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Editorial: Political spite won’t advance Wake County needs

January 11, 2019

CBC Editorial: Friday, Jan. 11, 2019; Editorial #8379 The following is the opinion of Capitol Broadcasting Company

It is one thing when public officials, acting out of principle, take unpopular stands that benefit the public good.

But earlier this week a narrow majority of the Wake County Commission took an unpopular stand, not for lofty ideals, but merely to settle a political score. The result is a bad business decision of no benefit to anyone in Wake County.

It sacrifices much-needed public open space in a fast-growth area of a county predicted to be North Carolina’s most populous within the next three years. It is 143 acres purchased below its assessed value. It was an offer Wake County was right not to have refused. It is wrong to put the land back on the market.

To that narrow majority on the county board – and their patrons – the purchase of the park land was emblematic of what they contended was failure to address other critical needs – fully funding the Wake County School System’s budget request or providing more for affordable housing.

The commission did increase school funding by $21 million – still short of the $45.2 million requested.

But the $4 million spent to purchase the former Crooked Creek golf course represents just 0.3 percent of the county’s $1.3 billion budget and regardless, didn’t take away from schools or other needs.

While the previous commission didn’t follow the usual process in approving the land purchase, it was a good business decision since it already included trails, buildings and parking. County leaders estimate purchasing similar property and developing a park would cost more than $23 million. That’s a good deal, not a developer bail out.

More significantly, this was certainly not an either-or matter on money for schools.

This was government at its worst. It was settling a political feud at the cost of the taxpayers and the quality of life of the county. It was not a distinguished start to the new year for the commission – particularly Chair Jessica Holmes.

We’ve seen more than enough of the kind of harm that does just a few blocks away in the Legislative Building.

Selling the park isn’t getting the county’s public schools the additional $24.2 million. If county commissioners want to debate appropriate funding for schools, fine. Discuss it directly.

But don’t pretend to be taking a stand for education by denying much-needed open space.

That’s distraction, not action. Wake County deserves more from those who should know better.

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