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City Councilman Tyrone Williams should resign

05Tyrone WilliamsRegardless of the outcome from all the investigations taking place involving freshman Councilman Tyrone Williams, he needs to resign from the city council and spare our community the embarrassment of a local governmental scandal. The cliché “where there’s smoke there is usually fire” rings true in this bizarre sequence of disturbing circumstances. We agree with former Fayetteville City Councilman Bobby Hurst, who got it right when commenting about Williams’ situation on WFNC’s Morning Show last week when he said, “He’s just lying. And he should step down.”

The overall news coverage of this situation has also been unusually vague and confusing, causing much speculation. This has all the drama and intrigue of a James Patterson novel – municipal suspicion of wrongdoing by a sitting councilman, closed sessions of city council meetings, accusations of potential criminal activity, false claims and accusations directed at city attorney Karen McDonald, the hiring of a high-powered white collar crime criminal defense attorney, the request by other council members for an Ethics Commission investigation, false claims of financial interest in someone else’s business, and now, the involvement of the FBI.

This series of events began several weeks ago when McDonald felt it necessary to hire and bring in an outside attorney to advise the city and potentially protect it from the escalating negative conflict of interest accusations lodged against Councilman Williams regarding PCH, Inc. and the Prince Charles Hotel development project.

To date, no one has come forward to define just what that conflict of interest is. However, when questioned specifically about it, Williams got entangled in his own statements and contradictions, exacerbating the suspicion surrounding this situation and casting even more doubt on his integrity, honesty and intentions regarding the matter.

First, Williams said he had a financial interest in the Prince Charles Hotel. This was not true; PCH Inc. confirms that it had no dealings with Williams and he was in no way associated with the project. Secondly, Williams said he disclosed his interest in the Prince Charles Hotel to the city attorney in February. Again, not true. McDonald denied this adamantly and demanded that Williams correct the record. Then there are the questions resulting from the votes he participated in concerning PCH and the hotel. Why did Williams participate in the voting if both he and the city attorney knew he had a financial interest in the project?

This only raises more questions, like:

What is the actual “dispute” or alleged “conflict of interest” the city is addressing with Williams, and why won’t anyone say?

Why would Williams vote (twice) against a $100 million development project in his own District 2?

It has been mentioned that “they” confronted PCH, Inc. Who are “they”?

Are other people involved with this alleged dispute?

If so, are they involved with the city or in any way in a position to influence city policy?

Does Williams have an attorney, and why hasn’t he lawyered up to defend himself against the allegations?

If he does have an attorney, who make up Williams’ legal team of advisors?

Because of Williams’ past business relationship with former Prince Charles Hotel owner John Chen, does Williams think he has a financial interest in PCH, Inc.?

Does city staff or someone on city council have evidence or suspicions of bribery or of a pay-to-play scheme developing?

There are so many questions causing so much speculation, and all of it negative. Hopefully, by the time you read this article the truth will have emerged, and our community will have the answers it is entitled to.

In the meantime, I am extremely pleased that we have a city attorney like McDonald who is diligent and talented enough to recognize a threatening situation that could be detrimental to our city. She immediately took the proper corrective action to protect the city of Fayetteville, our council members, the reputation of our community and the monumental downtown economic development project that will enhance and redefine Fayetteville’s stature in North Carolina.

We have much at stake here. Most importantly, the residents of Fayetteville must be able to respect, trust and place confidence in their city leaders. Even the slightest hint of impropriety will undermine our growth, development and aspirations for a prosperous future. T

hank you for reading Up & Coming Weekly.

Photo: City Cunciman Tyrone Williams

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Occam’s barber shop

04barberReader, do you seek answers to the Great Mysteries of life? Are you on the road to find out like Cat Stevens once was? Allow me to point out the modern location of the Delphic Oracle who has the answers to all your questions.

Most of the wisdom generated in the real world originates in barber shops. If you want to find out what is really going on, go to a barber shop and sit for a while. I don’t visit the barber very often due to inheriting my grandfather’s hair line. When I do go for sentimental reasons, I always go to the Haymount Barber Shop, which is presided over by Donnie Barefoot, the Philosopher Barber King. I have been going there since 1978 when I had hair.

Entering the Haymount Barber shop is stepping back in time into the late 1950s. Donnie has seen more stuff in Haymount than anyone else. He has the answers to your inquiries. If he doesn’t know the answer, he knows someone who does know the answer.

Once upon a time, I asked him once why he charged me, a follicle challenged American, the same amount that he charged someone with a full head of hair. He did not miss a beat responding, “I have to charge a finder’s fee.” I never asked again and have been cheerfully paying full price ever since.

As I child I went to the Suburban Barber shop on Raeford Road, where the Culbreth brothers held sway. They had a stuffed large-mouth bass on their wall and checkerboard black and white tiles covering the floor under a thick layer of someone’s hair. My friends and I always asked for GI haircuts back then because that was what you did.

Thinking about barber shops got me to pondering the patron saint of all Barber Philosophers, the esteemed William of Ockham. William analyzed the mysteries of life in the early 14th century. He came up with the theory now known as Occam’s Razor.

I assume he was a barber because back then barbers used razors to give haircuts and shaves and perform surgeries large and small. The cureall for what ailed you in the medieval period was bloodletting. Barbers began bloodletting in 1163 after Pope Alexander III stopped priests from doing it. In medieval times, most people couldn’t read, so barbers used the red and white barber pole as advertising for their business. European barber poles have red stripes to represent blood and white stripes to represent bandages used to bind up wounds after the barber had performed surgery. American barber poles also have a blue stripe, which either represents the veins which were opened for bloodletting or just as a patriotic tip of the hat to Old Glory.

Back to Occam and his razor. Occam came up with a theory about problem-solving, which says if you have several possible answers to a problem, choose the solution that makes the fewest assumptions. I will spare you the Latin version of Occam’s razor because I don’t understand Latin, but one version of his theory is “Entities are not to be multiplied without necessity.”

The reason Occam’s theory is called a razor is not because Gillette has anything to do with it. The razor reference means if you have two or more possible answers, shave away the ones that have the most assumptions. Choose the simpler of the answers and you may be correct. Occam’s Razor holds that “It is futile to do with more things that which can be done with fewer.”

If you want to get deep into the philosophical weeds, consider a version of Occam’s Razor called “ontological parsimony.” This has nothing to do with parsley – that useless, green, leafy material that blocks access to your dinner. Ontological parsimony in a barber shop means the rule of simplicity. If a simple answer is available, don’t choose the answer that requires the most complex series of events to occur. Simple is good.

My favorite explanation of how Occam’s Razor works is the Zebra version used in medicine. According to our friends in Wikipedia Land (who may or may not be Russian trolls), in making a medical diagnosis, doctors should refrain from coming up with a really “exotic disease diagnosis” when a more common disease is likely. A fellow named Theodore Woodward came up with the Zebra medical explanation. “When you hear hoofbeats, think of horses, not zebras.”

The hoofbeats could be coming from a herd of zebras. However, if you are in Texas, it is much more likely that the hoofbeats are from horses.

So, what have we learned today? Barbers are wise but shouldn’t do surgery. Occam and his razor believe the simplest answer is usually the correct one. The sound of a herd of zebras resembles that of a herd of horses but betting it’s horses instead of zebras will make you more money.

Johnny Mercer channeled Occam when he wrote the lyrics “You’ve got to accentuate the positive/ Eliminate the negative/ And latch on to the affirmative/ Don’t mess with Mr. In-Between.”

Finally, as Roger Miller once sang, “You can’t roller skate in a buffalo herd/ But you can be happy if you’ve a mind to.”

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Customer service: Fayetteville’s defining factor

02 Customer serviceMy wife came home from one of her fun shopping excursions a couple weeks ago. Except this one really wasn’t much fun. She was frustrated. It seems her very favorite store, Belk’s, which used to provide friendly, helpful and courteous service, has morphed into a hollow catacomb of apathy. Imagine, a retail company that depends on selling merchandise with no one present to answer questions, no one available to assist you and no one around to sell you anything.

We hear constantly that the internet is destroying brick-and-mortar businesses. I believe that – but only the ones that don’t provide excellent and genuine customer service.

The term “good customer service” has almost become cliché in a world where almost anything and everything can be acquired online, void of any personal contact. It’s convenient and hassle-free without any pre-conceived expectation of service or human interaction. Order anything and it is conveniently delivered to your door. A car, your next meal, customfitted clothing, auto parts, dentures, flowers, sporting goods, printed materials, wine – the list is endless.

This being the world we live in, if you are a business owner or have entrepreneurial aspirations, you must come to understand, respect and master the major defining factor for success ... good customer service. It is a simple concept so easy to implement yet so easily ignored, underemployed and misunderstood.

So, why write about it? Because it defines us.

A few weeks ago, I rejoiced at the fact that the Applebee’s on Raeford Road closed. For nearly two years it provided Fayetteville with the worst customer service experience ever – despite elaborate, fun-filled, appetizing TV commercials.

Why should I care? Why should we all care? Poor customer service has a negative effect on all those who experience it. For years, this Applebee’s has defined our community in the most horrendous and un-complimentary way. If Applebee’s had been a privately-owned restaurant, it would have been out of business in two months, not two years.

Customer service is the lifeblood and major economic driver of a successful business. Yet it is too often ignored, and locally, dozens and dozens of business owners are struggling to survive and stay open when all they have to do is focus on and provide good customer service.

Unfortunately, many of them instead search for a quick fix or some magic formula or silver bullet that will make them profitable and successful overnight. Some spend thousands of dollars in advertising, marketing and ill-fated promotions in a desperate attempt to prop up their business. If they focused first on providing the best customer care possible, those other efforts might actually produce some results.

This holds true with organizations and even governments. Just think how smoothly government would run if leaders focused on customer service and making policies and procedures less complicated, allowing bureaucrats to make decisions that put the clients first and foremost.

Fayetteville is a growing community and a wonderful town where Southern traditions and a Southern way of life prevail. Service and Southern hospitality should always be at the top of our agenda. This is the surest, easiest and least expensive way to guarantee success and prosperity while defining our community’s true friendly spirit.

Thank you for reading Up & Coming Weekly.

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Not your grandfather’s North Carolina

A03Andys a Tar Heel born and bred, stories about what is going on in our state jump out to me. Two such stories recently caught my eye. They reflect not specific events, what is sometimes called spot news, but trends that shape North Carolina’s present and its future.

Native North Carolinians of my generation remember a state of small towns where many of us lived our entire lives. Even Raleigh and Charlotte were not the metropolises they have become, sporting populations of 65,000 and 134,000 respectively in 1950. Tar Heel Andy Griffith romanticized and memorialized this North Carolina when he created Mayberry, where people were always kind and the right way always won the day.

Those days, romanticized and otherwise, are long gone.

The UNC Carolina Population Center released data earlier this month showing that 43 percent of North Carolina’s population was born somewhere else, including 49 percent of adults.

Says demographer Jessica Stanford of the center, “This growth reflects how attractive North Carolina is to migrants of all ages with a range of educational, employment and retirement opportunities.” U.S. Census data show that North Carolina remains the ninth most populous state, with 10.3 million folks now calling North Carolina home.

All counties, however, are not equal in the migration department.

Three quarters of Currituck County’s residents came from elsewhere, probably because of its coastal location just south of Virginia Beach. Brunswick County, once a sleepy place in southeastern North Carolina just north of Myrtle Beach, now has a non-native population of 53 percent, including many retirees, and Union County, now a bedroom community for Charlotte, reports that 51 percent of its residents were born outside North Carolina.

The military has brought thousands of non-natives to our community as well.

The flip side of this urban change is North Carolina’s rural areas, where people tend to stay put. Edgecombe County, in eastern North Carolina and whose large town is Rocky Mount, has the highest percentage of Tar Heels born and bred at 80 percent. Patterns are similar throughout rural North Carolina, both east and west.

The demographic and economic divide between urban and rural areas of our state and nation is not new, but it is growing and is profoundly threatening to North Carolina as we have known it. If you subscribe to a “rising tide floats all boats” philosophy, then you can see how a booming knowledge-based economy concentrated in our urban hubs coupled with fading economic models of manufacturing and small farming in our rural areas threaten our overall well-being.

Rural communities face significant challenges in funding public education, handling high unemployment, improving access to high quality medical care, securing access to high-speed internet connections, and creating transportation options to get to more prosperous urban areas, among many.

These are not issues to be solved by local economic developers or creative educators who can make do without financial resources. These are issues that require thoughtful and innovative state and federal government policies, not just robbing Peter’s urban areas to pay Paul’s rural bills.

They are also issues to consider and to put to candidates running for Congress and the North Carolina General Assembly in 2018. If they do not see the urban-rural divide as an issue and have some ideas to address it, then they probably should not be setting public policy and spending public money.

State Sen. Erica Smith, who represents eight rural counties in northeastern North Carolina, put it bluntly to The News and Observer. Smith said, “We are not going to be the thriving state that we can be until we close this gap.”

She is correct.

The myth of Mayberry notwithstanding, life is composed of change, and North Carolina is in the throes of significant transition, both positive and negative. Not addressing it serves no one, neither Tar Heels born and bred nor people who chose to come here for whatever reasons.

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