After attending the debate last Friday I found myself compelled to research Mayor Pro-Tem Alan Gilbert’s political platform when running for council two years ago and compare it to his record of accomplishment since elected to council.
First, I would like to take a look at an issue that is important to all citizens: taxes. If you recall Alan ran a campaign centered on fear of higher taxes. While running, he stated that he would not vote for higher taxes, and in fact, pledged taxes would remain revenue neutral; meaning taxes would not increase.
Now the truth: This year Alan voted for one of the highest tax increases in the history of Carolina Beach. When questioned about this at the recent debate, he did what he does best; deflect the truth and point his finger at others. However, Alan is the one that recently voted for a 25% tax increase. At the debate he also stated “how could we foresee” the adjustment that is today’s market? In fact, as a candidate for town council he stated over and over again that our present market conditions represent a “glut”. When asked to describe his platform Alan stated “today’s for sale signs are turning into tomorrows for rent signs. Speculative real estate practices are driving property values to inflationary levels”.
Joel Macon with his twelve years of experience voted against the tax increase. Instead he recommended that the council take another look at the budget and prioritize cost expenditures adjusting the budget so the town could indeed remain tax neutral. The majority, including Alan, voted for the tax increase. Also, while trying to defend his record on taxes, Alan pointed to the past; his favorite ploy to deflect the truth. He blamed the past administration for being fiscally irresponsible with the budget and selling out “to special interest developers”. The truth is that this council and their majority lead by Alan have shown no economic or fiscal responsibility while dealing with budgetary decisions.
In reality, as reflected in the 2005 budget, the past admiration had budget excesses that carried over into the 2006 budget. When Alan Gilbert, Jerry Johnson, and Bill Clark were elected, they came into office with enough funds to cover half of their first 2006 budget. So, what did they do with a budget that any politician would love to inherit?
In the past two years the town has realized record budget shortfalls. To date our town has a budget shortfall of not $20,000, not $50,000 not even $500,000. The shortfall now exceeds one million dollars, and this is after already depleting our reserve fund of one million to balance the budget due to previous shortfalls for the last two years. Not since the days of the town nearing bankruptcy and facing a take over by the state have our budget shortfalls reached this proportion. As citizens I believe it our responsibility to reflect what another two years could do to our town’s finances.
Alan Gilbert, who claims to examine all issues to the “highest degree”, still has the audacity to blame others. What is the difference between this council and the past administration? I spoke with past council members trying to understand the process now compared to the past. I was told that in the past council, along with the manager, would develop and approve a budget. Afterwards, on a no less than a quarterly basis, that budget would be reviewed. Forecasted revenues would be validated, present cost would be reviewed, and future expenditures would be reviewed to ensure that they were tracking with what was originally forecasted. This was accomplished via budget workshops, one on one review with members of council and the manager, and then coming together for discussion. This has not happened with this council, something that is clear by Alan’s remarks at last week’s debate where he again mentioned the national real estate market which took him by “surprise” and its impact on fee’s associated with construction. If Alan and the majority would have been tracking the budget our town would not be in the dyer financial state that we are in now. Instead, this council has created new positions at town hall, impact fees have slowed to a snails pace, all due in large part to Alan his fellow running mates who have control the vote for the past two years. Their majority stance towards no development, a lack of a clear direction moving forward, and mixed signals sent to potential business parties interested in Carolina Beach. But hey, the town does have a $200,000.00 skate park.
Alan’s first platform also touted the revitalization of the boardwalk. He said, “Renewal, refurbishment, and revitalization of the boardwalk is critical to the core identity of Carolina Beach”. He discussed economic initiatives for business, parks, free parking, landscaping, “diligently” pursuing federal and state grant monies and recreational attractions and most important a master plan. He also stated, “creating a master plan that addresses issues in this platform will help guide our community into the future”. This all sounds so nice to the voting citizens of Carolina Beach, but in reality what has he accomplished?
The answer: Not one promise, no economic incentives, no new business (lost more than gained), no new recreational facilities, no free parking to attract our year round citizens to the boardwalk, no master plan, no new certified Land Use Plan. And what about the Master Plan the recently started. Who initiated that process? Alan? No, Joel Macon and Dan Wilcox were the driving force behind the master plan that is now just in the early stages of development. In fact, as with the budget, the town had grants in place with monies available to enhance the CBD by adding bicycle paths and pedestrian walkways. Those grants included monies allocated to enhance the North End Extension, Route 421, and Carl Winter. To date those grants have not been utilized.
Other hot topics of importance to Alan’s are height and traffic. While running Alan compared our beautiful town to Myrtle Beach; stating “Our traditional single family neighborhoods are being compromised by high density development”. He went as far as saying that sun light will be blocked out by high density development. Truth is, not a single high density development has ever been brought forward for review in any of our single family districts; neither with the past administration or with the present. The reason is simple - our town ordinances and Land Use Plan prohibit such development, both now and in the past. The only district that allows for high density projects is the CBD. The CBD is roughly a 4x5 block area. When asked how Alan proposed to deal with traffic concerns he stated he would “Initiate a complete traffic study of Carolina Beach, Kure Beach and Fort Fisher”. To date no such study has been proposed. In fact, the study that was already available when they assumed office has been disregarded. None of the recommendations by the nationally recognized traffic engineering firm that conducted the study have been implemented. Traffic concerns today remain the same as when Alan first took office. Even more amazing is that Alan voted to increase height in the Land Use Plan up to 115’. The same politician that ran his campaign on a 50’ height limit in the CBD, voted for an increase from 50’ to 115’; without allowing any public input. Amazing.
In conclusion, I ask that all citizens take a hard look at Alan’s record of higher taxes, more height, continuing traffic concerns, unused grant monies, mass budgetary shortfalls, no economic incentives for business, no action towards revitalizations on the boardwalk, mix messages to potential business investors, no master plan, no updated Land Use Plan and no bridging of divisive community issues, and his lack of willingness to involve the public in important town issues. None of his stated priorities have been realized: economic, traffic, master plan, infrastructure (water, sewer) transportation management, coastal integrity, inlet management, and most important debt management.
Alan, we elect people because they pledge to look at the past to solve and plan for a better future. This time Alan is campaigning on leadership, even though he and his two running mates have had control of council for the past two years and have not show any leadership, he now says he will make a better leader. Unfortunately for us, his weakness as a leader is clearly reflected by his record of the past two years. Please research the complex issues facing our town and ask yourself - do I want a mayor with a record of unfilled promises.
Citizen of Carolina Beach
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