Good ole boy network has to end

Published 9:44 am Friday, August 31, 2012

by Richard R. Harris

To say I’m upset over the taxes and fees I pay in Southampton County would be the understatement of the year.

Less than a year ago, four new supervisors were elected based upon promises of real change and a pledge not to raise taxes. Webster’s description of “not” means in no way, to no degree and is used to express denial, refusal or prohibition.

My daughter lives in Washington, D.C., an area with some of the highest real estate values on the East Coast.

Her taxes on a house with the same square footage as mine in Southampton County are almost identical. She has all the amenities we are denied here. There is something wrong with this picture.

How can this board continue to impose higher and erroneous assessments along with arbitrary fees just to squeeze another dollar out of already overburdened citizens? It would appear Wingate & Associates have yet to find their way to D.C.

Someone on this board mentioned perhaps I should bring some solutions instead of criticisms when I speak.

In my opinion that is why you seven gentlemen were elected — to provide solutions to our problems. If it is up to me or others to provide solutions, then perhaps we should sit where you currently sit.

However, I do have some suggestions for you:

• We can no longer let a three-member committee decide who will represent the citizens of Southampton County on our school board. To add insult to injury, while consuming 50 percent or more of the county budget, the citizens don’t even have a public comment period before the board.

The citizens of this community have as much right to publicly address and bring their concerns before the school board as they do the board of supervisors. This archaic method of selecting representatives for the school board must end.

• The board of supervisor’s job is to set policy, and the county administrator’s job is to implement that policy. He works for the board, not the other way around.

• Next, the board needs to have some of its executive sessions with no one present, but the seven of them. No county administrator and no county attorney! They don’t need anyone to hold their hand. They need time away from the influence of our county administrator and county attorney.

• I don’t know what this board’s policy is, but they need to evaluate their appointees at least annually if not semi-annually.

• During their next budget process, the board needs to start at the top and work its way down; they might be surprised at what they find.

• The majority of the business conducted in and by this county should be open to the public. There should never be any question about what the board is doing and how they’re spending public funds, for it is the public money they’ve been entrusted with, not theirs.

Perception and appearance can become reality in the public’s mind very quickly. Trust takes a long time to acquire and can be lost in the blink of an eye.

n Last but not least, it’s past time to put a stop to open-ended contracts. Anytime a contract exceeds the projected cost by 5 or 10 percent, it should be mandatory that it come back before the board for approval. Has this board not seen what has happened recently in Chesapeake? The citizens there are on the hook for millions in cost overruns on contracts. Does our board have such a policy in place? If not, it is past time to enact one.

Gentlemen this is 2012, not 1912; it’s time for the good ole boy network to be laid to rest.

RICHARD R. HARRIS is a Courtland resident and owner of Firearms Sales Co. in Ivor. He can be reached at