My thoughts

by Pat Bradford
Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Sunday is Groundhog Day; not the day where we get to repeat everything bad we do until we get it right, (boy what a day that would be) but this is the fabled day when the whim of a rodent is used to predict the nationís weather. 

Legend has it if the groundhog comes out and it is cloudy when he emerges from his burrow on this day, then spring will come early; but, if it is sunny, the groundhog will supposedly see its shadow and retreat back into its burrow, and we get six more weeks of winter. 

Based on this weekís wacky weather it is anyoneís guess what the groundhog will do on Sunday. If it were me and I saw warm sunshine, Iíd bask in it, forgetting the burrow for a while. 

Last month in this column we provided the lore surrounding the bumper crop of acorns underfoot this year along with the prediction we were in for a hard winter based totally unscientifically on the prolific acorn-to-squirrel action we can observe from our office windows, correlated with similar reports from everyone we talked to that had trees profusely dropping acorns. We bolstered that opinion with the Farmerís Almanac prediction of the following: Winter will be colder and drier than normal, but with above-normal snowfall in much of the region. Ya heard it here first, folks. 

Just as wacky as the weather has been, the saga of New Hanover County Commissioner Brian Berger continues to stun the mind, making me want to run back into my burrow and stay. Move over, Punxsutawney Phil.  

Mr. Bergerís latest escapade was failure to appear in court last week, for being impaired behind the wheel of his car last month. It was not surprising that Mr. Berger failed to appear to face the latest music of his own doing: charges for drug possession, DWI and impeding traffic. These resulted from his early December arrest after police found him slumped over the steering wheel of his car on Masonboro Loop Road in the wee hours.

His excuse, as reported by the television media with whom he was texting, was he didnít know he had court that day. That has an ounce of validity to it, because apparently Mr. Berger doesnít know he has county commission meetings to appear for as well, based on his continued absenteeism. I am guessing reality, according to Mr. Berger, is vastly different than it is for most of the rest of us.

Delusional or not, when he failed to appear, District Court Judge Sandra Ray issued an arrest warrant for him, with a $25,000 bond. This is not the first time Mr. Berger has had an order for his arrest, nor do I suspect the last, until someone gets him help.

It does not take a Harvard Ph.D. to see that each shenanigan Mr. Berger pulls is worse that the last. His behavior is a constant cry for help and yet, as far as I can see, no help has been rendered. The best thing Judge Sandra Ray can do for New Hanover County is to order Mr. Berger to undergo a mental health evaluation. He is clearly a danger to himself, as well as a danger to those working in county government, as evidenced by the thousands upon thousands of dollars spent so far to allow those in county government to work in relative safety, despite their very real fear of Mr. Berger. 

In a day and age when anyone who is angry has access to deadly weapons and very little deterrent to using them to pop the pressure cork off their wrath, it would behoove those in power to seek mental health analysis and treatment for Mr. Berger without delay. If not for those working in and around the government office in the county, do it for the rest of us who could inadvertently happen upon Mr. Berger in the midst of doing whatever he will do the next time he acts out in a cry for help. Is anyone listening?

It is a travesty in this county with its abundant billionaires, more than a few serving in government, that those with severe mental health needs go unattended. Continuing to totally ignore the mental health crises in this country is a recipe for disaster as evidenced by the parade of random and not-so-random killings highlighting the daily news. 

Americans are angry, a great number of them also happen to be mentally ill, and access to the means to hurt others is easier than ever. I am all for the right to bear arms, but those who are mentally ill donít need to be able to buy them and then go blow away a half-dozen innocent people.

If doubt remains as to the validity of the concern over Mr. Bergerís escalating cries for help, look no further than the Anderson Cooper interview of Virginia state senator Creigh Deeds whose -undiagnosed, but clearly mentally ill son stabbed him and then took his own life last November. Sen. Deeds was trying his hardest to get his son a bed in a mental health facility. 

Back at home, no one appears to be trying to get this badly needed medical attention for Mr. Berger.

Not one, but two of Mr. Bergerís fellow commissioners are vying for the congressional seat from this district. Letís hear from them what plan they have for obtaining mental health services for the vast number of mentally ill without access to it now. Congressman McIntyre made it his job to secure sorely needed health and mental health services for our veterans. It is time to do something for the rank and file.

In the meantime, someone, anyone get Mr. Berger help, please. Otherwise, when he does come out of his burrow and he sees his shadow, we may be in for a lot more than six more weeks of Mr. Bergerís sad saga. 

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