An Editorial: Kenny Hardin, Salisbury Mayoral Candidate, Speaks Out on Recent Hot Button Issues in the City of Salisbury, N.C.

Posted on August 21, 2017

Kenny Hardin, Salisbury Mayoral Candidate

♦ There are a couple of hot button issues that occurred last week in our City that I’ve had many individual discussions about over the past few days. I’ve received inboxes, phone calls, and citizens have stopped me while out to engage me in conversation about these two issues. Passion and anger have been high and people have not held back their intense emotions about either issue. So, I want to take this opportunity to share my thoughts on the last City Council meeting where Citizen Carolyn Logan was denied the right to speak and escorted out by the police and the possibility of the Confederate Statue being removed.

There was talk about an assault on the 1st Amendment at the August 15th City Council Meeting. I didn’t see it that way. What I saw was more than domestic violence. What transpired was a brutal attack on decency, a vicious rape of consciousness, the hostage taking of respect of another human being, the torture of basic dignity and humanity being stripped naked and mocked. If I had been at the meeting, this unprovoked and unnecessary attack on freedom of speech would not have been allowed to happen. I would’ve intervened and gladly been escorted out by police right along with the Citizen.

That evening, I was home resting and recovering from surgery the day before. As the sad event was unfolding and ultimately mercifully ended, my phone began ringing. One after the other, people at the meeting and some watching online began calling giving me a play by play in angry, surprised and shocked narration. Ms. Logan even called me as she stood in the parking lot outside City Hall and the pain and hurt in her voice was evident on the phone. I stayed on the phone and listened to her as she recounted in an exasperated voice what transpired. She repeatedly questioned what she did to be treated so callously. I offered comfort and used every calming technique I knew to both apologize and reassure her.

I was not surprised at the behavior in the video because in my time on the Council, I’ve received the same treatment. While not as severe as what Ms. Logan endured, I’ve been on the same receiving end of the disrespectful body language, eye rolling, heavy sighs and the attempted minimization of my voice by colleagues when I have the floor. I’ve spoken to the Mayor and the City Manager about this unprofessional and disrespectful behavior, but nothing was done to address it. So, although disappointed, I was not surprised at the video.

What was disappointing was that it was obvious this was a preplanned and prearranged stunt. I’m trained in observational behavioral recognition communication. I can look at body language, voice intonation levels, speech patterns, and other nonverbal cues to determine pending and escalating behavior. I’ve taught this in the hospital setting for years across the Country to Nurses and Doctors to improve communication and recognize better and more positive patient outcomes. In the video, it was obvious that Councilmembers Miller, Blackwell, and Mayor Alexander were prepared for and waiting over anxiously for a trigger word or phrase from Ms. Logan. Ms. Logan only spoke for 22 seconds, however; she was quickly deemed out of order with a ridiculous explanation of why. If you watch the body language of the three, they were not listening to her comments; they were listening for the trigger word or phrase. Ms. Blackwell was over anxious and quick to pull the “call the police” trigger. As this sad event unfolded, pay attention to Mr. Post’s initial reaction. He immediately looked down at the table and away. This is a sign that although possibly knowledgeable of the charade, he was ashamed and embarrassed that it occurred. I read his editorial in the local paper yesterday, but failing to intervene as it happened and then safely and comfortably condemning it five days later is not courageous or truly supportive.

That entire episode was a contrived and a poorly planned attempt to devalue and publicly humiliate Ms. Logan simply because she comes to every meeting and demands accountability. I’m friendly with Ms. Logan outside of City Council meeting as I am with a number of citizens, but I don’t know her personally. As Mr. Post has done, I have visited her at her office and had extended conversations to better understand her concerns What I do know is that she has shown me a heart full of compassion and genuine concern for her City and the community. I don’t view her as angry. She is passionate in her stance and intense in her delivery, but not angry or vindictive towards the Council. In the nearly year since has consistently been coming to Council and speaking at Public Comments, I’ve never felt she has attacked the Council. Maybe there is a cultural misunderstanding in that passion and intensity in speech does not equate to anger.  A course in Cultural Competency and a willingness to let go of the privileged and elitist mindset held by some on the Council that limits being receptive to and understanding people outside of a narrow prism may prevent this from reoccurring. Simply saying you have appreciation for diversity and attending a Church service or pointless feel good peace event does not equate to actually demonstrating respect for diversity. But, this is not about race, it’s about rights. If you say you’re a bridge builder and want unity and cohesion, don’t just say it, actually do it.

I’ve never felt like Ms. Logan has attacked the Mayor or the Council. Her frustration might stem from her repeated requests for answers and follow up from the City that she and others don’t receive, so she has to come back multiple times. A year ago, I was personally attacked and threatened during a Public Comment session by the female owner of a local business. For three minutes, she lit into me, but was never gaveled, called out of order or escorted out by the Police. If the rule is in place, let’s apply and enforce it equally. Ms. Logan is simply asking questions, seeking clarity and exercising her right to hold elected officials accountable. Criticism may be hard to hear, but neither the Mayor, Ms. Blackwell nor Mr. Miller has the right to censor or shut down discussion simply because it hurts their feelings.

Since I’ve been on the Council, I have been the only Member to vote against and speak out on every revision or amendment to Public Comments. I refuse to deny Citizens the right and opportunity to come to Council to speak openly, candidly and honestly to their elected officials. When I assume the Mayor’s seat in November I will eliminate all impediments, rules, obstacles and hindrances to free speech in Council Meetings. I will encourage Council Members to engage Citizens during the Public Comments session and guarantee follow up to any questions asked. That was a sad and unnecessary display at the last meeting. On one hand I was happy I was not there. But, on the other, I’m ashamed and embarrassed with this Council and the unprofessional and disrespectful way we interact with each other and the public.

If the Mayor and Council had simply allowed Ms. Logan to speak for her three minutes, a week later we wouldn’t still be discussing this issue. Instead, this will be talked about longer than the allotted speaking time. I’ve read the harsh comments on WSOC-TV’s website, on social media, and was contacted by a Professor at Winston Salem State University who shared that the video was included in the curriculum for three classes as an example of poor government leadership. The NAACP is representing Ms. Logan in a First Amendment lawsuit and an attorney from the ACLU has also spoken with her. So, was all the pride and ego defense shown worth the outcome?

The second issue involving the statue is an easy one. Leave the damn thing alone! Unless the Angel is going to step off the pedestal and magically end racism, hate and division, leave it alone. If removing it and taking it out of the public consciousness will stop the gun violence, solve the murders, feed hungry children, teach them to read, bring jobs here, and stop the opioid overdose crisis, then leave it alone.

I’m done.

Posted in: Articles