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Political Smackdown





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WHO FOR PRESIDENT IN 2008?

Sun, 21 Jan 2007 11:41:00 +0000

All the hype for a while will be on Obama v. Hillary. Obama will fade as soon as his opponents get thru with him: inexperience the likely downfall. Hillary will be formidable, but I cannot think of a red state won by W that she can easily win, maybe Arkansas? And I can think of some blue midwestern states and at least one NE state she will have a hard time winning (Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, New Hampshire for starters).

Meanwhile, Republicans need her and not a southern or midwestern governor from the Dem side. I am not sure how Edwards will play out, but R's don't have anyone I can get excited about yet. McCain is to be in his 70's; has never been very popular in the South; authored McCain-Feingold, supports the war, now a political negative, etc. If we have some kind of terrrorist scare agains before the primaries begin; he becomes stronger...Giulani has an unorthodox view of marriage, is pro-choice etc. but could probably carry California like Arnold, and that may offset the fact he'd lose some of the southern states...

I like Brownback, but no sitting senator has been elected since 1960. I did like G. Allen but he "macockered" himself out of it. Both are Reaganites mostly. By the way where is the "Happy Warrior" Reagan when we need him? I suppose he's smiling down, realizing that 25 years without double digit inflation and with a mostly strong economy is because (largely) he brought tax rates from the stratosphere to earth again (70% marginal rate on some incomes when he became Pres; 28% when he left, now 33% I think. The first Bush, and then Clinton raised them; Clinton actually got them to 39.6% before W cut them a little). Say what you will, there are other factors, but one way to kill economic growth is to tax away the incentive to succeed!!! No President understood it like Reagan. (eagan's "madness" was his method; he knew there would be short term deficit increases-that would slow the growth of ever-more programs from Dems. Remember he never had a House majority, but did have enough southern dems to vote for his programs to pass them.

Well, there are a lot of candidates for Pres in 08; many more than mentioned here. Has the eventual winner come out yet?

I think Newt would very good at governing, but R's would have to finally let Bill Clinton
"rest" if Newt became Pres. Same with Giulani-he had a live-in at the Mayor's Mansion at the same time as he still had his wife...i guess that's "open marriage,"but who doubts his toughness, a necessary ingredient to be President.

So far I look at the shaping up of the race and keep saying, "Is anyone else out there?"

Does seem like Hillary is the one to beat on the Dem side; Repubs have no clear frontrunner.

Mike



REPUBLICANS GET MOST VOTES BUT LOSE SEATS!

Mon, 18 Dec 2006 14:31:00 +0000

For the second consecutive cycle in NC House races, Republicans got more statewide votes than Democrats when totals in all races are combined. In 2006, R's got 31,703 more votes than D's.

That's a total of about 51% of the vote to 49% of the vote; a narrow but significant figure in a year that was nationally a Democrat year. Two years ago, in a more normal year, R's got 55% to D's 45%, but lost two seats.

How can this be? Our state votes R but gets D? It's all in how the the 2000 start/stop/start again re-districting was done. Dems had a narrow majority, but used it well to "stack R's into their districts, thus giving them the majority of districts as either Democratic ones, or "lean" Democratic ones. NC Free, a non partisan group says there are only 18 swing districts out of 120; 16 "leans Dem" districts; 11 "leans Rep" districts; and the others are solidly "settled" in the primary.

Here's the important note: IF REPUBLICANS AROUND THE STATE WANT TO CHANGE THIS IN 2010 THEY ONLY HAVE ONE MORE ELECTION CYCLE TO DO IT IN; IF DEMS KEEP AS LARGE OF A MAJORITY AS THEY HAVE NOW IN 2008, THE GERRYMANDERING WILL BE EVEN WORSE IN 2010!!!

Merry Christmas to all, gerrymanders and gerrymandees alike.

Mike

P.S. Research above done by Civitas Institute. Go to http://www.jwpcivitasinstitute.org/keylinks/2006%20November%20December%20Newsletter.pdf
Ironically, Civitas' founder is at the heart of the Republican infighting that in part led to the Republican losses of 2006.



Dennis Davis still in hospital

Mon, 27 Nov 2006 18:06:00 +0000

As most of you know our co-host Dennis Davis was in a terrible wreck Thanksgiving morning. As of this morning, 11-27 2006, he is still in ICU but hopefuly will be in a regular room some time in the next day or so. I am sure he is in for a long healing process so we are looking to have some differnt people fill in until Dennis is able to come back. I am sure he appreciates everyone's concern and thoughts at this diffcult time
Andy



WE'LL TAKE THE VICTORY

Fri, 17 Nov 2006 01:32:00 +0000

Mike, John Hood and some other righties love to talk about how the Demos win was not very wide. The win was a mile wide and if it was not so deep, we'll take the victory. Victory and win. There are the two key words.

Here are some observations that I gleaned from Nov. 7, 2006.

National Level:

l. Not a single democratic incumbent (House or Senate) was defeated.

2. The big issues in the national election was (Bill Clinton said it right, "These guys can't do anything right.")
A. Bush's botched occupation of Iran.
B. Republican corruption and scandals
C. Katrina debacle
D. Social Security farce
E. Terry Schiavo shame

3. Karl Rover's in the dog house because his ideas worked twice and he doesn't believe they didn't work the third time. I don't believe I've heard the name Karl Rove and the words genius,
brain, or architect in the same sentence since Nov. 7, 2007.

4. Big Losers:

A. George Bush and Cheney. Has anyone seen Cheney since Nov 7, 2006?
B. Rumsfield (He's gone), Ken Mehlman (He's gone), The Republican House and Senate
leadership and especially Elizabeth Dole. I didn't hear a word from you Repubs when she
was running all over the country supporting losing candidates. Maybe that's more
honorable than John Edwards running for President or is this just another example of
selective memory?

Nationwide:

1. Democrats had lost ground in every state house in every election in the south since 1982 --
until Nov. 7, 2006. Twenty one legislative seats in 14 southern states. This was slim but
an evident change in direction.
2. Six new democratic governors. (Ark. Colo. Maryland, Mass. NY, Ohio) Presently there are
a majority of democratic Governors . Democratic 28 and Republican 22.

3. There were 275 legislative seats and nine chambers switched from republican to democrat.
Legislative gains were concentrated in the midwest (104 seats) and the north (140 seats).
There were significant gains in the mountain states.

4. Republicans control legislative and executive branches in 10 states.
Democrats control legislative and executive in 15 states including New Hampshire which is
now a blue state for the first time since 1874. Colorado for 1st time since 1960.
Split governments in 24 states w/ Nebraska's unicameral non-partisan legislature.

State Level (NC)

l. Only one democratic incumbent was defeated in NC General Assembly.

2. Democrats picked up 7 seats in the General Assembly.
5 in the house and two in the senate.

3. Significant gains were made in Western North Carolina.
Both Senators were from the west. Two of the house members were from the west.

Yep! We'll take the victory and worry about 2008 in the coming days.

There may be some small changes in these numbers since some are being finalized. The Democrats picked up an additional seat in Congress today (Nov. 16) . That makes a majority of
29.

Dean Westmoreland (D) Grover



POST ELECTION OBSERVATIONS

Mon, 13 Nov 2006 10:55:00 +0000

Here are a few "random" thoughts in the aftermath of the November elections:(by Mike Philbeck)1. "W" gets the "bonehead play of the year" award for firing Rumsfeld one day after the election, after undermining republican candidates who were running on that platform by saying the week before the election he wanted Rummy for two more years. I think that had he taken that action before Labor Day he could have changed the outcome at national, state, and local levels to some degree... almost certainly would have retained the Senate, espcially had it become evident that some course redirection in Iraq was coming.2. Anyone remember my February post, "What are the Betsys thinking?" It's still in the archives. Turns out that was a no brainer. Rep. Tim Moore (R) won by a larger margin as a republican than almost all of the dems did in a solid year for dems. Rumor has it this is Tim's last term as he has other goals; if so, that will be a real contest if we get two good candidates...if Tim wants to stay, the dems would do well to not embarass any more good people. Unless Tim really messes up, it's his seat as long as he wants it (at least until the next gerrymandering).3. Jo Boggs proved that money isn't as necessary if you have name recognition and a good name. Lowest spending, highest vote total in county commission race.4. Democratic candidates -federal to local-benefitted from the unpopularity of the President and the Iraq conflict. At the local level, my gut feeling is that local dems had 5-7 points more in vote total than they would have been without the drag on all republicans coming from Washington. Still most local dems would have won, but all would have been closer. County commission may have been interesting, if my analysis is accurate. State senate race would have been far closer, but Walter is well entrenched and likeable. How much? Well, he beat Wes 59-41 % in Rutherford; but R Charlie Taylor won his part of Rutherford 52-48% even though Charlie got thumped badly in most of the district. A fair of the same people voted for Charlie and Walter. Amazing.5. For whatever reasons, Cleveland County voted more like the dem county it used to be instead of the changing one it has become since the original election of Charlie Harry in mid 80's (it seems to me Charlie was the first R to get elected to local office). Two of last few county boards has had a R majority. After all, nearly one half the registered voters are now R or unafiliated; unheard of just a few years ago. This was a good year for dems, but it isn't necessariuly a trend. One election does not change the fact that voters for twenty five years have been becoming unafiliated and republican here in increasing numbers. I expect unafilliated to continue to grow the fastest. A lot of younger people don't much like either party.6. Nationally, 22 of the 29 house seats the dems took were by small margins. In the Senate, Va and Montana were won by only a fraction of one point. Some House seats, the Northeast especially, will be hard for republicans to retake. Others, like Shuler in NC, will depend upon how he votes in Wasington. Will he vote pro-life, pro-family, pro-gun rights? Or will he have to be "disciplined" to vote like the more liberal dem leadership wants him to?7. The real battleground is now the West in national politics, no offense to Ohio. Keep an eye on Colorado. It has gone from Republican a few years ago to mostly democrat today (Gov; one senator, and majorities in state houses have all switched to Dem). That is structural change. Also, Arizona has been trending dem. Republicans will continue, absent the war, to do well in the south. But they cannot lose the west and elect presidents or majorities in congress. How to maintain the evangelical, conservative Christians in the south, and not lose the less socially conservative west will be tricky. McCain could be a short term "solution" in 2008.8. Except for judicial appointments, it might be good fo[...]



THE COMING NC BUDGET DEFICIT: AGAIN!!!

Wed, 11 Oct 2006 20:09:00 +0000

POSTED BY MIKE PHILBECK: You may not read too much about it before the second week of November-after the election-but state insiders and close observers are already predicting another huge budget deficit next year.Check out this link for a short version of the looming deficit as long as the Triangle Business Journal keeps the site "live.":http://www.bizjournals.com/triangle/stories/2006/10/02/story1.html?b=1159761600%5E1352880And below is the article by Becki Gray of Civitas about the coming budget deficit if you care to take the time to read it:Irresponsible budgeting leads to huge shortfall …Higher taxes on the way.“State headed toward $1 billion shortfall,” screamed the October 2, 2006, headline from the Triangle Business Journal. “Another shortfall?” asked an October 5 Charlotte Observer editorial. What was predicted as far back as May 15, almost two months prior to the governor signing the 2006 budget into law (and reported by Civitas in June), is now becoming a reality.The 2006 General Assembly passed a budget that increased spending by 10 percent. They committed the state to $882 million in new recurring expenses, such as increasing teacher salaries by 8 percent and salaries for state employees by 5.5 percent, with only $500 million in recurring revenue to pay for these new ongoing obligations. When the 2006 budget was enacted, Governor Easley and the General Assembly knew a shortfall of at least $350 million would occur in the next fiscal year. But they passed the budget anyway.Now North Carolina is short on cash – over $1 billion short – and will either have to cut spending or raise taxes in order to fund the obligations fiscally irresponsible legislators made last year. There’s not going to be enough money to fix our roads or bridges or build new highways. On top of that, the Department of Transportation reports that it is facing a $65 billion shortfall over the next 25 years. There’s not going to be enough money for hospitals, not enough to care for the sick and elderly and the mentally ill. (And the Department of Health and Human Services has just announced that $6 million will be cut from funds for emotionally disturbed children so that local administrative bills can be met.) There’s not going to be enough money for all the new education programs, many of which the lottery was supposed to pay for – but that’s another subject altogether. There’s not going to be enough money for prisons. There’s not going to be enough money to do something about the illegal immigration problem. Unless …What does the government do when it’s short on money? It goes back to taxpayers and says: “Cough it up. We need more money.” Taxes on your home and land, taxes on your car, sales tax on everything you buy from apples to zebra fish, the food tax, the gas tax, the beer tax, the wine tax, the cigarette tax, the tax on business, the franchise tax, the estate tax, the gift tax, the income tax, the insurance tax, the natural gas tax, the license tax, the tax on hotel rooms and rental cars, the utilities tax, the tax on your phone, the internet and cable tax. The grab for more money also comes by way of fee increases: fees on driver’s licenses, ten separate fees from the Department of Motor Vehicles alone, even a fee to file a lien. There are many ways to get the money when the government wants it – just increase existing taxes or devise more ways to tax.According to the North Carolina General Assembly’s September 8, 2006, Economic and Revenue Outlook the economy is cooling. Based on the gross state product, North Carolina’s economy grew 4.2 percent in 2005; 3.1 percent in 2004; and 2.4 percent in 2003. Expected growth this year is only 1.5 percent and 2.6 percent in 2007. This bad news is confirmed by a 12 September economic forecast by Dr. John Connaughton of UNC Charlotte.With the economy slowing, and with people and businesses not spending as much, savi[...]



politics at the fair

Mon, 02 Oct 2006 13:22:00 +0000

the cleveland county fair is now going full blast with both parties as well as a number of office seekers having booths all over the fair grounds. This is retail politics at it's most basic with nothing between the voter and person running. the question I have is this still a "have to do " event to attain office here in Cleveland county? Do the voters really know if you stayed at the fair one day for a hour or eight hours a day for the entire ten day run? do they really care if you were to blow it off altogether? who does this help or hurt?
andy



GASOLINE PRICES: TOO MUCH DIFFERENCE TO IGNORE

Thu, 14 Sep 2006 09:06:00 +0000

Gasoline prices are fluctuating daily, and for a change going in the right direction-down. Nonetheless, maybe here is a good place to discuss the disparity in prices in Cleveland County and just across the line in SC.

On Sept 13, I was returning from a trip, and noticed that Racetrac in Spartanburg was $2.149/gal. The price was $2.199 at various places in SC (including the Kangaroo just across I85 at Gaffney. The BP at I85, Exit 90 in Gaffney was $2.199, so not just independents were cheap, relatively speaking), though some were in the $2.259 or higher range. Then as I entered Cleveland County, the first place I noticed was $2.549, and the two stations at intersection of Hwy 74/180 were $2.579.

The higher state gasoline tax in NC can account for about 14 cents/gallon. But the disparity in price is currently (as of Sept 13) 35 to 48 cents per gallon at most places I noticed along the interstate in SC vs. in Shelby.

I did note that "Mike's," a new convenience store (not mine) at intersection of Hwy 226/180 just south of Shelby was $2.399; however, that's a new station, and is still twenty cents or more higher than the I85 stations in Cherokee county I noticed.

What's the explanation? Why is the disparity so much greater in Cleveland County than the difference in state gasoline tax would justify?

Is there simply more competition in Cherokee County? Are other costs (property tax/regulations/rent/corporate and individual income taxes etc more costly in NC, thus forcing higher gross margins to operate? Is there a concerted effort to keep prices up here (long accused, never proven)? This has been going on a long time; right now there's enough difference to encourage more folks to travel a few miles to save, especially if they live in KM, Grover, BS where the drive is short to SC.

What say you? Why is there a difference (at many, not all places), as of Sept 13, of 35-48 cents/gallon instead of approximately the 14 cents +/- difference in the gas tax?

Mike

P.S.: The prices are likely to continue fluctuating, so the key is not the actual price, but the amount of the disparity. If the tax difference is 14 cents/gal; then that much is understandable. What accounts for the rest? And it is true that both corporate and indivdual income taxes in NC are higher than in SC. I doubt that accounts for much of the disparity...



WESTMORELAND VS. DALTON

Sun, 27 Aug 2006 10:50:00 +0000

This is going to be interesting. Dalton has to be slightly favored because of incumbency and democrat registration advantage in Cleveland County, as well as "pride" of having one of "our own" in Rutherford County.

Nonetheless, I have thought for some months now that this is a race that Wes Westmoreland can win-if the people of Cleveland and Rutherford Counties recognize the philosophical differences between the two. Wes is a fiscal and social conservative, who will try and get a handle on runaway taxes and spending in NC, be hesitant to pass freedom diminishing laws, and stand up for traditional values. I think it difficult to use even this year's budget to say Mr. Dalton will do these things.

But then I'll have time to flesh this out later. What I think would be interesting at this stage of the contest: What do our readers and bloggers see as the political differences between these two candidates? How would Wes's voting record be different from Walter's?

Mike



TO DISSENT IS AS AMERICAN AS APPLE PIE

Tue, 15 Aug 2006 00:00:00 +0000

I have heard the national neocons calling Connecticut democrats, who voted for and nominated Ned Lamont, "anti-American. Even my good friend Dennis Davis who hosted this weeks edition of Political Smackdown yielded to temptation and called the democrats an anti
party.

Having been ill I was unabel to appear to defend these patriotic Americans so I will take this avenue to have my say. I must point out that if all Americans who oppose the Iraqi War are anti-American we are in one heckuva mess since the last poll I saw reported that 60% of Americans now oppose the war. Does this mean that 60% of us Americans are anti-American?

Getting to what I really wanted to say is that to dissent is to be an American. We have done it all throughout our history. To go blindly along with the President, especially in a failed policy,
is to fail ones civic responsibility. To march in lock step as demanded by Karl Rove and his minions is a symptom of impending dictatorship.

I live 1 1/2 miles from Kings Mountain National Military Park. From my back yard I can see the mountain where 1000 British citizens who had had enough of British misrule, put their lives on the line and loudly dissented by soundly defeating approximately 1000 "go alongers in the Battle of Kings Mountain. Today we call these men patriots. In fact we have named our county and our county seat in honor of two fine and proud dissenters who led those patriots.

Since this battle became the turning point of the Revolutionary War in the American south,
God only knows what would have been the outcome had these patriots decided to go along with
King George.

The democrats of Connecticut took their stand and are to be commended for it. I congratulate them for their actions and had I been a resident in that state I would have been in the thick of Ned Lamonts cccampaign and victory celebrations. If one would take a little time and dig a little deeper he/she will find that there were other reasons that also contributed to Liebermans defeat.

Finally I say to all democrats, don't be afraid of these smears. Go to the polls and vote your choice. It's your right and responsibility to do so. To republicans, I say, please be careful how you describe the majority of us Americans. Remember, someday the pendulum will swing and you'll be on the short end of the American peoples stick. Oh yes! That pendulum may swing this coming November.

Dean Westsmoreland
(D) Grover



FORMER DEMOCRATIC SHERIFF CANDIDATES ATTEND DON ALLEN FUNDRAISER

Wed, 02 Aug 2006 00:34:00 +0000

Good grief, Charlie Brown! Willie B. McIntosh and Gary Gold were at a breakfast fundraiser for Republican Sheriff candidate Don Allen on Saturday morning July 29 . Former Clerk candidate Larry Ware also attended the Republican fundraiser.

What does this mean? Are these two former primary opponents of Democratic Sheriff Raymond Hamrick supporting Republican Sheriff candidate Don Allen?

This appears to me to be an interesting "first shot across the bough," whether official or unofficial, of "Dems for Allen" for Sheriff.

Anybody know what's going on?

Mike



CHIEF ROLAND HAMRICK

Fri, 21 Jul 2006 19:47:00 +0000

Roland Hamrick worked for Shelby Fire Department 1977 until this month. With unused sick and/or vacation time, he was able to retire with 30 years of service. I was privileged to serve the City during 12 of Roland's nearly 30 years. He was appointed Fire Chief in 1998, during my first term as Mayor. He had been Assistant Chief since 1988. He has had a long and good career with the City. I feel fortunate to have known and served the City with him. Roland is a true professional. He has a gigantic heart for helping people that served both the City and himself well.Roland took very seriously the protection of the City. Over the years, two fires were caused by children playing with a lighter and matches, respectively, at properties I owned. I jokingly told Roland that his men were too fast for I could hardly collect insurance. He replied, “That’s a good thing.” I agree. Roland has been in a tough place this past year; first an interim city manager from Hades (Greek for the hot place) tried to douse the fire department in May and June of 2005. That helped spawn a fireman's union that some have partially blamed on the Chief, and now a budget process that eliminated personnel I am absolutely certain Roland believes is not in the best interest of the City. Somewhere in all this lies the reason for his earlier than anticipated departure. (And Roland thought I was tough on him!).Whatever he says, I am convinced Roland retired now in part because he could not, in good conscience, say precisely what his boss (City Manager) and the Manager's bosses (City Council), wanted him to say: that he was certain there would be no safety repercussions from the personnel cuts in the Fire Department. While Roland would have worked diligently to be sure no public safety problems occurred because of the personnel reductions, I think I know him well enough to say that the reason he didn't sound reassuring was because he did not believe it with certain.The Star’s article quoting memos to the City Manager from Roland are revealing (http://shelbystar.com/story.php?ID=2835). Roland believed it detrimental before the vote to make the cuts; therefore how could he in good conscience have given assurance there would be no detrimental consequences later? The memos to the Manager in May show a difference of opinion between Roland and those in authority over him wide enough to drive a $800,000 Shelby Fire Department Ladder truck through!!!! (Sorry Roland, I couldn’t resist!).Shortly after the Star’s fire department reduction series of articles, Roland announced his retirement; earlier than he had intended. Not forced to retire I am sure, but disgusted and out of favor with those above him in the "chain of command" the Chief took the high road and retired a little before he had intended. I think it probable that you’ll never hear a negative word from him about his former “bosses.” He has more class than to stoop to the low road.Now don't feel sorry for him; he has his time in; Roland has enjoyed his career. He’ll have another one somewhere he chooses soon. Rather, join me in appreciation to and for a man who has given the best and most productive years of his life to the citizens of Shelby. Not only has he led the department to a third station when the City expanded, he has built Shelby Fire Department's standing in the community through various community efforts, including multiple blood drives for those in need; the crown jewel of which was his valiant leadership of the attempt to find a match for Police Chief Charlie VanHoy.Thank you Roland. You did a great job. I enjoyed our private arguments, appreciated your public support, and most of all, thanks for being a friend I know I could call upon if needed. Shelby and its citizens will you.Mike[...]



To our bloggers

Tue, 18 Jul 2006 14:57:00 +0000

To our bloggers: We have received many complaints about the comments to this blog -- namely that the discussion is dominated by a few posters who often stray off topic. We will address that by having comments pre-cleared by administrators, effectively immediately. As long as posts are on topic and not redundant, they will be cleared for publication on the blog. Anyone who wishes to post anonymously can continue to do so. Thanks for your cooperation and tremendous support of this blog.



LAWS, LAWS, LAWS!!!

Tue, 11 Jul 2006 10:43:00 +0000

You knew it would eventually happen: seat belts are now to be mandatory in the back seat of your car in NC. Why? Obviously for our own safety. Since we don't exercise the good judgment to fasten our seatbelts, the state threatens us with fines in order to compel our wearing of seatbelts. Our "Nanny" in Raleigh is going to take care of us---again.

If theLegislature wants to really stop us from killing ourselves on the highways, it could lower the speed limit statewide to 25 MPH. Now there's a law that would save more lives and injuries than ever!!! (Hope you recognized the sarcasm).

Now understand: wearing a seatbelt is a good thing; something we all should do. The issue is how far should the "all knowing state" go toward protecting us from ourselves? Where will it stop? Where does the value known as individual freedom trump the "nanny" state's mothering of its citizens, at the expense of free choice?

The rear passenger seat belt law was passed in part because Senator Purcell noted that 364 back seat passengers were killed last year who were not wearing seat belts in the back seat. Most may have been saved had they worn a seatbelt. Also, unbelted rear passengers often injure front seat drivers and passengers in an accident. I am sure both are true. We should wear our seat belts. But I wonder: how many tens of millions of passengers getting in a back seat without a seat belt did not have an accident, hurt themselves or someone else? I would be willing to bet an infinitesimally small percentage, in the thousandths of one per cent range, were killed or even in an accident. Apparently that's all it takes for our "daddies and mommies" in the Legislature to make us buckle up under threat of citation.

Wear your seatbelt; but not because it's a law. Do it because you love your family and yourself.

I suppose we should not expect much more from a Legislature that passes a budget that virtually assures deficits as early as next year; a Legislature that passes a budget that says it cannot afford to give counties permanent medicaid relief, while increasing recurring spending nearly 10% in other areas (leaving NC counties the only ones in the nation funding medicaid with local property tax dollars).

Individual liberty continues to vanish in the United States. NC just struck one more small blow legislating safety over individual liberty. We are in desperate need of a rebirth of liberty in these United States. This one is one small thing; but it is indicative of where we are. The increase of government regulations and laws is the decrease of individual liberty.

Mike



THE BAD AND UGLY IN THE NC BUDGET 2006-07

Tue, 04 Jul 2006 09:43:00 +0000

Post from Mike (just to be sure and keep my dem colleagues Andy and Dean out of this one):There are a number of "takes" on the new state budget. Below I have put that of one Republican NC house member who will vote no on the budget.Regardless of one's political persuasion, you gotta admit that a 10% increase (nearly) is mighty big, especially considering that much of the increase is being funded with non-recurring monies, probably setting the state up for more budget woes in the years ahead. At any rate, here's the article, which has been distributed by the NCGOP:Representative Paul StamNorth Carolina House of RepresentativesConference Report on 2006 Budget/Vote No July 3, 2006 I will vote against SB 1741 (Conference Report) which will spend $ 18.9 billion this year (2006-2007) of state funds for the following reasons:1. The budget does not provide meaningful Medicaid relief to counties. The House version used recurring money to cap county Medicaid payments. But the conference report uses one time non-recurring money for a one-time/one-year cap at $27.4 million/half of the relief in the House version.2. The budget continues to spend and accrue hundreds of millions of dollars in ineffectual and discriminatory corporate giveaways, like the Bill Lee Act, JDIG, the ONE North Carolina Fund and the Cigarette Export Tax Credit. The Bill Lee Act has been thoroughly discredited by our own studies and all of those giveaways defy sound economics. This budget even adds another $10 million in giveaways for a new grant program (Section 12.8).3. State Employees received miniscule pay raises for the last 5 years while other employees received normal raises. This year's 5-1/2% pay raise is much better but doesn't make up for 4 years of attrition. Once again state employees are being unfairly discriminated against - compared to other employees who will receive an 8% raise this year.4. There are over $407 million of recurring expenses paid for by nonrecurring revenues in the budget. The problem is $90 million worse if ABC bonuses are recognized as a recurring obligation, which they are, for a total structural deficit of $497 million.5. Fiscal staff has estimated that the unfunded liability for retired state employees' health insurance premiums is about $13.5 billion. To amortize this over 30 years would cost about $1.5 billion per year. This budget takes no steps to resolve this structural problem.6. This Budget includes $1.67 billion dollars in new spending (2006-2007 over 2005-2006) - a 9.7% increase in spending. This figure does not include as "spending" credits to the "Rainy Day" reserve. If this budget had increased by the sum of population increases plus inflation it would have increased by about 5.65% (TABOR) and the surplus could have been used to straighten out future structural deficits.7. A budget is about priorities. Policy makers decide how much of the budget to allocate to each department. For example, this budget allocates spending increases for Education, excluding salary increases 3% more than to Health and Human Services. With the disproportionate salary structure the total discrepancy is much higher. These allocations were ordered by the Co-Chairs who then issued "rules" to make out of order any amendment to change these allocations. These “rules" have never been adopted by the House or by the Appropriations Committee. These "rules" of committee procedure are ironic. They prohibit amendments to fund recurring items with nonrecurring money. That is a good principle. You don't buy groceries with an inheritance from your great aunt. But the budget itself funds $ 497 million of recurring expenditures with nonrecurring revenue.8. This treatment of [...]



UNIFORMS AT SHELBY MIDDLE SCHOOL

Wed, 28 Jun 2006 10:47:00 +0000

It appears students will all be dressed the same at Shelby Middle School soon. Obviously it is a proposal in response to dress problems the schools have had for some time: sloppy dress; baggy clothes; emblems and writing on shirts that's unacceptable; lack of modesty, poorer students embarassed by lack of good clothing, etc.

Arguments are made on both sides. What say you? Are uniforms in public schools a good, bad, or neutral thing, and why so?

Other issues:

1. Is it right for a school system to require uniforms at one middle school and not another?
2. Will it create some type of student "flight" as some parents (who can afford to move or use alternative education means) seek a place where individuality trumps "sameness"?
3. Will it accelerate the desire for charter or private schools? I have no idea; just wondering if anyone else does.
4. Has the School Board has given sufficient thought to the possible ways this could impact?
5. Why, if uniforms can be required and enforced, can't a reasonable dress code otherwise be enforced?

Mike



Tim and Debbie's Playing Politics

Mon, 29 May 2006 15:33:00 +0000

Mike, I hate to rain on your bypass parade and I certainly am sorry to interrupt your republican commentators in the midst of their gigantic orgasmic frenzy over an innocuous and meaningless
bill supposedly designed to build the Cleveland County Bypass. You point an accusing finger at
Senator Dalton for stating the truth. Dalton is correct in his assessment.

This bill has two chances to pass. None and absolutely none. You point out that Debbie and Tim introducing such a bill is "good politics". I disagree. They are playing politics in its crassest form. They know it doesn't have a chance. Therefore it is a form of deception and lying to the
people is not good politics. It raises the hopes of the people only to have them dashed. It would put Debbie and Tim in a difficult poisition since they usually vote against the budget. The Highway Bypass bill will not pass and will be relegated to the dust bin of history. Why, you might ask before you burst into a frenzy of denunciation?

It is so useless that no other legislator has ever introcuced such a bill. They know better. Don't you think that if such action was viable some of the many representatives from Charlotte would have introduced such a bill with all the road needs that Mecklenburg has. They know this bill, if passed, would take a big chunk out of the General Fund. Most of the General Fund goes to education. Well, Debbie and Tim, there goes teachers salaries, school supplies, books and gasoline for school buses and a broad range of other programs that go to the states 100 counties. Do you think for a minute that other legislators are going to vote to give their money to Cleveland County's bypass when it would otherwise be designated for their county.
There has never been such a road like this paid for out of the General Fund.

Andy is 100% correct. The road will be built when the NC Highway Department and the highway commissioner for this district decides it will be built and not before.

Tim and Debbie would do better if they went about governing seriously and cut the playing politics and election grandstanding.

As for the rest of you who don't have the backbone to sign your comments and hide behind our old friend A. Nony Mous, fie on you.

Dean Westmoreland



WILL WE EVER GET THE 74 BYPASS?

Wed, 24 May 2006 01:19:00 +0000

Will we ever see the Shelby ByPass? Reps Clary and Moore introduced a bill this week to begin it now; Senator Dalton opposed it as "bad precedent".

Now I think the two Reps know their bill isn't going anywhere, but IT'S OBVIOUSLY GOOD POLITICS in this county; and frankly in Rutherford County (you think those folks like going through Shelby to get to Charlotte?).

Regardless, the history of this demands some action. NC has pushed our bypass back repeatedly, and for a long time!

Nearly 20 years ago, before I was following local politics, the local powers that "were" wanted to "widen" the existing 74 "bypass," now a virtual parking lot at rush hour, and a serious slowdown to travelers anytime. They were told by state officials to "get your act together" and decide on a north of Shelby or south of Shelby new bypass; the current one being widened is not the answer.

While I was Mayor of Shelby (first term 95-99), meetings were held around the county, and City and County governments decided on a northern route. Some progress on funding was made; then the great economic slowdown; robbing of the highway trust fund, the "need" to pave low volume roads to Lord knows where in the eastern part of NC, etc. pushed the Shelby ByPass further and further into the future. Now some state officials are saying again we just need to "widen" the existing parking lot; excuse me "bypass." The full circle, and we need a bypass; not to mention a new industrial corridor without the current traffic jam through Shelby to I85.

The mishandling by the State of our bypass is a classic example of government #@*&%$#@!!!!

Will we ever get a bypass? Not unless we get a western Governor, or a lot more powerful representation in the majority party in the Legislature. Cleveland County is getting shortchanged on the ByPass. That's it. Period.

If my frustration is showing with our being treated as second class citizens by the State of NC: GOOD! It's time for action on the ByPass. NOW. Not later.

Mike



DEAR GOVERNOR EASLEY: WHAT ABOUT THE COUNTIES AND MEDICAID?

Sun, 14 May 2006 10:59:00 +0000

Well, the Governor weighed in with his own adjustments to NC's two year budget this year:
Here's a little of what he wants the Legislature to do with the $1.1 billion "surplus" (a surplus made possible by "temporary" taxes which he barely touches, while he proposes over $700 million a year in new spending, using temporary taxes that are supposed to expire June 30, 2007-namely 1/2 cent of sales tax; and 1/2% on personal incomes above $200K)

Those "temporary" taxes, along with our high corporate income tax, does send some corporate investment to surrounding states that have lower taxes. I don't count the repayment to rainy day fund or state retirement fund as new spending. They account for $354 million, and are wise decisions. But the other $700 million shows some bad logic for reasons below:

Governor's budget would:

1. remove 1/4% from sales tax, and "cap" the gas tax at where it's at now: $.29.9/gal.
(that's it for tax relief)
2. put $324 million into "rainy" day fund
3. repay $30 million to state retirement fund
4. give up to 8% increase for teachers and community college profs, up to 5% for others
5. and more, but that's most of the money

It seems to me that the governor's major "faux pax" here is: THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO MENTION OF THE PLIGHT OF HIS 100 COUNTIES CONTINUING TO BE THE ONLY LOCAL GOVERNMENTS IN THE NATION PAYING FOR MEDICAID COSTS AT THE LOCAL LEVEL WITH PROPERTY TAXES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Additionally, if gas prices don't continue rising, (and many think at $3.00/gal there will be flattening out at least), the gas tax cap isn't meaningful. Two things need to be done-and done now- with the gas tax: first, the state needs to use the surplus this year to begin paying for only roads with the gas tax (currently a large amount of the gas tax goes for other 'general"costs of government), and second, the state needs to actually reduce the tax by enough to get it back to last year's levels (this can be done without harming road construction if they do #1)

Finally, before the State of NC starts large pay raises and re-opening political wish lists it should do away with so-called temporary sales taxes and personal income taxes, as well as lower the corporate income tax. WE REMAIN THE HIGHEST TAXED STATE IN THE SOUTH. No matter how good the economy is in certain parts of the state, our taxation level is a drag on our ability to compete with other southeastern states. It is simply wrong to fund recurring expenses like large pay raises with "temporary" taxes. If the Legislature wants to adopt this budget, or anything close to it; it should, as a matter of integrity, also make permanent the higher taxes it keeps saying are temporary. But that want happen, at least not this year: it's an election year.

Those are my thoughts; what do you make of the governor's budget proposals?

Mike



let's talk about the Clerk's Runoff

Mon, 08 May 2006 13:41:00 +0000

At this time it is all but sure that there will be a runnoff in the Clerk's race. The key to winning a runnoff keeping your voters interested enough to make a special trip back to vote. Who can do it? please keep your comments about the race not personal.



County Commission: The Race is On

Sun, 07 May 2006 22:44:00 +0000

Hasting and Chambless are the R's.

Holbrook and Boggs are the D's.

Four good people. Different political philosophies, obviously.

Here are some points for early discussion on the blog:

1. Who is favored today?

2. What is the difference in the candidates?

3. What will be the difference in county government next four years depending on who wins?



NOTE FROM BLOG ADMINISTRATOR

Fri, 05 May 2006 14:21:00 +0000

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Political Smackdown



Cost of a Second Primary

Thu, 04 May 2006 20:45:00 +0000

There were several comments following other blogs regarding the costs of a second primary or a
run off as it is commonly called.

I served as chairman of the board of elections for 5 & 1/2 years. I served through elections that had both NC Senators, two presidential elections and three congressional elections. Elections are costly processes. The bigger the election the more it costs.

Just a few weeks ago there was a beer and wine referendum in the town of Grover. Grover has 400 registered voters and the referendum cost $12,000. A county-wide election such as may be called will cost at least $20,000 and most likely a little more.

Elections in North Carolina are controlled by the State and must follow a complicated set of laws
established bu the General Assembly. One such law is that there must be three persons, one
Republican and two Democrats present in each precinct voting station. The voting lists must be as current as possible and all the supplies must be at the voting station. In a primary, state law requires that a ballot be printed for each registered voter. That meant that there was 57,000 +
ballots were printed. 12,000 voted. Lots of note pads. I don't know if the same law applies to runoffs.

The last runoff that we had was for several state-wide races following a Republican primary.
So few people voted that I computed it and it came to $14.00 per vote that was cast in Cleveland County. That state-wide election cost several million dollars.

Cleveland had a higher turn out in this election than many counties and for that we are to be
congratulated. Mecklenburg County had a turn out of 3.9%. A further break down in Cleveland County is that 30% of the Democrats voted and only 12% of the Republicans voted.

Dean Westmoreland



Congrats to Winners; Thanks to All; Something's Wrong When you win with less than a majority

Wed, 03 May 2006 02:46:00 +0000

Congratulations to all who won in their Cleveland County Primaries Tuesday. Thanks to all who ran for stepping out and offering your time, talents, and name. Those who run hard but lose should hold their heads high. The system doesn't work without winners and losers in a political race.

Here are some thoughts you can respond to:

1. While it appears that Sheriff Raymond Hamrick has won by more than necessary to avoid a runoff, there must be a canvass, and there may be provisional ballots yet to be accounted for. Additionally, it may be that a recount can occur because the margin is close to the one per cent rule that allows an automatic recount upon request of the second place finisher. So it is a close call, and as I write this post, I 'm not quite sure if a runoff is possible. At any rate, if I were an incumbent Sheriff in my first term, and I had 59% +/- of my own party's voters vote against me, I would not rest particulary well. That's not to discount his win; but it's by the "hair of his chinny chin chin."

2. Tonight reminds me of the origins of this 40 per cent plus one rule to win a partisan primary in North Carolina. Some states still have a 50% plus one rule to avoid a runoff in a partisan election. In NC several years ago a black man, Mickey Michaux of Durham ran in primary and came in first place with 45% of the vote against two white candidates. Because of the 50% plus one rule to win, the second place person called for a runoff , and defeated Michaux in a runoff.

The NAACP was a major player pushing for the 40% plus one rule, and the Legislature changed the law to say that if you get 40% plus one you don't have to have a runoff. You proceed to the fall election. Presumably this was to help minority (African-American) candidates win a primary even if they did not have a majority of the votes. Well, guess what: Tonight in Cleveland County this law worked against an African American- Willie B. McIntosh. I just point that out. It illustrates well a basic law of conservative politics: whatever the government intends a law to do (help minorities in this case), it often has the exact opposite effect (in this case it kept a black man from getting into a runoff).

This election has nothing to do with my long held view on plurality elections. I despise them. I hate the 40% plus one method; it elects or nominates people who had a majority of those voting voting against them. It is not consistent with a democratic system that should require a majority to win. We should always get it down to two, and elect one by a majority.

Now it's the law; Raymond Hamrick, and Don Allen in the Republican primary, won under the rules. I don't blame them, that's the law. BUT THE LAW IS UNDEMOCRATIC, AND IS NOT CONSISTENT WITH REPUBLICAN GOVERNMENT. It is supposed to take a majority to win an election!

Mike



Business as Usual or Political Blunder?

Tue, 25 Apr 2006 02:10:00 +0000

There was a tragic murder in Surburban Acres last week. The suspect had googled the names of the challengers to the incumbent Sheriff, and perhaps scribbled their names down, along with that of the incumbent Sheriff. Just the Sheriff's address? Unclear to me at this posting. Was the suspect after others? The challengers to Sheriff Hamrick called a Sunday press conference, and found the things they can agree upon: Sheriff Hamrick needs to be replaced, and his failure to contact each of them, they say, is one evidence of why he needs to go. They all say he should have contacted them, and told them they and their families may be in danger. Not to do so, they say, is at best inconsiderate, and at worst, shows a lack of concern , or incompetence.

The Sheriff held his own news conference on Monday, April 24, and said there was no indication any of the candidates or their families were in any danger, and that they were all just playing politics a little over a week before the election.

So who is right? The challengers? The incumbent?

My take: Both may be "technically" correct. The challengers may believe they were in danger; the Sheriff may believe they were not in danger. Their press conference was both political and to show concern about what they see as less than professionalism in the current Sheriff. Whatever the case, if the Sheriff had contacted them all, told them about the finding, HE WOULD HAVE BEEN THE SHERIFF DOING HIS JOB, PROTECTING THE PUBLIC, INCLUDING THOSE WHO WANTED HIS JOB. It would have likely ended the dem primary in his favor. That much seems clear to me. Whether the challengers have hit upon a blunder of the Sheriff that may change the outcome of the Democrat primary or the fall election I don't know, but these events at a minimum increase the likelihood of a runoff in the Dem primary.

That's my view. What's your take?

Mike