Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Media/Political Establishment Take Aim at Berger

The Gushing Continues...
A recent Star News article titled "Decade-long plan on New Hanover Commissioners agenda", by Kevin Maurer, who just joined the newspaper earlier in January, talks about the recent strategic planning session facilitated by a consultant for a cost to taxpayers of $36,000. Maurer, a quick study in the ways of slanted Star News editorializing, quickly uses the opportunity to divert the subject from the mission of the commissioners to the commissioners individually - namely Brian Berger, who he takes gratuitous potshots at. A move sure to get him in the good graces of Tricia Vance and Bob Gruber, whose mission is to use the paper as a bully pulpit and propaganda mill for the local establishment.

Maurer states,
Berger, in particular, has been at the center of the board's shifting politics after winning a narrow election on a platform of changing the status quo. While his message resonated with some voters, a few of his fellow commissioners said he is too focused on politics and beholden to a minority in the county.

The obvious spin is evident in the statement that Berger won a "narrow election". Berger, who did receive a few less votes in the initial primary against Bill Caster, within the realm of recount, handedly defeated Caster in the primary runoff. In the November general election, Berger and Rick Catlin soared to the top of the list to win decidedly over Deborah Butler and Sid Causey. According to the Star News' own figures, Berger won with a total of 31,403 votes; second to Catlin with 37,095. According to the official election results published by the Board of Elections, the final numbers were: Catlin: 37,592; Berger: 31,846; Butler: 24,647; and Causey: 24,516. Hardly a narrow victory for Berger, who clearly won by over 7,000 votes.

The article continues by suggesting that a few of his fellow commissioners believe Berger to be "beholden to a minority in the county". Berger, the second highest vote-getter, who won his seat with a definitive victory, had the clearest message on the campaign trail; a message that obviously resonated with voters, hence his win. The Star News clearly exposes itself as a biased media source by implying that Berger accidentally slipped through the cracks, and only answers to a lunatic fringe; hardly a distinction that they dare apply to Catlin, who beat Berger with a smaller percentage than that which Berger defeated Butler by.

It is clear, by the virtues of sheer reason, that it certainly was not a minority who aligned with Berger's message of smaller, less intrusive, more efficient, and less costly government - but a large percentage of the electorate, who have grown sick and tired of local government's self-serving, expensive ways. Berger would do well to satisfy those who got behind him; something politicians have done since the beginning of time - answer to their constituents. Somehow, no doubt because of Berger's unconventional ideals, the Star News suggests that he not serve with those in mind that elected him, but rather play ball and conform to that which he campaigned against.

The article continues,
"We are going to need to have consensus on how we get there and going into the strategic planning it can't be about a political agenda. It has to be about what is best for the county," said Chairman Jonathan Barfield, the only Democrat on the board. "There are 200,000 citizens here and if you look at the election that Mr. Berger got elected in and it is just a small fraction of those citizens actually voted in that election. I think when you start making votes that appear to be on party lines or a particular group's agenda, it thwarts the progress of the county."
Barfield's idea "consensus" is go along to get along, and don't make waves. He apparently believes that he and he alone has the monopoly on understanding what exactly is best for the county as a whole, even though his is an agenda that has led to higher taxation and a bloated government. Furthermore, Barfield suggests that those who aligned closely to Berger during the election season are invalid distractions that need not be heeded. Barfield is advocating for mob rule, and desires for Berger to abandon principle, and get with his program, already in progress. Although he himself answers to those who elected him, Barfield believes that the same should not apply to Brian Berger. Barfield's idea of "thwarting the progress of the county" is voting against his personal agenda, and being an advocate for less government and lower taxation, principles which were cornerstones of Berger's campaign.

The Star News continues the assault,

Berger, who defeated Caster in a runoff to get on the ballot, said he is still working to grasp all of the issues facing the board, but defended his approach to the board.
"The learning curve has been very steep and I have a lot to learn still," Berger said. "I am trying to be reasonable, rational in my approach to issues . ... I am hoping the other board members respect where I am coming from and I certainly respect where they are coming from."
The suggestion is that Berger has to "defend" something. Standing for what he does is invalid, and therefore not defensible. Forget that his explanation of his positions is in no way defensive, the Star News says it is, because their goal is to discredit, malign, and marginalize those who do not conform to their extremely biased views.

On the other hand, Catlin shows promise as far as the Star News is concerned. He has been a government insider for better than 20 years, and will certainly get on board with the Barfield/Star News way of doing things. The subtle approval of his positions is apparent:
Catlin, on the other hand, said getting up to speed is not an issue.
"On a number of issues, I am ahead of the curve," Catlin said. "It is not matter of being up to speed, it is a matter of doing my due diligence."
Catlin has focused a lot of his work on coastal and environmental issues like new air quality standards. He thinks the board will gel soon, especially as members work more closely in the coming months on the strategic plan.
"We are all different. I focus on the issues and the problems and not on the personalities," Catlin said. "Their hearts are in the right place and we probably have more in common and I will try my best to make it that way."
The presentation of Rick Catlin  is in huge contrast to that of Berger. Catlin has it together, is dialed in, knows the issues, and is doing his job well. Plus, his extensive experience in environmental issues is of utmost importance, and validates him as a politician well-deserving of the almighty Star News' favor.

It takes Maurer 2/3 of the article to actually get to the subject mentioned in the headline. However, the ink and time invested in the attempted destruction of Brian Berger is well spent, and closely aligns with the underlying mission of the Star News. In his short stint thus far, Kevin Maurer is no doubt quickly gaining the affections of the top brass over at the Star. Ignoring facts for the lure of spin and distortion is a cornerstone of what passes for journalism, and Maurer shows promise. Discrediting local leaders with any conservative leanings has become a timeless tradition, and no doubt a badge of honor that the Star News holds dear.


  1. Ben,

    This is a reasonable analysis based on my experience with the Star News management.

    I am puzzled by how the commissioners have seemed to turn leftward. Berger has thrown himself into a snake pit of political contrivers.

  2. Berger will conform to keep the cushy job. No guts.

  3. Ben -- you are such a loser.


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