February 18, 2010

Nags Head's Bad Decision

The Nags Head Board of Commissioners made a really bad decision with a recent appointment. They sent a loud and clear message that they are not to be crossed and that they aren't interested in what Nags Head residents have to say about their policies. No, I don't mean the appointment of former Mayor Renee Cahoon to fill the vacant Commissioner's seat though some might view that action as an insult to Nags Head voters. I am referring to the BOC's decision not to reappoint John Ratzenberger to the Town's Planning Board. It was a clear signal from the board's majority "if you disagree with us, we will punish you".

A little background is probably in order here, Ratzenberger is still listed as the Chairman of the Town's Citizen's Advisory Committee (CAC). That group has not met in over 6 months and the Town's web site lists its schedule as “meets as needed”. This board used to meet every month then shifted to  bimonthly. During 2009 meetings became less and less frequent despite attempts by the Chairman to hold meetings. The BOC questioned the need for the CAC and discussed disbanding it.   The CAC is a forum for public opinion.  The Chairman wanted to use it to explore issues facing the town like environmentally sensitive development.  The BOC wasn't interested.   Ratzenberger discussed the role of the CAC with elected leaders and even sarcastically suggested disbanding the group if the BOC didn't want them. After Bob Oakes' election as Mayor, Ratzenberger spoke openly about hoping to revive the committee and increase public input into the Town's policy making process.

Now Ratzenberger is off the Planning Board, not reappointed after his first term. The reason given by the board members who opposed his reappointment was that “the Planning Board needed new blood”. An interesting position to take as they choose to reappoint two members who had served longer than Ratzenberger. They needed blood alright, Ratzenberger blood. The message was clear “Cross us at your own peril”. [the vote was 4-1 with Mayor Oakes opposed]

This seemingly petty decision takes on an entirely different role when viewed through the lens of the Town's efforts to restore the our beaches. John Ratzenberger and his wife Annette have been leaders in this struggle. What's more they have been leaders on the front lines, for they live in south Nags Head, not on the ocean front but in the area most impacted by erosion. John Ratzenberger worked tirelessly to convince voters to support the 2007 referendum and is probably more responsible for its passage amongst ocean front property owners than other individual. Annette Ratzenberger served with me on the Finance Committee for the bond plan. Her work was essential in crafting that model and in the efforts to pass the financing plan.

After the 2007 vote the Ratzenbergers remained stout advocates for an engineered solution to the beach. They supported the Commissioners in their quest for permits to nourish the beach and their efforts to find ways to pay for the project. As recently as last month they were circulating drafts of Mayor Oakes' financing plan and providing feedback to help improve it. In short they were the most vocal and hardworking advocates the Board had for its single most important initiative.

And the Commissioners fired them. Annette Ratzenberger has resigned from the Town's Board of Adjustments. I don't know the reason she gave if she gave one. She didn't need to, the timing speaks volumes.

The Ratzenbergers are smart, active people. They have plenty to do without their Town involvement. They may stay peripherally involved in the erosion issue but not because they need to, only out of selfless sense of duty. They same sense of duty that motivated their years and years of service to the US Army Corps of Engineers  [note: John and Annette were Army not CoE - my mistake]. They don't need the town.

But the Town desperately needs them and a lot more like them. There is no groundswell of popular support for beach nourishment. There may be a growing acceptance that something needs to be done but even that is but a whisper in most corners of Nags Head. The Board of Commissioners needs active, outspoken advocates like the Ratzenbergers and nowhere do they need them more than in south Nags Head.  I don't know where the Board will find them when people see how the Board treats its friends.

Let me close as I should have opened, by thanking John and Annette Ratzenberger for their service to our community; for their hard work to build a better Nags Head and for their willingness to speak truth to petty powers. I know that you will survive the hurt the Town has handed out but I am not sure the Town will survive if it keeps hurting its closest allies.



At 1:12 PM, Blogger Kevin Schwartz said...

Glad to see bizzarro world has not changed :)
On the other hand, the CAC was mostly useless, IMHO (I did serve a couple years on it).

At 2:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nags Head will remain the same until its citizens give Oaks a new board. As for John and Annette, consider moving to Manteo, we could use 2 more active, intelligent citizens in our community!

At 2:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

and Oh Yes!,....good to see you back into the fray Bob.

At 11:14 PM, Blogger Russ said...

Same here. Hope to see more.

At 10:12 PM, Anonymous Oldtimer said...

Good to have you back on line.There is ample stirring to give opportunity to share your wisdom.

At 12:03 PM, Blogger stan said...

Here's a interesting question from the OB Chamber's survey today:

Question 4: Would you support an effort advocating legislative action to overturn election or referendum results; for example, the repeal of the “sand”tax? Yes No

I can only imagine what would happen if the elected moneygrabbers who serve us tried to push that through.

Reads to me like, "We can do what we want, you're too stupid to vote."


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