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Week of October 18 - Commissioners void Chris Coudriet's blank check, Rivenbark's questionable email, and Castle Street project postponed, again

On this episode of the podcast: Commissioners clashed over how much financial freedom the county manager should have — and ultimately decided to reign him in. And, in Wilmington, Councilman Charlie Rivenbark is accused of calling a resident a 'bitch' over complaints about the military flyover issue. Plus, the long-suffering proposal to redevelop the old WAVE bus terminal on Castle Street hangs in there ... barely.

Port City Politics is a collaborative podcast between WECT and WHQR. Every two weeks, WECT’s investigative reporter Michael Praats and WHQR’s News Director Ben Schachtman will break down the latest happenings in local politics.

The Department of 'Community Violence' Management

In the wake of a shooting at New Hanover High School, the Board of Education and County Commissioners held a joint meeting to discuss the issue of 'community violence.' At the September 3 meeting, Chair Julia Olson-Boseman made a surprise motion, granting county manager Chris Coudriet access to $350 million in cash that had been transferred to the county as part of the sale of NHRMC to Novant.

The motion passed unanimously — but some commissioners didn't seem to realize at the time just how much power had been granted to Coudriet, or how extensive his mandate to spend money was.

This week, when Coudriet presented an $89 million plan, commissioners Rob Zapple, Deb Hays, and Jonathan Barfield pushed back and made a new motion — this time, requiring board approval of a budget amendment before Coudriet spends any money. Olson-Boseman was not pleased, and let her fellow commissioners know it.

'A real bitch'

Councilman Charlie Rivenbark is accused of referring to a resident as a 'real bitch' after she joined a growing chorus of voices upset with the uptick in military flyovers, driven by increased 'hot refuelings' at ILM airport. Rivenbark tried to clarify that he was referring to the situation, not the woman — but she's not buying it. If nothing else, it's a reminder that email etiquette is important.

Castle Street redux

Since 2019, the City of Wilmington has been trying to lock down a redevelopment plan for the former WAVE bus depot on Castle Street. Since then, Habitat for Humanity has walked away from the project, and difficulties finalizing the land transfer — and a Brownfields agreement with the state — have hampered the project.

It's clear the city wants to see affordable housing units as part of the project, but uncertainty about how many — and how affordable — remain., as does the possibility that council will vote to tear up the existing agreement and start from scratch.

Ben Schachtman is a journalist and editor with a focus on local government accountability. He began reporting for Port City Daily in the Wilmington area in 2016 and took over as managing editor there in 2018. He’s a graduate of Rutgers College and later received his MA from NYU and his PhD from SUNY-Stony Brook, both in English Literature.