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From the Mayor of Realville

I may be running for a Town Council position, but perhaps it is time for you to hear from the Mayor of “Realville”.  Here are some things about this upcoming election.  First, we have had one candidate drop out of the race because of relocation.  Since there does not seem to be any official notice or any news story listed anywhere, just know that it is the first name on your ballot.  Don’t waste your vote for someone who will not live here anymore.  This is not saying anything at all negative about that individual.  That person simply has a life change going on at the moment that affects his/her living status right now.  My son is actually a classmate and friend of that person’s child in the same school.  I wish that family the best.  I just wish that the change had come long before the election ballots were printed so as to be fair to the other seven candidates on the ballot.

Second, I am an “issues guy”.  Issues matter to me.  That is why I am officially “unaffiliated” when it comes to political parties.  I would rather be stabbed to death with a plastic fork than be affiliated with one particular political party in this country simply because of the issues for which they stand.  The other major party lost my membership because of their compromise and fecklessness on issues.  There is a third party towards which my inclinations lean when it comes to personal liberty and responsibility and yet I refuse to join their party because of some abhorrent issues for which they stand.  And yet another party lost my affiliation because of their pathetic leadership and uselessness.

The Town Council race is a “nonpartisan” race, meaning party affiliation allegedly means nothing in the conducting of the election.  I am fine with that, but I am not opposed to it becoming a partisan race because it tells me a lot about issues and ideologies with which the candidates align themselves.  Those ideologies trickle down to municipal government as much as they do state or national politics.

I have endeavored to put out the issues.  I have left six and a half years of political commentary online for anyone to read to get to know what I believe and will follow ideologically.  I have put out issues oriented information and positions in my campaign fliers, on my web site, on my Facebook page, and in mailers to voters.  So far I have only seen one other candidate really put out any information about what he believes and stands on for the direction of the town.

I have gotten direct mail from one other candidate that really says nothing about what he believes for issues.  I have heard other candidates say that the questions they were being asked were the wrong questions to ask.  I have heard candidates say that they have been residents of the town for just two months before filing to run for Town Council, know nothing about this town, and that this is great for the residents of the town since she has no “pre-conceived notions” about the town.  Some candidates have merely parroted the word infrastructure and I say that being one who believes that is a major issue in our town.

There are some big decisions facing the town, many of which have been either tangentially touched or ignored for years.  The same issues facing the town now were facing us sixteen years ago when I first ran for Town Council.  And again, fourteen years ago.  Only this time some of these issues have impacted us already in a negative manner and defeated the stated goal of every previous Council and Mayor I have heard since I moved to this town about increasing the tax base and encouraging people to move here.  Now it is time to dig in and work seriously on these as priority items.  When we must tell developers that they cannot build here because we cannot support their water and sewer needs and we have known that these were needs for two decades, then there is a problem that has only grown.  I have said from the start that we need to enumerate our priority items, set them as our priorities, and work those priorities.  And that takes time.  It takes the investment of funds, all of which come from taxpayers.  And it takes using wisdom, responsibility, and accountability.

Not every town department is going to get its wishes fulfilled.  Not every department will move at the same pace towards its stated needs.  But we can chip away at it all, bit by bit.  We need to do the things we should have been doing for years and not waver from that.

None of this is going to be accomplished by a new marketing slogan or fresh town logo.  None of this is going to be achieved by a new magazine ad or news story.  It is also not going to be accomplished by begging for grant money from the federal government like 22,512 other municipalities, counties, and states are going to be doing.  And keep in mind that every grant or federal loan dollar we get are also taxpayer dollars.  We are not going to accomplish anything by just being or even claiming to be optimistic about our future.  Personally, I believe more in the Law of Entropy than eternal optimism.  That does not mean that we cannot work to reverse entropy.

Selma has a lot going for it with our small-town feel, our geographic location, and the resources that we do have.  But we need to entrust people who will put our town needs as a priority rather than “feel good” projects that are more personal agenda projects than anything else.

My wife and I did the early voting thing last week.  I am personally not a fan of early voting, but I wanted to get it out of the way and not allow election day campaigning or presence to be a distraction at the polling center.  Early voting ends on October 30th.  Early voting has been light so far in the entire county, especially since this is a municipal election that typically draws low voter turnout anyway.  Also, the only early voting location in the entire county is at the Board of Elections office in Smithfield.  That trip does not appeal to everyone.  At least while we were leaving the building, two Selma east precinct voters came in, which was nice to see, so I know that some town voters were at least showing up.

Do your research.  Know your candidates.  Know the issues.  And please vote.


Selma Trunk or Treat

I won’t personally be going to this event since there is a candidate forum going on right down the street at the same time, but there is a Trunk or Treat scheduled for next Thursday night.

Trunk or Treat is a fun and safe event that goes beyond trick or treating. DJ, bounce houses, contests and plenty of frightening fun. Trunk or Treat will happen Rain or Shine! Contests for the “Best Dressed Car” and Costume contests. Winners will receive spooky prizes! Date: Thursday, October 28, 2021 Time: 5:30 – 8:00 p.m. Location: Behind Selma Town Hall Cost: Free

Here is a way to help out with my candidacy.

OK, folks, here is your chance to show your support for my bid for Town Council. I would appreciate your help.

“Help your candidate by submitting an endorsement to publish with us. Endorsements should be respectful and factual. Neuse News’ final day to publish candidate endorsements for the 2021 candidates will be on October 31, 2021.”

Another newspaper questionnaire

Apparently, the Johnstonian News is going to do some more election issues coverage in their newspaper and online. Two days ago, I was given another questionnaire. I already did one previously. Here are the questions and answers I gave.

What do you consider the greatest issues facing your town? Please explain why you think those issues are important.

There is not just one single issue, there are several. First, we as a town have over the past few years neglected maintenance, training, and equipment replacement in both our police and fire departments. With the coming technology changes for police communications and the “end of service life” on some of our fire equipment, we should have been budgeting and planning for replacement and maintenance rather than cutting those budgets.

We have at the same time continued to push out any real upgrades and maintenance on our water and sewer systems. There has been a little progress on some storm drains, but not the larger scale preparation for the growth that we know is already planned and more that is coming. We have literally had to turn away development because of insufficient water and sewer capacity for proposed developments. You cannot grow the tax base and population if you cannot allow or encourage development.

• How would you address those issues? Please be specific.

It is my understanding that the town has previously engaged contractors to map out our water and sewer systems, though that is something we should have been already doing for the past century ourselves. We need to identify where we are deficient in with decrepit sewer lines, insufficient water mains, failing supply lines, and fire hydrants that need to be replaced. It is my understanding that the hydrant replacement project is a slow moving but ongoing thing. We also know where future development is coming in our area, so we need to start taking the tough decisions about how we are going to accommodate that growth in our system and how we intend to finance it. We cannot simply wait “with our hands out” hoping for grant money from the federal government with their infrastructure handouts like the other 19,428 other municipal, 3034 county, and 50 state governments are going to also be doing. That means we need to set budget priorities, work those priorities, and pay less attention to the non-critical issues. We may have to investigate all available funding options, including bonds if necessary. Obviously, we don’t know what that will look like until we dig into it further.

We also need to work a comprehensive plan on the maintenance, upgrade, and funding of our emergency services departments. If we are expecting the promised growth, we will need to have the equipment, manpower, and training to manage providing services to that growth of territory and population while maintaining existing levels of service.

• According to the 2020 Census, growth in Johnston towns was uneven over the past decade. Some towns easily grew by double digits; some did not. How would you position your town for growth in the coming decade?

I have watched neighboring towns approve a bunch of developments. I have also watched them make plans for accommodating improvements to their water and sewer systems and plan for new fire stations. We need to learn from that a little bit. We know that we have the Eastfield project starting in Selma whereas a neighboring town got an Amazon distribution center that would have gone well here as well. This is tied to the previous questions about problems facing our town. If we bring the improvements, we can attract and accommodate more growth, whether it is for housing or industrial purposes.

North Carolina and Johnston County in particular have been growing. The spread from the Research Triangle and the Raleigh Metro area to JoCo has been steadily creeping eastward, as we have known it would for decades. Obviously, towns west of here have seen the most growth as the creeping development advances eastward. Since we are right along Highway 70 and I-95, we are in a prime location for both residential and industrial growth. Smithfield has been better at making itself attractive to development along the interstate than we have been in Selma for a while now.

We need to make our planning and zoning attractive to developers, keep our available industrial tracts ready for development, work with our developments in progress, and be prepared to accept and accommodate our growth. That means having the needed infrastructure either ready or able to be planned and executed for the growth as it comes, and maintaining a business friendly environment.

• How would you rate the cost and quality of town services? What does your town do well for the cost? What could it do better and why?

I will start by saying that I am not a fan of the town being a utility provider, especially electricity. We pay a higher kilowatt hour rate than we would be paying if we were direct retail customers of Duke Energy and the town is not subject to the state regulation of electricity rates. Anytime we pay more to the town that we would pay private industry for the exact same service or product, then the difference in cost between the private company and the town’s cost to consumers is in effect taxation. To that end, I am personally not opposed to ending our contract with Electricities when we are able and selling our entire electrical grid to Duke Energy. That, I suspect, is nowhere on the foreseeable horizon, but I would like it to be a consideration when the time comes. There are some trade offs in that. We would get cheaper monthly utility bills that would both encourage businesses to locate here as well as citizens to relocate to Selma. We would also eliminate the punitive and harsh late fee structure for customers and be standardized and more regulated like other utility customers. On the flip side, our town has a well run electrical department that performs maintenance and repairs a lot faster than Duke Energy ever could. So customer service would likely suffer with any billing issues and service restoration after major storms.

As to what the town does well for cost and quality, our own town crews have been able to do sidewalk installation and repair a whole lot cheaper than private companies when considering their bids, according to our town manager.

Our Parks and Recreation Department has done a quality job of planning some events for the public. The past two years have been a challenge with public health concerns, and there are some areas where there may have been a learning curve for our staff, but considering the environment, they seem to have done well.

Since I am not sitting on the Town Council, I have not yet dug into the town financials for analysis of cost effectiveness on a “deep dive” level. That is not my job…yet.