Gov. Pat McCrory appeared at what was billed as a town hall-style meeting Tuesday night, but the president of the Wake Forest Area Chamber of Commerce said she decided to change the format because most of the questions from the audience were about hot-button issues like House Bill 2 and coal ash.
Instead, Ann Welton, president of the chamber, said she wanted McCrory to address issues important to the town during his half-hour appearance at the Wake Forest Renaissance Centre. She asked him about the economy, heath care, mental health, infrastructure and the recovery from Hurricane Matthew.
“I decided I would ask my questions to address broader topics of interest to the community,” Welton said after the event.
As for hurricane recovery, McCrory talked about his travels to survey damage in towns such as Lumberton and Princeville in Eastern North Carolina.
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“These are the main streets of some towns and cities that you’ve never heard of, but we care a great deal for them,” he said.
Encouraging attendees to donate to a state disaster fund, McCrory also reiterated his promise to call for a special General Assembly session in December to address cleanup efforts.
If we’re unsuccessful in recruiting a company, the number one reason is you can’t find the talent.
Gov. Pat McCrory
McCrory also told the crowd that North Carolina needs to invest in medical science and engineering facilities at the state’s universities. He said the state has a talent shortage in occupations such as engineering, technology, agriculture and nursing.
“If we’re unsuccessful in recruiting a company, the number one reason is you can’t find the talent,” he said.
On mental health care, McCrory said heroin and opioid addiction is a huge problem in the state. He said addiction and mental health are issues that can lead to criminal activity, but they should be handled differently than other crimes.
“To deal with addiction at a state prison is not the place to do it,” he said. “Neither is an emergency room and neither is the county jail.”
After the event, some people said they were disappointed McCrory didn’t talk about House Bill 2, which says that transgender people, at government facilities, must use the bathroom that matches the gender on their birth certificate.
In terms of coal ash, a Duke pond dumped 39,000 tons of ash into the Dan River, prompting environmental concerns.
Amy Brown said she traveled from her home in Gaston County, west of Charlotte, to attend the Wake Forest event. She had hoped to get answers to some of her questions.
I need a governor that doesn’t require chasing after.
Amy Brown, who traveled from Gaston County to attend the Wake Forest event
“I need a governor that doesn’t require chasing after,” she said.
Brian Pate and Jim Thompson, both members of the Wake Forest Board of Commissioners, said they agreed with Welton’s decision to change the event’s format.
“Eight days before the election, I don’t think people are changing their minds on those issues,” Pate said of topics like HB2.
Before the event, Reps. Graig Meyer and Darren Jackson, both Democrats, held a news conference outside the Renaissance Centre to criticize John Skvarla III, secretary of the N.C. Department of Commerce who recently said that HB2 “hasn’t moved the needle” on the state’s economy.
“While Governor McCrory is asking some people for four more years this evening, he continues to ignore these problems – problems he has created,” Meyer said.
Chris Cioffi: 919-829-4802, @ReporterCioffi