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‘A well intentioned but costly decision’

That could describe a lot of things these days, but in this case we’re talking the ElectriCities deal:

Residents of these communities are often flummoxed by this odd system, in which municipalities in the ElectriCities network act as a middleman of sorts, buying power and then reselling it to customers. The concept is a product of the energy crisis of the late 1970s, when energy prices spiked. Communities looking for a long-term stability banded together and invested in power generating plants. The debt incurred when these cities invested in generating plants and built distribution systems is figured into residents’ power bills.

Meanwhile, energy prices stabilized. Residents of ElectriCities are now stuck paying off debt that won’t expire until 2026, while their counterparts with regional cooperatives and Duke Energy enjoy cheaper electricity. Over time, that additional cost can run into thousands of dollars per customer.

Closer to home —High Point’s ElectriCities legacy.

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Chieu di Vo’s autopsy

In his recent column N&R ed page editor Allen Johnson takes a parting shot at Greensboro Police Chief Ken Miller over the March police shooting of a knife-wielding citizen.

Probably due to Johnson’s column, Guilford County Assistant District Attorney Ron Neumann offers up some details on the incident, in which Officer T.D. Bloch shot Chieu Di Vo, 47, a Vietnamese immigrant who approached him with a knife and ignored his orders to stop. While this does not constitute an official release of investigative reports, the details—as least as reported by the N&R —appear to absolve Officer Bloch.

The N&R also reported the medical examiner released the autopsy report on Chieu and —reader alert—spared few details:

Chieu-di Vo’s body arrived at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner dressed in a dark blue hospital gown and wrapped in a blanket.

Numerous tubes and bandages remained attached to her body, according to the autopsy report. She had small incisions where catheters protruded from the skin of her groin, chest, neck and left wrist.

Surgeons had stapled her stomach, sutured her intestines and removed parts of her bowel.

“Fingernails and toenails are covered with flaking pink-red polish,” the autopsy report states.

Joe Gamm’s police reporting has come under fire in recent weeks for letting assertions stand for facts. This time he overdoes it, though I honestly suspect he’s just trying to fill the word count. All I know is if the N&R was trying to secure some semblance of dignity for this woman, they sure blew it.

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Joe Raymond: Not just another white guy

Rhino write-up on new Guilford County Department of Health and Human Services director Joe Raymond. Note Commissioner Ray Trapp’s initial reaction:

“When I found out, I was like, OK, here we go – another white guy,” said Trapp, who was openly in favor of naming Merle Green, who heads up the county’s public health services and who will now work for Raymond.

“But I looked at the resume and you can’t argue with that,” Trapp said. “Ivy League – Guilford College-educated with a degree from Harvard.”

Even more impressive than Raymond’s education is his handling of Forsyth County’s Medicaid backlog, as related by County Manager Dudley Watts:

Watts said that, when there were problems recently on the horizon in Forsyth County that were going to lead to a big Medicaid applications backlog, Raymond came to him and laid it all out in the open, telling Watts, “This is coming down the pipeline and it’s going to be ugly and it’s going to be written about in the media.”

That’s a stark contrast to how the Guilford County DSS handled the problem of its backlog earlier this year.

Stark contrast indeed, where no one seemed to know the number of backlogged food stamp application in Guilford County.

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Gboro performing arts center opening in ’17

N&R reports the Steven B. Tanger Center for the Performing Arts will open in 2017. That’s later than originally planned, but “city officials say the delay was worth it to make sure the financing was secure.”

At issue is the nonprofit Community Foundation’s portion of the $65 million center. The city’s kicking in $30 million with the rest coming from the Community Foundation, ostensibly through private donations.

Community Foundation president Walker Sanders said all along a loan would have to be secured to cover the donations and that the foundation alone would be responsible for the loan should the donations come up short. Hopefully everything will go as planned and the city will not end up picking up the other half of the funding as well.

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‘Insect-infected megalopolis’

Triangle Business Journal reports:

An insect-infested megalopolis will stretch from Raleigh to Atlanta by 2060.

That’s according to a new study by the Department of Interior’s Southeast Climate Science Center and N.C. State University that calls for “significant” changes to land development in order to thwart what scientists fear could be an ecological nightmare.

“If we continue to develop urban areas in the Southeast the way we have for the past 60 years, we can expect natural areas will become increasingly fragmented,” says Adam Terando, the adjunct assistant professor at N.C. State who served as lead author for the study. “We could be looking at a seamless corridor of urban development running from Raleigh to Atlanta, and possibly as far as Birmingham, within the next 50 years.”

I marvel at people constantly telling me that guys like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck are using fear to prey on the ignorant masses in order to advance their agenda. Darned if this isn’t using fear to advance an agenda—what makes it worse is we’re paying for it.

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Who is this Bob Bencini?

The Rhino’s John Hammer follows the Greensboro City Council’s email spat over city contract hires. One of those hires under scrutiny is local blogger Ben Holder, who was hired at a rate of $45 per hour “to help neighborhood improvement efforts.”

But there’s another deal on the table: former Guilford County planning and economic development director Rob Benicini, who would contract to “help the City Council develop some kind of comprehensive economic development plan.”

The plan to hire Bencini drew questions from council member Sharon Hightower:

Hightower responded, “Is this Bob Bencini who is running for the Mayor of High Point? If so, bad decision, we don’t need to be in the middle of politics in another city. Where did this recommendation come from? Who made this decision? What in the world is our problem?

No that would be Guilford County Board of Commissioners chair Bill Bencini, who indeed is making a run for HP mayor. I would hope a Greensboro City Council member would be more well-versed in local politics in order not to make such a mistake for the whole to see, but oh well.

The bigger problem is Rob Bencini is friends with fellow council member Mike Barber, going back to Barber’s days as a county commissioner. Another problem is Bencini’s brief —45-day— tenure as economic development director down in Washington County. Hammer says “there is a story there, but the folks in Eastern North Carolina have been tight-lipped and unwilling to talk to a newspaper named after a large, herbivorous, thick-skinned perissodactyl.”

But there’s one more issue —as Bencini has carved out a career as a consultant, he has written several op-eds giving his views on economic development, and they don’t necessarily jibe with the way the city thinks these days.

In a front-page N&R article late last year, Bencini said Gboro has experienced “a migration from pretty reasonable economic development practices to one that is led by sheer desperation,” which means that “every time someone suggests they want to do something, especially downtown, the check book opens up…”

Bencini also wrote there are times when “regionalism does a city wrong, and anybody who has followed Mike Barber’s political career knows he’s a big regionalism guy.

So should Bencini get the contract, it will be interesting to see what he produces and if it’s what the City Council wants to hear. Either way —as John Hammer put it –it’s nice to have friends in government.

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I’d like to thank the EPA…

…For ordering up such a beautiful week so that this doesn’t happen:

….Greg Andeck of the Environmental Defense Fund says that leaving climate change unchecked could hurt the economy, particularly in the Southeast, which is the region expected to be the most affected by increasing temperatures. Extremely hot days upwards of 95 degrees could cause a decrease in labor productivity in the construction, mining, utilities, transportation, and agricultural sectors, he said.

Not happening this week. If you’d like to thank the EPA, you can submit your public comment on global warming climate change between now and October.

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Chief Miller headed to Gville

Greensboro Police Chief Ken Miller —who had already announced his retirement from GPD — has been named police chief down I-85 in Greenville, S.C. Shortly after the announcement that Miller had been hired, Gville interim police chief Mike Gambrell, who was a finalist for the chief’s job, said he submitted his letter of retirement, effective Sept. 15, the same day that Miller takes office.

Meanwhile question here in Gboro is who will take over for Miller, both on an interim and permanent basis. No assumptions should be made about whom that person will be, given the fact that the city’s hiring practices are once again under scrutiny.

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Hagan’s Democratic party sidestep

NYT report on Sen. Kay Hagan’s Democratic party sidestep:

Having lost its grip on political power in North Carolina, the state’s Democratic Party has the chance to prove its mettle by helping Kay Hagan retain the Senate seat she won in 2008. But internal party disputes have prompted Ms. Hagan to set up an alternative party structure in Wake County to organize and turn out voters.

In March, party allies of Ms. Hagan’s helped create a joint fund-raising effort with the Democratic Party of Wake County, the location of the state’s capital, Raleigh, and of North Carolina State University. The county party has brought in more than $1 million, mostly from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and Ms. Hagan’s fund-raising. In contrast, the state party has raised $547,192 for its federal committee during the first six months of this year.

What’s confusing is NYT’s point that the “Democratic Party’s troubles include controversy over the leadership of Randy Voller, the state party chairman, who “has backed the “Moral Mondays” protest campaign first organized by the N.A.A.C.P. and other groups in response to Republicans’ takeover of both chambers of the state legislature.”

Furthermore, NYT also goes on to speculate “a shift to the left by the state party may energize the Democratic base.” But nothing shifts more to the left than the Rev. William Barber’s road show, does it?

Interesting footnote — “Much of the Wake County party money has been spent quickly on salaries for campaign staff; in June the party committee spent $203,544 on salary payments to 115 people, according to Federal Election Commission records.”

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N&R pay wall

As only he can, N&R editor and publisher Jeff “Grits” Gauger makes it all sound so good:

What’s new in this approach is that readers now will pay to view News & Record content on desktop computers and mobile devices.

We’re calling our new approach “All Access.” The name recognizes that we will offer subscription options that enable readers — you — to read all of the News & Record’s content everywhere we serve it up or to read it only in the format you prefer.

What doesn’t change is the News & Record’s commitment to providing a complete solution for reading timely local news, analysis, opinion and advertising, whether in a print or digital format.

Believe you me I’ve thought twice (many times) before writing out the print subscription check and sticking it in the mail. Guess now I can finally see some value —-limitless access to the N&R’s “commitment to providing a complete solution for reading timely local news, analysis, opinion,” although I seem to be getting by alright linking to articles in other newspapers with paywalls.

To be fair, though —as Carolina Plott Hound points out— the N&R is the last big-city newspaper domino to fall to the temptation of the pay wall.

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