Fort Bragg Does A Candidate’s Night
by Rex Gressett, October 12, 2016
I attended the MCTV Fort Bragg candidates’ forum last night as a candidate and there were some interesting developments.
Earlier in the day I rode my moped down to the TV studio that Terry and his wife Marianne McGee are putting together by sucking up city money and building a private business with it. I stopped down thinking it a mere social courtesy to tell them I would be attending as a candidate as we had already arranged by email and in person.
When I arrived I was surprised (first surprise) to be told that no indeed Sue Ranochak of the County elections office had declared by (surprise) edict that I was not to be allowed to participate in The Forum. I demurred. This I thought is at the very least highly unlikely. No, no, that’s not it, burbled Mr. Vaughn apparently retrieving something from deep memory. It was your campaign manager that told me you were out. Well, I suggested, put me back in. At that point Mr. Vaughn had a little tantrum and a little pushing and shoving was involved. My personal composure was not affected. I could have easily kicked the little marshmallow’s ass. But politics and public advocacy are rough games. Lose your temper and they very certainly will bury you. I am in this for keeps, I am winning and I mean business therefore I simply left, but left wondering not a little.
I sent out a flurry of emails including one to the mayor who replied with platitudes. And most of all I sent out emails to the other candidates. Various people called various other people and when the hour appointed came, I went.
To my mild surprise they let me in. The seating was prearranged for me to be on the very end of the line of candidates.
It was a call in show. I was permitted to explain that although I was a legal candidate and would be on the ballot I was exercising my firm political right and moral obligation to support the better candidates as I called it, Bernie and Will. I told the audience that the nomination process for the city council is a secret process, and in fact the two candidates that have far the widest support, did not file officially until the last possible day. I explained to the audience that I originally ran because I thought that I had to, reluctantly and knowing better than anybody that I would probably suck at it. But at the time there just did not seem to be any choice. When I met Bernie Norvell, I was immediately a supporter. I am just slightly less enthusiastic about Will Lee, but damn. This is it. This is what we worked for. Here were two men who understood not how, but that city hall had been stolen by criminals.
They got that. And very clearly they had the guts to do something about it. Perhaps not as histrionically as I might have done it. But I also knew they would be more effective, and critically had no less violent indignation at the crass presumptions of a brazen political machine. I said that under these conditions my obligation was to not split the vote but to support the stronger candidates. A No frills political decision. A regular thing in political life.
The forum was a call in show. And again to my surprise there were a lot of callers. I was expecting the KZXY/Z thing where they have call-in shows and then the callers don’t call. But no. The lines were comparatively hopping.
As the night progressed one clear idea emerged from both the discussions among the candidates and from the preponderant number of callers.
The subject of grants kept coming up. One caller after another referenced the CDBG grants [Community Development Block Grants]. The grants that have been the excuse for everything. People were saying they were not what they seemed.
One person after another commented in their various ways that this money was given only to economically disadvantaged communities.
A number of points were raised. Will Lee pointed out that the city got to keep some of the money their own wicked selves. And gradually it emerged that the reduction of our city into a ghost-town due to the destruction of prosperity from the City’s declination to develop the mill site. That the lack of progress and the increasing addiction to drugs, all of these wonderful things and our stolid immovable poverty rate of 50% has been hell on the most of us, but they got us grants.
Without poverty Linda Ruffing could not have held the medical/mental illness power structure and the newspaper and the city council, together in a single constituency,
There were tangential discussions. The insanely complicated and obstructive city zoning ordinance was pointed out to be a major, indeed legendary business stopper, and that it had little use other than as a tool of disempowerment for the community. Everybody knew where they mete out injustice according to the inland plan.
When it was his turn Scott Menzies, the darling of the Ruffing machine, rambled unintelligibly about his obsession with martial arts and by a long leap of comparison thought it would stand him in good stead as our leader. That is if I understood him. He did not say much else.
After the cameras were off we all had that moment of bonding that comes with participating in the extremely inconvenient and time-consuming task of self-governance. Usually there is coffee. And we went home.
In the morning we found out. I was being surgically removed post-appearance from The Forum. Being on the end of the lineup of candidates, my image was easy to edit out. And apparently although The Forum had gone out live, it was going to be released with all of my remarks, contributions, inane blunders and everything else wiped from the program as if they had never occurred.
Later in the day, the pressure from social media must have been acute. I am told that it was. But at the last they allow you to see the whole thing if you log on. Otherwise you get the edited version. I am told that the unedited version has a bunch of technical intrusions. Loud noises and so forth, weird.
I damn sure know that I should write a bit more about this. But I hardly know what to think. Maybe it is evidence that we have pushed them to the point where they are reduced to desperate measures like this.
This is manipulation of the public perception with Soviet Style brutality, this is the obstruction of free speech so bald and brazen that we must really be grateful to be given a window through which to observe the range and power of the system of disinformation that we have in Fort Bragg.
Given that, it as certainly worth it.