1000 x 90

LETTERS/ Surface deep just isn’t deep enough

By Suzie Germain, Blowing Rock

You book a flight. You get on the plane and odds are pretty good you land safely at your intended destination. Most of us take for granted that the pilots know how to fly the airplane. In fact, there are hundreds maybe thousands of hours of pilot training backed up by mountains of governmental regulation that allows us to trust the pilots are competent and skilled enough to get us where we want to go. Imagine if you had to do all that checking for yourself. How many flight hours do they have? In what kind of aircraft? Any close calls? Are they depressed? Are they sleep deprived? Can you possibly ask enough questions? 

Most of us make selections daily. Rarely are they life or death choices. But it can be instructive to think about what you might ask or check or do in this kind of a case. 

 I’ve learned over years of interviewing and hiring that people can tell you anything they want. But the best predictor of future performance is past performance. 

Soon you’ll need to make a selection when you cast a ballot for Blowing Rock Town Council. Probably not life or death decision but certainly an important choice if you want to get to where you want to go. Sometimes issues are really important. More often, issues come and go and are replaced by new issues and problems. 

The importance of competencies that support problem solving and consensus building cannot be overstated. But there are two competencies that I have found are absolutely imperative when it comes to hiring decisions. Those are: 

Can I trust them? And will they do the work? 

Someone with a dozen degrees, who is meticulous in their presentation is a non-starter for me if they tend to not share inconvenient facts. A person prone to exaggeration for their own benefit is going to be a detriment to any team effort. 

And ‘will they do the work’ doesn’t mean will they show up at work. It means do they possess enough commitment and personal initiative to seek out information or solutions. Will they take time to inform themselves fully? Or will they clock in and clock out letting the merry band of others do the heavy lifting. A person who won’t take time to educate themselves before a job interview, probably won’t put much more effort into it after they get the job.

Jamie Dixey, candidate for Blowing Rock Council gave a taped interview on September 22. During the interview she shared “I don’t exactly understand how they arrived at the proposal…but I went to the public meeting and could tell most of the people there were against paid parking. I don’t know what research there was that the paid parking committee looked into, but I certainly think there’s more to be investigated before we start charging people including residents to park downtown.” She added “Pivot Parking manages parking at the beach communities and Boone. I’m wondering if we’ve talked to these people and found out how they’re making it work for their towns.” 

Really? Never mind that the Town paid consultant Roger Brooks a handsome sum to make recommendations and paid parking was recommendation #1. Dixey obviously failed to watch that presentation on her #1 issue. 

Never mind that Police Chief Aaron Miller chaired a committee of stakeholders for the past 22 months investigating everything about paid parking. Imagine Chief Miller biting his lip as Dixey has him slog back through the past 22 months so she can get up to speed on her #1 issue.( We later learn downtown code is her other #1 issue). It’s not like Chief Miller wasn’t available to share all he’s done for nearly two years on Paid Parking.

She has lived in Blowing Rock for 11 years and she has attended one meeting in preparation to be interviewed about her #1 issue? I might have found a polite way of shortening the interview. Remember the best indicator of future performance is past performance. 

Her interviewer and handler, Jean Kitchen, however, engaged Dixey on a pet BRCA project…underground utilities. I decided to watch on.

Once again Dixey’s preparation consisted of attending the public meeting. She said “when we have so many infrastructure needs and capital improvement needs that have been identified already, it doesn’t make sense to me why we would mortgage buildings that have already been paid off in order to bury the lines on a short strip of Main Street.”

Are we in a BRCA Commercial?

Dixey went on “ I’m not against burying the lines but I am against using tax dollars for things that are nice projects or beautification projects when we have so many other needs. When we get to where we’ve addressed all those then I’m certainly not against burying the lines.”

WOW! Right out of the BRCA Handbook.

For the record I agree about not using Property Tax revenue.

But, I wonder if Jamie knows how many park beautification projects are on the “NEEDS” list. Like Broyhill Park or Davant Field. Yep! They’re on there. And with the other park and beautification projects they make up over $6.5 million of the $25 million in project needs.

(If you thought it was over $40 million you’ve been talking to Hunt Broyhill, the other BRCA candidate who probably hasn’t actually seen the list either and has a tendency towards stretching the total upwards for effect.)

Kitchen could have asked Dixey to name a few “needs” projects, but she didn’t. She instead segued into downtown code and prompted Dixey to give her canned answer on that.

Dixie now came full circle with “ I’m not an expert on code. Maybe you could be experts who are experts on code so we don’t get in the place again where we get a project being built that is simply getting through and then we can’t afford to oppose it. We got to let them build it. We can’t oppose it.”

Jamie Dixey, new to the Blowing Rock political scene, lived here 11 years just described the “Rainey Lodge Project” now renamed “The Embers”. This is an account of an email from Gigi Poole to BRCA members dated May 2019 recounting the difficulty BRCA had fighting the developer in a quasi-judicial hearing where former Town councilor Sue Sweeting, also a BRCA confidant,  was recused by her own council members for ex parte communications with outside parties. The same Sue Sweeting managing Jamie Dixey’s campaign.

BRCA says they never lobbied but from Poole’s email and their 2019 Form 990 they were engaged in trying to influence the outcome of the hearing. To avoid a threatening letter from BRCA lawyers, I’ll let you look up how Webster defines lobbying and you can decide for yourself.

So, if ever there was evidence that Jamie Dixey is the Manchurian Candidate of BRCA, this was it.

What struck me more than anything was how Dixey planned to solve the code issue. “Get some experts in here so we can protect the look of our village…we let all this building go on. Once again, she says ‘I’m no expert, but I slept in a Holiday Inn last night and attended a meeting, so get a bunch of experts to make some code we like’. It’s her signature move. 

The depth of her work investigating and educating herself leads me to question whether she can be a leader or will she let others do the work and vote how BRCA tells her to vote. The best indicator of future performance is past performance.

There’s not enough space here to recount all the facts but, in 2018-2019 The Blowing Rock Planning Commission recommended downtown code use changes that, had they been adopted, would have prevented the Embers or Rainey Lodge from being approved. 

Where was Dixey then? And what’s wrong with Jamie Dixey taking a turn on the Blowing Rock Planning Board so maybe she can become a little more acquainted with the downtown code and with the Town Government generally? 

Instead, she’s asking you to let her fly the plane. NOW!

As the end of the interview neared there was a moment of irony when Jamie looked at the camera and spoke of democracy and the responsibility of citizens to “get to know the candidates and vote for the ones that will do the best job representing you.” 

I do think Jamie Dixey  is an earnest person. A bit naive and being used, just not ready to serve.