Insights and Observations
Thursday, May 6, 2004
By Henry Hinton
Broadcaster & Owner
of Greenville Cable 7
Fates of ECU, UNC-CH plans
The countdown is on to
next week’s opening of the North Carolina General
Assembly. As the old saw goes, “Hide the women and children
because no one will be safe.” The question for ECU partisans is how safe is
the Cardiovascular Diseases Institute?
Much has been said and written about the effect this
new initiative will have as part of East Carolina’s Brody School of
Medicine. Would funding of it be equivalent to the economic thrust
Greenville felt when Leo Jenkins demanded and finally got the med school
That assessment may not be far off.
The rhetoric surrounding the university’s request
sounds eerily similar to what was being said prior to last year’s session by
local senators and representatives.
Here are some of the favorites from the General
Assembly hit parade:
“If the funding can be found, yes, it will happen.”
“The economy is turning around. If we can’t get it
done this year, we’ll definitely fund it next year.”
“Well, if we can’t give the full $60 million this
session, we’ll put in some planning money.”
To quote a high ranking administration official, “We
already have planning money. We’re ready to go. Anything short of full
funding this time will be very disappointing.”
The Joint Economic Development Committee has been
meeting behind closed doors the last two weeks in preparation for the
upcoming session which opens in Raleigh on Monday.
Goldsboro Senator John Kerr, who has attained part of
Pitt County in the recent round of redistricting is co-chairman of that
powerful committee which is made up of both Democrats and Republicans from
both chambers of the General Assembly.
To say that he has been fighting hard to find funding
for ECU on this project would be a gross understatement. With an election on
the horizon, Kerr would like to crow about this victory for his new-found
electorate. He will be facing Republican Tony Moore from Pitt County if he
wins the Democratic primary.
Moore switched from the Democratic to Republican party
recently in a snit over the redistricting.
Republican Gubernatorial Candidate Patrick Ballentine,
who just resigned his post as Senate Republican Leader to focus full time on
his campaign, was in Greenville raising money and campaigning on Tuesday.
“I am 100 per cent in support of the Cardiovascular
Center for ECU,” said Ballentine on our "Talk of the Town" program on Talk
1070 AM and Cable 7. “The funding can be found. It is a matter of
priorities. We have to make it one of the top things to be funded in this
A late check this week from the delegation representing
the surrounding area does not give the project a slam dunk thumbs up. Locals
are concerned this project may become a political football next week when
the session opens and groups from around the state have their palms up.
Interestingly, ECU has a very strong ally in this
fight. You have heard the term “strange bedfellows?” Perhaps East Carolina’s
best bet to get funding is to support UNC-Chapel Hill’s request for its new
While Chapel Hill’s request made it into the final bill
of the 2003 session, East Carolina’s evaporated into a fight about funding.
Eastern legislators sent a strong message to Chapel
Hill and its supporters by saying “not without our money, too.” The bill
died in a midnight dispute between Senate President Pro Tem Marc Basnight
and Co-Speakers of the House Richard Morgan and Jim Black.
House Whip Marian McLawhorn (D-Pitt) got the ear of
Black and convinced him to fight the Basnight bill for Chapel Hill unless
ECU got its share also.
It has been made clear to all that Chapel Hill and ECU
will either sink or swim together in this session. One hospital will not be
funded without the other. Black is even trying to get some funding thrown in
to this negotiation for the Charlotte area.
All of the above has led to the “Purple Alert”
initiative at ECU. A late check on Wednesday afternoon showed that 907
people have signed up in the last week.
According to Allen Thomas, who
put the Purple Alert program together for ECU, the goal was
to have a minimum of
10 people signed up in all 100 counties
before next week’s General Assembly gavel falls to open the 2004 session.
While response from the eastern counties has been
encouraging, Thomas feels more help is needed from Pirates in counties to
the west. Sign-ups have exceeded expectations in Pitt, Wake, Craven,
Forsyth, Mecklenburg and Guilford counties, to name a few.
More help is needed in other
counties and there is a desire from the university to have at least 1,500
signed on before the session opens on Monday.
McLawhorn intends to introduce a bill as early as the
first day in the House of Representatives, and Kerr has indicated his
committee will also bring forth a bill very early.
The time is now for ECU. The
Purple Alert website provides
information on how to contact legislators in the entire state. If you want
to weigh in on why ECU should get funding for this initiative, now is the
time. You can enlist in the effort online or by calling 252-328-9300.
Voice of the Pirates passes
The Greenville and ECU community was saddened this week
to learn of the Tuesday passing of one who played a huge role for the Pirates in the
Ken Smith, who served as the Sports Information
Director at ECU, died Monday of a heart attack. Smith also served as the
play by play voice on the Pirate Radio Network for several years.
Smith left ECU in the 80’s to go into private business.
He was a key player for North Carolina Amateur Sports, Inc. in Raleigh. That
group brought the 1987 United States Olympic Festival to the Triangle.
In recent years, Smith worked as a business broker and
lived in Fuquay-Varina.
During his tenure with the Pirates, Smith was highly
regarded by the members of the media he served. He also won the solid
respect of his associates in ECU's athletic department at a time when the
school was fighting to gain exposure and a solid foothold as a fledgling I-A
Friends remember Smith as a kind and very professional
person who represented ECU well.
Ken Smith was 55 years old. Arrangements are being
conducted by Thomas Funeral Home.
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02/23/2007 10:13:33 AM