With much fanfare just before she left office Governor Perdue announced she’d made a grand deal to lease Raleigh all of the land at Dix Hospital for 99 years. When the deal landed in the newspapers, a friend, who’s spent a good part of his life buying and selling real estate, called, laughed and said, 325 acres of land in downtown Raleigh is worth a lot more than $500,000 a year. Then he added, How on earth do you reckon they got around the requirement the state has to get competitive bids when it sells land?
There was much celebrating in Raleigh – about the only person who had a discouraging word to say was Senate Leader Phil Berger who allowed Perdue’s deal just didn’t pass the smell test.
For the next three months peace reigned then with its usual delicacy the State Senate charged out of its corner swinging – it was like a blitzkrieg: Boom, boom, boom – a Senator filed a bill to kill the deal, held a hearing and the bill passed.
The fur flew: A line of prominent Raleigh business leaders (who liked Perdue’s deal) proclaimed they were horrified, just horrified, the state would break its word and renege on a contract – no honorable person, they said, would do that.
Of course, being called dishonorable (by folks who’d just cut a sweetheart deal with the state) didn’t sit too well with the folks in the Senate. When business leader Jim Goodman testified at the Senate hearing he said breaking that contract was “not honorable” so many times it rubbed Senator Tom Apodaca the wrong way, so Apodaca let fly with a broadside of his own declaring he didn’t appreciate being threatened or intimidated.
Now, Jim Goodman, who owns several hundred million dollars worth of television stations, sure would intimidate me but the Senators didn’t even blink.
On paper, the Dix lease certainly looks like a sweetheart deal and John Hood over at the Locke Foundation reports the land’s worth five times more than Raleigh paid. And even the folks who like Perdue’s deal aren’t disagreeing – instead, they’re arguing it’s a fine deal because creating a 325 acre park in downtown Raleigh will be a great boost for the economy.
On the other hand, there’s also no doubt our friends over in the State Senate have a gift for bellicosity – they can crank up and get rolling faster than a panzer tank when sometimes, especially when they’re right, a little finesse might accomplish the same goal with a bit more gentility. Anyhow, now, we’ve got a brawl on our hands with Raleigh’s most prominent business leaders hollering cancelling a sweetheart deal is a rotten thing to do and it’s not a pretty spectacle.
Before it was shuttered Dorothea Dix was the state’s mental hospital – maybe they ought to reopen it for one day and hold a ‘pacification therapy’ session to calm everybody down – before the House votes.