Raleigh, N.C. — As Raleigh officials negotiate with the Governor's Office to acquire the campus of Dorothea Dix Hospital for a 325-acre "destination park," a conservative group is calling people statewide to build opposition to the plan.
Under a proposed deal that the Council of State is scheduled to discuss next Tuesday, the state would lease all the Dix property to Raleigh, which would then lease back a portion of the property to the state as needed for Department of Health and Human Services offices.
"At this point in time, I can't absolutely say it'll go or that I'll have the votes," Gov. Beverly Perdue said Thursday, noting details of a deal aren't finalized.
Americans for Prosperity says the deal doesn't make sense for state taxpayers and that it primarily benefits those living in Raleigh and Wake County. The group began a "robo-call" campaign Thursday, encouraging people from other parts of the state to lobby officials to scotch the deal.
“This is a billion-dollar giveaway of taxpayer resources to Raleigh elites for another state taxpayer-funded cultural amenity," Dallas Woodhouse, AFP state director said in a statement, noting that state money already supports museums, parks and the North Carolina Symphony in Raleigh.
"Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton needs to explain how, in essence, giving away a valuable state property to one city benefits taxpayers in his native Rutherford County," Woodhouse said. "Auditor (Beth) Wood and Treasurer (Janet) Cowell, who are elected to protect all taxpayers, need to explain why this is a good deal."
Democratic Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin and Republican Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry both said they want to study the Dix issue before any Council of State vote to ensure the state gets a good deal.
Documents obtained by WRAL News show that Perdue and her staff have been working on a deal for months and that they have discussed both an outright sale to the city as well as an arrangement under which North Carolina State University would own and manage the property.
Plans for the Dix property, which was established as the state mental hospital in the mid-19th century, have been developed in concert with plans to consolidate DHHS offices.
The agency is spread over 60 buildings throughout Wake County, including many on the Dix campus. Kevin McLaughlin, Perdue's deputy chief of staff, said the governor wants to consolidate DHHS into four or five buildings somewhere away from the Dix campus.
Lawmakers have been skeptical of Perdue's effort to consolidate those agencies and have openly questioned why she has pushed plans to move them to a new location rather than building on the Dix campus.
Some Republican legislative leaders say the Democratic governor is trying to create a legacy for herself with the deal, and they want a vote delayed until after Republican Gov.-elect Pat McCrory takes office next month, which also would give lawmakers a chance to review the plan.
Perdue took exception to that idea, saying negotiations aren't being rushed and shouldn't be a partisan debate.
"I've never known politics in this state or public service in this state to be this acidic, and I find it sad for the people of North Carolina, who expect more from their leaders, and I expect more," she said. "I wonder sometimes if maybe somebody's trying out for the Grinch in the Christmas play."