By Steve Woodward
Cara Mathis demonstrated grace and optimism throughout her campaign for Pinehurst Village Council. She expressed determination to serve and pursue measured goals as a council member. She campaigned as a happy warrior and Pinehurst ambassador.
But during the past four years around here many residents have awakened to a toxic, bitter vein of humanity that courses beneath Pinehurst’s sandy soil and infests civic dialog, turning neighbors into sworn enemies.
A tiny but loud, tormented band of citizens remind us interminably that they did not move to the area to endure the offshoots of inevitable population growth and economic prosperity. They say they don’t like traffic and free spending, noisy tourists. The traffic circle scares them. They are emotionally fragile despite the beauty that surrounds them. The pine trees oxygenate the atmosphere but they say they can’t breathe.
At some point, a normal young adult awakens to this insanity and says, Enough! These people never will be satisfied. Even the most well intentioned public servant is unlikely to skirt their wrath.
So as dusk settled over Pinehurst on October 17, Mathis announced she has suspended her campaign in front of a Village Hall assembly of citizens who had listened to candidates answering questions during a forum. Then she did something rather unexpected. Mathis (photo nearby) asked the citizenry to ignore her name on the ballot and cast their votes for Barb Ficklin and John Taylor, both first time candidates and considerably longer in the tooth.
(Ficklin was a long time Clarendon Gardens homeowners association president. Taylor and Mathis are fellow historic preservation stewards).
Mathis’s day will come, and Pinehurst will still be Pinehurst when it does, even if other candidates insist on envisioning life here as a perpetual Norman Rockwell portrait. Never mind that American culture long ago become more Andy Warhol than Rockwell, more Bill Maher than Mark Twain.
And, who knows, perhaps in due time some of our hair-on-fire malcontents, overwhelmed by a general feeling of malaise that sweeps over them when they see an out-of-state license plate in the next-door driveway, will be inspired, indeed, compelled to acquire out-of-state license plates of their own.
They can move to communities where the streets are patrolled day and night by ravenous citizens outfitted in iron boots with their phones at the ready to speed dial law enforcement. Where backyard parties are monitored by decibel meters. Where knocks on doors after dark foretell squads checking occupancy rates in private homes.
Perhaps they will then find their nirvana, a community stripped of life’s pleasures and devoid of visible humanity. A community resembling the Outlands in the Lion King film, where psychologically troubled hyenas rule.
Judging by dire warnings issued by candidates for village council and mayor during Tuesday’s forum, Pinehurst is plunging toward Outlands status and we had better elect them to “fix” it. And it’s a good bet that many of the folks motivated to attend the forum arrived with bellies full of Bad Karma Kool-Aid. They were not disappointed.
In their answers to rehashed lamentations about traffic, parking spaces, “affordable” housing, and private homes placed in short-term rental pools, candidates assured their tense disciples that only they recognize just how bad it is. Our way of life is “threatened”. Economic growth is an “intrusion”. “Strict enforcement” is the only solution. Tourists must be obedient and heed warnings to “behave” when visiting 28374. They must adhere to “Pinehurst’s terms”.
Overall, the forum was an exercise in mastery of one-minute sound bites. Anyone who has been paying attention this campaign season generally learned nothing new or enlightening. Mostly the forum reminded us that in Pinehurst we take for granted the luxury of obsessing about trivial things.
John Taylor, a self described numbers guy, issued a data point that should terrify the hyenas. During the next 25 years, Moore County’s population is projected to grow by 50,000 to 60,000 residents. In other words, good luck to the folks who want to run Pinehurst like a homeowners association.