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Boyle column: Hey Democratic commissioners, stop saying stupid stuff

Boyle column: Hey Democratic commissioners, stop saying stupid stuff
21 Oct
6:44

For years now I’ve considered opening my own business — a political consulting firm.

And now it’s time for me to put to use that minor in political science from James Madison University (JMU, or as my siblings often reminded me, “Just Missed U.Va.” But I digress. Painfully).

Recent events — or more accurately, recently absurd public comments by local politicians in our illustrious county — have confirmed my suspicion that this service is sorely needed. By the way, my company’s name has quite a ring to it: “Stop Saying Stupid Stuff Consulting.” Company slogan: “For the love of god, shut it.”

So, I’m going to dive right in with a couple of not-so-free lessons.

Lesson Number 1: When you’re on the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners, and you live in a county that’s been rocked by scandals involving county managers and assistant managers allegedly bilking the county out of millions, and you were elected to keep watch over all those disappearing dollars, and people in said county are really, really ticked off about all this lost tax revenue, and some of them are suggesting all Democrats should be thrown out because all this happened over decades of Democratic control in the county, and you happen to be a Democrat, you do not publicly, or even in your sleep, for that matter, ever utter the following words when discussing the hiring criteria for a new county manager: “Let’s face it: The new manager, if they’re not a thief. The bar is pretty low, to be honest.”

That would’ve been Commissioner Ellen Frost at last week’s County Commissioners meeting, expounding on what they’re looking for in a county manager.

Too soon, Ellen. Too soon.

RELATED: Wanda Greene accused of claiming Buncombe County as a loss on tax returns

Wisely, Frost long ago announced she’s not running for re-election.

I’d also like to publicly suggest that Frost, an avid horsewoman, and everyone else on the board, as well as anyone remotely interested in politics, fraud and the loss of public trust, watch a really fascinating Netflix documentary called, “All the Queen’s Horses.”

It details how Rita Crundwell, the former city comptroller of Dixon, Illinois, stole nearly $54 million of taxpayer money over 20 years, the largest case of municipal fraud in American history. At times, Crundwell pilfered $5 million a year, and the whole town budget was $8 million-$9 million.

While the town was borrowing furiously to stay afloat, Crundwell was using tax dollars to build an enormous quarter horse breeding operation, winning all kinds of championships and living like, well, a queen. During this time, she was also slashing town budgets and neglecting sidewalk and road repairs.

You will see some downright spooky parallels to what went on here, but on a much grander scale.

I’ll also note that voters in Dixon were really, really peeved, too, and they voted out the mayor and the other four board members. Yeah, there’s a lesson in there, which leads me to my… 

Lesson Number 2: If you’re the Democratic Board Chairman of the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners, and you’ve been under an enormous amount of fire over all that tax money that went missing for fancy trips, splurges on wine and tsotchkes for the county manager’s home, and you’ve been balancing the county’s budget by draining money clearly allocated for new buildings and maintenance at the local community college, and that money came from a quarter-cent sales tax narrowly approved by voters who were repeatedly told that the money could only be spent on buildings and maintenance at the community college, and the exact argument for not voting for it was that future County Boards would not adhere to that promise and thereby make voters feel really dumb and used, you do not under any circumstances say something like this: “I don’t personally feel bound to spend the dollars (the way) that someone said before I was ever on the commission. And I never committed to using it for just that one purpose, new buildings at A-B Tech.”

RELATED: Timeline: A-B Tech’s quarter-cent sales tax history

That would’ve been Buncombe County Board of Commissioners Chairman Brownie Newman recently, talking about all the funding the county has diverted from Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College, which now has a big shortfall in its maintenance and building program because the county couldn’t balance its own budget and kept taking more and more of the quarter-cent sales tax.

While I appreciate Newman’s candor, the remarks can only irritate already very irritated voters.

See, folks are already thinking that by rubber stamping previous budgets and not asking for line item budgets and not ever confronting former manager Wanda Greene on her questionable spending practices, you weren’t doing your job.

Now, by acting as though you’re not bound by a previous board’s solemn promise, when that board was also clearly controlled by your party, you make people think your party has no real ethics.

RELATED: Boyle column: In Wanda Greene scandal, should we have uncovered more?

Am I going too fast? ‘Cause this doesn’t seem real complicated to me.

Be transparent. Do the right thing. Follow through on pledges. Be a fiscal hawk, no matter your party. Don’t get too cozy with the person who manages the county — you know, the one you have the power to hire and fire. Ask tough questions. 

And please, stop saying stupid stuff.

Lesson Number 3: Really, stop hiring so many attorneys and amassing legal bills of $100,000 that taxpayers have to eat. Just follow my rules above.

Thanks. That’ll be $550,000.73.

And yes, I accept payment via gift cards.

This is the opinion of John Boyle. Contact him at 828-232-5847 or jboyle@citizentimes.com

Source: https://www.citizen-times.com/story/news/local/2018/10/20/boyle-column-hey-democratic-commissioners-stop-saying-stupid-stuff/1687695002/

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