We have the reach, but do we have the will?
Published September 12, 2019
By Tom Campbell
Do you remember the movie “Groundhog Day?” Every day the protagonist, Bill Murray, awakened to live the day, February 2nd, over and over again. North Carolinians might be justified feeling like we’ve lived this movie.
We are becoming known as Hurricane Alley. In 2016 we had Hurricane Matthew, a storm from which we are still trying to recover. Last year, on September 14th, it was Florence dumping thirty inches of rain, flooding our rivers, forcing boats to navigate our interstate highways and essentially turning Wilmington into an island. Less than a month later the remnants of Hurricane Michael poured more rain into an already soaked state.
With the exception of high winds and flooding on Ocracoke and tornadoes in Brunswick and Carteret Counties, North Carolina escaped major damage from Hurricane Dorian, our fourth storm in as many years. We’ve seen this movie before. NC 12, the lifeline along our Outer Banks, has once again been flooded, buckling and washing away pavement, stranding travelers and needing costly repairs.
With increasing frequency severe weather overwhelms other infrastructure, and not just in the eastern sections of our state. Bridges are washed out, dams are breached and municipal water and sewer systems are compromised. Hurricane Dorian dumped 5 inches of rain in Johnston County, causing stormwaters to leak into Selma’s wastewater collection system and dumping more than 640,000 gallons of raw sewerage into a creek that flows into the Neuse River.
These repetitive situations are fixable. There are better solutions than repairing the same roads over and over, just as there are solutions to dumping raw sewerage into our streams and rivers.
My wife Lib summed up these all too common issues succinctly when she said, “It’s not out of our reach, but it’s out of our will.”
Why don’t we have the will? Our state has gotten bogged down in partisan politics, focusing more on what we can’t do instead of what we can. A state that has more abundant natural resources and great minds seems willing to accept a scarcity mentality.
Time was North Carolina wasn’t satisfied being the “Rip Van Winkle state” and, through visionary leadership, became the “Dixie Dynamo.” We dreamed big dreams and worked to make them become reality. Think of the dreamers who started the first public university in the nation and those who came after them, expanding public universities and community colleges. Let’s include those who championed the North Carolina Railroad; a Kerr Scott, who got us out of the mud and built farm-to-market roads; Luther Hodges’ vision for the Research Triangle Park; Terry Sanford’s major efforts to improve public education; and Jim Hunt’s biotechnology center, to name just a few.
In 1957, our General Assembly codified this can-do Carolina spirit, passing legislation that made official the North Carolina state toast. It says, in part, that we are a state… “Where the weak grow strong and the strong grow great.”
Don’t we want to live in a state where we reach high and have the will to achieve big dreams or would we prefer reliving “Groundhog Day” over and over?