Learning the ropes

Council member Gene Pease said he wanted a better understanding of the Northern Area Task Force’s reasoning on why it deemed certain areas appropriate for higher density. So after the public hearing on the Bridgepoint development last month, he asked town attorney Ralph “Don’t ask me, I only work here” Karpinos for more information. Karpinos told him that that was something Pease had to ask and have answered in the public domain and reportedly told Pease to bring the topic up at a Town Council business meeting.

So, Monday night, Pease brought it up and was met with silence. When Pease asked Karpinos how he could get answers to his questions, Karpinos said, in effect, “Someone should have provided that to you tonight.” But alas, no one did.

Pease’s frustration was visible. The time had come to vote on whether to approve the rezoning and special use permit application for Bridgepoint. Pease wanted more information before he could make a well-reasoned decision. He went through channels; he followed the rules; he came up empty. In the end, he voted against Bridgepoint, one of only two council members to do so.

Monday night was an experiential lesson in learning the ropes of town government. Here’s what we’ve observed in our first year of council watching:

When Karpinos, known for his whistle-clean deniability, is asked for an opinion, he wordsmiths an answer that slipknots the problem and the solution onto someone else.

When town planning director J.B. Culpepper, who puts the “chipper” in “civil servant,” can’t take care of a matter by denying there is a problem, she’ll promise a report.

When town manager Roger Stancil chews his cheek, you’ve lost the fight.

Pease didn’t explain why he voted against Bridgepoint. But we’re firm believers that more information leads to better decisions, even if it means giving up a little of the control. We wish we could convince town staff of that wisdom.
– Nancy Oates

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  1. It would be nice if the rest of the council felt this way too, instead of just voting along with everyone else.

    If this was the reason for his voting against BridgePoint, kudos to Mr. Pease for standing on a valuable principle.

  2. Nancy, it’s been interesting (and at times somewhat disappointing) watching nearly 10 years of Council – staff – management – citizen interactions. I’ve seen all the tactics you might expect in the corporate culture plus more in discharging the community’s business.

    The good news is that many staff members work hard to get around the nonsense, to cooperatively help citizens move our community forward. The bad, of course, is that leadership still relies on a disinterested public to push policies that don’t make sense.

    One example of a local tactic is the use of citizen input especially through the advisory process. Council welcomes that input as long as it aligns with their goals – after that it’s adios. Along that same vein is professing support of greater participation – like the formation of a community-based advisory group to monitor/manage the Carolina North development agreement – and then not following through ( 18 months out and where’s that group?).

    With Foy’s passing some of the slick manipulation has diminished but, unfortunately, Mark seems to have picked up some of the worse lessons of the imperial mayoralship – like conflating Lot #5’s contract performance requirements and NC legislatures extension of building permits – to get (or attempt to) get his way.

    Whether I agree with their points or not , it’s refreshing when Laurin, Gene, Matt, etc. step forward and clearly outline their differences and buck the established system.