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When politicians miss the point

RALEIGH — If politicians want to understand why the public doesn’t hold them in higher esteem, they should probably consider just how often they miss they basic points of the matters before them.

It’s those larger, missed points that become the fodder for water cooler talk and lunchtime chats.

A few recent examples have made the news:

The state board of transportation decided to name a new 4.6-mile stretch of highway in Rocky Mount for former board member Thomas A. Betts Jr. This would be the same Thomas Betts who resigned from the board in 2008 because of questionable fund-raising tactics on behalf of then candidate-for-governor Beverly Perdue.

The Rocky Mount City Council asked for the designation for Betts’ “selfless service” to the region. In other words, he helped steer a lot of road projects to area.

The Perdue campaign again has enlisted Betts’ fund-raising abilities, with the campaign saying that the potential conflict of interest in 2008 no longer exists because Betts is no longer on the board. Apparently Perdue, local officials and the current transportation board don’t see much of a problem with his past actions.

Missed by Rocky Mount officials and transportation board members: Why should anyone who is still alive have anything named in their honor? Betts may go on to lead an exemplary life, but it would only take a few minutes to put together a long list of politicians and political appointees who, once held in high regard, succumbed to scandal.

Surely some dead folks from Rocky Mount, their reputations safe from being sullied, are more deserving.

Speaking of fundraising, former Charlotte mayor and likely Republican gubernatorial candidate Pat McCrory is going at it. McCrory sent out a missive to potential supporters last week urging their use of social media to pressure legislators to override Perdue’s veto of legislation that would require voters to show photo identification at the polls.

Then McCrory asks for donations to “help spread my message across North Carolina.” I suppose that message would be: “Elect me governor.”

After all, legislators staked out themselves on the photo ID bill a while ago. It’s seen as a partisan issue. It’s extremely unlikely that any legislator is changing his or her position.

Maybe McCrory missed that fact. Or maybe his campaign consultants haven’t heard that cynical attempts by unannounced political candidates to tie themselves to hot-button issues have mostly been figured out by the public.

House Speaker Thom Tillis is saying that he may layoff some of his staff. This is Tillis’ latest response after he pledged to keep staff costs lower than his predecessor, then proceeded to hire a larger staff and give seven staffers raises while legislators considered a budget laying off other state workers.

Tillis seems to have missed that the issue is no longer about the size of his staff. It’s about his credibility.

Scott Mooneyham writes about North Carolina politics for the Capitol Press Association.

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