Our view: Try diplomacy, Mayor McKay
Jun 08, 2011 | 4002 views |  1 comments | 19 19 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Ashville Mayor Robert McKay’s frustration is understandable, but his anger appears misplaced.

At Monday’s City Council meeting, McKay lashed out at two entities that are seeking to help Shoal Creek Valley residents recover from tornado damage — in one case because results are not occurring fast enough and in the other because the faster option has been employed.

McKay accused top-echelon United Way workers of embezzlement because the organization had not come through with money for a family in which both parents died in the storm.

That statement was way out of line. McKay should apologize, and his apology should be just as public as his accusation.

Now, McKay is right to pursue every avenue to try to find help for the family, but as mayor he is in a position to know how the United Way operates. While other relief organizations are set up to provide assistance to individuals, the United Way is a conduit through which donations are distributed to various charities.

Following the April 27 storms, United Way fundraisers collected money directly for tornado relief, and it is being spent to provide the things that the survivors need, but it is not being doled out as cash awards to residents.

McKay’s original request started the process in motion to gain assistance for the family, and although his frustration at the slowness of the response may be justified, his accusation of theft is not.

Similarly, his charge that federal cleanup money is being squandered appears baseless. McKay objected to having the Army Corps of Engineers contracted to remove storm debris, saying that the agreement deprived local contractors of the work and sent the money out of state.

McKay conceded that the Corps of Engineers contract would get the job done faster, and County Commission Chairman Stan Batemon contends that the Corps is actually using some local contractors who initially volunteered their services in the days immediately after the storm.

McKay seems to be applying different standards for what he wants to accomplish. It’s OK for local contractors to take longer to get a job done because, hey, they’re local, but if the United Way doesn’t come across with cash in what McKay considers to be an appropriately brief time, well, they’re all thieves.

McKay is not to be faulted for trying to get Ashville residents what they need during this impossibly difficult time. But surely he can be a little more diplomatic.

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