Letters to the editor

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Urban Institute pushes own agenda

The “Think future, think schools” editorial aptly connected the dots in regard to current funding struggles involved in quality public education. The editorial also aptly focused on the need for local officials to prioritize education of our children among our top concerns as we plan for the inevitable growth in our region.

But where I depart with the editor’s opinion is the role of Charlotte’s UNCC Urban Institute. Its “Regional Growth and Open Space Survey” received responses from 230 of Rowan’s 130,000 residents, and 230 of Cabarrus County’s 150,000 residents. Its very title reveals the “open space” agenda they seek to promote.

Further questions arise with a simple reading of the Urban Institute’s Web site, which proudly displays its recent development of “advocacy journalism” seminars. At the first two seminars offered, they’ve already begun instructing regional journalists on how to shape, not merely report, on public opinion for “the social, economic, and environmental challenges facing our communities.” The institute has pre-packaged solutions for everything from air and water quality, open spaces, heritage and culture, public services, education and economic development.

Now, apparently all the institute needs is a team of journalists to market their solutions as being the larger public sentiment to which all counties in the region should adhere. It would be too easy for elected officials to accept and serve up the Urban Institute’s ready-made solutions, like TV dinners made for a man-sized hunger. But officials and citizens alike would be wise to read the Urban Institute’s Web site, and see for themselves its agenda to manipulate public opinion. That did not work in Rowan County in 2004, and a simple five-minute Web site search will confirm why it should be soundly rejected now in favor of local autonomy — not Charlotte’s tentacles of “new urbanism.”

— T. Jefferson Morris

Spencer

Rare opportunity

In 1803, Thomas Jefferson made a decision which ran contrary to his ideology and agreed to the Louisiana Purchase — more than doubling the size of the United States, insuring access to a port vital to our national interest and staving off international conflict.

The decision was anathema to his belief in state’s rights and the national government’s intervention in state and local affairs. He thought that tyranny from a strong, central government was not much different than tyranny from abroad. The United States didn’t even have the money on hand ($15 million) to make the purchase and had to borrow. There has never been a move made like that domestically before or since; and it is a perfect example of magnitude of an opportunity trumping ideology.

A little more than 200 years later, our local leaders face a similar challenge with the North Carolina Research Campus. Recently, I’ve heard of some opposition to local government’s support of the project. Some have been asking for it to be scaled back or given a lower priority. To our local leaders, I would like to make it clear that these people are a small, fringe opposition who often have other axes to grind.

I live just a few hundred yards from the Kannapolis city line here in Concord, and I’m thrilled and excited about the opportunity that the NCRC provides. I’m sure that I’m not alone in encouraging local leaders from Kannapolis, Concord and both Rowan and Cabarrus counties to do what it takes to support the NCRC and resulting businesses.

As history progresses, many of the decisions made by our current officials will be forgotten; but our local elected officials and business leaders will possibly be judged solely on the actions that they took related to the NCRC. The question will be this: Did they exhibit vision and courage by harnessing the opportunity for this and future generations by acting quickly and decisively, or did they buckle under the fear of losing votes from a tiny opposition made up of a scattered lot of myopic curmudgeons?

— Justin Thibault

Concord

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