Tuesday, February 07, 2012

"By Ballot"

The Republican members of the Watauga County Commission completed their take-over of the Board of Directors of the Watauga County Tourism Authority this morning. The three Republican commissioners voted as a bloc to oust long-serving members Rob Holton and Mike Hall. Holton was the visionary chair of that board and had served on it since its creation. Both men have been exemplary public servants and have worked to make the parks, trails, and other recreational facilities in our county a "destination" for campers, hikers, canoers, and bikers from all over the country.

When time for the vote came at the end of their morning session, Chair Nathan Miller said he was concerned about potential "bad blood" and suggested the vote be done "by ballot," meaning via sheets of paper that would relieve the members of the Commission from openly declaring their preferences. The county attorney quickly pointed out that all votes by the County Commission are by law "open" votes; there can be no secret ballots.

After the meeting was adjourned, those ballots were surrendered for inspection, and indeed, commissioners Miller, Blust, and Gable voted to replace Holton and Hall with newcomers who may -- we're willing to hold our breath, at least for a month -- be every bit as forward-looking and visionary as the men they're replacing. But ... the trend has not been good on the TDA Board since the first round of replacements made by the commissioners a year ago. New board members have been voting against even seeking free money in the form of grants to develop and enhance recreational infrastructure in the county.

Time will tell where this new board will steer our collective vision.


Anonymous said...

"New board members have been voting against even seeking free money in the form of grants to develop and enhance recreational infrastructure in the county."

Really? Could you tell us exactly which grants they have voted against? I am, of course, aware of the Pine Run Bridge project in which the grant application stated that a public meeting had been held. Several of the commissioners, after being informed that no meeting had in fact ever been held, voted to not sign the fraudulent application and instead insisted that a meeting actually be held. Is that what you are talking about?

G.I.G said...

New board members have been voting against even seeking free money

Can anyone tell me where i can vote for this "Free Money"

I thought all government money was derived from taxation ?

Santa Claus said...


You are wrong.

It's FREE.

Anonymous said...

So GIG....You think by Watauga Co. passing on grants that it will send a message to our government that "free money" is bad so we should shut this grant down? That is foolish, idiotic, and sad. Instead, let's let, say, Catawba Co. take the money and develop their amenities. I love the Tea Party, no grip on reality!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 2:59 is a prime example of the type of person controlled by those that offer him bread and circuses.

The point is that not only should Watauga Co. not take these government bribes that use tax payer monies to purchase political power, no one else should either. They should not be available in the first place.

Anonymous said...

So far nobody has pointed out where any grant money was voted against. The original post claimed it but has not provided any information to support it. My guess is it's just more BS! Make accusations but don't bother with facts.

Johnny said...

What a shame. And Nathan Miller knows it's a shame too; otherwise he would never have insisted on a "secret ballot." I mean tell me, what would the purpose be of writing the names on little sheets of paper instead of simple hands-in-the-air vote if you weren't hoping to hide something? Mr. Miller is right "There could be bad blood." I have known Rob Holton for many years. He is a fine man who has worked so hard to help Watauga find its place as a recreational area for all--tourists and residents alike. I am embarassed to say I voted for the jokers in the last election. I won't make that mistake again.

Anonymous said...

Well, then. If that's the philosophy, the Commissioners should just get rid of all the TDA money anyway. That's a TAX afterall that I guess these commissioners don't support. We should just drop it altogether and have no plans. Let's just all bring the county down to a mere nub of a place, with nothing but scarred hillsides, unregulated water and sewer, no place to walk or take the kids, just a wreck of a place. That's as fine of an idea as I've heard. Let's let all the other counties have all the grants and federal money so they can build up their futures and we can just celebrate the fact that we've got nothing. Let's just strap a bomb onto ourselves because we're so pissed off at everyone else.

Anonymous said...

It's really not such a good sign about the willingness of the Commissioners to take responsibility for their many insane decisions that they try to vote in secret. This is the anti-democracy tendency of Republicans and it's across the board. They want to suppress general voting, want to approve pipelines behind closed doors, arresting reporters and having them removed (ABC) from hearing rooms, and here, they try to vote by secret ballot. If they are trying to hide, it shows they understand what they are doing is wrong, but they are determined to do it anyway. If they thought they were doing the right thing, they wouldn't try to hide. God help us that these clowns are in charge of the county. There is just no telling what damage they'll end up doing before they can be ousted.

Anonymous said...

I wasn't at the meeting so I don't know about any "secret ballots". I do know that the original post here claimed that these same commissioners voted against some grants. But, so far, my questions as to which grants they voted against has gone unanswered.

I have to assume that if the original posting misstated one fact, it is likely to have misstated others.

If the ballot was so secret, how come it was posted on this blog within a couple hours of the meeting?

Larry said...

Anonymous above says, "If the ballot was so secret, how come it was posted on this blog within a couple hours of the meeting?"

My question is this: If the commissioners weren't trying to hide their actions, then why did they choose to vote by written ballot instead of voicing their up or down like they usually do?

Anonymous said...

My question is this... Ir was not a secret ballot so who cares?

Unknown said...

God, don't let the tea baggers destroy Watauga County, too.

Anonymous said...

I have a big problem when powerful individual/s, like Rob Horton, can persuade public officials to give our tax money, initially with a huge lump sum amount to an agency or authority. And subsequently, that agency receives a certain tax revenue with the specific purpose of benefiting only specific businesses or a favored economic engine. This favored funding benefits Mr. Holton's business also, directly and indirectly, which is a big conflict of interest. That is not representative of free enterprise, neither is it a level field of competition. The TDA and its funding method is very unfair to other businesses, to say the least.

Jeff said...

Anonymous, if you have some garbage on Holton, why not tell exactly what the hell you're talking about instead of beating around the bush. I've known Holton for many years and have worked with him on a variety of issues. He was right on about designing a 5 and 10 year plan for parks and recreation and for trying to promote Watauga as a major national recreation place. That is beneficial to ALL of us. And I am an independent voter, unassociated with either Party.

So my questions to you are:

1-- In what way do you posit that "only specific businesses or a favored economic engine" are the beneficiaries of a long-range plan to increase recreational amenities for the entire county?

2-- What do you suggest would be a better use of TDA monies coming in?

Anonymous said...

Jeff, I am not beating around the bush. I am being direct. Holton's agenda and his business is a conflict of interests. This is not fair to other businesses and the taxpayers in general. Holton and his TDA are benefiting and giving tax money directly to some businesses, which is against fair play and free enterprise.

Anonymous said...

And as to the TDA, do away with it.

Do away with the occupancy tax.

Compete on a level playing field.

This would save significant sums of taxpayer money and put a few bucks back into people's pockets.

Jeff said...

"TDA are benefiting and giving tax money directly to some businesses, which is against fair play and free enterprise."

Absolutely untrue. And illegal.

If you know of this happening, then you should report it to the state right away. If you have the proof, let's hear it. Which businesses are you saying Holton is illegally giving money directly to?

What a bunch of garbage.

Anonymous said...

Jeff, you need to take a good look at the county records, which should take some time. I have. Some favored businesses are benefiting, directly and indirectly, with substantial sums of tax payer money. Period.

That's the entire concept of the TDA. Again, it should be done away with.

Henery said...

You're just making this crap up, aren't you? Otherwise, you wouldn't be so vague. "County records"??? WHAT county records. You don't know what the hell you're talking about, and it's as clear as the deep blue sky.

Anonymous said...

Henery, Jeff, you people need to ask Margaret Pierce, of County Finance, for an appointment to axamine all the TDA files, which date back to at least 2006. We did this approximately a year ago, and this effort took 4+ hours. I doubt if you would take the time to do this. You probably would not want to. We obtained copies of significant, questionable subject material from this lengthy examination.

First, the TDA staff has substantial funds to operate with. Their office expesnses, their cell phones bills, every month, are huge with no detailed info re: verification for these expenses, these phone calls; a serious lack of internal control. Expenses for travel are not verified. There is an appalling lack of backup for such activities. Remember, their very nice salaries and generous office expenses are paid for with taxpayer funds.

The actual businesses that benefit are but a very, very few. For instance, Tweetsie, has received considerable sums of money annually from TDA on top of the financial help from the county ~ three years ago--remember? The agreement stated that Tweetsie was supposed to verify its efforts to fund its own capital improvements program, but there is no means by which the county can verify such funding. Plus, the county has purchased land for bike paths, which taxpayers will have to maintain, that are frequented by bikers, tourists, and students at ASU, many who rent from housing businesses owned and operated by Holton.

Again, go look for yourself. Do most other businesses in this area, this county, receive these substantial subsidies from taxpayer funds?

ref said...

I think she's got ya there Jeff and Henery. Give up?

Jeff said...

Tell ya what. I'm going to take a look at those files for myself after the weekend.

First, when "anonymous" says things like (a) The County has purchased bike lanes; and (b) ASU students might get to use the bike lanes; and (c) some ASU students rent from Rob Holton; therefore (d) Rob Holton is using funds to benefit his own business, I call such thinking a stretch (at best) and pure bullshit (for sure).

Second, if the staff salaries are too high, then why didn't the commissioners simply reduce them? How much are they being paid? Why don't you share this with us? Details please. My bet you think $5 an hour would be too high.

Third, bullshit on "the actual businesses that benefit are but a very, very few." This is untrue. Restaurants, hotels, bed and breakfasts, mining companies, trout farms, water rafting businesses, and retail shops everywhere (just to name a few) benefit from the promotion of Watauga as a tourist definition. As for Tweetsie, I never liked that arrangement, I'll admit. But what money are they getting other than what was originally contracted for and how is this Rob Holton's fault?

As for "Tweetsie was supposed to verify its efforts to fund its own capital improvements program, but there is no means by which the county can verify such funding." Another bullshit. Of course, there is. If the Commissioners have questions about this, then why the hell don't they ask for the records instead of blaming good people like Rob Holton and Mike Hall?

What a crock.

Anonymous said...

Jeff, your arguments are full of air. And I doubt if any amount of evidence will convince you of the truth, period. You can easily label something "bull*&%#" or "crock", but that is obviously all you can say.

And no BOC, of either controlled party, will have the guts to do anything decent, right, and truly fair for all. There are special and powerful interests who want a leg up in any venture--political, social, or business wise, no matter who is in what office.

There is a comparative, but powerful few who want to arbitrarily decide in what direction a county's or area's economy will go. Is that true free enterprise? Or is it central planning--a distinct mark of totalitarianism? You mention only businesses that will benefit--part of the, in truth, shaky tourism package. Tell me, are these jobs good, reasonably stable, career jobs?

As to more details (you are never satisfied) I will have to go through our records, but you sir, can obtain this info yourself by requesting it by email of the county officials, even the TDA itself, and also by County Finance. But too frequently, especially in counties like Watauga, the public sector is paid far, far better than what remains of the private sector. I have obtained their, the TDA staff, on a couple of occasions their current (at that time) salaries, and their pay is more than substantial, to say the least.

So, yes, I am glad and very hopeful that you will make the effort. Please make the effort. Good for you.