Recently David A. Stallman’s letter published in the Wilmington StarNews (“Losing power to government”) gave another reminder that expanding government power meddling in our private lives results in further lose of our individual choices, our liberties and personal responsibilities— the fundamental strength and character of the people who founded and built our country and all of us who have benefited. Mr. Stallman refers to federal government plans to be “in charge of our health care.”
In addition, threats to our personal freedom also come from local government operatives attempting to plan and control our lives. Our politicians and bureaucrats seem to have an obsession with that; under the guise of “jobs,” “economic development” and presuming to improve our “quality of life”—all areas in which they have no business.Read full article » No Comments »
It may seem overly dramatic to use an analogy between the heroic fifth-century Beowulf who battled the monster Grendel to protect a kingdom in ancient Scandinavia and the modern Professor Mike Adams who battles the administrators and faculty at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington to protect his right to speak freely without retaliation. Regardless, I use it because we have too few courageous people today in our American universities.
Dr. Adam’s most recent battle with UNCW takes place at Richmond, Virginia in the 4th U. S. Circuit Court of Appeals. He was denied a full professorship in 2006 because he hadn’t done much publishing since receiving tenure eight years ago, argued a state deputy attorney general. Adams countered that UNCW officials have violated his free speech rights. His outspoken Christian beliefs, opinions expressed in public media and confrontations with counter-culture activists on campus have caused officials to cringe in embarrassment. Surely, they don’t want to award him a full professorship.
Mike has been a thorn-in-the-side of university officials for years. He has ridiculed and tweaked their promotion of ethnic diversity on campus while being intolerant of diverse thought and discourse. His book: “Welcome to the Ivory Tower of Babel, Confessions of a Conservative College Professor, documents cases of his dissent from liberal orthodoxy now enshrined on campuses throughout America. Some of the chapter headings in Part Two reveal why the university tries to punish Mike:
The Campus Crusade Against Christ
UNC Feminists Abort Free Speech
Gay Pride and Prejudice
The New Affirmative Action Grading Policy
Ridiculous Man-Hating Lesbians
Dr. Adams has thoroughly denounced the campus “thought police.” He has lampooned run amok political “correctness” at the academy. He has exposed the university-sponsored, counterproductive “diversity movement”—that he calls a “grave threat” to the First Amendment of our Constitution.
Adams looks at the university from the “eyes of a conservative professor”—and he doesn’t like what he sees. His Tower of Babel title, from the Book of Genesis, refers to “the Utopian mind-set that dominates most universities today.” Mike refers to his colleagues as mostly “socialists” and to the “multi-cultural” era as “chaos.” Sadly, he says, “there is little interest in universal truths or principles in academia today.”
Those who have watched progressives take over the universities know this, but Dr. Adams has the courage to attack this monster from inside its poison ivy-covered walls.Read full article » No Comments »
The city of Wilmington wants to put a better face on a proposed downtown service district that would add a tax on property owners. Wilmington Downtown Inc. leaders touted the district as a way to improve downtown by using the tax proceeds to make it safer and more inviting.
The short version is that WDI wants a 12.5% property tax increase for ALL property in the district. (The StarNews missed that point) The City would rather put a “better face” on a tax increase than oppose it. Also, they don’t want to call it a “tax”, they want to call it a “fee” which makes everyone feel better. This assertion is supported by believers to actually reduce crime and raise property values. But as Hinnant also said, “taxes have never gone down in Wilmington,” which would lead one to believe that increasing taxes in the past hasn’t worked.
We have written about the tax here, previously, but on the BigTalkerFM this morning, WDI’s idea became increasingly mired in bureaucratic confusion from a host and listener perspective. At one point, Rep. Carolyn Justice (R-New Hanover/Pender) called in to express outrage over the “arrogance” of what is happening downtown and decrying the waste. She went on to say that Wilmington would rather blame Raleigh than seriously address problems.
Hinnant is a nice guy, but seems to have a more pro-government than pro-business approach to solving issues. Having said that, it was suggested that he support a meeting with free market groups like the John Locke Foundation that local officials attend. He welcomed the challenge and said, on air, that he would promote such an event.
Locke is open to it, as they always are, and I’m hopeful that city officials will demonstrate some sense of open-mindedness.Read full article » 1 Comment »
The Concerned Citizens of Oak Island is a group that was formed in to help stop a massive new property tax increase last year in the town of Oak Island. For their efforts, the tax increase was reduced, but not eliminated. For some time they have been keeping a close eye on the massive sewer project being built.
Originally projected to cost $42m, costs have now spiraled to over $160m and counting. Their desire is to, at the very least, have an audit. From WECT:
“There’s a lot of stuff here that doesn’t make sense,” said resident Ted Bodenschatz. “I’m not going to say that all of it’s right or wrong. I just think that somebody who is an expert at it needs to go through and ask the specific questions.” The first question Bodenschatz would ask is: Why are there duplicate billings, costly mistakes by contractors paid for by the town, and questionable documentation? He found different signatures from the same person and sometimes no signature at all on inspection sheets.
Ted reiterated his desire for more transparency on the BigTalkerFM this morning by asking additional questions about favoritism and strange purchasing issues.
These are legitimate questions that deserve answers and one would think, in a time of desired and expected transparency, that council would welcome such an audit. But that’s not the case and city councilwoman Mary Snead called the request “inappropriate.”
How bizarre! Elected officials should welcome such a request, better yet, they should have done the audit themselves prior to such a request. A 300% cost overrun should concern folks, but Oak Island council members seem unfazed. Having said that Mayor Betty Wallace once again sides with taxpayers.
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“If it were up to me – if I had the single vote on whether to perform an outside audit on the sewer system, the audit would have already been started,” said Wallace.
No one has ever been to the future. However, somehow our political Heroes presume to have visionary powers to look there, see clearly what conditions will be and plan to meet the unknowns. Of course, they don’t have those powers—nor has any human—but they want us to believe that they possess that uncanny ability.
Believe it or not, five members of the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners expect to “come up with a plan to tackle economic, social and political issues affecting the county for the next decade,” according to a Wilmington StarNews article. So, how will they do that? They will ask consultants to tell them what they should plan to do.
Commission Chairman Jonathan Barfield wants to hire a Texas firm (for $36,000) to help “write a successful strategic plan.” (Why not save the money and write an unsuccessful plan?—no one will know the difference.) The company cleverly goes by the name Azimuth Group—it will point the way; get it?
Mr. Barfield admits he has no clue about the planning scheme and no one here to help. There is no senior staff left with experience about the previous plan (crafted “15 or 16 years ago”) and it would be “impossible for me to take us somewhere that I’ve never been before,” he says.
Obvious questions must be asked of Barfield: What makes you think you can plan for the next ten years, when almost any rational adult can tell you that economic, social and political conditions can change dramatically in a matter of months? How did the last plan work out? Did the strategies match with the conditions anticipated? Were any parts of the previous plan excessively expensive and counterproductive? Why expect people from Texas to have a better vision for the future here than local wise ones?
Unfortunately, our politicians will not, or cannot, answer these questions. They will arrogantly press on with “strategic planning” because process is more important than results to government operatives. They can’t meet perceived expectations, so they’ll contract for a meaningless, expensive document and use it to congratulate themselves for determining “what is best for the county” (in Barfield’s words).
One thing we can see clearly in the future; whatever utopian government schemes politicians and bureaucrats come up with won’t be best for the financial or personal freedom of individual citizens.Read full article » 1 Comment »
Governor Perdue recently said she’s in favor of keeping the ABC system under government control even as a Federal investigation into the local ABC system continues. From the StarNews editorial:
Now that a federal investigation has found evidence suggesting that public money reimbursed the contractor for the generous discount he gave Williams, federal investigators and county officials need to provide an answer.
We already know that Williams skirted state bidding laws by breaking construction of four ABC stores into parts so they wouldn’t be subject to the strict rules requiring contracts to be awarded to the lowest responsible bidder. By bidding only the shell of the building and using change orders to add details such as heating, plumbing and electrical systems, Williams was able to handpick the contractors he wanted to do those jobs. Never mind that a retail store isn’t much good without heat and air conditioning, running water, or electricity, and that no one would categorize those additions as unforeseen changes.
Cowper’s lawyer, the formidable Joe Cheshire, didn’t sound like an attorney planning a counterattack. He implied that his client is cooperating with the authorities and characterized him as a “peripheral casualty” in the investigation into goings-on at the local ABC offices. Whether more casualties are forthcoming remains to be seen.
Rumors persist that additional ABC problems occurred in New Hanover County as well. One of the most persistent involves a former elected official traveling overseas on a junket paid for by an ABC interest. What the feds might turn up could be substantive and hurt Perdue’s argument that the system remain a state run monopoly. Then again, it might just be much ado about nothing as Chesire was able to get an Alford Plea in the Easley deal that was rife with ethical and monetary issues.
Good editorial by the StarNews and I’m hopeful that all media will stay tuned. What is troubling is that lack of tough questions on persistent rumors related to this story.Read full article » No Comments »
The Wilmington area is full of economic development groups. We have Wilmington Downtown Inc., The Chamber of Commerce, the EDC, the Committee of 100, The Cape Fear Future Commission, Downtown Business Alliance and now. . . the Cape Fear Economic Development Council. This group met last night (prior the SoTU speech by Obama) to discuss their ideas about the future of the region.
Such gatherings are prevalent all over the state and ideas are almost always the same and involve similar words or phrases. In the coverage by the StarNews the following words and/or phrases popped up:
collective planning, long-range economic decisions, relationship between the colleges and the community, sustainable economic development, holistic approach to development, cohesive vision for the area’s economic future
As you peruse those phrases think in terms of true economic development, innovation, creativity, entrepreneurial opportunity and what really makes a good community great.
This isn’t a mystery, nor does it require millions of dollars and countless “collective minded” groups to meet endlessly. What it requires is that a community focus on better roads, lower crime, stellar educational opportunity (including educational choice), low/stable taxes and a regulatory environment that favors job creation. Again, it’s not magic. Create a region that invites new businesses, be the most business friendly place and it will flock to you. Create an environment that allows for new ideas to flourish, that allows an entrepreneur with a good idea to get up and running without countless and costly zoning/planning/regulatory encumbrances.
The reason such groups rarely, if ever, achieve greatness is that they tend to focus on their own interests rather than the interest of job creators. They tend to think greatness flows FROM government or governance rather than in spite of it.
Funny that NO ideas made news with respect to creating a better business environment or improving existing roads.Read full article » 2 Comments »
Daily we can find examples of what happens when our elected officials get out of control with spending schemes, incompetence and straying far beyond the limits intended for government. Carolina Beach town officials represent a microcosm of those problems. Most government operatives don’t care very much about this because there’s usually no financial or legal accountability for them personally—the costs are always passed on to residents and travelers.
Willard Killough III, the managing editor of the Island Gazette, has often exposed the shenanigans carried on by some local officials over past years. And some residents have complained and resisted, but, apparently, with little ability to curtail the Beach bonanza of spending and unaccountability.
Carolina Beach Town Council members think their duties include being in the public real estate business. Currently, they spend money on several designs for a new oceanfront gazebo at an elaborate north end beach access facility. Mr. Killough reports that in 2009 the Council paid $200,000 for the property. To his credit, the town manager, Tim Owens, advised against it, but Mayor Joel Macon “deemed (it) an excellent opportunity to provide ADA wheel chair access.” Guess what? The plans provide five parking spaces, only two of which are “handicap” designated. But, wait, there’s more.
According to Killough, the same night the Council decided to buy the “access” land they “also purchased over $4 million in property near the boardwalk for a future North Carolina Aquarium Pier.” To reasonable people this spending would be deemed irresponsible, but not to those who have the power to spend other people’s money.
Meanwhile, this same gang of OPM spenders has neglected water and street repairs, and allowed “out of control” legal fees to cost the taxpayers $250,000 in the first half of the last budget year. Lobbying state government and “regulatory work” accounts for some over spending of the legal budget item, but included is “a couple of significant litigation matters.” Of course, these guys are not to blame.
Councilman Lonnie Lashley blamed local citizens. “(W)e seem to have a group of citizens here on this island that have caused us some concerns as far as suing the Town,” Lashley commented.
Right, Lonnie. The folks out there sometimes get in the way of your great works, but they’re too dumb to know what’s good for them. It’s their fault you’ve spent all this money on a Beach bonanza and neglected your actual responsibilities to the citizens you are supposed to represent.Read full article » No Comments »
Wilmington officials have worked hard to fix the “crime problem” that many see downtown. A recent BigTalker/Civitas poll showed a majority of citizens do see downtown as having a crime issue. Crime statistics showed that crime had actually improved a bit year over year (10%) but that doesn’t mean bad things don’t happen.
Wilmington Downtown Inc. recently proposed a 5% tax for downtown business owners to help fund “ambassadors” for downtown that would start at 7am and work until 11pm, unarmed. This in turn would free up additional manpower for downtown late at night when crimes actually occur. The problem is that people are already paying for police protection and city leaders have been remise in looking at a variety of possible solutions.
All of this came to a head at 2:12 a.m. Monday morning with the stabbing death of Wilmington’s first victim of 2011 (name not yet released). There will be knee jerk reactionaries and there is no doubt this was a violent situation of great magnitude. From WWAY:
According to witnesses, a large crowd from the club exited at closing time and a fight broke out. Witnesses said 30 – 40 people were involved. Three men were stabbed. All three victims were driven to the New Hanover Regional Medical Center by people at the scene. One of the men, age 20, had been stabbed in the chest. He was pronounced dead at the hospital. The other two victims are being treated for stab wounds that do not appear to be life-threatening.
But here’s the sad truth. We all know that 2am-3am is the worst possible time. Thousands of partiers turned lose on the streets of downtown, restrictive cab contracts prevent folks from having transportation, bars are closed and this creates a deadly situation almost weekly. The real surprise is that more folks aren’t killed.
Wilmington City Council needs to wake up, admit there is a serious problem and consider solutions like keeping bars open later to help burn up some of the alcohol. They need to consider letting more cab companies operate downtown so that people can get safely home. And yes, a stepped up presence would help. But the answer isn’t always just to raise taxes.Read full article » 2 Comments »
It only took two decades and some advice from an ABC contracted consultant to give the Governor a sense of how she feels about ABC privatization (she’s against it). She doesn’t want to see it in stores as she walks past with her grandchildren. (Never mind the beer and wine or the lottery tickets however.) And the corruption, well, she doesn’t see the big problem. Well, there is a big one here in Cape Fear region according to new charges filed.
In court documents, federal attorneys said Cowper tacked extra charges onto his contract to build an ABC store in Porters Neck in 2006 in order to make up for cost overruns on a separate project to build a garage at former ABC Administrator Billy Williams’ Wilmington home.
He is represented by none other than Easley’s stellar attorney to corruption cases, Joe Cheshire. When in corruption situations, give ‘ole Joe a call. StarNews gets an honorable mention for helping bring this to light.
Besides examining the board’s six-figure salaries, a StarNews investigation found that Cowper was awarded $1.6 million in contracts while supervising $5 million worth of work between 2004 and 2009 to build four ABC stores. The projects’ costs doubled or tripled from original estimates because subcontracted work was not included in the initial winning bids, resulting in some of the most expensive liquor stores built in the state.
But funnier still are the excerpts from Cowper’s website, no it hasn’t been altered yet. Maybe being an employee isn’t the technical definition of an owner:
The employees of Lee F. Cowper, Inc. will always…
- be totally honest.
- provide the highest construction quality possible.
- be cost competitive.
- maintain strict and accurate cost control.
- be excellent communicators.
- act in the customer’s best interest.
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