Feigned indignation on city council?

To the Publisher,

I recently viewed an online recording of the Mount Airy city council meeting of April 21.

It felt a bit like watching the Academy Awards – with the slap!

As the meeting edged close to a scheduled discussion of the now well-known Uncorked drama, Commissioner Marie Wood spoke out of turn to inappropriately chastise Commissioner Jon Cawley for, among other council sins, having dared to mention Uncorked – which, until then, had apparently remained a secret known only to a few select individuals – including members of the planning committee, a few cherry-picked commissioners, and probably some others with council-approved top secret clearance that would entitle them to know how and why the local Uncorked business had become intrinsically linked to a requested change in a city ordinance. (Apparently, Wood forgot that the Business-Which-Cannot-Be-Named had initially been referenced, out loud, by a city employee – whose own name shall be withheld for fear that he, too, could be publicly censored.)

A bit later in the meeting, Wood’s verbal slap was bolstered by Commissioner Steve Yokeley, who said he resented the insinuation that board members don’t do their homework.

Once the Oscar-worthy feigned indignation performances by Wood and Yokeley were out of the way, Commissioner Cawley addressed the elephant in the room – which is the lack of transparency that seems to be consistently applied to council proceedings in order to guarantee a pre-determined vote on key issues. Clearly, in the case of “Uncorked-gate,” not every commissioner had been given all the same background information (including implications and relevant potential consequences) that is supposed to help inform their vote. Indeed, the limited information provided to Cawley made no mention of Uncorked — or the fact that that establishment stood to potentially benefit from the ordinance change that was being promulgated.

I believe the only reason such secret, underhanded shenanigans are permitted to plague our local governing body is so the council can continue its ‘hide and slide’ decision-making process – whereby bits and pieces of relevant information are conveniently hidden, omitted, or purposefully withheld from one or more commissioners so the others can easily slide their preferred outcome through the voting process. No vote should be taken unless and until all commissioners are working from the exact same script.

Kudos to Commissioner Cawley for once again standing up for truth and transparency. And shame on the mayor for not showing the leadership required to demand, effective immediately, that all background information and/or recommendations shared with all council members be exactly the same – with seemingly no calculated omissions of relevant factors.

Rebecca Harmon

Mount Airy

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