Mike Easley is a puzzlement to me. He seems to not much like the business of governing very much, and he enjoys politicking even less. One one hand, he came out stronger than anyone against the Site C OLF, and on the other hand, he seems oblivious to the state's miserable record of capital punishment. It's hard to know what motivates him, and I always find myself surprised by his actions.
Which is the exact response I have to his plan to develop a state office building on an incredibly valuable tract of land in Raleigh. The story's all over the tubes, and it's not attracting much support from leaders in his own party - as well it shouldn't.
Some of Gov. Mike Easley's fellow Democrats aren't supporting his proposal to build an office complex on the campus of a state mental hospital.
State legislators and civic leaders have been talking for more than a year about the future of the 306-acre campus of Dorothea Dix hospital, with many wanting to preserve it for a park. Dix, a 150-year-old state psychiatric hospital just southwest of downtown Raleigh, is set to close next year.
Senate President Pro Tem Marc Basnight believes preserving the site for a park would make it akin to what Central Park is to New York City.
"Raleigh will grow all around that, and there will be a city from here to Charlotte," said Basnight, D-Dare. "There will be no break but for the public lands we acquire today. ... So if you take 25 acres away, I don't see the value in that. I think you could put that building somewhere else."
Basnight is right on the money in resisting Easley's scheme. Especially when the primary justification is to consolidate thousands of employees into a single location.
Under Easley's plan, the department's 3,460 employees would be placed in a pair of five-story office buildings totaling 771,200 square feet. The buildings would also require an accompanying parking deck. "We think it's the best strategy to consolidate all those DHHS people into one place on property we already own," said Dan Gerlach, Easley's budget and economic adviser. "It gets us out of a lot of rental payments. It keeps people from having to drive around place to place, from different division to different division."
These guys need to wake up to the 21st century, because if the main motivation is to keep people from having to drive from place to place, well, I say tough doodoo.
I've worked from my home in Chapel Hill for five years. I have approximately 20 clients who are distributed around the country and the world. My team of colleagues, who work in five different cities, see each other in person maybe once a year.
An operating model that depends on administrative people being physically in the same place is . . . how should I say this . . . just a few notches short of totally insane. Get over it, Gov. Step into the 21st century and stop thinking about housing big bureaucracies in big buildings. And even if you do find the need to consolidate some staff, do it somewhere else. Putting office buildings on land with the potential to be a crown jewel park is a dumb idea.