Saturday, September 10, 2011

New Hanover tempest: “Brian you are a commissioner, not der fuhrer,” says Jason Thompson in explosive email to courageous GOP outsider Brian Berger.

Source of story headline:  http://www.wwaytv3.com/2011/09/01/berger-reacts-to-controversy 

Bigoted remark by combative Thompson is sign of boiling resentment New Hanover commissioners feel toward first-term colleague Brian Berger. 

By Verne Strickland / September 10, 2011

WHAT KIND OF MADMAN IS THIS?

Brian Berger statement on his philosophy in his run for office in 2008.
 
As a candidate for the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners in 2008, Brian Berger received approximately 20,000 votes, advocating policies to prevent future tax increases, spur private sector job growth, protect property rights and the environment, and strengthen ethical standards, accountability and openness in local government. He has been a consistent advocate for limited government, fiscal responsibility, and ending the "culture of corruption" in Southeastern North Carolina. 

Berger has spent years advocating for limited government, accountability, transparency and ethics. He has pushed innovative and time-tested solutions for long-term job creation, lower taxes and fighting the growing problems of crime in our community. 

Berger has stood up against the unethical behavior of local elected officials, Republicans and Democrats, by opposing "business as usual," the corruption and wasteful spending that takes money out of your wallet and squeezes families trying to stay afloat in today's economy.

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Forgive me, but there’s something about the spectacle of this feisty little leprechaun Brian Berger driving his brutish, brash “colleagues” nuts that just flat tickles the hell out of me. 

Bravo. I know that this will irritate some no end, but I’ve been successfully irritating types I don’t like for years – radical left-wing Democrats, Muslim jihadists, communists, socialists, atheists, cynical anti-American Europeans, over-zealous unionists, illegal aliens, drug traffickers, career welfare leeches, Mormons with more than six wives, and Barack Obama. 

But let’s bring it back closer to home – our beloved Cape Fear region. Just a few heartfelt observations: 

The three stooges of the New Hanover Board of Commissioners may be big, and they may be bold, but they are bringing dishonor to themselves, and to the county where they claim residency, in their crusade to bring down Brian Berger.

If the level of embarrassment visited on our citizens is a reason for retiring from the field of battle, then the stooges should be the first to clear out.

Let’s face it – this Berger dude is tough. He stands his ground, and he has ground to stand on. They can grouse all they like, but they can’t throw him out, and he’s made it clear that he’s not going to knuckle under. Stalemate.

Brian has friends. He has enemies. He has admirers. He has detractors – vicious, hurtful detractors. He’s on a lonely quest. But I think there’s a lot to love with this guy. He shows courage, he doesn’t quit.

Under similar circumstances I would’ve hidden under a rock. But not Commissioner Berger. Folks, this dude is a rock!

Now, look --  I know that Jonathan Barfield hasn’t cut himself with a razor (you seen that lush growth on his face? He doesn’t even own a razor!), and that Ted Davis hasn’t ripped the handle off somebody’s car (he can’t open a beer bottle with a twist-off top) and that Jason Thompson hasn’t spent a night in the slammer, and that Rick Catlin is not taking unemployment pay-outs from the feds. At least that’s what they claim.

But, fellas – how about cutting the guy a little slack?

The picture of a big, burly phalanx of stern brutes standing should-to-shoulder, albeit very uneasily, for the cameras, tells it all. Three Goliaths glowering down at one David.

From the outset of his tenure, Berger was a marked man. He said in advance that he would not be a member of the NH Good Ole Boys’ Club. And boy was he ever right.

He criticized the tactics and ethics of the incumbents, who evidence no clue that they have ever read Robert’s Rules of Order – or even seen the movie. Berger called them on that.

The newcomer to the hallowed halls of the county power machine berated his brethren for fiscal irresponsibility and lack of transparency, among other things.

What’s not to like?

While Berger pleads guilty to a penchant for being late – which can justly be categorized as rude and unprofessional – if you put a stopwatch on these meetings – I think you might be impressed by the lulls in the action, and the cute, frivolous banter, that waste time and taxpayer dollars.

One of Berger’s early complaints was that he was culled out of the action -- the vital flow of official information by the excessively incumbent serving commissioners. He has been ignored and made to feel irrelevant. Fair and reasonable accusations, I submit.

In board meetings, Berger has been for the most part quiet and respectful. Outside the board room, his behavior has not been quite so circumspect. And this has been amply and even excessively covered by shock jock attack-style journalists.

 "This stonewalling and secrecy and attempt to filter information is NOT ACCEPTABLE," Berger wrote. "THE ACTIONS OF STAFF AND CERTAIN COMMISSIONERS HAS BEEN AN AFFRONT TO OPENNESS AND ACCOUNTABLILITY."

County Commissioner Jason Thompson wrote to Brian, "This is ridiculous. Brian you are a commissioner not der fuhrer. Your email shows you do not understand a manager/commissioner form o govt (sic)."

Berger responded via email stating that he found Thompson's comments "offensive and inappropriate".
 
One online expression I thought quite relevant was this:

When the Titan Project was getting incentives and being approved by the county commission, Catlin was nowhere to be seen or heard. Only recently did this become an issue he took a stand on. Lately, on non-attainment he has been doing more grandstanding, so I think Berger is correct to point out this is an issue for all of us. 

Berger may not be as slick as Catlin but he is far more correct on asking these questions and not allowing Catlin to ignore his concerns or those of others in NHC with these non-responsive answers. Catlin is handling this matter poorly and Berger is right to ask questions and demand answers in a timely fashion. Maybe if we had fewer Catlins we would not have issues like the CFPUA and R3. Given Barfield's trying to take over schools, when it comes to unprofessional who is he kidding?
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The landscape is littered with instances of tabloid “journalism” sensationalizing Berger’s plight. This is deplorable. But local television anchor Bob Townsend did the right thing. Surely you know all about that. A tabloid muckraker on the Star-News took care of that by releasing text of a private email exchange between Townsend and Berger.

And Townsend didn’t intend to gather any attaboys for his compassion toward Berger. Very noble, I thought, in these callous times. It may cost him. But it shouldn’t.

In closing, this is Brian Berger’s personal statement as he conducted his campaign for office as a New Hanover County Commissioner: 

Actions matter. Accountability matters. In this election, you have a choice to continue with an agenda of high taxes, wasteful spending and misguided priorities represented by these four gentlemen. We're overtaxed, but these gentlemen don't think we're taxed enough, they need more of our money to spend. The environment and education have been disregarded, but these concerns only matter to our local officials when its election time.
I am asking you to join me in reforming New Hanover County government. That means low taxation, fighting wasteful spending, prioritizing public safety, education, infrastructure and the environment.
Actions matter. Withdrawing the $4.2 million giveaway to Titan Cement. Fighting Forced Annexation and Eminent Domain with the same energy these gentlemen put into lobbying for the homebuilders and billboard owners. Putting resources into fighting crime, gangs and planning for infrastructure and education that these gentlemen have a record of neglecting. Those are my priorities, and if they are yours too, send a powerful message by voting for Brian Berger and taking back YOUR government.

VS: SO I ASK YOU AGAIN – WHO IS THIS MADMAN? WE SHOULD BE PROUD OF HIM!