Maggie Valley should make town center happen
When small towns think and act big, amazing things can happen. Anyone who has traveled has come across communities that have taken risks and been rewarded for it, vibrant small towns that are just fun to visit.
I think the town center plan currently being studied in Maggie Valley fits that description.
Everyone who has followed Maggie Valley town issues since the demise of Ghost Town knows there have been fits and starts and some good work toward keeping the town viable as a tourist destination. But Maggie needs a shot in the arm.
The fairgrounds is a fantastic asset, and one that can be used as part of an anchor to the town center plan. Slowing traffic, encouraging walking and biking, putting in amenities for children like the splashpad, constructing a median with benches and trees, and finally developing an ice skating rink would all be great draws for visitors.
And it would be new and pretty. Let’s be honest: like many towns, Maggie Valley is a bit rundown in places. Many of its buildings and properties are old, and some aren’t well kept. And the power poles that were installed years ago look more suitable for carrying cross-country transmission lines rather than just normal power lines through a small town.
Maggie Valley’s growth along the Soco Road corridor has been organic and worked for a long time. But today’s travelers want to walk, want to move around outdoors along Main Street type locations, want to get near creeks and playgrounds. Maggie can’t remake its past, but it can take measured steps to create a new feel in its business district.
It will take a protracted, years-long process for Maggie Valley to make something this substantial happen. Money will have to be set aside and loans taken out. But if the town is smart it can use debt wisely to take steps that will increase its tax base and serve as more of an investment than expenditure.
And that really is the attitude that has to be embraced. Investing in the town’s future will pay dividends. Do nothing and that’s what you’ll get in return.
We were taken for a ride.
When North Carolina’s citizens were asked to support a lottery and when the legislature passed the measure in 2006, the promise was that it would not take the place of state expenditures on education. It would supplement those dollars and provide money for buildings and for low-income students to attend college.
It was a lie. Our cover story last week showed that school systems throughout the state are now using the lottery money on teacher salaries, money that should come from Raleigh. But since education funding was slashed when the recession hit in 2007, more and more of the lottery money is being used for recurring expenses.
Democrats cut education spending in the lean budget years during the recession. Since the GOP took over the legislature, it has increased education spending each year and it is now more than what Democrats were allocating.
But let’s be honest. There is no reason to take pride in the fact that we are now beating recession-level education spending. The per-pupil spending coming from Raleigh is woefully short of what is needed despite the recent modest spending increases. And part of that increased education spending is lottery money that should be totally separate.
We are just now past the primary season for state lawmakers and are headed toward the general election in November. Support candidates who promise to make North Carolina one of the top states in the country in terms of its commitment to public schools.