Huntersville Board Agenda – Dec. 19, 2016

There is a town board meeting tonight at 6:30pm. You can read what’s on the agenda here and you can watch a live stream of the meeting here. Rick Short does a good job at his blog of covering agenda items for Davidson board meetings so I decided to attempt the same for Huntersville. If you want to review the full agenda packet including supporting documents, you can download a copy by clicking the “Full Packet” link at the town’s agenda and minutes page. I can’t cover every item so I always encourage residents to review these agendas and discuss any items of interest with the mayor or a board member because even a single motivated resident can make a difference on how the votes turn out on some of these items.

Other Business:

– Item E: The board will be debating whether to adopt a new ordinance prohibiting domestic animals to be tethered unless attended by a competent person AND eleven (11) conditions are met. I still have questions about why this new ordinance is even needed since Huntersville already penalizes abuse of animals under 94.36, but the tethering ordinance language has at least been revised so that a violation will not result in jail time. [Update: This measure passed – not surprisingly.]

– Item G: The mayor is pushing for approval of a new interlocal agreement with Davidson and Cornelius to form the “North Mecklenburg Alliance.” I wrote about this briefly in my Sept. 29, 2016 Herald column. This new advocacy group is unnecessary – the three mayors are already free to get together anytime they choose to talk about how great the Red Line is going to be once they can finally figure out how to actually pay for it. But, as currently drafted, the real problem with this agreement is the “Chuck Travis clause” in Article 6(b) that allows the towns to not authorize the Alliance to represent their interest before any legislative body. This is backwards. It should be the Alliance that has the obligation to request authorization from the towns before being able to advocate a position before a legislative body, the towns should not have to take action to ensure the Alliance does not advocate a position that town opposes. [Update: This measure – surprisingly – did not pass after the mayor voted against in order to break a 3-3 tie with Commissioners Boone, Kidwell and Gibbons voting in favor, and Commissioners Bales, Guignard and Phillips voting against. Commissioner Bales raised a valid concern – what happens if Huntersville gets outvoted by the other members on an issue, say supporting the Red Line? We’re the larger town, why cede such authority to two or more smaller towns?]

Consent Agenda – An aside, Huntersville consistently has more items on their consent agenda than Cornelius or Davidson. This is problematic from a transparency standpoint because it makes it possible to avoid debate and a separate, recorded vote by each elected official on controversial items.

– Item F: As part of the consent agenda, the board will be voting to approve a budget amendment recognizing insurance revenue in the amount of $6,311.72 and appropriating this revenue to the Police Dept’s insurance account. [Update: Chief Spruill stated at the meeting this specific appropriation was the result of a patrol car hitting a deer. I will be sending a records request for more information.] 16 of 23 meetings this calendar year have included a similar item on the consent agenda totaling $46,668.95. No information or documentation is ever included in the agenda packet explaining the basis for this insurance revenue. I’m not sure how Cornelius or Davidson deals with these appropriations because this item rarely, if ever, seems to appear on their agendas.

Commissioner Boone began the practice of asking Chief Spruill to explain these appropriations at the Jan. 19, 2016 meeting, but apparently the board has dispensed with this practice because another explanation has not been requested since that meeting to the best of my knowledge. At the Jan. 19 meeting, Chief Spruill explained the specific appropriations on that agenda were related to a motor vehicle accident involving an officer and a hit-and-run causing damage to a parked police vehicle. Hopefully the board will get back to requesting more information on these items or at least require more information to be included in the agenda packet to improve transparency.



Huntersville still waiting for change

The column below originally appeared in the November 17, 2016 edition of the Herald Weekly. I will be adding past Herald columns here at the site to create a searchable archive while I work on some new content.


Elections have consequences… or, at least they used to. No, I’m not talking about the election for president last week because that election will most definitely have some profound consequences. A year after Huntersville voters overwhelmingly elected a new mayor and town board, there have yet to be much in the way of consequences at town hall. Maybe it’s expecting too much of politicians to vote for meaningful change when it isn’t an election year.

The new mayor and town board had the opportunity to lower taxes this year, but Mayor (John) Aneralla and Commissioners (Melinda) Bales, (Dan) Boone and (Rob) Kidwell voted in opposition

Total budget expenditures increased overall, and the police department budget alone increased by almost $900,000. There have been no board-directed personnel changes. An ad hoc oversight committee was formed in January to oversee the Huntersville Family Fitness and Aquatics Center, but no report on any recommendations has been presented at a town board meeting. The contract for the Bearcat armored vehicle was not canceled, and now the town has a 13-year-old used armored vehicle it has to pay to upgrade and maintain. 

 The recently approved new fire department building is already almost half a million dollars over the original budget presented, and yet still passed by a 4-2 vote.  And the mayor is already attempting to reverse what has been one of the few changes made, leaving the Lake Norman Transportation Commission, by pushing for Huntersville to join a reformulated regional planning group.

Even though there has been dissension amongst the board members on many of these items, it’s hard to argue that the current mayor and town board have done much to change the status quo.

Most notably, construction of the toll lanes is continuing unabated despite the new mayor and board unanimously adopting a resolution requesting termination of the toll contract and after receiving assistance from local legislators. If the tolls are now all but a foregone conclusion, what is going to motivate the anti-toll voters to turn out again next year? Voters eventually need something to vote for once the anger and frustration subsides over what they were voting against.

With regards to the anti-toll voters, some closing words on anger and civility. This presidential election produced an excessive amount of commentary on the need for greater civility and less anger in politics. Elections at all levels are as divisive as they are because of what is at stake – both real and perceived. How are Republican voters supposed to act civil when they believe the government is taking the fruits of their labor by force for illegitimate purposes, or that the next president will attempt to make their families less secure by working to repeal protections afforded by the Second Amendment? Conversely, why should Democrat voters not be angry when they think members of the other party are engaging in racial discrimination by enacting voter ID laws or hurting the poor by not expanding Medicaid?

Toll opponents have received their share of criticism over their tone, some of it warranted, most of it not. But people can be passionate (especially online) when they feel their livelihood is at stake or they have been lied to. Of course, if you’re looking for civility online you’re looking in the wrong place. Politics in the past weren’t as civil as people like to recall (anyone remember Burr shooting Hamilton or the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings?), and future elections likely will not be as civil as people hope.

 If you are really interested in improving the discourse surrounding our elections, both nationally and locally, you should be working to make government smaller. A smaller government is less likely to redistribute your income or violate your natural and civil rights, which would in turn decrease the importance of elections and increase the level of civility surrounding politics. It probably also wouldn’t hurt to turn off the nightly cable news circus and maybe read a book instead. And just avoid social media completely for the next four years if at all possible.