Garner: Opinion

Column: Changing of the guard in Wake County

Johnny Whitfield, columntst The Eastern Wake News and the Garner-Cleveland Record.
Johnny Whitfield, columntst The Eastern Wake News and the Garner-Cleveland Record.

Heard an interesting thought at a local town board meeting last week.

One elected leader pointed out that the changes in county government portend new opportunities for local cities and towns to press their agendas on matters in which they’ve gotten little traction with the old board of county commissioners.

That really is an interesting proposition if you stop and think about it for a moment. Among the biggest issues facing county commissioners in recent years has been the county’s relationship with school leaders and the debate over mass transit. Should their be more buses? What about a train to tote people from Point A to Point B?

Municipalities have, to varying degrees, expressed their frustrations over school matters. In eastern Wake County, the complaints have been about a lack of resources for an entire region of schools that face lower levels of parent involvement and lower socio-economic student bodies, code word for “our students aren’t as smart as students in other parts of the county.” Eastern Wake parents haven’t asked to have those problems fixed through student reassignment, but they want efforts by the county to protect against students fleeing easternWake County for something they percieve is better. And they want the county school system to admit that there are unique challenges to student success in eastern Wake County that can be addressed, in part, by provideing more adequate resources.

On the transportation front, In eastern Wake County, the selling points for mass transit were a little harder to pitch because there was nothing in the plan save a few extra bus routes running through the eastern part of the county. Wendell, in particular, was strident in its opposition to the mass transit plan being promoted by the Triangle Transit Authority and other grassroots organizations.

For their part, the newly elected county commissioners: Sig Hutchingson, Matt Calabria, John Burns and Jessica Holmes, have said they plan to tackle those issues and others soon after they get into office.

But it’s always easier to campaign than it is to govern. If those four winners don’t already know that, they are in for a rude awakening. If the county commissioners move ahead smartly with their initiatives, it’s gonna cost some money and those four commissioners are going to find themselves in a position of having to call for a tax increase. That’s the bane of every politician’s existence.

If they choose not to raise taxes and approach some of these expensive issues more slowly, they will be branded in much the same way they villified their opponents in the campaign: as slothful legislators unwilling to commit to the county’s future.

And while they are all trying to figure that out, their emails and text messages and visits will be filled by leaders from many of the 13 towns and cities that make up the bulk of the electorate who voted them into office in the first place. Those folks will, at times, be at odds with each other over a matter and the governng process will get to be that much more difficult.