Perception, in the minds of many an elected official, IS reality. Nothing illustrates this better than recent comments by Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo regarding crime being a creation of the media and County Commission Vice-Chair Jonathan Barfield’s assertion that all is well with mass transit ridership.
The mayor has this to say about crime in Wilmington over at WWAY. “If it’s a slow news day and something is going on at the bars it’s going to get attention,” said Saffo. “Unfortunately the perception of downtown is that it’s violent. I can tell you I’ve walked down late hours and I’ve never been bothered, but if it bleeds it leads.”
He may well have been safe but overall crime was up in the region according to the state statistics, so he might want to pass along the “safe corridor” he supposedly walks during those “late hours” downtown. The mayor later apologized.
With Barfield, it is the view that transit is full of riders. ”I’ll tell you that our ridership is extremely high,” Barfield said. “We always get a lot of comments that people say they don’t see people on the buses, but I think it depends on what time of the day you’re looking at but also on the routes you’re looking at, because our numbers are through the roof in terms of that.” Barfield says using the Wave buses is not only a great way to go green but also helps with the wear and tear of our roads.
The problem here is that facts are contrary to Barfield’s assertions which are, again, based upon anecdotal evidence. For some real facts on NC Transit, check out this new study by the John Locke Foundation on the cost of transit in NC.Read full article » No Comments »
Not to beat a dead horse, but the point of this entry is to illustrate how a newspaper CAN really get into detailed information that the public SHOULD be seeing regularly. It is nearly impossible to find similar information for Columbus, Bladen, Pender, New Hanover and Onslow. Well done by the Beacon on this one. Here is their article in its entirety:
The true cost to be governed: Are commissioners drunk on spending?
By Caroline Curran, Reporter
Financially, Brunswick County Commissioners have begun to cut themselves off.
After a public lashing by many residents accusing commissioners of being drunk on spending, the five-member all-GOP board has begun cutting down on its spending.
First, commissioners agreed to adopt a new compensation policy, which increases their salaries but gets rid of a policy many people accused commissioners of exploiting and abusing, in which they earned $50 for each meeting they attend—even regularly scheduled commissioners’ meetings—as well as local mileage compensation.
Then, they nixed their controversial $10,000 apiece discretionary fund, or “slush fund.”
Commissioners’ annual base salaries were raised Monday from $13,858 for commissioners chairman Bill Sue to $26,000, and from $11,548 each to $21,000 each for commissioners Marty Cooke, Scott Phillips, Phil Norris and Charles Warren.
But with the $50 per-meeting fee, mileage reimbursements and other county perks, commissioners were pocketing more than double their salaries, which drew ire from many county residents.
The county foots the bill for FICA contributions, ranging from a low of $1,924 for Phillips to a high of $3,251 for Norris—$13,895 in all.
County commissioners have the option to receive the same health insurance package as county employees. Only two commissioners—Cooke and Warren—receive county health insurance. From July 1, 2009, until Sept. 9, 2010, the county paid $9,915 for Cooke’s health insurance and $9,915 for Warren, or $19,830 for both.
The county paid a $50.94 life insurance premium for all five commissioners during the 14-month time frame requested by the Beacon.
From July 1, 2009, until Sept. 9, 2010, Brunswick County Commissioners have cost taxpayers $73,907 in salaries, $107,750 in per diem, $32,768 in mileage reimbursements, $13,895 in FICA contributions, $19,830 in health insurance for two commissioners and $254 in life insurance, $2,665 in travel and training and $1,201 in credit-card transactions, according to documents requested by the Beacon and provided from the Brunswick County Finance Department.
The breakdown for county funds paid out to or expended for county commissioners from July 1, 2009, which was the beginning of last fiscal, and the current fiscal year through Sept. 9, 2010, are: $30,540 for Phillips, $45,900 for Sue, $50,916 for Norris, $59,576 for Warren and $65,336 for Cooke.
Commissioners’ new salaries include all meetings and local mileage reimbursements.
Out-of-county travel policy
While their new salaries would include all local meetings and local travel costs, part of the new compensation policy requires that county commissioners follow the same out-of-county travel policy as county employees.
The county employee policy requires pre-approval of the employees’ department head, so the new county commissioner policy now requires pre-approval of the chairman.
The county will reimburse county commissioners the IRS rate for mileage for out-of-county travel, rather than the previous practice of 50 cents per mile for in- and out-of -county travel.
Commissioners will now receive per diem of $9 for breakfast, $13 for lunch, $24 for dinner and $3 for overnight incidentals.
Commissioners travel and training expenditures from July 2009 until September 2010, which does not include credit-card transactions, were $684 for Cooke, $344 for Phillips, $663 for Sue, $799 for Warren and $175 for Norris.
As part of their new compensation plan, county commissioners must now follow the same county policies for credit-card use and procurement of goods and supplies as county employees.
All five county commissioners have access to a county credit card. The Beacon requested all county commissioners’ credit-card transactions for the 14-month period from July 1, 2009, until Sept. 9, 2010.
Only three commissioners used their county credit cards during that time, according to information provided to the Beacon.
Sue and Phillips each charged $188.16 for lodging for the 2009 North Carolina Association of County Commissioners Annual Conference. Cooke charged $825.16 for meals and lodging.Read full article » 1 Comment »
Earlier this week, and after much scrutiny, the Brunswick County Commissioners ended the 16 year practice of doling out $10k per commissioner for their own special interests. With questions from the State Treasurer’s Office about oversight of taxpayer funds, it was easier to end this terrible practice than to try and justify it. Well done!
But even as that chapter was coming to a close, WECT discovered that Brunswick’s neighbors to the north in Pender County were just getting accustomed to $10k per commissioner in “slush funds” approved in this year’s budget.
New in 2010, Pender County commissioners, who used to make local contributions from one big fund, have now divided the fund so that each member of the board has $10,000 to spend within his district.
So this is a huge “thumbs down” to the commissioners in Pender who have failed in recognizing the proper role of government. It isn’t their money to hand out!Read full article » No Comments »
Well, it will. With a heroin kingpin arrested in Wilmington and a huge drug operation taking place in Oak Island.
StarNews: The Oak Island Police Department displayed on Wednesday the spoils of a nearly two-year undercover drug investigation that resulted in the arrest of 29 suspects during Operation Ocean Storm. The investigation resulted in 286 felony indictments and identified 36 suspected drug dealers, the police said.
State Port Pilot: Thirty-four people were arrested in Oak Island after approximately 200 felony indictments were served early Tuesday morning. Oak Island police officers started the round-up about 4 a.m. Tuesday with the help of the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office drug unit and SWAT team, N.C. Alcohol Law Enforcement, state probation and parole, Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, the district attorney’s office and the N.C. Department of Revenue, said police chief Van Eddinger.
Heroin Kingping from the StarNews: On Monday, investigators arrested a 50-year-old man who they say is responsible for up to 90 percent of Wilmington’s heroin supply. Arthur Curtis King of Wilmington is charged with two counts of trafficking heroin and possession of drug paraphernalia. King is being held in the New Hanover County Jail under a $1.5 million secured bond.
Something to think about, but consider the “demand” created here. With that demand and the supply abruptly altered, the price will increase on the street. Law enforcement worked hard and had a great victory, but what next?Read full article » No Comments »