Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 5, 2007

No ‘right to know’ about
ongoing negotiations
On June 11, in response to the premature disclosure of the “wind tunnel” project and its possible loss, Commissioner Jim Sides responded, complaining about the “whimpering,” presumably by those working to bring new businesses to Rowan County. Subsequently both he and Commissioner Tina Hall claimed that, since the EDC is a public agency, the public has “a right to know,” presumably about all on-going negotiations.
This is simply not true. There is no such right. The North Carolina General Statutes are clear on the subject, excluding ongoing negotiations from the Open Meetings Act. Chapter 143-318.11 (4) Closed Sessions covers this issue, providing “A public body may hold a closed session and exclude the public only when a closed session is required:
“To discuss matters relating to the location or expansion of industries or other businesses in the area served by the public body, including agreement on a tentative list of economic development incentives that may be offered by the public body in negotiations. The action approving the signing of an economic development contract or commitment, or the action authorizing the payment of economic development expenditures, shall be taken in an open session.”
County Commissioners know or should know that these negotiations are confidential and must be treated that way. If they don’t intend to honor that confidentiality then they should recuse themselves. If they choose to accept confidential information and then pass it on to the Post, no businesses will want to even talk with Rowan County, no matter how big the incentives are. If we want companies to locate here in Rowan County then our commissioners and others have to “walk the walk,” not just “talk the talk” and keep their word when they are given confidential information.
ó John P. Burke
A patriotic gift
Reading the editorial page on July Fourth made me more proud of my country than any patriotic flag ceremony, fireworks display, pledge of allegiance, or even a concert(!). I love the ideals with which our country was formed, that each individual is equally valuable to our country and that everyone has the right to seek happiness as each of them sees fit ó without hurting others, of course. To be reminded that as a group of people we have not been entirely true to those words was simultaneously so saddening and rewarding ó saddening because the goal is so great and we must try to live up to it, and rewarding because our government insists we should be able to hear and say that we are not living up to our goals.
Just as the slaves of Frederick Douglass’ time questioned the intent of this government, so too must members of the Cherokee nation on the Trail of Tears, the members of other tribes whose lands were taken and the Chinese imigrants working on the railroad. So today must American Muslims who may be eyed with suspicion at every move, Hispanics who are suspected of being illegally in the country, atheists who fear to speak their mind because of possible repercussions, and gay men and women trying to support our country in the military or simply trying to live together in peace ó so today must these individuals wonder whether the founding fathers’ goals will ever be met. Each deserves equal rights under the law.
This goal of equal rights can only be reached when each individual learns to look past the differences of others to see the worth in all. The Salisbury Post reminded me of that on the Fourth of July and that was a wonderful gift for the day!
ó David Hagy