Editorial: Carolina Beach Should Hold Speed Limit Hearing

By / Editorials / Wednesday, 02 September 2020 19:19

Managing Editor

The Carolina Beach Town Council will consider a resolution to pass on to the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) to lower the speed limit on Dow Road on the west side of Pleasure Island during their upcoming September 8th, meeting. Dow Road is owned by the State and if the Town wants to lower the speed limit from 55mph to 45 mph, they have to adopt a resolution agreeing to enforce that limit.

In a perfect world, that would require our small town police force to largely sit idle at points along that road waiting to dash out and write tickets. (Not a likely real world scenario with limited resources considering police have to "police" the rest of our town, but it looks good in an adopted "Resolution".) Absolutely a shallow promise that NCDOT will file away and forget about.

The resolution also calls for lowering the speed limit on Ocean Blvd from 35 mph to 25mph.

The proposed resolution states, "The Town of Carolina Beach will enforce the designated speed limit on Dow Road and Ocean Boulevard."

I'm calling that last statement a vacant promise. And, truth be told, police officers don't typically pull people over for going 50 in a 45 or 40 in a 35.

Without diving deep into weeds of this issue, the most disturbing aspect of this proposal is the lack of seeking public opinion by not holding a time honored democratic method of hearing from the citizens. It's called a "PUBLIC HEARING".  

The Council was advised no such public hearing is required by law, but that's like saying if the law doesn't require us to hear you, to hell with a public hearing. We'll do what we want and you'll deal with it.

Far be it from me or any member on Council to attempt to predict what citizens or the neighboring Town of Kure Beach have to say about this proposal.

I'm not going to forecast what their opinions are on this matter. But I won't write them off either. And neither should the Carolina Beach Town Council.

The Carolina Beach Town Council should allow the residents of Kure Beach to speak their minds on this proposal as well as the citizens of Carolina Beach. Have an intelligent discussion about the proposal.

We are one Island. Neighbors. Each local government's decisions negatively impact or improve each other.

To simply adopt the position that you can make such a change whether or not the neighboring Town agrees would be a kick below the belt.

Elected leaders shouldn't avoid the public. Open the doors of public discourse and make sure as many voices are heard as possible. And not just your closest constituents. The ones that often have your ear and full attention. Open the door to listen to those who disagree. If you don't, they'll remember that and then expect that you'll act the same way when considering future issues.

At this point, we could dive into why such a proposal is a bad idea, but that's not the point of this editorial.

That's for the citizens to decide and given the opportunity to express those views, hopefully elected leaders will make a decision based on those opinions.

At this point, those leaders can't claim to make a decision based on an engineered study, they simply have the word of someone at NCDOT. Someone that replaced a previous employee at NCDOT that said no to reducing speed limits on Dow Road.

Now let's turn the tables on this issue. If the Town of Carolina Beach asked for any funding from the Federal Government in terms of Beach Nourishment funding or other Federal Aid, and were denied a meeting with their Congressman, they'd absolutely be upset. They would try again, be nice, but in the end, they would turn to the public to lobby their Congressman to get something done.

For the life of me (Getting personal here) why over the last 20 years of my career do I have to repeat this same message. And for those who have a hard time understanding it, here it is: HOLD PUBLIC HEARINGS AND LISTEN TO THE PUBLIC EVEN WHEN STATE LAW DOESN'T REQUIRE IT!

If you don't reach out to people in advance, you'll end up having to explain your decision after the fact. And that's often a hard conservation to have.

Elected leaders should never, ever, assume they know what the majority of voters think about any given decision. And should always ask as many citizens as possible about their view on every proposal coming before Council. One way to get that important input is to solicit public input at meetings. Welcome your citizens into the room. Hear them. Listen.


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