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Week of September 13 - Transparency and accountability questions about NHC's school safety approach, plus leaked Novant video, and memories of Florence

On this episode of the podcast: New Hanover County commissioners unanimously approved giving the county manager access to $350 million to tackle 'community violence and school safety, a 'frank discussion' from an internal Novant meeting gets leaked, and three years later we remember Hurricane Florence... fondly?

Port City Politics is a collaborative podcast between WECT and WHQR. Every two weeks, WECT’s investigative reporter Michael Praats and WHQR’s News Director Ben Schachtman will break down the latest happenings in local politics.

A $350 million solution is also a $350 million problem

Earlier this month, in the wake of a shooting at New Hanover High School, county commissioners met with the school board, law enforcement, District Attorney Bed David, Judge J.H. Corpening, and others to discuss school safety and community violence.

At the meeting, county Chair Julia Olson-Boseman made a motion to allow County Manager Chris Coudriet access to $350 million — funds acquired by the county as part of the sale of NHRMC to Novant Health — to address what Olson-Boseman and others called a crisis.

There's no doubt the funding can do good things — but the resolution puts almost no limits on spending and does very little to define "community violence and school safety," leaving questions about transparency and accountability. Not every solution to the problems in our schools will be universally popular, so who will be spending what?

Scare tactics?

Last week, a video clip taken from an internal Novant Health meeting was leaked onto social media. The meeting features the former chief of medical staff suggesting making messaging “a little bit more scary for the public” by including the number of “post-Covid” patients still in the hospital — patients who aren’t currently included as part of Covid’s impact on the hospital. On Twitter and Facebook this was described as “manipulating data” as part of a “fear campaign” — a charge the health system denies.

On the hand, the hospital is discussing including the number of patients who are still in the hospital — and still adding strain to an already stressed system — and isn't artificially inflating numbers. On the other hand, certainly some people who have yet to get the vaccine are likely to react negatively to the use of fear-based motivation.

Florence, fondly

In mid-September of 2018, Hurricane Florence was pummeling New Hanover County. To put it mildly, things did not go smoothly — for anyone.

Still, three years later, we actually feel better about our ability to deal with another major story.

Ben Schachtman is a journalist and editor with a focus on local government accountability. He began reporting for Port City Daily in the Wilmington area in 2016 and took over as managing editor there in 2018. He’s a graduate of Rutgers College and later received his MA from NYU and his PhD from SUNY-Stony Brook, both in English Literature.