Minister's Study

Ministering, writing, and wrestling in a land flowing with sweet tea and deep-fried food

Tuesday, February 06, 2007


There was barely room to exhale in the commissioners' meeting room Monday.

The fire marshall certified the room to hold 92 members of the public, plus press, commissioners and staff.

About 240 showed up. Plus press, commissioners, and staff. Most were shoed out into the hallway, or forced to stand outside the outer door and try to listen in. The press table normally seats four, one from each newspaper that tries to cover the county. Monday, three of us papers brought two people. And at least two or three TV news crews showed up (one of those is a story for another post, perhaps.) Print journalists from another publication or two showed up as well. I thought one of the print press people was going to get into a fight with one of the camera press people when he threatened to stand right in front of his camera until he could have a chair.

As soon as the first person spoke his piece on the redistricting issue, the chairman, F.D. Rivenbark, handed the gavel to the vice-chair (the chairman can't make a motion), and made a motion to reconsider redistricting. (Only one of those who originally voted in favor of it could bring it back up again.) Norwood Blanchard, the vice-chair, also showed that the overwhelming outcry of the people in the area had reached him too. Only the commissioner who originally put the redistricting proposal forward voted against reconsidering.

The public wasn't done speechifying. People from both sides got up to speak, some eloquently, some forcefully, and many just to say their piece. It quicky became apparent that most in the room not only wanted redistricting reconsidered on the county level, they wanted a specific resolution requesting Representative Wright to withdraw the bill for redistricting from the NC House of Representatives.

Now, legally, Wright can do whatever he wants to with the bill. He didn't need the county's request to put it in there, and he doesn't have to pull it out if the county asks. He can make any changes he wants, or not make any changes -- it's his bill, and the county has no real say. A few suggested leaving the bill in place, but modifying it to comply with whatever the county wants, based on public hearings and whatnot.

Seeing the swelling public tide of disapproval for leaving the bill in place, though, the commissioners voted to request its withdrawal. Of course, Wright has previously shown no indication whatsoever of caring what most of his constituents want or need. So there's the big question. Will Wright go ahead and continue the pretense that he was doing this because he thought the majority of Pender County wanted it (in spite of his deceit and the way it was ramrodded through)? Or will he simply continue to push the bill through anyhow, again ignoring the pleas of those it affects?

Of course, I called him after the meeting, or rather I called his office in Raleigh. They said to call his Wilmington home office. So I called there and left a message. But frankly, I don't expect him to return the call. I'll keep trying, for form's sake. But he has never returned a call from me or my editor. There are at least two other newspapers I know of that he won't speak to either. He told reporters two weeks ago when they caught him in person that he doesn't need us. Talking to him is a privilege, he says, and if we misbehave, it's a privilege that he can withhold.

I'm beginning to wonder when the majority of his constituents will realize that representing them is a privilege, and if he misbehaves, it's one they can withhold.


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