The Wilmington City Council continues to find itself immersed in a self-created disaster on the “taxpayer funding” side of a proposed professional baseball stadium. First and foremost, they’re upset that two local activists (Ben McCoy and Josh Fulton) have successfully pushed through a petition of registered voters that allows the council to vote in support of the petition, to stop taxpayer funded sports entertainment, or let the voters decide the issue. Councilman O’Grady recently called them “failed politicians” and Councilwoman Margaret Haynes called them “haters” which is just sad.
Mayor Bill Saffo, who as a candidate did NOT support property taxes for a stadium, said, “I just wish the citizens would have given us a chance to evaluate this opportunity thoroughly.” (StarNews) The simple issue had NOTHING to do with citizens evaluation the situation, it had to do with citizen distrust of the process and actions by the council. Had public trust run high, such opposition would not have been nearly as fierce.
The truth is, the city didn’t need to put the public through this. They could have said it wasn’t the time, wasn’t the right economy or wasn’t a city priority, but they didn’t and this was unnecessary. What the petition does is not certain, but it does represent a significant blow to the timeline desired by the Flywheel/Trask, Mandalay management, Port City Baseball, Atlanta Braves consortium. Protestations might be present from the council, but this situation is one of their creation and their staff has been less than forthcoming on the transparency issue all along.
Even the folks at the NC Institute for Constitutional Law have concerns about the legality of what the city was being asked to do.
On the upside for the tax and spend crowd, all the distractions might have taken steam out of any grass roots movement to stop an impending tax increase in Wilmington.
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