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Realtors, CFCC And UNCW Announce Offshore Drilling Forum

By Cece Nunn, posted Aug 4, 2017
Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo (from left), Cape Fear Realtors President Neal Johnson, CFCC President Amanda Lee and UNCW Chancellor Jose Sartarelli gathered Friday for the announcement of a forum coming in October. (Photo by Cece Nunn)

To drill or not to drill?

That is the question a forum in Wilmington will address in October, with explorer and environmentalist Jean-Michel Cousteau, son of Jacques-Yves Cousteau, and former Shell CEO John Hofmeister presenting different views on offshore drilling off the coast of North Carolina.

Announced Friday at Cape Fear Community College’s Wilson Center, the forum is part of a larger project initiated by the Cape Fear Realtors called The Public Square, an effort to bring such topics to the forefront in ways that turn the tide of what can be mean-spirited debates on a variety of issues, organizers said.

The Oct. 17 offshore drilling forum, which starts at 7 p.m. at the Wilson Center, will be co-hosted by CFR, CFCC and UNCW.

“The Public Square is a collaboration with Cape Fear Community College, the University of North Carolina Wilmington, Cape Fear Realtors and North Carolina Realtors. Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo is also a supporter of the process and has assisted with development of the program,” said Neal Johnson, president of CFR, during a news conference Friday morning. “The purpose is to educate the public on important and sometimes divisive issues while building the bonds of community as we model civility. It also adds to the quality of life by providing local citizens the chance to interact with national speakers and opinion leaders.”

The organizers hope to build on the momentum of the first event and plan additional forums on a variety of topics and in different settings in the future.

“I think it’s always important that citizens have an opportunity to come in and to hear the facts from different sides to determine for themselves what they think is good or not good,” Saffo said during the news conference.

UNCW Chancellor Jose Sartarelli said people can accomplish more when they consider more than one side of an issue.

“We have to be able to civilly discuss these subject matters and then let the voters decide,” Sartarelli said.

None of the co-hosting entities have taken a stand on offshore drilling, Johnson said.

In 2015, the Wilmington City Council unanimously passed a resolution opposing seismic airgun blasting and offshore drilling. Those who agreed with the resolution packed City Hall that night, Saffo said.

"After we passed that resolution there was a lot of people in the community that contacted us that said we didn't have an opportunity to come down and speak, nor did we really know about it, so I felt that this is going to be an ongoing subject and idea that's going to be looked at and it's been talked about for many years, offshore drilling off the coast of North Carolina," Saffo said Friday. "I think this gives us an opportunity to talk about this and to bring in two experts on two sides of the equation that will give us their thoughts and ideas."

Tickets, which include the presentation, a full-color program and parking as available in the adjacent garage, are $10 each for the Oct. 17 event and are available online. A website dedicated to The Public Square, www.PublicSquareILM.com,  is expected to become active Aug. 11.

“This is the first forum, and we hope this is an ongoing exercise that we can offer to our students and the community,” CFCC President Amanda Lee said Friday.

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