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Archive for February, 2011

Heads Up for Pet Owners

Pet owners in Hendersonville might consider building fences, if they can. The city will likely soon join the bandwagon of banning the tethering of animals.

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Weird Test Questions May Get Boot as Well

The NC House approved a bill that would eliminate end-of-course high school testing in civics, economics, US history, algebra II, and physical science. Students would still take federally-mandated tests in English I, algebra I, and biology. Elimination, according to the Franklin Press, is expected to save the state approximately $2.7 million. If you are wondering why this is a good idea, perhaps you would like to know more about the questions on the tests.

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Nice Boot

The Graham County Commissioners took the final steps to “boot” the floodplain ordinance enacted by their predecessors two years ago. The county will revert to an ordinance over thirty years old. The action was embraced and celebrated by approximately 100 citizens who showed up to the meeting to demand that the commissioners restore their property rights and values.

The new ordinance would require an investment of between $30,000 and $50,000 in preliminary engineering studies before construction could begin on most parcels. Furthermore, the ordinance devalued the typical floodplain parcel from $10,000 to $2500 per acre. Now property owners are only forbidden from developing lands 25 feet from streams. Over 400 parcels would be affected.

Commissioner Billy Holder, who led the fight against the ordinance before he was elected to the commission, told the crowd he would stay on the issue “today, tomorrow and every day” until the ordinance is completely gone.

In addition to concerns about “ruined” property, complaints were lodged that FEMA used insufficient data to develop its maps and attempted to paint coastal and mountain properties in the state with the same broad brush. The commissioners were quite aware their action would render the county ineligible for FEMA disaster funds, and its residents would become challenged in obtaining federal assistance with mortgages or flood insurance.

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Tightening Belts & Pulling Together

In the words of the Sylva Herald’s Nick Breedlove:

This budget year might be one of the tightest in recent times, with county leaders asking departments to make 3- to 5-percent cuts across the board.

However, that did not stop the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad from requesting funds from commissioners.

In a letter dated Feb. 17, written by GSMR Vice President Kim Albritton and handed out prior to Monday’s meeting, she asks officials for grant funding in the amount of $322,000 to move a steam train set from Maine to North Carolina and $95,176 to restore and paint the locomotive and exterior coaches. Along with that grant request, GSMR is also asking for a $250,000 loan to install a turn table in Dillsboro’s Monteith Park and an annual matching grant of $150,000 for advertising.

Arguments in favor included boosting tourism and creating 15-20 jobs. Evidently, the Jackson County Commissioners were not presented with funding requests when they said they would look forward to the proposed partnership.

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Semi-Pseudo-Privatization

The Foothills Chamber of Commerce is interested in semi-pseudo-privatizing the Polk County Travel and Tourism Department. A couple meetings for March are scheduled to hash out the issue. The matter is not as clear-cut as one would like. Innkeepers have concerns about the way the department has spent proceeds from the county’s occupancy tax. They argue they have repeatedly addressed the commissioners about inefficiencies and misplaced priorities, but they have been ignored. Innkeeper Jim Ott believes the county will be passing a dysfunctional system off on the chamber of commerce, make a buck in the process, and leave the concerns of those in the travel and tourism business unaddressed. As part of the proposed deal, $60,000-65,000 in tax revenues would be given to the chamber to run the office. Furthermore, not all providers of accommodations are members of the chamber.

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Rally #2

Another protest occurred downtown today. Women held signs and chanted, “My body, my voice, my choice.” They were not opposing naked body scanners in the airports, nor were they opposing screenings that may accompany the “individual mandate.” Instead, they were joining ralliers across the country in opposing the House of Representatives’ vote to cut $317 million in Title-X funds for tax-supported abortion and other forms of birth control.

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I Am Not Wisconsin

Asheville PARC circulated an invitation to a rally in downtown Asheville today to stand in solidarity for the workers of Wisconsin. Rallies like this were to be held in all fifty states today. “We are Wisconsin,” declared the event organizers. About fifty organizations backed the protest.

Reportedly, hundreds showed in Asheville. Children and anarchists were among those who supported the collective bargaining “rights” of government employees in Wisconsin. I cannot recall a demonstration of this size in Asheville on behalf of North Carolinian government employees who have not been granted the same “rights.”

Protesters demanded:

  • an end to the attacks on workers’ rights and public services across the country.
  • investment, to create decent jobs for the millions of people who desperately want to work.
  • that the rich and powerful pay their fair share of taxes that provide the government services we all need and want.

I didn’t quite follow the second point. moveon.org gave no explication, only video and tweets about how the masses were showing up in solidarity.

Did the organizers want the rich to invest, or did they want government to make the middle class develop portfolios? Supposing it was the former, then the rich would have to pay more taxes, increase the amount of profits going toward investment, hire new workers, and pay employees better. That doesn’t sound reasonable.

Nor does it sound reasonable that higher taxes on the rich are going to help anything, as the ultra-rich can afford the best loophole-finding attorneys. They also can hire attorneys to help them with personal legislation. They have lobbyists, and they make campaign contributions. This week, Rush Limbaugh defended Donald Trump’s $50,000 in campaign contributions to Rahm Emanuel. Trump wants to build in Chicago, and in Chicago one pays to play. It would seem real reform, and the kind that one would expect to have more support from anarchists, would be an end to corporate welfare and better ethics laws separating campaign contributions and special legislation.
 
Today, I spent some time on a humorous blog site that attempted various mathematical models to show how the rich might become super-rich. Granted, one of my pet peeves is how people try to turn any anomalous or personal-choice phenomenon into science for political purposes. Rather than doing that, the author was trying to demonstrate that a mysterious outside force must be behind the power to kick back and live lavishly off interest.

A more recent project is a new blog on how the rich get paid, including the gigantic hidden government subsidies which pump up those payments. Get rid of the subsidies for the already well off, and we can cut back on the taxes and welfare programs for the rest of us.

Unfortunately, the project was left hanging for lack of interest.

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NC Could Still Eat Obamacare

JLF’s president, John Hood, is a good master, because he never tells me what to do – unless I misspell somebody’s name or post broken links. As a result, I usually enjoy reading his columns. Today, I will share a talking head.

Judge Roger Vinson granted declaratory relief to the plaintiffs in the lawsuit against Obamacare. He claimed an injunction against the federal government would be equivalent to the relief he granted and would therefore be superfluous. As a result, all but the plaintiffs; that is, twenty-six states, the National Federation of Independent Business, and two citizens; are still in peril of being pawns in a game that makes us traitors to our country.

There is still time to escape. Michael F. Cannon of the Cato Institute suggests Beverly Perdue should follow the lead of Florida’s and Alaska’s governors.

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More Drama in Maggie Valley

Quibbling continues amongst Maggie Valley aldermen. Amidst an abundance of applicants, those adversarial to Colin Edwards, who resigned, want to extend the deadline for attracting candidates to fill the vacancy.

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Build It and Woops!

Jackson County has a beautiful new library, but it needs an extra $170,000 for staffing. In addition, the new county manager, Chuck Wooten, is not convinced the estimate takes into consideration the extra utility and maintenance costs for running a facility four times larger than its predecessor.

“Doesn’t seem amazing to you that this just came up? Why couldn’t this have been figured out when we thought about building the building?” asked Commission Chairman Jack Debnam. “If I got ready to build a building, I believe I would look at how much more it would take to staff and maintain it.”

Ousted commissioners contacted by the Smoky Mountain News [Insert a verb that replaces "said," rhymes with "potassium iodide," and starts with L."] they were well aware of the costs, and now the new commissioners, who were so self-assured as they campaigned, are learning just how difficult it is to balance a budget. The article was aptly titled, “Bigger Buildling, Higher Costs, No Money.”

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