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Archive for March, 2010

N&R editor: You get what you pay for

Roch 101 directs me to an interesting debate between N&R John Robinson and commenter ‘Overtaxed,’ who reacts to Robinson’s post on Guilford County government’s lack of cooperation regarding possible cuts at DSS.

‘Overtaxed’ complains he couldn’t find a story on the N&R’s Web site about the federal lawsuit filed by former GPD officers Tom Fox and Scott Sanders against the City of Greensboro. The story was a sidebar way inside the N&R print edition, while it was front page above the fold in the Rhino.

‘Overtaxed’ tells Robinson he doesn’t subscribe to the print edition, but he reads the Web site, to which Robinson replies “(l)et’s just say you get what you pay for, both from our web site and from the Rhino.”

That’s a pretty incredible statement isn’t it, considering the old idiom states that something of very low price is usually not of very good quality. Seems to me that since readers are getting their news from the Web, the N&R would want to put out a quality product.

Making comparisons to the Rhino is dangerous, too, considering the fact that I learn more about local government reading the Rhino for nothing than I ever have paying for the N&R.

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Watt keeps copping out

After holding a town hall meeting on healthcare reform in Davidson County, Rep. Mel Watt traveled up Interstate 85 and held another meeting in Greensboro, where he was asked about the requirement to purchase health insurance:

Joshua Leonhardt of Charlotte asked Watt several questions, including how the congressman could reconcile the health care reform bill’s mandates to carry insurance with the Constitution’s 10th amendment that reserves powers not expressly enumerated to the states and the people.

Watt needed help getting focused on the question, asking Leonhardt to remind him of the 10th amendment’s language.

“I’d look at the preamble to the Constitution that talks about the health and welfare and national defense of our country,” Watt said. “You can’t make a compelling case to do national defense or some of the other things that are mentioned in the preamble… and then say the federal government has no role to play in the health of the nation. I just don’t understand that argument.”

Watt also repeated his view that tort reform is a matter for state law to address, a surprise given his answer above, plus the fact that the federal government is interjecting itself into every other aspect of our lives.

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Bargaining with the feds

The N&R editorializes on the shakeup at Oak Hill Elementary, expressing skepticism over the Guilford County Board of Education’s “bargain with the feds.”

The editorial concludes:

What Oak Hill students must have is the best possible chance to advance grade by grade with the skills they need to succeed. If they don’t get that after all this, school system administrators and board members should be the next to go. It’s only a matter of time before Washington requires that, too.

That would indeed be extreme, even as bad as we need change on Guilford’s school board. But it goes back to the theme I’ve been repeating for weeks now —– how long before local government is rendered useless in the never-ending chase for the federal dollar?

Doug Clark says there soon “will be no end to top-down dictates.”

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Watt addresses healthcare reform

Pretty good Lexington Dispatch coverage of Rep. Mel Watt’s healthcare reform town hall meeting at Davidson Community College.

Read the whole article, but the key message comes from Dr. Zan Tyson, a cardiologist who’s already being squeezed by Medicare:

“We’re scrambling, getting ready to cut services. Physicians are planning to leave the practice,” Tyson said. “So, I have a message for you. That message would be that it won’t do much good to provide people with health insurance if there are no doctors there to provide for them.”

Anyone else see the irony behind Watt’s belief that tort reform would be unconstitutional?

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A little secret about greenway development

The N&R editorializes on Greensboro’s downtown greenway:

At an estimated cost of $26 million, this is neither a quick nor easy proposition. The urban stretches will be more challenging and expensive. And the entire project could take another 10 years.

But greenway boosters have raised half of the project’s budget and similar initiatives in other cities have enhanced quality of life and local economies.

This appears a long, long walk worth taking.

OK, I only looked at the table posted over at Guarino’s, so I’ll concede Ed Cone’s point that the Greensboro Partnership’s “anticipated property appreciation” of properties along the greenway “is due to investment and development on those properties.”

And in a more perfect world, the properties would be developed before the greenway is complete, though one of them might not be the North State Chevrolet site.

So— for whatever reason —- the properties are being linked to the greenway. It’s also pretty well known that advocates for greenways and light rail believe that high-density development is desirable because everyone will be able to walk, ride their bike or take the train everywhere. It will be so wonderful —- the air would be cleaner, there would be less traffic, everyone would be healthier.

Problem is — as Wendell Cox points out — such high-density development only attracts more automobiles, thereby increasing traffic and congestion. Think about Smith and Battleground with a high-density development, especially on nights the Hoppers are home.

I live right down the street from the North State site, so I want to see the property developed. But it would certainly delay my trips home, because the masses will not be traveling by greenway.

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‘Brutal cuts’ in Guilford County?

After getting scooped by the Rhino on furloughs at the Guilford County Register of Deeds office, the N&R’s Joe Killian gets the scoop on possible cuts at the Department of Social Services, with little help from county officials, who apparently just don’t like the N&R.

Turns out —– as you can probably imagine —– that no DSS workers will lose their jobs —- the department will simply “reorganize.”

Note the interesting comment from Commissioner Kirk Perkins, who said he worried “more about the level of cuts and what they mean for county services,” adding “we’re getting past the point of getting efficient and to the point where we’re just brutal with our cuts.”

Correct me if I’m wrong, but we’ve seen nowhere near brutal — yet. I’ll believe it when I see it. I don’t wish anyone to lose their job, but the reality is government is undergoing yet another tough budget year and difficult decisions have to be made. The pain has certainly been felt in the private sector.

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Mo doesn’t chase the money

High Point Enterprise coverage of the Guilford County Board of Education’s unanimous vote to restructure Oak Hill Elementary has an interesting exchange between board member Garth Hebert and Superintendent Mo Green:

The plan will open the way for the district to apply for a federal assistance grant of as much as $6 million. Hebert worried that Green’s staff could be “chasing the dollar” to find a remedy.

“We do not chase the money,” Green said. “We should be at a point where this is the best thing to do. There is a high probability that we would have made the same recommendation without the grant.”

I personally find that hard to believe, although admittedly there’s no guarantee the district will get the money.

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Look who’s against social engineering

I was in Charlotte over the weekend, so the Uptown paper of record was my Sunday morning reading. I followed with interest and an open mind today’s lead editorial on the conservative Wake County school board’s controversial reassignment plan. Then I got to the punchline:

But it’s not as though Wake school board leaders don’t know what they need to do. They’ll have to persuade county commissioners to raise a ton of money through new taxes in a difficult period to provide instruction, resources and support for the students they’re about to assign to new high-poverty schools if they really hope to help those students. How they’ll raise that money is another question, but they’ll have no excuse for arguing they didn’t know what they were facing in their headlong enthusiasm for social engineering.

That the Charlotte Observer is questioning anyone’s ‘headlong enthusiasm for social engineering’ is crazy enough, never mind that they’re criticizing people trying to undo social engineering that has been imposed on families for 40 years now, with little if any positive effect.

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Yet another chicken or the egg argument

This one focuses on light rail:

(NC Transportation Secretary Gene)Conti rarely misses an opportunity to promote mass transit.

He noted during his keynote speech that legislation passed last year allows the Triad and Triangle to levy a half-cent sales tax to finance light-rail projects similar to the system opened in Charlotte a couple years back. Conti later told reporters that ridership for Charlotte’s light-rail system is above anticipated levels, adding, “I think the evidence is there that people will use it if you build it in places with high density.”

Seems to me the transportation secretary has it backwards — Charlotte built its light rail line and hoped high-density development would follow.

Wendell Cox has an excellent study of light rail and so-called ‘smart growth’ development in Charlotte.

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Re: The greenway deception

Guarino’s all over the Greensboro Partnership’s ‘greenway deception.’ Bubba nails it when he asks ‘why are we surprised’ that the Partnership would estimate that properties along the greenway would increase in value 10-20 times their current value when they’re constantly pushing greenways as the cure for pretty much all of society’s ills?

Note that the properties on the list have are the sites of big projects that have never materialized, an indication that the Partnership is indulging in the typical ‘build it and they will come’ mentality.

Turns out JLF has studied greenways and has found no evidence that greenways increase property values. I realize the study focuses on greenways running through the backyards of single-family homes, but is it a stretch to draw the same conclusions from the properties on the Partnership’s list?

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