Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Snitch? Charlotte Disturber? George, that hurts...

A good rule of thumb: When politicians start lashing out at colleagues and others, they're usually feeling defensive about something. When it's Mecklenburg commissioner George Dunlap, it's also a reminder that good manners aren't a requirement for public office.

Dunlap had another one of his outbursts Monday. In a post on his Facebook page, he called fellow Democratic commissioner Pat Cotham a "snitch on the board."  He also questioned her ethics and leadership and said that she "can't be trusted."

Cotham, of course, is an at-large commissioner who was the leading vote-getter in November's election. In every election in the last quarter century, the leading vote-getter is named commission chair for at least a year. But current chair Trevor Fuller is lobbying to keep the job, despite finishing in third place, 22,000 votes behind Cotham. Dunlap and four other board Democrats don't want Cotham to have the gavel, and they're feeling some heat.

Dunlap also is apparently still upset that former Mecklenburg County Manager Harry Jones was dismissed by the Cotham-led board last year. In his Facebook post, he said that Cotham was doing the bidding of the "Charlotte Disturber," which wanted Jones fired.

He got part of it right. The Observer's editorial board had long believed that Jones should be replaced, as did many others, including six of Dunlap's fellow commissioners. Dunlap might be disappointed to learn, however, that Cotham didn't call the Observer for approval or permission. (He also might be disappointed to learn that we kind of like "Disturber." It's part of what we do.)

If Dunlap were an editorial page reader, he'd know that although we endorsed Cotham - and Fuller - we've also been sharply critical of her for shutting fellow Democrats out of Jones' dismissal and other board discussions. Dunlap complained mightily about that, too, but he didn't seem so bothered this summer when he and four Democrats forgot to tell board Republicans and Cotham about the quarter-cent sales tax referendum they had crafted for a vote.

Normally, Dunlap being Dunlap is not news, but this time it's part of a larger tension on the board regarding who should be chair. Dunlap and the other Democrats know well the precedent of the leading vote-getter receiving the chair's gavel - in 2010, Dunlap actually asked the rhetorical question "Under what circumstances does the third highest vote-getter become the chair?"

Now, Dunlap and the Democrats have a laughable answer - that they adopted a policy last year stating that board members can elect the chair. Translated: We're ignoring the will of the people because we adopted a policy that said we can ignore the will of the people.

That policy was unnecessary. Commissioners were never bound by the people's vote when determining the board chair. They were just smart enough to acknowledge it and abide by it.

They should again. We don't expect that of Dunlap and some others, but we do of Fuller. He could put an end to the silliness by declining the chair and throwing his support behind Cotham.

Fuller didn't do that last year and looked opportunistic because of it. That probably contributed to his finishing ahead of only Republicans this month in a predominantly Democratic county. The people have a way of reminding you that they count. The commissioners - all of them - should listen.

Peter St. Onge

(This post has been updated to reflect that in every election for the past quarter century, the leading at-large vote getter is named commission chair for at least a year.)  


cltstu said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
cltstu said...

Clarke has also flip-flopped on the issue of who should be chair because in 2011 he said "the people have spoken and Jennifer is who they want," referring to the fact that Jennifer Roberts received the most votes in the previous election. Hold our leaders accountable by signing the petition demanding the board elect Cotham chair! https://www.change.org/p/mecklenburg-board-of-county-commissioners-elect-pat-cotham-chairman

EuroCat said...

Really, Peter...you actually typed your quip about "good manners aren't a requirement for public office" with a straight face?

Why single out Commissioner Dunlap? After all, "MawMaw" Cotham - the one whose posterior the entire editorial board can't seem to kiss enough - wrote the BOOK on not having good manners. Her level of rudeness and unprofessionalism was exhibited early, in her behavior toward outgoing manager Harry Jones, and continued downhill from there.

But you just keep fawning all over her...

And I hope that Chairman Fuller isn't in the habit of asking the "Disturber" for advice or permission before HE makes decisions!

Anna Calhoun said...

Pat Cotham is a true leader who stands up for what is right even when she stands alone. She accomplished more in one year than all the chairs of the past thirty. She has also unified this county behind her leadership.

Cat said...

Eurocat, I disagree with you about Cotham, if she was very ill mannered she would have decked Vilma Leake when Leake slugged her in the head. I for one wish she had.

Wiley Coyote said...

Several observations here.

First, you get what you vote for and voters keep sending the likes of Leake and Dunlap back onto whatever board they are running for.

What we've seen very recently regarding Democrats trying to keep the "status quo" of dumbed down electorate is still alive and well at the local level. Their only problem is the believe ALL voters are stupid and that's what is getting them into trouble.

The problem is, the smart voters don't outnumber the low informations ones so tada, you get Dunlap and Leake again.

I was rezoned into Leake's district a couple years ago and I would vote for the Devil himself before I cast a vote for Leake.

And lastly, welcome to Detroit.

Russ said...

Nearly everyone is sick and tired of each parties unwillingness to work with the other party, locally, statewide and nationally. Cotham was ousted by her party for working with both Democrats and Republicans. It is time our commissioners recognize that as valuable and elect Pat Cotham

Larry said...

Bring back Fannie, we are tired of the observer editors actually taking a stand on things that are wrong, and especially things that have been allowed free rein in this City and County for wayyyyyy tooo lonnnnng.

Disturber said...

".... didn't call the Observer for approval or permission..."

Interesting phrasing. Perhaps it is purely coincidence Observer editorial staff was at the Board meeting the night Mr. Jones was fired. Or, maybe the Observer editorial staff was contacted in advance to be present.

Will the Observer go on record and say it did not receive advance notice?

One Discerner said...

I voted for Cotham along with Fuller and Scarborough. The Board should be able to pick their chair regardless of the general election vote count.

While she can serve, Cotham's highly unprofessional handling of the Jones' firing showed she was not up to the task of being the board's chair. In a grandstanding manner, Jones was not even allowed to return to his office to gather personal possessions. Really?

Her lack of leadership was even criticized by former governor, Jim Martin and former mayor, Richard Vinroot.

Cotham can serve, but I hope it's not again as chair. She does not have the confidence of the majority of the board.

Larry said...

Oh is she is not in side step with the majority of the board, and even at odds with them, than that itself would be a glowing endorsement of her being back as Chair.

cltstu said...

When I cast my ballot I thought Pat Cotham was possibly the only true leader on my ballot. She was unafraid to do what she thought was right, rather than what was easy. She fired Jones, which was a much needed step forward for the county. Now she may have been too harsh to Jones, but simply being rude on this specific occasion doesn't disqualify her as a leader. She tackled the problem of the tax revaluation head on, something other board members would have ignored. She keeps a close eye on county funds and makes sure that taxpayers are getting what they should. What leadership has Fuller shown since becoming chair? Meetings are a little shorter now, he denied teachers a bonus this year, and he led the charge for a failed sales tax increase. Fuller has failed.
Cotham is the strongest leader on the board and will keep this county moving in the right direction if she is chair.

Wiley Coyote said...

In case you missed it, go back and look at the voter map by county, including upstate South Carolina.

Mecklenburg County was a speck of blue surrounded by a sea of red and three counties away from the "Corridor of Shame".

What does that tell you?

That Democrats are eating their own and where this county is headed if they don't stop squabbling and their tax and spend ways.....

Bubba said...

You cannot expect an honor system to work where there is no honor. That's officially over. We are not talking about Pay-It-Forward in the Chic-fil-A drive thru line. But why are we being led by a thin-skinned Pol with the lowest vote total again? This is backwards. I propose we start electing a County Executive, or put into the code that the leader will be the at-large commissioner with the most votes. The Council has proven that it can't be trusted to make this important decision.

Skippy said...

It took real courage for The Observer to call for the firing of Harry Jones.. You are awesome Peter, pat yourself on your back now.