Thursday, May 30, 2024

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Graham, NC 27253
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The wisdom of the need for more methodical deliberation by Graham’s city council demonstrated by a significant error in its recent haste


Two weeks ago (in our November 18 edition), we lamented the undue haste and lack of deliberation which Graham’s city council demonstrated in agreeing, spontaneously, to mayor-elect Jennifer Talley’s proposal at the end of an otherwise uneventful monthly meeting to make Veterans Day a paid city holiday.

Read earlier editorial, entitled “Rash, impulsive policy-making – even for ostensibly good purposes – doesn’t serve Graham well”:

Part of Talley’s justification was that “everybody’s doing it,” listing other local and nearby jurisdictions that provide their employees with a paid holiday to match the federal one on November 11 each year.

We had urged that the council members should have engaged in greater deliberation before making such a major change, including notifying the public and allowing residents to weigh in – rather than shutting out their views altogether.

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Especially when the item was neither on the agenda, had not previously been discussed publicly by the council members at all, and was intended by Talley’s motion to take effect in less than 48 hours from its adoption.

Well, it seems our calls for having more thoughtful consideration and with more complete information were especially well-founded.

After the publication of our editorial on the subject, we received a missive from the city of Burlington wanting us to provide a “correction” about erroneous information included in our editorial.

Which presented an interesting dilemma. How do we provide a “correction” about accurately reported, but incorrect, statements made by a politician, i.e., mayor-elect Talley?

How do we “correct” information that was accurately quoted by the newspaper, but which was fundamentally wrong?

We do not believe in the modern journalistic tendency to have headlines (or story leads) that say, to the effect (or even directly), so-and-so falsely asserts. . . In this case, however, we didn’t know she had falsely asserted incorrect information until after the newspaper was published with our editorial critical of her – and, ultimately, the council’s – position on the issue.

While we have no reason to believe Talley deliberately provided untrue information or sought to mislead her colleagues, it turns out that one of the main justifications for Graham making a change in policy was simply inaccurate – i.e., the allegedly parallel treatment of the holiday by a neighboring jurisdiction that Talley said she wanted to replicate in Graham.

The research she cited comparing cities was apparently slipshod at best – certainly with regard to the portrayal of Burlington’s policy.

In fact, the city of Burlington does not, it seems, provide a paid holiday for its employees after all. Contrary to Talley’s assertion at the council meeting.

So the basis for at least some of the reasoning for instituting a new tax-paid holiday for Graham’s city employees was faulty from the outset.

Which underscores why it is such a bad idea to allow new proposals or policies to spring up at council meetings, and be voted on, without having been properly investigated, researched, with factually correct and verified information.

Perhaps Talley can learn from her own misstep in this instance. She should reinstate outgoing mayor Jerry Peterman’s longstanding practice (until the night last month when he allowed a vote on Talley’s proposition) of not allowing the council to vote on issues not on the agenda that are brought up suddenly and without any notice.

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