What’s the hidden agenda? We need to know

Published 7:07 pm Saturday, March 8, 2014

Back in the 1992 presidential race, most can remember when Ross Perot said that giant sucking sound would be American jobs that would leave the U.S. if NAFTA were passed. NAFTA did pass and Mr. Perot was right. I can remember and most here at the time places like Hamilton Beach, Singer Furniture, Sampson Shirt Factory. Yep, that sucking sound saw them leave Beaufort County in a hurry because of NAFTA.

Here we are today facing a situation that will mirror that sucking sound of jobs leaving. But this time it will be jobs sucked out of downtown Washington and headed to the new county seat in Chocowintiy. Right now, as all of us know, there is a major disagreement of what needs to be done about our jail. I have made it no secret during my time on the board or when I campaigned for this office that I would not support raising taxes at this time on our citizens who are suffering due to the economic climate we are in. And even if we had better times and I could see the need for a new jail, it certainly would not be in Chocowinity.  It would be kept in downtown Washington where it belongs.

The jail is being expedited by some of my board colleagues in advance of this year’s election. They have voted just last Thursday to take $million out of our general fund to start the jail. This money will be used for design purposes. The crazy thing about this vote is we haven’t even gotten approval for a loan to fund the jail nor had any commissioner read what was being proposed in these expenditures. Another old Chicago-style of politics — we can read it after we vote on it.  How’s that mentality done for the American people with Obamacare? Bottom line, if the loan doesn’t materialize the citizens of Beaufort County had $2 million of their money spent for nothing. Why the hurry? Because it’s an election year.

Some of the same commissioners who have voted to spend your money recklessly are already quietly talking about how the courthouse is in disrepair and something is going to have to be done about that. Yes that’s right. It’s unbelievable. So after they cram a new jail down the throats of the citizens of Beaufort County, it won’t be long to you start hearing that message publicly.

If the jail is built in the Chocowintiy Industrial Park and these commissioners seem hell bent on doing that, it will be joined by the sheriff’s office and the courthouse. So downtown loses all those jobs. Soon the attorneys will be moving out and on over to Chocowinity. So downtown Washington, which is hurting to survive right now, will be a ghost town. What a shame. It’s hard for people to see this happening. To many this seems impossible. I’m 69 years old. I may not see it in my lifetime, but reassured if nothing is done to stop this nonsense, it will become reality.

The merchants of downtown Washington need to have their voices heard and displeasure in this attack on them. The Chamber of Commerce doesn’t need to sit idly by and do nothing on this. The mayor and the City Council of Washington need to be up in arms about what some commissioners are doing to their city. If none of these groups do nothing in a few years, their lack of vision and leadership will be dealt with by future citizens who make downtown Washington home for their businesses — if there are any left.

Last summer, I started advocating for my fellow commissioners to put this matter of building a new jail to the people in the form of a referendum. Of course, it was voted down on numerous occasions. I’m sure Beaufort County would still love to have those companies we lost due to NAFTA. Washington, don’t let that giant sucking sound make you regret not doing something now. Call the county commissioners and ask them to put this on a referendum so the people’s voice can be heard before it’s too late.

Gary Brinn is a Beaufort County commissioner.