ONLY ON 3: Organizers respond to criticism of ballpark petition language

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Submitted: Fri, 06/01/2012 - 1:16pm
Updated: Fri, 06/01/2012 - 1:23pm

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — The battle over plans for a ballpark in Wilmington continue to heat up. Yesterday, a group against using tax money to build a stadium in the Port City submitted a petition with about 4,000 signatures. If the Board of Elections verifies enough of the signatures, the City Council would have to accept the language of the petition as an ordinance or put it up for a public vote.

The petition says no city monies shall be used to fund any multi-use sports stadiums for professional sports or other events. City leaders, though, say the language in the petition is too broad, and could hurt other teams that use city facilities, like the Sharks and Hammerheads.

"The Sharks and the Hammerheads are not paying the full rate (to rent city stadiums)," Mayor Bill Saffo said. "We subsidize some of those services. We’ll have to take a look at that if that petition is put on the ballot and is passed by the citizens of this community."

The petition also drew harsh criticism from Councilman Kevin O’Grady, who thinks many of those people who signed the petition did not understand the implications of it.

"When you’re driven by ideology, which is what this is, you make mistakes, and they made a big mistake here; a mistake which, if the citizens buy it, will affect the future of this city," O’Grady said.

In response, the petitions organizers, Joshua Fulton and Ben McCoy, issued this statement to WWAY:

"We never intended our petition to target funding for Legion Stadium, and we have spoken to lawyers who think that it does nothing of the sort. Recent statements by City Council members indicating that our petition does target funding for Legion Stadium are little more than a transparent attempt to discredit the petition and to confuse the issue.

"The truth of the matter is that we attempted to confer with the City Attorney’s office regarding their interpretation of our petition language. Although the Attorney’s office was perfectly willing to communicate their interpretation to the press, they completely refused to communicate any such information to us. Instead we were told we should obtain legal representation if we wanted any ‘advice’ on the language. A golden opportunity to potentially iron any kinks in the language was missed due to an adversarial, instead of collaborative, attitude.

"The City Council can fund anything that it wants to fund, and they are only challenged when a citizen files a lawsuit against the city with their own money; sues the city in a court of law, and wins the case. No one is going to undertake such a task over anything that is currently funded, including but not limited to Legion Stadium. If the city cuts funding for Legion Stadium, it will not be because of our petition, but because of an egregious attempt to use our petition as a political football in an effort to strike at the citizens they are sworn to serve.

"The citizens of Wilmington have spoken loud and clear that they want no part of their tax dollars funding a stadium for private enterprise to profit from. The City Council is aware of this reality, but have chosen not to ensure that the issue will be put to a referendum of the voters of the city, and have left citizens with no choice, but to enact the legal mechanism afforded to them through the city charter. Had the voters of Wilmington been in favor of a taxpayer-funded stadium, our petition would have never gained any traction, and certain members of the City Council’s plans would have continued unhindered."


  • anne says:

    Glad I live on the other side of the bridge in Brunswick County. Would not want to be stuck with this group of counselmen and women. They have their own agendas and aren’t interested in the welfare of their citizens. They are using threat tactics to scare these people. You as citizens need to let them know you are fed up with them

  • Jim Rafferty says:

    It is inconceivable to me that when citizens follow correct due process of law and extend courtesies to elected officials and their appointed attorney they are being criticized. And criticized by the same officials who have known of the stadium and the possible proposals and the apparent need for tax payer funding, since last year. When do the citizens of Wilmington hold the elected officials accountable for their actions and words. The officials are speaking ill of the public-Mrs Haynes-Haters, Mr O’Grady-unintelligent.It is not the citizens of Wilmington who are speaking ill of the officials. It is the officials who are speaking ill of those who placed them in office. Perhaps Mrs Haynes and Mr O’Grady are ill suited to govern for all Wilmingtonians and should make changes in their lives. Like step down or at the very least, apologize to the people of Wilmington.

  • Erlkoenig says:

    Rock on Ben and Josh!!!!!!!!!!

  • O'Grady can bite me says:

    The response to the obvious attempt to discredit the petition was well-versed and to the point. Excellent job!

  • Carol Kramer says:

    “The Sharks and the Hammerheads are not paying the full rate (to rent city stadiums),” Mayor Bill Saffo said. “We subsidize some of those services. We’ll have to take a look at that if that petition is put on the ballot and is passed by the citizens of this community.”

    Well, now I just have to ask: How much is being spent to subsidize the Sharks and Hammerheads?

  • 1981duke says:

    Answer in header

  • Guest1111111111111111111 says:

    ummm…what attorney did McCoy/Fulton use?

    Last time I checked,
    Kevin O’Grady – attorney
    Bill Wolak – attorney

    I ask that their attorney step up and release a statement.

  • Ben McCoy says:

    @Bernard –

    First off, go find the nearest valium or xanax quick before you blow a gasket.

    Second, we aren’t worried or concerned about anything. We are completely confident, and feel no reason to worry. This fear campaign is being propagated by politicians who feel superior to the citizens they serve, and are genuinely offended that mere lowly citizens dare to take them to task for their actions. We knew this was coming, it’s par for the course.

    Our response was not to pass any buck – there is no buck. It is to clarify the lies and distortions spewed by that elitist snob O’Grady, and to inform the public that every effort was made to reach out to the city in an amiable manner. Our petition language was carefully written to close any loopholes for the stadium, and we stand behind it.

  • Guest11111111111 says:


    But what attorney did you consult?

  • 1981duke says:

    DID you not read Mayors quote above,and below,


    “The Sharks and the Hammerheads are not paying the full rate (to rent city stadiums),” Mayor Bill Saffo said. “We subsidize some of those services. We’ll have to take a look at that if that petition is put on the ballot and is passed by the citizens of this community.”


    Whether City can allow Direct or Indirect use under your prtition language is not permissible

  • Guest101010101 says:

    When the Sharks and the Hammerheads are run out of town, you’ll know who to blame. Fulton and McCoy.

    What other groups will be hit by this petition I wonder?

  • Ben McCoy says:

    “what attorney did you consult?”

    Geez… the reading comprehension here leaves much to be desired.

  • Vog46 says:

    Here’s a thought on the business of minor league baseball from Forbes:

    Interesting tidbits:
    Only 1 A level team made the list at #20
    Not one team affiliated with the Atlanta Braves made the list
    Forbes had wonderful things to say about Mandalay (they do run a good organization)
    But this caught my eye:
    “Once MiLB teams with a modern ballpark can get annual attendance up to the 400,000 range, Vataha notes, they can generate significant revenue from sponsors, especially if the team has a modern stadium where luxury suites can be given to sponsors who lavish advertising revenue on the team. Says Vataha.”

    By their own admission, NSS says attendance won’t reach that level.
    Poor team (Atlanta)
    One poor location
    Tepid response from city residents about paying?
    If I were the Council I’d back out of this deal rather than risk the cost of the special vote which may turn against them anyway. In this regard the petition shouldn’t matter.
    This is just a bad deal

    Best Regards

  • The Buck Stops Here says:

    “I have to reiterate, if the city cuts funding for Legion, it will NOT be because of our petition.” – Ben McCoy

    No, it will be your fault. Stop trying to place the blame on others. Stop passing the buck. You were the point man on this petition, so it is all on you.

    I repeat, you, Ben McCoy, did this. Stop. Passing. The. Buck.

    The worst part? You knew in February this would effect Legion Stadium, but you went ahead with it instead of starting over. That will be your legacy.

  • Guest 1111aaaaa says:

    on wording for every wacky petition any political opportunist wants to put forth in order to grab their 15 minutes of fame on the steps of City Hall is ludicrous. Here is the City Attorney’s role role as clearly spelled out on the city webisite…”The City Attorney represents City departments, officials and employees on matters involving City business. Attorneys in the office cannot give legal advice or provide legal representation to private citizens.”

    It seems pretty clear that if you wanted the City Attorney to provide you some free legal advice on your petition, that you will first have to petition to change the job description of the City Attorney’s office or at minimum hire another dozen or so lawyers to staff the department as they would be overwhelmed with requests for help drafting petitions for anybody seeking the public spotlight ala these clowns…..

    There is no question that the petition would not allow the kind of assistance that the city provides to the Hammerheads, Sharks and the Tigers and perhaps even extend to NHHS and “other events”….it matters not what their intentions were, the City has no option but to follow the ordinance to the letter. If they were to ignore the provision, their are no doubt other political wannabes seeking the spotlight that would challenge the fact that they are not following the law……no matter how quickly these guys want to backtrack, blame others for their actions, they are ones responsible for this very unfortunate situation…it’s amazing how proud they were on the courthouse steps in front of cameras and how quickly they duck accountability when it turns out to be a mess…..

  • Beach Bum says:

    How is it not your fault if the City defunds Legion stadium and all related projects? Meddle some kids meddling in affairs that are way over their heads, it would only seem logical to take away any further ammo to be used back against them. That is just common sense.

    Why would the City attorney advise you on a petition you are using against them, show of faith or not? That leads me to believe you and your constituency really are morons and should be thankful you have elected officals, in office, protecting you from yourselves. That would be like asking an enemy how to best fend off their attack.

    I think the best thing that could of happened, did, when the attorneys you consulted graciously said no thanks or not interested. That should of been your clue phone. It was ringing.

    You want you want you want, but you don’t want to pay for it. Perhaps, the hippies will keep driving all equitable business opportunities out of the region, so they can keep saving the sea turtles riding their bikes on another bike path in another park which is gonna pay for the light bill, somehow.

    No such thing as a free lunch pikers.

  • Guest7969 says:

    I’m GLAD if it’s interpreted that way…I don’t think ONE RED CENT should go to fund a sport!…

  • Rick Wilson says:

    The Mayor and Council can look in the mirror for the reason they are facing this petition. Spitting in the face of the people you are supposed to represent will not work anymore. The initial poll showed 80% of the people opposed to using tax payer funds for this project. The city government should have listened. If they had, this petition would not be necessary. The scare tactics city officials and the supporters for this project are trying to use will not work. Below are the reasons why.

    People are tired of being forced, forced annexation and the convention center are two shining examples of the government not listening to the people.

    Wasted money by city government. Once again the convention center comes to mind. Also the lawsuits spent on annexation that clearly went against the will of the people. Double cost paid by the city government. 100’s of thousands of dollars spent on “studies” from outside sources when the city has a planning board. Pick one or the other to do these studies, not both.

    Liberty Media purchased the Atlanta Braves for 450 million dollars in 2007. The chairman of Liberty Medias reported net worth was 5.1 billion dollars as of March 2012. This is a multimillion dollar corporation owned by a multibillionaire asking the tax payers to fund his stadium (playpen). I do not care what they claim the so-called benefits to the community will be, this is just wrong. There are 5.1 billion reasons he can pay for it himself.

    All the opponents of this project ever asked for was to vote on this project. Public votes have happened all over this country on issues like this. Why not here? Now, with this petition, the city can adopt what the petition says, or put it to a public vote. All of this could have been avoided if the government would have listened to the people to start with.

    Now, let’s have a public vote and decide this.

  • Bernard says:

    Look at Ben McCoy and Josh Fulton trying to backtrack from the fallout. YOU wrote this petition. YOU collected the signatures. YOU are responsible for anything it causes.

    How dare you try to pass the buck! And stating “The City Council can fund anything that it wants to fund” as part of your defense is beyond the pale. You have been crying foul over the City Council funding things without voter input for months now! What an outrageous display of hypocrisy.

    No, you will not be allowed to wiggle out of this one. You made your bed now sleep in it. Joshua Fulton and Ben McCoy, you are 100% responsible for the wording of YOUR OWN petition. At least have the common decency to accept the blame for your own mistake. Don’t you dare try to place the blame on others.

  • Rick Wilson says:

    Did Chuck graduate from Duke in 1981?

  • 1981duke says:

    Mine was spell check error,there error is one Lawyers or a new petition only will solve

  • Guest2020 says:

    Knowing the difference between “there” and “their” is not a matter of a “spell check error”. It’s a matter of knowing the difference between two homophones.

  • Guest CommonTater says:

    Might want to look into that yourself…..

  • 1981duke says:

    Yeah,the City Attorney’s Job is to help pthers write language for petitions to be used against them?
    I did not know that was there Job?
    Ben and Josh with all their pal’s could have hired an attorney,or got one free with their network.
    They probably had some attorneys sigh as well,and just shows you think they proofread huh?

  • ma_lashley says:

    In an email communication from the city attorney to Ben McCoy, the city attorney specifically declined to assist in the wording of the petition.

  • Ben McCoy says:

    duke – you have no clue what you’re rambling about.

    No attorneys wanted to get involved with what we are doing, because they thought it would impede their work in this town – taking on the local political class.

    Bill Wolak is the attorney for the city government – which is of, for, and by the people. There should be no “us against them” in any of this. This is my government. City Council has a sworn duty to represent the will of the people – which they are belligerently not doing in this matter. Wolak’s office should be always open to working with citizens on legal processes that go before the city government, because that is serving the city. The city has provided the resistance in this since the beginning, and they chose to completely ignore what we were doing. Now, after the fact, they come out with all of this hand-wringing. We reached out to all of them numerous times and were always rejected and ignored.

    We both were very interested in working with the city attorney to draft a grandfather clause to protect things like Legion Stadium, which are not impacted with this anyway – but just for a show of faith to the public. However, we could not because the door was slammed in our faces.

    I have to reiterate, if the city cuts funding for Legion, it will NOT be because of our petition. It will be an effort to strike at us, and then point the finger and say “See? Because of those meddling kids we had to defund Legion!!”

    Them doing something like that would be unethical and possibly illegal, since it is a budgetary move for political gain. It is also inadvisable for politicians to declare war on the citizens they depend on for votes.

  • Robert Green says:

    Looking beyond the ballpark, forced annexation and the ill-conceived convention center project , the community will hopefully give these council members the boot.Time for Tony Caudle and Sterling Cheatham to brush up their resume’s.If O’Grady thinks he can talk down to the community , he is in for a rude awakening.O’Grady always thinks he is the smartest man in the room , much like the liberal in the White House.The council member’s poor business acumen has the community losing faith in their leadership and sincere ability to look out for the welfare of the taxpayers.This has been a behind closed door negotiation from the onset while giving the appearance of transparency.Mandalay and the Braves shopped around for a town with a little man complex and a tax and spend mentality to put on the hook.

    I appreciate the effort of the two so-called failed politicians for taking time to pursue this petition. Thus far they have done more than Mr. O’Grady in his official position.Looking out for the welfare of overburden taxpayers in the worst economy since the Great Depression under America’s first Socialist President.

  • Guest2020 says:

    More crap from the peanut gallery. Who the hell are the people who post on this website? WWAY comment page: the last bastion of wackos who want the stadium and have no shred of decency.

    WWAY, you can TM that if you want!

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