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Saffo, Cheatham, Rivenbark refuse to talk baseball, hotel, budget


WILMINGTON,NC (WWAY) -- It seems like our city leaders are afraid to talk about the baseball project and where it stands right now.

We thought it would be a good idea if we invited Mayor Bill Saffo and City Manager Sterling Cheatham over for an interview today.

We know that there are a lot of projects on the table right now, and a lot of numbers floating around, and that the people of Wilmington would like a clearer picture of what's going on with the baseball proposal, the convention center hotel proposal and the new budget.

We talked to Mayor Saffo yesterday and asked him to come over and sit down with us yesterday or today. He said he needed the questions first. We rarely do that, but we told him that because the interview was important to us, we would make an exception. We e-mailed them last night. Today, he wouldn't answer the request or return a text.

We also extended the same invitation to Cheatham. We were told he was too busy today. He was also too busy yesterday to return a text we sent him and a voice message we left him.

Even more interesting, we invited City Councilman Charlie Rivenbark to do an interview yesterday. He told us he was out of town and couldn't, but soon afterwards, our General Manager ran into him at Trolly Stop downtown.

We thought it was these guy's jobs to answer questions from the media. They may not like it and they may be hard questions, but if they're relevant to the people they serve, they should step up.

Here are the questions we sent to Mayor Saffo last night that he refuses to answer:


1) It's no secret Wilmington is still in a recession. We're running at around 10 percent unemployment. The NSS reports that the city spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on says baseball won't necessarily be the right investment in Wilmington. The only scientific poll done on the issue says a huge majority of residents don't want to pay tax dollars to build a stadium. Trask/Flywheel pulled its private funding, which now leaves no baseball deal on the table. Mandalay apparently is being difficult to work with - setting unreasonable deadlines - even wanting to fine the city $50,000 A DAY if you agree to the next proposal but don't get it done in time. Are these the kind of people the city wants to work with? Help us understand why the city continues to explore this project?

2) Did the city ever sit down with the private financiers to work on a compromise?

3) Why do you think Mandalay wrote up a second lease agreement like that? Is that a normal negotiating tactic? Kevin O'Grady said Tuesday night that Mandalay was one of the premier companies to work with. Do you all really feel that way after reading the new lease agreement?

4) Why do you think Rich Neumann now refuses to talk with the media about the project? He was very open with us when this project started.

5) Why do you and the rest of council keep agreeing to spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to explore a project the majority of residents say they don't want?

6) Sterling told you Tuesday night that some of the $355,000 approved would have to go to another feasibility study. You just did a feasibility study. Help us understand why we would need another one? Would you need to rehire NSS to work on more negotiations?

7) Where did the $40,000 to get the McCoy/Fulton proposition on the November ballot come from. The Board of Elections Director told us it would cost less than $1,000. Did anyone from the city call the Board of Elections to confirm the number? Why didn't you question the amount Tuesday night?

8) Where did the bond referendum idea come from? Wouldn't that still mean city residents would ultimately be paying for the stadium? There's no way the stadium would be completed by 2014 if it's voted on in November, right?

9) The Downtown site most likely will have some brownfield issues? Raeford Trask has said he isn't in favor of building on his land on Eastwood. Why is it still being talked about?

10) Capstrat is a very large powerful public relations firm in Raleigh. What is its role in this project?


1) Where did this extra $1 million sales tax come from? Why are we just now learning about it? Why weren't the hotel and baseball project budgeted for so the city could save this extra $1 million?

2) With that much extra sales tax, why was the city so adamant to annex Monkey Junction?


1) Sterling told you Tuesday night that the city was aware of the extra $137,000 needed to move forward on the Convention Center, but didn't include it in the budget. How does that happen?

2) Why are we having to spend another $137,000 to sell land behind the Convention Center? We're paying to sell land?

3) Why has this project been so difficult to button up?

4) If things stay the same, the hotel occupancy tax that is paying for the Convention Center will run out in 3-5 years. If this hotel project doesn't work out, will residents be on the hook for the Convention Center?


1) One of the city's main "normal" expenses is usually maintenance of roads, sidewalks, etc., yet you needed to raise taxes this year to complete this basic expectation of city government. What is the city spending money on that you have to raise taxes just to maintain roads and sidewalks?


1) The Parking Department's budget is at least $200,000 upside down this year, yet City Council took $60,000 that was "earmarked" for marketing downtown and gave it to a downtown group. How does the city give away money which technically doesn't exist?


The feedback we're getting here at the station is that there is a lack of vision on this council. It is going against the wishes of a majority of residents. We're falling behind on basic necessities but are wild about building sexier projects like the Convention Center, the Cross City Trail and now a ballpark. Is now really the right time to build a ballpark?

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Reality check come November

The unfortunate force working against these baseball advocates , is that come November , people will be showing up to vote for economic reasons on the local , state and national level.Government has not been responsible stewards of taxpayer's money and this issue will be on their minds when checking their boxes on the ballot. With the Socialist in the White House , Happy Perdue in Raleigh and King Billy and His Court , we have been on a helluva ride.When we are looking at the degree of indebtedness , the mayor and council members have an obligation to answer tough but fair questioning from a media outlet. The fact they are playing a game of avoidance , cast an even darker cloud concerning these negotiations. There is no integrity or transparency from these folks. This has been a backrrom deal from the onset. As for Sterling Cheatham , he is incompetent and not articulate enough to respond concerning the state of the city's finances.He is simply a stooge with a title and a big paycheck. His judgement and his grasp of the issues thus far makes him unfit for this position.This defiance of economic reality is the worst kind of governance in this economic climate. They are placing the city in great financial peril with their grossly irresponsible handling of taxpayer monies.Their arrogance that they know better is the same attitude the man on 1600 Pennsylvania Ave has concerning the welfare of the people..... sit down and shut up. The city is over obligating the citizens , therefore expect a mass exodus from the city if financial restraint is not exercised.They can possibly bankrupt the city and follow Obama's skid marks off the side of the financial cliff.


WWAY....SHAME ON YOU. How do you manage to pose such reasonable questions to our elected officials. These people, with the exception of City Manager Sterling Cheatham, are politicians. If you want to get a response from most politicians in this country today the media must ask them questions in such a manner that allows them to respond by slinginh mud at someone else or lay blame elsewhere. The general public is probably better at answering the questions you posed than they are. Well at least they would not object to answering the questions. Give them a break with some sofball questions such as what their objectives will be if re-elected to another term. I assure you there will be lenghty responses from the entire lot.

And the responses will

And the responses will include a bunch of lies.

Name the politicians who said the following:
"I am not a crook".

"I didn't have sexual relations with that woman".

"Read my lips, no new taxes".

"No. And that's one of the issues when people come to us and tell us we want to bring a ballteam to your community how are you gonna pay for it?" (In response to being asked if he supported a taxpayer funded stadium in Wilmington.)

so true, but

don't forget "they have wmd's".

Great questions!!

Just the kind of questions the swindlers downtown will avoid at all costs. They lie, cheat-em and steal the taxpayers every which way but loose and don't feel like they should be held accountable by the people that put them where they are. Mayor saffo you are a true politician... and full of it(sh). Your pedestal isn't that high.

Folks... think!! Vote these clowns out!!! What the hell is wrong with you!?

"Maybe...just maybe"...

They aren't talking because they are planning their getaway!
Open all airports...stop all road blocks...stand clear of the bus terminals and no license check points please. Maybe they will sneak outta town and "Not Come Back!"

wWAY to Go!

Apparently they scatter when you turn the lights on.
I will stay tuned. Nice job.

Rivenbark a liar !

Liar, Liar, pants on fire. Enjoy your hotdog !!

The questions

are not tough.
But the answers may reveal that the city is further along in the process than they want to admit.
For Hairspray, Cheater AND Rivenbark to be avoiding questions tells me that there is at least a conspiracy to keep the taxpayers mis, or uninformed.
I also believe that the city routinely watches forums and blogs to gauge the mood of the citizenry and WWAY's online poll is way different than the surveys the city under took, and the question is phrased differently but the poll completely refutes the previously conducted surveys which the city conducted and promoted in their haste to get this stadium built.
We may find out that our leaders were making promises they shouldn't have made.....

Best Regards

Why show cards?

While negotiating?


The good mayor is scheduled to be at the Cape Fear Presbyterian Church Shrimpfest tomorrow with other notables, such as Mike McIntyre. There will be a ribbon cutting ceremony at 1:00 PM, so that may be a good time to corner Saffo.

Real Class

Why not show lack of respect at a church,yeah just gang em up at church you are pitifull.

It's open to the public, so

It's open to the public, so why shouldn't people be able to ask questions?


big thank you to wway !

Slanted media

Never saw a"pro" article for stadium or Braves via WWAY.
From Day 1they have negatively slanted this.

If the stadium is such a

If the stadium is such a good thing, why are the Wilmington Idiot Council, the mayor and the city manager not being transparent? If this was such a great idea and wonderful thing for Wilmington, they would be out there answering the questions.


If people are not listening,why should council and MAYOR tell over,over,over,over again.

You have things backwards.

You have things backwards. It's Wilmington's politicians that aren't listening, not the other way around.

with intellect and intelligent people

Than you can be transparent.

Intelligent people can

Intelligent people can discern the facts and see that Wilmington cannot even afford to pay for its needs, therefore it is idiotic for the city to use taxpayer money to build another albatross. Intelligent people can also come to the logical conclusion that if this is such a great business venture then there would be private investors lining up to get a piece of the pie.


The business saavy is not here.

Bugdet? Really? That's

Bugdet? Really? That's just pathetic.

Saffo, Cheatham, Rivenbark Refuse to Talk about Baseball, etc.

Thank you for your outstanding article. It's about time the news media stepped forward with tough questions. I doubt the "Star News" would follow through on this type of honest journalism as they seem to be under the control of the above-mentioned leaders; for what reason I'm afraid to ask; but we hope you do.

Respectfully yours,

James Ryan

Star News

Star News -pro baseball
Wect-------pro baseball
News 14----pro-baseball
WWAY-------Ugly Duckling--against baseball,how can other 3 be wrong?


Over 25% of the voters in the last election signed the petition to NOT provide public funds.
A petition that was not publicly advertised so that more people could sign it if they wanted. It was way too easy for Fulton/McCoy to get the limited number of signatures that they did. WWAY polling questions seem to indicate that a very BIG majority do not want public funds to pay for this stadium.
The Chairman of the New Hanover County Commissioners says NO county funds will be used.
And private funding has dried up for now.

How could all these folks be wrong?
Yeah I know. We're just a bunch of small town, small minded hicks that don't know whats good for us.......
Best Regards

And 96% said yes..

The WAHA and Chamber of Commerce said a "whopping 96%" of city merchants,want the stadium,baseball,multi-use.
Why are we "balking"?

Well Duke

if as you say 96% of the City merchants want the ball park, and we assume they want it as they believe it will stimulate business activity downtown, why not let them put some skin in the game?

How about a 2% sales tax increase, all of which will be funneled to the ball park? Or, how about a 5 year membership assesment to be funneled to the ball park?

There must be some concrete, skin on the table means for all of these business owners and merchants, whom you predict will benefit from the ball park, to ante up.

County & Baseball

Didn;t the chairman of the County Ted Davis reopen the door to the County getting back in the game. Might be wrong but thought Davis stated he and Jason Thompson would meet with them???


He did, and no way to address/insert into the 2012-2013 budget.
The contingency fund is 500k,1% of total 2012-2013 total budget leaves nothing left.

You Left Off a Couple

Tax Payers of Wilmington--- Against more wasteful spending

People Who Don't Live in or Pay Taxes in Wilmington--- pro-Wilmington taxpayer funded entertainment for them