Decision-makers visit Ocracoke

N.C. General Assembly members visiting Ocracoke on Aug. 27 take a ride to the beach. Photo: C. Leinbach

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It was quite a sight to see members of the House Select Committee on Strategic Transportation Planning and Long-Term Funding Solutions, their family and staff arrive at the N.C. Center for the Advancement of Teaching (NCCAT) on Aug. 27 for lunch and a public meeting.

The Ocracoke campus is one of two in the state with the other NCCAT campus in Cullowhee, Jackson County.

More than 30 were in the group, including 13 legislators, a few of whom had never been to Ocracoke.  A number of islanders also attended.

Getting the attention of members of the N.C. General Assembly to hear one’s views can be a momentous challenge, often requiring a trip to Raleigh or, for groups with a little money, to hire lobbyists.

Access to Ocracoke has been a challenge since people have lived here. We like to reminisce about the olden days when a vehicle was driven onto the beach from a small car ferry that had just crossed the Hatteras Inlet.

Road improvements and a robust ferry service now provide the means for getting onto and crossing the island to get to the village. The costs must be approved by the state’s legislature and adequate funding has been for many years a roller coaster ride, though, thankfully, it has been stabilized, at least for the time being. The representatives on this important committee have a powerful say on funding.

Invited by the Hyde County government, and enthusiastically supported by the committee’s chair John A. Torbett (R-Gaston), the group was briefed by Hyde County Commissioner Tom Pahl and Dave Hilton, chair of the Ocracoke Waterways Commission, on the access challenges the island faces.

It’s probably safe to say that few members had heard of Big Foot Slough in the Pamlico Sound or the

John Torbett (R-Gaston) chairs the House Select Committee on Strategic Transportation Planning and Long-Term Funding Solutions

significance of a shorter ferry route between Ocracoke and Hatteras.

Afterwards, the members had opportunities to shop in the village, visit attractions or take a beach drive.

This visit by these legislators was a huge win because when people see the island first hand, they get it. Congratulations are due to those who successfully arranged it.

The mid-term election Nov. 6 may be one of the most important elections in United States history, and we urge all to exercise their constitutional right to vote. A few recent state elections have shown that every vote truly counts.

As elsewhere in November, islanders will vote for new state House and Senate representatives.

Neither of the island’s outgoing representatives–Senator Bill Cook and Rep. Beverly Boswell–visited Ocracoke in the last term to meet their constituents and hear concerns.

Candidates for their seats have all promised to visit the island and some already have.

Voters should ask the candidates their positions on the many issues that could impact preserving the island’s beauty, economy and education of its students.

We support civility and professional discourse.

There is nothing wrong with spirited opinions, but vicious, mean-spirited attacks like what we’ve seen in recent elections should not be tolerated.

We urge voters who also are appalled by these tactics to let politicians know attack ads do not work.

Members of the House Select Committee on Strategic Transportation Planning and Long-Term Funding Solutions hear a presentation by the Ocracoke Waterways Commission in the NCCAT conference room.

Rep John Faircloth, (R) Dist. 61, Guilford County.

Rep Yvonne Lewis Holley (D) Dist. 38, Wake County.

Rep John A. Fraley, (R) Dist. 95, Iredell County.