A brief tutorial on “secret” deals and good government

A columnist for Raleigh’s News & Observer attempts to take some government watchdog groups to task today for not attacking Governor Perdue and the other members of the North Carolina Council of State for their recent approval of the decision to lease the site of the former Dorothea Dix Hospital to the City of Raleigh. According to Rick Martinez:

“The Dix deal has all the elements good-government types decry – last-minute agreements crafted with no public input, million-dollar contributions from the monied elite and elected officials mocking the spirit of transparency by voting behind closed doors. All that’s missing is the smoke-filled back room….there would be howls of protest had Gov-Elect Pat McCrory used the same process to seal a deal with the Republican-led Wake County Board of Commissioners to develop Dix into a property that returns real money to the state. Then imagine a $3 million pledge from Art Pope (who helps fund a think tank for which my wife freelances) to defray development costs.”

Good lord – where to begin with this poor, confused fellow? Let’s try the following:

#1 – The Dix deal has been negotiated, discussed and debated for years. The notion that Governor Perdue and the other members of the Council of State should somehow be barred from wrapping up the work that she and they were elected to do and had been working on while they still had several weeks to serve in office is ridiculous.

#2 – State law gives explicit authority to the Council of State to make precisely these kinds of decisions with respect to public lands. Moreover, they make such decisions all the time.

#3 –  The decision was, as my colleague Chris Fitzsimon pointed out, a “bold and visionary” one. Rather than somehow “betraying taxpayers” as Martinez and his buddies at the right-wing shock troop organization Americans for Prosperity claim, the decision protects taxpayers by maintaining the lands as state property rather than selling it off to developers.

#4 – Martinez’ contention that good government groups would be howling if a Governor McCrory had worked out some kind of deal with conservative Wake County commissioners to sell off the land to private interests in the waning days of his term makes no sense and is an apples-to-unknown fruit comparison.  There’s no way to know without more information. Is Martinez hypothesizing a situation in which the imagined decision would have been debated publicly for years? Developed by who? What would Art Pope’s imagined contribution be going toward?

#5 – If Martinez really cared about open government, he’d be railing about his buddies over in the General Assembly (who just last week, in keeping with their well-established practice, advanced a secretly-negotiated/lobbyist-authored broadside against our state’s unemployment insurance system and the hundreds of thousands of families it keeps out of poverty) rather than a long-debated plan to simply retain public lands for the public good.      




  1. Frank Burns

    December 12, 2012 at 9:53 am

    The Dix Deal has been debated outside of the public eyes and therefore it was not publically vetted. The public needs to be assured that this is a good deal for the state. We have no proof that it is nothing but a good deal for the City of Raleigh. The City of Raleigh needs to pay the going market rate for the property, not one dime less.

    The author is correct in pointing out the hypocrisy from the Advocacy Groups.

    Does anybody else think it odd that Mrs Easley got such a generous pension for doing nothing? Does anybody care? Would they care if it was the wife of a Republican Governor?

  2. James Protzman

    December 12, 2012 at 10:01 am

    If it weren’t for Rick Martinez, I’d probably still be reading the News and Observer. Every time his name is mentioned, II feel the need to throw up.

    I invite all Progressive Pulse readers to do two things.

    1. Write the N&O and tell them you will no longer subscribe to their paper as long as Martinez is a columnist.

    2. Refrain from linking to anything in the News and Observer for any reason. Find other sources.

    Over the past decade, the N&O has become a tool of Art Pope’s multi-million dollar opinion manufacturing machine. Despite occasional editorial positions that seem thoughtful and balanced, the news organization treats the Show as their go-to source for “expert” opinion.

    By my calculation, members of the Show garner coverage in the N&O at just over five times the rate of all progressive organizations combined. The game is rigged. It’s time to stop playing.

  3. Frank Burns

    December 12, 2012 at 10:13 am

    I understand James’ concern. He only wants writers who preach to the leftwing choir. Any dissenting views shall not be tolerated.

  4. James Protzman

    December 12, 2012 at 10:15 am

    (comment deleted)

  5. Dallas H Woodhouse

    December 12, 2012 at 2:17 pm

    The lease was made public just hours before the vote.

    A general conversation, with inside the Raleigh beltline folks, by inside the beltline folks, is not a public debate and you guys know it

  6. Frank Burns

    December 12, 2012 at 3:28 pm

    Here is another backroom deal from Gov “Dumplin”. “The state has agreed to give about 34 acres of prime real estate in West Raleigh to a private foundation that plans to develop much of the property to raise money for the N.C. Museum of Art”.


    This needs to be overturned due to the interests of the NC taxpayers are not the same as the City of Raleigh.

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