Our coverage of the ongoing debate over comments made on talk radio in May by Alamance County Commissioner Tim Sutton continues to draw comments both via email, by telephone or just when I bump into readers while out in the community. And a column I wrote about the most recent incident earlier this week has drawn more comment from readers than anything issue-oriented I’ve written in my four years back in this area.
I was surprised to find that most of the response I’ve received about the column has been positive. The ones critical of the column itself say that it doesn’t give Sutton’s antagonist Michael Graves enough credit for his role in making this situation a bad one for our community. A previous column I wrote on this matter did so. The point I was trying to make in Wednesday’s column was that the parking lot imbrogilio after Monday’s county commissioners meeting didn’t have to happen. Graves was trying to leave the building without comment and Sutton pursued him and baited him into the eventual confrontation. Graves took the bait and shouldn’t have.
This truly didn’t have to happen and it’s a shame when elected leaders act this way.
Here are some of responses from folks in the community.
I am disappointed that this paper continues to cover the issues of Mr Sutton’s comment .This paper and you sir are guilty of allowing this to escalate into a distraction from all other issues . I suspect all parties were guilty of trying to incite or inflame this and by blow by blow coverage I think the paper just holds the matches.
I wrote back to this reader and explained that inflaming such a touchy matter was not our intent and that the story is largely of interest because it involves an elected local government leader. That by itself makes it news we have to cover or be open to criticism of hiding such actions. Our role in covering the county is to tell people what’s going on and let them make their own judgments. Frankly, we wish this story didn’t even exist and that there would be widespread harmony in our county. I also asked the reader if he wanted to publish his comments in the Open Forum.
He wrote back and said he was reassured by my comments. He also felt the community should devote energies to more pertinent problems.
While I agree that economic and other problems are critical, race relations is a significant social issue that has to be addressed. Michael Graves isn’t the only voice speaking about this issue. People can’t let that individual political issue between Sutton and Graves overshadow what seems to be a major concern among many Alamance County residents.
Here’s another criticism from a Graham reader.
Stir gently to keep pot simmering!
You could have added the word “sneers” to Michael Graves also. This word does seem to stand out more so than “rallies for black causes”. Everyone knows there is no love lost between these two and as for Eddie Shoe he’s against anyone that works for, or is in an elected official in Alamance County. I’ll agree with the fact that Tim Sutton should never have gotten on the elevator with these two people already on it. Both of them are always just looking for trouble especially with Tim Sutton. Eddie Shoe would argue with a stick. I am sorry all of this is being kept in the news as none of it is newsworthy.
But the vast majority were like this.
From a Burlington reader …
“Good column this morning. I think you hit it on the head. He wanted a confrontation. I watched High Point TV news and they played that tape over and over last night …. caught (Sutton) at his very “best”
From an Elon reader …
“Great column today about Tim Sutton and company.”
From an Eli Whitney reader …
“I thought your column today was on the mark. Our public officials need to act better than that.”
And this reader added,
“If you put Tim Sutton and Michael Graves in a room they would annhiliate each other. If we would stop giving them air time they would go away.”
From a Burlington reader …
“Your column today was on point.”
From a Burlington reader.
“I liked your column today but I hate this for our community. Imagine someone reading about this from outside our area. What must they think?”
MY TAKE: That final comment raises a point that concerns many in the area. A community with leaders who conduct themselves in such a way doesn’t look like one ready to be an economic player when compared with others on the interstate corridor. We have to find a way to honestly and professionally talk about issues in our area.
That would always be my goal.