Saunders

Raleigh could be the loser

Staff WriterMay 11, 2007 

Perhaps it's true that you can't be too rich or too thin, but you can sure be too popular.

Just ask Wake County commissioners and school officials about the downside of living in a universally desired area.

They're the ones who have to deal with the influx of new residents, about 100 per day, many with towheaded crumbsnatchers behind them.

Since chambers of commerce and city leaders are schooled in the business of attracting business and residents, dissuading them from coming is not easy.

Some Wake residents seem to have hit upon a solution to school overcrowding, though.

By coming across as vocal, self-centered parents complaining that a flawed-but-workable school board solution -- year-round schools -- will deprive their children of a real summer vacation, these residents are making people in less-favored parts of the country reconsider thoughts of moving here.

The way they railed against year-round schools, you'd have thought it was Plan 9 From Outer Space.

What, are they afraid that The Beav and Wally won't have time to plow the North 40 if they don't get two or three months' continuous summer vacation?

Of course not. If anything, year-round schooling will just cut into the amount of time they get to hang out in front of the Quik-sac slurping down sodas.

Heed my warning, Raleigh-ites. If what happened in Durham -- where a group of similarly vocal, self-centered parents complained about school board decisions -- is any indication, you'll rue the day you chose obstreperousness over compromise.

The beneficiary could be Durham, as Wake no doubt was when Durham seemed to be promoting the three T's -- turmoil, trouble and tempestuousness -- not the three R's.

If Raleigh residents keep on screeching about the unfairness of little Kristen and Tristen missing summer vacation by being subjected to the cruelties of year-round schooling, they are going to unwittingly solve the overcrowding problem.

Of course, they're going to do that by making the area seem so unattractive that nobody is going to want to move here.

Reyn Bowman, head of the Durham Convention and Visitors Bureau, told me when the internecine school board fighting and the board battles with some parents made Durham County a national laughingstock, Raleigh exploited the rift. Real estate agents, he said, steered residents away from Durham by playing upon their fears of a dysfunctional school system.

Now that Durham's schools seem to be operating relatively smoothly and board meetings no longer look like outtakes from "The Jerry Springer Show," I asked Bowman if Durham should urge real estate agents to play up Wake County schools' problems.

"We're not going to play up some other area's misery," he replied. "We know Raleigh did those things, but I think Wake County Realtors are realizing that it backfired. Now, I think they're just showing houses without the editorial comment."

That didn't stop Bowman from pointing out that Durham was this week rated by "Cities Ranked & Rated" magazine as the 15th best place to live of 375 metropolitan areas.

Raleigh, he noted, ranked 63rd.

Must be the schools.

Want to tell Barry what you think? Call him at 836-2811 or e-mail him at barrys@nando.com.

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