The person in the City-County Chambers on Monday night who had the worst job was Tony Helton, the county finance officer.
Helton was caught in the crossfire between two camps of the Caldwell County Board of Commissioners, one advocating the conservative theory of governance that says you should prudently note risks and avoid debt, the other advocating the conservative theory of governance that says tax rates should be as low as is manageable.
It’s a strange sight to see politicians stepping aside for matters of principle, but it has happened twice now in less than a month.
State Sen. Bob Rucho, R-Mecklenberg, resigned Thursday as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, essentially because Senate leader Phil Berger scrapped the tax-reform plan that Rucho authored – and that the full Senate had already approved – in favor of a less sweeping plan closer to what House leaders and Gov. Pat McCrory support.
His resignation came less than a month after Rep. Robert Brawley, R-Iredell, resigned as chairman of the House Finance Committee because House Speaker Thom Tillis had overruled Brawley on a number of issues in ways that chafed Brawley’s sense of what’s right.
State Sen. Thom Goolsby, a Republican from Wilmington, must feel a little bit like Mitt Romney.
Goolsby has been taking some flak for an opinion column he wrote in which he referred to the “Moral Mondays” protests, in which people opposed to the Republican majority’s legislative agenda have tried to disrupt business at the General Assembly, as “Moron Mondays” and to the protesters as loonies and “aged hippies” and compared them a circus act.
The News-Topic has never seen a letter to the editor quite like one run this week by The Sylva Herald, southwest of Asheville, that was sent in by reader Mary Adams after news that Jackson County had paid consultant BCF $50,000 to come up with a new “brand” for the county. (As far as we’ve ever been able to determine, a “brand” is not much different from what in the old days we would have called a motto, except more expensive.)
That brand turned out to be this: “Play on.”
Adams wrote, in part: “What many don’t realize is that both these words come from Shakespeare’s ‘Twelfth Night,’ lending Jackson County’s new brand not only fun but culture. And the county was wise to act quickly, before all the Shakespearean quotations were gone.”
One idea proposed this week in a column by Christopher Hill, the director of the North Carolina Justice Center’s Education and Law Project, would further decrease the importance of what happens in the classroom. Hill was suggesting ways to correct the overreliance on high-stakes tests, but among them was the idea that “students who are less motivated and do not participate by handing in homework or putting effort in class work” should still be allowed to be promoted to the next grade if they pass a proficiency test.
That makes utterly no sense.
News that the government has been secretly collecting the telephone records of millions of U.S. customers of Verizon under a top-secret court order must have come as a letdown for members of the Washington press corps. They thought the government was waging a quiet war on a free press when it took the phone records of a Fox News reporter. Now it turns out the government is doing it to everyone.
That this is an outrageous intrusion on civil liberties ought to go without saying.
That it would happen eventually, however, was completely predictable.
Who do our state’s colleges and universities exist to serve? The popular short answer is their customers.
But who are their customers? Students? Parents? Potential employers? College professors and other instructors certainly can tell you that students and their parents think they are the customers, demanding a high level of service and constant access.
But their view is at odds with the one that put Gov. Pat McCrory in headlines back in February, when in a radio interview he criticized liberal arts courses that he perceived as having no benefit in terms of getting a job. He said he would propose legislation to change higher education funding “not based on how many butts (are) in seats but how many of those butts can get jobs.”
Not often does a politician in a position of power so publicly burn a bridge the way that state Rep. Robert Brawley, R-Iredell, did on Wednesday.
Announcing that he was stepping down as chairman of the House Finance Committee, Brawley issued a public letter to the Republican House speaker, Thom Tillis, that WRAL accurately described as “blistering.”
If there are any NASCAR fans left who have hope that there remains a trace of the sport’s soul, Bruton Smith is here to implore them to abandon all hope.
Smith, whose Speedway Motorsports makes more money off of NASCAR than anyone or anything without the name France attached to it somewhere, is one of the money-grubbing sons of Mammon who bought the North Wilkesboro Speedway in 1995 for the sole purpose of cutting out its heart -- taking its two Winston Cup races to other, bigger tracks where the races would make more money.
In that same spirit, Smith told Charlotte television station WBTV last week that he likely will move one of the two races -- the October one, deep in the championship chase -- that are now held at Charlotte Motor Speedway to Las Vegas. Why? He was crystal clear.
The state Senate proposes eliminating the part of the law creating the state lottery that requires spending its proceeds on four educational purposes.
When the lottery was created in 2005, the General Assembly said that half the proceeds should go toward class-size reduction and pre-kindergarten, 40 percent for school construction, and the rest for college scholarships for needy students.
Now budget-writer Sen. Pete Brunstetter, R-Forsyth, says it makes sense to eliminate the legal language because no one follows it.
Are the original Charlotte Hornets far enough in the past for us to feel nostalgic about them?
Michael Jordan has asked the NBA to let him change the name of his Charlotte Bobcats to the Charlotte Hornets, the name that was taken by Charlotte’s first NBA team in 1988.
Looking over a list of the changes proposed by the state Senate in its budget proposal for fiscal 2013-14, the mind reels.
There is too much in it begging for commentary. Trying to cover it all would be too confusing. Here are a couple things – or 22, depending on how you county them – that caught our eye.
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
That’s cornerstone wisdom passed down through generations.
We might suggest a corollary: If you need a tune-up, don’t buy a new car.
But at first blush, that seems to be the approach that Senate Bill 127 takes toward the state’s economic development efforts.
The state NAACP has pledged a weekly civil-disobedience campaign called “Moral Mondays” at the General Assembly in protest of what the civil rights group calls the extremist agenda of the legislature’s Republican leadership.
Risking arrest while marching, standing or sitting in place in protest is a time-honored element of non-violent, civil disobedience to draw attention to a cause and demonstrate how strongly those protesting feel about it.
But we question whether the cause in this case is clear and tangible enough for this tactic to be effective.
Legislators are free to spend all their time passing resolutions in favor of sunshine and puppy dogs if they like, but it’s not a useful way to spend their time.
A current bill under consideration in the Senate is not quite that frivolous, but it’s not far off because it would accomplish nothing.
The bill says students can pray, express religious viewpoints, possess or distribute religious literature and organize religious groups as long as they don't disrupt schools.
In other words, it says students have the same First Amendment rights they already have.
In theory, toll roads in urban areas could free up tax money for rural counties. But under a plan like Gov. Pat McCrory’s that would lock in 40 percent of funding for “statewide priorities” and would leave just 20 percent of funding to be split among districts for local priorities (rural legislators on a House committee tentatively got that increased to 30 percent on Tuesday), toll revenue would free no tax money for use elsewhere, only ensure that urban areas have plenty of money while everyone else waits.
Everyone thinks someone else’s ox deserves to be gored.
Prepare for the wailing when the details of Gov. Pat McCrory’s transportation funding proposal eventually get translated to dollars and asphalt.
Just an idea, but maybe there should be a rule that anyone in elected office who openly expresses the thought that his or her elected position – one to which the public elevated that person – entitles him or her to special treatment, that person needs to be immediately ineligible for re-election.
This idea came up after reading the other day about a California congressman who had scripted what he apparently thought would be simply an awesome display for the TV cameras but, not surprisingly, was overmatched by his opponent, who happened to be Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno.
It’s a given that the majority of North Carolina voters either are conservative or lean that way on a great many issues.
Perhaps that’s why most of them don’t seem to like what they see coming out of the General Assembly this year.
Public Policy Polling reported on Monday that the General Assembly has an approval rating of just 20 percent; the legislature gets a thumbs-down vote from an eye-opening 56 percent.
Google’s announcement that it will spend $600 million to expand its data center in Lenoir – on top of the initial $600 million announced in 2007 – prompted more songs of praise at Friday’s press conference than you’ll hear anywhere outside of a revival tent.
Journalists generally are awful singers, but we agree: This is nothing but good news.
But the journalists and dignitaries had barely left Google’s property before the first contrary voice was heard.
Like pretty much all general-circulation newspapers, the News-Topic gets a fair amount of advertising revenue from the legal advertising and public notices that governments now are required to publish in newspapers. It is that very expense that SB287 purports to try to save local governments.
But we doubt that those behind the bill truly believe local governments will realize much savings, if any.
In many ways one of the most egregious of the proposed education reforms is one under Senate Bill 337 that would remove requirements for charter schools to hire not only certified teachers but even teachers who have a college degree of any kind.
The implication seems to be that there is nothing more to teaching than knowing your subject and talking about it.
You have to wonder whether, if it were anyone other than Google coming in, Caldwell County leaders in 2007 would have thought it reasonable to close a five-mile section of railroad and use $1.3 million in federal, state and local money to create the freight-transfer facility that has introduced this area’s residents to the word “transload.”
The transload facility – “transload” refers to moving shipments from one mode of transportation, such a rail, to another, such as trucks – makes it possible to continue serving the freight needs of industries beyond the current end point of the rail spur. And it potentially could serve new industries as well, as some Lenoir City Council members mentioned at their meeting Tuesday night.
But as council members also noted, while there is a company willing to lease and operate the facility, no one seems to want to own it, including some of the government officials who have voted in favor of the city and county joining to buy it.
One of the frequent criticisms of moderates is that they don’t hold true to core tenets that more avid members of their party believe are vital.
In politics, a synonym for moderation is pragmatism, the land from which leaders in the furniture industry now are beckoning Gov. Pat McCrory and the General Assembly in an attempt to head off a McCrory budget proposal that aligns well with free-market ideals but not so well with reality.
We suppose it’s possible Tillis is not telling the truth. But how do you know unless you engage and try to work with the legislative majority – a veto-proof majority, by the way, even if the governor were a Democrat – to craft a measure that, though you think it unnecessary, at least makes you think it will cause no harm?