County Commissioner Nick Picerno, as a conservative Republican officeholder, knew coming into the job that he’d be engaging in combat with the mainstream media. I’m sure he never expected to be literally running for re-election against the media.
Ellen Marcus, a former columnist with The Pilot and – until recently – a correspondent with The Fayetteville Observer, has filed to run against Picerno as a Democrat in November. A Google search reveals that Marcus wrote for The Pilot as late as 2007, and that she took part in a Moore County Democrat Party fundraiser in 2008. Searches reveal that Marcus last filed a story for The Observer on February 6. (The candidate filing period closed LAST MONTH.)
Observer executive editor Mike Arnholt said:
“[…] Our AME for metro news, who was working with Ellen Marcus, became
aware that she was considering filing for office and stopped using her
as a correspondent before the filing period opened on Feb. 13.
Her last story for the Observer covered the Hoke County Board of
Commissioners on Feb. 6. […]
Our search found that Marcus was covering the Moore County Board of Commissioners as late as January 2012. My top mole in county government tells me she witnessed Marcus approach Picerno at the end of a commissioners meeting and initiate a heated discussion. My source says Marcus sounded “very upset” about the prayers that kick off each board meeting.
I tracked down Picerno, and he confirmed the story for me:
“I knew she was a reporter for The Fayetteville paper. I saw her coming, and thought she was going to ask me about something on the meeting agenda. Instead, she gets really worked up over the prayer that we started the meeting with. She said she was a woman of faith, but didn’t think it was right to say a prayer AT ALL. She’s got a right to her opinion. It was a first for me, though. I’ve never had a member of the press – on-the-job — passionately debate me about their personal feelings on an issue.”
(For the record, most all North Carolina county boards start their meetings with prayer. The Congress and The NC General Assembly open each daily session with a prayer.)
There is one more aspect to the Picerno-Marcus relationship. The county board recently took on the controversial rezoning of the proposed Pine Forest development. ( Picerno supported the rezoning.) Marcus covered the board’s deliberations for The Fayetteville Observer. Her husband Jeff testified before the county board on the project:
Jeff Marcus, Piedmont wildlife diversity supervisor with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, made a presentation on the biological aspects of the Pine Forest tract.
His PowerPoint presentation showed examples of rare wildlife, such as the fox squirrel, Sandhills lily, bog oatgrass, Harper’s yellow-eyed grass, star-nosed mole, and northern pine snake, as well as the red-cockaded woodpecker, and other birds, fish and fresh water mussels.
When all of these factors are pulled together, Marcus said the Sandhills are unique in the nation and the world. He said the entire area creates a large block of habitat that cannot exist in small fragmented areas. Marcus said golf courses and small open areas are not sufficient to encourage continuing growth of these species.
Questioned by Commissioner Lea, Marcus said there is no way to support this habitat with a development of this magnitude. However, he said there are ways to minimize the effect it would have on these species.
“You really can’t build it and not have an impact,” Marcus said.