Perdue's Hail Mary as time runs out

Little known fact for anyone interested in transparency in government or in Gov. Bev Perdue’s Hail Mary pass for a touchdown, as she leaves office: leasing Dix Hill for a park. I have been doing some research and calling usually well-informed sources about a section of a story that appeared in the N&O on Dec. 3rd.

It told of another plan for the use of the Dix Campus that would actually have benefited those with mental illness. (You know--those folks for whom the Dix Hill was created in the first place?) But I came up empty in finding out the whole story.

Matt Garfield wrote the story referencing NCSU's plans, and he brought up a plan that would have created a Mental Health Think Tank as well as a park and a Center to promote entrepreneurship. Sounded good to me. Unfortunately, it was not reported in the media until after the plans were cancelled at the last minute.

Here’s an excerpt from the N&O story:

“The sweeping plan involved the state giving the property to the university at no cost to establish a park, mental health think tank and an ‘innovation village’ to promote entrepreneurship on the grounds.
The arrangement required the establishment of a separate corporate entity, spun off the NCSU endowment and an independent board of directors in conjunction with the city.

The deal got so close that Perdue aides set an announcement date for Oct. 25 and a Council of State vote for Nov. 1.

The university saw a stake in the plan, given the property’s proximity to its Centennial Campus. But as the plan neared its final negotiations, the university backed out.

‘The university felt the benefits to N.C. State were not clear and the potential financial risks were too great,’ spokesman Fred Hartman said in a statement. The university declined to discuss the deal in further detail…” (emphasis added)

Now, usually when the folks at the N&O get a “no comment” on an important issue, they have their attorneys file a public records request. They do so fairly frequently. There has not been any mention of that in the case of the Dix Hill transaction. So, I have taken it upon myself to ask why NC State University pulled out.

Could it be that the pesky environmental hazards (that John Odom mentioned in his vote at Raleigh City Council) scared NCSU officials away from a deal? If not that, what?

So, I sent friendly information requests to the media office at NC State and to the Deputy Media Director for Gov. Perdue, Chris Mackie. Two days later and still no response at all from NCSU.

However, Chris Mackey replied to my second email request for public information with, “I received your message.” No substantive answer, and this riled me up enough to post this to Blue NC. I have a friend who is an attorney and has offered help with a formal public records request.

If you too would like to know about the Dix Hill plan by NCSU, contact Fred Hartman (fred_hartman@ncsu.edu) or Cliff Williams at NCSU (clifton_williams@ncsu.edu).

Stay tuned. Definitely will be posting more in the future.

Comments

The hand of Art Pope?

Pope has his claws deeply planted at NC State. Their interest in doing good things for mental health would almost certainly run afoul of his plans for Dix to become part of his Free-Market Freakshow. Maybe he called off the Wolves to clear the path for Berger's buddies to bulldoze the place ... then got caught napping when Perdue threw the long pass.

Of course, there are many other sources of potential pressure that would have shut down the NC State plan.

Given the original intent of the Dix property ... and the possibility that NC State WAS going follow that intent ... I see many, many lawsuits on the road ahead.

Martha

Thanks for posting this background information in full public view.

If you're willing, please post copies of other communications, correspondence, etc., so that people here can learn more about what it takes to pursue the truth against forces that prefer to remain in the shadows.

Official public records request to NC State University 12-12-12

Official Public Records Request
To: NC State University
attn.: Cliff Williams, Records officer and Counsel
Via email 12/12/12

Mr. Williams:

Since I have yet to receive a response to my calls and emails to you at the University, I hereby make a request for records related to the plans for expansion of the NC State Campus to include the 306 acre parcel known as Dix Hill and now leased to the City of Raleigh for conversion to a public park. The period of time I am interested in begins on September 4, 2012 and ends at today’s date.

Please provide any emails or electronically filed documents related to the plan for NCSU to create a Mental Health Think Tank and an “Innovation Village” using land and/or buildings associated with the former Dix Hospital campus. Please do a search for the following topics in providing these documents: Dix property, Dix Park, Mental Health Think Tank, Innovation Village, Action Plan Dix Campus, or “Dix.”

Please search the emails and documents on the topics listed for the following officers or staff of the University and the University System:

NCSU Officers: Chancellor Randy Woodson, Provost Warwick Arden, Vice-Chancellor and Counsel Eileen S. Goldgeier, Assoc. Gen. Counsel Brent McConkey, Deputy General Counsel Michael Poterata, and Assistant General Counsel Shawn Troxler.

Faculty and Staff: Chair of the Faculty Hans Kellner, Real Estate Program Mgr. Bill Martin, Real Estate Project Mgr. Robert Mattos, Jr., and Director of Real Estate Robert Recchie; Assoc. Vice-Chancellor Kevin McNaughton, and Director of Design & Construction Services, Andrew Snead.

NCSU Board of Trustees: Cameron Carswell, Fred Eshelman, Burley Mitchell, and David Young.

UNC Board of Governors: Barbara Mulkey, E. Norris Tolson, Jack Cozart, and James W. “Jim” Owens.

Also, search any correspondence or email sent from the above referenced officials to Gov. Beverly Perdue, the NC Dept. of Administration, Governor’s Deputy Chief of Staff Kevin McLaughlin, the NC Dept. of Health & Human Services; Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane; Director, Raleigh Parks and Recreation Dept.; or any member of the Raleigh City Council.

Also, search any correspondence directed to members of the NC Council of State regarding a transfer, sale, or lease of the Dix Campus. This would include emails to or from Auditor Beth Wood, Treasurer Janet Cowell, Secretary of State Elaine Marshall, and Lt. Governor Walter Dalton.

Please advise any cost to reproduce records and provide an estimated date by which this information can be researched and made available to me. I trust you will make every effort to comply with this records request in a timely fashion. You may contact me by email at mbrockn49@gmail.com or by calling me at 919-651-0480.

Martha Brock

Excellent

Please keep us posted on the outcomes of this request. I'm guessing they'll be shifting into "delay and obfuscate" with a vengeance.

Sunshine Center at Elon University

I suggest that anyone who is not familiar with the public records and open meetings laws check out the Sunshine Center at Elon University. The Center sponsors Sunshine Day each year to promote openness and transparency in North Carolina's state and local governments.

Please note: you do not have to be a professional journalist or an attorney to do a public records request. By state statute anyone can make a request, and charges are only incurred for cost to copy hard documents. Electronic documents or emails are supposed to be provided without any labor costs to the recipient making the request.

However, the hard reality is that, as James suggested, more often than not, bureaucrats will try to "delay and obfuscate." I have been told from folks at Disability Rights NC of cases where it takes 90 days or more to get simple requests acted on.

The Statute on public records needs to be amended to make it so that a reasonable time frame is explicitly defined and to not allow government officials to decide for themselves what is "a reasonable time" to respond to requests.

Martha Brock

Thank you for posting this

I've got this bookmarked!

Update: Peeking behind the curtain on NCSU Dix plan

UPDATE:

Cliff Williams, an attorney and the Records Officer at NCSU, has acknowledged receipt of my official public records request, and he advised that it will be acted on "in the order received." He was very polite.

Christine Mackey, Media Director for the Governor, sent an email this afternoon saying her office ran a search and could not provide any information on the Governor's connection with NCSU's plans for Dix. Again, very polite. But, I responded with another request.

Also, Laura Leslie of WRAL advises she "broke the story" on the plans for NCSU to collaborate for future uses of the property at Dix Hill--before it was killed. True, but credit still goes to N&O for telling what was in the plan. I can find no mention of a Mental Health Think Tank or other such info at WRAL.com.
,
This is important to me, personally, because as an advocate, I could have gotten on board the Dix Park bandwagon, if I had known of a plan that at least gave a nod to the Dix Hill legacy via the inclusion of a Mental Health Think Tank.

My question focuses on WHY NCSU backed out. Neither the N&O or WRAL have answered that question. I plan to stick it out until I know the complete answer to exactly what was proposed and by whom, and why negotiations between the Governor and NCSU officials broke down.

Martha Brock

Sure looks like you're getting stonewalled on both fronts

Maybe Governor Pope will want to get to the bottom of things. He said some interesting things in his press conference today, but until I see some action, I'll write it off as nothing but happy talk.

With apologies to Laura Leslie re Dix Deal(s)

From: "Leslie, Laura"
To: Martha Brock
Sent: Thursday, December 13, 2012 7:15 PM
Subject: RE: NCSU Action Plan for Dix, 2012--update on requests

Our story on it ran October 16th, which was before the Dix deal fell apart. http://www.wral.com/ncsu-might-play-role-in-dix-campus-future/11665138/ - weeks before the N&O's story on it.

That story came out before the NCSU/Dix deal even fell through, according to emails we obtained via a public record request and publicized Nov 26th: http://www.wral.com/deal-to-turn-dix-campus-into-park-close/11813979/ - again, a day before anyone else had it.

Incidentally, we made all those public records available online:
http://www.wral.com/news/state/nccapitol/document/11814519/

So, yes, we did break the story - no air quotes needed, thanks...

-----------------------

I did not intend to slight Laura or WRAL. So here's the link to a document I was seeking, and my thanks to Laura Leslie for sharing her work. It will make my job easier. Please follow the above WRAL link to the document and read the long and detailed proposal for the Dix Campus Proposal from NCSU/ It died on Oct. 25th, as best I can tell.

I think there is a problem with communicating, because there are two Dix timelines. One for NCSU's Action Plan, which is what I have been working on. The other is for the Dix Visionaries' plan, which was adopted on Dec. 4th. I did not see the documents Laura links to until after the NCSU plans fell through.

Martha Brock

Laura et al.

I don't claim to have any inside knowledge about Laura or any of the other journalists who cover Raleigh. All I know is what I read. And what I read suggests that Laura Leslie and Mark Binker are two of the most diligent, honest, and professional journalists in the state. It was a real coup for WRAL to land both of them ... and the quality of their work speaks for itself.

Regarding Binker, I got off on the wrong foot with him early on ... back when he was the Big Cheese of the Capital Press Corps ... and, from my view, not very friendly toward bloggers. In retrospect, my view was wrong. Mark has proven himself to be in a class by himself when it comes to navigating social media and the blogosphere.

I often use the term "Capital Press Corpse" in commenting about balls dropped and skids greased in news coverage related to state politics. I probably should stop.

Maybe I'll make that a resolution for the year ahead.

Did McCrory Flip-Flop on Dix?

From Gary Pearce on the blog Talking about politics:

Was Governor-elect McCrory for Governor Perdue’s Dix plan before he was against it? A well-wired TAPster says yes.

The source – whom I’ve always found to be reliable and knowledgeable – said Governor Perdue ran her plan by McCrory and Art Pope before announcing it. She thought she had their support.

This issue was the subject of the first question asked of McCrory in the press conference yesterday. He responded by saying Gov. Perdue is the governor and had the right to move ahead on Dix lease. He did not support Sen. Pro-Tem Berger's plan to try to reverse her actions.

Also, note the reference to Perdue running her plan by Art Pope. How weird is that?

Martha Brock

Governor Pope

has every right to hear everything that Pat McCrory hears. He paid millions in his daddy's hard-earned money for that special privilege.