Changing mind now won’t undo the damage
“Absolutely ridiculous.” Those are the words of Rep. Joe Sam Queen, D-Waynesville, to describe the actions of Rep. Michelle Presnell, R-Burnsville, who has twice in two consecutive legislative sessions stopped in its tracks a bill that would merge Lake Junaluska with Waynesville.
Rep. Queen is being too kind by far. Asinine might better describe her opposition to this bill.
Before we talk about Rep. Presnell’s opposition, let’s talk about the merger. Lake Junaluska’s leaders want to become part of Waynesville, partly due to aging infrastructure issues that are expected to cost $10 million to repair. If it doesn’t merge, its approximately 775 homeowners face a very expensive fix.
And, according to both a petition and a mail-in survey, a fairly significant majority of residents at Lake Junaluska want this to happen. Make no mistake, there are people who oppose this merger. But the majority wants it, the leaders want it, and all the lawmakers in the General Assembly who matter support it.
If this bill ends up dying in this session of the legislature, which seems likely now, it will be all on Rep. Presnell. She held it up last year and this. For details on how she has accomplished this feat, read the July 2 edition of The Smoky Mountain News or visit our website and read www.smokymountainnews-.com/news/item/13668.
Now the session is winding down and she professes a newfound support.
“Rep. Presnell has told me personally she has lifted her objections to it and is not going to fight it any longer and, if we want to move it, go ahead and do it. We can move forward without her objecting,” Queen said of his most recent conversation with Presnell (She is not returning phone calls from this newspaper, so we had to get that from Queen).
Oh, did we say that Presnell’s district includes part of Haywood but not Lake Junaluska? It’s been common practice at the General Assembly for as long as anyone can remember to not stand in the way of another lawmaker’s local bill. Queen represents Lake Junaluska and supports this measure. Sen. Jim Davis, R-Franklin — in the same party as Presnell — also represents Lake Junaluska and not only supports this bill but has twice shepherded it through the Senate. He has gone above and beyond to pass this bill and is still trying. Rep. Queen is the Democratic minority, so his support has not been enough.
So we have Presnell, who has been out there all alone in preventing what the majority of people involved in this issue want. I think many people have refrained from talking about how ridiculous her opposition to this has been for fear of making her mad, perhaps provoking a defensive response that might slow the bill even more. But enough is enough.
She says she now supports the bill. That may be the case, but it is probably too late this year to undo the senseless harm she’s already done. Crazy, but that’s what we get with Presnell as our representative in Raleigh.