Raleigh, N.C. — Gov. Pat McCrory says the existing lease agreement between the state and Raleigh for the Dorothea Dix property will need to change but that all sides should be able to get what they want, including a new destination park.
The Republican stopped short of endorsing legislation at the General Assembly that would undo an agreement signed by former Gov. Bev Perdue in December that allowed the city to lease the property. But he said the deal for the property "wasn't done the right way" and needs to be adjusted.
"I think there's a way for Raleigh to get a park, a beautiful park, and I think there's also a way for the state to have a future site for a state mental hospital and state offices for Health and Human Services that are desperately needed," McCrory said.
McCrory spoke with WRAL News on Tuesday in advance of his 100th day in office, which will be this weekend. In a wide ranging interview, McCrory talked about the frustrations and challenges of his new job, dealing with the legislature, tax reform and other issues, including renewable energy.
Finding a win-win
Regarding the Dix campus, McCrory noted that, as late as October, there was a three-party deal in the works that involved the state, city and North Carolina State University, under which part of the property would have been preserved for offices and mental health treatment.
"Then, somehow between October and November, the minutes change," he said, referring to records of Raleigh City Council meetings. "As late as October, before a deal was struck a month later, there was cooperation, there was dialog, and there was sharing of a very important property for the future vision of not just Raleigh but also the future needs of Health and Human Services."
He said there needs to be a master plan that integrates "the park with Health and Human Services and with other needs of the community and the state."
Asked whether he favors a bill that would dissolve a lease between the state and city, McCrory said local and state leaders need to meet regardless of whether the bill passes.
"Whether it's done through legislation or done through the Council of State or done through legal action, the results are probably going to have to be the same," he said, adding that the pending legislation had a very good chance of passing. "I'd prefer not to work through litigation. I'd prefer to work through partnership."
Referring again to the plan that involved N.C. State, McCrory said, "There were three groups sharing the property, and the land-print of the park was much smaller – still huge but much smaller than what they're now saying they have to have."
Stepping into leadership
McCrory said that he had to deal with "basic breakdowns" in state government when he first took office. He spoke particularly about having trouble figuring out last-minute budget moves made by Perdue and getting rid of old Democratic appointees.
"People were transferred out of the executive branch to other departments the month before I arrived. It took time to find who these people were and deal with them," he said.
McCrory said that he is trying to keep his early administration focused on three basic items: the economy, education or efficiency.
"On some of the peripheral issues, I either let other people lead, or I may ignore the peripheral issues that take our attention off of those things the people are most interested in us fixing and why we came here," he said.
He said recent announcement regarding the budget, remaking Medicaid and reorganizing the Commerce Department reflect those priorities.
"We'll have more to come in transportation, and several other departments in the very near future," he said.