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Wednesday, 01 November 2006 00:00

Voters need to look closely at the Good Governance Legion

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By Lee Shelton

As the Nov. 7 election date approaches, the “Good Governance Legion” is, again, “banging their noise makers” in Haywood County.

 

They are not putting forth their platform (does anyone know what they actually stand for?) or touting the qualifications of candidates “they support,” but instead working to defeat a certain candidate with negative publicity. Their attention and efforts are now focused on defeating Kevin Ensley.

In an Oct. 10 email to dozens of people, Jay Hinson — signing for the Good Government Legion — thanks them for removing Mark Swanger in the May primary, even though many who received the email actually supported Mr. Swanger. Nonetheless, Mr. Hinson chose to list all the names of the recipients so as the email was circulated, those reviewing it will see these names, and “assume” that they are part of this effort. Many were not — and are not. That is a disingenuous ploy.

Mr. Hinson asked for contributions to cover ads and encouraged a letter to the editor campaign to to remove Kevin Ensley, “the second member of ‘The Gang of Three.’” The catalyst for the Good Government Legion — a misnomer if there was ever was one — was the disgruntled former head of the Economic Development Commission, an out of area developer/investor, and some folks who want things back “the way they were,” when their wheels got greased, and things were not as open and democratic.

Some prefer things to be done in a more “closed setting,” where quid pro quo —“I scratch your back, you scratch mine” — is the rule of engagement. They found themselves “disenfranchised” when changes were made, and they want back in.

Mark Swanger ran on — and delivered — open government, for which he received a statewide award. Kevin Ensley has worked for the best interests of the county, putting these interests above his own, and that of his business.

There is no “gang of three.” This board has had the fewest split votes — 3 to 2 — of any board in more than eight years. Kevin Ensley voted against Mark Swanger’s position more than Kirk Kirkpatrick did.

But, as one goes into the voting booth, just consider the facts — and block out the noise. This county commission — with Kevin Ensley — wrestled the Economic Development Commission away from a small group and put it under the auspices of those who pay for its efforts — the county and municipal governments and the taxpayers. This has paid off for the County. Unlike the prior commissions, the recent property revaluation was made revenue neutral; that is, the millage rate was reduced so that the county budget remained the same despite an increase in property values. Kevin Ensley was at the forefront of this. This was not the case under the prior commission, who increased our property taxes.

I am aware of initiatives made by this commission to the state level to provide additional tax relief for the citizens of Haywood County. Proactive measures were made to assist those affected by the floods, as well as those involved in agriculture. A slope ordinance is approaching approval.

This commission oversaw the completion of the Justice Center — at the time that the architect had filed bankruptcy and had been acquired by the general contractor (a fact that Jack Horton was “late” in reporting to the commissioners). They also oversaw the completion of the new Law Enforcement Center on budget, which is rare for that type of facility. Yes, they also made a difficult decision — realizing there would be political fallout — in changing county managers. But it was the right thing to do for the county.

The emails and communications to other commissioners and those pertaining to government business were indexed and made a part of the public record. There has been, and continues, a commitment to openness. Just ask the members of the media who have covered the county commission in the past and currently what the differences are. Do we really want to go back to an earlier time?

The underlying question then, is why vote Kevin Ensley out of office? He — and his fellow commissioners — has done a stellar job.

Yes, I am supporting the incumbents — Mr. Kirkpatrick as well as Mr. Ensley, because they deserve our vote and support. They have accomplished a lot of good things. Thus, why would we even consider changing, especially when the challengers have nothing of substance to offer? What do they bring to the table that we don’t already have?

Kevin and Kirk have put in inordinate hours, and although they have not always agreed on things, they have worked well together, and I have suspicions that Kirk will vote for Kevin.

Let’s consider the candidate through the prism of the issues; not as a result of some organized effort to throw money into mud slinging in order to hijack an election. Tell the Good Governance Legion to address the issues and qualifications, not by negatively attacking candidates with innuendo and inferences. Kevin Ensley has done a great job for the citizens of Haywood County — the efforts and negative attacks by a small group of disgruntled individuals, notwithstanding.

Lee Shelton lives in Maggie Valley and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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