Thursday, November 27, 2014

Why You Should Never Let Them Privatize Your Water

Aqua North Carolina, a private corporation and a subsidiary of a bigger Pennsylvania company, managed to buy municipal water systems in 52 of North Carolina's 100 counties, mainly because local governments, led by people who had no foresight or vision of the civic compact, did not want to fund infrastructure and upkeep for the greater good. Now see what's happening.

Privately owned water resources for urban and suburban communities. Water sold to citizens for profit, not for the civic good. What could possibly go wrong?

Aqua North Carolina convinced the North Carolina Utilities Commission, now under control of the Privatization Brigade in Raleigh, to allow them to increase prices they charge for water (often clouded with sediment and smelly, according to customers) without going through the full cost-increase approval process, which would allow for customer push-back. No, the Utilities Commission decided it could allow for "smaller, more frequent rate increases" while cutting out the public's ability to protest.

Thank God for Attorney General Roy Cooper. He is now suing the Utilities Commission for that particular power-grab (really, for being the hand-maidens and enablers of the water bandits). Gawd only knows how the state's Supreme Court will rule.

It's a fine day in North Carolina when a company like Aqua North Carolina becomes the sole source of water for 250,000 of our citizens, and the state's Utilities Commission allows them "small, frequent rate increases" while silencing the public.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Heeeere's Danny!

Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest will be celebrating the Christmas season with a high-dollar fundraiser ... for himself.

A week from Thanksgiving in Charlotte, Dan will shake your hand and get his pheromones all over you for the measly starting sum of $500. For $5,000, you'll get nuzzled, "before a general reception that will include people who give less."

If this ain't a slick politician and arch conservative getting ready to primary a weak sitting governor in 2016, I don't know what it is.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

NC's New House Speaker

With Thom Tillis gone on to glory in Mugstomp-on-the-Potomac, NC House Republicans met yesterday to nominate a candidate to take Tillis's former post as Speaker of the House. Rep. Tim Moore of Cleveland County won on the first ballot against five rivals.

Impressive.

He's a lawyer. He's a Southern Baptist. He doesn't have his name on a lot of crazy legislation (though, of course, he always voted with the majority on a long list of bad laws since 2011, so there's that). He looks very "establishment," which in North Carolina in this year of our Lord is conservative enough.

Time will tell.

The only thing that might prevent Moore from being elected to the speakership (election by the full House will happen in mid-January) would be a behind-the-scenes deal struck between the Democratic minority and a Republican rival to Moore who could get at least 15 other Republicans to buck the caucus. Doesn't seem likely.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Virginia Foxx Said What?

Congresswoman Virginia Foxx issued a statement on President Obama's executive action on immigration. Considering her own personal history and the way she has benefitted financially from Hispanic immigration (like here and here and here and definitely here), we feel embarrassed for her ... since she's clearly incapable of feeling embarrassed for herself.

(My mother always warned me to beware of the person who doesn't feel embarrassment.)

Personal message to Virginia Foxx: if President Obama is violating the Constitution, then why don't you and your chums in Congress impeach him? Otherwise, you're just blowing rancid smoke.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Night of the Knucklehead

Last night was Nathan Miller's last meeting as a voting member and Chair of the Watauga County Commission. We found out that he had some unfinished grudges.

The Watauga County Planning Commission presented its recommendations for a 90-day moratorium on certain development in the Boone extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ) while the Commission grapples with what regs will best serve the residents there.

The motion to hold a public hearing on a 90-day moratorium -- a public hearing only -- eventually passed 4-1, with Miller casting the lone nay vote. Miller made it abundantly clear that he didn't want any special protections for the former ETJ, so he didn't see any point in a public hearing.

Miller declared that the recent election was the only "referendum" that mattered on Sen. Dan Soucek and Rep. Jonathan Jordan's law in Raleigh denying Boone its ETJ. The people reelected Soucek and Jordan … so there! The people therefore obviously supported the Soucek/Jordan action against Boone, according to Miller.

The fact that Jordan didn't carry Watauga County at all and Soucek only won Watauga by 213 votes would appear to undercut Mr. Miller's "referendum" argument. Commissioner Billy Kennedy pointed out that he got more votes in Watauga than either Soucek or Jordan, so by Miller's curious logic, the county might be a good deal more progressive than Miller wants to believe.

Commissioner John Welch was also not buying Miller's argument. Welch pointed out that this was a low-turnout election, so trying to claim a mandate for wide-open, wild-west, steep-slope & high density building -- an issue that actually wasn't on the ballot anywhere -- was misguided.

The Planning Commission had held three community meetings in the ETJ area, seeking citizen imput about what planning regs would most protect their homes and quality of life. Miller and fellow Republican commissioners David Blust and Perry Yates made a belly-aching show of grief that only 125 citizens -- out of more than 3,000 (probably) who live in the ETJ -- came out to those community meetings, proving -- evidently -- the people don't care what now happens in the ETJ.

Welch directed a question to Watauga Planning Director Joe Furman: "What percentage would you say, of those who attended those meetings, were in favor of keeping the existing development rules in the ETJ?"

"Fully 80%," Furman answered.

Welch turned to Miller. If you want to base assumptions on low turnouts, he said, why isn't that 80% as important as the election results?

There was something like a shouting match after that, with David Blust smugly declaring to Billy Kennedy that he had only won his reelection in tiny little Boone and hadn't won otherwise in the vast Watauga County landmass. Meaning, we have to assume, that in Blust's eyes a vote in Beaver Dam is worth two in Boone, or some such nonsense as that. Otherwise, we think the "one person one vote" principle still rules our democracy.

(While we're all trying to make hay out of election numbers, I really must point out that Mr. Blust won his two-year term on the Commission by a margin of 360 votes, in the whole vast landmass of Watauga County.)

Anyway, there will be a public hearing at 6 p.m. on December 16 on whether the county will adopt a 90-day moratorium on certain development (only the specific items governed by the county's existing High Impact Land Use Ordinance) until the Planning Commission can study and write an ordinance governing the former ETJ. By December 16 there will be a new man presiding as chair of the County Commission … though not necessarily a new political philosophy. It's still a 3-2 Republican majority on the commission, with no significant history of differing very much from "Millerism."

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Redefine This!

“Marriage has always been defined throughout history one way and re-defining marriage is a special right. It’s not an equal right. Interracial marriage was an equal right because it was excluding a group. This is a redefinition. It’s a fundamentally different thing.”

--NC Sen. Dan Soucek (R-Bubbletown), in the Avery Journal

There are times -- really, most of the time -- when the stupidity of Senator Soucek just leaves you speechless.

You Can't Eat It Or Drink It, But You Sure as Hell Can Pay for It!

The hand-picked ... is stooges too strong a word? ... the hand-picked appointees to North Carolina's new Coal Ash Commission have generously decided that you and I and every other rate-payer in North Carolina will have to bear the cost of the coal ash cleanup that billion-dollar corporation Duke Energy should pay for but doesn't want to.

Here Sit the Stooges
Perfect example of the privatization of profit and the socialization of costs, the only brand of socialism that conservatives seem to love.

Oh, you chose those Coal Ash Commissioners by choosing their puppet-masters in the North Carolina General Assembly. You did it. Now choke on it.

Ben Ray Lujan for DCCC

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has chosen New Mexico Congressman Ben Ray Lujan to head the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the very important "chief campaigner" position that recruits congressional candidates and raises money for the 2016 races.

Not Jim Himes.

For which we're grateful.

Lujan is Hispanic. His father was Ben Lujan, who once served as speaker of the New Mexico House of Representatives, and his cousin is Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, another member of New Mexico's congressional delegation.

Who knows if he's the right person for this job, but he's young, he comes from a political family, and he seems to represent a grassroots rather than a Wall Street approach to the direction the party needs to take.