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Sales tax hike rears its (ugly) head

N&O reports on proposed legislation that would allow cities and towns to enact their own quarter-cent sales tax hike:

The bill’s sponsor, House Finance Chairman Jason Saine, said the House is looking at the idea in context with other sales tax legislation. In the Senate, Republicans want to change how sales taxes are distributed among counties, and they’re considering an expanded list of services that would be subject to the tax.

“If counties and municipalities can make a case that that’s something that they need,” Saine said, “the bill is filed.”

Saine’s bill, House Bill 903, would also allow counties to enact their own quarter-cent sales tax increases – an alternative to a Senate GOP plan that would redistribute sales tax revenue based on population. In areas where both cities and counties take the option, the sales tax rate could rise by 0.5 cents per dollar of sales.

The hope here would be —even in light of legislative plans to redistribute sales tax revenues —is that some cities (at least) would determine that they don’t need the extra revenue. But I never hold my breath that will happen.

Key point —“only a public hearing – no referendum or other voter decision – would be required” to hike the sales tax.

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Gboro council vs. DGI–cont.

Lots going here in the ongoing dispute between the Greensboro City Council and Downtown Greensboro Inc.

The Rhino’s John Hammer analyzes the alleged threat from council member Mike Barber to interim CEO Cyndy Hayworth to hire fellow council member Zack Matheny or else — and in government “or else” means cutting off the money spigot.

Hammer writes:

It’s a “he said, she said” controversy, because Barber says that is not all what he said in his conversation with Hayworth about the future of DGI. Hayworth did not return phone calls to comment on the issue.

(N&R reporter Joe) Killian left out a couple of key facts in his article. One of those is that Hayworth has nothing to do with hiring the new president to replace Jason Cannon, who resigned in February. Perhaps more importantly, the conversation that Barber and Hayworth had took place before the City Council meeting on April 7. According to the article, Hayworth was “furious” and went to the News & Record to express her displeasure with being threatened by Barber, a city councilmember who also happens to be an old friend. She was evidently so furious at being threatened that she rushed right down to the News & Record office to complain, 10 days later, on April 17. Really, does that pass the smell test? Usually when someone is furious they act, they don’t wait 10 days. And if what Hayworth says Barber said was true, the funding would have already been pulled.

Interesting because the N&R claims in yesterday’s editorial Hayworth did not run to them—” we sought her out after hearing rumors of the Barber call. Only then did she and DGI board Chairman Gary Brame meet with the News & Record.”

Look all this ‘he said-she said’ obscures the real problem — the City Council is showing no confidence in the organization charged with taxpayers’ money to keep Gboro’s downtown thriving —unless it hires a fellow council member to run it. Note Mayor Nancy Vaughan, who on one hand says DGI’s current structure “obviously isn’t working” and “they are going to be hard pressed to say what they have accomplished” while adding she doesn’t think “there is anyone who knows the downtown better” than Matheny.

I know there are people out there who don’t want to see Zack Matheny get a dogcatcher’s job wit the city. I also believe the City Council doesn’t have the political will to defund DGI. Here’s my solution —DGI signs Matheny to a one-year contract—contingent upon his resignation from the City Council, of course. At the end of that year the council reviews DGI’s progress –or lack thereof –and if they’re not satisfied then they cut off funding once and for all.

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Doug Clark knee-slapper

N&R editorial writer Doug Clark tries his hand at satire. Again.

Here’s a sample:

The state’s political leaders hold a strategy session….

…“We also should keep raising college tuition to price out the poor. Cut more from the schools. Charge for driver’s ed. Poor kids won’t even be able to get a license in this state. Raise fees to visit the zoo or to camp and fish at our state parks. Poor people don’t pay my country club dues. Why should I pay for their recreation?”

“Brilliant! We’re not running a state for the benefit of poor people. The sooner they learn that, the sooner they can move to states that are willing to coddle them. They can take their Medicaid, free school lunches, social services and crime with them.”

“Let’s put them on boats, or at least buy them bus tickets!”

Ha ha.

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State of Gboro economic development

Analysis from Biz Journal editor Mark Sutter:

So let’s give Brent Christensen a hearty welcome to Greensboro! As the Greensboro Partnership’s new lead economic developer, his timing couldn’t be better. Or worse. It depends how you look at it.

The thing is that the bar seems to be set so low, just about anything positive Christensen does will be seen as an improvement in a lot of people’s eyes.

Former Piedmont Triad CEO under investigation. Alleged bullying of Downtown Greensboro Inc. by a City Council member to hire a fellow council member. And—as was just reported— no Volvo plant for N.C., much less the Randolph megasite.

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Pricey’s anti-political big money bills

High Point Enterprise writes up Rep. Pricey Harrison’s bill requiring shareholder approval for corporate political expenditures exceeding $10,000:

Harrison said that she doesn’t expect her bill to pass in the Republican-dominated N.C. General Assembly. But Harrison believes she has an obligation to her constituents in Guilford County to raise the issue with her fellow legislators.

“I can only hope that eventually enough of their constituents will raise the issue so legislators won’t have a choice,” she said.

Harrison also resubmitted her bill to strengthen the Do Not Call Registry by including political robocalls.

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No Volvo plant for N.C.?

Citing various news sources, N&R reports Volvo has narrowed its choice for a $500 million factory to two southern states —and North Carolina is not one of them.

Reuters reported that South Carolina was one of the states, while the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports —according to “people with knowledge of the situation”— is Georgia.

Certainly this development will not deter Randolph County megasite boosters.

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Lexington amphitheater?

Biz Journal passes along Lexington Dispatch article on the City of Lexington’s plan to build an amphitheater on the site of a former Lexington Home Brands building.

The proposed amphitheater would help in enhance the city’s “reputation for entertainment and the arts.” The city has been trying to figure pout what to do with LHB properties on the edge of downtown since the company began shuttering factories as furniture production moved overseas.

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Gboro’s “Bully” Barber

Friends over at Carolina Plott Hound refer to the Rev. William Barber as “Bully” Barber. But —according to the N&R, Greensboro has its own “Bully” Barber —City Council member Mike Barber, who allegedly pressured Downtown Greensboro Inc. to hire fellow council member Zack Matheny as its new chief executive officer:

DGI interim CEO Cyndy Hayworth said the threat came Tuesday in a telephone call from City Councilman Mike Barber.

“I received a call and was given an ultimatum or a deadline,” Hayworth said in an interview Friday.

“The parameters around that were, ‘If you make a decision on the hiring of a CEO by a certain time, then the City Council would not vote to stop funding to DGI,’ ” she said.
Barber denies making a threat or giving Hayworth an ultimatum.

I know Barber and he’s a pretty nice guy and at times can be a voice of reason on a liberal city Council. But he’s also been feisty lately, as evidenced by his “knothead” comment when referring to the General Assembly during the debate over Gboro decision to hire a lobbyist to fight SB 36 (see video below).

Look, if DGI wants to hire Matheny then I say fine—but please don’t insult taxpayers’ intelligence by claiming there would be no conflict of interest if Matheny continued to sit on the City Council. Matheny didn’t seem to think there would be a conflict when the N&R reported back in February that he was seeking the job.

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Ex-Piedmont Triad Partnership CEO under investigation

N&R reports former Greensboro Piedmont Triad Partnership CEO David Powell is under investigation for “possible financial irregularities” revealed during an internal audit:

Officials from the Piedmont Triad Partnership contacted the Greensboro Police Department on Wednesday about the alleged irregularities involving former CEO David M. Powell, according to police spokeswoman Susan Danielsen.

The department will investigate after the partnership finishes its internal audit “because that’s the data we need to examine for determining if any crime was committed,” Danielsen said.

She said there’s no timeline on how long the partnership’s audit will take.

PTP received $480,000 in taxpayer money in 2013. It is also heavily involved in the push to put together a megasite in Randolph County with hopes of attracting an automobile manufacturer.

Stay tuned.


GCS’ Title I woes

Once the Rev. Nelson Johnson and the “Black Lives Matter” demonstration cleared out, the Guilford County Board of Education got down to business, the most pressing issue being the allocation of Title I funds.

Watching the board debate this issue was –as usual —an exercise in frustration, as I’m not sure some board members understood the issue –which is GCS gets a pot of money from the federal government to deal with high-poverty students. Only problem is when you expand the definition of poverty –in this case so-called Community Eligibility Data –kids who are off the radar scope (homeless, undocumented immigrants, etc) are added into the mix. As a result, “there are more hands in the pot, but the pot’s not getting any bigger,” as GCS federal programs consultant Kelly Hales put it. Making matters worse is GCS used up reserves from last year’s pot of money.

As you can imagine, board members simply expressed regret that the pot of money wasn’t bigger. But instead of dealing with the issue straight up —voting up or down on staff’s recommended ‘poverty bands’ that group poor schools together—with the poorest schools getting more funding, which leaves schools getting less funding none too happy — the board set about adjusting percentages within the ‘poverty bands.’ Board member Ed Price –I’m not kidding —wanted to adjust the percentages in one poverty band from 70 percent to 69 percent just because “sixty-nine is an easier number to remember.”

The result of adjusting percentages within one “poverty band” is funding calculations for must be adjusted for other schools within that band, meaning many schools still won’t know how much Title I funding they will be receiving. I guess it’s not the worst thing in the world since GCS is still hashing out budget issues at the state and county levels. Still, many schools are counting on Title I funding and –in spite of board members’ constant expression of sympathy–I don’t see where they did those schools any favors.

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