>Guest Blogger: Alderman Dana E. Outlaw, 6th Ward
When I have to vote on zoning issues I refer to research given to me by staff in the Zoning Department. I review this information and also I want to know how the Zoning Board voted on this issue. On many serious zoning issues, I attend Zoning Board meetings to hear evidence and information from both sides. I then as an Alderman along with staff and Zoning Board members input make decisions in the best interests of the City of New Bern. The same is true with the Board of Adjustment Board, The Library Board, and the HPC (historical) Board. Much to my chagrin, the Board of Alderman does not have this same citizen input Board available with respect to the electric and water departments because this present Board of Alderman with the exception of me is not interested in citizen involvement in the water and electric departments. I have on several occasions in the past four years mentioned this at Alderman meetings. Go to Onwasa on line (Jacksonville area water and sewer) and Fayetteville PWC (Public Works Commission for electric) to see how these citizen boards are involved in water and electric issues. My first meeting of the Board of Alderman included an electric rate increase, I asked the city manager what was the opinion of the Electric Advisory Board, he indicated the board had not been consulted. In many instances, the Electric Advisory Board is not even aware of increases, much less given the opportunity to express an opinion or advisement.
This election is about brick and mortar and financing all the infrastructure presently on the books. This election is not about what elected official has the best personality or anecdote.
In the 1960 era, the slow growth of New Bern and the overall economy resulted in term limits for many elected officials in New Bern due to the need to get fresh ideas into government (not being re-elected). In the past 15-20 years, the economy for New Bern has boomed, and with it the popularity of the incumbents due to the “good times”. This has resulted in the atypical lack of turnover in office that is needed for the good of the citizenry with new ideas and vigor that new elected officials bring. Instead we offer free health insurance while elected if an elected official wants it. This same health insurance is free for life for the elected official after 16 years in office. I want to see elected officials that want to do away with the health benefits and impose term limits. Past elected officials could get by making decisions for the city based on limited state and national mandates at the time period they were elected. The City of New Bern is faced with such serious state and national mandates germane to Justice Department requirements, Department of Environment and Natural Resources requirements, water requirements, sewer discharge requirements, electric “green” requirements that to not have effective water and electric advisory boards with educated member willing to go to state and national meetings and then advise the Board of Alderman the city overall is at a real disadvantage. The citizens are at a disadvantage because the Board of Alderman are making decisions based on “staff only” opinions. They do not receive input from qualified members of an electric or water advisory board with similar professional backgrounds that allow us the same staff versus board opinions that our zoning and other boards give us.
The end result is do the voters of New Bern want to continue to do business as usual or do the voters want changes that I have mentioned for the past four years. I want an effective “with teeth board” for water and sewer issues. I want citizen input (board) in addition to staff only recommendations. The city has excellent staff in all departments, however, what is lacking is the proper 2009 not 1969 involvement of many of the very educated willing to serve residents that have moved to this great city in the past 20 years. I want a complete audit of the electric department to make sure that no expense items are charged to this department to make sure that if they are they are put in the proper department they should be which could result in lower electric rates for New Bern subscribers to electricity.
Author: Dana E. Outlaw, Alderman Ward 6