Last week, Leigh Tauss reported on the Wake County Board of Commissioners’ decision—at its first meeting after two new commissioners were sworn in—to sell land the county had purchased for $4 million just last year for a park in the Crooked Creek neighborhood. 

Former county commissioner Erv Portman, a park supporter who lost a contentious primary last May, writes in to voice his dismay: “The decision by the new leadership of the Board of Commissioners is disappointing in so many ways. First, they claimed the process to buy the parkland was rushed—two years of review and public discussion. Their decision came about during three weeks over Christmas with two new board members who admit to knowing little to nothing about the purchase. Second, the motion to sell is a direct violation of the board’s own rules for reconsideration. Why this was allowed I don’t understand. There were no new facts or changes, just a desire to legitimize the lie they created that the purchase was ‘crooked.’ Third, the ability of the board to lecture the citizens about privilege was over the top, but not surprising, as they have been implying it for a year.

“Fourth, to issue a call for public comment, then listen for six hours, then read a position that was written before anyone commented, confirms that minds were made up before the first citizen spoke. They conducted a charade of asking for input. This is not good government but rather a new low for Wake County. Fifth, those who lost the vote last year railed about how a 4–3 decision is wrong, but their rushed 3–4 decision is somehow justice?

“Sixth, chairwoman Jessica Holmes’s comment after the vote was subtle but stunning. The board had just voted to sell land they deemed surplus through an upset bid procedure. The law for upset bids exists to be sure the taxpayers get the highest price for the sale. After the vote, the chair said she did not plan to sell the land to the highest bidder, contrary to the motion she just voted for. She did not disclose this distinction during her comments before the vote, implying she has yet another plan that she has not disclosed.

“Seventh, the board’s first action as a new board is contrary to the voters’ approval [in November] of a $120 million bond package for new parks and open space.

“Finally, how the board can deny the bought-and-paid-for, play-to-pay reality of their primary race, in which a handful of wealthy liberal donors financed the overwhelming majority of both winners’ campaigns, is as bold a deception as I have ever seen in public office. The saddest part is local government was always above this nasty stuff. Now it’s swimming in it. 

“The $4 million in sale funds will be gone faster than a raindrop on a hot iron; the land would have served generations to come forever. How’s that for pennywise and pound foolish?”

On Facebook, Susan C. Eaton asks: “What is it with politicians everywhere increasingly acting like spoiled two-year-olds? And why are politicians increasingly willing to be bought and then dedicating their careers to special favors for the largesse from their rich campaign donors over objective governing of all of their constituents?”

“Great reporting,” adds Doug Ahrens. “Very helpful to know who is funding these sham decisions. I find it funny that Commissioner Greg Ford claims pay-to-play for reps holding a rally for residents who want the park, yet he’s clearly a pay-to-play guy for his big cash-money donors. Please keep tabs on where this property is sold and how much it costs the county—including the legal costs to fight the lawsuits that are surely coming. I’d bet just keeping the land would have been cheaper, regardless of its ultimate use.”

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