Sunday, January 31, 2016

NC Supreme Court: "Extortion of Public Employees Is Fine With Us!"

Justice Edmunds
The North Carolina Supreme Court on Friday issued a ruling that any county sheriff can demand a political donation from deputies and fire those deputies if they fail to pony up. No kidding! The court declared that "deputies work directly for the sheriff and do not have the same protections as county government workers when it comes to political activity."

Deputies (and sheriffs, for that matter) also work for the citizens in their jurisdiction, who might also want to believe that law enforcement is not about who's swinging the biggest political stick.

The sheriff in this particular case, incidentally, was a Democrat. Power fiefdoms, especially ones that feature the extortion of money from employees, are abhorrent to my notions of democracy.

The only sitting justice up for election in 2016 is Bob Edmunds, but the Republicans have made it impossible to vote for someone else. By the rules of the new "retention elections" for Supreme Court justices, we can only vote to "retain" Edmunds, or not retain him. We will have no choice to vote for someone else ... unless a constitutional challenge to "retention elections" gets heard favorably by a special three-judge panel.

I will not be voting to "retain" Justice Edmunds. I can barely retain my breakfast, thinking about this particular ruling.

Friday, January 29, 2016

It's Amazing What Disrespect and Low Pay Will Do to a Profession

Public school teaching in North Carolina has sunk into a crisis that it may not recover from, and the Republican leadership in this state bears the principal blame.

“We’ve disincentivized teaching pretty much on every level,” Sean Bulson, superintendent of the Wilson County public school system, told an NC House select committee on education. “All of the things that affect supply and demand in teaching are the things we’ve chipped away at over the last few years."


On Wednesday, State Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson told the same committee that teacher salaries need to rise ten percent to begin to repair the damage wrought by the recession (under Democratic rule) and which accelerated exponentially under The Gang That Doesn't Like Public Education.

Raise teacher salaries by ten percent, Atkinson told the lawmakers. A day later -- yesterday, to be exact -- House Speaker Tim Moore came before the same select education committee and told them to fuggetaboutit.

Meanwhile, on the ground in our actual schools, this is happening:
For the first time ever, according to Beverly Emory, superintendent at Winston-Salem/Forsyth schools, her district had 25 elementary school vacancies when the school year started.
Frank Till, Cumberland County superintendent, said his district started the school year with 50 vacancies. Affluent schools, where a job opening once would attract seven or eight applicants, are now “lucky to get one for some positions,” he said.
There did not use to be any shortage of elementary teachers in the state. Now there are shortages at every level, because who wants to grow up and be a public school teacher in North Carolina, where your work is neither understood nor honored, where your higher degree will earn you nothing extra, where the legislative leaders signal their attitudes toward your job by continually looking for ways to siphon money off to private, unaccountable, for-profit enterprises that go under the heading of "schools"?

Until that bunch in Raleigh are retired, sent home, or promoted to higher elective office, where maybe they can ruin the entire country, our public schools are on virtual life support.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Town of Boone Googles 'Parking'

The exchange of email copied below came on the heels of last week's Boone Town Council meeting inwhich another new development with inadequate parking for the requiredcommercial space was approved across from the Appalachian State University Convocation Center.

Leading up to the Council's 4-1 vote to approve that development, Planning Director Bill Bailey cited "studies" that claimed that modern university students were trending away from car ownership and/or driver's licenses. In what I posted toWataugaWatch about that meeting, I questioned the source of that information and doubted its bearing on the situation in Boone.


To: Bill Bailey, Director, Boone Planning and Inspections Dept.
John Ward, Boone Town Manager

From: Pam Williamson

1/21/2016 6:49 PM

Hi, Bill and John.

I have been watching your live feed of tonight's [Boone Town Council] meeting. Bill says he has some research and has had some discussions with other college towns that demonstrate that 30% of students no longer have cars that need to be considered in development parking needs. 

Could you please send me copies of notes, links to the research, and/or any other materials associated with that contention?

Thanks so much,

-- Pam Williamson


To: Pam Williamson

From: Bill Bailey

1/26/2016 9:29 AM

Ms. Williamson, below are some articles (of the dozens I found) that support the statements I made during the Council deliberations.  As for conversations I had with universities, they were just that -- conversations. I did not take notes so there are none to forward to you in response to this request. As you will see from these articles, I took a very conservative approach when I stated the 30% number.

Below are some of the articles I found to support (or refute) what colleges were telling me about parking:

And this last article which I find interesting in that it speaks to the college age persons and we are talking about student housing...

For more articles, you may want to try Google or Yahoo search engines.


To: Pam Williamson, Bill Bailey

From: John Ward, Boone Town Manager

1/26/2016 10:08 a.m.

Bill and Pam,

I thought you might also find these articles interesting. They both caught my attention during the last two days after parking was both discussed at the BOA and the Town Council Meeting.


John A. Ward III


To: Bill Bailey, John Ward

From: Pam Williamson

1/27/2016 12:57 a.m.

John and Bill, thank you both very much for your Google links.

I have read what you sent and done more research on my own. Turns out there is much debate about your thesis that Millennials are buying fewer cars and don't have drivers' licenses. Most of the links you provided simply rehash a single study which has subsequently been challenged by yet another study and then that study challenged by another study and so on.

The primary article you reference suggests that millennials are buying fewer new cars. Turns out instead they are buying used cars because they are broke. Another article challenging one of the challenges to the primary report you referenced says millennials actually have fewer cars in their own names, again because they are broke. Instead, their parents are buying the cars for Millennials, keeping the titles in their names, but the Millennials are driving them.

As one of the articles warns, "don’t be making claims that can be disproved with a pocket calculator.” Speaking of calculators, even if we assume you are right (which I don't) and 30% of students at ASU won't or don't have cars, what do you intend to do about the 14,000 who your "calculations" clearly show will have to park somewhere? I assume you either have a plan for that the rest of us just don't know about yet, or you have decided to ignore that figure because a Google search tells you Seattle can handle it.

As for driver's licenses, I have some data to offer you that is far more applicable than the disputed national data you apparently are using to try to "imagine" what the parking needs might be for any given project in Boone. Last Summer, we made over 2,000 phone calls to ASU students to determine whether they had NC drivers' licenses that could be counted as valid IDs at the polls. Of the 2,246 we called, six did not have NC Drivers' licenses, and four of those six had a driver's license from another state. I would respectfully submit that this statistical fact beats any of your Google searches as to what pertains to Boone. I'd like to point out that is a valid and actual statistical sample pertinent specifically to Boone that shows just .09% of ASU students don't have a driver's license.

While I realize the need for and certainly support more walking/biking accessibility, it's disheartening to know that Boone's Planning and Inspections Department hangs on abstract national studies from metropolitan cities to justify the parking inadequacy of recent project proposals in our small mountain town.

Maybe that's why we are in such a mess. The traffic is worse than ever, and the town looks worse than it has since I moved here 33 years ago. Yet your Department, your attorney, and Council have the ability, but obviously not the will or desire, to get your hats on straight and do something about it before you completely ruin the place for good.

For a start, I encourage you to come up with some reasonable and sane method of determining what parking needs are adequate for specific developments in Boone before it's too late. While Google searches of national trends is certainly enlightening for overall planning purposes, your reliance on them to discern the parking adequacy for a proposed development in Boone is frankly pretty embarrassing.

 -- Pam Williamson


To: Pam Williamson

From: John Ward

1/27/2016 10:04 a.m.


Thanks for the info. In the next few weeks we have a retreat to get guidance for the future from the current Town Council. Parking is on the agenda. Currently, Bill and his staff and the Board of Adjustment are implementing what is in current code. If the expectation changes then Bill will be charged with making those changes for Town Council to approve and then implementing the changes.


John A. Ward III
Town Manager
Town of Boone

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Dan Soucek, Painting Lipstick on His Pig

The suddenly uninterested state Senator Dan Soucek sent out an email  last September praising himself and his side of the General Assembly for the budget the Republicans passed, and he made the best of some lousy policy by misrepresenting what actually happened.

Soucek wrote, "The budget boosts early-career teacher pay to from $33,000 to $35,000 per year and provides experienced-based step increases to teachers, assistant principals, principals, State Highway Patrol troopers, clerks and magistrates."

Ah, "experienced-based step increases." What Soucek didn't bother to explain: Those step increases are banded together into groups of five years, so no salary increase at all for four years and then a band (step) increase, followed by four more years of no increase, etc.

Soucek wrote, "The [budget] agreement funds all teacher assistant positions supported in last year’s budget...."

That's a bit of fast footwork. What Soucek didn't mention: Although we have the same funding level for teaching assistants statewide, we also have a changed formula (class-size-to-TA ratios) resulting in a loss of TA funding for Watauga for the same number of classrooms. Watauga County Schools will have to borrow from Peter (elsewhere in the school budget) to pay Paul (all the existing TAs that didn't already retire out of disgust with the way Soucek and his buddies in Raleigh have behaved toward public education).

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

General Assembly Took Away Our Ability To Vote for a New Supreme Court Justice

Justice Edmunds
You do know that last year the General Assembly rigged our Supreme Court elections. No longer will you have a choice between candidates. You may only vote to retain Republican Justice Bob Edmunds, or not retain him, and if you vote not, then Governor Squishy gets to appoint a replacement.

Sabre Faires has filed a lawsuit challenging this new innovation -- called a "retention election" -- as violating our Constitution. Yesterday her lawyers filed a motion for a summary judgment in the case.

Seems like a strong argument in our opinion. Our state constitution calls for elections of Supreme Court judges, not referenda on whether we want to retain them or not. The General Assembly essentially changed the constitution without bothering to tell the rest of us.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Dwane Powell, Jan 22, 2016, in the Raleigh News & Observer

Saturday, January 23, 2016

There Ain't Nothing "Moderate" About Jonathan Jordan

John Wynne, writing at PoliticsNC:
A number of legislators – all Republicans, of course – received a perfect score [from the American Conservative Union]. In the Senate, those were: Kathy Harrington, Joyce Krawiec, Mike Lee, Buck Newton (running for Attorney General), and Dan Soucek (retiring). 100% conservatives in the House: Marilyn Avila, Mark Brody, and Jonathan Jordan.
Perhaps it's easier being 100% anything if you don't really lift a finger for anybody, except to vote with the majority. That doesn't take the exercise of any brain synapses. You barely have to move your carcass.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Town of Boone to Developers: "No Parking? No Problem!"

Last night, by a vote of 4-1 (with Loretta Clawson, the lone voice of reason), the Boone Town Council approved too large a development on too small a space with too little parking.

The majority on the council have been seized by a New Faith: If the town deliberately allows new developments to ignore required parking regs, then the town will almost magically reduce "auto dependency" and become a "walking and biking" town. That's the long-range vision. The short-term is more and denser rent-by-the-bedroom student housing along major corridors with Council saying simultaneously, "We have a serious parking problem," but approving anyway mega-developments without adequate parking.

Head, spinning.

The University Overlook on the Blowing Rock Road beside the Parthenon is now approved: 24 one-bedroom apartments and approximately 4,000 square feet of retail space on the first floor, with a total of 28 parking spaces. The Town's ordinance provides that there should be 1 parking space per bedroom. Generally, retail/commercial uses are required by Town ordinance to provide 5 spaces per 1,000 square feet of commercial use (restaurants -- 12 spaces per 1,000 square feet).

So ... a bit of rough math:
UDO requirement = 24 residential parking spaces
Approved by Council = 22 residential parking spaces
UDO requirement = 20 retail/commercial parking spaces
Approved by Council = 6 retail/commercial parking spaces

Time out for my forlorn observation RE 22 parking places for 24 one-bedroom apartments: Perhaps there'll be at least two renters at University Overlook without cars, but how many of those one-bedrooms will be rented by two unrelated (but very friendly) persons, both of whom have cars?

The Boone Planning Commission considered this project on January 11 before it went to the Town Council last night. The following discussion, taken from Planning Commission minutes, is eye-opening:
Vice-Chair Simmons asked how everyone felt about the parking. Commission Chair Woolridge noted that he didn’t have a concern with the parking and asked Vice-Chair Simmons if he had any concerns about the parking. Vice-Chair Simmons noted that his concern was that maybe applicants are putting in token commercial space because Council did not want to see 100% residential in commercial corridors and that the commercial spaces may not have the parking spaces to support them. Vice-Chair noted the answer might be that this proposal is for a walkable development but noted that the commercial area only had 6 spaces.
Chair Woolridge asked if Vice-Chair Simmons wanted to see more parking spaces. Vice-Chair Simmons noted that he just wanted to have the discussion.
Commission Member McCracken asked how the development next to Hob Nob and Winkler Square worked. Commission Member Tate noted that he handles the parking for those two locations and that it seems to work great for the residential tenants but that his concern is that there may not be enough parking for the commercial business which is why they are vacant at Winkler Square.
Commission Member Dineen noted that she thought the parking is problematic; that the existing parking in the area is congested and that this area was not like King Street where on-street parking is provided for the commercial customers and that regardless of whether the development is walkable people will still own cars and will need a place to park them. [Italics have been added]
What did the Planning Commission do after this discussion. It voted unanimously to approve the project.  (Sometimes the boat sinks when no one wants to rock it.)

And this, also from the minutes during the discussion of parking: "Mr. [Bill] Bailey [Planning Director] noted that studies from other Universities indicate that only 60% of students have vehicles and that number keeps decreasing." One wonders what other universities (and "studies") Mr. Bailey was referring to. Certainly not Appalachian State University.

When some members of the Boone Town Council last night expressed the same concerns about parking, Mr. Bill Bailey trotted out that particular factoid that university students somewhere are using autos much less. Inquiring minds would like to see that evidence and understand more clearly what it has to do with this place and these college students and their automobiles.

Although Councilwoman Loretta Clawson was the only member to express dismay at the direction the town is deliberately taking, to her credit new Councilwoman Jen Teague announced that she was not comfortable about the parking requirement, and she turned to the council's lawyer Allison Meade for help with wording: How do we require more of the developer?

Allison Meade
And then I witnessed something I've never seen before -- an elected public body's attorney injecting her own "vote" into the discussion and effectively taking over control of the Council's decision. Oh don't try to tell a developer how many parking spaces he should provide, Lawyer Meade advised. The developer knows far better than we do what is needed. Don't tie the developer's hands, because there are already incentives aplenty for the developer to get it right, and who are we to impose more conditions?

At which Councilwoman Teague dropped her question and voted for the development, along with members Lynne Mason, Charlotte Mizelle, and Jeannine Underdown Collins. Member Clawson stood alone in opposition.

Whatever else is going wrong in the Town of Boone, there seems to be a problem with having an attorney who is also a real estate broker.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Republican Aceto Gets His Patsy on the Watauga BOE; "ASU Can Drop Dead"

Completely ignoring a Wake County Superior Court judge's ruling in 2014 that the behavior of the Republican duo on the Watauga County Board of Elections amounted to an unconstitutional infringement of voting rights, the newly constituted BOE last night again affirmed its partisan bona fides: On a cold day in hell will they ever approve an Early Voting site on the campus of Appalachian State University.

Nancy Owen
First off in that meeting, Republican Bill Aceto got his replacement for the gone-boy Luke Eggers ... Nancy Owen of Beech Mountain. Very quickly, the citizens attending the meeting found out why she was the Republican pick to replace Eggers: She'll vote the partisan line.

In the discussion of Early Voting for the 2016 primary election, Nancy Owen expressed the opinion that "convenience and accessibility" in voting was a non-issue for her. She also joined Aceto in refusing to allow citizen comment on Early Voting prior to their vote. She's got the partisan genes for the job, all right.

Democratic Board member Stella Anderson pointed out that, statistically, the Board should be looking at a comparable election for Early Voting stats, which would be the presidential primary of 2012. What the stats show:

1. The ASU Early Voting site had by far the most voters per hour of any Early Voting site in the county. (In 2014, when Early Voting was restored in the ASU Student Union for the General Election, that site also led all others in number of voters per hour.)

2. Who was early-voting at the Student Union? Not just students. Hundreds of faculty and staff, whose residences are scattered all over the county, often drove past a satellite Early Voting station in their neighborhoods in order to vote at the Student Union.

3. It has been demonstrated over and over that many citizens want an Early Voting site on the ASU campus. Every citizen who spoke after the board's vote last night expressed anger and regret that the board would not even consider Early Voting at ASU.

4. A report by state Board of Elections Executive Director Kim Strach found no problems with the Early Voting site at ASU during the 2014 General Elections ... despite Bill Aceto's multiple weak excuses for why he doesn't want students to vote.

Watauga County Republicans -- if they didn't hate students so vividly -- ought to be pissed at the Aceto-Owen arrogance. It's Republicans who have the hot primary race for president (Democrats too, for that matter), and many many Appalachian State staff people are registered Republicans and would appreciate the convenience of a voting site on the campus where they work.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

What's So Appealing About Donald Trump?

A political scientist polled 1,800 registered voters across the country during the last week of December. In addition to "the typical battery of demographic, horse race, thermometer-scale and policy questions," the 1,800 were also asked these four questions which are rarely included in political polling:
1. Is it more important to have a child who is (a) respectful or (b) independent?
2. Is it more important to have a child who is (a) obedient or (b) self-reliant? 
3. Is it more important to have a child who is (a) well-behaved or (b) considerate?
4. Is it more important to have a child who is (a) well-mannered or (b) curious?
Trump supporters overwhelmingly answered "a" to all four questions.

The researcher found no other consistent, single "statistically significant variable" that identified Trump supporters -- not education, income, gender, age, ideology, or religiosity. No, what united them were the "a" answers to the four questions above ... an indication of authoritarianism.

Time out for a dictionary definition:
authoritarian: of, relating to, or favoring blind submission to authority; of, relating to, or favoring a concentration of power in a leader or an elite not constitutionally responsible to the people (Merriam-Webster)
Since World War II, the opinions and behavior of authoritarians have been exhaustively studied by social scientists. As Matthew MacWilliams writes, "Authoritarians obey. They rally to and follow strong leaders. And they respond aggressively to outsiders, especially when they feel threatened. From pledging to 'make America great again' by building a wall on the border to promising to close mosques and ban Muslims from visiting the United States, Trump is playing directly to authoritarian inclinations."

The jokes that Trump acts like a strutting "Trumpolini" ... those aren't jokes. Those are warnings.
So, those who say a Trump presidency “can’t happen here” should check their conventional wisdom at the door. The candidate has confounded conventional expectations this primary season because those expectations are based on an oversimplified caricature of the electorate in general and his supporters in particular. Conditions are ripe for an authoritarian leader to emerge. Trump is seizing the opportunity. And the institutions—from the Republican Party to the press—that are supposed to guard against what James Madison called “the infection of violent passions” among the people have either been cowed by Trump’s bluster or are asleep on the job. 

Monday, January 18, 2016

Did a Gang of NC Republicans Boo Donald Trump in SC Debate?

You know the booing of Donald Trump in the South Carolina debate, when he was going all birther on Ted Cruz last week? Rush Limbaugh reported that the booing was coming from outside agitators with North Carolina addresses:
...The North Carolina GOP bused a bunch of people down there and their express purpose was to try to show that there is no massive support for Trump. They wanted to do some damage. They are grudgingly accepting Ted Cruz now....
Tea Party blogger and paint stripper Brant Clifton suggests that it was NCGOP Exec. Dir. Dallas Woodhouse and NC House Rep. David Lewis who got them the tickets to the debate. Woodhouse and Lewis had recently escaped a censure vote by Tea Party irregulars at a state GOP meeting and maybe wanted to flex some muscle RE the ascendancy of Trump.

Dunno. But we doubt the busing to South Carolina. Rich Republicans don't ride buses. Not even for the privilege of booing the enemy.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Gov. Squishy's $2 Billion Bond Issue on the March 15 Primary Ballot

Someone just forwarded to me an email that went (apparently) to all Appalachian State University faculty and staff from Chancellor Sheri Everts, urging everyone to vote for the "ConnectNC" bond issue that will be on March 15 primary ballot in North Carolina.

No offense, Chancellor Everts, but I intend to vote "NO."

It's a dishonest bond issue. Gov. Squishy is promising no tax increase whatsoever to pay for it, because, you know, Republicans are so great with money that they can -- presto! change-o! -- borrow $2 billion without paying for it.

Well, they will have to pay for it, but The Guv and his guys & gals in the General Assembly will do so by "reallocations" within the budget, moving more money out of education or other budget lines that don't much matter to them.

We'd like to see infrastructure projects of all kinds all over the state, but we'd also like to see honest revenue streams to pay for them. This bond is not honest in its hocus-pocus.

As Ned Gardner points out in the N&O, highway construction projects were originally included under ConnectNC (roads connect people -- get it?), but the General Assembly decided to pull out highway projects and actually fund them with a revenue stream. Who's supplying the revenue stream? You and I, with increased gas taxes and increased DMV fees (up by 30%).

Are you paying attention to what they're doing? While sheltering the very rich from any unnecessary tax "pain," they're shifting more and more of that pain onto the middle class while continuing to drain money out of vital government services, like public education.

Gov. Squishy's "no pain" $2 billion bond issue is a dishonest shell game, and Chancellor Everts is being "had." (And what ever happened to that "no political campaigning" on the university's time and equipment rule? Anne Marie Yates and Nathan Miller might want to make a public records request!)

Thursday, January 14, 2016

The Automatic Writing of Congresswoman Foxx

Representative Virginia Foxx (R-NC) responded to President Obama's State of the Union Address:

What She Said
“For the past seven years, President Obama has given us 47,625 words of meaningless promises."

What She Meant
Yes, I counted, bitches! That's 6,803 and 1/2 words per annum (Latin, yo!), which proves that O'Bummer doesn't love America.


What She Said
“President Obama has never adequately focused on what really matters in this country – keeping America safe and defending our cherished freedoms."

What She Meant
If he weren't Kenyan, then ... well, you know!


What She Said
"Instead he wants to maintain the status quo and continues to promote top-down, one-size-fits-all federal dictates that stymie economic growth."

What She Meant
Get off my elevator, you mutt!


What She Said
"It’s clear he doesn’t understand the solutions that will get our nation back on track begin with the American people, not Washington bureaucrats."

What She Meant
Bashing Washington bureaucrats -- fun times! -- just really really really hope they never go away.


What She Said
“President Obama promised hope and change, but his failed agenda has brought the wrong kind of change and many North Carolinians are losing hope."

What She Meant
Did you see what I did there? I took "hope and change" and twisted it just a wee bit -- like a cat's tail -- and see what I made it do! Am I not the greatest goddamn word smith you yokels ever saw?

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Craft Beers and the General Assembly's Bad Record on Promoting Small Business

"The North Carolina Beer and Wine Wholesalers Association was founded in 1936 as a non-profit trade association to promote and protect the general business interests of beer and wine distributors in North Carolina."

That's language directly off the association's official website. One principle way the wholesalers "protect the general business interests" of ... themselves is to give big bucks to North Carolina politicians. Doesn't much matter to whom they give, so long as they're in power when the check's written.

Did you know that current NC law governing the distribution of beer is deliberately written to favor big producers like MillerCoors and Anheuser-Busch? Did you know that a "craft beer" producer can distribute its own beer only up to a 25,000 barrel-a-year cutoff point. With the 25,000th barrel, a small local brewery must, according to North Carolina law, turn its distribution over to a wholesale distributor who may or may not respect the brand.

Jeremy Markovich digs into the problem of small, successful brewers who are now approaching the 25,000 limit:
Beer and wine wholesalers are among the biggest contributors to politicians in North Carolina, and several attempts to raise or get rid of the 25,000 barrel cap have gone nowhere in the legislature....
So when you hear Jonathan Jordan or any other Republican in the General Assembly brag about how they care about promoting business in North Carolina, know that he's mainly referring to the mega-business that pays into his reelection campaign.
Craft beer is far from the only industry where North Carolina’s laws favor big business over small startups. For example, cities can’t build out their own municipal fiber-optic networks anymore. Salisbury had futilely asked cable companies for higher-speed internet for years. When they refused, Salisbury built out its own fiber-optic network in 2010. A year later, the General Assembly responded by passing a law banning what Salisbury had done....
That law banning municipal fiber-optic networks was done under Democratic control of the General Assembly, which also had its big business bias and deserves the hard knocks of fate.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Secrecy & "Anonymous Donors" Move Into UNC Along With Margaret Spellings

Margaret Spellings hasn't even arrived on the job as the new president of the University of North Carolina system, and already she's making troubling moves that seem designed to further weaken the system. Using money from an "anonymous donor" (Art Pope? Or some other billionaire with an axe to grind?), she's hired a private consulting firm to do an efficiency study of the UNC General Administration.

And not just any private consulting firm. According to Michael Behrent and Altha Cravey, "The subcontracting of education policy to a private, for-profit company is all the more troubling because BCG [Boston Consulting Group] is hardly politically neutral. BCG embraces a highly partisan conception of education, one that is consistent with the views of Spellings .... Specifically, BCG’s [previously commissioned] Philadelphia plan selected as many as 60 schools for possible closure, aggressively promoted charter schools, identified private companies that could replace the district’s unionized labor force and tied school success to inflexible 'achievement goals.' ”

This is where the Republicans in control of our flat earth are taking the state: "North Carolina now pays teachers abysmally, discourages teachers from seeking advanced degrees and diverts significant resources toward charter schools, which, according to a recent report by the Department of Public Instruction, serve a wealthier and whiter student population than public schools."

A commenter on the Behrent & Cravey article offers common sense on what Spellings is really up to with her commissioned, anonymously funded efficiency study:

Read more here:
Read more here:
Having spent part of my life in Corporate America as a consultant for a national accounting firm, let me tell you that there is no such thing as a “neutral” consultant. The “inside joke” went like this. A CEO interviews three consultants for a job. At the end of each interview she asks, “what is one plus one?” The first two answer: “two.” The third says: “what do you want it to be?” Guess who got the job. This is simply a “plausible deniability” and “accountability insurance” sham on the part of Spellings and her “handlers” to get cover for whatever they were going to do anyway.
"Whatever they were going to do anyway." Remember that line when Spellings actually parks her butt in that big cushy chair in Chapel Hill, come March 1.

Monday, January 11, 2016

The GOP Establishment in NC -- Still in Charge

Grumbling on the far right of the NC Republican Party against visible corruption in the General Assembly, not to mention the executive directorship of the state party, got put firmly back in its place at this past weekend's party meeting.

Our window into the grumbling has been Brant Clifton's "Daily Haymaker" blog: here and here, for example. To their credit, the Tea Party wing does not like pay-to-play politics (they're looking at you, Speaker Tim Moore, and at General Assembly members like David Lewis, who've made headlines recently for manipulating legislation for their funding pals) along with certain perceived weaknesses of nerve in Senator Thom Tillis and with the general sleaze associated with the NCGOP's new Executive Director Dallas Woodhouse.

Turns out, according to the leaked votes on censure of Mr. Lewis and Mr. Woodhouse, that the far right amounts to about one-third of the Party's power structure, and no more.

One wonders what happened to the Tea Party's insurgent new Party Chair Hasan Harnett, who was elected in a big upset just last September. He was supposed to clean house and set the Party on a more rigidly conservative path. He seems not to figure in any of this at all.

Saturday, January 09, 2016

When a Resignation Comes in Close Proximity to a Scandal

Lee Roberts has been Governor Pat McCrory's budget director for only 16 months, but he announced his resignation on Thursday very soon after he was implicated in paving the way for the pay-to-play prison maintenance contract that has been dogging and besmirching the already besmirched McCrory administration.

According to the News&Observer,
After Thursday’s announcement, Roberts said that neither the prison contract issue nor the high-pressure politics of the job prompted him to resign.
You can buy that (along with the large stone bridge I have stored in my garage) if you want to, and welcome to your credulity.

Mecklenburg Board of Elections Breaks Ranks

The significant news below comes to us from Gerry Cohen, former director of Legislative Drafting for the North Carolina General Assembly (for 31 years). (He is also former special counsel to the North Carolina General Assembly, where he provided legal and research services to the Speaker of the House, President Pro Tempore of the Senate, and majority and minority leaders. He has experience and knowledge in local government and election law, legislative processes, and constitutional law, so we pay attention to his insights. He retired in 2014.)

It comes as something of a surprise that the Mecklenburg Board of Elections, going decidedly against Republican voting-access habits and practices, has changed directions for the 2016 primary. Cohen wrote:
Mecklenburg INCREASED early voting from 723 hours in the 2012 primary to 1,224 for this March, expanded from 9 to 17 sites, and added Sunday voting which they did NOT have in the 2012 presidential primary.
Why, we wonder. Possibly because it's more convenient for Republican voters, who'll have a hot presidential primary this March in North Carolina. The fact that Democratic voters will also benefit was perhaps wholly unintended but nevertheless appreciated.

Watauga County Republican Party Chair Anne Marie Yates must forward to the state BOE two nominees as replacements for the gone boy Luke Eggers, though we don't anticipate that any possible new Watauga BOE member will be allowed to think for her/himself and vote for expanded Early Voting opportunities, like on the campus of Appalachian State University.

One could always pray.

Thursday, January 07, 2016

Pat McCrory Is the Poster Child for Conflicts of Interest

The meeting stands out as unique among nearly a year of entries on van der Vaart's calendar, and a spokesman for McCrory could not furnish examples of similar mealtime sit-downs with other large companies.
--"Governor, Top Duke Energy Officials Met Privately, Won't Say Why," WRAL news
So last June 1, Governor Squishy invited the top brass of Duke Energy to his house, to sit down and sup at his table with his top environmental regulators, all the while publicly he was growling menacingly about making Duke Energy clean up its messes (plural) across the state, not least of which was the monstrous coal ash spill into the Dan River.

What he was really doing at that secret dinner was promising Duke Energy a sweetheart deal, which he and his administration proceeded to deliver, like a fruity cocktail on a silver platter:
State regulators reduced Duke Energy’s fine from $25 million to $7 million:
“There seems little doubt that the country’s largest electric utility certainly bested the state in this case. Going from $25 million to $7 million doesn’t seem the shrewdest negotiating on the state’s part. And the coal ash problem is an ongoing threat.” (News & Observer editorial, 10/4/15
Duke Energy didn’t even admit the final settlement was a fine:
“Duke called it a payment and didn’t even seem to concede it was a fine.” (News & Observer editorial, 10/4/15)
Duke Energy declared cleanup efforts on Dan River over after cleaning up only 3,000 of approximately 39,000 tons of coal ash:
“Last February, around 39,000 tons of toxic coal slurry gushed into a major North Carolina river. Now, having cleaned up around 3,000 tons worth, the company behind the spill and state regulators say their work is done. With 92 percent of the original heavy metal-laden and possibly radioactive coal ash still coating 70 miles of river bottom, river advocates are frustrated.” (Newsweek, 7/21/14)
McCrory was elected the Governor of North Carolina, but he has continued to behave like the Prize Sow of Duke Energy. It ain't funny.

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Virginia Foxx, Champion of the Instant Press Release

Congresswoman Virginia Foxx issued a press release following President Obama's executive order calling for background checks on gun purchases:

What She Said
“Today, in yet another attempt to erode our basic liberties, President Obama announced plans to undermine the will of Congress and challenge the Second Amendment rights of all Americans."

What She Meant
See this shiny object? Look at how shiny it is! Look at it! Look at it now, you pathetic sheep!


What She Said
“Just like his unilateral actions on immigration, this proposal is an overreach of the president’s Constitutionally-granted executive authority. It is also an attempt to distract from his failed policies to combat terrorism and improve the economy – issues I’m hearing about from my constituents every day."

What She Meant
I have lots of shiny objects in my bag (which is Louis Vuitton, by the way, but don't touch it!). I can pull these trinkets out all day, and I think I will.


What She Said
"Congressional refusal to pass bad policy does not transfer legislative authority to the president, and I will fight against this attempt to diminish our constitutional rights."

What She Meant
If you think I'm going to pass anything the black man wants -- I don't care that 88% of you say you want background checks -- I don't believe those polls anyway. Some polls are okay, I guess, but not that one. And where does it say in the Constitution that crazy people can't own guns? Or Louis Vuitton handbags?


What She Said
“Guns are one of many tools that people use to commit horrific crimes, but the problem of evil cannot be legislated away."

What She Meant

Like the "evil of abortion." You can't legislate that away either. Oh, wait!