I rely on “The Herald Weekly” as an in-depth, objective source of news for issues regarding the Lake Norman area. But when it comes to the Red Line commuter train, over the course of several articles it’s become clear you have left objectivity at the station.
The most egregious example was last week’s front-page article regarding the Iredell Commissioners’ meeting (“County’s Big Swing Won’t Deter Rail Leaders,” Jan. 19). Iredell County is on record as being skeptical of the Red Line, and last week held a meeting to voice those concerns. But as your headline implies, your article addressed not the concerns, but rather what proponents are doing to address them.
In fact, though the commissioners spoke eloquently and at length you failed to include a single quote from any of them. You found plenty of space, though, to quote NCDOT official Paul Morris (four times) and Lake Norman Transportation Commission Chair Bill Thunberg (twice). Both are major supporters of the Red Line. How can you report on an Iredell County Board meeting and not quote an Iredell County board member? That’s the journalistic equivalent of covering a State of the Union address by quoting only the rebuttal speech.
The commissioners enumerated many legitimate concerns. (For instance, half of all Iredell property tax revenues currently pay for education. Under the current business plan, three quarters of property taxes will pay for the Red Line. How is that going to work?) Rather than seek answers you focused on Mr. Morris’ cavalier dismissal: “it was evident they (the commissioners) did not benefit from a full presentation of the business plan.” Well, Mr. Morris, I was at the full presentation of the business plan. It didn’t answer the commissioners’ questions. And The Herald missed an opportunity to follow up.
Similarly, though it was obvious the commissioners have undertaken extensive individual research, you failed to mention any of the numerous facts and figures they cited. Worse, you implied they were ignorant (echoing Mr. Morris’ sentiment) by saying “Iredell had not spent any of its own resources to delve into all the details of the plan… and that was clear in some of their concerns.” Because they didn’t form a task force (and pack it with real estate developers) hardly means the commissioners are uninformed. Replay the audio. It’s clear the commissioners know what they are talking about.
Finally, at the end of the evening the commissioners unanimously passed a three-sentence statement rejecting the current business plan. You mischaracterized this rejection, reporting they “are willing to listen to a new plan.” If one reads the statement, “willingness to listen” is nowhere to be found. Quite the opposite; the board indicated it will reject any new plan until its concerns are addressed. (For the record, the statement reads: “The Iredell County Board of Commissioners does not support the current draft business/finance plan as presented to this board during our December meeting. We believe this draft plan, as written, will lead to higher taxes for all county taxpayers despite claims to the contrary. We will reject any future proposals that fail to address the concerns that were made public tonight.”)
For an important issue like the Red Line we need objectivity, especially from a trusted source like The Herald. But when the objectivity train left the station, you were not on board. I hope you’ll catch it at the next stop.
– Kurt Naas, Cornelius