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Wednesday, May 5, 2004

By Danny Whitford
Editor of Bonesville Magazine &

Power of persuasion: Use it or lose it


Politics at the state level is like a simmering pot of stew. Throw in a sharp pinch of pressure from a lobbyist, a half a cup of donations from a PAC committee, a generous dash of influence from the UNC-Chapel Hill politburo and a well-placed sprinkle of arm-twisting from the N.C. State University apparatus and you suddenly have an exotic budgetary soup that satisfies the palates of the few at the expense of the many.

Since the days when Ed Warren, Henry Aldridge and David Redwine roamed the aisles of the General Assembly, East Carolina University has had no taste-testers in the government kitchen with the wallop to sign off on the main dish. Consequently, its constituents have been among the masses whose appetites were left unsatisfied when the stew was served.

Case in point: The proposed $60 million Cardiovascular Diseases Institute, a project championed by ECU and University Health Systems to fight the leading killer of North Carolinians, seemed like a no-brainer when the initiative was announced a little more than a year ago.

The institute, which would be headed by renowned heart surgeon W. Randolph Chitwood, Jr., was conceived as a state and national resource that would leverage the assets and talents of ECUís respected cardiovascular program in the battle against a range of debilitating and deadly maladies.

Let the record show that the bold concept was cast aside in the jockeying by a few well-situated legislators to squeeze through funding for a $180 million cancer center in Chapel Hill in the waning stages of the assemblyís last session. That maneuver, though made on behalf of a laudable purpose, offended some in its brazen parochialism and subsequently failed.

Both projects will be on the agenda again when the legislature convenes next week and both deserve serious consideration on the basis of their merits, not the institutional ties of the representatives and senators who will be caressing the stateís purse strings.

Once again, Misters Warren, Aldridge and Redwine wonít be present to shepherd the interests of ECU and those it serves through the process. Nevertheless, real influence is at hand for those members of the schoolís constituency who have the initiative to wield it.

In this election year, when politicians are particularly receptive to the concerns of those who can help sustain their political existence, ECUís recently launched Purple Alert is an ideal vehicle for mustering the muscle to prevail upon the politicos to produce a different outcome this time around.

All it takes is a letter, a phone call, a fax or an e-mail message to your local General Assembly member concerning the Cardiovascular Institute or other issues important to ECU. That simple gesture, carried out statewide a thousand times over by the multitudes of believers who should feel compelled to join the Purple Alert army, can carry powerful clout.

As of last Friday, more than 600 people had signed up for Purple Alert, an undertaking to keep supporters abreast of matters important to the university in order to facilitate advocacy by individuals on the schoolís behalf.

Thatís a remarkably large number of enlistees considering that Purple Alert wasnít formally rolled out until earlier in the week. The way politics works, though, hundreds more volunteers must join the cause in order to exert the kind of collective influence that will be decisive.

If your legislatorís phone rings off the hook and his mailbox overflows with messages of support for ECUís most noble objectives, even the most indifferent politician will pay more than lip service to the idea that the university can be a dynamic asset in advancing the common good of the region and the state.

If you donít sign up for the cause and then carry through with a sincere communication to your representative and senator when you receive those pressing Purple Alerts, donít blame the politicians when they give the Cardiovascular Institute the short shrift in coming weeks. After all, they will be too busy greasing a wheel that is squeaking louder than ECUís.

You can enlist in the cause by visiting After you sign up, get on the phone or the computer and follow through with thoughtful action when you receive an alert, or the effort you made to enlist in the cause will have been a hollow one.

Send an e-mail message to Danny Whitford.

Click here to dig into Danny Whitford's Bonesville archives.

02/23/2007 01:37:40 AM

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