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Representatives in name only on this night

When Mecklenburg County voters in Districts 5 and 6 elected Republicans Matthew Ridenhour and Bill James last fall, they expected the pair to vote in their interests when it came time to adopt a $1.7 billion budget. The two represent the most conservative parts of the county, and many of their constituents want them to use their positions to vote against tax increases.

But on Tuesday, instead of voting against a 2.35-cent property tax rate hike, James took a walk and Ridenhour took a pass. The tax hike was tentatively approved, 7-0.

With Democrats in the majority and approving additional spending, James, who represents the far south’s District 6, left the meeting in frustration before the final vote. Ridenhour remained, but abstained when it came time to count hands.

“While I can sit and debate different tax rates (or whether there should be a tax increase), I won’t sit by while taxpayers are bilked and money handed out to the favored few who happen to be connected to certain pol’s,” James wrote in an email the next morning.

Except that’s exactly what he did. He sat by, who knows where, while crucial budget votes were taken.

Given the lopsided outcome, James’s and Ridenhour’s votes wouldn’t have changed the result. But it’s understandable if their constituents feel like there was no one sitting at the table on their behalf on what might have been the commissioners’ most critical vote of the year.

Sing it, Sebastian

If you’ve ever waded into the comments that follow Observer articles and opinion columns, you know it can get pretty foul out there in the digital universe. But sometimes, the better among us shine through.

On Tuesday night, 11-year-old Sebastian De La Cruz sang the National Anthem before Game 3 of the NBA Finals. Sebastian, a last-minute replacement, was terrific.

Then the ugliness began. “9 out of 10 chance that kid singing the national anthem is illegal,” said @UncleD37 on Twitter. @A1R_STEVEN asked: Is the American National Anthem or the Mexican Hat Dance.” There were plenty of others, including this hashtag: #gohome.

Soon, though, the racism was met with a heartening backlash from tweeters who leapt to defend Sebastian. Some added that his performance was a testament to the diversity that makes America great.

The best – and perhaps most mature response – came from Sebastian himself. He noted that he was born and raised in San Antonio, and that his father had served in the U.S. Navy. “Please do not pay attention to the negative people,” tweeted Sebastian, who sang at the Finals again Thursday to a loud ovation. “I am an American living the American Dream.”

#RightOn.

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