Raleigh, N.C. — Gov. Bev Perdue told reporters today that her staff was still working on a plan to lease the Dorothea Dix campus to Raleigh in order to create a regional park.
The potential deal has come in for criticism from Republican lawmakers and today, Americans for Prosperity, a conservative group, began using Robocalls to rally opposition to the plan.
"Should Nash County tax payers pay for a fancy new park in downtown Raleigh. Gov. Beverly Perdue says yes. But what does Roy Cooper think," Rep. Jeff Collins said in one of the calls targeting the state's attorney general.
Cooper, Perdue and other officials elected statewide sit on the Council of State, a 10-member group that will have the ultimate say on any deal. Reaction from members of the council has been largely noncommittal, although some have said they support the general idea of turning Dix, which until recently was home to a state mental hospital and still houses many Department of Health and Human Resources offices, into a park.
“The decision does not need to be made in haste," said Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry, a Republican and historically one of the members of the council most critical of Perdue's policy agenda.
Until today, Perdue had not talked with reporters about the deal. But after attending a building dedication ceremony in the Research Triangle Park, she said that the plan to convert Dix has been discussed for more than a year.
"I've been talking about it for three years. If this is a rush, I'd hate to see a slow job," Perdue said.
Asked if she would definitely bring the Dix plan forward to the Council of State's normally scheduled meeting next week, Perdue said nothing was for sure.
"No. There is no certain thing in politics or American society. I hope to take it to the Council of State, but at this point in time I can't absolutely say it will go of that I'll have the votes. I probably will take it even if I'm defeated."
Asked if Governor-elect Pat McCrory had signed off on the plan, Perdue was incredulous.
"I don't know where you all got that, or who got it," Perdue said. "I have not had a discussion with the governor elect about this issue."
Asked again about the timing for the deal -- Perdue's term will end on Jan. 5 -- the Democrat was uncertain.
"As far as I know, there's no written mandate as far as what day the Council of State has to meet," Perdue said. Earlier this week, her staff said that they were trying to get a deal done in time for Tuesday's meeting.
Asked if Tuesday might not be the day for a final decision on the plan, Perdue backed off a bit.
"I said I didn't think there was anything in writing that it has to be. I didn't say it wouldn't be," she said.
Pressed for what she anticipated in terms of timing and to address criticism that she was merely trying to secure a legacy for herself, Perdue said she was "sorry" that accusation had been made.
"I'm sorry that there are still leaders in North Carolina, after a really hard election cycle, that continue to be," she said, stopping herself mid sentence. "It's really hard to understand. 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. I wonder sometimes if someone is trying out for "the Grinch" in the Christmas play. But at the end of the day, we're going to move forward," she said.
So will the deal be done on Tuesday or not?
"I don't know. If I knew I would tell you," Perdue said. "I don't know when it will be."
Another reporter asked if the meeting was then, not actually set for Tuesday.
"It should be Tuesday. I think it's Tuesday. I don't know that there's been a published agenda yet. But I'm working on that this afternoon," she said. "But you can move it if you want to."