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Archive for February, 2011

Funding the HP amphitheater

Indeed the roughly $2 million figure floated by architect Peter Freeman is ‘suspiciously close’ to amount of money the City of High Point has available in two thirds bonds.

Right now city officials are saying no way, but evidently Freeman believes there’s some wiggle room when he says “we feel like there is some synergy there that would lend itself to a community space.”

Gov’t pulls this these sleights of hand all the time, and a cities just gotta have their amphitheaters. Stay tuned.

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Municipal money laundering

Pretty incredible story from the Rhino’s John Hammer, who covered last week’s Greensboro City Council work session:

The Greensboro City Council uses the Greensboro Partnership to launder money, according to what the council was told at its work session on Tuesday, Feb. 22.

The council allocates $200,000 to the Partnership to be used by the Greensboro Economic Development Alliance (GEDA), but of that money $25,000 goes to Downtown Greensboro Inc. (DGI) and $30,000 goes to the Piedmont Triad Film Commission.

Dan Lynch, president of the GEDA, told the council Tuesday that the money was simply a pass-through. He said they were told to write a check for $25,000 to DGI and $30,000 to the film commission and he did, but he did not know why.

Remember that DGI is doing a little money laundering of its own, allocating $15,000 to the downtown homeless day shelter after some council members asked questions about the shelter’s operating expenses.

Of course the solution to this problem is simply to defund these organizations and repeal the downtown BID tax while they’re at it. But who on the council is going make that motion?

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Defending public unions

In fairness, the N&R did publish two columns critical of public unions, one by Jonah Goldberg and the other by Amity Shlaes.

But the N&R also published two columns vigorously defending public workers, neither of which is posted, but you’ll get the idea from the pull quotes.

From N.C. State professor David Zonderman:

We are told that states and municipalities have a “spending problem,” not a “revenue problem.” Again, this assertion is utter nonsense without any ground in the economy today. Most states have already slashed budgets in recent years; there is no “runaway” spending unless you count paying to keep roads paved, and poor children fed and waste and fraud.

From UNCG professor Lisa Levenstein and doctoral candidate Jason Brent:

We are where we are not because of the costs of maintaining a strong public sector but because we did not collect revenue and save when we should have, and then unforeseeable bad times hit.

…The idea that public sector workers earn inflated wages is simply not true. Indeed, since World War II, one of the primary attractions of the public sector has not been its high pay but its promise of jobs security.

I find it ironic that the authors claim that state and local governments have lost 400,000 jobs since mid-2008, then turn around and note that “job security” is the major attraction of the public sector. Here in North Carolina, where both authors reside, Civitas research shows that North Carolina state government has added almost 35,000 jobs while the private sector lost 49,000 jobs.

Needless to say, the authors believe states should just raise taxes, like they did in Illinois. We’ll see how that works out. By the way, when they say “we’ did not collect revenue and ‘we’ did not save, who are they talking about?

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GSO noise ordinance spikes St. Pat’s party

M’Coul’s owner Simone McClinton pulls the plug on the annual St Patrick’s Day party:

Businesses and residents downtown have complained about the noise from outdoor music, said Ed Wolverton , president and CEO of Downtown Greensboro Inc.

More people live downtown now than when M’Coul’s started its celebration. There are about 1,200 residential units downtown, compared with about 600 seven years ago, Wolverton said.

“It’s unfortunate, but when you have mixed-use, residential/commercial, you have to find a balance,” said Michael Speedling , assistant city manager for public safety and human resources.

Yeah, well evidently Charlotte didn’t think about it, either. That’s is mixed-use living for you.

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Jordan Lake Rules: Good for Greensboro?

I give Greensboro Mayor Bill Knight and City Council member Zack Matheny credit for going to Raleigh and requesting a delay in implementing the Jordan Lake Rules. Sen. Don Vaughan was just as noncommittal as he was earlier this month, saying more or less he’ll think it over.

Sewer plant improvements could run between $70-$80 million, which would necessitate a raise in water rates or a property tax increase. With that in mind, remember what city water chief Allan Williams told* the City Council not quite four years ago as the bill was being making its way through the legislature:

“I cannot in good conscience, after 30 years of being in this business and in this position, sit here and tell you that what this bill is going to do is going to achieve anything near the benefit that the state proposes,” Williams concluded. “They’re making no guarantees that any of this billion dollars will achieve what they say the desired effect is.”

Yet Environment North Carolina director Elizabeth Ouzts says “(c)leaning up Jordan Lake means cleaning up the streams that feed it, which is good for Greensboro residents.” Seems like a tough sell these days.

*Allan Williams’ comments were during the July 17, 2007 City Council meeting, which can be found here. Item 49 on the agenda.

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Alamance sheriff’s 287(g) report

Alamance County Sheriff Terry Johnson made a presentation to county commissioners on enforcement of the federal 287(g) law, which has stirred quite a bit of controversy, not to mention a Department of Justice investigation.

Lots of figures here. Bottom line is —- according to Johnson —- not all suspected illegal immigrants in the county jail were arrested by sheriff’s deputies. Many are arrested by other law enforcement agencies inside Alamance County, not mention those detained by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.

Board chair Linda Massey “said that she was pleased with the 287 (g) program’s results,” while Commissioner Tim Sutton said he was “proud of what we are accomplishing…..I know it’s curbed crime.”

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Dem schizophrenia

More on Governor Bev Perdue’s veto of SB 13, from JLF president John Hood:

I’ll shed employees, cut services, and raise taxes, Perdue is telling the voters of North Carolina, but I refuse to cut corporate welfare.

This is a strategy for political recovery? Add in the fact that the giveaway programs Perdue used her veto to protect – such as Golden LEAF and Job Development Investment Grants (JDIG) – were set up by a disgraced former governor, Mike Easley, from whom Perdue needs to be running away as fast as possible, and you have a political mess.

The irony, Hood notes, is while Perdue is sticking up for big business, Democrats in other states —– not to mention President Obama —– are sticking up for labor unions. Problem is, Hood concludes, is both institutions are suffering image problems with your average voter.

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Forsyth elections board clears director

The Forsyth County Board of Elections has determined there is no credible evidence that director Rob Coffman engaged in voter fraud.

Board members refused to make specifics of their closed-door meeting public.

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How to attract green industry

Be like Florida, which rejected high-speed rail in favor of creating a more favorable business climate. Now fuel cell maker Bing Energy is ditching —surprise—- California in favor of the Sunshine State.

I’ll be like Locker Room’s Paul Chesser and wonder aloud if anyone here in North Carolina is paying attention.

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The guv’s bluff

By now you’ve heard that Gov. Bev Perdue vetoed Senate Bill 13, the sticking point being the transfer of funds from the Golden Leaf Foundation, which (supposedly) helps fund economic development initiatives. The AP speculates that an “override appears difficult.”

The N&R’s Doug Clark defends the guv’s veto, saying legislative Republicans want it both ways —- giving Perdue discretion on where to cut spending while simultaneously telling her what to cut.

Clark adds:

Perdue has not resisted spending cuts. She simply says making these spending cuts will hurt business recruitment. Her office says projects are lined up but may be in jeopardy. She doesn’t reveal details, but do legislative leaders really want to bet that she’s bluffing?

I don’t about legislative leaders, but I’ll take the bet that the governor is bluffing. We’re more than anxious see what projects she has lined up.

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