Governor visits ASU, King Street
by Anna Oakes
Gov. Pat McCrory met with Boone officials, merchants and members of the public during a visit to Appalachian State University and to King Street businesses Friday.
McCrory first appeared at the closing ceremony of the second annual Appalachian Energy Summit, where leaders of all 17 University of North Carolina campuses and several private institutions gathered for three days to strategize and set goals to reduce energy consumption.
"The economy's hurting right now. People are hurting, especially in small town North Carolina," said McCrory, a Republican in his first year as governor. "One of my main goals ... (is) having the energy business get us out of the recession."
McCrory then visited the Mellow Mushroom on King Street where he shook hands and posed for photos with customers. The governor also spent about 10 minutes speaking with local elected leaders at a corner table, including Sheriff Len Hagaman, Watauga County Register of Deeds JoAnn Townsend, Boone Mayor Loretta Clawson, Blowing Rock Mayor J.B. Lawrence, Watauga County Commissioner Perry Yates and N.C. Rep. Jonathan Jordan.
He later made brief stops at Watsonatta Western World and ArtWalk.
The governor's presence in Boone attracted about 30 protestors speaking out against multiple state government actions, including the recent abortion bills, voter ID and various other issues. The crowd shouted, "Shame! Shame!" as McCrory exited Mellow Mushroom.
Amiris Brown, an ASU student, held up a sign urging McCrory to veto House Bill 695 and/or Senate Bill 353, both of which would require abortion clinics to meet stricter standards similar to ambulatory surgical centers, though the House version of S353 includes a provision stating "while not unduly restricting access."
"I'm out here as a feminist reminding him that he promised when people voted him into office that he would veto any legislation pertaining to women's health care," Brown said.
The governor fielded several questions from members of the local press related to funding for the N.C. Rural Economic Development Center, transportation, the Energy Summit and other issues.
McCrory said that although he announced on Thursday that funding for the Rural Center would be frozen, his office would ensure that money already pledged to projects across the state would be allocated to those destinations.
He called the recently enacted Strategic Mobility Formula for transportation "one of the best pieces of legislation in North Carolina in the past 30 years." He said the three main factors in setting transportation priorities will be economic development, congestion and safety, but he said the state would continue work on greenways and mass transit as well.
In response to a question about cuts to state funding for greenways in transportation legislation this year, McCrory said, "I don't know that detail" and added that he would look into it.
When asked about ideas or plans for other mass transit projects in the state, McCrory spoke more broadly about the need to tie isolated towns and regions to larger economic centers, even if that means crossing state lines.
"There's no town that should be on an island by itself, whether it be rural or urban," he said. "We must have connectivity. The economic centers can maybe spin off industry into these smaller rural towns."
McCrory said he wants to see greater integration and collaboration between medical and educational communities, including the university system.
"If an Appalachian State student wants to take a journalism class at Carolina, why shouldn't they? I think we need to be more flexible in sharing resources and infrastructure and professors," he said. "We can't afford to keep building new buildings."
McCrory noted that a journalist recently criticized him for not having a "legacy project."
"Excuse me, we've got to do day-to-day operations," he said. "My
goal is not to have a legacy project. My goal is to run efficient and effective government and
prepare for the next generation."