Monday, August 31, 2015

Back in Court This Morning

The 5-4 Republican majority on the NC Supreme Court ruled eight months ago that the gerrymandering of legislative districts was just fine by them. That decision was appealed to the U.S. Supremes.

The U.S. Supremes in the meantime ruled that a very similar redistricting in Alabama was unconstitutional because it relied too much on “mechanical numerical percentages while drawing legislative districts in which blacks comprised a majority of the population." So when the U.S. Supremes got to the North Carolina case, they sent it back to the NC Supremes and said you'd better reconsider your decision in light of our Alabama decision.

That all comes to a head this morning at the NC Supreme Court, but it you're expecting a different outcome this time around, from the same five Republican judges, then you probably also still believe in the Easter bunny.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Holy Man Trump

Donald Trump, the Republican frontrunner for president, sez the Bible is his favorite book and that he's a church attender at Marble Collegiate Church in Manhattan. Yeah, riiight.

Folks at Marble Collegiate say they haven't seen him. He couldn't name a single favorite Bible verse when asked to quote one by an interviewer. (Let us suggest one: "And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God."

Folks at Trump rallies say he's clearly pandering to the religious right. Ya think?

Can you even imagine Donald Trump on his knees, praying? "I don't get on my knees for anyone. I'm not a woman. And I'll tell you something else. The god that tries to get me on my knees is going to be sorry. I'll take him out. I'll take him out in a New Yawk minute."

Trump worshipping Jesus? "By the way: People say they like the crucified Jesus. I like a Jew who doesn't get himself crucified, just for starters. I wouldn't get crucified myself, but maybe that's just me."

This prideful man is some Christian witness, all right.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Establishment Guy

Well now. You might not know that Congressman Patrick McHenry, of the adjacent 10th Congressional District, has taken an important appointment as state chair of the Jeb Bush campaign. Make that the Jeb! campaign, to keep the branding consistent.

No Donald Trump for McHenry. And good luck with Jeb!, who, we heard, lacks energy. Can't remember right now who said that.

McHenry's really sticking his neck out, with Trump leading Jeb! in North Carolina by over 10 polling points. Jeb! is barely out-polling Deez Nuts.

McHenry's an establishment guy. Like most of the hierarchy in the Republican Party, he figures that Trump is just a summer reality show that won't be renewed for the Fall and certainly won't be on the TV schedule during next year's sweeps. By the logic of the GOP establishment, it's Jeb Bush's turn. Trump's an upstart who has no business messing with precedence.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

NC State Workers: Meet The Shaft

The headline yesterday afternoon:

NC budget deal reached on state employees pay

House and Senate leaders have reached a compromise on teacher and state employee pay and have moved closer to an agreement on overall state spending.
State employees and teachers would receive $750 bonuses this year under the compromise, rather than a 2 percent across-the-board increase the House wanted....
No pay raise for the vast majority of teachers and other state workers and only a one-time $750 bonus. Boy-howdy. A one-time $750 bonus works out to less than $15 per week -- hardly enough to cover gas money to and from school for most teachers. (Although some teachers would receive their contractually-obligated step increases, most teachers who are in between pay steps would get next to nothing this year.)

“Politicians spent months bragging about a $450 million surplus, but they’d rather give more tax breaks to big corporations than make meaningful investments in our public schools,” said Progress NC Action executive director Gerrick Brenner. “This $750 Christmas bonus amounts to a lump of coal for teachers and will only encourage more North Carolina educators to leave the state.”

“Once again it’s a slap in the face,” said Dianne Jones, a veteran teacher of more than 30-years in Wake County. “I just don’t understand why these legislators don’t think we’re that important that they can’t raise our pay to at least the national level.”

“It’s demoralizing,” said Stacy Eleczko, another veteran teacher in Wake County. “We work so many hours, and not to be able to meet basic needs with our pay is just so ridiculous.”

A state budget was due on July 1st and is now 58 days late. Lawmakers have wasted over $1 million dollars in taxpayer money on operating costs and per diem money for lawmakers at the General Assembly. By failing to pass a budget in time for the opening of school for over a million public school students, school districts have been left in the lurch.

Republican leaders in Raleigh have said they do not expect a final budget until after their third self-imposed deadline of August 31. Meanwhile, in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School system, 500 teaching assistants are scheduled to be laid off if a budget is not passed by September 4. 

Gerrick Brenner of ProgressNC said, “North Carolina currently ranks 42nd in the nation for teacher pay, and this budget agreement will likely do nothing to change that. Time and again, voters have expressed their desire to see our state’s teacher pay raised to the national average. But this legislature does not seem to care.”

Monday, August 24, 2015

Calendar Check: NC GOP On Schedule To Kill Public Education

Soucek & Jordan
The North Carolina state budget is now 55-days late. Members of the General Assembly took a strange one-week vacation after they missed the July 1st budget deadline. They have now wasted over $1 million in taxpayer funds in extra per diem costs for their extended legislative session.

Without a budget, a million-plus North Carolina public school students are going back to class with school districts still in the dark about staffing and classroom resources.

NC House v. NC Senate v. Gov. McCrory

Gov. Pat McCrory proposed a budget in which only one-third of North Carolina teachers would receive a raise. The extremists in the Senate proposed a budget that would slash 8,500 teaching assistant positions across the state. The Senate budget would end state funding for drivers ed., and it would give no raise to the state’s most veteran teachers. The House's version of the budget would give teachers only a 2% pay raise. (NC teacher pay now ranks 42nd in the nation.)

Imagine That Extremist Republicans Wanted To Slowly Kill Public Education

The Charlotte Mecklenburg Public Schools (CMS) told 500 teaching assistants that their jobs could end on Sept. 4th. Nearly 1,000 teachers resigned from CMS in June.

In Raleigh, Wake Co. Public Schools has ended drivers education classes for high school students. Wake is opening school today still in need of 100 teachers.

In Greensboro, Guilford Co. Public Schools cut three work days from teaching assistants to save $390,000.

In Winston-Salem, Forsyth Co. Public Schools are opening the first day of classes still in need of 68 teachers.

In Asheville, Buncombe Co. Public Schools has cut teaching assistant hours from 8 to 7 per day.

In Greenville, Pitt Co. Public Schools has cut 25 teaching assistant positions due to questions about the state budget. 

In Watauga County, the local school system had to start charging $65 per student for driver's education, which only covers one-third of the cost and which means the school system has to cut about $130 in other programs for every student that enrolls in driver education.

Meantime, the legislature brags about a $445 million surplus.

We Can Do Better Than This

“School systems across the state are feeling the pain from the negligence of state lawmakers in Raleigh,” said Gerrick Brenner, executive director of ProgressNC. “When one party controls state government, claims a revenue surplus, and still cannot pass a budget in time for the first day of class, it’s clear that our public schools are not a priority for this governor and those leading our legislature.”

"Yes-Men" in Raleigh Need To Be Booted Out

Senator Dan Soucek and Jonathan Jordan ... buh-bye!

Friday, August 21, 2015

The Politics of Water in Watauga County

So this morning we find out that a deal has been struck between the town of Boone and Watauga County Commission Chair Jimmy Hodges: the county will grant two small easements for a Boone water line across property it owns in exchange for 500,000 additional gallons a day (gpd) of Boone water to be used for largely unregulated development outside the town, managed by private interests for their profit. (The town had already granted 250,000 gpd -- 100,000 more than the recommendation of Boone's own Water Committee -- for any developer who will take the old high school property off the county's hands.)

The likely boom in development will come first along the water transmission line from Todd, principally in the Deep Gap to Boone corridor.

This deal was engineered by Jimmy Hodges, working the levers on some members of the Boone Town Council who have been desperate to complete a water intake on the New River near Todd. Hodges' two fellow Republicans on the County Commission voted against the deal, immediately raising an expectation that Hodges may face a Republican primary in 2018.

Boone town government has always held the position that it shouldn't give away its water to unregulated development. Boone has land-use planning and development regs that have transformed the town in 30 years from a jumble of sometimes shoddy sprawl to a destination city recently named "Best Small Town in North Carolina."

But that principle of "no piping of town water without land-use planning" is now out the window. To drive home the point (and also underline the complete collapse of Boone's negotiating skills), Hodges is quoted in the Watauga Democrat: “We can get water from the town without the county having to pay for it.”


The Unseen Hand of Sen. Dan Soucek in This Deal
Rep. Jonathan Jordan has been trying to stop the new Boone intake on the New River, along with an assortment of Ashe and Watauga citizens who have a variety of motivations.

Jordan's "local bill H875" would halt the intake dead, without the approval of the two affected county commissions in Ashe and Watauga. What happened to that bill? Soucek is holding it -- blocking it -- and creating the unmistakable impression that he's now in cahoots with the real estate developers (and Jimmy Hodges), who are lusting after that water.

That should come as no particular surprise, but the political ironies are striking: Soucek has built his legislative reputation as a bitter enemy of everything "liberal Boone" stands for. Now he's in bed with the Town Council for the sake of that water intake.

They say the next great wars will be fought over water. Perhaps the next great cross-species romances will also happen over water.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

It Smells

The Cleveland County Commission recently decided to hire the NC House Speaker Tim Moore as its county attorney, giving him an up-front appetizer of $25,000 cash and promising $250-per-hour as his fee going forward. The chair of the Cleveland County Commission is Tim Moore's first cousin ("once removed!" Moore is quick to add, defensively).

The Cleveland County Commission is 4-1 Republican, and they know The Main Chance when they see it. Mr. Moore could be a boon to future deals, not to mention a hedge over which the General Assembly might not lobe certain turds (we know all too well the General Assembly's tendency to butt into local affairs).

A boon but also a bone of contention, as it turns out. The man the Cleveland County Commission unceremoniously fired as their attorney to put in Moore is not at all happy about being shown the door, and he wrote his former employees a complaining letter which has been made public (discussed at the link above).

What perhaps smells the highest is what appears to be a rank case of feather-bedding: the Cleveland commissioners appear to have made the job possible -- and much easier -- for the excessively busy Mr. Moore by hiring another full-time attorney to handle routine lawyer stuff for the county while Moore's busy at the General Assembly.

That's kind of a proliferation of legal expenses, ain't it, for no good reason? Or perhaps we should say "for no rational reason," which is more "lawyerly."

How Is Thom Tillis Like Pat McCrory?

Both our governor and our newest U.S. senator from North Carolina are creatures made in executive suites, cobbled together mannikins who have been cooked up in the laboratory of the rich and powerful to please the rich and powerful. Start with an easy smile, add two glad hands, stir in an empty heart containing a pliable set of values, and behold -- the upwardly mobile politician with no core beliefs other than a willingness to please whoever the calendar says needs to be pleased.

'Course, there's sometimes a downside to being as slick as snot on a doorknob. The true believers you fooled on Monday discover your hollowness on Tuesday, and true believers always consider mere hollowness as out-and-out treachery to the cause.

Witness Senator Thom Tillis's suddenly blossoming heartburn with the Far Right:
Although he has only been in the United Senate for under a year, he has wasted no time in moving to the left and allying himself with the Washington Cartel. Presently, Conservative Review gives Tillis a rating of 40% and Heritage Action for America gives Tillis an abysmal 59% conservative rating based, in part, on his votes to extend certain benefits to “same-sex marriage” couples, his support of No Child Left Behind legislation, his confirmation of radical leftist Loretta Lynch to be Barack Obama’s Attorney General and his left of center votes on a number of other issues.
(Should we correct these brethren? Tillis most definitely voted against the confirmation of Loretta Lynch. Naw. The heart believes what the heart needs to believe, and who are we to mess with such vectors?)

McCrory is in similar trouble with the acid-drinkers, mainly because he's just so ... soft and rudderless. McCrory ends up seeming two-faced when he's just confused and scared. Tillis actually is two-faced, and intends to cover his tracks.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Here's a Secret: Out-of-Precinct Voting Is Still Legal

Incidentally -- and this may come as a surprise to the new Director of Elections in Watauga County, Matt Snyder, though we hope he knows by now -- but out-of-precinct voting and same-day registration & voting is still in effect and probably will remain in effect through the municipal elections in November, barring further court action.

Now you'll have to pay close attention to understand why: That paragraph above is true because of a strange combination of federal court rulings in the voting rights case just completed in Winston-Salem. Early last October, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals (NC's own Judge James Wynn) enjoined the implementation of the ban on out-of-precinct provisionals and the repeal of same-day voter registration. 

Then about a week later, the US Supreme Court stayed Judge Wynn’s order. But in their stay the Supremes said that if they eventually denied certiorari to hear an appeal of Judge Wynn’s order, Judge Wynn’s order would go back into effect. So this April, the Supremes denied cert. At that moment Judge Wynn’s order sprang back into life, enjoining the end of out-of-precinct voting and same day registration. The effect was that the pre-2013 implementation of out-of-precinct and same day sprang back to life.

For a judge, or a gross of Yer Honors, to change that again before the voting begins this fall would throw even more people into chaos, though it could happen.

Bottomline: Mr. Matt Snyder had better be ready to allow out-of-precinct voters their ballots and to register new voters during Early Voting on the spot.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Why Do Republicans Persecute the Young Rather Than Try To Win Their Votes?

So a gentleman asks me at the Farmer's Market, "Why don't the Republicans try to win hearts & minds of college students instead of constantly trying to block their votes?"

Excellent question.

Why would Eggers and Aceto provoke a public scolding by the Chief Judge of the Wake Superior Court? Why would they act to invite the unbecoming label of "unconstitutional" to be attached to their official behavior by that same judge?

Why would they return to the exact same behavior and identical official decision to deny an Early Voting site on the ASU campus, which sort of begs for a new lawsuit that targets them personally for repeating their stupidity and acting to harm the constitutional rights of an entire class of citizens?

Why would they?

Why wouldn't they, rather, along with their Watauga Republican overlords, try to win the votes of college students instead of continually trying to squelch them? Why do they display hostility toward college-age voters in such a public way rather than send their ambassadors to this and other college campuses to persuade the young voters to their side?

Young Republican Tommy Adams spent many hours on campus trying to get votes when he ran for County Commissioner in 2012, but he lost. Why? Dunno, but it seems fairly obvious that whatever Republican candidates are peddling, the college age voter ain't buying.

Modern Republican conservatism evidentally turns off college students faster than an unbelieveably boring professor. Perhaps the contemporary Republican "brand" in North Carolina knows full-well that it'll never attract the young in substantial numbers -- at least, not if they're honest about what they intend to do in office -- and it's just easier to shut off ballot access for the 18-25 year-olds.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

EggersEggers&Aceto Have Succeeded in Making the Watauga Board of Elections Into a House of Ill Repute

Cartoon by Andrew Cox
One thing above all others is crystal clear about the Four-Eggers-Luke-Eggers-Bill-Aceto administration of the Watauga County Board of Elections: they have gone and will continue to go to any lengths to hobble and discourage the voting of Appalachian State University students.

In the elections of 2014, while the Terrible Three were denying an Early Voting site for the campus of ASU, they were insisting that the town of Blowing Rock must have an Early Voting site, and Blowing Rock did indeed get their Early Voting polling site.

Now it's 2015, and the Terrible Three are claiming that Early Voting in Blowing Rock would jeopardize the integrity of the election process.

Why? All four municipalities in the county were asked -- at the suggestion of Kim Strach, executive director of the state Board of Elections -- if they would like to have Early Voting set up in their towns, understanding up front that they would be paying the freight for that service. Seven Devils and Beech Mountain both replied "no thanks," but Blowing Rock and the Town of Boone replied, "Yes, please!"

The Terrible Three were in a quandary. How could they give Early Voting in the municipal elections to Blowing Rock and deny it to Boone? You can almost hear the little wheels in their brains grinding: No, better not give it to either, as the unequal treatment might attract unwelcome attention.

So they denied the requested Early Voting sites to both towns, mainly to keep from having one on the campus of ASU. Got it?

Aceto and Eggers
So once again, the majority Eggers-Eggers-Aceto Early Plan for Watauga and a minority plan written by Stella Anderson will be going before the State Board of Elections, and it will be Mr. Josh Howard and his fellow SBOE members who will have to make the final decision.

The last time Mr. Howard et al. made that decision for Watauga -- 2014, --a law suit was filed and was ultimately successful against the State Board of Elections for siding with EggersEggers&Aceto. A Superior Court judge in Wake County ordered the State Board to place an Early Voting site on the ASU campus. The SBOE complied with that order the day before Early Voting was to begin. (Mere minutes after that SBOE decision, the state's Supreme Court weighed in -- without actually stopping the SBOE's decision. The State Supremes ordered the SBOE back into the NC Court of Appeals, which had already declined to stay the superior court judge's order. Nothing would be adjudicated until after the 2014 election was over.)

So ASU got its Early Voting site in the general elections of 2014, and as a matter of fact, more voters voted early at that site per hour than at any other Watauga County Early Voting site.

"Four" Eggers, master mind
The Superior Court judge had ruled on the basis of the infringement of Constitutional rights, saying that EggersEggers&Aceto had singled out a class of citizens for unequal and unfair treatment and that the SBOE had aided and abetted in that scheme.

In its subsequent appeal to the NC Court of Appeals (heard this very morning, as a matter of fact, in Raleigh), the SBOE only wanted one issue adjudicated. Even though the "harm" in Anderson et al. v. SBOE is now moot (meaning that since that election is over, the injury to voters once at stake is now of only academic interest), the SBOE nevertheless wants the Court of Appeals to rule that the plaintiffs in Anderson et al. v. SBOE (students unfairly discriminated against in the matter of ballot access) didn't go to the right court and that they should have to file a different type of law suit that would cost a lot more money and take a lot more work in a very constrained time-frame. The SBOE also argued that it was not acting in a quasi-judicial role when it refused an ASU Early Voting site, because it never issued findings nor considered evidence, even though it was supposed to. Therefore, the SBOE argued, the SBOE cannot be held accountable. Anderson et al. argued that the case is indeed moot, that the students won, and that the SBOE (not to forget EggersEggers&Aceto) are full of shit (okay, I paraphrased that last part).

It may take the Court of Appeals up to 90 days to decide what they can do with this case. In the meantime, the exact same issues are now guaranteed to land with a thud on the collective desks of the SBOE. Are they ready for round two, or will someone of the Republican persuasion on the SBOE decide that it might be better not to rubber-stamp once again the partisan stupidity of EggersEggers&Aceto?

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Watauga Board of Elections: Potholed

This evening Watauga Board of Elections Chair Luke Eggers went all authoritarian about early voting sites for the municipal elections in November and declared that Boone and Blowing Rock could not have the sites those towns requested, even though Boone and Blowing Rock would be paying for them.

See if you can decipher his reasoning:

“On the surface," opined Eggers, who knows a thing or two about surfaces, the requests from the towns of Blowing Rock and Boone for Early Voting sites "sounds like a great idea. But the more I thought about it, what got me was we are reaching out to the candidates and letting them have a say. It would be the same thing if we went to the general election and asked the county commissioners, ‘Where do you want a site?’ ” (emphasis added)

"We are reaching out to the candidates"? What? Minority member Stella Anderson wrote the town managers of all the county's municipalities and inquired about their preferences for early voting sites. Is Eggers suggesting that the responses that were received were dictated by candidates running for reelection?

Now there's a man who's foremost concern is "integrity" -- "Eggers said he is trying to keep the integrity of the elections" -- never mind the puppet strings that his big brother "Four" Eggers has danced him on since August of 2013. Do the two Mr. Eggers think we don't see through them? Do they think their steadfast scheme to suppress the vote of ASU students isn't done at the behest of certain candidates, or at least to benefit their prospects?

In denying an early voting site -- once again -- on the campus of Appalachian State University, Eggers and Aceto are defying the Superior Court judge who ruled last year that their previous denial in 2014 was a violation of constitutional rights and the principles of equal treatment under the law.

In denying an early voting site in Blowing Rock, which they were eager to grant in last fall's general election and are now suddenly totally opposed to, Eggers and Aceto are proving that their foolish consistency has become the hobgoblin of their little partisan minds (forgive me, R.W. Emerson!).

Because the vote on the BOE this evening was 2-1, there'll be an appeal heard by the state Board of Elections (now minus member Paul Foley). Last year the SBOE sided with Eggers & Aceto, and what came of that? They got sued and lost, and the court forced the placement of an early voting site in the ASU Student Union.

Eggers & Aceto are going down that bumpy road again. That's some swell instruction that Four Eggers is forcing on his little brother Luke and on his other tool, Bill Aceto.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Todd Poole Is Out at the NC GOP

Todd Poole has been executive director of the North Carolina Republican Party for a little over two years, but today he is out of that job ... voluntarily, he says, but we suspect he was shown the door.

If you'll recall, Todd Poole was once upon a time Congresswoman Virginia Foxx's top staffer.

He seems to have gotten crossways with Tea Partiers in the state party. He had been accused of trying to sabotage the new party chair, Hasan Harnett, though we only have a Tea Party blog as a source for that.

It's no secret that new Chair Hasan Harnett's election blind-sided the party establishment. In other words, there's disarray on Hillsborough Street in Raleigh. Disarray not quite as impactful as Donald Trump, but we'll take what we can get.

Friday, August 07, 2015

"If You Smell Something, Say Something"

The best defense against bullshit is vigilance. Learn to recognize the three types of contemporary bullshit:

1. Making bad things sound like good things.

2. Hiding the bad things under mountains of complexity.

3. The bullshit of infinite possibility: "We can't do anything because we don't yet know everything."

Goodbye, Jon. You improved our sense of smell.

Thursday, August 06, 2015

Best Served Cold

Headline in Indy Week:
Poll: Nobody likes legislative lightning rod Trudy Wade, not even in her ruby-red Senate district
You made war on the city of Greensboro, because it had too many Democrats in elected office, so now it's time to eat your peas a la crow.


Editorialists testify to the accomplishments of Dr. Aldona Wos.

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Watauga's High Impact Land Use Ordinance -- AMENDED -- And the Citizens Win

Watauga Commission
Chair Jimmy Hodges
This morning the Watauga County Commission voted unanimously to pass recommended amendments to the High Impact Land Use (HILU) Ordinance, including expanding the uses covered by Category 1 (the most stringent designation) and (most significantly) adding a special use permitting section that will include from now on public notice to affected land-owners on any proposed HILU use under any category and an opportunity to present relevant, competent, and material evidence of why a permit should not be issued. The following evidentiary categories will be considered regarding a proposed development:
(1) Will it endanger the public health or safety?
(2) Will it injure the value of adjoining or abutting property?
(3) Will it be in harmony with the area in which it is located?
(4) Will it be in conformity with the land-use plan, thoroughfare plan, or other plan officially adopted by the County Commission?
Having watched and participated in struggles over land-use planning in Watauga since the 1990s, my enthusiasm for this enormous leap forward is based on an appreciation for history and for the ironies contained therein. We wanted a special-use permitting process when the HILU ordinance was first passed more than a decade ago, and the reigning powers at that time looked at us like we had tails. The reigning powers now are still Republican, but...

Things changed. The citizens rose up and made themselves heard. What the current County Commission heard loud and clear (and as someone this morning said), "We don't feel safe in this county." They should feel considerably safer this morning.

The original HILU came about because of the threat of an asphalt plant on the Roby Greene Road. It was a grudging ordinance. Powerful forces wanted no land-use regs of any kind. A county committee made up equally of "zoners" and "no-zoners" argued and jaw-boned and negotiated for months, and what emerged eventually was watered-down and weak.

Another asphalt plant threat suddenly emerged this year, and what has happened now is not weak, not compromised away into insignificance. It has teeth now. It remains to be seen how it will work, but the citizens who banded together and formed High Country Watch deserve praise and congratulations for moving this county forward light-years from where it was.

Realistically, part of the pressure that began to mount on the County Commission to change the HILU was prompted by the power-grab obligingly engineered by Senator Dan Soucek to take away Boone's extra-territorial jurisdiction (ETJ), at the behest of major developers who despised Boone's land-use planning regs.

Sen. Dan Soucek
As you should know by now, the three-judge panel hearing Boone's lawsuit against Soucek's "local bill" yesterday threw out the law as unconstitutional.

But the upset among ETJ residents living in fear of what could happen to their investments after Soucek's law passed was certainly part of the increased public awareness and the energy that funneled into High Country Watch.

That struggle isn't over, of course. Soucek told the Watauga Democrat, "I fully intend to ask [the Attorney General's Office] to appeal. The residents of the ETJ shouldn’t have their properties subject to a town council that they didn’t vote for. They’re my constituents, and I will continue to fight for their property rights."

Whose property rights? The individuals who originally induced Mr. Soucek to file his bill. The rest of you can, well, suck it!

Soucek wants to see this case reach the NC Supreme Court, where a 5-4 conservative Republican majority ought (he thinks) uphold his power-grab (as it recently upheld giving public tax dollars to private schools, another of Mr. Soucek's pet projects). He's possibly right. Considering the blistering he just experienced from the three-judge panel, we don't know. But by its action this morning, the County Commission rendered at least some of the fear among ETJ residents moot. (County regs do not, however, address steep-slope development, which is a major feature of Boone's regs.)

Ironically, Soucek helped move Watauga County miles down the road toward effective land-use planning. Also ironically, it took a new Republican County Commission Chair, Jimmy Hodges, to swing the vote. Nathan Miller would never have taken the county where its gone today.

Of course, we are realistic. Only a limited number of uses are covered by HILU:
Category 1: Asphalt Plants, Cement Mixing Facilities, Quarries/Stone Crushers, Chemical Manufacturing, Chemical Storage Facilities, and Explosives Manufacturing.
Category 2. Automotive Graveyards, Propane or Gasoline Bulk Storage Facilities, Chip Mills, Electricity Generating Facilities (excluding Wind and Solar Power Farms), and Junk/Scrap Yards.
Category 3. Fuel Oil Bulk Storage Facilities, Electric Substations, Commercial/Industrial Development with aggregate building footprint 50,000 square feet or greater, Recycling Facilities, and Solar Power Farms.
Still to be subjected to special use permits and county land-use planning are high-density housing projects (The Cottages, anyone?), but we've taken a step in the right direction.

Monday, August 03, 2015

Our Governor, The Suck-Up

So here's Donald Trump's Twitter comment about the groveling of Republican candidates, including our dear dim Governor Pat McCrory, at a California resort this past weekend, begging the Koch Bros. and their rich friends for money--

"Puppets?" tweeted Trump.

That's the thing, especially so far as Pat McCrory is concerned. He's a man without a "values" rudder, always at the beck and call of the rich and powerful who do have core values and who are looking for willing tools to tote their water and fetch their slippers. Pat McCrory is their guy. Always has been.

McCrory was first induced to run for the Charlotte City Council by William S. Lee, CEO of Duke Energy back in the 1980s, and once in office, McCrory became Duke Energy's guy, running to their whistle, always willing to put his thumb on the scales for The Big Boys. He would obligingly testify in Congress, after he became mayor of Charlotte and was still working for Duke, against stricter air pollution standards without bothering to mention that he also worked for a major fossil fuel polluter.

In a famous NC Supreme Court dissent in Cook v. Charlotte, Justice I. Beverly Lake explicitly mentioned McCrory's toadying for Duke. Lake wrote that McCrory's conflict of interest had been shocking, that he had in effect colluded with Duke Energy and voted to condemn a piece of property that Duke wanted for itself. Puppet? You bet.

McCrory obviously relishes the lifestyles of the rich and famous, especially when The Big Boys are paying. Then he neglects to report on his financial disclosure forms that he's yucked it up in luxury with the high-rollers, as though it were a shameful thing. Which it is, if you don't know who you are and are totally fixated on who they are, and what they want.

The rudderlessness is what has made McCrory a disaster as governor of the state. The Berger-Tillis junta took over the General Assembly two years in advance of McCrory's own election as governor, and McCrory spent those two years slavering Berger-Tillis with sycophantic praise, currying their favor so they'd support him in the 2012 Republican primary.

Berger, certainly, saw McCrory for what he was, a willing tool to the powerful who had no core principles himself. Tillis was maybe kinder in his assessment and tried to prop up the governor occasionally, but the Berger abuse of McCrory showed the world how hollow the governor was, and other members of the General Assembly have piled on.

They bought him. They own him. They'll treat him like the lap dog he is.

Now someone else may have bought him, and North Carolina will veer again in new, dangerous directions.

Sunday, August 02, 2015

The NC General Assembly: Making the Economy Worse (Specifics)

Rob Christensen obligingly details what the Republican leadership has done to hurt the state's economy:

▪ Commerce Secretary John Skvarla, a conservative Republican, said in February that North Carolina lost its bid for a Volvo manufacturing plant in part because the legislature hasn’t approved more jobs incentive funding....

▪ Last weekend, Wake County manager Jim Hartmann said on the Carolina Business Review TV program: “In Wake County we’ve got 60 projects under review and in discussion right now. Some of these are very sizeable. ... I think some of the projects have actually gone elsewhere because the state was not in a position to come to the table.” Added Dena Diorio, the Mecklenburg County manager: “Clearly, if you want to compete with South Carolina, you have to have more money, really to be in the game. That is really important.”

▪ Last week, Ernie Pearson, president of the N.C. Economic Developers Association, long active in GOP politics, said Senate plans to phase out economic incentives would not work in the real world. “I can tell you, and give you my word, we are losing projects in this state that are impactful in jobs, impactful in capital investment,” Pearson told the House Appropriations Committee, according to The Insider. Natalie English of the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce said a company is considering moving its corporate headquarters to Charlotte and investing $300 million in a separate North Carolina location but it will likely not happen without state incentives.

▪ Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, who likes much of what the legislature has done, thinks the Senate plan to apply the sales tax to advertising would be “an unmitigated disaster.” He said Florida tried it and the state lost $100 million in advertising revenue to other states.

Much of the film industry has left the state, heading to South Carolina and Georgia, after the legislature ended the roughly $60 million tax credit for making movies. The $10 million grant program that replaced it hasn’t kept the film industry here. Film companies previously spent $170 million in the Wilmington area alone.

▪ An estimated $1.5 billion in private investments were brought into the state to help transform historic factories, hospitals, storefronts and so on since 1998 as a result of the state historic tax credit program. The legislature let the historic tax credit lapse....

▪ The $13.6 million in annual state funding for the N.C. Biotechnology Center would be killed under the Senate budget. The center helps fund startups and research across the state. North Carolina has 60,000 people working in the life sciences industry. The House has voted to continue funding.

▪ At a time when unemployment in North Carolina has risen four straight months, the Senate is considering eliminating 8,500 teacher aides, in what would be the largest layoff in state history.

▪ While the legislature is concerned about getting jobs into rural areas, it killed the state’s regional economic development partnerships, four of seven of which mainly served rural or small town North Carolina, and folded the N.C. Rural Center into the Department of Commerce.

▪ The legislature has essentially frozen funding of the University of North Carolina system at pre-2008 recession levels. State funding for UNC has risen from $2.6 billion in 2007-08 to an expected $2.7 billion in 2015-16. “You can say whatever you want to about the university system, (that) there’s waste and you don’t like their politics,” Fred Eshelman, a Wilmington pharmaceutical executive and major Republican donor, said last year. “It doesn’t change the fact that, in my view, it’s the biggest economic engine we have in this state.”

It's Sunday Morning. Do You Know Where Your Governor Is?

Sipping Koch in Dana Point, California, that's where.

The St. Regis
McCrory was one of seven sitting governors, six incumbent senators, and two U.S. House members who were singled out to cash in at a Koch Bros. "donor event" in California at the super-fancy and mega-pricey St. Regis resort. The hundreds of deep-pocket donors, the One Percent, will not be named by prior press agreement, unless they give express permission.

Here's the full list of elected invitees. All Republicans, natch.

"By press agreement"? The Koch Bros. are trying to rehabilitate their image as the Montgomery Burns of the Electoral Process, or as The Crypt Keepers at the Tomb of Democracy (take yer pick!), so they're trying to soften their public image and "reach out" more to the 99%. Bless their hearts.

Their maneuvering "toward transparency" ("We're the Super-Rich and We Already Own Your Government. We Just Want You to Feel Good About That") is detailed in this AP article.

A Ticking Time Bomb
The Kochs did not invite Donald Trump.

Trump's request to speak at a Koch-sponsored grassroots summit in Ohio was also rejected. "Additionally, his campaign’s effort to buy data and analytic services from a Koch-backed political tech firm was rebuffed, according to a Politico report."

Do you smell burning hair?

Is The Donald going to take this kind of treatment? Remains to be seen. Is he a weenie to other billionaires, or is a man?

Saturday, August 01, 2015

A Rising Tide Sinks All Dingbats

Board of Elections fundraising reports were due in Raleigh yesterday, and there was at least one bombshell discovery: Attorney General and presumptive Democratic gubernatorial candidate Roy Cooper is out-raising sitting governor and presumptive screw-up Pat McCrory ... by a good country mile.

When confronted with this news, the McCrory campaign put on its "What, Me Worry?" idiot grin: "...we’re just now getting started,” said Billy Constangy, director of The Pat McCrory Committee. “While Gov. McCrory is focused on doing his full-time job as governor of North Carolina, our growing network of supporters will ensure we have the resources necessary to show how North Carolina is moving forward and creating jobs under his leadership.”

"We're Just Now Getting Started!" There's a bumper-sticker for you!

"Doing his full-time job as governor of North Carolina." How's that working for you? Your own party's leaders in the General Assembly obviously regard you ... well, they scarcely regard you at all, and when they do, it's less than complimentary.

Republican strategist and former Jesse Helms political guru Carter Wrenn can read the fundraising tea leaves: “You very seldom see a challenger outraising an incumbent when it’s a governor or senator,” Wrenn said. “This is a really good sign for Roy Cooper. He’s outraising a sitting governor. I don’t know when the last time that happened.”

This will up the right-wing pressure on what's-his-name -- Dan Forest, our divinely inspired lieutenant governor -- to run a primary against McCrory, though that in itself would be a fool's errand. In other words, how can Dan Forest resist the temptation?

Governor McCrory is laughing manically at what he sees over his right shoulder, but that rising tide is gaining on him and is no laughing matter.