Friday, September 19, 2014

A Time-Line for Understanding the Suppression of the Vote in Watauga County


Major Players
Stacy C. Eggers IV ("Four"), attorney for the Republican majority on the Watauga County Commission, attorney for the Watauga County Board of Elections, and major power player in the Watauga GOP.









Paul J. Foley, partner in the Kilpatrick Townsend law firm in Winston-Salem and one of three Republican members of the State Board of Elections, appointed by Governor Pat McCrory on May 1, 2013.








Josh Howard, founding partner of Gammon, Howard, and Zeszotarski in Raleigh and Republican Chair of the State Board of Elections, appointed by Governor Pat McCrory on May 1, 2013.






Kim Strach, Executive Director of the State Board of Elections, who can exercise certain discretionary power independent of the State Board, including the approval of the size and location of certain voting precincts.




TIME-LINE, JUNE - SEPTEMBER 2013

Early June 2013
Stacy C. Eggers IV ("Four"), who was already the minority Republican member of the Watauga County Board of Elections and was still serving on the BOE, angled to be reappointed to the BOE as a member of the new Republican majority. State Board of Elections Chair Josh Howard noticed that Four was also County Attorney, which threw up a red flag of conflict of interest.

June 24, 2013
Republican SBOE member Paul Foley writes to Four: “Are you still county attorney in Watauga? If so, we believe this would create conflicts of interest that could affect the validity of decisions made by the board." [page 70]

June 25, 2013
Four writes Foley, saying “another member of my firm [could] handle the county's matters…. We have made arrangements to address any issues which arise involving the County Board of Elections, and the advice given on any election matters are handled by another attorney who is not connected to my office.” Four gives his cellphone number to Foley and invites him to call.

Within half-an-hour, Foley forwards Four’s email to SBOE Chair Josh Howard. Howard immediately responds: “That's no solution at all” to the problem of a conflict of interest. [page 17]

June 26, 2013
Foley emails Four and copies Howard: “Members of the State Board talked to a number of folks and after such discussions believe that having someone serve as both the County Attorney and on the County BOE is a conflict of interest and, more importantly, could jeopardize the majority that Republicans enjoy on the board in certain circumstances. The Board's required vote on this issue was this morning, before we heard back from you. However, I do not believe that having someone different within a small law firm would change this analysis.” [page 16]

The SBOE appoints Bill Aceto and Jim Hastings as the Republican members for Watauga. Jim Hastings had been listed as second choice to Four.

July 2, 2013
Four indicates he has called Foley and follows up with an email, giving Foley a heads-up that “My county chairwoman [Anne Marie Yates] is ruffled up because she wanted to be consulted in the decision to appoint Jim Hastings to our board.” [page 15]

July 13, 2013
Four receives from Foley a heads-up of upcoming vacancies on other state boards and commissions (a kind of consolation prize? for not being reappointed to the Watauga BOE) [page 13]

July 16, 2013
Bill Aceto and Kathleen Campbell are sworn in as new members of the Watauga BOE. Jim Hastings is not sworn in, telling the Watauga Democrat that he did not want the position and did not know his name had been submitted. ["Only 2 Join Board of Elections," Watauga Democrat, 16  July 2013]

July 23, 2013
Four asks Foley to help him get appointed to the Appalachian State University Board of Trustees, the N.C. Judicial Standards Commission, or the State Judicial Council. [page 13]

That same day, Foley asks the GOP state Party Chair to help get Four appointed to other boards: “Four is from Watauga County and is strongly supported by Virginia Foxx. I think you know the background here. If there is anything you can do on the ones listed below or others, I know Virginia and I would appreciate it.” Foley copies Howard. [page 36]

July 25, 2013
Four writes Foley: “My chairwoman [Anne Marie Yates] asked if I had heard anything regarding a deadline to submit the two [new] substitute names to the State for our County Board of Elections.” [For each single appointment to a BOE, local political parties are required to submit two names.]

August 5, 2013
Two days before his brother Luke is actually appointed to the Watauga BOE (see below), and a week before the Watauga BOE meeting that will take up a long list of new resolutions, Four sends Foley the proposed resolutions: “I anticipate the Watauga BOE will move to pass a couple resolutions shortly, but before they are voted on I wanted to run them by you since they will require the approval of the State Executive Director [Kim Strach] to become effective. Here’s what they [the Republican majority] will want to do: 1) Undo the parting shot of the Democrats board where they passed a One-Stop Plan on their way out the door. 2) Recombine the 3 downtown Boone precincts back into the Boone precinct. The combined precinct would cover only one square mile, and is also the home of the Board of Elections office and early voting. 3) Move two polling sites to get them out of an elementary school and out of the National Guard armory, respectively.” [page 120]

August 7, 2013
Four’s brother Luke Eggers suddenly emerges publicly at the State BOE as the substitute appointee for the Watauga BOE seat originally given to Jim Hastings. [page 74]

Four writes Foley: “I would anticipate some political grousing from the other side, so if you have a moment to review and let me know if you think these would be acceptable I would appreciate it. As you would expect, it would be embarrassing to the local party if the State Director [Kim Strach] flipped one of the local BOE’s decisions.”

August 8, 2013
Four’s brother Luke Eggers sworn in as the third member of the Watauga BOE. Luke immediately calls for a meeting of the Watauga BOE on August 12.

That same day, Four writes Foley: “Thanks for your consideration of my brother yesterday at your meeting. I don’t want to push, but have you had a chance to look over the resolutions for changes the Watauga BOE would like to make? I understand if they are to undo what the last board did about early voting it has to be done before the 19th, and they have to give notice of the meeting to make those changes.”

Foley responds to Four the same day: “Just have the majority submit the plan that they feel is appropriate. Unless something is out of whack with reality, then I don’t think it is likely for the State Board to have any issues with it.”

Four then responds to Foley: “Thanks. I’ll tell them to proceed. I anticipate that some of their actions may encounter resistance from our County Director [Jane Anne Hodges], who may be less than supportive of the new administration.”

Foley immediately responds, “If the county director doesn’t want to follow their lawful instructions, the county director will be removed.”

August 9, 2013
Watauga BOE releases its agenda for the August 12 called meeting, and the Watauga Democrat publishes it the same day, including an interview with Republican GOP Chairwoman Anne Marie Yates, who spills the beans about what is being planned: http://www.wataugademocrat.com/news/article_f9da1baf-5267-5de5-8639-b2a2ed53ffae.html

According to the paper, “Campbell, the minority board member, said she was not consulted or considered in the setting of the meeting time or the agenda. She said she was worried that the two Republican members already seemed to have planned their actions together outside her presence.” Luke Eggers and Aceto could not be reached for comment.

That same day, Foley writes to Four giving him a heads-up that there's a problem with one of the resolutions to be introduced on August 12, the resolution creating a "mega-precinct" out of Boone 1, 2 and 3: “Please give me a call at your convenience. The combining of the University precincts is likely problematic.” [page 117]

August 12, 2013
The notorious first meeting of the Watauga BOE. All hell breaks loose over the implementation of Four Eggers' many new resolutions, including the shutting down of Early Voting on the campus of Appalachian State University, the moving of a town precinct (New River 3) out into the county for the municipal elections, and the imposition of restrictive new rules on Elections Director Jane Anne Hodges. Of particular interest: the resolution to combine Boone 1, 2, and 3 into a "mega-precinct" gets voted on 2-1 despite Foley's earlier warning that the Exec. Dir. in Raleigh had a problem with it.

Bad press travels fast. That same day, Aida Doss Havel (the ex-Wake County BOE Chair) writes Josh Howard and expresses her concerns about newspaper coverage (http://www.hcpress.com/news/httpwww-hcpress-comp75448.html) of the Watauga BOE meeting on the 12th:

“My concerns are:
1. Lack of "packet" to the Director and the member until just prior to the meeting (and the appearance that the Public Meetings Law was violated).
2. Lack of public comment.
3. Micromanaging of the director.
4. General lack of meeting management.
It will be devastating if this is repeated in 100 counties. I think you and Kim [Strach, Exec. Dir. of the State BOE] need to get out ahead of this fast.” [page 61]

Howard forwards the Havel email to Foley within an hour and says, “plz review.”

In the afternoon after the first meeting of the Watauga BOE, Four reports to Foley: “They had quite a crowd for their meeting this morning, and it was a local version of the Raleigh protests [Moral Mondays]. Fortunately, they didn't have to have anyone arrested, but they did have to read the [contempt] statute to quiet the crowd and have two deputy sheriffs on hand. Chants of 'Shame!' and snide comments from the audience were unfortunately common. We also had a visit from a fellow who stated he was an attorney named Jeremy Collins with the Southern Coalition for Social Justice. Based on my research, I don't think he's passed the bar yet, but apparently hopes to hear favorable news soon. Attached is the chairman's letter [signed by Luke Eggers but written by Four Eggers] regarding the reasoning behind the recombination of the Boone precincts and the resolution which was passed in case they 'get lost' between Boone and Raleigh. It is my understanding that the local Democrats are going to appeal the One-Stop [Early Voting] Plan which replaced their 'last hurrah' effort of the old board. If you need a letter explaining the changes on the One-Stop plan or anything else from Watauga County on this, please let me know at your convenience. I would hate to see this disapproved for insufficient information, because I'm afraid that would only encourage the opposition.”

Foley forwards Four's email to Kim Strach, and he forwards attachments (the other Watauga resolutions) to Howard on the same day. (These attachments were not shared with Republican SBOE member Rhonda Amoroso nor with the two Democratic members.) Foley responds to Four: “Things are going to be interesting moving forward. I have sent the information on to the folks in Raleigh. We’d probably like to have a Republican representative from the Watauga County board present at the meeting where we hear the appeal.” [An appeal of Four's Early Voting plan for Watauga was automatically triggered by the failure of a unanimous vote on August 12.]

August 14, 2013
Four to Foley, summarizing public and press reaction of the August 12 meeting: “They’ve made a great ruckus, but I’m not sure if anyone of them has actually appealed [the Early Voting plan]. If the State sees the One-Stop plan as complying with the requirement that the location is within close proximity to the County election office, as I read the statute there is nothing that necessarily requires review. If the State sees it as not in close proximity, since it was a split vote I think it would require State approval. The opposition was rather smug that if it wasn’t unanimous then the old board decision survives, which isn’t how I read the statute….”

Four asks Foley to let him know if an appeal comes through. Foley: “will do.” [page 179]

August 16, 2013
Democratic member of the SBOE, Joshua Malcolm, has called Howard to talk about the August 12th meeting and the resolutions passed. Howard responds to Malcolm in an email: “Hey- Aida Doss Havel sent me a link about the Watauga thing and I haven't had a chance to read up on it. Let me do that and get back to you later today.” Howard later responds, “ohh, jeez, what a mess. Blame abounds for this one. I'll call soon....” [page 60]

August 19, 2013
Watauga BOE Republican member Bill Aceto meets with Four and with Nathan Miller (Chairman, Watauga Board of Commissioners) at Four’s office around noon.

August 20, 2013
Four to Foley: “I hope you are doing well. Do you know when the State might have something to help us finalize the changes that were made in our County? It would be nice to close it out and let them move on. Not that it’s really relevant, but I look for the Winston Journal to hack at us in tomorrow’s edition, and according to the other side’s Facebook page Rachel Maddow is coming down to talk to their side. Apparently one of the local activists is friends with one of her deputy producers. The Congressperson [Virginia Foxx] always said the WSJ was a shill for the opposition. Good times here. Hope you can help shut down this foolishness. Thanks for your help!” [page 102]

A few minutes later, Foley responds, “Can you do a temporary transfer of the precincts instead?”

August 23, 2013
Foley has called Four on the phone, but Four has missed his call. Four says he would consider the prospect of a temporary transfer of the precincts. Invited Foley to call him on his cell.

Foley responds immediately that he is on a plane and asks Four to call him the next day. [page 100]

August 26, 2013
Foley emails Four to question some Watauga turnout numbers. Four responds and adds, “Also, I’ve asked my brother to blind copy you on an email with the Google earth maps showing both sides of the building [Agricultural Conference Ctr, which Four wants to designate as the new polling place for the combined Boone 1, 2 & 3 mega-precinct] which is proposed to be used. I can’t imagine the State staff will appreciate the lack of candor about that issue from the other side. As an aside, the County is going to upgrade its walkway around the building to make sure it’s as accessible as possible." [page 100]

A work order was put in the next day by the Watauga County Manager for improvements “to accommodate voting traffic” at the Agricultural Conference Center. The County Manager has declined to say who ordered the work, but County Commission Chair Nathan Miller said he did in the Watauga Democrat of September 17, 2014 ("Eggers' emailsto SBOE draw scrutiny").

August 27, 2013
Minority member of the Watauga BOE, Kathleen Campbell, to Four Eggers: “I am the Democratic member of the Board of Elections and I have a question I would like for you, as county attorney, to answer regarding the minutes of our meetings. Can you give me a written opinion as to whether or not it is permissible for a single member to modify the minutes by changing the report of what action was taken?"

August 28, 2013
Four responds to Campbell, saying he can’t help her with legal advice: “Typically, the county attorney provides legal advice as requested by the Board of Commissioners, the county manager, or the various boards of the county as a whole as needed. This policy was adopted by the county in an effort to control legal expenses, and avoid expenses not otherwise authorized by the county."

That same day, in an exchange of emails on issues arising in other counties, Howard also asks Foley, “Where are you on Watauga stuff?” [page 56]

August 29, 2013
Howard writes to Foley to tell him that SBOE Exec. Dir. Kim Strach wants to release her negative decision on combining Boone 1, 2 & 3 precincts before the hearing on the Early Voting plan appeal, because she hears busloads of ASU students are coming to Raleigh. Foley to Howard: “I talked with Kim and I generally agree with her denying the permanent consolidation of the precincts. The difficult part here is that I forwarded her that proposal on August 6 and didn't hear back until after the Watauga meeting on August 12th that there might be a problem and, even then, it was just a general 'that's an awfully large precinct.' Because I hadn't heard anything from the State, I told the folks in Watauga that I hadn't heard anything back from the State, but that I believed the State Board would generally do what we could to support them.” [page 53]

September 3, 2013
SBOE Hearing in Raleigh on Kathleen Campbell's submitted minority Early Voting plan for Watauga. The SBOE votes to approve the Four Eggers Early Voting plan.

September 4, 2013
Because SBOE Exec. Dir. Kim Strach rejected the combination of Boone 1, 2 & 3 precincts into a mega-precinct, the Watauga BOE met the day after the hearing in Raleigh to withdraw that resolution. Eggers and Aceto vote instead to designate Legends as the polling site for Boone 2 precinct, rather than the Linville Falls Room in the Student Union, where the precinct polling place has been for several election cycles (Watauga Democrat, "UPDATE: Legends Chosen as Polling Site," Sept. 3 2013].

A series of emails fly following that meeting:

In a response to a forwarded email from Howard, Democratic SBOE member Joshua Malcolm writes: “I believe our friends in Watauga [Eggers and Aceto] let pride get in their way tonight with the move to Legends instead of the Linville Falls Room on the ASU campus. I don't know whether these young fellas understand there is a time to yield on things when others have better ideas.”

Howard responds to Malcolm, “good lord, this is the first I've heard-- what did they do?"

Malcolm to Howard: “They moved the ASU voting precinct location to Legends, which the Univ. stated in writing was flood prone, nonventilated etc. etc. etc. The Director [Jane Anne Hodges] recommended the Linville location as well. It was the location shown by the photos yesterday by board member Campbell as a potential one stop location. I don't understand....”

Howard responds: “me either. we'll work it out. I need to focus on my law practice for a couple of days-- let's table this until next week.”

Howard forwards Malcolm’s email to Foley: “Holy cow, what did they do? Isn't legends a bar or something?”

Foley responds to Howard: “Yeah, I think Legends is a bar on campus. The only one in the UNC system-- I think. I have never been to Boone, so I can't speak with any authority on which site might be better.” [pages 30/43]

That same day, Four writes to Foley to report on the Sept. 4 Watauga BOE meeting and to complain about it: “They had another fun crowd show up in Boone, and we’ve got another Youtube video courtesy of Ms. Campbell’s supporters…. I particularly like the scenes of Ms. Campbell arguing to her audience, showing them her pictures instead of the board, and asking the audience for a show of hands as to who supported which site….  On an aside note, the Democratic party mobilized its people against our new choice [Legends]. The director of the student union and Legends, an unsuccessful Democratic candidate for county commissioner, had told me when I was on the board of elections that Legends was a “way better” site than the student union and asked Jane Hodges and I to please work on moving there…. I’m particularly disappointed in our Director, who for the entire time I was on the Board complained about all the problems at the Student Union and begged us to move to Legends. [Director Hodges says she did advocate for a temporary move to Legends some years back when the Student Union was being renovated.] …. Now, with the mob in attendance being asked for a straw poll, [Jane Anne Hodges] says the Student Union would be easier on her staff…. I’m sorry to vent to you, because you have enough on your plate, but I figured you would understand the aggravation of this situation. Hopefully, with this being the last intended move by the board, things will settle down and life can go on. I would also hope Ms. Strach would support their decision. Sorry again for the hassle, and I hope you have a good evening. Perhaps I can quit hassling you soon.” [page 194]

September 12, 2013
Bertrand Gutierrez, reporter for the Winston-Salem Journal, investigating the "digital thumbprint" on documents submitted by the Watauga BOE to the SBOE -- a "digital thumbprint" that subsequently proves that Four Eggers is the actual author of all resolutions and letters -- puts in a call for comment to SBOE Chair Howard. Howard emails Foley --Subject “ws Journal calling about four eggers”: “Largely punting and referring to you.” [page 72]

Howard to Foley, Subject “they've used metadata to ID four eggers as the author of the Legends plan.” “And the precinct thing. [The article will run] Sunday.” [page 72]

September 15, 2013
The Bertrand Gutierrez article, "One County Attorney, Two Hats: Documents Show Attorney as Author Behind Key Resolutions," appears in the Winston-Salem Journal on the front page. The article contains this passage quoting SBOE Chair Josh Howard:

"All this comes after the N.C. State Board of Elections did not consider appointing Four Eggers in June to the county elections board even though the state Republican Party had submitted his name as its No. 1 choice. The state board members considered only the state Republican Party’s secondary picks, according to various documents related to the appointment, obtained through public-record requests by the Winston-Salem Journal. 'He serves as the county attorney,' said Josh Howard, a Republican, the chairman of the N.C. State Board of Elections. 'I don’t think he can do both jobs because the county attorney often has to advise the county board of elections.' ” 

In the same article, County Commission Chair Nathan Miller is quoted: “If he [Four Eggers] wants to give advice to his brother, free and off the public doles, so that he's not taking any public money, then so be it. I'm not going to stop him from giving advice to his brother. And I don't think that creates any kind of conflict."


Thursday, September 18, 2014

15 Questions for the Watauga County Commission

We're very aware that County Commission Chair Nathan Miller has already declared to Anna Oakes of the Watauga Democrat that he won't be answering any questions about the partisan activities of Stacy C. Eggers IV ("Four"), who is both a major player in the local Republican Party and the County Attorney who represents the local Board of Elections. That Mr. Eggers has actually been running the Board of Elections from cover since last summer, using his brother Luke Eggers as the puppet chair, is very well known. What was not known until recently was how Four Eggers and State Board of Elections member Paul Foley were working in secret to manipulate voting in Watauga County for partisan advantage.

The documents released under a public records request from the State Board of Elections are all on-line here and form the basis for the 15 questions that follow. These are not idle questions but go to the heart of fair elections in Watauga County and the corruption of government:

(1) Is it the opinion of the Board of Commissioners that it is appropriate for the Watauga County Board of Elections Attorney to serve as both a partisan advocate to the State Board of Elections on behalf of the Majority on the local Board of Elections and against the Minority Board member while simultaneously serving as legal counsel to the full Board? And to do so without knowledge of nor consent from the Minority local board member?

(2) Is it the opinion of the Board of Commissioners that it is appropriate for the Watauga Board of Elections Attorney to request that a State Board of Elections member vet county BOE resolutions intended to be presented by the local BOE Majority prior to the county meeting in which the resolutions will actually be introduced, debated and voted on? And before the Minority Board member has seen the resolutions? And without knowledge of nor consent from the Minority local board member? And without an offer to likewise personally advocate for the Minority’s resolutions with the State Board of Elections?

(3) Is it the opinion of the Board of Commissioners that it is appropriate for the Watauga Board of Elections Attorney to warn a State Board of Elections member that a failure to pass the Majority resolutions as opposed to the Minority resolutions “… would be embarrassing to the local party if the State Director flipped one of the local (Majority) BOE’s decisions.”

 (4) Is it the opinion of the Board of Commissioners that it is appropriate for the Watauga Board of Elections Attorney to personally register irritation and lack of confidence in the Watauga Board of Elections Director to a State Board of Elections member without notification to local Board of Elections members that he was going to do so or without approval to do so from the local Board?

(5) Is it the opinion of the Board of Commissioners that it is appropriate for the Watauga Board of Elections Attorney to exchange partisan emails and phone calls to a State Board of Elections member about Watauga Board of Elections matters without approval from the local Board to do so and/or before these local Board matters have even been debated or even presented at an official meeting? And without sharing those communications with all local Board members?

(6) Is it the opinion of the Board of Commissioners that it is appropriate for the Watauga Board of Elections Attorney to forward resolutions and letters to the State Board of Elections on behalf of one member of the local Board of Elections without offering such personalized service to all local Board members? And without notifying Board members he is doing so?

(7) Is it the opinion of the Board of Commissioners that it is ethical or appropriate for the County Board of Elections Attorney to communicate to a State Board of Elections member that “I would hate to see this (resolution to create a Super precinct) disapproved for insufficient information, because I'm afraid that would only encourage the opposition.” Does the Board of Commissioners know to whom the Board of Elections Attorney is referring as the “opposition”?

(8) Is it the opinion of the Board of Commissioners that it is ethical or appropriate that the Attorney for the County Board of Elections offers legal interpretation of State Statute to a State Board of Elections member on behalf of the Majority local Board members while at the same time telling the Minority member of the local Board he can only offer legal advice if directed to do so by the full Elections Board or upon request by the County Board of Commissioners?

(9) Is it the opinion of the Board of Commissioners that it is appropriate for the Attorney for the County Board of Elections to ask a State Board of Elections member for help in “shutting down this foolishness” when he learns of state and national publicity that advocates for the Minority Board member’s position on local Board matters?

(10) Is it the opinion of the Board of Commissioners that it is appropriate for the Attorney for the County Board of Elections to tell a State Board of Elections member he is having the Chairman of the local Board “blindcopy” a State Board member on evidentiary materials in support of a Majority position and without notifying the other members of the local Board he is doing so?

(11) Are the Board of Commissioners aware that the County Board of Elections Attorney wrote to a State Board member in support of an unvoted Majority plan to create a Super Precinct at the Agricultural Center, that “the County is going to upgrade its walkway (at the Agricultural Center) around the building to make sure it’s as accessible as possible” for voters? And that the very next day, the County Manager placed an order for this work? And that the County Manager will not say who directed him to place the order?  And that the local Board of Elections never voted for nor requested the upgrade for this walkway? And that the money used to upgrade a set of stairs at the Ag Center cost taxpayers almost $900?

(12) Is the Board of Commissioners aware that the Watauga County Board of Elections attorney has billed and received payment for over $2,000, purportedly related to local Board of Elections matters, since March 2013, but none of which was requested nor approved by the local Elections Board? Is the Board of Commissioners aware that these activities include, among other things, “legal research” and a charge for thus-far unexplained written and verbal communications regarding local Board of Elections business with ASU Attorney Dayton Cole, also never requested by the local Board?

(13) Is it the opinion of the Board of Commissioners that it is appropriate for the Attorney for the County Board of Elections to make fun of and criticize the Minority Board member he is supposed to represent to a State Board of Elections member?

(14) Is it the opinion of the Board of Commissioners that it is ethical or appropriate for the County Attorney to send to State Board member(s) copies of resolutions represented as "what the Watauga BOE would like to make" prior to the local Board meeting that will introduce, debate and vote on the resolutions? And without notifying all members of the local Board that he is doing so?

(15) Is it the opinion of the Board of Commissioners that it is appropriate for the County Board of Elections attorney to deliberate on local BOE matters selectively with local Board of Elections members prior to official meetings on those matters and without knowledge of all the members of the local Board?

While I understand and appreciate that Watauga Board of Commissioners Chairman Nathan Miller has stated that the County Attorney has the right to advise and assist his brother personally in local Board of Elections matters, doesn’t the communication revealed through this public records request demonstrate activity far beyond such personal, familial assistance? Or is it the position of the Board of Commissioners that the above activities by the Attorney are acceptable and demonstrate a non-partisan and equitable representation of the Local Board of Elections and its members?

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics

At the candidate forum last night at the Ashe County Courthouse between incumbent Jonathan Jordan and challenger Sue Counts for the Dist. 93 NC House seat, Jordan wanted to exhibit a relentlessly sunny disposition: Everything is just fine, he assured us, since the Republicans took over in 2011. Anything that's not quite right is entirely the fault of "previous administrations."

According to him, Republicans have a long list of achievements: Teachers are better off than they've been in decades. Taxes have been reduced so that prosperity for all is flourishing. Medicaid is being reformed (kicking 600,000 citizens off Medicaid will do wonders!). Jordan and his fellow Republicans are johnny-on-the-spot, protecting the environment. The rogue Town of Boone has been thoroughly punished and humiliated. What's not to like?

At least half of the audience, which included a sizable number of teachers, wasn't buying it.

Jordan was hammered with questions about the sorry state of education funding in North Carolina, but Jordan had his bar graph which he kept displaying. This proves, said he, that the Republicans have done more for public education in the last two years than anyone else in history. Bar graphs and statistics can prove anything, he might have added, but didn't.

Jordan also defended his vote on opening up the state to fracking. He claimed that "no wells have ever been contaminated by fracking," a sweeping claim that surprised many of the people in the courthouse. He was asked why he voted to make disclosure of fracking chemicals a crime. He said that "only a few chemicals" are used in fracking. "Mainly, it's sand and water." Many people laughed out loud at that claim.

Among the questions from the audience, there were a number of thoughtful and well informed queries directed at both candidates. But a bizarre moment was provided by a prominent Ashe County Republican Party officer. She expressed skepticism that challenger Sue Counts could possibly be a Christian. (However low you think you've sunk with contemporary Right Wing religiosity, there's always a bit lower you can go.)


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Boone's Former ETJ: Watauga County Left Stomping the Flaming Bag of Legislative Feces

The clock is ticking down to January 1, 2015, when some 1,500 different property owners in the former Boone Extraterritorial Jurisdiction will suddenly be without the zoning protections that many of them have depended on for years.

With a 3-2 Republican (and virulently anti-zoning) majority on the County Commission, we don't feel any urgency on the parts of Nathan Miller, David Blust, and Perry Yates to reinflate the ship that Sen. Dan Soucek and Rep. Jonathan Jordan have generously sunk for the benefit of a handful of developers.

It'll be a huge job for the County Planning Board to come up with a recommendation -- something that's probably going to take more than the three months left in this quickly waning year. Which means the 1,500 property owners get thrown to the wolves on January 1st, or the County Commission enacts a moratorium on development until regs are written, debated, and enacted.

It's a fine mess that Soucek and Jordan left us.

I attended the meeting last night of the Watauga County Planning Board. They took up for the first time what to do about the former ETJ. Some of their members weren't present, but I detected mainly good will on the part of those who did bother to show up. They want to help the neighborhoods, and as a first step they're scheduling a series of community meetings to understand the problems and gather opinions on what to do.

Meanwhile, the clock keeps ticking. The ideological make-up of the guys with the power to do something, anything -- the County Commission -- isn't guaranteed to support a moratorium on development while the Planning Board completes its work.

Except … except … there'll be an election before the first of the year, and new Commission members will take their seats early in December, so things could turn around suddenly. Or not. Depends on what county voters want: the cronyism and corruption of Raleigh office-holders who'll sell you out to the highest bidder, or patient regs meant to protect property values and the quality of life for all residents.

What to do to protect homeowners in the former ETJ becomes a campaign issue for County Commission candidates this fall. Do you know where they stand? Do they know where they stand?