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Archive for February, 2012

How we do business in G’boro

JLF has just released its latest report —-What Government Costs in North Carolina Cities and Counties FY 2010. Press release here; report here.

Sift through the numbers if you like. No surprise that the cost of gov’t is high among the most populous counties, including Guilford and Forsyth. But here’s the bottom line:

What is the proper role of local government? What are essential services, and what are unnecessary frills? North Carolina’s families must face those kinds of questions every day in determining what are the essential expenses and unnecessary frills for their own households. Most people would probably agree that local government’s core services are fire, police, and sanitation. But would they agree that core services also include taxpayers’ subsidies to golf courses, convention centers, whitewater parks, and even restaurants? Especially in times of economic recession, these questions become even more important.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at how we do business here in G’boro —-$200k for a downtown Mexican restaurant while the City Council struggles with cost savings on municipal waste it ships to another county with gas prices soaring. Meanwhile, a landfill with many years capacity sits underused.

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WSFCS Pledge controversy

The Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Board of Education is grappling with the Pledge of Allegiance in schools, reviewing a handful of policies “meant to increase parental involvement and lump the pledge in with other First Amendment issues that come up at school.”

The Journal reports:

The newest proposal would encourage principals to consult with parents when students don’t want to say the pledge. It would treat a refusal to say the pledge like a number of other potential First Amendment issues, including student dress. If a student feels his or her rights are violated, he or she would ask the principal for an exemption.

The principal could grant it, deny it or call the student’s parents and let them make the decision.

I think I’d rather the see the schools just do away with the Pledge rather than spend time dealing with ‘policy issues’ related to it.

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Malveaux out as Bennett College president

Bennett College has announced that Dr. Julianne Malveaux has resigned as president, effective in May.

Though Bennett is a private college, I’ve still found occasion to post during Dr. Malveaux’s tenure.

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RIP Rich Brenner

The longtime WGHP sportscaster — who I first watched on WRAL in Raleigh while I was in high school —-died of a heart attack Monday night.

Brenner was attending the American Red Cross’s second annual “Salute to Heroes” event at the Carolina Theatre in Greensboro when he collapsed. One of the heroes being honored was Greensboro Fire Captain Will Caviness, who died after he collapsed while running the Chicago Marathon.

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HP still waiting on mental hospital

Remember the controversial High Point rezoning case involving a privately-owned forensic mental hospital? The commercial rezoning was denied, effectively clearing the way for Florida-based GEO Care to convert a former nursing home facility on Greensboro Road into a 90-bed hospital for mentally incompetent criminal defendants.

It’s been a a couple of months, and HP’s still waiting on approval from the state:

“I have no idea. I’ve been wondering the very same thing myself,” said City Councilwoman Bernita Sims, who represents Ward 1, where the Evergreens site is located in the Five Points community.

In December, a city-initiated rezoning attempt by the council that would have blocked the hospital failed, following a protracted debate over the project. Supporters point to the 185 jobs and multi-million-dollar investment GEO Care promises to deliver if it gets the contract.

Opponents argued a mental hospital would not be a good fit for the Interstate 74 interchange where Evergreens is located.

After the rezoning failed, there was talk that opponents might turn their attention to lobbying state legislators against awarding the contract. Whether the idea was put into action is unclear.

“I heard that, but I don’t know that it’s true,” Sims said.

Mayor Becky Smothers — who opposed the hospital —tells the High Point Enterprise she has not lobbied against the hospital and knows of no such lobbying. Remember —gov’t moves slow.

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WSFCS bond

The Winston-Salem Journal reports the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County school board will ask county commissioners to put a $55 million school bond on the November ballot.

The Journal adds that total is only part of multi-million dollar school construction needs, but commissioners recently passed a debt ceiling that limits bond packages.

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Guilford commissioners: No ‘nuclear option,’ but…..

U.S. District Court Judge William Osteen opts out of what the Rhino described as the ‘nuclear option.’

Instead of all nine Guilford County Commissioners going up for election this year, commissioners from Districts 4, 5, 6 and 8 will be on the ballot. The election for District 7 will be delayed until 2014, and there was no ruling on an at-large election.

According to the N&R, Osteen “stressed that his ruling Thursday is a temporary solution” to Guilford’s redistricting problem.

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Taj Mahal of sewage systems

While we’re on the subject of borrowing money for so-called economic development, let’s take a look way down I-85 in Birmingham, where they find themselves in a hell of a mess —- they’re bankrupt.

In fairness, Jefferson County leaders believed they were providing an essential service, which conservatives maintain is the true key to economic development. But they went overboard with the “Taj Mahal of sewage systems.” As you can imagine, it doesn’t end well —the county borrows vast sums of money, which in theory would be paid off in revenue. But when the revenue didn’t materialize —you guessed it— everyone’s rates went up.

Just goes to show it’s easy to think big when you’re spending other people’s money. It’s kinda like Greenboro’s fat new transit authority headquarters — easy for them to say hey, wow, we can get a LEED gold certificate —to the tune of $18 million.

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Indian relics at the Randolph County regional landfill

Greensboro City Council member Trudy Wade provided some interesting insight during Tuesday night’s Greensboro City Council trash talk. At issue is the renegotiation of Republic Waste Services’ contract to haul our trash down U.S. 220 to Montgomery County, which sparked a discussion of one proposed long-term solution:

Wade said that the landfill in Rockingham County had hit some problems with runoff and an airport, and would not be opening anytime soon. She also said that at the site in Randolph County, that had seemed so promising for a long term solution, they had discovered Native American relics that would greatly slow down the permitting process. Wade added that some of the neighbors of the proposed Randolph County landfill had contacted the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, which is the group that beat Greensboro in court time after time last year and kept the White Street Landfill from being used to dispose of Greensboro’s garbage.

The Asheboro Courier-Tribune reports Randolph County Commissioners approved “a request to authorize the contract for additional archaeological studies at the proposed regional landfill site.” It will also be interesting to see if SCSJ opposes the Randolph landfill, considering the fact that staff attorney Chris Brook wrote in an N&R op-ed wrote it “has the potential to minimize impacts.”

As I said during the debate over the proposed reopening of the White Street landfill, it’s a leap of faith to assume someone else wants Greensboro’s garbage in their backyard.

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What’s up with Zack Matheny’s economic development bond?

OK, first things first —- the N&R admits it misquoted Greensboro City Council member Zack Matheny when he supposedly said “we got some key people that live downtown that want to sleep” during a discussion of the proposed downtown noise ordinance. A lot of people seized upon inaccuracy, including this blog.

But now Matheny is the center of controversy again with his proposal for a $20 million economic development bond, which comes as the City Council is pondering another bond for a performing arts center. I haven’t had a chance to view all of Tuesday night’s meeting, during which Matheny’s proposal supposedly would be addressed, and I’ve seen no reporting in blogs or the local paper of record.

While David Wharton is correct to question $134 million in approved bond projects, they are dedicated transportation projects. Exactly what GDOT’s been doing since the bonds were approved four years ago is another question.

Here’s what Greensboro should focus on instead.

At least GDOT’s project are outlined; ‘economic development’ is a nebulous concept. Matheny says as much:

I would like the bond to be flexible and sustainable. It should have a revolving loan pool whereas the money can be used to aid development or expansion with a revolving loan to be paid back and then Council can use those dollars for future projects thus creating a sustainable allocation of dollars that will only be used for job creation for many Councils in the future.

The bond should also have the flexibility to be used for infrastructure purposes and not simply for real estate purposes only. For instance, when existing companies are considering expansions, at times they may run into ancillary cost that the City could help with; such as, turn lanes, curb and gutters, etc.

Turn lanes, curb and gutters sound like transportation projects, eh? Never mind, this would just be a pot of money for the city to use however it deems fit, which is why it’s a bad idea.

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