Local News

1997 a Mixed Year for Governor Hunt

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RALEIGH — The first year of Governor Jim Hunt's fourth term is nearing an end.While no one can argue that Hunt has had some majoraccomplishmentsthis year, there have been some speed bumps along the way, as well.

In a news release sent from the governor's office, Hunt's aidesoutline what they call a landmark year of accomplishmentsfor the governor in 1997.

While some are right on, others are a little incomplete.

Governor Hunt followed his inaugural speech by pushing for expansion ofhis early childhood initiative, "Smart Start," as well as pushingthestate Legislature to pass an Excellent Schools Act to raiseteachers' pay and standards. Both passed, but neither initiative has beenfully-funded or implemented by the General Assembly.

This fall, the governor created a commission to come up with a plan that would change the way North Carolina deals with young criminals.But, so far, the commission has not devised a plan. They plan tocall lawmakers back to deal with this issue.

Hunt signed the state's most sweeping environmental legislationinto law this year -- including a two year freeze on building hog farms,as well as tougher standardsfor what can be dumped into rivers and streams.But, there are questions about enforcement, and why so many hog farmerswere allowed to get permits just days before the freeze took effect.

Under Hunt's leadership this year, North Carolina is now one of thetoughest states in the nation when it comes to cracking down on drunkdriving.

North Carolina is also moving more people off of the welfare rolls.In fact, 45,000 families have left the dole in the past two years.Some would argue that it's a result of a strong economy, but Huntattributes it to his "Work First" plan.

The governor cites his efforts with public transportation as a strengththis year. While there is a new commission called Transit 2001, anyefforts in transportation have been overshadowed by controversy.

The North Carolina Department of Transportation has been riddled withallegations of patronage and poor management. And, the Division of MotorVehicles is bogged down in a scandal involving a former employee -- a$100,000 state payment to Algie Toomer.