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Talley vows no interest in buying city property, building on site, criticizes editorial for suggesting she might


Graham mayor Jennifer Talley spent part of Tuesday’s discussion about the future of the Sesquicentennial Park defending herself from an editorial that appeared in The Alamance News on March 14, following the city council’s previous meeting on March 12. [Here’s a link to the original editorial:]

“I took a lot of offense to what was written in the paper,” Talley said at this week’s city council meeting. “I just want to make it very clear that in regards to trust, it’s the media that people don’t trust these days.”

The editorial, entitled “Sesquicentennial Park should be fixed, not eliminated,” raised questions about the sudden appearance of the topic on the city council’s March 12 agenda and the merits of removing the public park.

In addition to criticizing the mayor’s advocacy for razing the park and selling off the city-owned property, the newspaper’s editorial questioned whether Talley might have a personal, vested interest in that outcome.

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“We also would certainly want the mayor to pledge that this whole exercise is not some charade disguising her own personal or financial interest in buying the property and throwing up some new downtown building,” the editorial stated before pointing out that the site was the original location for the Graham Soda Shop, the inspiration for a restaurant of the same name that Talley and her husband Chuck own and operate in another part of Court Square.

The original restaurant building was destroyed by fire in 1977, two decades before the lot was converted into the Sesquicentennial Park during the county’s 150th anniversary celebration in 1999.

“We certainly hope she’s not conjuring up the idea of reestablishing that restaurant at its old location,” the editorial said.

In response to the newspaper’s admonishment, Talley vowed Tuesday that she had no personal or financial interest in the outcome of the council’s decision about whether to repair or replace the park.

“I know that there was some sort of absolute false narrative that was put in the paper about my personal. . .,” she said before she began to read parts of the editorial aloud.

She went on to say that the editorial characterized part of it as “That basically I’m looking to take that space and, I guess, myself build a three-story building which you have me on record that will not be happening.

“I will not be purchasing the building. I have no interest in the building, but I do have an in and have always had a big interest in the preservation and historical renovation of the downtown.

“I have no interest in the property, and I find it highly offensive that anyone would write that.

“Well, I can say, I have no interest in the property.  I believe you said you wanted a promise,” she added, seeming to address the newspaper’s publisher, Tom Boney, Jr., who was in the audience to cover the meeting, as he had been last month.  “I make that promise. Have never had an interest in the property.”

Talley also objected to the newspaper’s characterization of the issue as having arisen “out of nowhere,” when, she said, the issue had first come up during a budget-related special city council meeting which she charged the newspaper had not covered. “Those meetings were public. [We] cannot make the newspaper attend those meetings.”

City officials later identified the budget special meeting as one held on December 18. Alamance News publisher Tom Boney, Jr. acknowledged that the newspaper did not attend or cover the special meeting, which was slated to be six-and-a-half hours long (from 9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m).

The meeting was not recorded since it was held “off site,” at the Graham Civic Center, city officials explained.

Later, Boney said, “Nothing on the agenda suggested this topic would come up. It was not on the agenda per se.  And, I might add, there’s nothing in the city council’s minutes that I can find, since we cannot listen to the actual discussion, that describes this topic as one that was discussed during the meeting.”

Council member Bonnie Whitaker also chimed in with her own defense against another part of the editorial.

The newspaper’s editorial had concluded with this statement, “It makes us wonder, yet again, when or whether politicians can be trusted, whether governments can be relied on to keep their collective word to the public, and whether in this case, some of Graham’s city council members are simply lemmings following their mayor’s latest ill-conceived idea.”

Said Whitaker during this week’s meeting, “Just because I happen to agree with what the mayor is saying on this, because I want to be a good steward of the taxpayers, doesn’t really make me a lemming.  I have my own mind, my own thoughts and I think if you look at my voting record, it shows that.  I’m not a lemming.”

Read the newspaper’s editorial page views on this week’s developments:

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