HAMLET — A bill introduced by Republican state Sen. Ronald Rabin of Harnett County in February would change currently non-partisan local government elections to party-driven ones that would occur only in even-numbered years.
Hamlet Mayor Bill Bayless and the Hamlet City Council urged residents to contact their representatives in a resolution of opposition to S.B. 94.
“We as local officials strongly affirm that as a nonpartisan body we are better able to serve our residents and make decisions based on the best interest of the municipality independent of partisan ideologies,” Bayless read.
Bayless cited several reasons for his and the council’s strong opposition to the bill, including the higher cost of conducting partisan elections, limitations on voters’ choices of candidates, and the loss of the “town hall” style forum that includes the voices of Hamlet’s citizens for consideration of matters pertaining to its government.
He said several bills introduced in the state legislature seek to impose state mandates on municipalities, “denying the city’s residents their legitimate right to determine their preferred form of government.”
“The City of Hamlet government, in order to protect the rights of local municipalities to choose their own forms of government, urges Richmond County’s legislative delegation and all members of the state legislature to oppose any legislation with the intent of mandating partisan elections,” Bayless continued. “And, or, changing election cycles to even-numbered years unless it is requested by the municipality.”
Hamlet City Manager Jonathan Blanton added that “several other municipalities” have made similar resolutions, and that when it came across his list serve, he offered it for the council’s consideration.
“I so move to approve with a comment,” said Mayor Pro Tem Johnathan Buie. “This is just in my opinion, this is what’s wrong with our country today. We’re on party affiliations. I don’t think it’s something that this board should have to register or say that we’re Democrat or Republican or unaffiliated or what have you. We’re here to represent the people, regardless of the party line.
“Everyone needs to start speaking up and talking to their state representatives, that this is ridiculous,” Buie continued. “This is a way for a party to take power and control and to have power of what we do, and I really think people need to reach out to their representatives and tell them that this is just going a little bit too far. In my opinion, I wish we didn’t have parties at all. I think the country would run better, but that’s just my opinion.”
“The only other comment I had was the issue about changing it to even-numbered years, which would put us in competition with both the state and national elections, too,” Bayless said. “And that would not be a good thing for the cities.”
The council approved the resolution in a unanimous vote.
State Sen. Tom McInnis, R-Richmond, in a telephone conversation with the Daily Journal after the meeting, said he was unfamiliar with the bill.
“This is the first time I’ve seen this,” he said while glancing over the 19-page document online. “I’m working on transportation right now, so I’m not going to see this bill until it comes back around on the agenda again. It will have gone through several committees before it comes back around to where people could get a closer look at it.”
McInnis said that while he has not read the entire bill, his views on the issues discussed in Hamlet’s meeting are clear.
“I’m in favor of what the local government and local citizens are interested in,” he said. “I do not believe in micromanagement of local governments, city municipalities or counties from Raleigh. I believe that the best government is that closest to the people.”
Reach reporter Melonie McLaurin at 910-817-2673.