FIRST ON 3 UPDATE: Your tax $ and the Gravely; Commissioner Thompson - Don't like it? You're "ignorant"

UPDATE (12/1): When asked about approving $25,000 in local tax money to help throw an 11-day party for the Gravely Commissioning, New Hanover County Commissioner Jason Thompson told a local newspaper Tuesday, "The people who can't see that (the benefits of the ship's visit) are shortsighted with ignorance and spite and can't look at the common good."

Many local politicians have continued to argue that the commissioning was an historic event for Wilmington and made money for the area through sales and occupancy taxes.

UPDATE (11/30): Gravely Commissioning Co-Chairman David Scheu shared some of the costs of the week-long party with a local newspaper today, even though Co-Chairman Louise McColl said Monday the numbers wouldn't be available for another two to three weeks.

The City of Wilmington and New Hanover County each gave the group $25,000. Scheu says that $50,000 was about 25% of the total budget.

So far, here's what we know they spent:

> Fireworks Show Friday night - $25,000 (There was very little promotion of this event. McColl says the Star-News donated 44,000 inserts the week-of to promote the event. Otherwise, WWAY only got a news release from John Hinnant, Director of Wilmington Downtown Inc. just a few hours before the event. It's estimated there were only a few hundred people along Water Street to watch the fireworks.)

> Transportation Expenses - $15,000

> BBQ Dinner for Gravely's crew of 283 sailors - $2,000

> Plaques for the crew - $10,000

> Gravely Biography for the crew - $5,000

Scheu now says the city, the county and local media should have the expense report by the end of the week.

UPDATE (11/29): We talked with Louise McColl, the Gravely Commissioning Organizer today, to get an update on our request to see how $50,000 of city and county tax dollars were spent during the event. She said that while she was the head of the Friends of the Battleship board, she was not aware of how the money was spent, and she would have the treasurer put that together in the next two or three weeks.

She also told us that she would never request money from the city or county again for an event like this because of all the trouble it had caused her, but then reversed course and changed her mind when we asked if she were on the record.

And she told us that she felt like the only reason we were doing the story and asking the questions about how the money was spent was because the TV station "didn't like her."

"It's not that we don't like Ms. McColl," said WWAY News Director Scott Pickey, "We just feel that if you're going to request that kind of money during one of the worst recessions of our lifetime and during a time that the county is raising taxes and the city is talking about doing the same, people should know specifically what their money is being spent on. They deserve that. It's about transparency, not whether we like someone and want to hang out and eat pizza with them."

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) - Now that the USS Gravely is headed to Norfolk and commissioning organizers have had a chance to catch their breath, we're thinking it would be interesting to see exactly what our $50,000 in tax dollars went to buy for the commissioning party.

We've requested a detailed breakdown from Louise McColl (http://www.mccoll-associates.com), who was in charge of the week-long event.

Both the City Council and the County Commission agreed to give McColl $25,000 a piece for the event, even though we're the midst of a recession and the county recently raised the sales tax.

WWAY NewsChannel 3 was the first local TV station to ask both council members and commissioners why they were giving away that amount of money when both government offices are facing tough economic times.

As soon as McColl gets back to us, we'll pass the information along to you.

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.

What would be for the "common good" would be for Jason Thompson to drop any pretense of being a fiscal conservative and admit that the only thing he has to offer the people of New hanover County is arrogance. We've seen it time and time again. HE knows better!

Good Lord! It's like Caster never left! He just got younger and his head has swollen to the size of H.R. Pufnstuf!

Just another good ol boy roundup to benefit each other when we can't afford it.
Seems if they were doing us such a big favor they should have donated services and taken the tax credit.
http://www.mccoll-associates.com/clients.html

Mayor Bill Saffo
City of Wilmington

Captain Dave Scheu
Executive Director
Battleship North Carolina

Jason Thompson
New Hanover County Commissioner

Just ask our clients...

* Jason Thompson for County Commissioner ­ Elected 2008
* Sandra Criner for District Court Judge ­ Elected 2008
* Bill Saffo for Mayor­ Elected 2007
* Kristi Tomey for City Council ­ Elected 2007
* Spence Broadhurst for Mayor ­ Elected 2003
* Saffo for City Council ­ Elected 2003
* Ed Paul for Alderman ­ Elected 2003
* Beverly Perdue for Lt. Governor ­ Elected 2000
* David Jones for Mayor ­ Elected 1999
What's next?

At least Jason is upfront--better than that good ole boy Catlin who like his bosum buddy Caster---has a lot of ties to good ole Louise and the nonsense that has gone on in City and County.
Catlin is a phony---- Jason can choose his words better but at least he is upfront.

Jason is tied into Louise as well. He has a blurb on the website thanking her for helping him to be elected.

I think that was way to much money to spend on something like this, I mean feeding the troops was one thing but 25000 dollars for fireworks!!!!! come on that was just outrages they should have had a smaller budget for this and to say people are "ignorant" for being mad about how their tax money was spent is just ridiculous, we have every right to know where it is going look how many people are struggling and they spend 25000 on fireworks really. maybe next time they should take it outta of thier own pockets and see how much they like it!! jerks

So are the fireworks that we have on the 4th of July a waste of money. Are the fireworks we had last weekend for Floatilla a waste of money? Maybe we should close all of the libraries, tourist attractions, schools, parks, etc. I agree with Jason. If you do not see the return for your investment in this event and how positive it was for our community - you are Ignorant!

If we get spending money like this we will have to close all the thing you said. I saw this morning that the City was facing another short fall of 6 million dollars. Well, here was 50K they could have saved.

I wonder if anyone can produce a detailed audit of the fireworks display. Unless some one actually signed off on the fireworks as they were used, there would be no way to prove taxpayers got what they paid for. This is a situation ripe for kickbacks or other monetary diversions.

Surely, they could have thought of another way to waste our money.

Some people are ignorant and thompson counts on them to get elected. With his self-righteous attitude it will be a happy day once this jerk is gone. The other commissioners better start tethering him in meetings so his hot air doesn't float him away.

I'm not sure why you don't love this guy,he sounds just like any other conservative.

You spent $25k on a fireworks display for whom?

Buy a clue, people. Do you think that men and woman who fire large caliber guns and launch SAMs, ASMs, and torpeodoes for a living are impressed with something that goes whiz, pop, boom and makes pretty colors? (They get to play with the really cool fireworks.)

I'd love to play a "Connections" game to see exactly how the providers of the goods and services are linked back to the lampreys who arranged this taxpayer funded extravagance.

1) If you want to thank the sailors/soldiers/airmen/marines - you don't have to wait for Louise McColl to bring them here with our tax money. You can write them, go meet them where they are, see them in public and thank them there.

2) The commissioning soiree and all of the banquets and ballroom events that I PAID FOR - was certainly not open to the public. Oh no, no, no. We couldn't have the great unwashed little people nipping at our heels, now could we? Somebody may spill their chardonnay, and then what would we do?

3) The biggest issue at this point is that we at least have the right to see where every dime of our money went. I mean does that really bother you that much - that we are simply asking for accountability of our tax dollars? Really? Just show us the receipts and invoices, so we can see how many bloody marys and mai tais 50 grand can buy.

4) Your spelling is an insult to military vets everywhere who shed their blood so that you could freely attend school and get an education. Louise's taxpayer-funded group Cape Fear Future who fronts as an educational organization can probably help you with that.

First, Ms. McColl was the chair of the commissioning committee and as the navy has said repeatedly at public events, becuase of HER leadership with the submarine, they decided to come back here becuase she and the committee did such an amazing job. Her company is NOT the one running this. I am sorry that a station or any organization proporting to be a news agency is repeated the gutter gossip of day time talk radio and not getting their facts straight.

Secondly, EVERYONE had a chance to visit the ship. No socio economic barriers existed there.

But, has anyone talked about what a commissioning is? Yes, it is a great ROI fro the area becuase families and folks come and spend money for the restaurants and the hotels...but it is a celebration for the soldiers. It is not like a christening where all the hoy paloy come out and do their tap dance. This week, like the submarine was a real chance for our community to thank these brave men and women for all they do and to celebrate the amazing achievement of setting out another ship of defense they will be running for us. This week was about THEM! Yes, elected officials got invited..well, that is what happens. If Goolsbee and that man that got elected from the tea party group that feels so "outside" all of the time (county commission), they would have been there too! They are supposed to represent us! And yes, local leaders where there..well, they are leaders..they get involved..do go things and they represent us well and were there to say thank you to the soldiers.

Those sailors came and visited the children's hosptial, met with school children, volunteered and were there to be at events and get into the community every which way you turned. From the captain on down, they were here for us as much as we were here for them.

But the events this week...and I know because I was a volunteer..were about the soldiers..their families..and daggone if I can see anything that is not right and good about any of it..except of course that a few folks don't like the campaigns the chairwoman of this event have run...well, shame on them for mixing their own politics and interests with something Historic, something patriotic, and something that means so much not only for Wilmington, but for those sailors and their families. I for one and happy that my tax dollars went to part of it..a small part.but part of it and I pray we get to do it again...

I totally disagree with this, I mean I dont mind money going for our soliders but to spend $25000 on fireworks really??? Iam pretty sure they would have been just as happy with out them, They should have had a better budget for this we all our pinching pennies but 50000 to comission a sub is no biggie right??? How about next time you pay outta pocket for it and see how far it gets?!?!?

WWAY is not stirring any pots but reporting facts. Government sponsoring anything with tax money other than regular services is unacceptable. Who was able to go to the commissioning. Not regular taxpayers you can be assured of. The same elitist, rich citizens are the ones who could go. The low middle class whom probably served in the military as opposed to people like Saffo who never served are the ones who could attend. Plus they get to spend our money to benefit their fun. I am sick and tired of government spending money on anything other than vital services. Newly elected councilman Brian Berger is going to have the city list where the money went to. From now on, anything that is not part of vital city services should not be funded by taxes. The rich and elite can finance this type of event from their personal funds not taxpayer funds. I resent it, and will continue to vote againist people like Saffo that continually seek the public limelight on taxpayers backs. Politicians, I hate most of them because they do not represent anything but their own personal interest. Now, I would support a tax increase to build a new prison for all of the dirty politicians running around in this city, state and country.

Stir the pot WWAY, try to make news where none exists. Cities and Counties are continuously spending money on publc events, like The Azalea Festival, Riverfast, parades, etc. Why is the commissioning of a Navy destroyer in our town any different? If I'm not mistaken, all of these events require huge amounts of tax dollars for police presence, traffic control, and additional sanitation work. That is, unless these other events are required to pay the city back, which I doubt happens.

I do not agree with spending tax payer money for any event that the general public doesn't have access to. The only thing I see here is the Dems helping out a fellow Dem (Louise McColl) business make money. I want to know what her cut was. Keep reporting WWAY someone needs to hold the public officals accountable.

This was not a "political" function. For those of you who want to make it one. I am a proud Republican who thinks a lot of Louise McColl and I volunteered as a Commissioning Committee Member. She has our community interest at heart and it is your agenda that hurts our area.
I gave up time working for my company, time with my family, time with friends to volunteer for this wonderful event that you are all critisizing. The Commissionning Committee does not talk politics (I don't know, but would guess most of us are Conservative. We are all proud Americans and wanted to show our community and our military how patriotic our City is. I am proud to have been involved and I am very proud of what we accomplished in the 10 days they were here. If you would research what a commissioning is about and look at the economic impact (well over $1M spent in our community) this - you would understand the significance of having this held here.
Obviously, you do not own a business, or work in hospitality, retail, car rental business, caterers, air transporation, equipment rental, etc. if you do not understand what this brings to our area.

It is you who is making a political issue of this event. That is what drives most of our media now adays and that is sad. This was a public event and the public had access to tours and the Commissioning.

Quite frankly, who cares. The City miss-manages funds, the county miss-manages funds. The City is speaking about having to lay off police officers and firefighters, but they have plenty of money to throw a party. When you look at it, as a tax payer, you paid for this one way or another. You would have paid for it as a federal tax payer and in this case you paid as a city/county resident.

I am just sick of the articles about who spent what on what. I know they can't manage their budgets, but give us a report after an official public forum. This countless banter about retreats, boat parties, etc seems to be more irritating then it is doing good. Go cover the City Council Meetings and see the residents asking the potiticans in a recorded, official event. Then perhaps, some actual accountability will be done.

The only news I am interested in has to do with ANY local politican getting out of his or her seat and building a Skyway. I also don't mind the occasional weather report, that is useful information. This, on the other hand, is information I already know - Politicians can't balance finances at any level.

Maybe one reason politicians can't balance finances is because of residents who want them to build billion dollar bridges at the drop of a hat.

'Building a Skyway' is akin to putting a $50,000 roof on a $75,000 house with a termite infestation. We are driving around on bumpy roads full of potholes, but we need a billion dollar bridge to connect Independence Blvd to Leland?? Are you serious??

We need to do something about the traffic, for sure. Most Leland residents and many other Brunswick County residents feel strongly that completing the I140 bypass is the right first step and MUST BE DONE before even CONSIDERING building another bridge, let alone a billion dollar one.

I would hate to be a politician caught between groups of people who demand fiscal responsibility from their government, and those who want the biggest, brightest, shiniest solutions to their problems with no regard for the cost.

More like putting a $100,000 roof on a $50,000 house - the Skyway is $2 billion - not $1 billion - the media keeps reporting it wrong. It has been estimated at $49 million a year for 40 years - that's $1.96 billion.