"Your Real Motive Here, Bill, is to Stop Us"

Right now I'm listening to Jim Heavner's WCHL-sponsored "forum" on Carolina North featuring Jim Moeser, Roger Perry, Kevin Foy, Bill Strom and Michael Collins. What a bitch fest! What began as a relatively civil conversation has devolved, yet again, into a cacaphony of whines. Moeser is bragging is about how someone somewhere gave the folks from the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Center a standing ovation (deservedly, I have no doubt; FPG is something the university can be proud of); how I pray that Chancellor Moeser could channel more of the dignity and fairness and progressive attitude of Frank Porter Graham, at least on this issue. Chancellor Moeser has taken a conversation that began with the intent of talking about development at Carolina North in a direct and forward-thinking way outside conference and hearing rooms, and has spent the better part of an hour pointing the finger at the town about its process.

Roger Perry, to his credit, has been more straightforward about where he stands -- he wants to get things rolling, and even if you disagree with him, it's easier to listen to someone who stays on the subject and says what he means. Chancellor Moeser has mostly been dredging up old complaints to portray the town as the bad guys standing in the way of progress. At one point, he explicitly said that the goal of the council is to prevent the development of Carolina North in its entirety, which I understand is a commonly held belief. However, I don't believe for second that any member of the council, or the council together, thinks they can stop this project. If an elected body, or part of it, is unhappy with a project that they ultimately won't be able to stop, I don't think it's any great sin for them to be sticklers for the lawful process -- or footdragging, as the university's representatives would put it. That's life, and if that's all the university has to complain about, they don't have much to complain about.

"They're stalling me"; "They're stiff-arming me." The thing that bothers me about this radio broadcast is that there was a great opportunity for the chancellor to talk about Carolina North in a thoughtful, forward-thinking, intellectual way, to drop the generalizations and to explain in concrete terms what the project would do for the university, how it will help it to become "world-class," the adjective of the day. It was also an opportunity for the town leaders to discuss what _they_ want for this town in 20 or 70 years, and maybe we might have been able to see some common ground.

Instead, and I fault the Chancellor for this, the show became an opportunity to impute the motives of the town, which was not only a waste, but it surely doesn't help the university's cause any. Does the Chancellor really know the mind of Bill Strom, and what he wants to achieve? What point is served in dredging up the fact that Kevin Foy seconded Flicka Bateman's motion to close the airport? Doesn't he also want the airport closed? Or no? In short, I think Chancellor Moeser is fast making himself into a liability when it comes to talking about Carolina North. It's an extraordinary admission on my part, but I'm coming to the conclusion that Roger Perry is a much better representative on this subject, despite all his heavy-handed negotiating over the chiller plant last summer, which he basically apologized for today. He's a builder, and I get the sense he's got a mastery of the details of this project that Chancellor Moeser doesn't. He also seems to speak his mind more clearly.

[Much of the earlier post cut.]

I've cut much of the earlier post because it was written while I was pissed off about the wasted opportunity of the radio dialogue, and some of it wasn't well thought out. The transit issue is too complicated to dispense with in a quip. In fact, all of this is too complicated to discuss with a quip, and so I'll just keep my big mouth shut for awhile.

I will keep this one quip in, based on something the Chancellor said; it has quickly become very dear to me: "My house is not a house, strictly; it's an extension of our educational, research, service, eating and sleeping missions."

And with that, I'm off to live in Chatham County.

Bye.

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5 Comments

Seconding Ruby's point,

Seconding Ruby's point, Strom and Foy (and Hill in the second hour) did a great job representing the town's position. They did it respectfully, staying focussed on real issues like transportation, scale, phasing, and the fate of the airport (UNC acts like whether it remains there for two years or twenty makes no difference to their planning).

Duncan has done a good job capturing the tone of the university reps.

Funniest moment: Moeser, in his opening, claiming to speak for the people of North Carolina.

Best comeuppance: Mike Collins not letting Roger Perry wriggle out of acknowledging that he threatened the town with legislative action last summer. Perry replied that threatening is not the same as taking the action itself. Hmmm.

It was also interesting to observe these strong personalities roll over WCHL's planned format. Jim Heavner deserves credit for staying out of the way (with a few glaring exceptions) and for skipping the hour two commercial break.