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Insights and Observations

Henry's Highlights
Wednesday, January 24, 2007

By Henry Hinton

Final gauntlet begins for dental school

By Henry Hinton
All rights reserved.

6:30-9:00 a.m.

Tune in on the radio or catch the live Internet feed of today's Talk of the Town with Henry Hinton. Today's guest between 7:30- 8:00 a.m. will be Hollywood actress and ECU alum Beth Grant:

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Catch the replays of previous Talk of the Town programs, including Tuesday's show with guests Larry Spell and Tony Moore:

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The North Carolina General Assembly convenes for the 2007 session in Raleigh today. You know the old saying: “Hold onto your wallet!” Or in the case of East Carolina University, let the lobbying and second-guessing begin.

Judgment day for the new ECU School of Dentistry is here. Chancellor Steve Ballard and Dr. Michael Lewis have now turned over their request for funding for this, their top priority, to the legislators who now have to debate its merits.

Aiding in the lobbying efforts is Dr. Greg Chadwick, former president of the American Dental Association, who has been hired as a consultant to the university. Many other Greenville dentists and business people, including Dr. Jaspar Lewis, have aided the efforts in Raleigh.

On the surface, it seems the group has successfully made the case for the new dental school. Statistics show that better access to dental care is a huge need for the whole state, particularly east of Raleigh.

Until last week, most political pundits in Raleigh were using terms such as “done deal” when speaking of the new ECU school. As is oftentimes the case in politics, all of that is subject to change.

Word is that Governor Mike Easley has newfound concerns about the price tag attached to the dental school along with the additional requested funding from the dentistry school at UNC-Chapel Hill. As such, it may not be in the first draft of his budget which will be sent to the House of Representatives in the next few weeks.

Wisely, the funding request for ECU is attached to a request for expansion and additional funding in Chapel Hill. No surprise and good strategy for ECU.

Additionally, if all goes according to script, a new Speaker of the House will be elected today in the first order of business after the opening ceremony. It will be somewhat anti-climactic since the Democratic Party caucus has already chosen Chapel Hill lawyer Joe Hackney as its choice to lead the House. Hackney should easily slide through to replace the embattled Jim Black in that role for the next two years.

Speaker Hackney will, no doubt, play a key role in the dental debate. Black had repeatedly spoken in favor of the ECU initiative, and some of the eastern legislators, including Pitt County’s Marian McLawhorn and Edith Warren, along with Arthur Williams of Washington have had the former speaker’s ear on this all along.

Now McLawhorn and others who have been powerful inside the House chamber will have to wait for their committee assignments from Hackney before they know the level of their pull with their fellow legislators.

On the other side of the building, expect President Pro Tempore Marc Basnight to continue to be a strong advocate of the dental school proposal in the Senate. He has repeatedly stated his support, including in his commencement speech last year at ECU.

Basnight has long supported university initiatives in Chapel Hill and he was instrumental in the funding of the heart center in Greenville two years ago, although it took an extra year to get it through the entire General Assembly.

Hackney’s long connections to UNC-Chapel Hill and his Chapel Hill address should mean good things for this initiative. Once again, connecting the fortunes of the ECU school with the added funding for the existing school in Chapel Hill was a good strategy by Ballard.

In fact, John Hood of Raleigh’s John Locke Foundation, one of the state’s top political watchdog groups said this week, “Hackney and Basnight are very different politicians and have very different styles but one thing they share and one thing you can look for is for The University of North Carolina to get whatever it wants.”

If Easley does indeed leave the dental school out of his budget as has been rumored in Raleigh this week, it will be a curious twist for a governor from the eastern part of the state who has long claimed to understand the economic plight of those living east of I-95.

However, at the end of the day, or in this case the end of the legislative session, the Governor does not have a vote. It is the legislators who take their oath in Raleigh today who will ultimately have to decide.

ECU represented at the Oscars

For the second time, former ECU student Beth Grant is one of the stars of a movie which has been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture. Grant has a large role in Little Miss Sunshine, one of five films announced yesterday as nominees for the highest Oscar a picture can receive.

Grant's filmography also includes and appearance with Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man, which won the 1988 Best Picture Oscar.

One of the busiest actors in Hollywood, Grant appears regularly in feature films and television shows. In recent months, she has appeared in the CBS programs Jericho and CSI. She also had a comedic role in NBC’s My Name is Earl.

Grant has worked with the biggest names in the business in movies such as A Time to Kill, Speed, Matchstick Men, Flags of our Fathers and Sordid Lives, just to name a few.

Beth Grant got her acting start at East Carolina University and credits former university theater director Edgar Loesinne for helping her get her successful career started.

A few years ago, Grant did a local premier of The Rookie, a baseball movie in which she starred with Dennis Quaid. The premier was held in Greenville as a fundraiser for Coach Keith LeClair’s family fund.

Reached at her home in California on Tuesday after the announcement, Grant says she is looking forward to the ECU baseball team’s upcoming series at UCLA, where she will attend at least one of the games with her avid Pirate fan brother Bubba Grant, who resides in Raleigh.

On Feb. 25, the ECU Pirates will be well represented as Beth Grant’s movie Little Miss Sunshine has a shot at the big Oscar prize.

Beth Grant will appear on Talk 1070’s Talk of the Town program this morning between 7:30-8:00 am. You can listen live on the radio or via the WNCT-AM 1070 Live Stream Page. The Windows Media archive of the show will also be available on the Talk 1070 Archives Page.

Send an e-mail message to Henry Hinton.

Click here to dig into Henry Hinton's archives.

This page updated 04/21/08 07:06 PM.

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