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Archive for June, 2012

FBI off Guilford County manager’s case…..

…The Rhino reports, but the IRS still is reportedly investigating Brenda Jones Fox, and “there is no word on the status of that investigation.”

Meanwhile Scott Yost probes the lack of political will to fire the county manager that Commissioner Paul Gibson says could be replaced by “anyone from the first 200 names in the phone book.” And when some commissioners who use lack of a transition plan as an excuse not to fire Fox, think Willie Best and David McNeill, previous county managers who were fired on the spot.

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N&R steps up gov’t reporting..

So says editor Jeff Gauger when introducing Travis Fain –most recently of the Winston-Salem Journal—as its new government reporter:

Fain, 36, will be based in Greensboro. He’ll cover state and local government with a focus on breaking news and explaining the actions of government, including where multiple governments are involved. His goal is to make reports that are highly relevant to Greensboro, High Point, Guilford County and the Triad. He’ll also play a lead role in our November election coverage. And he will blog through a still-to-be-named blog.

Fain will work with our two other full-time government reporters, Amanda Lehmert, who focuses on Greensboro city government, and Joe Killian, who covers Guilford County government. Our goal is to knit the three into a team, each member with separate responsibilities and each also collaborating with the others in ensuring that we provide timely, unique, hold-them-accountable coverage of local and state government.

We’ll see what happens, but somehow I’m skeptical.

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Re: Zack Matheny’s hissy fit

The Rhino’s John Hammer writes on Greensboro City Council member Zack Matheny’s conduct during the June 19 meeting, which brought an accusation of slander from the low bidder on the city’s garbage contract:

One aspect of this whole controversy that is being overlooked is how Greensboro got in the situation where the contract for the disposal of Greensboro’s garbage comes down to the wire and a temporary contract has to be put in place so that Greensboro’s garbage doesn’t pile up in the streets.

Which is Greensboro is forced to ship its garbage since the White landfill remains closed to municipal garbage. Normally I would say Matheny’s behavior is but one aspect of that whole controversy, except for the fact that —at a public meeting— he verbally attacked one bidder for G’boro’s garbage then made a motion to award the contract to another bidder, which would cost the city between $6 and $10 million.

BTW, Anson County would get G’boro’s garbage under Waste Connections’ bid instead of Republic Services current deal with Montgomery County.

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Not a good week for Robbie Perkins

Front-page news in today’s N&R—- Greensboro Mayor Robbie Perkins has a torn tendon in his ankle that will require surgery.

The angle here is Perkins was once a world-class runner who still burns a pace at age 56. As a runner who once burned a just-over seven-minute-mile, I salute Perkins’ speedy finishes in recent local races. Following surgery, however, Perkins will be off the road for 9-10 months concedes he “will need to settle and do a little more of a pedestrian running pace.”

But earlier this week Perkins lost considerable momentum in another race —the one to get a bond for a downtown performing arts center on the November ballot:

The delay has to be seen as a big defeat for Perkins. He launched the quest for the performing arts center and even had his former campaign manager, Ross Harris, hired on to manage the task force. He has also repeatedly pushed for the bond to be put on the ballot in November, which was the reason for the current schedule.

….In the end, the votes were not there to put the bond on the ballot, so the spring is an obvious fallback position. But by spring Perkins may have another way to save the world that has to be done immediately.

That last sentence seems to reinforce my prediction earlier this week that this is going to die a quiet death. As I noted at the time, we could be living in a whole new world come spring. At I least I hope.

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Motion to fire Guilford County mgr. goes nowhere

At last night’s meeting, Guilford County Commissioner Kirk Perkins —good for him —- made a motion to fire County Manager Brenda Jones Fox, who is being investigated by the IRS and FBI for shady land deals the county has made under her watch.

Perkins’ motion to fire ‘visibly stunned’ some of his fellow commissioners. Really?

Excellent comment beneath the N&R write-up, considering the fact that we’re always so worried what others think of us here in G’boro:

From an economic development perspective, why would any company consider relocating or establishing new business in Guilford County? Once they see/read about Fox and (Commission Chairman Skip) Alston’s continued blind support of her activities, these prospective companies should question why they would place their resources and human capital in a county which has questionable management of the taxpayers, theirs and their employees, money.

What’s the point of doing business here when it’s clear the county manager’s buddies are first in line?

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Forsyth commissioners nix $223m school bond….

Citing policy that limits county debt to no more than 15 percent:

Commissioner Debra Conrad, who led the effort to put in the 15 percent debt cap, said school board members are clearly not thinking along the same lines as the county.

“They are coming out with this request that is just totally on another planet from where we are,” Conrad said.

Imagine that.

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Boring us to death

Appearing in today’s N&R— Cal Thomas on President Obama:

Those “cannibals” who recently turned up in Miami aren’t the only people eating their own. Following President Obama’s 54-minute snoozer of a speech in Ohio last week, even his “friends” are beginning to feed on him.

…Boring was one of the kinder things said about Obama’s speech, which rivaled Bill Clinton’s address to the 1988 Democratic National Convention. Clinton’s speech was so boring he received his loudest applause when he stopped talking.

…On liberal MSNBC, Jonathan Alter called Obama’s Ohio speech, “one of the worst speeches I’ve ever heard Barack Obama make.” That network’s Mike O’Brien tweeted before the speech was over, begging the president to stop. ABC News reporter Devin Dwyer tweeted that the speech was “more lecture or courtroom arg than rally.”

Needless to say Bill O’Reilly wasn’t impressed either, calling the president’s press conference at the G20 summit one of the boring he’s seen in his 37 years in the news business. Not on;y was the president boring, but he appeared clueless about the economic situation in Europe, which was my gut reaction when watching the press conference. Not claiming to know any more or any less —- I was just looking for insight from the leader of the free world, and I got nothing.

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Guilford County mgr. responds to investigation claims

The N&R finally follows up last week’s Rhino report that Guilford County Manager Brenda Jones Fox is being investigated by the FBI and the IRS over shady land deals.

Fox’s attorney Seth Cohen issued a statement:

“Brenda Jones Fox has done nothing wrong, much less illegal,” Cohen said in the statement. “While it is our understanding that federal agencies have been asking some questions, it is not our understanding that there is a formal investigation.”

Cohen went on to blame Fox’s political enemies for contacting the agencies, trying to stir up an actual investigation .

“This entire matter is the result of certain individuals who have a vendetta against Ms. Fox, including a disgruntled employee,” Cohen said. “It is our firm belief that within a matter of weeks, this entire matter will be put to rest.”

County Attorney Mark Payne says he’s out of the loop, but so what –the feds just come in and do what they want to do. The Rhino reported that county commissioners Billy Yow, Carolyn Coleman and Kirk Perkins said they were aware that a federal investigation was taking place. That’s a commissioner from the right, one from the left and one right down the middle, with none of them stepping up to defend Fox.

Meanwhile Scott Yost is still on the story, trying to put together the pieces of the puzzle. When —and if– it’s ever solved, Billy Yow says citizens will be shocked when the they learn the “breadth and extent of the backroom deal-making and the large number of players involved.”

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Reverting to crime to stay out of jail

That’s the logic behind Greensboro Police Chief Ken Miller’s opposition to a bill limiting pretrial services that allow poor defendants to get out of jail without posting bond:

“State law allows a person to enter into a loan agreement with a bail bondsman and get out of jail on credit,” Miller said. “The payment plan is usually unreasonable, and the person reverts to crime to stay out of jail. It’s going to make our cities and counties unsafer.”

Lots of issues going on here, including whether or not government is competing with the private bail bond industry,as Rep. Mike Hager claims. Definitely a different twist on the public sector vs. private sector debate.

Opponents of the bill say restricting pretrial services will result in some defendants staying in jail longer than necessary, costing counties more money. Guilford County has a fat new jail, so it’s hard for this law-abiding citizen to see where cost is an issue there.

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Re: The (wrong) case for arts funding

On the subject of the arts, JLF President John Hood says taxpayers should not be “compelled to pay for the creation of art,” no matter what the so-called experts say:

Arts groups have concocted all sorts of preposterous arguments and economic “studies” to obscure this basic fact. For example, they hire an economist to count up all the tax money spent on the arts in a given community, the total budgets of arts organizations, and the number of people who receive income from those organizations directly or indirectly. Then they claim that the initial expenditure of tax money causes the total budgets, which then creates a certain number of jobs.

What a coincidence — the Winston-Salem Journal editorializes on such a study, which identifies the arts as ‘major industry, one that should be supported and celebrated throughout the city and county.’

Emphasis on ‘supported’—- no doubt the Journal defines ‘support’ as Cmdr. Hood does —-patrons paying for their own proverbial symphony ticket. And while the editorial doesn’t explicitly call for government funding of the arts, they otherwise wouldn’t editorialize on a study citing the economic impact of the arts.

All this should be taken into consideration should discussion and debate over a downtown Greensboro performing arts center extend into next year, which I boldly predicted would not be the case.

On a related note, the G’boro council should closely watch how the vote goes down in Wilmington, where the City Council voted to put a bond on the November ballot for a minor league baseball stadium.

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