Carrboro hangs in precarious balance after HB2 repeal, NCAA ultimatum

By Ari Sen 

For some members of the Board of Aldermen their worst nightmare is a Carrboro without the revenue from Carolina athletics.

So when the National Collegiate Athletic Association threatened to withdraw all of its championship games from the state until 2022 unless legislators repealed House Bill 2, the town leaders took notice.

“I worry that in Orange County, where we do not have the industry or the retail that Durham has. We are really vulnerable,” Alderman Randee Haven O’Donnell said in an interview yesterday. “The economic picture for is rosy if everything were status quo. But I don’t think it is”

A repeal of House Bill 2, House Bill 142, passed in the North Carolina Senate and North Carolina General Assembly Thursday morning and N.C.  Gov. Roy Cooper signed the bill, this afternoon.  In addition to repealing HB2, the new law would also place a moratorium on municipalities passing non-discrimination ordinances until December of 2020.

“I know I’ve done the right thing,” Cooper said in a press conference today. “My choice was to do nothing or repeal House Bill 2 and take this important step forward.”

Activists from pro-LGBT rights groups including the American Civil Liberties Union, Equality NC and the Human Rights Campaign have denounced the repeal bill.

“The governor and General Assembly may be turning their backs on LGBT North Carolinians today, but we are not,” Sarah Gillooly, policy director of the ACLU of North Carolina, said in a statement. “We will continue to fight in court for transgender people to access the restrooms that correspond to their gender identity and for equal protection for the entire LGBT community in North Carolina.”

The NCAA has yet to make a determination as to whether to move the championship games. It is still unclear whether the NCAA will consider the passage of House Bill 142 to be a true repeal of House Bill 2.

“Last year, the NCAA Board of Governors relocated NCAA championships scheduled in North Carolina because of the cumulative impact HB2 had on local communities’ ability to assure a safe, healthy, discrimination-free atmosphere for all those watching and participating in our events,”
Stacey Osburn, the NCAA Director of Public and Media Relations wrote in a statement last week. “Absent any change in the law, our position remains the same regarding hosting current or future events in the state. As the state knows, next week our various sports committees will begin making championships site selections for 2018-2022 based upon bids received from across the country.”

Haven O’Donnell said that if the NCAA were to remove its championship games from the state Carrboro would be negatively affected by the lack of tourism money.

“78 percent of the tourism dollars are generated by the Hampton Inn in Carrboro. That’s amazing to me,” Haven O’Donnell said.  “If what happens with the sport at the university I think is not only going to make a difference county-wide—I think it’s going to erode those numbers for folks getting accommodation at Carrboro’s hotels.”

Two of the Alderman, Damon Seils and Bethany Chaney took to Twitter to express their displeasure with the repeal bill and the NCAA’s ultimatum.

“Come on, (N.C. Governor Roy Cooper). We’re looking for high-value democratic leadership not this wet-fish, basketball-starved crap.” Alderman Bethany Chaney wrote in a tweet.

House Bill 2, or the Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act passed the General Assembly and senate in a special legislative session in March 2016 and was signed by then-Gov. Pat McCrory. Several companies pulled out of North Carolina including PayPal and Adidas and seven states issued a non-mandatory travel ban on the state in reaction to the law. In addition to the NCAA, The National Basketball Association and Atlantic Coast Conference also boycotted the state by removing their respective championship games.  An Associated Press report claims that the failing to repeal HB2 would cost the state almost $3.8 billion in revenue over 12 years.

“I started thinking about that $3.8 billion and a lot of that is local money,” Carrboro Mayor Lydia Lavelle said in Tuesday’s Board of Aldermen meeting. “The extra effect of HB2 is that it’s really, really hurt us.

Seils said in an interview that he was unsure whether House Bill 142 would carry the economic repercussions for the town that House Bill 2 did, but he is worried that it has some of the same characteristics.

“I think there is a case to be made that today’s bill has some of the very same problems that House Bill 2 had in terms of not providing non-discrimination protections for LGBT North Carolinians and again making this false claim branding transgender people as sex criminals is what this bill does just like House Bill 2,” Seils said.

“It’s become increasingly clear that (a full House Bill 2 repeal) is not something that the republican legislature and the North Carolina General Assembly would like to consider. So it looks like this is the best we are going to get for now.”

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