Civility is not what Laurinburg needs

By: Matthew Block - Mayor’s column

Last week, Sen. Bill Purcell wrote a letter to the editor of this paper about “bickering between our mayor and city council.” His main point was that ‘individuals or businesses out there may delay or avoid coming to Laurinburg because the mayor and city council cannot get along.

Personally, based on having been to several economic development conferences, reading a lot on the subject, and having some common sense, I think this concern expressed by Sen. Purcell, and others, is simply not true. If you were thinking of moving to a town, would

If you were thinking of moving to a town, would bickering between the mayor and city council have the slightest effect on your decision? When I moved to Laurinburg in 2001, I did not have the slightest idea or care about city politics. In addition, nowhere in the top 10 of community factors that determine where industry or business relocates would you find bickering between mayor and city council. Nor, for that matter, would you find how pretty is the town’s City Hall. But that’s another story.

Sen. Purcell has been in local politics since before 1990. First on city council, then mayor of Laurinburg and then a long stint as our state senator, until retiring a couple of years ago. He, more than any other politician, has presided over Laurinburg’s descent from a prosperous town with a future to what it is today.

I would argue that Sen. Purcell’s letter provides insight into exactly why he, and people who espouse a similar viewpoint, are largely responsible for the shape our town is in. I do this not to insult the good senator, but to bring to light what has been wrong here, so that we can fix it.

First and foremost, is the attempt to blame the ‘outsider’ pointing out what is wrong here done so that the ‘good ole boys’ doing wrong can go on doing wrong? Since it appears that Sen. Purcell is following city politics, how could he not be more outraged by city council blatantly refusing to be transparent and blatantly ignoring the will of the vast majority of the citizens than the mayor’s “personal attacks.” Because, evidently, Laurinburg’s corrupt ‘business as usual’ doesn’t bother him as much as not being ’civil’.

The senator’s letter also reveals a disregard for what the citizens clearly want, a trait he shares with his crowd. Unless Sen. Purcell lives under a stone, he couldn’t help but notice that I very vocally attacked council for its actions even before I was elected mayor.

And guess what senator? The citizens voted me in by a landslide. Senator, please don’t hold your breath waiting for, as you said, “the citizens to join you in demanding that we have civility in our city government.” The citizens have already said that they would rather join me in demanding that we have a council that listens to them

In his letter, the senator clearly singles me out as the one making personal attacks. At first, I was puzzled by this. Anyone who is following city council meetings closely, which it appears Sen. Purcell is, must know that all the personal attacks have been made by council , not me.

Council has tried to throw shade about where I live, accusing me of having secret meetings and insinuating that I was responsible for buying useless water meters. During no meeting have I made personal attacks against council. Therefore, Sen. Purcell must be referring to the way I use Facebook to interact with thousands of Laurinburg citizens. On Facebook, I have said things like “I know a lot of people in Laurinburg and I can honestly say there are not five worse people in Laurinburg to be on City Council.’

Sen. Purcell probably doesn’t like Facebook being used for politics. He prefers the old days and the old ways. The senator’s crowd appears to look down on the idea of encouraging the average citizen to participate and have a say in what goes on. Not only that, they don’t like the written record that Facebook provides, which might actually shine some light on what has always been safely whispered behind closed doors.

So, there you have it. Circling the ‘good ole boy’ wagon, ignoring the citizens’ will, lack of transparency, being stuck in the past and, I almost forgot, being ‘civil’. That is the style of ‘leadership’ that has gotten us here. The citizens voted for change.

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Matthew Block

Mayor’s column

Matthew Block serves as mayor of Laurinburg. He writes a bi-weekly column on the city and municipal issues.

Matthew Block serves as mayor of Laurinburg. He writes a bi-weekly column on the city and municipal issues.