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HP council not saying yes to ‘Say Yes’

Seems like media coverage of Guilford County’s effort to become a Say Yes to Education community has been favorable—understandable considering the goal of $28 million in private donations appears to be within reach.

However the bigger question is what is government’s role should Guilford become a ‘Say Yes’ community, given that local governments —Greensboro City Council, Board of Education, Board of Commissioners and High Point City Council are all being asked to sign off on a memorandum of understanding?

Leave it to the HP council to ask the hard questions:

At a High Point City Council manager’s briefing Monday, Guilford County Schools and Say Yes to Education Inc., asked the City Council for a quick vote on a memorandum committing High Point to the Say Yes program – only to be slapped down by City Attorney Joanne Carlyle, who said High Point hadn’t received the final version.

Carlyle said that the most recent version of the memorandum of understanding the city received was months old and marked “draft.”

Despite requests from some councilmembers, Carlyle declined to give a legal opinion on a memorandum she hadn’t read.

Guilford County School Superintendent Mo Green said, “I don’t know what the breakdown was.”

Green handed out copies of what he said was the final version of the memorandum. He said changes had been made since the draft, including the addition of language clarifying that each board retains its own funding authority – something that is already determined by state law.

Council member Jim Davis honed in on the memorandum’s request for “health, mental health and legal services,” ostensibly for students who benefit from Say Yes funds. While the county might already provide those services—as fellow council member Latimer Alexander pointed out —- the city does not. Question is if the city signs off on the memorandum of understanding, would they then be required to begin providing those services?

But the bottom is the council was being pressured into signing an agreement that apparently hasn’t been finalized. Props to Alexander for pointing out that GCS —namely Green and Say Yes to Education Chief Operating Officer Gene Chasin —-“needs to own some poor planning from a time-management perspective… because we did not create this urgency.”

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Re: N.C. Ag dept. revokes Triad animal shelter licenses

N&R reports after “months of complaints, rumors and allegations of animal cruelty and abuse,” the N.C. Department of Agriculture has revoked the the United Animal Coalition’s license to operate animal shelters in Davidson and Guilford counties:

The Department of Agriculture had been investigating the two shelters for more than a month after receiving complaints on the conditions and care for animals in both counties. Most of that investigation is completed, though officials will continue to cooperate with law enforcement and county administrators, said Dr. Patricia Norris, a veterinarian and director of the department’s Animal Welfare Section.

“There are a few things left outstanding we’re going to tie up, but the vast majority is concluded,” Norris said. “I wanted to get this revocation order out as soon as I could justify it so I could have a new start … and end the conditions that led to the amount of suffering here.”

In addition, the N&R reports “Guilford County Sheriff’s Office and the Lexington Police Department, in conjunction with their respective district attorneys, are investigating claims of animal cruelty and abuse and potential misappropriation of county money.” Sheriff BJ Barnes told the N&R “to be quite frank with you, I expect criminal charges to come out of this.”

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RIP ‘Economan’

Via Facebook, former N&R editor John Robinson on the death of UNCG economics professor Don Jud:

Gotta say, I’m surprised that a week after his death, the News & Record has not written a news obituary on Don Jud. He was the paper’s go-to source on the economy for decades. A good guy, too.

Note in the obituary —a fact that wasn’t lost on commenters to Robison’s post — that Dr. Jud “was considered the area’s economic guru, affectionately called ‘Economan’ by the News and Record.” I’ve cited him on this blog, specifically when he supported conservative incumbents in the 2011 Greensboro City Council election. Out of respect for Dr. Jud, no political comment on how it’s turned out since.

Update: N&R story Dr. Jud in Tuesday’s edition, including a memory from one of his top students:

Laura Greene Knapp, one of Jud’s brightest students, saw the complete picture of the professor who stretched to find creative ways to help people.

….Knapp was, to her surprise, elected to the UNCG homecoming court her senior year. But to be in the parade at the homecoming soccer game, she needed a convertible.
“I realized I had to have a convertible for the homecoming parade and I had no idea what to do,” she said.
Jud knew. He called one of his contacts at a car dealership to ask a favor.
“Not only did he get in touch with his friend at the car dealership,” Knapp recalled, “he picked up the car, brought it to campus, stayed with my friend to watch the soccer game and at the end of the day brought it back. It was very special.”

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Gboro council moves forward with civil rights museum loan

N&R reports the Greensboro City Council decided to move forward with the last installment of its loan to the International Civil Rights Museum. That decision was taken without a formal vote and despite the fact that City Attorney Tom Carruthers “detailed for the first time publicly the museum’s breach of its loan contract with the city.”

Carruthers revealed Thursday he told the council the museum breached that part of the agreement, instead taking so much money from the restricted account to cover operating expenses that it was $44,629 short of what was needed to make payments to the tax credit authorities.

A July 2 memo from museum CEO John Swaine alerted the city to the shortfall.
The city met with the museum to discuss the problem late last month, Carruthers said Thursday. The museum wrote a check to the restricted account to cover the shortfall, Carruthers said, but then cancelled the check and instead used the money to make payments of $77,429 and $12,375 toward the tax credits.

The breach and the unusual move of cancelling the check led Carruthers to contact the loan processors for the tax credit authority to get assurances that the museum was caught up with its payments.

Again, the council didn’t take a formal vote on whether or not to let the loan go forward, but —according to the N&R—council members Mike Barber, Tony Wilkins and the recently-appointed Justin Outling — “said that given all of that information and the breach of contract, the city had to consider, and publicly discuss, whether to proceed with the final loan installment to the museum.”

I guess what jumped out at me were Oulting’s comments that “if the city doesn’t continue to give the museum money, it isn’t going to just go away tomorrow….there are other entities that have an interest in the museum continuing to operate.”

Don’t get me wrong —to say the least I agree with Outling that “it may not be smart for the city to continue giving money.” But—-given the museum’s well-known financial problems for years now—- I’m not sure who Outling thinks the “other entities” are that will step up and save the museum. If they existed, they would have done so by now.

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GCS tablet provider: ‘Inglorious end’

High Point Enterprise cites NYT article reporting the ‘inglorious end’ to Amplify, provider of tablets for Guilford County Schools, middle schoolers, leaving GCS’ middle schoolers “partially dependent on a product that is supported by a company division that eventually will be shut down, and that is only guaranteed support until the company is sold.”

Amplify’s parent company, News Corp., is taking a “write down” on the company, meaning the asset has lost considerable value but possibly can still be sold. According to the NYT, News Corporation chief executive Robert Thomson said the company was in an “advanced stage of negotiations” with a potential buyer for the remaining education business.

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W-S councilman backs off Dixie Classic Fair

Winston-Salem City Council member James Taylor is backing off his suggestion that the name of the upcoming Dixie Classic Fair be changed because, well, you know:

Taylor said during Monday’s meeting of the city finance committee that he doesn’t like the name of the fair, and said the city should consider selling naming rights as a way of better marketing it. After the meeting, Taylor called the word “Dixie” a divisive reminder of the Confederacy that the city should reconsider. He said that there are other council members who are in favor of changing the name, but said public input was needed before making a change.

Taylor said Wednesday he was speaking on behalf of some city residents who said the name bothered them. After the Journal reported his suggestion on Monday, Taylor said he heard from another contingent.

“At first, I was just hearing from one side, and now, I’m hearing from both,” he said. “I have been extremely taken aback by the volume of the commentary. And I would like to see people be more civil as a society and respect other people’s opinions.”

Winston-Salem Journal provides a brief history of the fair’s evolving name changes, starting with the Forsyth County Wheat Fair in 1882. The change to “Dixie Classic Livestock Exposition” came in the late ’50s, as an attempt to “make it sound bigger and give it a regional, rather than local, flavor,” according to a local historian.

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Re: DOJ lawsuit against Alamance County sheriff dismissed

By now you’ve probably read that the U.S. Department of Justice lawsuit alleging Alamance County Sheriff Terry Johnson profiled Hispanics has been dismissed.

In his decision, U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Schroeder wrote the DOJ’s key witness “abandoned common sense to bolster his own testimony”:

The Justice Department’s expert witness, John Lamberth, testified that he conducted a study in 2012 that showed the sheriff’s office stopped and issued citations to Hispanic drivers who committed traffic violations at higher rates than non-Hispanic drivers.

Lamberth said in court that he used people to look at each driver who passed an observation site to determine the driver’s ethnicity and whether the driver had committed a traffic violation.

In his decision, Schroeder points out that in other cases, Lamberth said standing beside a road and trying to identify drivers can’t be done accurately.
Schroeder wrote that “the problem with Dr. Lamberth’s testimony is that his methodology is seriously flawed and cannot be replicated.”

“Dr. Lamberth repeatedly contradicts himself and abandons previously-held (and commonsensical) views to bolster the methodology he used in this litigation,” Schroeder wrote. “This type of self-serving testimony seriously undermines his credibility and leads the court to reject his expert testimony.”

As of Friday Johnson had not read the ruling, but will hold a press conference at 10a today to comment.

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Kay Hagan sighting

Former Sen. Kay Hagan speaks during the Rotary Club of Greensboro’s luncheon, with none other than N&R editor and publisher Jeff “Grits” on the story.

The theme of Hagan’s speech? The evil of big money in politics:

Hagan said the rich, through their donations to candidates and super PACs, have had greater negative influence on politics and governance than have lobbyists.

She said the fix is to end the influence that exceptionally rich people have on the nation’s governance thanks to their ability to contribute big sums of cash secretly to candidates and members of Congress.

No mention of the fact that Hagan outspent opponent Thom Tillis in what was certainly one of the most expensive Senate races in history, if the most expensive. Hagan had plenty of big money guys and gals in her camp, believe you me. If you don’t believe me, take it from none other than the Washington Post.

Liberals like Hagan will tell you that they’re only playing by the rules as written, with the ultimate goal of getting elected so they can do everything they promise to make our lousy lives wonderful again, with government’s help.

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Do wizenia, Dr. Wos

Reaction to the resignation of Greensboro resident Dr. Aldona Wos as Secretary of Health and Human Services.

First, the Progressive Pulse:

But while Wos, a wealthy Greensboro physician who was a significant fundraiser during McCrory’s 2012 campaign, was heaped with praise Wednesday, her 32-month tenure at the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services was marked with controversy.

….She was at the agency’s helm during the rocky launches of two major benefits systems, which left tens of thousands of North Carolinians without access to emergency food assistance and delayed payments for months to Medicaid providers around the state.

…The major goal of her administration, to bring changes to the state’s Medicaid system, remains unfinished, as the legislature decides whether to move Medicaid administration to its own department and open the massive $14 billion state Medicaid system to the private market.

The N&O:

It was an odd show of emotion Wednesday when both Gov. Pat McCrory and Adona Wos, his secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, choked up at a news conference announcing Wos was resigning.

Why the tears when so many others at DHHS, in the legislature and around the state were relieved?

….Some Republican lawmakers were annoyed by the turmoil in the department and Wos’ inability to provide reliable numbers on the cost of Medicaid. Senate Republicans even proposed that their version of Medicaid reform would remove the program entirely from DHHS and place its management under the control of a new agency. Indeed, lawmakers doubts about Wos may well have played a role in her resignation.

Last but not least, Wos’ hometown paper the N&R:

In fairness, DHHS was a bloated tangle of inefficiency and poor management well before Wos got there. And there have been accomplishments on her watch, most notably the recent announcement that the state’s Medicaid program ended the fiscal year with a surplus of more than $130 million.

Wos will leave knowing she gave her all to a position for which a warm heart and good intentions were not enough. “It has been a long two years and seven months,” she told reporters Wednesday, as if she were counting the minutes.

Speculation now is what Wos’ resignation will impact the debate over Medicaid expansion in North Carolina. I would say don’t expect it anytime soon.

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Reaction to Obama’s Clean Power Plan

As you can probably imagine, National Review has plenty:

Unfortunately, the Clean Power Plan packs neither the environmental nor diplomatic punch the Obama administration has claimed. Moreover, contrary to the White House’s assertion, it offers states little flexibility and comes at enormous economic expense.

…The Clean Power Plan exemplifies bad policy, deeply harming the economy without meaningful environmental or diplomatic achievements. States and the other two branches of federal government should act fast to halt this wrongheaded executive action.

As you could also probably imagine, Gov. Pat McCrory says North Carolina file a legal challenge. Here’s what jumped out at me when reading the N&O write-up:

Fossil-fueled power plants release about one-third of the nation’s greenhouse gases, which are linked to climate change. Last year was the warmest on record, EPA says, and 14 of the warmest 15 years came this century.

Utility emissions of carbon dioxide have already dropped 15 percent between 2005 and 2013 as the recession stalled electricity demand and utilities moved to cleaner-burning natural gas fuel.

I assume by “this century” the N&O means the 21st century, and during that time carbon emissions dropped in eight of those 15 years, yet 14 of the 15 warmest years came this century.

Also note the sidebar:

Average annual temperature in the Southeast over the past century included warm conditions during the 1930s and 1940s followed by a cool period in the 1960s and 1970s, says the U.S. Global Change Research Program.

Cool period in the ’60s, before the EPA—-or the major federal expansion of the Clean Air Act– existed?

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