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Kay Hagan: Just playing by the rules

N&R continues its not-so-veiled support for Sen. Kay Hagan by trotting out the old ‘money is evil in politics’ theme in today’s editorial:

The reality is that the American people are fed up with the tens of millions of dollars poured into a single race, such as North Carolina’s U.S. Senate contest between Kay Hagan and Thom Tillis. Television viewers are inundated by ads that promote one candidate or attack the other. People have little or no idea of who’s responsible for these ads, where the money comes from or what the sponsors want and expect from the candidate once he or she is elected.

….There was little chance it would ever pass since it eventually would need two-thirds support in the Senate and House and then ratification by three-fourths of the states. Republicans called it a political gesture by Democrats. Maybe it was, like proposed “personhood” or “balanced budget” amendments regularly introduced by Republicans.

Yes the vote to block the constitutional amendment was along party lines, which means Hagan made the appropriate political gesture while continuing to play by the rules as they’re written, as I’m sure the N&R would rationalize.

Meanwhile, former American Idol star and 2nd District Congressional candidate Clay Aiken only wishes he could get holda him some Hollywood money:

Though he has picked up the pace in the fundraising battle against two-term incumbent and former nurse Renee L. Ellmers, reporting in July had Aiken with about $209,000 cash on hand to Ellmers’s $405,000. One of Aiken’s consultants put it this way: “It’s tough because the people in the district all assume he has these big Hollywood connections so they don’t want to donate. But the truth is he isn’t that big a deal in Hollywood, so he can’t raise that much there.”

Ouch.

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Mark Walker: Remember the Alamo?

OK, 6th District Congressional candidate Mark Walker didn’t say that during a Rockingham County candidates forum —that was just a little quip from the N&O blogger.

Watch and decide for yourself —-at the 43-minute mark — if Walker if was dead serious about having qualms about going to war with Mexico or if his comments were off the cuff.

No surprise Daily Kos thinks Walker was dead serious.

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Guilford County DSS: Poor customer service

The Rhino’s Scott Yost obtains e-mails shedding light on the chaos inside Guilford County’s Department of Social Services that led up to the food stamp backlog scandal:

The emails also reveal that the NC DHHS was getting disturbing complaints from Guilford County clients about poor customer service, rude social service workers and a failure of clients to receive benefits. One constant complaint among those whose food stamp benefits had not been renewed was that they couldn’t even talk to anyone at Guilford County DSS.

One email from the state to Guilford County reads, “Client has called 336-641-3000 [DSS’s main number] and was not able to pass customer service, was told case workers are not allowed to talk with clients. Client has a [redacted] child.”

Based on the emails, former DSS director Robert Williams —who resigned in March in the aftermath of the scandal —apparently was aware in January of the food stamp backlog:

Williams sent an email out to his staff and it was clear that the new requirements were of great concern to him.

Williams forwarded the letter to his supervisors and other top staff and wrote, “It is important that you read this as soon as possible! The training for Monday is rescheduled. What ever you have scheduled for Monday, cancel it. I expect you to be in Room 304 @ 10:00. We need to develop and implement a plan for taking care of the issues. We are all in this together.”

Apparently no plan was developed, or if it was it was not implemented, which is why Williams lost his job. And while the new leadership at the new Department of Health and Human Services shows promise, you have to wonder how long it will take to clean up this “giant mess.”

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Greg Hardy’s season over?

Charlotte Observer’s Scott Fowler speculates after Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy goes on the commissioner’s exempt list.

Fowler says two things will have to happen to see Hardy in a Panthers uniform come November: no delay in his assault jury trial and a no guilty verdict:

I don’t think both those things will happen, though. I think Greg Hardy has played his last down as a Carolina Panther.

Meanwhile Florida State QB Jameis Winston is benched for the first half of the Clemson game….

Winston, last season’s Heisman Trophy winner, stood on a table in a courtyard between the student union and a classroom building Tuesday and shouted an obscenity that has become widespread on social media after being heard on live television during the World Cup this summer.

….While Arizona Cardinals running back Jonathan Dwyer has been arrested for assault based on incident that allegedly took place stemming from incidents that allegedly occurred in July.

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Today’s least surprising election headlines….

The NAACP —and that means the Rev. William Barber —is asking the State Board of Elections to investigate and prosecute Sen. Phil Berger regarding his television ad that highlights his role passing a photo identification requirement to vote in person, claiming that it could discourage from citizens from voting in the November election;

Democrat Alma Adams and Republican Vince Coakley disagree on the federal government’s role during a 12th Congressional District candidates forum hosted by the League or Woman Voters of the Piedmont Triad.

Update: Berger modifies the ad to say “in 2016, thanks to Phil Berger, voters must show a photo ID.”

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Thom Tillis and Joe Killian –homeys

Daily Haymaker goes off on N&R reporter/political columnist Joe Killian’s ‘weepy, metrosexual letter’ to Senate candidate Thom Tillis explaining how much alike they really are —as much as a reporter for a struggling daily and the state Speaker of the House can be:

I don’t know how you live with yourself while disseminating such utter crap to your dwindling reader base. ObamaCare is a hellacious incentive to keep wages down. If you pay people more, or add more full time employees, you get popped by all kinds of punitive ObamaCare-related taxes. Low-wage, blue-collar and temporary work is growing so much faster than professional career opportunities. And you have Kay Hagan and Barry Obama’s pet monster to thank for that.

…Joe Killian appears to be laying the groundwork for a job with Kay Hagan in her second term. By showing off his true colors and using his First Amendment-protected freedoms to further his personal agenda, he’s doing an incredible disservice to his community and this state.

Ouch. Ok, as an N&R subscriber I’m familiar with Killian’s work, and he’s also been pretty active on the local blogosphere, so his politics come as no surprise, and therefore this column came as no surprise. But what jumped out at me when reading Killian’s column was when he wrote that Tillis’ “work in Raleigh has hurt the state’s excellent university system, making a good education more expensive for low-income kids who are trying to work their way through college.”

That ship sailed a long time ago, dude. Way gone are the days when a kid —such as this humble blogger with middle-class roots —-could go home for a summer and get a job lifeguarding, working construction, working in the grocery store and earn a semester’s tuition, including room and board. Now a year of college takes a year’s salary for many working-class parents —and that was going down long before Thom Tillis came on the scene.

And who will the university administrators and professors vote for come November? I’ve got a good guess — as good as my guess about Joe Killian’s vote.

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Get off the schneid, Marty Lawing

Little more than a year into the job and Guilford County Manager Marty Lawing hasn’t established racial homogeneity among top management, according to Commissioner Carolyn Coleman. It’s not like the county hasn’t had other problems to deal with over the last year.

Meanwhile Commissioner Ray Trapp —whose initial reaction to the hiring of new county DHHS director Joe Raymond was ‘just another white guy’ — says kids in the county’s diverse school system need to be able to “to look up to and say, ‘Here’s the tax director. It’s a black guy or an Asian woman.” Not that your average school kid gives two thoughts about the county tax director –he might when he starts paying taxes — but at least he can look up to Superintendent Mo Green, who is African-American.

Coleman was reacting to a recent N&R front-pager making the case that local government —county and city—has some work to do when it comes to diversity. The Rhino’s John Hammer also reacts:

In fact, the N&R might want to take a look at their own glass house before they start throwing stones. The N&R has no black male reporters. The top three positions at the paper are Publisher and Editor Jeff Gauger, Editorial Page Editor Allen Johnson and Managing Editor Steven Doyle. Not a lot of gender diversity there. According to their own article, the N&R should find a way to have a little more than 1.5 of those men be women. A sex change operation or two would solve that problem without having to change personnel.

Sex change operations are expensive, so the N&R would be better served to hire a transgender reporter or two. As for Guilford County Schools — the third rung of government which of course is funded by the county —Commissioner Ray Trapp

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Medicaid: “Not too far away. Soon.”

Winston-Salem Journal interviews Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Aldon Wos, who was in W-S “as part of a statewide goodwill and fact-finding tour.”

Long article by Richard Craver —here’s the highlight:

Wos asked with an incredulous tone – both during the oversight committee hearing and Thursday’s interview – how could DHHS be allowed to go more than 40 years without a fundamental restructuring to reflect changes made in the health care industry.

“How can going that long pass anyone’s common sense test?” Wos asked. She said DHHS has had too many silos in which people were not talking directly to each other to resolve problems.

Wos said a key element of building DHHS’ foundation is “getting new skills in finance, economists and actuaries, that are absolutely critical to our organization.”

“If I am allowed to continue on this path, I guarantee you we will have that foundation. The rest of the process is building upon that foundation with standards, with flexibility built in.”

“We’re not too far away. Soon.”

Wos has indeed been a political target, but —- a huge turnover in the November election notwithstanding — she continues to have Gov. Pat McCrory’s support and “and likely will get the chance to see through the DHHS restructuring.”

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Campaigning for Guilford sales tax hike

WFDD reports on the “grassroots campaign for Guilford County’s proposed 1/4-cent sales tax hike, which is in the November ballot.

If passed, proceeds from the sales tax hike would toward the county’s school system. But advocates are worried that voters will not be aware when they go to the polls:

Guilford County Manager Marty Lawing says on the November 2014 ballot, the referendum’s wording will not specify the purpose for the tax increase. Voters will simply answer ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ with regards to a tax increase. “Makes it difficult to get it approved,” says Lawing. “That’s why I think only 27 counties have approved the quarter cent sales tax.”

Understanding this, The Quarter Cent For Schools campaign is relying on billboards, yard signs, public speakers and social media to promote their message that all of the money raised by the tax increase will benefit Guilford County’s public schools. On November fourth, voters in five other counties will also see a quarter cent sales tax referendum on their ballot.

Keep in mind, however, that commissioners in those five counties can say all they want that proceeds will go toward schools, but they are not legally bound to do so. If they see fit, the money can go toward “any boondoggle, corporate giveaway, or vanity project deemed worthy.”

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PART still living and breathing

Funny it doesn’t seem that long ago that the Piedmont Authority for Regional Transportation was in danger of folding the tent.

But apparently PART has new life, as evidenced by plans to press on with its new “intermodal transportation complex” tentatively scheduled to open in 2016:

The decision to go ahead with the new terminal came on a day the PART board received good news about the agency’s improved financial picture in the last fiscal year.

Results for the budget year ending June 30 showed PART operating more than $1 million in the black, with all expense categories under budget and a rainy day fund that has grown to about $4.7 million.

Board members hailed the financial turnaround that gained steam in the last year.

“At one time, we were notoriously in the negative,” said board member Darrell Frye, a veteran PART board member and a member of the Randolph County Board of Commissioners.

The good results depended partly on $275,000 more than expected from a surcharge on vehicle rentals that PART receives throughout the region, a source of income that has grown with the recovering economy. But they also followed belt-tightening and cuts to some services.

But before plans to proceed with the hub be construed as an indicator of PART’s financial health, keep in mind that the federal government is covering 80 percent of construction costs.

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