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What's Up with the Mount Airy Government?

By Charlie Mansfield, Member of Citizens Against Mount Airy Overdevelopment

A citizen action group in Mt Airy that began in April, 2022 has been placing emphasis on the

need to curb overdevelopment in the Town. The group has focused on several projects called Beck East and Beck West, Greentree, Rigler, and Harrison-Leishear regarding water supply, road congestion, school capacity, emergency services and even Town government and developer relationships. But a recent activity alarmed many when the Town Council introduced legislation to change the Town Charter (The Charter is equivalent to a Constitution) that disturbs the balance of power in the Town government making the government Council-Centric. Further, the legislation appears to be fast-tracked.

The Town Council’s change in the Charter will remove from the Mayor financial management

and town staff hiring and firing responsibilities and transfer these responsibilities to the Town

Administrator who will report to and take direction in some degree to the Town Council. This

position is currently filled by a non-resident of Mt Airy and therefore will have little accountability with the citizens. The concern is that these changes in responsibilities not only give more power to the council, but also weakens the power of the Mayor. Thus the balance of powers in the government is lost. If enacted, the legislation would break two major principles established in the United States Constitution, i.e, Separation of Powers and Checks and Balances. The danger is the Town Council could go rogue and do all sorts of mischief without any check from the Mayoral power. Based on history when one branch of government usurps the majority of power from other branches, tyranny results.

The Citizens have little voice in Town meetings and are left with communication devices like

emails, Facebook, protests, and attending Council and Commission meetings where they have limited time to express their views. However, regardless of the time limitations, their messages seem to fall on deaf ears. But, fortunately the Citizens have the ultimate recourse, the right and responsibility to vote in the next elections.

If the Town Council continues on this course, the Citizens will essentially act on the words of the United States Declaration of Independence:

“...that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends (securing the rights of the people), it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

Of course, the “alter or to abolish'' would be achieved through communication means as noted previously and ultimately through the “ballet box”.

What can you do? You can write frequent emails to council members simply stating that “I object to removing powers from the Mayor's office.” You can make a difference.

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