Mediocre politicians live in fear of the truth

Why are so many of us willing to accept mediocrity in our political leaders?

It’s a question I keep coming back to in regards to a variety of issues, from the presidential primaries for the two major political parties to the recent shameful actions of the Greensboro City Council, with a nod to the hayseeds running things down in Raleigh.

Donald Trump is clearly unfit to be the president of the United States of America. That he was able to dominate the GOP primary process and all but secure the nomination this spring has been ghastly to watch. The Republican primary debates were awful, more akin to a clown show than a debate of political substance. Hillary Clinton, for her part, has already released a minute-long commercial that compiles the lowlights of racist and hateful Trump platitudes uttered during the last year. Expect to see it early and often this summer.

Mother Jones released its own video that links hateful Trump statements uttered against protestors at his rallies with images from the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, including those from the Greensboro Sit Ins. It’s chilling to watch a gang of whites attack a black man trying to exercise his right to sit at a lunch counter while hearing Trump exhort his supporters to “throw that guy out” or warn how in the good old days they could have roughed up protesters.

That’s pretty depressing but not as bad as remembering that Bill Clinton is a heartbeat away from becoming First Gentleman of the United States of America.

Seriously, is there any more representative icon of America’s failed neo-liberal political elite than Hillary Clinton?

I’ve heard so many people express frustration or sadness at the state of America’s political choices. I think many people feel a sense of sadness at the ominous clouds of fascism gathering on the horizon. I get frustrated with the two-party blinders so many people wear. Several years ago I personally converted to third party status. I cast my presidential vote last time for a third-party candidate as a write in. Many of my friends scoff at this, calling it a wasted vote. I call it “exercising my conscience” to freely vote for the candidate of my choosing. People who blindly vote for Democrats in response to the insanity of many Republican candidates are hardly making a better choice.

Are Democrats any better than Republicans? If one looks at the actions of the Democrats that make up the overwhelming majority of the Greensboro City Council then the answer becomes clear. I don’t even really care that they voted themselves an incredible pay raise without public comment at a recent meeting.

Perhaps now that a council critter can earn $22,140 a year for their service we might attract better candidates. Or at least some willing to stand up for the little guy.

The spectacle of Mayor Nancy Vaughan threatening to remove activist Lewis Pitts from a meeting recently was one of the most heavy-handed tactics I’ve seen in local government. I mean, it wasn’t as bad as Mike Barber leading the council in a headlong retreat from a public hearing on the DGI contract, but it was pretty lame.

Pitts, a long-time civil rights attorney who recently retired from the state bar, stood during a recent council meeting to beg to differ with the council’s intent to pass a police body camera video policy without public review or comment. Jamal Fox even made a motion to pass the policy without some on council having read it. Seriously?

Pitts had been leading a grassroots effort to have the council adopt a more open policy, which first considered the footage a public record and then would require consideration of what exemptions may apply. The city policy, which has been written about much since its passage, first considers the video a part of an officer’s personnel record and then moves through a set of hoops to determine when it could be released.

Pitts, then, rightly objected when the city council brought the policy up for approval about two weeks prior to the anticipated meeting time. It was similar to the pay raise in that the item wasn’t on the advertised agenda given to the public before hand.

Why the rush, Madame Mayor? I suppose when you win an election with 80 percent of the vote you can consider alienating the affection of those who once thought you’d bring a different leadership style. What do the city or the individuals on council have to fear from transparent and robust debate of the city’s most important issues?

A most disgusting example of the cronyism and insider wheel greasing that limits Greensboro’s growth is the atrocious handling of the competitive Downtown Business Improvement District contract.

For the first time, the city was required by state law to put the contract that normally goes to Downtown Greensboro Inc. up for competitive bid. Those bids were due April 8. DGI and a group of grassroots creatives led by Eric Robert submitted bids by the deadline. Robert’s group sought half of the DGI budget, estimated at $300,000, to market the center city and enhance public spaces.

Now here we had an organization, DGI, that has done next to nothing in several years to visibly move Downtown Greensboro forward. Oh sure man, having the president of the group go to a luncheon or speak to another booster group or launch the umpteenth study on what Greensboro really needs is great and all, but beyond the flowers downtown what’s been visible?

Now just imagine if Robert and Evan Morrison of Hudson’s Hill, two of the most celebrated and acknowledge creative individuals in Downtown Greensboro, were set loose to Make Greensboro Cool Again.

That must have scared the living crap out of the oligarchs who run downtown because the next thing you knew there was Mike Barber leading nothing short of a panicked retreat from council chambers after Robert expressed concern about DGI’s insider contacts with city staff. It had come to light that the city’s selection committee asked DGI to alter its proposal the week after the deadline for submissions. Both Morrison and Robert said it seemed unfair. But when Robert began to reach his eloquent best, Barber cut him off midsentence to ask for an immediate recess. Video of the meeting shows Barber aggressively waving his arm for council to follow him out the door. Before Robert could react, there was Nancy Hoffman and Jamal Fox halfway out the door with Barber hot on their heels.

The mayor moved the item to be postponed until June 7 once the council gathered itself and found the intestinal fortitude to return to the arena and face criticism from a taxpaying American.

By the end of the week Mayor Vaughan asked the DGI contract to be quietly added to the agenda of a work session on Monday, May 23 at 1:30 p.m. That way Robert and Morrison and their cadre of rag tag visionaries couldn’t muster their forces to come and speak in opposition to the notion that DGI represents the best of Greensboro. City Attorney Tom Carruthers initially approved the mayor’s request, despite the fact that she made a motion in open session during a public hearing to continue the item to June 7. I knew instinctively that this was impossible, but before I was able to raise the issue, Carruthers realized his error.

“Once continued, it cannot be moved again absent further advertising or by motion heard on June 7th,” Carruthers wrote in an email to council members late on the afternoon of May 20.

It’s not like Mayor Vaughan to rush.

After all, she’s the one that lets leftist political activists make a mockery of decorum in council chambers and here she is afraid to let two taxpaying Americans have their say on a matter of public policy and spending. !