Lake Norman & Mooresville

Groups spice up election season

Two grassroots groups are livening up the Davidson elections this fall by pushing their visions for Davidson's future.

The Davidson Coalition for Fiscal Responsibility, which organized during the summer, focuses on the town's spending priorities and recent fiscal decisions, including the funding of MI-Connection.

Now, another group of residents has formed Positively Davidson, at least in part in reaction to the Davidson Coalition for Fiscal Responsibility.

"A group of Davidson citizens have been growing increasingly concerned about inaccurate and inflammatory accusations being leveled against the direction the town of Davidson has been moving," said one of Positively Davidson's original members, Brunson Russum.

The groups hope to raise issues during the election season.

A least two new commissioners will be elected to the Davidson town board in November because Commissioners Tim Dreffer and Margo Williams are not seeking re-election.

Three incumbents and four newcomers will compete for the five open commission seats. Mayor John Woods will face challenger Vince Winegardner.

Perhaps the biggest issue for Davidson's election is the future of MI-Connection, the community-owned and operated communication system for Davidson and Mooresville.

According to a March letter from MI-Connection board members to state officials, the company will need about $17 million from the two towns for the fiscal years 2011 to 2013.

Incumbents and challengers have said that their priorities would be creating a fiscally responsible budget and encouraging small-business development.

But the two recently created grassroots groups have different visions for how officials can accomplish those goals.

The Davidson Coalition for Fiscal Responsibility objects to the town spending so much money subsidizing MI-Connection and is concerned that, in the long run, Davidson will not be able to afford all of the services it provides, said member Pat Scruggs.

"We really want to try to get the budget back to essential services," she said. "We're worried that the character of Davidson is going to be jeopardized unless we focus the budget on reducing the debt."

The group thinks one possibility for reducing the town's debt would be to get MI-Connection to a point where it requires no subsidy.

She emphasized that the group is focused on all of the spending by the town, not just MI-Connection.

Scruggs also said the town's recent purchase of two affordable houses raised questions, considering there is already an affordable housing coalition in Davidson.

"Our concern is about the decision-making process and how the town decides to spend its money," said Scruggs.

Meanwhile, Positively Davidson is more supportive of the town's initiatives.

"My continuing belief is that Davidson did not happen by accident," said member Autumn Rierson Michael. "It's the result of intentional planning and leadership."

As far as MI-Connection, Positively Davidson is not so much concerned about blaming officials who approved the town-owned company, but rather, finding politicians who can "make it work and make it sustainable," said Rierson Michael.

"It's more about a vision and discerning which candidates share that a vision of sustainability and progressiveness," she said.

Russum said his group wants to educate Davidson voters on all that the town has accomplished - even in the face of budget cuts over the last three years.

"Positively Davidson is squarely in support of fiscal responsibility. We do, however, make a marked distinction between fiscal responsibility and fiscal reactionism."

The group plans to host a series of informal gatherings throughout the town over the next few weeks. A large gathering is scheduled for Oct. 20 at St. Alban's Church.

"In each event, we plan to let citizens know what Davidson is all about and what it could be if those with limited vision were to come to power," said Russum. "The things that we all love about Davidson didn't happen by accident. They happened because of strong, visionary leadership."

Davidson Commissioner Connie Wessner said she thinks the creation of Positively Davidson and the Davidson Coalition for Fiscal Responsibility are good for the town.

"It educates people and gets people out to vote and to take that obligation seriously," she said. "As long as it remains civil, I think they're a benefit to the entire town."

But Rierson Michael said the two groups are not as different as some residents might believe.

"I think the end goals are the same and that is to maintain the character of an amazing town," she said. "I believe we're in agreement about many of the ways to get there."