The N&O doubled down on their Bob Luddy-inspired attack on the Rural Center on the  op-ed page, where the original series belonged, and a follow-up “news” article. The paper still has not identified Luddy or his motives. However, it defends not talking to grant recipients by saying, “Who doesn’t like Santa Claus?”

The Grinch, that’s who. And they had no problem liberally quoting him in the guise of Luddy and Art Pope.

The op-ed states, “What matters isn’t whether the recipients are happy, but whether taxpayers are.” By that standard, I expect to see an editorial calling on the end of any state funding for light-rail or transit for the Triangle, because I know a whole bunch of rural taxpayers who are none too happy subsidizing the wealthiest counties in the state.

Look, Art Pope and Bob Luddy philosophically oppose the whole concept of the Rural Center. Their goal is to end it. Luddy says as much in the paper today when he calls for discontinuing “the grant process immediately and indefinitely.” Not identifying Luddy and his well documented political agenda is irresponsible journalism.

Luddy would just as soon kill it now by passing the Senate budget. The other way to get rid of it is to pull it into the Department of Commerce where the free marketeers can smother it in private. No one will be the wiser but rural North Carolina will be a whole lot poorer.

In addition, both the series and the op-ed imply that the Rural Center gives grants or money to businesses, particularly fast food and big box stores. That’s just false. The grants are made either to local governments or nonprofit organizations, not businesses.

Hall stated that the Rural Center prefers not to support retail projects, which only account for 12% of their grants, and doesn’t help Walmart projects at all anymore. However, the N&O built their entire story on retail projects, including Walmart deals. What they don’t tell you is that local governments want retail because sales tax is essentially their only source of revenue other than property tax. Disproportionally high property tax rates kill economic development. It’s a huge and complex problem in small towns.

There are a lot of questions that need to be answered about dealing with rural North Carolina, but the N&O chose not to address them. Instead they waded into a budget fight with a thinly researched series supported by anecdotal evidence and biased interviews and made the Rural Center a scapegoat. Make no mistake, it’s gotcha journalism, not investigative journalism, and putting all of their ink behind it doesn’t make it right.

Thomas Mills is the founder and publisher of PoliticsNC.com. Before beginning PoliticsNC, Thomas spent twenty years as a political and public affairs consultant. Learn more >

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