“People come and go so quickly here!” says Dorothy Gale in “The Wizard of Oz.”
It is starting to feel that way around here. We are no longer a sleepy little town at the end of a small state highway. I-40 changed that in the late ‘80s, and now life is dramatically different. How does one keep abreast of all that is important in our fair community—let alone our beautiful state?
Arlo Guthire has said in many interviews that when he looks back at the ‘60s it feels like every day there was another cause that people felt passionately about. Our home is starting to feel like that, for me at least.
Besides the assortment of atrocities state-legislature enacted last year, we have the long-running campaign of Stop Titan and the film incentives battle—both of which are very important. In the next short session, our legislature is set to vote on the expiration of the film incentives in January 2015. (Please, contact your legislators at www.ncleg.net and let them know how important film incentives are to our state—both short-term and long-term. If you have time, you might also mention education, housing, voting access, and environmental protection, among other possible topics.)
Speaking of environmental protection: Our Cape Fear Riverwatch was on MSNBC and in the LA Times and the New York Times, trying to get some answers about the coal ash ponds leaking into the Cape Fear River. Just as a reminder: We get our drinking water from the Cape Fear River. Yes, that’s where it comes from. In the wake of West Virginia and Eden, NC’s recent drinking-water crisis, one has to think that even the sheriff’s deputy sent out to protect Duke Energy in the video has a vested interest in getting some answers about what is leaking into his family’s water supply.
These are not unreasonable questions that the Riverwatch folks are asking, which include not only what is that freaky-looking coppery stuff draining into the river, but also do we no longer have the right to boat on our own public waterways?
In addition, our historic downtown faces the re-design of the old parking deck between Water and Front streets. The city has brought in the UNC School of Government Development Finance Initiative (DFI) to basically do 18 months worth of work that a developer would have to undertake in creating a plan for the use of the space, and getting the city and public on board. This is the last space in the core of the central business district with a river view.
Two weeks ago, a public meeting was held in the council chambers. People were broken into small groups to talk with representatives from the DFI project about the public’s concerns. It seemed to be an odd set-up. A conceptual drawing was presented, and everyone was told to ignore the drawing because it wasn’t finalized.
But, what would you like?
I think what we are seeing here is the city having learned its lesson from the convention center: Keeping the public busy arguing about a design that isn’t even a design yet will distract people from asking the bigger questions: Where is the money for this public/private partnership coming from? Why would we be subsidizing a developer to make money on the best piece of available commercial property right now?
Nope, instead keep them arguing about a design they will have no control over, which will distract them from things they need to worry about. It is not an unusual tactic. I have served on several non-profit and citizens’ advisory boards, and that is a tactic I saw employed frequently.
I hate to sound so jaded about this, but the survey DFI posted on the city’s website about this building project was so skewed toward giving them an answer they liked that the manipulation would have been obvious to a sixth grader. According to the city’s website, “Council is expected to take action on this issue at their May 6th meeting.”
Please, contact your council members beforehand and ask them some real questions about how this public/private partnership is supposed to work, and why we are in such a rush to give this property to a developer. Very quietly it has been mentioned that a municipal service district would be part of this. If you are unfamiliar, that would be a specific tax levied only on the central business district. In the interest of full disclosure, as a potential taxee, I have to say I’m not thrilled at the idea of getting to finance a developer to make money off this parcel.
That’s just a smattering of concerns in our area form one week. That doesn’t include our ongoing struggles with violence, educational failings, and homelessness—just to name a few more. Really, when you’re in the middle of something, it can be hard to pull-back and get any perspective. Much like the “If you aren’t angry then you aren’t paying attention!” bumper stickers suggest, it feels like there is so much injustice in the world. Part of my Live Local journey has been trying to develop some sort of balance between constant outrage and oblivion. The first came as a result of people literally dying for our cheaply priced consumer electronics and other goods—the other from shutting out all the information available to concentrate on the distractions offered by pop-culture.
Instead of finding myself constantly wrapped up in a blanket of fury—because it constantly feels like there is something new to be enraged by in North Carolina these days—I try to create actionable moments when I reach out to the decision-makers in an attempt to float my concerns as a constituent. Yes, I know I am usually ignored, but at least I attempted to participate in the process, instead of idly sitting by as a guilty observer.
We can’t fix every problem, but we can at least make our voices heard. Please, find your own voice and activate it!
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