Not long after the July 23rd meeting, Commissioner Mitchell wrote a post for his official Facebook page, in which he accused the mayor of ‘going rogue’ in facilitating the sale of 19 acres to Lone Survivor Foundation. His post, which you can read for yourself, implied that Jackie Warner conspired with her son, Teddy Warner, to backdoor this transaction.
I walked away from politics nearly three years before and had only recently accepted a friend request from Mike Mitchell, but I was livid, and I commented.
Jackie Warner saw my comments and asked me to call her.
I didn’t call her immediately. I stared at my phone. I walked outside with the dogs. I made sounds like ‘pfft!’ I declared to the empty room…I’m not calling! I have no reason to call her! I knew making that call would most likely pull me back into the sordid world of Hope Mills politics. Then I ran out of excuses…and I called her.
I didn’t say much during the call. She explained her side of things and I listened quietly. I didn’t believe her…but I didn’t NOT believe her. I simply knew better this time…
Jim and I have never been the kind of people who sit around complaining about a situation and not doing something to remedy it. We’re not wired that way. When I moved here, I immediately joined the Zoning Board to contribute to the community, but also to learn about the town. Neither happened for the first two years, then the “Walmart Situation” happened.
I’m not a fan of Walmart. And to be clear, I formed that opinion all by myself. I worked at Walmart when Jim was in Korea for a year. I worked there again briefly in 2006. And I shopped there for years. I know, from personal experience, that the employees are treated like cattle and herded from one location to another. Management rarely bothers to learn their names because the turn-over rate is incredibly high and because there are so many employees. And the stores I’ve seen are filthy. It’s not uncommon to walk past dirty diapers and half-eaten chicken wings in the parking lot. I guess a $16 billion-dollar profit margin just doesn’t buy good help anymore.
I didn’t jump on the anti-Walmart bandwagon when it rolled through Hope Mills…I built it and drove it. I attended the Board meeting on July 21, 2014 and I scribbled notes until my hands cramped. Then I went home and researched everyone who spoke in favor of Walmart. And I researched Walmart itself. When I walked into the Zoning Board meeting on July 28th, I had a 3-ring binder 3 inches thick of research and I was ready to go head-to-head with every single one of their supporters. And I did.
When that meeting was over and my civic responsibility to the citizens of Hope Mills was done, I joined a group of local citizens who were protesting Walmart. I was invited into the exclusive Facebook group where they all gather to debate hot topics. And when they called a few weeks later to say the Board failed to give a consistency statement and broke the law, and they needed someone ‘with standing’ to file the lawsuit…I did.
To be fair…I was an idiot. I specifically asked how long the lawsuit would last and was told 12 days! 12 days is nothing, I can be the name on a lawsuit for 12 little days! It took more than 12 days for them to write the lawsuit. And they did write it. I was excluded from the entire process. Why was I excluded? Because they didn’t trust me.
Yes, the girl who put her name on a lawsuit to help them, the girl who ultimately lost her position on the Zoning Board because of the lawsuit, the girl who was accused of filing the lawsuit to facilitate a campaign, and the girl who spent 18 hours a day in the trenches with them, researching General Statutes and desperately looking for a way to stop the big bad box store from taking over her beloved town…wasn’t trustworthy.
If I’d been more politically savvy then, I’d have walked away. But I was still laboring under two delusions…1) that we were all working towards the same goal and 2) that we were all working!
When the lawsuit ended (turns out…even I didn’t have standing…and the suit was dismissed) I immediately started brainstorming. I created a Facebook page to disseminate information about Walmart and the board’s bad behavior. There was an election coming and I hoped to reach enough voters to alter the board.
Now, you should be asking…why did she have to create a Facebook page to disseminate information when we had that lovely Facebook group? Because the Facebook group was a vacuum of information. We were actively discouraged from sharing what was discussed with anyone outside the group. Trust me…I tired!
I would suggest we all share something, to ignite the community to take a stand. And the leader of the group would post a passive/aggressive response, letting her members know that she didn’t want that. There was a distinctive enthusiasm gap among her members. They were excited for improvement, but not at the risk of being booted from the group. When the community didn’t show up in mass to protest the tyranny of the board, she would cite their apathy as proof we should continue to exclude them. I believe that’s referred to as a self-fulfilling prophecy.
I was done. I’m a sucker for quotes and I just kept hearing ‘If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem!’ So, I quietly left their Facebook group. I unfriended all of them and changed my phone number on the same day, ensuring they couldn’t contact me. It was the first smart political move I’d made. And for nearly three years I lived quietly and happily outside of their political chaos.
When I got off the phone with Mayor Warner that day in July, I watched the video of the July 23rd meeting. All three and a half hours of it! And it was embarrassing and unfortunate, but not for the reasons Commissioner Mitchell claimed. Commissioners Mitchell, Larson and Bellflowers behaved horribly. They sound like petulant children deprived of sitting at the adult table.
And I was furious with Mitchell for manipulating his comments in a way to provoke me and his other followers.
I had a choice…I could walk away as fast as possible and block these crazy people…again…or I could do something.
I’ve set very high standards for myself on this site. I provide tangible proof of everything I say because I wanted to differentiate myself from the Commissioners who use their social media to lie to you.
It’s easy to simply type the words and hope people believe you…it takes effort to search for the truth and bring that proof to the public. I have stories on the back-burner because I don’t have enough evidence to bring them to you. And I spend a LOT of time doing research. Really boring research…listening to audio clips of meetings, watching video of meetings, and reading minutes from meetings. And a single meeting can last five hours!
Recently, there’s been criticism of what I do. I’ve been accused of being a minion, puppet, mouth piece and cohort of both Jackie Warner and Bill Bowman. Ironically, it’s the people criticizing me who taught me the most important political lessons. I watched some of the smartest people I’ve ever met sacrifice their integrity, stifle their voices and forfeit their beliefs to further someone else’s personal agenda. I won’t do that.
During that first call with Mayor Warner, she spoke for about 30 minutes while I listened. And then she stopped, out of breath and said…’I know you. And I know that if you think I’ve done something wrong you’ll tell me to go straight to hell.’
I laughed. Partly because it was the most cussing I’d ever heard her do and partly because if I thought she did something wrong, my words would have been much more naughty. But she was right. I consider her my friend, but that friendship is contingent on her behavior. If she should abuse her position as mayor in any way, she’ll know my opinion when she reads about it on this site. So long as she’s in public office, she’s not exempt from scrutiny. Likewise, if I forfeited my integrity and started posting ‘fake news’ she would condemn me in the harshest way possible…but with very little cussing.
Am I influenced by Bill Bowman? One hundred percent yes! Bill has been very generous in that he’s never dictated what I write. He makes occasional suggestions, and i ignore them completely, counting on his busy schedule to distract him. So far it’s working. Most people don’t realize how generous Bill Bowman is. He uses Up & Coming Weekly to support and sponsor hundreds of projects throughout Cumberland County. He supports ComicCon and the Cape Fear Regional Theater, local artists and charities! His sense of community is awe inspiring and contagious. I don’t have his resources but you can see proof of his influence on my site. I’ve partnered with small businesses and allow them to use the site as a platform to talk about their business and promote their events. The 12 Days of Christmas project was another opportunity to promote local businesses. And, there are BIG plans for 2019.
Does it bother me when they call me a puppet? Yes and no. Yes because that’s the first thought in each of their minds. I know these people, I know serving as a minion is as natural to them as breathing. It’s inconceivable to any one of them that I might be thinking for myself…because they don’t. But no, it doesn’t bother me. I don’t answer to them. And I sure as hell don’t write this blog for them. I write it for YOU. I write it knowing there are 17,000 good people in this town who deserve truth and honesty.
If I post something, it’s because it’s the truth. It’s because I have evidence to back it up. But most importantly, it’s because I want this town to be better.
We have the most notable staff this town has ever been privileged to call their own. I’m so impressed with them, from the guy who picks up trash in the park to the town manager. They’re educated and talented and motivated! With the right board guiding them, one that won’t micromanage with threats and innuendo, this staff could make Hope Mills a magical place!
So they can keep insulting me. Because another favorite quote is ‘If you aren’t hated on, you aren’t doing shit’. I tried sitting on the sidelines, seething with rage over the lack of momentum and the private agendas. This is funner, so I’m going to keep writing.
They don’t have to like it.