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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Robert W. (Bob) Scott, February 4, 1998. Interview C-0336-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

The environment, utilities disputes, and economic planning demand attention

Scott reveals three areas that commanded his attention during his governorship: the newly emerging issue of the environment, a dispute between public and private utilities providers, and addressing long-range economic planning.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Robert W. (Bob) Scott, February 4, 1998. Interview C-0336-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

JACK FLEER:
Now, we talked about teachers, we talked about highway contractors, we talked about the business community, we've talked about African-Americans. Were there any other groups that you thought were important to touch base with, or know their concerns, as you were—
ROBERT W. (BOB) SCOTT:
Now, we're talking about during the period I was lieutenant governor and preparing to race for governor?
JACK FLEER:
To run for governor.
ROBERT W. (BOB) SCOTT:
OK. One of the things that came to my mind, came to my attention: during this period of time was the first time that there seemed to be dialogue out across the state about concerns about our environment. So environmental issues were beginning to come to the fore. It was something kind of new. So when I ran for governor, I had a rather strong environmental program. I didn't confer with any organizations—I don't know that there were any, unless the Sierra Club was around. They certainly didn't have as many as they have now. And that concern grew out of two things. First of all, the fact that there was beginning to be talk about air pollution and waste treatment, those kinds of things—not nearly to the extent it is now, but enough to make me know it was on the public's mind. Number two, again, going back to my dad and the environment in which I grew up, soil and water conservation was always something that I knew about from my agricultural background. My dad used to talk about water quality all the time. He said that's the number one long-term problem in North Carolina, is inadequate drinking water supplies. So that kind of came naturally to me. And the time to me seemed to be right to push that kind of agenda. Another was, of course, settling the problem with the utilities, the territorial issues between the rural electric cooperatives and the private utilities. Oh, and the other was planning. I was surprised to learn that there was no planning mechanism in state government, no process. Planning was another thing that was beginning to be talked about. Partly, this came as a result of the federal government sending down large sums of money to the states for various purposes: infrastructure needs, whatever. Water, sewer, that's infrastructure. But they were saying, "You know, you folks got to get your act together down there and do some planning on what's needed, we just can't shovel out the money to you." So out of all that, we set up the State Goals and Policy Commission, and began to do some long-range planning, set goals for the state and have a vision of how we want to get there. We did that, and we didn't really know what we were doing, how to do it, you know. They did some good work, but again, because that was a thing that I started, Governor Holhouser's administration didn't really cater to that. Anything that I had was suspect, of course. They kept it on, but really didn't use it. By the time I got it started, and they found out what it was they were supposed to be doing and actually get some planning going, I was about out of office. Governor Holshouser didn't follow through on it. Governor Hunt set it up again, under another name, and incidentally I just attended a meeting at the Institute of Government where they're trying to decide what to do with it. Bill Friday's involved. They call it the Progress Board, now. But I thought then and I think now that to be institutionalized, it ought to be removed—it's been too much of a governor's, you know, it's his goals, his agenda. It ought to be removed from that political context and put over at the Institute of Government, someplace like that. That's another story. But planning, environment, and, let's face it, the whole question of law and order was very much involved at that time.