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Testy Guilford County sales tax hike debate

N&R report on last night’s forum debating Guilford County’s proposed quarter-cent sales tax hike. Read how some tax proponents reacted when Rep. Jon Hardister dare suggested that Guilford residents are taxed enough:

At several points during the forum, members of the audience laughed at Hardister, talked over him or shouted out rebuttals to his arguments. Most were in reaction to his claim that the General Assembly has dramatically increased funding for public schools in the last few years.

Given the fact that the sales tax hike has failed three previous times here in Guilford, seems to me the burden of proof that it’s necessary falls on proponents. The way I see it they’re not going to win many votes with this type of behavior, even if the money (ostensibly) will go toward —you know it —-the children.

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UNCG time sheet scandal

N&R reports on the University of North Carolina at Greensboro’s time sheet scandal.

Summing it up — three former employees of UNCG’s university relations department —have not only been fired but are also being criminally charged —two with obtaining property by false pretenses and the other with aiding and abetting obtaining property by false pretenses. The charges stem from freelance work the employees —both staff photographers—- allegedly performed on the university dime. If convicted the three former employees could face months in prison.

As you can probably imagine I’m not down with public employees fleecing taxpayers, but by the same token I find it odd that my alma mater —- through which who-knows-how many millions of taxpayer dollars flows all the while continuing to make college unaffordable for middle-class families (which in my opinion is criminal) throw the book hard at three employees over roughly $2,000.

Add to this UNCG’s tight-lipped official response and a letter from three other former employees describing the “hostile work environment” and “deplorable treatment” of employees by Associate Chancellor Paul Mason, and makes one wonder if this situation is what it appears to be.

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Crossover endorsements in 6th District race?

High Point Enterprise reports 6th District Congressional candidates Mark Walker and Laura Fjeld are touting their so-called “crossover endorsements.”

Yesterday —lookee here— registered Democrat Rev. Odell Cleveland–pastor of Greensboro’s Mount Zion Baptist Church —announced he was supporting Walker. No doubt Rev. Cleveland –who is African-American (not that race matters in a political campaign {ha}) is aware of Walker’s recent comments regarding our neighbor to the south Mexico and is not bothered by them.

Meanwhile the HPE is using Professional Firefighters of Greensboro Local 497’s endorsement of Fjeld as an example of a crossover endorsement because the union had supported incumbent Rep. Howard Coble in past elections.

But —all due respect to our local first responders —is a union endorsement of a Democrat really an example of a “crossover endorsement?” Seems to me PFG’s endorsement of Coble in past elections represents a true crossover, and its endorsement of Fjeld in the upcoming elections represents to true political alignment.

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Tobacco, schools and the quarter-cent sales tax hike

A friend passes along this interesting Pro Publica article on the fallout from the historic 1998 tobacco settlement to help states pay for the health care costs of smoking.

Long article, lots going on —- Wall Street greed, high-risk debt, overly optimistic predictions of how much people would continue to smoke to support the settlement, etc.

But here’s what jumped out at me:

Critics have repeatedly lambasted the states and other jurisdictions for violating the intent of the tobacco settlement by spending the money on uses other than anti-smoking programs and health care.

States wouldn’t do that, would they—any more than a county—like, I don’t know, Guilford— would say that proceeds from a quarter-cent sales hike would go toward schools and then spend the money toward other purposes?

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Jeb Bush and Thom Tillis: Amnesty on the table?

None other than Rush Limbaugh weighed in on former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s recent visit to Greensboro to campaign for Senate candidate Thom Tillis:

So Jeb Bush went in there and actually suggested that Republicans should pass amnesty if they win back the Senate! Now… (sigh) Here you have Republicans campaigning for the Senate with an anti-amnesty, anti-amnesty-related comprehensive immigration reform plank in their campaign, and here comes a guy saying, “Yeah, but after you win you should do it.” It’s… I don’t know, folks.

Breitbart has the story: “Even though Republicans may take back the Senate by running against amnesty, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush pushed amnesty legislation while stumping for North Carolina Republican Senate candidate Thom Tillis on Wednesday. Bush, according to the New York Times, reportedly said that comprehensive immigration reform ‘will restore and sustain economic growth for this country.’

NYT also covered Bush’s visit, reporting Tillis “gently put distance between himself and his guest of honor” by saying “you have to make it clear that amnesty shouldn’t be on the table.”

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Vote for Mark Walker, vote for martial law?

Greensboro resident Richard Koritz says the N&R was “way too forgiving” of 6th District Congressional candidate Mark Walker in its editorial following Walker’s comments about going to war with Mexico:

In an editorial ironically entitled “A way with words,” the editors appear to be doing their best to explain away Walker’s words, his extremist public statements during the Republican primary regarding Obama impeachment and waging war against Mexico. Rather than taking Walker seriously and criticizing his positions, the N&R editors “gently” suggest Walker “should not have tried to appeal to the most bellicose sentiments of that electorate” and “he can choose his words a lot more sensibly.” They are not so kind to Fjeld. They harshly describe her as “unkindly” for holding Walker accountable for what he actually said.

….Meanwhile, an article reports that five local sheriffs, Democrats as well as Republicans, have all endorsed Walker. Evidently, these “law and order” officials are influenced by Walker’s inflammatory words. The recent tragedy in Ferguson, Mo., where the police forces played a military role of occupation and suppression of citizens, highlights the importance of taking politicians like Walker seriously.

A vote for Laura Fjeld is a vote in favor of civil society and against martial law.

As if saying that a vote for Mark Walker is a vote for martial law is an example of civilized debate? Note also that Koritz doesn’t use Fjeld’s exact words —“plain crazy”— characterizing Walker’s comments. So far I haven’t read anyone taking offense for that comment on behalf of mentally ill people worldwide.

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Guilford sales tax hike and teacher pay

OK, I’ve been all over the N&R lately, but what can I say our local paper of record has been writing some very interesting editorials lately, and there’s no sign they’re going to let up as the campaign enters its stretch run.

Today’s editorial links Guilford County’s proposed quarter-cent sales tax hike with teacher salaries, citing an N&R-High Point University poll showing that likely voters believe the 7 percent raise is too little:

Beyond the political implications, the poll suggests a greater appreciation among voters for public education and its critical importance to the economy and quality of life. After all, times are still tough.

How long has it been since many of us had a raise?

The question is, will it translate to support for a proposed sales-tax increase to benefit Guilford County schools? The quarter-cent increase referendum will appear on the Nov. 4 ballot and will simply read as a “for” or “against” vote for a “local and sales use tax rate of one-quarter percent (0.25 percent) in addition to all State and local taxes.” The Guilford County commissioners placed it there as a means to generate as much as $14 million a year for schools. The money would go toward teacher pay, instructional supplies, technology and maintenance and repairs.

If you don’t read carefully you might think the sales tax hike is going specifically toward salary hikes. The last sentence is key —the reality is the money might go toward teacher pay, it might not— especially since $14 million is not really that much money when we’re talking about public schools.

Or — as the Rhino points out once again —-the money might not go toward schools at all:

Those pushing for the tax hike say the money raised – an estimated $12 million to $14 million a year – will go to support Guilford County schools. However, the truth is that the Guilford County Board of Commissioners can use that money for any purpose that strikes their fancy. And no one has to look very far to find examples of elected bodies at first stating that a new revenue stream will be spent on one thing and then diverting the money to some other perceived need.

Something to take into consideration down the stretch.

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WSFCS clamping down on workers comp

In a move that does not require a vote of the Board of Education, Winston-Salem-Forsyth County Schools Superintendent Beverly Emory will put in place a stricter workers comp program designed to get employees back to work back to work sooner.

WSFCS attorney Al Tomberlin told the board’s policy committee that WSFCS’ current workers comp program is costing the district thousands of dollars. An extreme example (emphasis mine):

There are currently 26 district employees who have been receiving worker’s compensation for more than a year. At least one employee has not been back to work in more than a decade. Continuing to provide their medical, dental and life insurance coverage is costing the district more than $150,000 each year. Emory said it’s a price the district can’t afford to keep paying.

Vacation might over —- the policy changes aren’t retroactive —-yet.

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Meanwhile, the NYT…..

Big New York Times article on North Carolina as a “state in play.”

In addition to Thom Tillis and Kay Hagan, the cast of faces and places includes Jesse Helms, John Edwards, Cook Out, JLF president John Hood, former state budget director Art Pope, Siler City, Gov Pat McCrory, Gander Mountain Firearms Super Center, an autism teacher who describes Republican policies as “terrifying” and –last but not least —the Rev. William Barber.

Here’s what jumps out:

Some black voters may find it harder to get to the polls in November under the new voter law, which, among other things, cut back early voting by a week; eliminated a provision that allowed citizens to register and vote on the same day; and prevented the counting of ballots lodged by voters outside of their home precincts.

Here’s hoping Rev. Barber gets on the phone to NYT editors demanding a correction.

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Hagan: No time for ISIS?

Just a few days after the N&R warns us about the evil of money in politics comes this report that Sen. Kay Hagan “may have skipped” a Senate armed services committee hearing to discuss the threat of ISIS to attend a New York fundraiser.

Fair enough —key words here are “may have” considering the fact “attendance records are not made available for closed-door Senate hearings.” But we do know there was a cocktail reception for Hagan that night in NYC, with tickets going for —hold on —- $5,000.

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