The Raleigh News & Observer has again demonstrated the power (and responsibility) of the Press. Its report on the excessive growth of University of North Carolina administrative positions (“28 percent over five years”), finally spurred UNC President Erskine Bowles to action. It’s an “absolute embarrassment—and we brought it on ourselves,” he “rebuked” chancellors at the 17 statewide campuses. Yes, it is, but they have been unaccountable for many years.
An overseer (Hannah Gage, chairwoman of the Board of Governors) of the gigantic “far-flung and decentralized enterprise” blamed campus officials for “flexibility” and for having “more autonomy.” She didn’t explain who turned them loose and gave them money to waste.
Actually, flexibility could provide greater efficiency (and more frugality) if these officials had limited dollars. In my opinion, greenbacks gave them the green light to spend. Our political Heroes, pandering to the powerful “education” lobby, untied the public purse and dumped money on them—likely egged-on by the Board. Certainly chancellors, essentially highly paid lobbyists, pressured legislators.
It’s not just the “top-heavy” administrations (positions increased by 354 to 1,623 total over the five year period). Growth of teaching staff in the UNC system increased 24 percent while student enrollment grew only 14 percent, according to N&O reporting. And this report doesn’t tell how many billions went into construction and new programs for empire building. Spending on administration may just be the tip of an academic iceberg.
To glimpse the bloated bureaucracy, one needs only to look at the UNC-Wilmington website. Details are hidden, but the magnitude of this gigantic local enterprise astonishes. With a $284 million annual budget (32 percent state funded) it employs 2167 people; 1316 staff and 851 faculty (the website claims, “UNCW supports 7,000 jobs”). This institution spreads money around to nearly 90 various degree programs, through eight administrative offices with 42 employees. The chancellor’s office alone has 20 positions listed; 7 deans and 13 “senior officers.” Six of these are “vice chancellors.”
Let’s hope the N&O follows this story and reports on the results of other out-of-control UNC spending, as well as how taxpayer money gets to those favored sites. It’s the only newspaper available to us here in River City that’s willing to do it.Read full article » No Comments »
The Fayetteville Observer has published a must-read story on the R.C. Soles saga. Written by John Ramsey, with additional reporting by Paul Woolverton, the piece gets into a lot of detail and quotes a number of folks who, as far as I can recall, haven’t spoken out on the latest allegations. Here’s the opening passage:
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A handful of young men chase R.C. Soles Jr. all over town.
If he’s eating breakfast downtown at Mama’s Restaurant, the teens and 20-somethings – former clients of the lawyer and state senator – will often wait on the sidewalk for him to exit.
They’ve camped out by his car to wait for him to leave church on Sunday mornings, and they often park in the cemetery at the end of his road so they can see when he heads home.
If he ignores them, the young men yell and cause a scene. When he leaves, they follow him like he’s leading a parade.
Soles has acknowledged giving some of the men thousands of dollars. Many people around town assume they are hounding him for more, flocking to the 74-year-old, never-married lawmaker like sea gulls to bread.
Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo and others have weighed in on the plans for Carolina Cement to rebuild an old plant in a relatively remote area north of the city limits. Star-News staff writer, Patrick Gannon, reports that Mr. Saffo asked, “Do we want smokestack businesses at all?” I ask: who are “we”?
Are “we” the same people who let the city infrastructure crumble, contributing to water pollution from raw sewage, and allowing deteriorating streets? Aren’t “we” the same politicians and bureaucrats who arrogantly ignore the wishes of county citizens and annex their property to serve selfish political interests? Are they the same “we” who colluded with state politicians to add higher taxes to local hotels. Are “we” some of the same people who waste public money to build a monumental “convention center” primarily benefiting a few downtown businesses and government-sponsored tourism agencies? Could these be the same “we” who put residents at risk for future unnecessary taxes?
City Councilman Ron Sparks had it right. He said, “(T)he city has no role in the approval process for the plant.” Two other council members, Laura Padgett and Earl Sheridan, had tried to interfere politically with the process last year. And other anti-industry forces lurk in the coastal political muck.
Mike Giles, a “Coastkeeper” instigator (connected with the Waterkeeper Alliance, a New York conglomerate of environmental lawyers), with cover in the N. C. Coastal Federation, suggests we might see “a large community forum on our future.” Maybe so, but it surely won’t represent the majority of citizens here. It will likely be stacked with hysterical activists shouting about “mercury” and other outrageous, scary accusations.
Gannon mistakenly reports that the company under attack “has the right to start its business here…because zoning allows it.” Wrong, Mr. Gannon. Our rights are naturally endowed; they do not come from government bureaucrats. Furthermore, we can’t be deprived of property “without due process of law.” That doesn’t include demands by “we” mobs. Carolina Cement people have as much right to use their property as do other business people in this area; for example, owners of gasoline stations in Castle Hayne—that “we” might deem to be hazardous.
Incidentally, Mr. Mayor, if “we” decide not to allow “smokestack businesses” near River City, will you then demand that the Corning plant—on College Road in the city—shut down and remove its four smokestacks (the Carolina Cement plant will have only one)? We (meaning me and many other pro-business residents) would like to know the answer to that question.Read full article » No Comments »
Allen “Frog” Strickland, out on bail after being charged with setting fire to his own house (allegedly to defraud his insurer), has been arrested again after a high-speed chase by the Tabor City police. From the StarNews coverage this morning:
On Sunday, Strickland was headed back to jail, this time to face charges of fleeing to elude arrest, reckless endangerment and driving without a license, according to Capt. D.W. Foley of the Tabor City Police Department.
Trouble began at 4:23 p.m. when a detective on patrol spotted Strickland’s car, a white Corvette, on North Main Street. Strickland is not supposed to drive because he does not have a license, Foley said.
As the detective approached the Corvette, the vehicle turned around in the road and sped away. The detective turned on his blue lights and sirens and gave chase, Foley said, as the Corvette fish-tailed down the street.
The chase continued onto Eighth Street, then N.C. 904 and then Carolina Road, Foley said. Twice during the chase, the Corvette came close to striking other vehicles. Also, at times, the detective had to slow down to avoid endangering other drivers.
At one point, the Corvette disappeared from view, Foley said, but the detective spotted the car soon after. It was wrecked in a ditch near the South Carolina line.
The Corvette was empty. But witnesses told police Strickland was the driver, Foley said.
About two hours later, around 6:30 p.m., Strickland came to the Tabor City Police Department to report his Corvette stolen, Foley said. At that point, Foley said, Strickland was arrested.
Just to reiterate: Sen. R.C. Soles bought Strickland the Corvette, which the kid can’t drive because he doesn’t have a license.Read full article » No Comments »
My first reaction to the Wilmington Star-News editorial, “A troubled bridge”—about the $36 million Oak Island Bridge being constructed across the Intracoastal Waterway—was: Aren’t there more proximate issues over which to spill ink? The editorial cited “incompetence” by government officials. Plenty about that could be written of those right here in River City.
Of course, in the current culture of obsessive angst over all possible (and some impossible) risks associated with living, perfectly safe bridges may be right up there with total isolation from “second-hand” smoke. And, as always, somebody must be blamed for real and perceived risks.
Labor Commissioner, Cherie Berry was chided for inconsequential “slap-on-the-wrist” fines to contractors because she is “business-friendly” (she must be a Republican).
Star-News editorial board members, Publisher Robert Gruber and Editorial Page Editor Tricia Vance, apparently believe that our public agencies should be enemies of business—established to financially damage business people. Some are, such as our attorney general’s office, but many are not; we should hope.
Also, editors say, N. C. Department of Transportation officials haven’t “been watching closely enough.” Somehow editors know these things.
It’s difficult to believe that DOT inspectors are careless and incompetent—at least, not all of them. In fact, someone did notice tiny defects in bridge girders; “fragile and easily damaged during manufacturing, shipping and construction,” admit the editors. And the suggestion that bridge contractors jeopardize public safety by “taking shortcuts” is far-fetched.
“Community Editorial Board” members were allowed “Their View.” Shirley Hart Berry suggested that designers place an image of a saint on the bridge to provide “supernatural protection” to users.
Maybe this was another one of those slow days in the editorial room.Read full article » No Comments »
Here‘s the StarNews coverage of Saturday’s rally against a forced-annexation plan being implemented by the Brunswick town of St. James. Interviews with organizers and participants help illustrate the flaws in the current system:
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Mike Richards, the owner of Midway Trading Post, said he petitioned May 8 to be voluntarily annexed by the town of Oak Island, like several other neighboring property owners, but he was notified four days later that St. James officials wanted his property in their jurisdiction and planned to annex it along with several others.
He said he doesn’t want to be part of St. James because it is a mostly gated community with no public access. “If we happen to be annexed by them, God forbid, we won’t have access either,” he said.
Bill Batuyios, an appraiser and consultant in Wilmington, owns a parcel across the road from where the rally held Saturday. He said he plans to build a shopping center there in the future, but he is worried the town of St. James could change the zoning of his property.
“The fear of the unknown has caused a lot of animosity,” he said.
One of the candidates for a council seat in the Columbus County city of Whiteville this fall is Joshua Ray. He’s one of six candidates for the same district. Another one is Julius Ryan, a former city employee who happens to be Ray’s roommate.
Ray is another former city employee. Back in January, he was escorted out of city hall after having been fired as city manager by the council. Now, he’s running to join that council.
Or not. You see, the search for Ray’s replacement as city manager hasn’t yet produced a permanent hire, so Whiteville re-opened it last month. Who was the first person to apply for the job? Ray himself.
Local politics can be fun.Read full article » 1 Comment »
Two women visiting Ocean Isle Beach decided to go parasailing. What precisely happened next is still the subject of investigation, but strong winds apparently snapped the cable to the boat and the two were caught in the water underneath the pier. They were dead by the time rescue crews arrived.
What’s giving me the creeps about all this is that I was at the Ocean Isle pier last weekend and happened to pick up the brochure for the company that runs the parasailing operation there. I remember that it boasted of a “perfect” safety record. Not anymore. What an awful, tragic story.Read full article » No Comments »
Yes, of course, that’s what “Frog” Strickland told WWAY tonight. He says he has proof that he didn’t set the fire that gutted his Tabor City home. He also says that he bailed himself out, that Sen. R.C. Soles didn’t post bail. But where’d the money originally come from?
The young man has trouble following advice. He talked to the news media right after the judge at his Friday morning hearing urged him not to comment on the case. And what a talk it was:
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“They arrested me because they think I done something with R.C. Soles,” said Strickland. “They thought I wasn’t going to make that bond.”
Strickland was able to post $100,000 bond with help from bail bondsman Jamil Best.
“It was Allen Strickland’s card, we processed the card over the phone to make sure the money was there,” said Best.
Strickland said he funded the bond with savings from an anonymous donor. “It was a gift I’m not going to say where it comes from,” said Strickland.
After the court appearance, Strickland was back to life as usual – cruising around town. Strickland claims he is not guilty and the proof will come from house alarm records that he says will show he was inside with the fire was set outside.
Don’t forget that rally tomorrow in Brunswick County challenging forced annexation. Plenty of local activists will be on hand to hear speakers from annexation-reform groups, the local chapter of Americans for Prosperity, and the local chapter of the NAACP. The Beacon ran down the details:
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Outside Midway Trading Post at the corner on N.C. 211 and Midway Road—property now being sought for annexation by the town of St. James—will be the site of a local anti-forced annexation rally Saturday morning.
Trading post owner Mike Richards, whose store is in an area the town of St. James wants to annex, helped organize the event, along with other activists including scheduled host Curtis Wright, a local radio personality.
The rally is set for 11:30 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 29, and will include anti-annexation speakers and performances by a bluegrass band.