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..."