Secession might bring city gov't we deserve


By Holly Audette

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Last week’s City Council meeting reminded me of Longfellow’s poem depicting Paul Revere’s warning to the Colonial militia: “The British are coming, the British are coming!” Except in our case it was Councilwoman Anita Hummer joining council members Johnnie Walton, Darius Horton, Kem Spence and Walton’s echo chamber — Councilman Gabriel Adkins — leading the shouting. It also sounded like Mayor Bettie Parker agreed we are under attack.

This time the warning involves “Project Zebra,” a unique, once top-secret World War II project of the American, British and Russian allied forces that involved training pilots in Elizabeth City to fly a uniquely fashioned aircraft. Our warning wasn’t about the British, however. Instead it was about the Russians, whom the shouters insisted would use their hacking and spying skills to offer us a “Trojan horse.” To “protect us,” of course, they voted their opposition. I would gladly trade this local council for a Revolutionary War-like local militia to secure my protection any day.

Numerous sources have fleshed out the details and merits of the desire of the U.S.-Russia Joint Commission on POW/MIAs’ interest in recognizing allied military members who perished in Elizabeth City for the Project Zebra cause during World War II. The commission has proposed having our community host a beautiful bronze statue as a memorial to their sacrifice. The response by the council members is so ridiculous and embarrassingly ignorant that it merits no additional commentary from me. Hopefully it will result in an overwhelmingly and influential loud demand from the citizenry to correct this shameful action.

Watching this latest romper room session, I contemplated how many times this community has suffered derision and missed opportunities because of the foolishness of local city councils during the almost two decades I have lived here. Skilled, capable people with a plan end up largely spinning their wheels because there are council members with every incentive for there to be no progress at all.

Then there is the ever-present Councilwoman Hummer, whose idea of leadership is to reward and punish fellow council members depending on if they will agree to let her be “Queen,” and who defines leadership as putting a finger in the wind to decide issues and policy.

Since I see council after council bogged down in this same divide, and have every reason to believe there will be council members disingenuously continuing to characterize that and every possible divide as being racial, I am not at all hopeful this prevailing and undermining narrative will end.

So what is there to do? A few months ago I brought up the historic debate within the region of the issue of merger. We have a city hopelessly divided as to what we should be now as a community and in the future. But there’s a lot of resistance from a number of different factions that I am not convinced would allow the cobbling together of a consensus to merge.

But there is another option, one I think this community should take a good, hard look at. Secession. “Secession” is an intimidating word that conjures up many thoughts and issues, but I hope we can get past the myth to the reality. Hypothetically, if parts of the existing city, like wards 1-3, for example, are able to extract themselves from being a part of the city of Elizabeth City, leaving the remaining geography to continue to be Elizabeth City, perhaps more residents would have representation that actually reflects their views. Those who believe it is in the best interest of the whole to develop the waterfront for public and commercial use as a highlight of their home county could have a government that agrees with this as principle and priority. Those who believe there’s a different path to success will also have a governing body reflecting that continued view.

Is secession from the existing city of Elizabeth possible, and what does the seceding areas have as options if they choose to secede? I will answer those and more questions on the topic next week. But I will give you a clue. The answer to the question — is secession possible? — is yes.

Holly Audette is a small-business owner active in political and civic causes.