Former Gov. Beverly Perdue has been out of office for more than two years now, but some Republican lawmakers appear to be, still, stubbornly trying to repudiate her out of little more than partisan spite.
Perdue was the one who originally agreed to a deal wherein the city of Raleigh would take possession of the former Dorothea Dix hospital property, 308 acres near downtown, with a healthy payment to the state. But upon taking power in the General Assembly, Republicans undid the deal, arguing the state wasn’t getting its money’s worth.
Then Gov. Pat McCrory moved in, extending the negotiations, and ultimately reaching a deal that was acceptable for both parties: the city would pay $52 million for the property, and lease space for the Department of Health and Human Services, which now has offices there, for up to 25 years.
Done and done. All that remained was approval by the Council of State, which has to pass on such property transactions.
But now three GOP senators want to nix the deal, just like that, and put the property up for sale to the highest bidder. It’s a preposterous step back from a hard-won, long-negotiated settlement. And there’s virtually no justification for it, other than the weak and petty contention of Tommy Tucker of Waxhaw, one of the Senate sponsors of the bill to kill the deal.
He says he thinks the property is worth more than Raleigh is paying. Period.
This is a repudiation of Gov. McCrory, as well as a continued vendetta against Perdue. It shows a complete lack of respect for McCrory’s office, for his authority and for, as Wake County Democratic Sen. Josh Stein says, a “valid contract” between the state and the city.
This action also completely ignores the fact that the sale isn’t just about money, though there’s a good bit of money for the state in it, money that would go toward mental health services, which are in woefully short supply.
This park, which would offer a unique vista of downtown Raleigh, would serve all the citizens of North Carolina, not just the Capital City. The tens of thousands of visitors from all over the state who annually visit museums, government offices, etc., would benefit from a Dix park. The land would in effect be a Central Park for the state.
If these types of things were all, and only, about money, New York City would long ago have paved over Central Park to make way for more skyscrapers. But that would be viewed as utterly ridiculous and irresponsible.
Raleigh’s price is based on several appraisals, and is fair. It’s that simple. There is no mystery behind the motivation of these senators. They want to continue the partisan payback against Democrats, in particular Perdue, whom they despised. And they could care less about any benefit going to Raleigh as the state’s Capital City.
This is petty. It is unwise. It may well be financially imprudent. And it’s quite possible that in seeking to upend a “valid contract,” the senators also are asking the state to do something illegal. That would likely lead to endless and expensive confrontation in the courts, running up an even higher tab for taxpayers who’ve already funded useless fights over an anti-gay marriage amendment, for just one example.
These Republicans also are denying themselves, their party and their governor the chance to claim a positive achievement, after several years of mostly negative actions to dismantle agencies, cut regulation and slash-and-burn programs to help North Carolinians. They can take the credit for the park that will emerge from the Dix deal. They can accept the gratitude of North Carolinians who will enjoy such a park for generations.
Why some of them want to deny themselves that credit and deny their fellow citizens something wonderful, remains a mystery. Sort of.