Get over it

Published 8:02 pm Saturday, August 30, 2008

By Staff
It didn’t take long for critics of the N.C. General Assembly’s history-making override of Gov. Mike Easley’s veto of a bill relaxing restrictions on towing boats.
Within hours after the General Assembly turned the bill into law, the critics were making their cases against the action by the state House and Senate. For most of the critics, their opposition to the new boat-towing rules centers around safety concerns.
The new law’s critics contend that wider boats being hauled over narrow roads in eastern North Carolina, where many of the state’s boaters come to put their boats in the water, will make those roads more dangerous to travel.
Maybe if the state built more and wider roads in eastern North Carolina the issue of the width of a boat being hauled would not have come up. Maybe if the state built more and wider roads in eastern North Carolina, those wide-bodied combines and the family van could pass each other without problems. And talking about more and better roads, it’s time eastern North Carolina got its fair share of them.
Was there an outcry from the Raleigh-based and other big-city pundits when the law was changed to allow wider, longer tractor-trailer rigs on the state’s roadways so they could service the economies of those large cities?
It’s understood that allowing wider boats to be towed on the state’s highways could create safety-related problems. That hasn’t kept the N.C. Department of Transportation from using larger, heavier vehicles as it maintains the state’s roadways. It’s understandable the N.C. Highway Patrol has concerns with wider boats being towed on the state’s roads.
If the state allows “wide loads” such as mobile homes, sections of manufactured housing and earth-moving equipment on its roads, why has there been such a commotion over wider boats being towed on those roads? Those “wide loads” pose just as much, if not more, danger than wide boats.
The Highway Patrol has always been concerned with speeding, but over the years that hasn’t stopped the Highway Patrol from buying and using patrol vehicles that are faster than patrol vehicles used 10, 20 and more years ago.
The state — at least not yet — hasn’t outlawed handguns, which have gotten bigger and more powerful over the years.
Many of the critics, who have the right to their opinions, are part of that group of big-city types who love to tell the rural folk what’s good for them. Living in or near the centers of government and in areas affluence east of Interstate 95 apparently qualifies them as experts on what’s right for eastern North Carolina and other parts of the state not within the Triangle, Triad or Queen City areas.
Rob Schofield, with NC Policy Watch, called the legislation “an ill-conceived bill.” WUNC radio’s Laura Leslie contends Reggie Fountain, founder and CEO of Fountain Powerboats, used political contributions to influence the bill’s outcome in the General Assembly’s session Wednesday. Well, if businessmen in Raleigh and Charlotte and officials with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill can contribute money to legislators and use their connections to legally influence state government, why can’t the founder of one of the largest employers in Beaufort County do the same?
Don’t blame folks in rural areas of the state for playing the game under the same rules as city folks.
Schofield and Leslie had plenty to say about what others had to say about the situation. It’s good they talked to people to get their opinions. But as far as can be determined, they didn’t quote what boaters had to say about the matter. Why’s that?
Could the bill’s supporters have waited until January 2009 to turn the bill into law? Yes. Calling the Legislature back to Raleigh for a special session cost the state — and its taxpayers — money. Waiting several months to make the bill into law would have made sense. But it’s a done deal, whether one agrees with the Legislature’s override of Easley’s veto.
The critics contend the legislators who overrode the veto could have done better for the state’s drivers and vehicle passengers. Those critics are right. Those legislators could provide the money to build roads wide enough, safe enough to handle the increasing number of boats — wide or not — on the state’s roads, whether those roads be in downtown Raleigh or downtown Swan Quarter.