What we think: Day stakes himself out — way out

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Cabarrus County Manager John Day has brought the wrath of Kannapolis upon himself — at least the pro-N.C. Research Campus part — by expressing his opposition to county participation in bonds for the project in rather abrasive terms — referring to it as an “absolutely astounding amount of … public subsidy.” He belittled the venture in an e-mail to a citizen by referring to it as “the Castle & Cooke office park, commonly referred to as the North Carolina Research Campus,” despite the involvement of the University of North Carolina, N.C. State, Duke University, UNC Charlotte and many others.

Office park? That’s like calling Concord Mills a convenience store and Lowe’s Motor Speedway a go-kart track.

There’s cause for skepticism regarding Castle & Cooke’s recent refiguring, more than doubling the bond proposal to $160 million, and the private meetings in which company officials broke the news to selected officials. Something is amiss here, and Day was wise to refuse to take part in such behind-the-scenes maneuvering. He appeared to be taking the professional high road.

Maybe Day is throwing himself on his sword, taking an extreme stance in order to alert his commissioners and the public to the dangers ahead. He’s not the only one to have doubts about where this is all going. But it’s troubling to see a public official — not a politician, mind you, but a county employee — take such an antagonistic stance on an issue that is up for debate. What will he do if the commissioners do agree to participate in some way? Will Day be able to perform his duties in carrying out their wishes?

Now that Day has this bit of sarcasm out of his system, everyone else needs to get back to the issue at hand: Why has Castle & Cooke more than doubled this request, and would Cabarrus County’s involvement be logical and practical? Even Kannapolis City Council members must have doubts when the figure soars to $160 million. Day’s comments are both warning flag and diversion. Castle & Cooke still owes a detailed explanation to the public — the taxpayers whose money helps make all this possible.