Cornelius election gets infusion of ‘lake muscle
by Staff Writer
by Will Bryant
CORNELIUS – In his most recent newsletter to neighborhood homeowners, Peninsula Property Owners Association President Jim Duke read much more like a call to battle stations than an ordinary neighborhood update, signaling the start of what is sure to be a heated election for the five seats of Cornelius’ Board of Commissioners.
“This year is shaping up to be a transformative year for Cornelius as two new faces are vying for seats on the town commission,” read the newsletter. “Should voters elect both of these new candidates, the face of Town governance will be changed. It is more important than ever that all lake area residents flex their voting muscle in 2011.”
Duke has been nothing short of vocal as president of the Peninsula’s homeowners association, lobbying tenaciously for pedestrian street lights along Peninsula’s roads, as well as for numerous street repairs in the community.
Commissioner Jim Bensman called Duke’s actions and newsletter outrageous, and said that Duke is placing the needs of the Peninsula over the needs of any other part of the community.
“Jim is proceeding without the authority of his board,” Bensman said. “I think it is unfortunately going to tip the needs of the Peninsula against everyone else.”
The Peninsula has always held a strong political contingency, as both town board challengers, several current and former board members and the current N.C. Speaker of the House live in the upscale neighborhood.
In efforts to tip the scale even more, Bensman said he received numerous phone calls and threats from Peninsula residents if more attention wasn’t given to the needs of the community.
“Jim Duke and a small number of residents have been threatening various board members of being voted out of office if we didn’t focus on their projects,” Bensman said. “It’s a new kind of class warfare.”
While Duke did not endorse any of the six candidates running for the Board of Commissioners in his letter, he was until Monday serving as campaign treasurer of candidate John R. Bradford III.
Duke voluntarily resigned, Bradford said, after the newsletter went viral and caused controversy amongst town leaders.
“I didn’t want my tussle with Jim Bensman to distract from John’s campaign,” Duke said about his resignation. “Bradford is a fine, fine man and deserves to be elected.”
Duke’s letter called for better communication between Peninsula residents and the board, especially regarding community improvement projects like paving of the community’s interior roads.
“We need projects funded,” Duke said in the newsletter. “We need town commissioners to take the lead and work with us in these efforts, not erect bureaucratic road blocks.”
To make sure that the candidates get the message, Duke called Peninsula residents to go to the polls.
“An effective way to be heard by the Town Commissioners is to do what we always do … vote,” Duke wrote. “I feel we need to explain to them that what is good for the Peninsula is good for Cornelius.”
According to the newsletter, the Peninsula precinct has the highest percentage turnout of registered voters in Cornelius, making it a hot topic of conversation for those in the running.
Cornelius Board of Commissioners candidate and Peninsula resident Jeff Hare says that if elected, he plans to give attention to the areas that need the help the most, regardless of whether or not they may be on the Peninsula.
“I want to listen to everyone’s opinion on what needs to be done in the town,” Hare said. Even though Hare acknowledged that those on the Peninsula pay more taxes because of the district’s high-priced homes, he feels that does not necessarily entitle its residents to more attention from the board.
Board of Commissioner Candidate John R. Bradford III, agrees with Hare’s view.
“I used to live in the Peninsula so I am most certainly a friend to the Peninsula,” Bradford said. “But just because someone pays higher taxes, doesn’t mean they should get preferential treatment.”
Incumbents forego campaign signs
The four incumbent Cornelius commissioners, Thurman Ross, Dave Gilroy, Lynette Rinker and Chuck Travis have all mutually agreed out of respect for town businesses to forego placing campaign signs in the highway rights of way along state-maintained roads, according to a press release sent out by the town on Thursday, Sept. 29.
Snipe signs, the wire-based signs that usually accompany November, are a prohibited signage type in the Cornelius Land Development Code except for election signs, which must be allowed under State and Federal Laws.
“Many of us have the explicit goal to abolish the use of campaign signs in local elections in Cornelius, voluntarily and culturally rather than legally,” Gilroy said said. “We want to maintain the highest aesthetic distinctiveness possible.”
However while the incumbents have all agreed, those newcomers to the election aren’t following suit.
“I weighed in and said that as a newcomer I want to take advantage of running a campaign that would get my name out there,” Bradford said. “I’m not a household name.”
Bradford said that he has agreed to put only 50 signs in right of ways but that does not include right of ways in private businesses and communities.
Hare says that he plans to use only 50 signs for the campaign – period. The choice to use such a small number of signs is out of deference for local businesses, Hare said.
The Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce had a candidate forum this week. To read what Cornelius candidates had to say, see page 12.
Municipal elections in Mecklenburg County will be held Nov. 8. To find your polling place or for information on registering to vote visit the Mecklenburg County Board of Election’s website at http://charmeck.org/mecklenburg/county/BOE/Pages/default.aspx or call 704-336-2133.