A Stick in the Eye

Sometimes serving in government reminds me of raising children. Every now and then our children start down the wrong road. When that happens, you may offer a word of advice – which sometimes works out fine. But, other times, you find yourself watching a slow motion car wreck as a life-lesson unfolds.

It makes common sense for politicians to look for a ‘sweet spot’ where good policy and good politics meet. But, more often than not, common sense is in short supply in politics and the opposite happens. Bad policy and bad politics meet.

In December, as part of its already controversial ‘Incentives Program,’ the Department of Commerce announced it was granting Corning Optical Communications nearly $2.5 million to move its headquarters to Mecklenburg County from Hickory.

As policy, what kind of sense did that make? The Commerce Department was paying a big New York based corporation to move its office – and 500 jobs – from one North Carolina county (Catawba) to another (Mecklenburg).

Politically, it didn’t make much sense either: The Governor’s Commerce Department had just given Catawba County the political equivalent of a poke in the eye with a stick. (Governor McCrory won Catawba County, which is losing 500 jobs, by a margin of 31,000 votes in his last election – while Mecklenburg County had given him a margin of 3,100 votes.)

At the end of the day, there’s just one bright spot in this mess: The Department of Commerce has just given us another clear reason why stopping the state’s incentives program, once and for all, makes common sense.

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