In just a few short days, the issue of an Airlie preservation easement has appeared on the radar, and generated a much public interest. The Wilmington Watcher exclusively reported to you from the New Hanover County Commissioner's agenda briefing meeting concerning the discussion the commissioners had regarding the issue. After concerns were addressed by Jonathan Barfield, Jason Thompson, and to some degree, Bobby Greer, the resolution passed unanimously at Monday's 2PM meeting of the New Hanover County Commission.
In an email from Commission Chairman Jason Thompson last week, after the agenda briefing, the Wilmington Watcher was told that "I felt like there were four no votes as presented." However, at Monday's meeting, all concerns suddenly quieted - the resolution had no difficulty receiving a unanimous five vote passage.
The final version of the resolution had some minor adjustments. Language that stated that the county would maintain the facilities in as good or better condition than they are now - was changed to simply reflect "as good condition". However, the primary concerns present in the resolution still remain intact. The Airlie preservation easement resolution still lays significant groundwork in establishing complete authority over Airlie in the hands of the Airlie Foundation, even though the county owns the land, and taxpayers fund Airlie's operations.
What is most noteworthy about Monday's meeting, is that after a public outcry to table the issue until the new commissioners could take their seat, no commissioner listed this as a concern before his vote. The Airlie resolution was carefully crafted by the Airlie Foundation and Ted Davis, and strategically placed on the agenda just in time for the last meeting featuring Greer and Caster - a safe vote for the wishes of the Foundation.
Also noteworthy, is that before the item was discussed, Ted Davis put on a pre-arranged production with County Attorney Wanda Copley by asking her if he had a conflict of interest in the issue, since he serves on both the Airlie Foundation and the county commission. After a long-winded explanation wrapped in what seemed to pass as legal definition, Copley said no. Not overlooked was the fact that Davis conveniently omitted the real issue that is a definite conflict. The issue of his being a member of the Corbett family, who sold Airlie to the county, and who still controls it. Copley never made any attempt to address this in any way.
After mildly manipulating the language in the resolution to appease certain commissioners and their faux concern, the resolution had no trouble gliding through. Public comments were not arranged until after the meeting when all votes had been taken, and commissioners were safe from the pressure of the public's will in rendering their decisions.
The effects of this resolution will keep the money flowing in from taxpayers to the Airlie Foundation - which is not forthcoming with their books; and how much of public funding is used to host out-of-work actors and wine and cheese galas so the local social elite can parade through, noses high, and appease their sense of civic engagement. Any attempt to reverse the decision would require a majority vote by the commission to undo the preservation easement - which would certainly cause a public backlash. Who would want to be responsible for removing Airlie from preservation status? However, such would be the only way to save the taxpayers money in tough times. With the resolution, the Airlie Foundation wields the unprecedented power over Airlie, and is relieved of any obligation or incentive to seek outside funding, or become self-sufficient in its operations.
The people of New Hanover County were patronized with a huge money grab and power shift cleverly shrouded as a "preservation easement". The Airlie Foundation is unelected, and therefore unaccountable to the public, so the public can easily be shut out from all inside occurrences, spending, and budgetary decisions by the Foundation. Surely there will be a couple of washed-up actors on hand at a soirée thrown in Ted Davis' honor for his unrelenting work securing "free" money for the Corbett family and the Airlie Foundation. The other commissioners will certainly be invited as well, for seeing the light and bowing to the wishes of those with whom their power is derived, and who they owe their political careers. They have served their masters well, as the emptiness of taxpayers' wallets will attest.