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FIRST ON 3: THE GRAVELY AND YOUR TAX $; Thompson backtracks on "ignorant" quote; Berger backtracks on "disgraceful" comment

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) - The visit of the USS Gravely is still making waves, even though the ship's been gone for days.

This week, the committee in charge of the ship's commissioning and the 11-day party that went along with it is releasing what it spent money on. Some $50,000 of it was tax-payer money from the City of Wilmington and New Hanover County.

Click here to see some of the things the committee spent money on: http://www.wwaytv3.com/first_3_update_your_tax_dollars_and_gravely_what_...

Many local politicians have said the money was well spent, and will bring in more than was handed out in sales and room occupancy taxes. Tuesday, New Hanover County Commissioner Jason Thompson told a local newspaper that "the people who can't see that are shortsighted with ignorance and spite and can't look at the common good."

Many took that to mean ANYONE who didn't agree with Thompson on that fact was "ignorant". But when we asked him Wednesday who specifically he was talking about, he narrowed it down to only three people, Civic Activist Ben McCoy, Big Talker FM Host Chad Adams, and WWAY NewsChannel 3 News Director Scott Pickey. Taxpayers, he said, weren't ignorant. They're the ones who keep him in office, so he feels like he must be doing something right.

"The facts don't prove what they want them to, so they just use misinformation," said Thompson, "So in my opinion, that's kind of ignorant."

Commissioner-Elect Brian Berger told another local TV station last week that, "I think it's really abominable and disgraceful that $50,000 was used to throw a big party for the community's VIPs and elite, while so many people are struggling just to stay in their homes right now."

That makes Berger sound like he didn't see it Thompson's way either. So we asked him what he thought about Thompson's comments. Berger too backtracked, telling us today that he was taken out of context. Spending the money wasn't a bad thing he says now, the committee just needs to be more transparent on what they spent the money on.

"That's what this is really all about is having the information in the public, where it belongs because it is public money, and trying to avoid secrecy," said Berger. "We will get at least some information about how taxpayers money was used, and that's a good thing, and that's something we should continue to work towards."

Pickey says he wants not only transparency, but accountability as well. "It's reported today that the City of Wilmington will be over-budget by $6 million next year. Both the city and the county have, or are talking about, raising taxes to help makes ends meet. Yet we throw out $50,000 in the middle of one of the worst recessions in this area's history to throw a party for a boat that was going to come here anyway. Taxpayers have a right to know how much of their money was given, why the money was given, and what it was spent on, whether elected officials and volunteer organizers like it or not. It's this TV station's job to get those questions answered."

McCoy emailed this statement to the newsroom this afternoon: ""...The "common good" is a mantra of those big government types who wield power with an iron fist, and look down with disdain upon those whom they lord over with the politics of self-interest and personal consumption. This is the oligarchy; the chosen ones whose mere existence far surpass those of us who live to serve their wishes, who bask in their glory; who pine for their favor and charity; who beg at their table like dogs..."

Disclaimer: Comments posted on this, or any story are opinions of those people posting them, and not the views or opinions of WWAY NewsChannel 3, its management or employees. You can view our comment policy here.

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Gravely

So the city and county spent $50,000 to have the commissioning of the Gravely here. I don't know what is wrong with the people who are questioning this. Several years ago, the city spent 10 times as much planting trees along Market St., and now they are going to spend just as much doing the same thing all the way to Ogden. I saw a lot of people at both the commissioning of the USS North Carolina, and the Gravely. I thought both helped Wilmington come togeather as a patriotic city. If I had $50,000 to donate back to the city for bringing her here, I would gladly do it. Oh, BTW, I am a taxpaying citizen, and it's about time my taxes went toward something morally right, patriotic, and I am sorry some are so ignorant to the fact this Ship The Gravely honored the First African-American Admiral to command a ship in combat. It at times makes me ashamed to being white. I have to applaud Jason Thompson for the words he chose! At least we have an elected Official that speaks the truth without always trying to sound "politically correct". Thank-you to the City and County that paid to bring her here.

wway misleading muckraking-

I must take issue with your headline. I agree with you that
Jason Thompson"s words were poor-and he has backtracked--he voted for this money to his former campaign manager.
I disagree with your characterization about Brian Berger---in his interview with other station- he focused on disgrace of absence of transparency-and the fact he would have not approved funds.
Davis- caster, greer and barfield voted for it.
Catlin has been silent because he was a good ole boy and has lots of ties to McColl too.
Good news for community is your focus on this -so it may not take place again-just look at rut Saffo and his council cronies have City in for next year.

Words will come back to hurt him

I am a ignorant , conservative citizen who served in the military and will be looking to replace Mr. Thompson during his next election bid . You do not talk down to the citizens , as is prevalent throughout most levels of our government. Given our sad state of affairs financially , it is not unreasonable for the citizens to question these expenditures. While most of the budget the county commission has to hash out is dictated by state mandates , the small percentage you are elected to manage competently , leaves the citizens scratching their heads about your judgement.People do remember key quotes from politicians when election time does roll around , such as the one from our Socialist in Chief. President Obama said if you do not go along with HIS agenda , get on the back of the bus. Well folks , come next election cycle a lot of seats are going to be shuffled around on the bus and I will not be sitting in the back.Politicans all along the political spectrum are arrogant and do not have the pulse of their citizens.

Speaking of sinking ships

That's right Jason, keep paddling backwards and bailing out your boat. If the local political machines can't understand why WWAY has such a burr up their bottom in regards to this use of taxpayer money, maybe it's time to vote everyone out, not just the elitists. Doing something for the "common good" is dandy if it impacts the "common citizen" - handing out $50K for an unadvertised fireworks display and "invite-only" parties wasn't for the common good or the citizens. How much clearer do folks need to be?

What a dolt

I hope thompson can see the writing on the wall and he will exit stage left. He is such a two faced clown.

budget shortfall 6 million $

Too bad they could not foresee a $6 million dollar budget shortfall for 2011-2012 before the gravy-boat extravaganza.

amen

amen

Be Fair

the city is the one with the $6 million hole to fill. They are both County Commissioners. The County has not spoken yet on the topic of upcoming fiscal year shortfall projections.

Let's not forget...

Let's not forget that Mr. Thompson was a big advocate for raising our county sales tax. If the county is hurting enough that they need to raise our taxes, they certainly shouldn't be needlessly spending taxpayer dollars on stuff like this.

I did not forget

when I mentioned it in several other articles, the weasels came out of their little burrows trying to smack surfcitytom down. They failed.