Set free the North Carolina Zoo? Shutter the Museum of the Albemarle? Cut adrift aquariums in three North Carolina coastal cities?
Newspapers are reporting that a state legislative oversight committee is considering those and other major changes to state-owned cultural -- and tourism -- sites. The goal is to cut state spending in the coming years...to save money.
Here's my two cents. Regardless of your political persuasion, if you think it's an important issue, make sure you write your legislators.
I don't fault state leaders for wanting to save money wherever they can. Times are tight, here and everywhere. I'd be worried if they weren't looking for savings.
But tourism isn't the places to cut.
The state only has one premier zoo, and privatizing it, as the committee suggests, could put it in jeopardy. It also puts Asheboro at the mercy of a private company.
Same with the aquariums, which are gems of state tourism. They are packed most summer months, and do robust business in the spring and fall seasons. Parents who rent cottages for a week count on a day at the aquariums for their youngsters.
The study on which the report is based, written by a state agency, also recommends closing some sites during slow periods. That's fine, if there's solid proof that staying open is a sure-fire money-loser.
But not the big, drastic changes. North Carolina is a tourism state. Residents are proud of our place. Out-of-staters flock here, spend money, provide tax revenue and support thousands of jobs. Besides, all of the changes would save just $2 million a year. That is, as they say, a rounding error in a $19 billion budget.
One other thing: whatever changes are made, they ought to be temporary. One day, this recession will end. North Carolina needs to be ready to throw back open the doors when that happens.