Publisher's note: Brant Clifton weighs into the Dorothea Dix controversy in his "bare knuckles" Conservative online publication known as The Daily Haymaker.
Democrats' last minute sweetheart deal to hand over Dix hospital property to the city of Raleigh is collapsing, and boys are those lefties upset. The political party that equates capitalism with the work of the devil is piously lecturing us all on the "sanctity" of business contracts.
Legislative Republicans are trying to repeal the lease deal ol' Bev and her cronies on The Council of State pushed through in the waning days of the Dumplin' Era. The City of Raleigh would pay the state $500,000 per year for 75 years to turn the property into a "destination park." Republicans protested, suggesting that -- instead of working a sweetheart deal with another government entity -- the property be put up for sale out there on the open market.
Legislation to void the lease and put the property up for sale is sailing through Jones Street. But Democrats are not planning to let the deal go down without a fight:
Sen. Josh Stein, a Raleigh Democrat, estimates that the "fair market value" lease Republicans are seeking would generate $1.5 million a year more than Raleigh's current lease.
I'd like to take this opportunity to introduce the good senator -- and #2 Dem in the state senate -- to a little concept called the time value of money. Sixty-eight million dollars paid out NOW is worth a lot more than $68 million collected over a 75-year period. Also, one government entity striking a deal with another government entity is nothing more than shifting around tax dollars. Robbing Peter to pay Paul , or robbing the people of The City of Raleigh to pay the State of North Carolina. Selling a state asset to a private enterprise is a lot more constructive than putting one government entity in debt to pay off the debts of another government entity. MORE:
He points out that the GOP rejected the expansion of Medicaid, a move intended to send a message to the federal government that North Carolina leaders want no part of President Barack Obama's health care law.
With that vote, Stein says his colleagues effectively gave up $1 billion in mental health funding over the next two years.
"This is petty partisan politics," Stein said. "They need a pretext to blow up a lease they didn't like."
Um, Josh. The FEDS have NOOOOOOOO money. They are BROKE to the tune of nearly $17 trillion. They also get their money from the same place you and your colleagues get yours: FROM US.
If this was such a great deal, why was it rushed through the Democrat dominated Council of State at the end of The Dumplin' Era? Shouldn't there have at least been some public hearings on this matter?
Carolina Journal's Rick Henderson has a great take on this kerfluffle:
Imagine the outrage among the political elite if an outgoing Republican governor leased a valuable state asset for pennies on the dollar to a city that planned to reuse it for high-end housing or commercial development. That scenario is no different than what's going on with Dix.
First things first. This is not a business contract. It's an agreement between two entities of government, and Perdue conceded in December that the General Assembly or the McCrory administration could scrap the lease. Senate Bill 334 would do that.
The state's interests were not well represented by the outgoing governor. Under the lease, the city would pay the state $500,000 the first year, with payments increasing by 1.5 percent annually, generating $68 million over the 75-year term. Backers of S.B. 334 say that's below market value. But there's no way of determining "market value" because bidders will not be allowed to place offers on the land and determine its actual worth.
That $68 million price tag does seem low, however. State taxpayers would have to relocate roughly 2,000 Department of Health and Human Services employees from the Dix campus to other offices. Those offices would have to be built or leased, at additional taxpayer expense. Moreover, the agreement would violate the spirit if not the letter of the original 1850s deed establishing the Dix property "in trust for the use and the benefit of the North Carolina State Hospital for the Insane."
To be sure, state lawmakers have breached that trust before -- most notably when former Govs. Jim Hunt and Jim Martin shifted control of 800 acres of the property to N.C. State University for its Centennial Campus. And the state closed Dix Hospital last year, moving its remaining patients to the Central Regional Hospital in Butner. It also seems clear that Raleigh's movers and shakers envision much more than a "world-class destination park" for Dix Hill.
[WRAL owner Jim] Goodmon made boatloads of money developing the American Tobacco Campus in Durham, and the Dix crowd in Raleigh wants to redevelop buildings on the site to accommodate museums, offices, and cafés -- generating money for city coffers and local developers. S.B. 334 would restore a 2007 state plan for the parcel, leaving the DHHS workers in place, and leasing roughly 200 acres as a park, dedicating lease revenues for mental health services. If that's dirty politics, let's have more of it.