Moldova mission fruitful

Staff WritersSeptember 16, 2003 

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CORRECTION

An Under the Dome column in the City & State section Sept. 16 incorrectly stated how many troops Moldova would send to Iraq for peacekeeping operations. The Moldovan news agency Basapress has reported that the country committed 42 soldiers.

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A delegation of more than 40 North Carolina political leaders, doctors, educators and National Guard officials spent last week in the Eastern European nation of Moldova as part of a four-year initiative to improve the health, security and economy of the former Soviet state.

Secretary of State Elaine Marshall and former House Majority Leader Phil Baddour led the delegation, which has been providing help to Moldova since 1999. North Carolina adopted Moldova as part of a federal program to help the former Soviet states move toward stable democracies. The feds pick up most of the cost.

Marshall said the delegation dedicated five new water wells for the city of Straseni . Doctors immunized orphans against hepatitis B and performed difficult surgeries on Moldovan patients. A contingent from Southeastern Community College provided business and agricultural expertise to farmers who are making the transition from collective farming.

"We need to keep that country as healthy and as open to us and to western ideas as much as possible," Marshall said.

The assistance is paying off, Marshall said, noting that Moldova is one of the few countries providing troops to the U.S. mission in Iraq.

"They have sent 2,000 soldiers to Iraq, and every time we can get a peacekeeper from Moldova, that means an American soldier can come home," Marshall said.

Lee Act criticized

Another critical report of the Bill Lee Act tax credits is out. The Corporation For Enterprise Development, a nonprofit think tank in Washington with offices in Durham and San Francisco, calls the act a "noble failure."

The General Assembly created the tax credits in 1996 to spur economic development, especially in the state's poorer regions. In the first five years, companies have received more than $200 million in credits. But the state's own commissioned study estimates that 4 percent of the jobs created came as a result of the tax credits and that most of the credits went to companies in the wealthier parts of the state.

"The Lee Act was a great experiment," said Bill Schweke, the nonprofit's research director. "But it failed. If the program is to exist at all, it must be dramatically restructured to improve accountability and to ensure that the areas of the state and the workers who have been hardest hit by plant closings, layoffs and dislocation really benefit."

State Commerce Department officials call the credits a flawed but valuable tool, but many legislators are talking about revamping the program.

Another DOT departure

Janet D'Ignazio, the state Department of Transportation's chief planning and environmental officer, is leaving the agency for a more hands-on position at an N.C. State University research and training center.

D'Ignazio, one of the first DOT officials to argue that the state couldn't build its way out of traffic congestion, will join the Center for Transportation and the Environment. She expects to focus on training road designers and engineers to find creative solutions on projects with environmental concerns.

D'Ignazio joined the DOT in 1998, at a position at the level of a deputy director. When Lyndo Tippett became the department's secretary in 2001, he tapped Roger Sheats as deputy secretary for environment, planning and local governmental affairs, and Sheats became D'Ignazio's boss.

Her resignation, tendered Friday, is effective Oct. 17.

By staff writers Dan Kane and Vicki Hyman. Kane can be reached at 829-4861 or dkane@newsobserver.com.

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