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Gary Ceres


                                For City Council
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Ceres for Washington NC City Council

Let the Sunshine In

Let the Sunshine In

    The year was 1969 when 5th Dimension released their hit song, Aquarius. One of the best lines of the song is in the chorus where the lyrics are, "When you open up your heart, the sun shine in, you got to let the sun come on in." Washington City government better pay attention and let the sun shine in before they find themselves violating numerous state laws. Let me explain.

    The City has been holding numerous budget meetings most of which they are properly advertising. But let me relay the series of events prior to the last meeting I attended on May 24th. I was originally told that the meeting was a Special Meeting and was closed to the public. I was then told it was an open meeting but no public input. Thanks to a call from Council Member Lou Hodges to the City Manager's office I was then told I could attend and speak. This was followed up by a statement that the only one that could allow public input was the Mayor. Then I was told that the Council could allow public input if a council member made a motion and it was voted on. Can we say convoluted?

    Well, I showed up and the employees had been told the session itself was closed to the public. After inquiring the City Manager said no I could attend. The Mayor then opened the meeting and called for any input from the public. I was the only one attending and did speak. But I was the only one attending because the employees were informed that the meeting was closed.

    Our City needs to get its story straight and more importantly start complying with the North Carolina General Statutes regarding open public meetings. There is literally no such thing as a City Council meeting being closed to the public under the law unless it meets one of three criteria. Firstly, if the Council goes into Executive Session to discuss a personnel matter under certain circumstances. Secondly if there is a meeting with the City Attorney to discuss litigation that is pending before the City or possible that has strategic value. And thirdly, if the City Council is negotiating a contract and even then after the contract is in force the debate on it must be held in public.

    Special Meetings, Regular Meetings, Emergency Meetings and Recessed Meetings are specifically mentioned in North Carolina Statutes to be open to the public in ALL circumstances and cannot be closed under any circumstances other than the above mentioned three instances. They also each require adequate notification of the public prior to the meetings. Any decision to go into a closed session for one of the above mentioned three reasons requires a motion to be made seconded and voted on by the council. Failure to do so is against the law.

    Then there is the moral component of when these meetings are scheduled. Why in the world are meetings being held at 2PM on Tuesdays or 4PM on Wednesdays when most people are at work? Could it be because the City doesn't want push-back from the public or scrutiny? Could it be because too many members of City government have become comfortable striking the deals behind closed doors and want to limit exposure and input from the public? I think these are fair questions to be asking.

    The City needs to get its story straight and stop confusing the public. While I'm grateful I was allowed into the meeting eventually and afforded the opportunity to speak how many people got turned away? How many are intimidated to thinking that they can't attend what they have every legal right to attend? Transparency is our defense against corruption and let's not forget it.

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Your city government neglects any area that is outside of the historic district or outside the personal bubbles in which city bureaucrats and elected officials operate.

It is high-time that city government operates on behalf of every citizen in the system and not just those with power and influence.

Electing me to the City Council sends a message that city government is for ALL citizens and not just the elite.

We have 22 city officials that make over $75,000 a year in salaries in addition to an average 38% benefits package.

The city greedily chose to give these individuals an additional 5% wage increase in this year's budget instead of using that money to give us a full complement of 12 EMTs which we desperately need.   Instead we will be receiving only 4 more, 8 in total.

When the median income in Washington is $37,200 this is obscene.

Our city is suffering from a brain drain.

Population has decreased from the 2010 census to the 2020 census as our young people go off to college to develop skills that they can't find jobs for here in the city.

It is time to enact tax incentives, decreased regulations and have proactive city officials that seek high-tech, high-paying firms to locate in the city to stem the flow of our young people out from the city. © Copyright 2024 All Rights Reserved
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