It has been 98 weeks and one day since former Governor Pat McCrory declared a state of emergency in central and eastern North Carolina due to an oncoming Atlantic hurricane named Matthew.
That hurricane caused catastrophic damage in eastern North Carolina with initial damage estimates topping $1.5 billion. More than 650,000 people were without power, and the Lumber and Neuse Rivers crested at record depths.
It was a terrible time for eastern North Carolina. From Lumberton the Washington Post reported:
The Lumber River was at a record 24 feet, half-swallowing the southern part of Lumberton. In that area, garbage cans and tree branches and charcoal grills floated down the road. Basketball backboards poked from the water — but their nets were submerged. Hundreds of people had initially evacuated to an elementary school, but then water started rushing in and the evacuations started anew.
Sonar equipment detected several submerged vehicles.
It has been one year, seven months and 20 days since Governor Roy Cooper took office.
Twenty-seven days ago, North Carolina Emergency Management reported to the General Assembly that, despite more than $236 million in disaster recovery funds, no projects had been completed. This news came just weeks after North Carolina Emergency Management missed a self-imposed deadline to begin construction projects funded by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
As reported by the Raleigh News & Observer:
“As serious questions remain unanswered regarding the slow pace of the Cooper Administration’s recovery effort, it’s critical that we continue our committee’s oversight to ensure folks get the help they need,” said Rep. John Bell, a Wayne County Republican and chairman of the committee.
Just eight days ago, Governor Cooper visited Columbus County to check on Hurricane Matthew recovery projects. Billy Hammond, mayor of a small town called Fair Bluff with a population of 950, asked Governor Cooper to move beyond the cameras and scheduled photo op and meet with some of the citizens of Fair Bluff.
Governor Cooper refused.
Governor Cooper may genuinely care for the people of eastern North Carolina, but the actions of his administration indicate indifference or at least an incompetent lack of urgency.
While Governor Cooper is busily signing multi-million dollar incentive packages to lure large corporations to urban counties, he is increasing the cultural, economic and political divides between rural and urban North Carolina.
Governor Cooper needs to understand that he is the governor of the whole state – not just the counties with the most voters.
And while he may think things are okay, many people, such as those in Fair Bluff are underwater on his watch.