Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Smith Series Continues...

Editor's Note:  As promised, this is the 4th edition of "The Smith Series".  The question below was proposed at the Herald/LEED PAC forum in October.  Commissioner Smith's answer to the questions will run every Wednesday and Friday until completed.

Intuitive Commentary by Lee Co's Newest Commissioner...Mr. Kirk Smith

Question # 5Education

Central Carolina Community College has led a year-long study on the need to expand the Dennis Wicker Civic Center to keep it viable and revenue-producing in the future.  The building hosts more than 100,000 users and 5,000 local hotel room stays and is booked nearly 365 days per year.  Do you see the Civic Center as a viable part of our community and would you be in favor of investing in its expansion?  Yes or no?

Answer:  You cannot answer a two part question with a simple “Yes” or “No” unless you are looking for the desired response to use in a LEED-PAC attack ad.  First, I remember this question during the Chamber of Commerce Forum.  As my answer then created a murmur amongst the guests, I understand why the question only allowed either “Yes” or “No.” 

YES, the Civic Center appears to be viable part of our community, but why has it operated at a loss?  I would be in favor of either a private investor or corporate entity (i.e. selling naming rights) or buying the Civic Center outright.  The tax payers continue to support a money losing venture because of all the various rates for the number of differing renters.  Please note that when a tax and spender wishes to spend more of your hard earned money, they always call it an “investment,” that said, NO I would not support tax payers investing in its expansion.   
Question # 6: Education

Central Carolina Community College has been an award-winning institution and is rated as among the top 25 in the country among categories such as job placement and college entrance after graduation.  As its enrollment has grown and the demand for health care jobs and other technical trades have increased, CCCC has found itself significantly out of space for its Continuing Education Program.  Would you be in favor of funding and supporting the proposed $10 million Continuing Education building on the property it already owns across the street from the existing college?  If not, what alternatives might you consider to help with the growing demand the college has?  (2 min.)

Answer: Another “gotcha” question intended to provide LEED-PAC fodder for another attack ad.  Surprisingly there has been no definitive survey of current “building use” to determine if there is a true requirement to expand facilities.  A recent article by the John Locke Foundation reports that a recent survey of North Carolina community colleges “the average classroom was used only 18.4 hours per week, or 26 percent of the standard school week.”  Remember the property purchased across the street from the existing college was another over-priced purchase incurred by the tax payers!  I would support a moratorium on any building expansion until a definitive assessment of all the county’s buildings had finished.

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