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Archive for February, 2013

More municipal groupthink

What coincidence —-just like High Point, Greensboro wants to raise its vehicle tax to pay for expanded bus service.

While officials in High Point said “they expect the legislature will grant High Point the authority for the higher taxes,” the N&R says Gboro’s vehicle tax “must survive the anti-tax increase sentiment held by Republicans in control of the General Assembly.”

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Meanwhile, up at the Coliseum….

The N&R’s Ed Hardin ponders another experiment that hasn’t quite panned out: UNCG playing home hoops games at the 23,000 seat Greensboro Coliseum, where the Spartans have lost nine straight:

UNCG has a bigger problem, though. It has no identity. And games inside the coliseum aren’t helping, at least not like some people envisioned four years ago. The contract between the school and the coliseum runs out June 30. Either side can extend it one year for the next three years. No one has suggested the contract won’t continue.

….Some want the Spartans to just end it now, end the experiment and get back to the campus, back to the volleyball court at Fleming or something like the old Rosenthal….Maybe it’s time to build a new place, a tiny little bandbox that actually has an atmosphere, a place that makes UNCG’s suitcase students want to hang around on a Wednesday night, makes it a tough ticket, a tough place to play in.

Fair enough, the Spartans are 8-20 this year, meaning they pretty much lose whether they’re at home or not. Still, playing in an pretty-much empty coliseum doesn’t help matters.

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Downtown Greensboro: Years behind Wichita

Lots going on out there regarding the dispute between the Greensboro City Council and Downtown Greensboro Inc. Yes!Weekly’s Eric Ginsburg on president Ed Wolverton:

Wolverton began his position with DGI towards the end of 2007 after serving as the president of the Wichita Downtown Development Corp. for about six years. According to the Wichita Business Journal, many of the ideas Wolverton’s old outfit pursued were similar to those DGI has discussed recently.

“Wolverton said the task force identified the Top 5 projects, which included supporting development of the east bank of the Arkansas River downtown: recruiting a grocery store, developing a new vision plan, creating a permitting program to allow street musicians and creating more ‘people places’ such as parks and plazas,” the March 2003 article reported.

All of those projects, with the exception of development along the Arkansas River, are primary development ideas DGI has been working on in the last year.

Add a bike share program and rooftop vegetation to the list. Look, I’ve never been to Wichita –it might be a very nice city, but the bottom line is Greensboro’s getting recycled group-think ideas more than a decade old.

Meanwhile, the Rhino’s John Hammer says it’s only a matter of time before Wolverton’s gone — and if Wolverton has anyone to blame, he “need only look in the mirror.”

I thought it was odd when I read in Ginsburg’s article that “Wolverton instructed reporters to leave as the DGI board meeting began.” Hammer did as well, to say the least:

The DGI board had a meeting on Feb. 21, and I thought that since I was a downtown property owner who is forced, through my taxes, to pay DGI hundreds a dollars a year that I was a member of DGI. As Wolverton not so politely told me, DGI has no members and I could not attend the meeting. What does this board do that is so secretive they don’t want downtown property owners who are paying for it to find out what it is doing?

So the $1 million a year from the city didn’t buy the city the right to see Wolverton’s contract and my paltry few hundred dollars a year didn’t buy me the right to sit in the same room as the vaunted DGI board and listen to them deliberate on how they would spend our tax money.

What strikes me about this debate is for years we’ve told how various projects — the baseball stadium, the Elon law school — are going to revitalize downtown. That the City Council is upset to say the least with DGI is an admission that they aren’t working. With that in mind, why should we believe that a downtown performing arts center would be any different?

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Sequester that

Somehow I knew that a federally-funded bureaucrat —-at a salary of $103k—- would be part of Guilford County Schools’ $30 million personalized learning initiative that provides students at 16 middle schools with tablets.

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The Social Services fleet

The N&R follows up last week’s Rhino report on Guilford County Sheriff BJ Barnes throwing up his hands and handing back the county’s fleet of civilian vehicles.

Once again N&R county beat reporter Joe Killian is forced to defend himself for following up the Rhino, but he does has some interesting details. Barnes says his deputies keep their vehicles in top shape, but:

Barnes said the average county employee doesn’t operate that way. They’ve ignored check-engine lights, leading to car breakdowns. They’ve left cars running overnight and let them run out of gas. They’ve left food inside hot cars for days, attracting ants.

His staff has even found dirty diapers in vehicles.

“It was a whole different attitude and atmosphere from what we have with our folks,” Barnes said. “It ended up being a lot more work.”

I can only hope that ‘average county employees’ treat their personal vehicles the same way, considering it’s their money they would be spending on maintenance.

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Build America Bonds biting W-S in the butt?

Effects of sequestration in Winston-Salem:

Denise Bell, the city’s finance director, said sequestration may increase the city’s debt-payment costs for several Build America Bond issues. These types of bonds are eligible for interest-expense rebates from the federal government. Sequestration would reduce the rebates by 7.6 percent, she said in an email.

“The bonds were issued with an understanding that the federal government would stand by their commitment to provide a rebate of the interest costs. Governments were encouraged to issue these taxable bonds in order to get rebates of 35 percent to 45 percent of the interest costs. The alternative was to issue tax-exempt bonds at lower interest rates, but they were more expensive when compared to the BAB’s rates reduced by the rebates,” she said.

And we’re supposed to believe that the federal government will pay for 90 percent of Obamacare in perpetuity.

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Look who else bankrolls Blueprint NC

Mainstream media sure has done a good job of helping Blueprint NC try to walk back the stalk McCrory memo, including this McClatchy piece with a Winston-Salem Journal headline
screaming ‘hey it’s not just the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation bankrolling them!’

No, just half, while six other groups finance the other $500k. As for the Fletcher Foundation, none other than WRAL owner Jim Goodmon, through the foundation on which he servers as chairman of the board. Also note —in case you didn’t know–that liberal talking head Chris Fitzsimon is a former WRAL reporter, while —as I’m sure you know— former N&R reporter Mark Binker is a current WRAL reporter.

At least Kim Gerado went head and signed on with the team; no more worries about softball coverage of Republicans efforts to right the ship. But in the meantime will WRAL will keep a close eye on the governor, more so than we might think.

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Randolph County megasite

Re the previous post on High Point’s proposed vehicle tax hike, the N&R’s Doug Clark wonders why city living is getting so expensive.

Maybe it’s because they sign on to run water and sewer to a neighboring county for a megasite that may or may not attract industry.

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HP vehicle tax hike

The City of High Point will seek authority from the General Assembly to raise the vehicle tax from $5 to $20 to pay for street resurfacing, sidewalk construction and bus service.

Will be interesting to see if the General Assembly signs off on this one.

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Z. Smith Reynolds has some explaining to do…

Regarding a memo with anti- Pat McCrory talking points issued by a group it bankrolls.

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