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Mount Airy Mayor Ron Niland has repeatedly said he wants to keep his re-election bid positive — without attacking his opponent, City Commissioner Jon Cawley — and focus more on the issues and what he wants. thinks to bring to the table as a leader.

Cawley’s recent statements, however, brought Niland to the point where he said he felt he had to respond. Cawley has launched several attacks on Niland, other city commissioners, and openly opposed a comprehensive downtown plan in recent weeks, leading up to the Nov. 8 election.

Niland said that despite the attacks and what he called “misinformation” being spread by Cawley, he held his tongue. “I dropped out because I thought it was better to be positive, run a positive campaign.”

The mayor said Cawley crossed a line earlier this week when he claimed much of the controversy and uncertainty over the overall downtown plan could be put at the mayor’s feet.

“If I had been mayor, I would have publicly corrected the misinformation that was spreading and avoided unnecessary voting by commissioners after the public hearing,” he said. “Our mayor’s silence has only made the problem worse.”

This plan is a loose guide for potential downtown development, and city leaders are looking for ways to help current businesses grow, attract new businesses, and bring improvements to the area.

It was the last straw for Niland, especially after a statement in the spring in which Cawley questioned the mayor’s honesty.

“He called me incompetent and a deceiver,” the mayor said, referring to that earlier statement. “Calling me incompetent is not my objection,” he said, explaining that competence or incompetence is often in the eye of the beholder. “What I object to is being called a deceiver. It goes to character. It’s not true, it’s not true,” Niland said.

“I am proud of my positive campaign and sincerely believe that all public servants should stand on their own merits instead of attacking their adversary. Unfortunately, Commissioner Cawley has repeatedly chosen to campaign by creating grievances and personally attacking myself, city staff and community leaders,” the mayor said.

After months of “turning the other cheek,” he feels Mount Airy residents and voters owe “my response to the charges against me.”

“Commissioner Cawley says I have not tried to correct the misinformation on the Town Center Master Plan. I have made several public statements about the plan at council meetings and have asked our staff to create the FAQ (frequently asked questions) information sheet to help citizens better understand the contents of the downtown plan. town. I went door to door to downtown businesses and households in the community to listen and talk about the plan.

He then questioned Cawley’s role in spreading misinformation and sowing discord among the townspeople rather than showing leadership in finding common ground.

“Our City Commissioners have the same responsibility to bring the truth to citizens with their public platform. Instead, my opponent chose to protest the plan and strike fear into the minds of the citizens of Mount Airy…He said it was not his job as City Commissioner to correct misinformation. Well, what is his job? »

Complete diet

While Niland argues that Cawley exhibited these characteristics for a long time, he believes Cawley took advantage of the city’s work to develop this comprehensive plan for the city as an excuse to step up attacks on Niland and others.

The plan is a working guide to potential development, not a plan set in stone, and isn’t just for Main Street – it’s for the “eight or ten blocks around Main Street”.

“It’s an ambitious plan,” Niland said. “It’s not a plan that will pass in its entirety.”

Most cities have full plans – Mount Airy already has one in effect, and this could be considered a partial update. Often such plans are needed when applying for development grants and can be used as a guide for combining projects, which saves money.

For example, Niland said the city is struggling with an aging water and sewer system, especially in the downtown area.

“Some (pipes) are over a hundred years old. We’re going to have to deal with them… some probably in the next five to seven years.

According to him, it makes sense to have a plan in place for what downtown might become before digging those lines.

“While you have to dig and disrupt, while you’re doing that, it makes sense to think about what you’re handing over. I have no preconceived notions of what it might be…we could just put the sidewalk back the way it was.

But, he said, if the idea of ​​moving power and utility lines underground is something to consider, it should be part of the plan ahead of time, to be done as the water and sewer lines are replaced, saving money and time.

This plan, he said, was developed slowly, over time, with input from city residents, business owners and city leaders — except for a commissioner, Cawley. Instead, he believes Cawley has mostly sat on the sidelines, protesting and making accusations that aren’t true, rather than being part of the process.

“After voting against the plan, Commissioner Cawley took part in the downtown protest with around 50 people. He is the only elected official from Mount Airy who did not participate in the nine-month planning process. The Commissioners and I had the opportunity to be interviewed as stakeholders and to attend three public workshops. Commissioner Cawley was given the same opportunities to lead the process, but chose not to participate. »

This, he believes, has become normal. While information packets about upcoming meetings are sent to commissioners, with documents and background information on agenda items, Niland believes Cawley rarely takes advantage of these packets to be ready for meetings. .

“He shows a tendency to be unprepared for meetings and not understanding important city issues, including the budget,” the mayor said. “While other officials do their homework, he blames not getting the same information available to all of us. He has a convenient amnesia when it serves to grab headlines. His drive to divide citizens for potential gain is regrettable.

“Leadership does not attack others. Leadership is the expectation that you can use your voice for good. That you can make the world a better place by encouraging others to do their best and achieve goals that help build community. That’s what I believe.

Denise W. Whigham