Tuesday, November 9, 2010

McColl's Navy: The USS Gravely Commissioning

As reported in the Wilmington Watcher, Wilmington City Council kicked in $25,000 to Louise McColl's PR firm for the entertaining of sailors, crew, and "dignitaries" affiliated with the forthcoming commissioning of the USS Gravely here in the Port City. Not to be outdone, and certainly no surprise, the New Hanover County Commission has followed suit as well, with their contribution of $25,000 to McColl, for a grand total of $50,000 for entertainment expenses.

McColl, campaign manager for Mayor Saffo, Councilwoman Tomey, and County Commission Chairman Jason Thompson had a relatively painless time obtaining the loot. In the case of the city, as previously reported, the agenda request for the funds was officially asked for by Mayor Saffo, according to City Manager Sterling Cheatham's agenda request, on behalf of Ms. McColl; certainly sparing her the time and effort necessary to put forth such a request. 

In the case of the county, the agenda item to approve the funds was also unanimously approved, after a dazzling presentation by the Co-Chair of the Gravely Committee, Captain Dave Scheu (See the agenda here: http://laserfiche.nhcgov.com/weblink8/0/doc/1149032/Page1.aspx). McColl lurked behind the scenes, and had no obvious involvement in this request; although in the case of the city's funding, she initiated the original request letter to City Manager Sterling Cheatham. 

One of the most obvious of unanswered questions is why was this project never put out to bid by either local government entity? McColl simply assumed the role of Chairwoman for the committee, easily got the funding, and the rest is history. The lesson here seems to be that it really does pay to sit on many public boards, and also serve as political consultant and campaign manager for as many local political figures as possible. When the time comes for a financial shot in the arm, your charges will certainly no doubt come to your rescue and deliver the funds without delay.

The entire event, though it may be a shallow, emotional, feel-good sort of honor; is being touted as an economic savior, by city and county officials alike. WWAY reports:

County finance director Avril Pinder says the money spent on the USS Gravely commissioning is a return on investment and it will make a huge impact on the local economy. Pinder says every time you spend one dollar, it is spent 2.5 times in our community. It's called the multiplier effect. Based on $1.5 million in sales tax, that would mean the community would generate $3.75 million.
WWAY Article

The question of the veracity of the funny math used in such equations aside; how does general fund taxpayer dollars spent in an elite circle of political allies ease any burden on the taxpayer himself? We have no reason to believe that Wilmington would not have been chosen anyway, even if the local taxpayer was spared from footing the bill. The United States Navy probably spends $50,000 on toilet paper every 4 minutes - certainly they could have easily paid for this event.

The truth is that we didn't give them the chance. McColl and her army of expensive self-assigned do-gooders were there from the get-go promising goodies and perks all under the thinly veiled guise of "economic development". A portion of the money spent by visitors during this event will find its way into local shops and businesses, no doubt. But the tax rates and burden to the taxpayer will remain the same - if not increase given recent history. The money generated will have to be used to pay down a looming tax bill. This money winds up in the same hands - politicians - no matter how you cut it. More money to spend on boondoggles, unnecessary projects, and soirĂ©es thrown by political insiders. The taxpayer's burden is in no danger of lessening in any way, and will surely ultimately increase as more and more of the public treasury is wasted on frivolous items. Politicians often use terms like "return on investment" to ease the public's concern - when they really mean a political investment, where the spoils return to from whence they came. Taxpayers will always be on the short end of that stick.

When questioned about the public's support of the funding on The Big Talker 93.7FM's Morning Beat with Chad Adams, Chairman Jason Thompson self-assuredly stated that the people elected him, so by extension, that equates to public support of this and every decision that he renders. Thompson apparently believes that his elected position insulates him from any accusations of bad decision-making or poor leadership while serving on the board.


  1. HI Wilmington, I aam not from your fair city but will be there for the USS Gravely commissioning. We are really looking forward to the visit. It looks like there needs to be a good election to clear some air. Sounds good but the clicks always seem to carry on. Good luck. I live near a large city in Texas and they are always making plans to bring big afairs in but you have to ask who really benefits. See you on the 18th. Glo

  2. Lost in all of this is a man that I admired and had the priviledge to serve during the time he was comissioned Admiral. When did McColl or Saffo serve, and what do they know about this man. Once again the elite in this town leaves the peons. Why not let those of us who knew and served under Admiral Gravely be a part of this, but then again the powerful could not profit!

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