The Burgaw Area Chamber of Commerce will hold a forum for town candidates on Oct. 22 at the Burgaw Depot. The more competitive race is between incumbent Mayor Pete Cowan and challenger Elaine Tyson. You can find more details on the forum here.Read full article » No Comments »
WECT, the StarNews, and WHQR-FM are partnering to host two candidate forums in the run-up to the Wilmington city elections. City council candidates will participate in an Oct. 7 event. Mayor candidates Bill Saffo and Paul Knight will appear a week later, Oct. 14. Both evening events will be held at the WHQR studio. The day before, Oct. 13, the mayoral candidates will face off at a separate breakfast event at The Balcony on Dock. More details here.Read full article » No Comments »
From the past few days of news coverage in the Cape Fear region:
• The Whiteville city schools will experience a drop of nearly $1 million in its 2009-10 budget.
• West Brunswick High School had a surprisingly big jump in enrollment this month.
• New Hanover’s newest school, Castle Hayne Elementary, just had its formal dedication ceremony. The 60-acre campus was built for 600 K-5 students, and includes multiple sports fields.
To find out more about issues of school funding, don’t forget to attend tonight’s Southeastern Freedom Club meeting in Wilmington. It starts at 6pm. More details here.Read full article » No Comments »
Over at the StarNews WATCHDOG$ blog, Patrick Gannon covers the debate between Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo and challenger Paul Knight about the proper way to describe what taxpayers are paying for the convention center:
Saffo, a loyal proponent of the center under construction in downtown Wilmington, said it would cost about $57 million. Knight disagreed, saying the cost was more like $62.5 million. Wright has said he believes the city should sell the convention center to a private entity if it isn’t at least breaking even after two years.
So who was right about the cost? That depends on whether you consider the cost as the “cost of construction” or the “cost of construction, plus financing costs and interest.”
Well, the latter represents the actual amount that taxpayers will have to shell out for the convention center, a project unlikely to deliver on its big promises. So it seems obvious that the Knight’s higher figure is correct.Read full article » 1 Comment »
A Wilmington Star-News article by Gareth McGrath gave the impression that the latest recycling scam by government is based on economics rather than politicians trying to change our behavior because they deem “it’s the right thing to do.”
Mr. McGrath, in a long front page story, gave credence to the myth of recycling based on government meddlers’ attempts to regulate our lives according to their world views, when reality shows otherwise. It’s a long, somewhat convoluted story.
It begins with the state banning plastic bottles from landfills—starting October 1—that will trigger other consequences induced by government rather than the free market. Mr. McGrath cites comments by the state recycling director who diverts attention from the new regulatory manipulation of our lives to “keeping and producing jobs here in North Carolina”—the political mantra used to keep us all in line with Big Brother government. The Holy Grail of politics has become “jobs.”
The idea of this latest manipulative state law is to get the “message out there through awareness and education,” writes McGrath. Reality check: people don’t want to be forced to recycle. It wastes time and offers no personal benefit. Further, as McGrath points out, local politicians don’t want to waste money on recycling costs that generate “enormous amounts of public ill will.” So the state scheme puts pressure on waste haulers to “educate” their customers. Because haulers will not legally be able to dump plastic bottles at landfills, they will pass these restrictions on to their customers—thus relieving politicians from taking flack for their ill-conceived actions.
Here in New Hanover County the price of recycled plastic “doesn’t come close to covering the program’s operational costs,” according to recycling coordinator Lynn Bestul. So who do we suppose covers these costs? Think about it.
McGrath writes that “recycling plastic is big business.” DAK Americas and Shaw Industries plan to build the “nation’s largest plastic bottle recycling plant in the country” near Fayetteville, N. C.
Questions: If plastic is so profitable, why aren’t these companies paying more for recyclables? Why are taxpayers forced to subsidize recycling plastic?
Also, as involuntary players in this game, we should ask our political Heroes if they passed this law to assure a cheaper source of raw material to the Clear Path Recycling plant—in return for promises of their preciously political “jobs.”Read full article » No Comments »
Earlier this year, the StarNews added a feature to its website called “What We Earn.” Among other things, it offered salary data for New Hanover college, hospital, school-district and county employees. Providing online access of such information to the public is a key element of government transparency, so it was great to see the site add the function.
Now, the StarNews has done the same with salary data from Brunswick County. One resulting piece in today’s edition discusses the fact that the Brunswick county manager makes more than the New Hanover manager, even though the latter runs a far larger county government. Brunswick officials defend the figure:
County Manager Marty Lawing is the highest-paid Brunswick employee, with a salary of $172,202 a year. New Hanover, which has a population almost double that of Brunswick, pays its county manager $164,982.
Bill Sue, chairman of the Brunswick County Board of Commissioners, said that’s because Lawing has spent more time as a county manager than New Hanover’s Bruce Shell.
Sue said Brunswick’s rapid growth has also played a factor in determining the county manager’s salary.
“We have had a tremendous amount of projects, whereas some of the other counties have not been in that building mode. There’s been a whole lot of balls in the air to handle,” he said.
Lawing, who has been Brunswick’s county manager for more than eight years, is also paid more than Union and Robeson county managers, two counties Brunswick looks at when assessing salaries.
Good stuff. Here’s hoping we see more of it.Read full article » No Comments »
Joel Macon, currently the mayor of Carolina Beach, is running for reelection this fall. In his response to the Island Gazette’s candidate questionnaire, Macon identifies his political affiliation as Libertarian. I’m not sure Macon’s policy statements would all qualify for the label, but still — that’s interesting.Read full article » No Comments »
What about a “feasibility study” for a downtown trolley in River City? It will cost a mere $45,000 and take a committee to “look into it.”
Hey, I’ll offer the Cape Fear Public Transportation Authority advice for free—a committee of one. It’s feasible. Anything is possible if enough money is spent. But is this worth the public’s money? No.
According to a Wilmington Star-News article by Patrick Gannon the idea of a streetcar recently “crept forward.” Transportation bureaucrats (keepers of Wave Transit costing taxpayers more than $6.5 million annually for huge, mostly empty, buses running around the county—and beyond) now want to resurrect a 1900s system to carry a few fun-seeking tourists and downtown employees from the convention center and PPD a mile downstream to Chandler’s Wharf. Wow! What an economy booster.
Even Miss Public Transportation herself, City Councilwoman Laura Padgett, is cautious on this newest “steel-tired” boondoggle “on rails.” It will be a “fairly significant expense,” she said. Yes it will; and, trust me, much higher than initial estimates—with never-ending increases.
It will also be an unfair expense, Ms. Padgett. Taxpayer’s hard-earned money will be diverted into another city loser project. Surely, there are higher priority, legitimate government uses for their cash in River City.Read full article » No Comments »
After years of controversy, false starts, missed deadlines, and extra taxes, the local powers-that-be are discussing yet another approach to the hotel component of the Wilmington convention center project: ditching the notion of a full-service hotel. The Greater Wilmington Business Journal has the story:
“Six years ago when the community started this process, it was important that we recruit a full-service hotel,” said Wilmington CVB President and CEO Kim Hufham. “With all that has changed since then, between the economy and trends in the industry, we think that a limited-service hotel may need to be considered as a possible option going forward.”
Hufham and John Sneed, a new sales manager with the CVB specifically dedicated to selling meeting space in the area, agree that the deficit in service between a limited service hotel and a full-service hotel could be made up with surrounding restaurants or new restaurants to come.
“The line between limited service and full is more blurred than it used to be,” Sneed said. “If the hotel is smart, they can team up with a local restaurant and boom, room service is right there.”
However, hospitality analysts say a limited service hotel might be a gamble. Often the hotel adjoining a convention center will serve ancillary events as part of a larger convention. So more catering would be needed for a banquet of several hundred separate from the main convention event of several thousand.
“That would concern me more if the only food and beverage opportunity is catered in the convention center, because most restaurants can’t handle large groups,” said East Carolina University hospitality management professor George Fenich, who researches convention centers.
Years ago, JLF tapped the expertise of someone else who researches convention centers, the Brookings Institution’s Heywood Sanders. His message was that the potential payoffs of municipal investment in convention centers were not likely to offset the costs. The Wilmington project would be no different, we argued.
Then, in 2006 JLF Research Director Michael Sanera analyzed the Wilmington project as part of a paper on the (rickety) economics of convention centers. The outlook wasn’t good:
Interest in new convention center space is based on a myth, Sanera said. City staff and outside consultants promise that a new or improved convention center will generate new business. They also support funding schemes that target visitors – including taxes on hotel rooms, rental cars, or prepared food and beverages.
“It is crucial to the economic well-being of North Carolina’s cities and counties that its local officials see past this myth,” Sanera said. “Despite a hopeful first glance, convention centers are never a ‘something for nothing’ proposition.”
The mythology lives on.Read full article » 2 Comments »
JLF’s Southeastern Freedom Club will hold its next meeting on Monday, Sept. 28 at 6pm at the Northeast Regional Library on Military Cutoff Road.
Yeah, I see the joke: a Southeastern meeting at the Northeast Library. Of course, the library serves the northeastern section of New Hanover County, which is one of the counties in Southeastern NC — along with Pender, Onslow, Columbus, Bladen, and Brunswick — that this Freedom Club is intended to serve.
Anyway, the speaker is Terry Stoops, JLF’s intrepid analyst of education policy. He’ll be talking about school funding, student achievement, transparency, and a whole host of other issues related to public schools, charter schools, private schools, and home schools in North Carolina. Most likely, you’ll leave Monday’s meeting with a lot more information about the education system than you had going in. And Terry will welcome your questions and comments.
Visit here for more information about the Monday Freedom Club event. We’ll look forward to seeing you there.Read full article » No Comments »