Big Spenders & Wake County Commissioners. Like it’s new

Jeffrey Billman’s article about the big spenders and the Wake County Commissioners mirrors the social-media yelling from four of those incumbent candidates. Burns, Calabria, and Hutchinson were elected in 2014, largely on their promise for prioritizing public school funding. Portman would follow in 2016, rounding out the last of the Foursome. Together they would be responsible for creating a majority vote against the full budget request from the school board in June 2017. Together they would push a majority vote in favor of a lease-to-own option for the South Wake Park barely 5 months later,

That damn park.

South Wake Park (aka, Friends of Crooked Creek, rebranded) advocates insist that the history of how this land came became available for the purchase doesn’t matter.  I disagree.

On November 04, 2017, bodies filled the room to over capacity, their green “Park Please” t-shirts having replaced the crimson #Red4Ed t-shirts speakers had worn the previous June. Octavia Rainey and Ms Jacobs had not come to speak about the park, they had come to speak about why a working mother and lone caregiver for her 18-year-old special needs son could be arrested for animal endangerment because of the conditions of the house they lived in, a house with rent subsidized by the Wake County Housing Authority. For 7 days Ms Jacobs waited in jail as her son suffered stress-induced seizures over the sudden loss of both his service dog and his mother. She spoke about the struggle she had to keep the house warm in the winter, the lack of air conditioning in the summer, the lack of resources for her son while she was in jail for the conditions of a house she did not own.

Then began the stories of those who did speak for the park. The dozen or so parents who shared their hopes that the County would agree to buy the 150ish acres of failed golf course land. The founder of 3 Irish Jewels Farm, pledged a million dollars to help pay for the cost of buying the land —  please we only need 20 acres to build a working farm, a safe meaningful environment where adults on the autism spectrum can grow once their 18th birthday ages them out of other programs.

Despite the obvious racial and economic differences between them and Ms Jacobs, they all spoke with a similar fear — how to create safety for the children who will never live alone as adults.

But then the rest, face after-mostly-white- face, spoke about their need for this park. Health benefits. Conservation. Property values. Increased property taxes for the County to spend. Even more “park please” as if it’s the asking nicely that does the getting and not the person doing the asking.

I’d been the last name on the speaker sign-up sheet, but with each passing green t-shirt, the smiles of the Foursome grew, making it clear that the public comment period served no other purpose than as a backdrop for the picture of room full of cheering supporters.

Our room had been full of supporters for public education funding, we’d asked nicely, most of us wore red shirts — but that hadn’t mattered for us.

So many times in the last 18 months, I’ve been in rooms with people asking both nicely, and sometimes not ,  but the outcome has never once been us being handed our version of a park.

Wanda Hunter said after a City Council meeting a few months ago that it’s like playing a basketball game without knowing you have to score points to win. Running the court, dribbling, and passing the ball, but still losing because no one ever told you to shoot the ball through the basket.

No doubt the Foursome have taken a hit this cycle because of their decision to vote against the public school funding — the promise they made to get elected to begin with. The estimated total project cost according to County Park projections —$23.4 million dollars. It’s an amazing coincidence to suddenly need for a land purchase nearly exactly what they didn’t have for public schools.

Maybe the County won Powerball?

Beyond those two voting decisions, their behavior in defense of those votes went beyond terrible a month ago. Portman’s reality places women who put their money where their values are as merely “using the woman card”. When I called him out, he called me mean. For quoting him.

Burns replies to a facebook comment where I ask him to consider whose property and history earns the right for conservation and preservation (i.e., greenlining) by telling me to “take off my tin foil hat.” Even though the racial disparities are demonstrably true in the County’s current parks, through the land zoning restrictions, through gentrification.

Hutchinson replies to questions about public education funding with “I want teachers to find joy!” but he deleted my question about the restrictive land covenants on the land held by the Triangle Greenway Council (he was once President) which will prevent the Amherst and Brighton neighborhoods from actually crossing Middle Creek into their new County park. In fact, he’s deleted most of my comments on his page, except for the one where a white persons tells me I’m racist for pointing out white supremacy.

Calabria either can’t do math, or can’t handle being wrong — his refusal to understand that the County’s contribution to increasing local teacher supplements stopped at the 18.5% average increase they passed in 2015–16 led to him telling me I was deliberately spreading misinformation. I gave him charts and graphs — still, holding tight to his wrongness.

The personal careers of the four incumbents: two lawyers specializing in business and commercial litigation, one professional speaking and sales consultant, and a CEO — quadruple the rhetoric skills. Yet I think most of us are just absolutely done being with the white, mansplaining.

And that damn park.

The drama of Crooked Creek deserves its own television show, and the history of a neighborhood with enough money and time to develop a LLC (Friends of Crooked Creek) in response to bankrupt golf course’s closure. One that prevents the land from being sold for nearly three years, only to celebrate their legal losses with a park?

History matters.

Crooked Creek isn’t actually in Fuquay Varina. It’s north of the ‘Quay, but South of Wake Tech, tucked under Middle Creek, and hugged by two-line, sidewalk-less roads — Lake Wheeler Rd, Hilltop Needmore Rd, and Johnson Pond Rd. You know — accessible. Or not.

CC Partners built the 300-ish luxury homes to surround about a 160 acres of golf course. Regardless of why — Wither blames the recession, the Friends of Crooked Creek (FoCC) blame management neglect — the golf course failed to generate profit for several consecutive years, and in November 2014 — almost 3 years to the day later the Foursome will vote to preserve it as open space — a blog post on the FoCC website announces that the golf course will close “next summer.”

Crooked Creek residents didn’t take this news well. But when they found out in March 2015 that Wither intended to turn 90 of those 160 acres into luxury homes with luxury amenities, leaving only about 60 acres as open green space and natural trails, they did what many wealthy people do in times of personal injustice — they hired a lawyer and filed a lawsuit.

In early July 2015, the trial court denies their declaratory judgment & injunctive relief, but the FoCC are not deterred — appeal, filed. On July 5, 2015, the golf course and clubhouse close, and by July 24, 2015 the News and Observer reports that all of the homeowners (number unknown) who supported CC Partners in the trial receive letters saying: “You are among some of the world’s most despicable traitors. Do you think you are going to be able to live in this neighborhood? Not many people liked you before, but with your aid to the enemy, you are truly despised.”

Nearly a year later, in April 2016, the Fuquay Varina planning board unanimously denies CC Partners’ rezoning petition despite FV planning staff’s recommended approval. This is where the parcel for the school shows up- about 20 acres. Remember 3 Irish Jewels? Now Burns talks workforce housing plus a school on that 20 acres. Turns out that the farm was a proposal, nothing is set in stone yet. Terrible.

Y’all- what kind of power and money rolls into these garages at night?

By August 2016, Superior Court Judge Abernathy denies the Friends of Crooked Creek’s injunction request, clearly noting that the language in the covenants does not prevent the future sale and development of the golf course land. CC Partners offers them a compromise in the form of a Letter of Intent to sell the land to The Conservation Fund, but only if FoCC agrees to drop any future appeals, even if the contract with Conservation Fund falls through. FoCC is like, naw, and back to court it goes.

July 2017, the Court of Appeals decides that the “Covenants clearly state the golf course land can be sold for future development.” But, again — time, money, and power, in August 2017, the Friends of Crooked Creek file a petition for Discretionary review with the NC Supreme Court.

November 1, 2017- The NC Supreme Court denies Crooked Creeks’ petition for discretionary review under G.S. 7A-31.Which doesn’t matter because on November 6th, the Foursome save the neighborhood from the overcrowding (their words, not mine).

And listen, I get it, I like parks and am strongly pro-conservation. In fact, my grass represents a mash-up green weed-like plants strong enough to survive without attention, water, or chemical intervention. But I also get what it means when certain people can stop development just near their homes for three years, while other people watch their homes bulldozed from the rear-view mirror of the u-hail. I also understand that the current level of land banking planned in Wake County will not support the freaking 65 people showing up here every day. So either we stop advertising this as the “place to be” or we build places for the people who have BEEN here to live.

Some of us can hold more than one truth at the same time. Some of us.

The whole time the Friends of Crooked Creek are tying the land up in a legal battle to preserve the golf course, they are also actively working option two — preserved green space — a park! The first change.org petition appears in 2015, with a link to a now defunct Friends of Crooked Creek website.

About a year ago, a new Facebook page appears and thus begins rebranding. August 14, 2017 the South Wake Park Project (aka Friends of Crooked Creek version 2.0) delivers their park presentation to the County Commissioners.

Which brings us back to the Foursome’s insistence that their opponents are condoning the spread of lies based on a mailer their campaigns did not authorize.

Burns is quoted in the N&O: “Ms. Vickie Adamson knows very well that the county is not bailing out a golf course.” He went on to say, “We will purchase almost 200 acres of open land in a fast-growing part of the county and open it to public use.”

Okay- I’ll allow that calling it a call “golf course bailout” isn’t precise. It’s more of a “golf course homeowner land protection bailout,” but that’s such a long hashtag. Though it just occurred to me — has anyone actually removed the putting greens from those sprawling green lawns? If not, I sure hope there are plans to remove them, lest we actually accidentally bail out the golf course.

But let’s explore the meat of why Burns thinks that Adamson is condoning falsehoods.

The claim is that purchasing the Crooked Creek golf course land is 200+ acres of park-ready land, the 4 million dollar purchase price is well below market value, and that the County has neglected recreational and environmental needs of Southern Wake County’s taxpayers.

For that claim to have merit, the following conditions must be proven true:

  1. Southern Wake County doesn’t have County park/open space land.
  2. The Conservation Fund is purchasing 200+ acres of land for 4 million dollars.
  3. The cost to the County for The Conservation Fund to buy and hold the Crooked Creek golf land will equal 4 million dollars.
  4. The cost of a County Park is equal to the cost of a land purchase.
  5. The per-acre value of the land purchased is less than 4 million dollar price tag.
  • In 2005, Wake County purchased 235+ acres of land 11 minutes away from Crooked Creek for a future SouthEast Wake park thus condition 1 is false.
  • The Conservation Fund purchased 151 acres, not 200+ for about 4 million, thus condition 2 is false.
  • The $4 million dollar price tag doesn’t include the holding costs, calculated annually (not fixed-rate) at an interest rate of prime + ½ percent for 4 years, thus condition 3 is false.
  • Consultant feedback estimates the projected cost of land purchase + facility repairs + infrastructure investments will equal 23.4 million dollars over the next 5 years, thus condition 4 is false.
  • According to Wake County Real estate website, the combined assessed value for the 10 parcels of land TCF purchased equals $3,784,771. The $3,950,500 sale price for those same parcels is $165,729 more than the assessed value. That said, market rate value is often higher than tax value, so it’s likely true the principal-only cost to buy the land is below market value, this condition 5 is maybe.
    The Foursome took to social media airwaves to demand that their challengers denounce the information posted on a website and a mailer (sponsored by the Wake Citizens for Good Government PAC, not approved by the candidates) as lies. But other than calling it a golf course bailout, there aren’t any lies. The Foursome and park advocates keep insisting that the park doesn’t cost 24 million dollars. But since it’s right here in the Revised Crooked Creek Final Summary Item Summary no one’s buying it.

Selling a car without tires and an engine, while constantly repeating that it’s “drive away ready” doesn’t make it true. Nor is it true this park will only cost 4 million  dollars. That’s not even true for *just* the land because they forgot the annual holding cost, which will be part of the cost of the land even if they do nothing at all with the park. Like the SouthEAST park the County bought in 2005.

The Foursome and their selective outrage over the use of rhetorical claims feels like taking a walk on a NC August afternoon in a heavy winter coat — sticky, gross, and unnecessary.

For example, dude knows very well that it’s a stretch to round the142.8 acres the Conservation Fund actually bought to “almost 200 acres.”

They also know that they didn’t raise the local average teacher supplement by 44%. They did increase the local teacher supplements in 2015–2016 to an average of 18.5%. But that’s it. I know I keep harping on this, but when I kept hearing the Foursome talk about their increase to teacher pay, it just didn’t make any sense. So I asked every teacher I knew, and when not a single one of them could confirm this increase, I started digging and thinking. It took me a really long time to work out the math and reasoning, DPI and the NCGA don’t really want anyone to think about it too much else we might notice that the current conditions are an actual milestone on Art Pope and friends’ “Destroy Free Public Education” timeline.

Like those optical illusion posters, once the hidden image appears, it’s easy to find it again. According to Calabria’s personal Facebook warriors (lawyer and law student, shocking), I’m “deliberately spreading misinformation to purposefully make the number smaller?”

Except I’m not– and I brought a spreadsheet to prove it.

Maybe they knew all along they were misrepresenting the inflated percentage and did it to sound better, so they could put “pro-education” on their mailer. I mean, folks are RIGHTFULLY pissed off that they didn’t fund public schools for nearly the *exact* same amount that they “found” to buy Crooked Creek land.

Or maybe they did not realize their error until I pointed it out to them, but they can’t handle being wrong. Neither option are attractive qualities in a public servant, especially not a “progressive” public servant.

Rhetoric. Smoke and mirrors. Disingenuous. The Foursome keep accusing their opponents of telling lies that aren’t actually lies, while are using rhetoric to sorta-almost-mostly-not-tell-the-truth. The bombast-ity.

It’s hard to really buy into their integrity, no matter how much they insist the have some. They claim that breaking their promise to public education proves they can’t be bought by those giant donations they got in 2014. But even so, what does broken promises say about a persons integrity.

And seriously, have we really decided that large donations in support of the public good, i.e, public schools, have the same meaning as large donations in support of private interest/industry? Because if we’re looking at the meaning behind sudden large donations, I have questions about John Kane’s new interest in progressive politics. And why do the owners of the Wake Stone Quarry donate so much money to the four of them? HNTB Ltd Holdings PAC — which spent 10k dollars to elect McCrory — why are they donating to these “progressive conservationists.” What’s up with all the lawyers and former newspaper owners and cable tv folks spending this much money on county commissioner races? What exactly has been going on in this county while I was at the NCGA working on public school funding because I just assumed that the all democrat county commissioners wouldn’t need as much supervision. HA!

If integrity becomes something reduced to campaign donation amounts, can we calculate the cash value of broken promises? As it turns out, yes it’s the exact amount that the “Big Spenders” in the 2018 primary subtracted from the Foursome’s campaign minus the amount that the “Big Spenders” donated to the Foursome earlier in 2017 before they demonstrated their integrity by breaking a promise. Note- as of today that donation money hadn’t been returned to Dean Debnam — so if Debnam’s money is buying an election, and you are the candidate supporting that accusation while simultaneously keeping Debnam’s money? Interesting. 15k worth of loans to their own campaigns, thousands of dollars from the Raleigh Mayor’s husband, Ron, who also plays in bluegrass in band full of current and former big wigs of the News and Observer- which might explain why I couldn’t get a LTE about the mayoral race published. Donation money from McGuire Woods partners, the firm Calabria worked at until recently. A Partner who just happens to own quite a nice chunk of land right at the edge of the Crooked Creek neighborhood. The legal assistant that has donated small bits of money, around the same time of the name rebranding and the start of South Wake Park Facebook group, which she admins. The independent newspaper owned by David Meeker, brother of former Raleigh Mayor, Charles Meeker. Charles Meeker who has also donated to their campaigns, hosted fundraisers.

What is the campaign dollar value of relationships during election season?

Saturday my household received a mailer, which unlike the one that caused Mr Burns such indignant outrage, was authorized by the Foursome’s campaigns.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m confused as to how they’ve stood up to the reckless policies coming from Donald Trump and an extremist legislature?

Have they advised the Wake County sheriff’s department that they will refuse any increases to his budget until he cancels the 287g contract that makes the Wake County one of 6 counties with a partnership with ICE agents?

Did they “stand up to the extremist legislature” by demanding they fully fund public schools?

No, of course not.

Please- go vote, the last day is this Tuesday: Pierce, Adamson, Brown, West, and Evans.

 

 

 

 

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