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