Governor Bev. Perdue’s press release this week described 18 “Innovative N. C. Energy Projects.” This should be embarrassing, but Gov. Perdue blithely announced that they would “help build our state’s green economy.” Likely she’s happier that these pathetic projects, showing how uneconomic solar panels are, will be subsidized by $2.3 million in federal Recovery Act money—printed in Washington. The boondoggle cash will be distributed by the North Carolina Energy Office to select county sites across the state.
According to the announcement, the “projects represent $26.3 million in total costs.” Where the other $24 million will come from was not announced, but we can confidently predict that no private investors would be foolish enough to put their own money in these schemes. So, guess who will be making up the difference?
The governor’s release states that these projects will generate electricity for “2,610 average homes for a year” or, enough to provide hot water for 287 average homes. That electricity will cost $10,000 for each home, or nearly $91,000 per home for the hot water.
One project will provide hot water for 50 one- and two-bedroom apartments in Lenoir, Caldwell County—total cost: more than $129,000. That comes to nearly $2,600 for each unit; for hot water. Or, about $217 per month; for hot water in a one-bedroom apartment. Spread over years costs will be less on an annual basis, but this is still extravagantly high compared to energy costs using our plentiful conventional sources.
Another project at Elon University in Alamance County will spend nearly $483,000 ($200,000 subsidized by the feds Recovery Act) to provide hot water for four buildings on campus.
These projects will be monitored to collect data and determine performance of the systems. However, engineers and energy businesses already know how they perform. If solar systems were practical and cost-effective they would be in use without government subsidies.Read full article » No Comments »
Chris Mazzolini reminds us of government stealth spending that comes back to bite taxpayers in the wallet. In a Star-News article Mr. Mazzolini reports how the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority raises rates because of spending, borrowing and servicing debt.
Providing water and sewer service surely is more important to our “quality of life” than government-sponsored recreation and fun facilities (e. g. Airlie Gardens, the municipal golf course, museums and an expansive library system). Subsidies to nonprofit organizations also divert precious public resources from appropriate government services and actually reduce living standards of individuals by usurping private income. Yet some people believe there should be no limit to what government must do for a never-ending parade of interest groups.
But even when government runs public services it has no incentive to keep costs low and provide superior service. Always looking for more revenue from the citizens because they can pressure politicians to find it, agencies instinctively expand their authority, protect public jobs and lobby for employee benefits. They fail us in other irresponsible ways.
In the case of the CFPUA, officials apparently haven’t put enough in reserve to cover infrastructure maintenance costs. Now, we the hapless people get stuck with $300 million in current debt. Not only that, Authority officials plan to “borrow more money” and “charge higher rates”—a double whammy on us.
Long-time County Commissioner Bobby Greer (demeaned by some as one of the so-called “good old boys”) has said that “the Authority needs to stop spending so much money.” Yes, Mr. Greer, but we expect that you folks can control that—and other spending.
Of course, careless, inattentive citizens also share blame. They are partly responsible for excessive and misdirected Big Brother spending. By default, they allow small groups of self-serving people to approve legislation that gives government agents the green light to spread our wealth and increase our taxes. Recent examples in New Hanover County include referenda to buy expensive land and increase sales taxes.
As swamp cartoon character “Pogo” possum once observed, “We has met the enemy, and he is us.” Pogo could have been referring to our tolerance for debt and taxes.Read full article » No Comments »
The Jacksonville Daily News editorializes about legislation that would prevent cities from issuing bonds to build out cable or broadband systems without a vote of the people:
Private providers, such as cable companies or telephone companies, provide broadband service to a significant portion of North Carolina’s population, but they don’t reach into every neighborhood or go down every road in the state.
For cities to get deeper into the business of providing broadband connections, they have to take risks that the private providers have decided not to take, either because they haven’t had time to extend the service or because they don’t see enough profit to warrant the infrastructure investment.
Cities take a big risk if they must borrow money to pay to run fiber-optic cable lines. If cities decide to take those risks, the people of those cities, who will eventually pay the bills, should at least be asked whether or not such risk is worth it.Read full article » 2 Comments »
Previous Democratic objections to state Sen. R.C. Soles’ odious legislation were pretty strong. But yesterday the Democratic Party of Brunswick County sharpened the rhetoric. Among the critics of Soles was the Democratic candidate who seeks to replace him, former Rep. David Redwine:
“I had a lot of people talking to me and telling me how upset they were about the legislation and how they felt that it should be withdrawn,” said Brunswick County Democratic Party Chair Donna Silva.
Silva called a special meeting to discuss the bills. Soles’s plan to split the district has Democrats concerned. If Butch Pope wins the November election, the bill recommends the governor appoint a candidate of the opposite party to Brunswick County.
“When you have ideas, you need to come up with good explanations of why you need to do this,” said Democratic Senate Candidate David Redwine. “And then you need to build consensus among your constituents, in terms of where do we go from here. And a lot of that hasn’t been done.”
Democrats are also worried a new judge’s seat and changes to the pension funds would directly benefit Soles’s long time friend and current DA Rex Gore.
“It’s kind of like eww that awful politics as usual,” said Southport Precinct Chair Jenna Fontaine. “That awful back-room, gotch-ya, old boy network stuff. So we don’t feel that it has a place here in Brunswick County and we want to make that clear.”
Party officials did offer condolences to the senator on the death of his father, R.C. Soles Sr.Read full article » No Comments »
Outgoing state Sen. Julia Boseman says that while other Democratic politicians have returned illegal campaign contributions from Wilmington’s Rusty Carter, she can’t follow suit because there’s no more money left in her campaign account. The StarNews explains the background:
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Carter doled out $268,000 in bonuses to his employees and some of their spouses over six years with the understanding some of it would be contributed to certain political campaigns.
In that time, more than $176,000 of those bonuses awarded to employees of Atlantic Corp. and related companies ended up in the campaigns.
From late 2005 to 2008, Boseman’s Senate campaign committee accepted more than $50,000 in contributions from Carter, members of his family or employees of the company or related companies, according to a StarNews analysis of campaign finance reports.
Columbus County’s R.C. Soles only has a few months left in his tenure as North Carolina’s longest-serving state senator. Accustomed to doing pretty much whatever he wanted to do, Soles just can’t seem to help himself in the twilight of a political career that is ending in scandal, derision, and disgust. His latest move is to seek to create a new judgeship in Brunswick County, likely one to which outgoing District Attorney Rex Gore or some other crony would be appointed.
The chairwoman of the Brunswick County Democratic Party, Donna Silva, has had enough, though I’m not sure the opening words were chosen wisely:
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In a statement Silva said, “I’m by no means a squeaky-clean ‘good government’ purist. Having been involved in partisan politics for many years, I recognize that ‘deals’ often have to be made to advance the public interest. But a vast gulf separates the public interest from what on its face seems, in this case, to be an act of blatant cronyism. We need to bring an end to the good-old-boy, you scratch-my-back-and I’ll-scratch yours political environment that has for too long made our citizens distrust all government.”
New Hanover County Commission Chairman Jason Thompson is a smart man. He knows that the prospect of an immediate property-tax increase, right on the heels of a referendum campaign that promised voters the chance the forestall future property-tax hikes by passing a sales tax, has resulted in some furious voters. Indeed, back during the referendum debate Thompson obviously recognized the possibility of such a backlash and explicitly stated that a yes vote would not prevent New Hanover County from raising the tax rate to finance capital projects.
From his perspective the tactic was probably worth trying, but it was doomed to failure. Now that the backlash is in full swing, Thompson is restating his defense with gusto:
A review of Thompson’s e-mail account shows he was delivered a volley of messages grumbling about the property tax hike. Many said they felt betrayed, because they incorrectly assumed the passage of a quarter-cent sales tax ballot referendum in May would stave off a property tax increase.
Since November, the commission has warned residents of a property tax increase regardless of whether the sales tax referendum passed or failed.
That’s because of voter-approved bonds on parks and schools, a debt which has to be covered.
“I try to respond to them but they don’t want to listen to the facts and they don’t listen to the reality,” Thompson said at Monday’s meeting. “The reality is we must provide what you voted for.”
Okay, but were voters clearly informed during the previously bond campaigns that they were voting to raise their property taxes?
Oh, and once again the notion that visitors and renters don’t share the cost of New Hanover’s property tax is erroneous.Read full article » 2 Comments »
Apparently believing that he had been out of the scandal headlines for far too long, outgoing state Sen. R.C. Soles has managed to reclaim the spotlight this week by introducing two bills for which he has earned widespread disdain and ridicule.
As previously noted, the bills would have rewarded his buddy, outgoing District Attorney Rex Gore, with higher retirement pay. The other would rejigger the judicial district involved in a way that would seem to clear the way for Gov. Beverly Perdue to appoint a Democrat as district attorney for part of the district if Republican Jon David wins the race in the fall.
It’s become evident that Soles doesn’t much care what people think of his actions. He feels entitled to do whatever he wants to do. But in this, as in so many other things, Soles may have miscalculated. His legislative shenanigans have triggered major media coverage, with Democratic watchdog Joe Sinsheimer and local Republican leader Frank Williams taking some hits, The Charlotte Observer demanding Soles’ resignation, and Soles defending his motives with language that just doesn’t ring true.
As of now, the bills are in committee.Read full article » No Comments »
Last week the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) issued an audit report on the Wilmington Housing Authority. Someone blew the whistle on the corrupt WHA. I’m not surprised that officials misused HUD (taxpayer) funds. It’s axiomatic that large amounts of available public money diverted to special interest groups will be usurped by corrupt individuals.
In 2005, housing officials here spent nearly $210,000 of Section 8 reserves to make mortgage payments on Eastbrook Apartments, a non-HUD development. Public housing bureaucrats also used nearly $58,000 of HUD money to purchase vacant land; the so-called “Winfield Smith” property. This despite a HUD directive warning them not to use the monies for these purposes.
HUD auditors recommended that the Authority repay the money and give evidence to ensure “proper use of HUD funds” in the future.
I know that the Wilmington Star-News has reported on past WHA activities, but I don’t recall seeing a follow up on this report. Star-News “watchdogs” could provide a public service if they would investigate and report whether or not these funds have been repaid. And, if so, where did the WHA get the money to repay HUD?
It’s not unreasonable to assume that local taxpayers picked up the tab to bail out corrupt WHA officials. But maybe I’m just overly suspicious about government-sponsored projects.Read full article » No Comments »
There must be some mistake. The Wilmington Star-News reports that Roanoke Cement, a subsidiary of Titan America, was given an air quality award. No, it can’t be. We’ve been told that cement, in all its evil forms, will pollute the air, water and soil here in New Hanover County—and beyond. Stop Titan bumper stickers and posters here say that it will also harm children and destroy “wetlands,” sacred to environmental zealots.
Why would Forsythe County officials give a Titan terminal in Winston-Salem this award? Stop Titan activists should go up there and tell those obviously ill-informed people about the terrible pollution problem of which they seem unaware.
And while they’re up that way, they should go on to Roanoke and tell Virginia officials and residents how threatened they are by the cement plant operating there. Imagine, last year Gov. Timothy Kaine gave the plant operators an Award for Environmental Excellence. That’s ridiculous. We all know that Big Cement destroys everything in the environment.
And Titan has put one over on this state, again. The Department of Labor had the nerve to give the people at the Winston-Salem facility an “outstanding safety record” award. We know that Big Cement is hazardous, risky and…well, just awful.
Those Titan people are crafty. They fooled the Forsythe County folks into believing that they were in “consistent compliance with air quality standards.” Sure they were. But we here in New Hanover know better. They can’t fool us.Read full article » No Comments »