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CAPE FEAR MEMORIAL BRIDGE: Updates, resources, and context

Week of Jan. 31: The latest on our 'neighbor' Chemours, plus multi-million-dollar projects on the LGC's radar

On this episode we catch up with Chemours' latest ad campaign. Plus, while Chemours is defending itself from numerous lawsuits, local environmental groups are also suing the EPA — we'll get into why. Then, the Local Government Commission provides oversight when counties, cities, and towns want to spend big. That includes Project Grace, the purchase of Freeman Park, and the potential state takeover of the Bald Head Island ferry.

Port City Politics is a podcast collaboration 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.

First up, we'll get into Chemours — which was, rather briefly, named one of Newsweek's most responsible U.S. companies, a list compiled by a third party statistical analysis company. When WECT and WHQR asked why that company had seemingly overlooked one of its own major selection criteria — that a company not be involved in any major lawsuits or scandals (Chemours is involved in hundreds of suits) — Chemours was pulled from the list.

On the heels of that, Chemours ramped up a charm offensive with a series of television ads depicting them as great corporate neighbors. The result, which shouldn't shock anyone who has been following environmental news in the region for the last five years, was public outcry. It's worth noting, though, that the decision to air those ads was made by sales departments which, for really good reasons, are thoroughly separated from news departments.

And, in other Chemours news, there's actually a local environmental lawsuit that doesn't involve Chemours, or at least, not directly as a defendant. So why are environmental groups suing the EPA? We get into it.

Then, after a break, we check in with some big projects on the Local Government Commission's radar: Carolina Beach wants a multi-million dollar balloon-payment purchase of Freeman Park, New Hanover County wants to let a private developer finance Project Grace at an additional cost of $24 million to taxpayers, and both the state of North Carolina and the Village of Bald Head Island want to purchase the private ferry to Bald Head. All of these projects are expensive — and all raise questions about fiscal responsibility. Which is where the LGC comes in.

Finally — can WECT predict the future? Is the newsroom part of a conspiracy with the Board of Education? No to both. Why would we even bring that up? We'll explain.

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. He loves spending time with his wife and playing rock'n'roll very loudly. You can reach him at BSchachtman@whqr.org and find him on Twitter @Ben_Schachtman.