mandates when information between what we have here locally and what the State reports are so different. Communication and Transparency are the keys.
You have a difficult role to play here gentlemen. Things unfortunately are going to get much worse before they get better. Your role in leading this county is changing. People need leaders to look up to, people they feel they can trust to have their best interests at heart. I know most of you personally and know that you do care about the people of this county. Show them who you really are.
Have a question and answer forum on your website for citizens. Answer them to the best of your abilities regardless of how inconsequential some of them may seem to you. Yes, there will be trolls but they become very apparent quickly. Tell the truth. Let people know what you can and cannot do in your roles as Commissioners.
We are losing businesses, we are losing educational opportunities, and we are losing lives here from not only Covid-19 but generational poverty, drug use and little to no accountability of the governance of our law enforcement agencies.
All recoveries start with acknowledging the problems and then seeking ways to resolve them. You as our elected Commissioners are now being thrust into that role more than ever. You are not alone. The people of this county not only need you but will be willing to help you if asked. In the very difficult times ahead we will all need to work together if we are to get through them. It all starts with showing you care.
I pray for you gentlemen, I pray for our county, our state and our nation. The storm is upon us and you are the captains of our ship. We look to you for guidance as we traverse the rough waters. May we all see each other safely through.
Thank you for this opportunity to speak with you tonight. May you all have a happy and safe holiday season.