Supes chastised, respond to residents
Published 6:31 pm Friday, January 24, 2020
By Diana McFarland
ISLE OF WIGHT
Several residents complained on Jan. 16 about the perception of not being heard, and the discussion included an accusation of discrimination committed by Isle of Wight Board of Supervisor member.
Antonio Viudez of Rescue told the Board of Supervisors that, during a recent Carrollton Civic League meeting, he was made to feel “lower,” felt discriminated against by a supervisor over his country of origin — Spain — and criticized for only being here a short time.
Viudez said he is a full U.S. citizen.
“I love my country,” he said and asked for an apology from Smithfield District Supervisor Dick Grice.
“I do humbly apologize,” said Grice about the perception that his comments had anything to do with Viudez’s nationality.
The comment was inappropriate, said Grice.
Smithfield resident Lynn Faulkner warned the Board that residents are not stepping up “because it’s a done deal,” adding that she’s heard that complaint repeatedly from other residents about various issues.
“You need to get off your fannies and get out in the community,” Faulkner advised the Board.
She said residents were backing off on their involvement and leaving because they feel they cannot make a difference.
Jennifer Viudez said the perception is that the county Board and administration is “closed club,” but did admit she did not understand how the process worked in Isle of Wight County.
It’s up to the residents to come together and address the Board, she said.
Rick Gillerlain took issue with the Board’s bylaws that appear to protect the rights of the supervisors, but not the residents.
Gillerlain seemingly made a reference to former Soviet leader Nikita Krushchev brandishing his shoe, which occurred during a speech at a 1960 United Nations meeting, and that’s why people don’t come forward.
“There’s nothing in the bylaws that say you have to treat us with respect,” he said, adding that he’s heard Board members insulting residents in other places.
“There’s a lot of smart people here (in Isle of Wight),” said Gillerlain.
Carrsville District Supervisor Don Rosie said he appreciated the comments and considers “everything that comes before us and the respect should be mutual.”
Hardy District Supervisor Rudolph Jefferson said he’s noticed that “people don’t get involved because it doesn’t impact them right now.”
Jefferson said he’s had success in his district with town hall meetings, but folks are more drawn to speak out on the big issues, but not the every day items.
“I will give you respect and expect it in return,” he said.
Newport District Supervisor William McCarty said that when he initially took office in 2016, he and Newport District School Board member Vicky Hulick attempted to host several town hall meetings, but people asked that they come to the Isle of Wight Citizens’ Association and Carrollton Civic League meetings instead. McCarty said he also spends a good deal of time talking to folks who stop by his office at Healing Waters Worship Center, as well as around town.
The joke in the family is “don’t send dad to get half and half at Food Lion because he won’t come back,” said McCarty about running into residents at the grocery store.
Moreover, it’s hard to maintain composure when being attacked, he said.
“I won’t return rapid fire with rapid fire,” he said, adding later that perhaps he and Hulick could resume the town hall format.
McCarty had taken some personal criticism from his neighbors in Carisbrooke about the South Harbor development during a public hearing in November.
Board Chairman Joel Acree, who allowed the Board to respond to the comments, and which isn’t usually done, said “There’s a time for me to listen and a time for me to speak.”
Acree was referring to the Board’s bylaws, which had raised questions by residents. The Board’s bylaws are a rule book for the entire year. He referenced what Carrollton resident Albert Burckard called the bylaw’s “rule 10” earlier in the meeting. Burckard had asked that the rule be waived so more could be said about the South Harbor development, which was ultimately approved later that evening. A formal public hearing on the development had been held in November.
Rule 10 refers to speaking about different issues and if a public hearing had been held on an item and closed, the Board will no longer receive public comment about it.
The public hearing is for people to know they have been heard, and have witnessed the full discussion, rather than the suspicious that more has occurred and that’s why rule 10 is there, said Acree.
Acree added that he spends a good deal of time talking to residents too, whether in person or on the phone.
DIANA MCFARLAND is editor of The Smithfield Times. Contact her at email@example.com.