Archived Opinion

Vote wisely for Waynesville’s future leaders

Vote wisely for Waynesville’s future leaders

Town elections are seldom exciting, but the race in Waynesville is generating a lot of buzz.

We encourage taxpayers and voters to do some reading and make informed decisions before heading to the polls. 

In this election you’ve got a slate of challengers who have aligned themselves as a team to directly oppose the incumbents and their record. Voters will certainly make their own choices, but as someone who follows local politics closely, I’d say there is plenty of evidence that the incumbent town board members in Waynesville — Chuck Dickson, Jon Feichter, Julia Freeman and Anthony Sutton — have tackled some tough issues, dealt with some controversial incidents and done an admirable job of leading a town that is changing before our eyes.

Some have criticized how this board has reacted as new housing developments were proposed and are now being built in town limits. What many don’t realize is that a town board can’t just, on a whim, say no to a new development. If the proposal meets town zoning and planning guidelines, then it would be grounds for a lawsuit if the town turned such a proposal down.

And Waynesville needs housing of all types, including rental apartments. No, it’s not affordable for everyone. Agreed. But there are several efforts at the town and county level that are attempting to address the affordable housing crisis that is afflicting not just Western North Carolina but this entire nation. It’s a tough task, but some inroads are being made.

Those challenging these aldermen may have some pertinent ideas, but they’ve made accusations regarding the current board that are just untrue and a bit disturbing. Among them are exaggerated claims regarding crime rates and that some unnamed group of outsiders are making decisions for the town. These claims are just not true, and if it’s indicative of how these challengers will lead, that speaks volumes.

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I’ve written often in this space about the rise of income inequality in America and how it has left way too many people unable to afford basic necessities like health care and housing.

After reading a piece in the New York Times, I just ordered a new book called “ Ours Was the Shining Future: The Story of the American Dream ” by David Leonhardt. Leonhardt writes a newsletter for the Times, and his thoughts about the current economic situation in the U.S. is dead on:

“For most Americans, progress has slowed to a crawl in recent decades. Income and wealth inequality have both soared. The top 1 percent have pulled away from everyone else, while working-class Americans often struggle to afford the best health care and homes in good school districts.

“The clearest sign of our problems is this statistic: In 1980, the U.S. had a typical life expectancy for an affluent country. Today, we have the lowest such life expectancy, worse than those of Britain, France, Germany, Canada, Japan or South Korea, as well as some less rich countries, like China or Chile. The main reason is the stagnation of life expectancy for working-class people.” Leonhardt suggests that organized labor was a major factor in what lifted so many Americas into the prosperity of the 1940s and 1950s that so many remember nostalgically as the best of times. But he also credits the political system and the courts for making decisions that aided the working class. He finished the book optimistic about the future:“… I want to tell you why I nonetheless emerged from writing the book with hope about the country’s future: In short, the American political system helped create today’s problems, and only the American political system can solve them.”Let’s hope he’s right.

(Scott McLeod can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..)

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