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NE Park train—‘damn nightmare’

I was just out at Guilford County’s Northeast Park for local mountain bike organization Racing in the Woods excellent Wednesday night race series and I saw no sign of a train.

That’s right—Northeast Park has a train. Who knew?

The saga of the Little Train That Couldn’t began in 2011, when Guilford County moved forward with the miniature train project – the one that’s cost county taxpayers about $370,000 so far. In October 2011, Guilford County put out bids for the project. In January 2012, the Guilford County Board of Commissioners approved the funds to purchase the train – a new Katiland C.P. Huntington train. But now it’s May 2015 and the ride still isn’t open to the public and it’s not known when it will be.

Last week, the little train failed inspection again.

Guilford County Commissioner Alan Branson, who represents many of the residents in northeastern Guilford County, said he was very aware of the long-term and ongoing train fiasco. He said people who visit Northeast Park have been looking forward to the attraction for years.

“That’s been a damn nightmare,” Branson said.

Branson said the project has been plagued with one problem after another and he said that in the past one issue has been that the train would “run off the track when it went a certain speed.”

Gosh if the little train in Northeast Guilford County is such a ‘damn nightmare,’ we can only wonder about the proposed Southeast not-so-high-speed rail line.

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Meanwhile, megasite……..

Obviously the big story from last night’s Greensboro City Council meeting is the Friendly-Hobbs rezoning, but flying under the radar is the council’s approval of a $2.3 million contract with an engineering firm for design work and environmental assessment of the proposed Liberty-Randolph megasite, which ostensibly will attract an automobile manufacturer to the area:

City leaders hope additional partners —including the Golden Leaf Foundation, which has pledged $50 million toward infrastructure and workforce development to the first site that lands the state an automaker — will pay for the balance of the project.
The sewer portion is estimated to cost $5.3 million and the water portion is estimated to cost $15 million.

HDR Engineering is expected to begin design work, surveying and other tasks June 1. Design work is expected to be completed by April 1.

With that timeline, bidding for the construction of the project could begin June 1, 2016. Construction could begin Sept. 1, 2016.

Meanwhile, as South Carolina basks in Volvo’s glow after landing the auto maker’s $500 million factory, JLF’s Locker provides some perspective:

The takeaway is to be cautious of the benefits advertised by agreements like these. There always hidden numbers and external impacts that chip away at the positive economic impact promoted by development authorities. This is not to say that the move will not have any positive impact, only that it comes at a very significant expense to SC.

Caution…indeed. Not sure how much of that I’m seeing in the megasite deal.

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Gboro council spikes Friendly Coalition

At last night’s meeting the Greensboro City Council approved a rezoning request that paves the way for a mixed-use development on the corner of Friendly Avenue and Hobbs Road. The 7-2 vote —with council member Tony Wilkins and Marikay Abuzuaiter voting ‘no’— was the supermajority needed after nearby property owners filed a protest petition.

N&R write-up raises the possibility that the Friendly Coalition might take the rezoning to court. We’ll see— I don’t see it happening. But if it does, I have to wonder how many Friendly Coalition members oppose Sen. Trudy Wade’s bill restructuring the City Council. In that case, why would it be OK for a judge to interfere in city matters —especially when the neighborhood’s City Council voted against their interests?

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One more strange twist in Friendly-Hobbs rezoning

As the Friendly-Hobbs mixed use rezoning case comes down to the wire — the Greensboro City Council will vote on it during tonight’s meeting —-council member Nancy Hoffmann lashed out via Facebook at rezoning opponent Friendly Coalition for spreading the rumor that Hoffmann is looking to sell her District 4 residence near the site in question.

However, it appears as though Hoffmann and Friendly Coalition attorney Don Eggleston have hashed things out. Eggleston posted 18 hours ago:

I had a nice discussion with Ms. Hoffman this morning in which we discussed the concerns she has expressed in her post. She has graciously allowed me to post this response. I shared with her that several members of the Friendly Coalition had been told by two separate residents of Friendly Homes West that Ms. Hoffman’s unit had been shown to interested persons. This was the source of information from which members had reasonably concluded that Ms. Hoffman was trying to sell her unit and thus move. I expressed to her that I believed that those facts could reasonably lead to a concern that Ms. Hoffman would be leaving the district, a fact, that if true, would certainly be relevant to our concerns given Ms. Hoffman’s position as District 4 representative. However, Ms. Hoffman told me that she, while those persons had looked at her unit at their request, she was not trying to sell. I have no reason to disbelieve her assurance and I have so-informed our group.

Adjacent property owners filed a protest petition, so the rezoning must be a approved by a council supermajority —seven votes. N&R reports council member Marikay Abuzuaiter is a confirmed ‘no.’ It will remain to be seen whether two more ‘no’ votes can be scrounged up.

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W-S council approves Herbalife incentives

Winston-Salem City Council approved $150,000 in incentives for Herbalife to expand its operation.

WFMY reports “the public comment period on the incentives was fairly short, with only one person speaking out in opposition…. (t)he citizens’ concern was that Herbalife lacks diversity in management positions.”

Apparently Herbalife’s supposed lack of diversity wasn’t as big an issue as some City Council members might think.

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Arne Duncan’s ‘creepy’ keynote address

CJ’s Dan Way on U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s keynote address at N.C. Central University:

It was interesting, perhaps coincidental, that Duncan chose a book titled Our Kids from which to bracket much of his commencement message, and echo the thought.

“They’re your sons and daughters,” he told assembled friends and families of the graduates, “but in a very real way, they are our kids as well.”

I don’t know about you, but I find it creepy and foreboding when bureaucrats, especially a federal cabinet official, assert equal rights of ownership and parenting to my progeny. Whether they are dangerously misguided in their intentions or convinced that the power of government has a rightful seat at my table, overreach is inevitable.

Given the help I’ve had as a single father, I am deeply grateful to have had a support network lend valuable assistance over these last 19 years.

But mutually agreeable and negotiated acts of kindness with individuals of my choosing are a social compact far different from turning child-rearing responsibilities over to an authoritarian village, the village idiots, or, especially, the state.

Elsewhere in his speech, Duncan expressed alarm over growing gaps in income, opportunity, and achievement. Those, he believes, create class segregation that numbs the haves to a sense of empathy for the have-nots. Naturally, he envisions a government role to reverse that.

Yet nowhere in his speech did Duncan discuss the lack of personal responsibility or generational welfare self-esteem gaps that lure and trap many of the able-bodied have-nots.

Yeah that’s the way liberals think, especially a certain liberal who has announced her run for president, all the while raking in money hand over fist from anyone who will hand it over.

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Meanwhile, in W-S….

Herbalife incentives on the agenda for the tonight’s Winston-Salem City Council meeting.

No doubt the issue of whether or not Herbalife is diverse enough will be raised, more than likely by council members Vivian Burke and D.D. Adams.

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Tough call for Gboro council on Friendly-Hobbs rezoning…

..To say the least, given that developers have been to build on the corner of Friendly Avenue and Hobbs Road for years now and the rezoning request finally comes before the Greensboro City Council during Tuesday night’s meeting.

Leading up to the rezoning showdown,the Hobbs Landing neighborhood has come out in support of the proposed mixed-use development— while the larger Friendly Coalition took to the streets to voice its opposition.

Tough call for the City Council—-no matter how they vote, someone’s gonna feel like they got screwed. Hey, that’s politics— which is why I’ve always had trouble understanding the uproar over Sen. Trudy Wade’s SB 36. Someone always draws the ace of spades no matter how you shuffle the deck.

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Your N&R column roundup…..

More than a few interesting columns in the N&R past couple of days.

For starters, we have Leonard Pitts —always a good way to start the week (thank you, N&R) — who weighs in on Fort Mill S.C. resident Luis Lang, who needs expensive medical care after turning his back on Obamacare (emphasis mine):

It seems Lang, who is a Republican, knew the Affordable Care Act — the dreaded “Obamacare” — required him to buy health insurance, but he refused to do so. He figured he was making a pretty good living as a self-employed handyman and prided himself on paying his own medical bills.

Then came 10 days of grinding headaches, an emergency-room visit and a diagnosis that he’d suffered a series of mini-strokes. Then came $9,000 in medical bills, an empty savings account, bleeding in his eyes, a partially detached retina and an inability to work.

At which point he tried to buy him some “Obamacare” only to discover that he was outside the open enrollment period and that with zero income, he makes too little to get a federal subsidy that would help him buy a private policy. “Obamacare” offers expanded Medicaid coverage to help people like him, but South Carolina is one of 21 Republican-led states that have refused to participate in that program.

So Lang is, well…screwed. And who does he blame for that state of affairs? Well obviously, it’s President Obama’s fault for passing flawed legislation.

Maybe it’s me, but I pick up a little contempt in Mr. Pitts’ tone there. Look —Luis Lang may indeed fall victim to his personal choices—smoking, failure to properly monitor his diabetes and, yes, his decision not to purchase healthcare. But since when do liberal columnists like Leonard Pitts hold people responsible for their personal choices? Even more striking is reader response to Lang’s plight —as Pitts puts it, Lang’s public plight raised quite a bit of traction from ” liberals taking the occasion to rip his and his party’s failings. Pitts seems to be taking a bit of smug joy as well.

Next we have Charles Krauthammer, who weighs in on fast-track and the Trans-Pacific Partnership:

The trade deal itself will likely pass the Senate eventually, there being eight or so Democrats (out of 46) who support the deal but wanted to extract certain guarantees before fast-tracking it. (They got the guarantees and on Thursday broke the filibuster on fast track.) The problem is the House. Very few House Democrats will vote yes. House passage will require Republican near-unanimity. And it’s not there.

….As for the merits, the TPP is a boon for America. It reduces tariff barriers to vast Asian markets and strengthens protection for intellectual property, America’s forte. To be sure, any trade deal, while a net plus overall, produces winners and losers. But the TPP will be accompanied by so-called Trade Adjustment Assistance, training and subsidies to help those negatively affected.

Moreover, the overall gain is more than just economic. In our deadly serious competition with China for influence in the region, the TPP would anchor our relations with Pacific Rim nations. If we walk away, they will inevitably gravitate to China’s orbit. The question is (as Paul Ryan and Ted Cruz succinctly put it in The Wall Street Journal): Who is going to write the rules for the global economy — America or China?

Krauthammer convincingly put forth the argument that it’s up to the U.S. to fill world power vacuums in his 1990 essay The Unipolar Moment. Yes the world has changed a helluva lot in the 25 years since but the same principle applies –if not America, then …..who?

Indeed, near-unanimity in the House on TPP is not there, and which way 6th District Rep. Mark Walker will vote remains to be seen.

Speaking of Mark Walker we have –last but not least —N&R columnist Susan Ladd, who says if Walker “wants to represent all the people of the 6th District, he must remember that no one party and no one religion holds the patent on doing what’s best for the country and its people.”

Nice thought, unless of course you’re a 6th District constituent who dares disagree with Ladd on— for example, abortion on demand. Then watch out.

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Duke Energy pleas on coal ash spill; record fine

NC_NR

Duke Energy pleaded guilty to “negligence in handling coal ash that spanned 35 years and included disregarding several warnings from its own employees that could have prevented last year’s spill into the Dan River.”

U.S. District Judge Malcolm J. Howard said the $102 million in fines and restitution “was “the largest criminal fine ever imposed” in North Carolina’s federal court history.”

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