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Gboro performing arts center opening in ’17

N&R reports the Steven B. Tanger Center for the Performing Arts will open in 2017. That’s later than originally planned, but “city officials say the delay was worth it to make sure the financing was secure.”

At issue is the nonprofit Community Foundation’s portion of the $65 million center. The city’s kicking in $30 million with the rest coming from the Community Foundation, ostensibly through private donations.

Community Foundation president Walker Sanders said all along a loan would have to be secured to cover the donations and that the foundation alone would be responsible for the loan should the donations come up short. Hopefully everything will go as planned and the city will not end up picking up the other half of the funding as well.

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‘Insect-infected megalopolis’

Triangle Business Journal reports:

An insect-infested megalopolis will stretch from Raleigh to Atlanta by 2060.

That’s according to a new study by the Department of Interior’s Southeast Climate Science Center and N.C. State University that calls for “significant” changes to land development in order to thwart what scientists fear could be an ecological nightmare.

“If we continue to develop urban areas in the Southeast the way we have for the past 60 years, we can expect natural areas will become increasingly fragmented,” says Adam Terando, the adjunct assistant professor at N.C. State who served as lead author for the study. “We could be looking at a seamless corridor of urban development running from Raleigh to Atlanta, and possibly as far as Birmingham, within the next 50 years.”

I marvel at people constantly telling me that guys like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck are using fear to prey on the ignorant masses in order to advance their agenda. Darned if this isn’t using fear to advance an agenda—what makes it worse is we’re paying for it.

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Who is this Bob Bencini?

The Rhino’s John Hammer follows the Greensboro City Council’s email spat over city contract hires. One of those hires under scrutiny is local blogger Ben Holder, who was hired at a rate of $45 per hour “to help neighborhood improvement efforts.”

But there’s another deal on the table: former Guilford County planning and economic development director Rob Benicini, who would contract to “help the City Council develop some kind of comprehensive economic development plan.”

The plan to hire Bencini drew questions from council member Sharon Hightower:

Hightower responded, “Is this Bob Bencini who is running for the Mayor of High Point? If so, bad decision, we don’t need to be in the middle of politics in another city. Where did this recommendation come from? Who made this decision? What in the world is our problem?

No that would be Guilford County Board of Commissioners chair Bill Bencini, who indeed is making a run for HP mayor. I would hope a Greensboro City Council member would be more well-versed in local politics in order not to make such a mistake for the whole to see, but oh well.

The bigger problem is Rob Bencini is friends with fellow council member Mike Barber, going back to Barber’s days as a county commissioner. Another problem is Bencini’s brief —45-day— tenure as economic development director down in Washington County. Hammer says “there is a story there, but the folks in Eastern North Carolina have been tight-lipped and unwilling to talk to a newspaper named after a large, herbivorous, thick-skinned perissodactyl.”

But there’s one more issue —as Bencini has carved out a career as a consultant, he has written several op-eds giving his views on economic development, and they don’t necessarily jibe with the way the city thinks these days.

In a front-page N&R article late last year, Bencini said Gboro has experienced “a migration from pretty reasonable economic development practices to one that is led by sheer desperation,” which means that “every time someone suggests they want to do something, especially downtown, the check book opens up…”

Bencini also wrote there are times when “regionalism does a city wrong, and anybody who has followed Mike Barber’s political career knows he’s a big regionalism guy.

So should Bencini get the contract, it will be interesting to see what he produces and if it’s what the City Council wants to hear. Either way —as John Hammer put it –it’s nice to have friends in government.

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I’d like to thank the EPA…

…For ordering up such a beautiful week so that this doesn’t happen:

….Greg Andeck of the Environmental Defense Fund says that leaving climate change unchecked could hurt the economy, particularly in the Southeast, which is the region expected to be the most affected by increasing temperatures. Extremely hot days upwards of 95 degrees could cause a decrease in labor productivity in the construction, mining, utilities, transportation, and agricultural sectors, he said.

Not happening this week. If you’d like to thank the EPA, you can submit your public comment on global warming climate change between now and October.

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Chief Miller headed to Gville

Greensboro Police Chief Ken Miller —who had already announced his retirement from GPD — has been named police chief down I-85 in Greenville, S.C. Shortly after the announcement that Miller had been hired, Gville interim police chief Mike Gambrell, who was a finalist for the chief’s job, said he submitted his letter of retirement, effective Sept. 15, the same day that Miller takes office.

Meanwhile question here in Gboro is who will take over for Miller, both on an interim and permanent basis. No assumptions should be made about whom that person will be, given the fact that the city’s hiring practices are once again under scrutiny.

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Hagan’s Democratic party sidestep

NYT report on Sen. Kay Hagan’s Democratic party sidestep:

Having lost its grip on political power in North Carolina, the state’s Democratic Party has the chance to prove its mettle by helping Kay Hagan retain the Senate seat she won in 2008. But internal party disputes have prompted Ms. Hagan to set up an alternative party structure in Wake County to organize and turn out voters.

In March, party allies of Ms. Hagan’s helped create a joint fund-raising effort with the Democratic Party of Wake County, the location of the state’s capital, Raleigh, and of North Carolina State University. The county party has brought in more than $1 million, mostly from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and Ms. Hagan’s fund-raising. In contrast, the state party has raised $547,192 for its federal committee during the first six months of this year.

What’s confusing is NYT’s point that the “Democratic Party’s troubles include controversy over the leadership of Randy Voller, the state party chairman, who “has backed the “Moral Mondays” protest campaign first organized by the N.A.A.C.P. and other groups in response to Republicans’ takeover of both chambers of the state legislature.”

Furthermore, NYT also goes on to speculate “a shift to the left by the state party may energize the Democratic base.” But nothing shifts more to the left than the Rev. William Barber’s road show, does it?

Interesting footnote — “Much of the Wake County party money has been spent quickly on salaries for campaign staff; in June the party committee spent $203,544 on salary payments to 115 people, according to Federal Election Commission records.”

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N&R pay wall

As only he can, N&R editor and publisher Jeff “Grits” Gauger makes it all sound so good:

What’s new in this approach is that readers now will pay to view News & Record content on desktop computers and mobile devices.

We’re calling our new approach “All Access.” The name recognizes that we will offer subscription options that enable readers — you — to read all of the News & Record’s content everywhere we serve it up or to read it only in the format you prefer.

What doesn’t change is the News & Record’s commitment to providing a complete solution for reading timely local news, analysis, opinion and advertising, whether in a print or digital format.

Believe you me I’ve thought twice (many times) before writing out the print subscription check and sticking it in the mail. Guess now I can finally see some value —-limitless access to the N&R’s “commitment to providing a complete solution for reading timely local news, analysis, opinion,” although I seem to be getting by alright linking to articles in other newspapers with paywalls.

To be fair, though —as Carolina Plott Hound points out— the N&R is the last big-city newspaper domino to fall to the temptation of the pay wall.

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Sorting out HP city election

Mayor Bernita Sims — with a legal cloud still hovering —- is out; state Rep. Marcus Brandon is in. Brandon had previously said he would not run for High Point mayor if Sims sought reelection. Sims said she is not seeking reelection because she wants to pursue statewide office, possibly the Senate District 28 seat now held by Sen. Gladys Robinson.

Apparently Guilford County Commissioner Bruce Davis has not decided to run for mayor, leaving Commissioner Bill Bencini and political newcomer Jimmy Scott to duke it out. Bencini and Brandon are starting the campaign on a positive note:

“As far as Bill Bencini, I have heard nothing but good things about him,” he said. “I don’t know what his platform is, but I suspect it will be a very respectful race.”

Bencini said, “I have not heard anything but positives about Marcus. I don’t think it will be a campaign with any mudslinging. I’m not sure there is any mud to sling.”

Meanwhile, former mayor and current council member Becky Smothers will not seek reelection, saying —”with a chuckle” — she’s “just about run out of patience.”

Last but not least —Ward 2 council member Foster Douglas —has been embroiled in a dispute with the city over an unpaid $32,000 civil judgment—- did not file for reelection.

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Meanwhile, in the 5th District….

The stage is set: incumbent Rep. Virginia Foxx will face challenger Josh Brannon following Brannon’s win in Tuesday’s primary runoff.

Obviously a different situation than in the 6th District, where two newcomers Mark Walker and Laura Fjeld will do battle. Foxx not only has the incumbent’s advantage in a heavily Republican district, but she has the money backing her up:

Foxx has dominated 5th District races for the past decade and has a $2.1 million campaign war chest to boot.

The Federal Election Commission did not display any campaign finance reports for Brannon as of Thursday afternoon. Brannon said he did not pass the $5,000 campaign finance threshold in April. The second quarterly report was due July 15.

So why would a 37-year-old software developer from Watauga County – a first-time candidate with limited campaign resources – choose to take on Foxx?

Brannon said the country is being sold off and he hates to see that happen.

“I’m running on one thing and one thing only, and that’s taking our democracy back from the 1 percent,” Brannon said after winning the runoff Tuesday night.

And of course that would mean getting money out of politics as well.

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Medicaid overhaul? Really?

For a couple of weeks now we’ve been reading how Medicaid is the linchpin to passing an overdue North Carolina state budget. So what’s the Senate’s latest answer to gaining some predictability in Medicaid costs? A complete overhaul:

Stripping the Medicaid program from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services in order to gain better cost predictability has been a key point of the Senate’s budget proposal, and remains the focus of the third edition of House Bill 1181.

…Rumblings about the lack of Medicaid cost predictability from DHHS have grown louder from senators, particularly Berger and other key Republican leaders on the appropriations committee. In the past four years, the legislature has had to fill Medicaid funding shortfalls totaling nearly $2 billion.

….It also is a sign of the level of Republican disappointment with how DHHS — under Secretary Dr. Aldona Wos — is performing on its cost-controlling and budget-forecasting expectations.

“The No. 1 roadblock causing teacher pay to remain so low for so long is Medicaid,” Berger said. “This plan should allow the General Assembly to finally focus state resources on other areas of critical importance to the people of this state.”

Of course that last quote is from Sen. Phil Berger, who has not had much time to dwell on his son’s loss to Mark Walker in the 6th District Congressional primary runoff.

Note that Gov. Pat McCrory has spoken out against the Senate plan:

In a statement, McCrory said, “the Senate’s proposed bureaucratic reorganization is impractical and undermines the progress that has been made during the past year and a half. This legislative overreach also raises some serious constitutional issues and should not be raised in the closing days of the short session.”

I understand the Senate’s frustration at not being able to get a reasonable projection of Medicaid costs either from DHHS or hospitals, which “have given conflicting information on how much the program owes them.”

But this is overkill at a late date —perhaps a shot across the bow in the hopes of resolving this issue, but still only for the time being.

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