Several stories have run about the air quality of New Hanover leading to EPA non-attainment soon. Additional stories assert how terribly polluted the Cape Fear River is and how sensitive the eco-system in and around Wilmington is. We’ve also recently seen stories about the binge drinking and alcohol consumption in the Wilmington area. I’m not posting this to contradict any of that, but it is worth noting that a story in the StarNews today does. The report covered was released Wednesday by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute:
New Hanover County ranked as the healthiest county in Southeastern North Carolina in the report, coming in at eighth for health outcomes and fourth for health factors including behaviors that influence the health of the community.
That’s right, FOURTH in the state on “health factors including behaviors that influence the health of a community.” This is just kinda weird but more proof that any study or group or publication can find a way to rank any community in any way which simply makes the truth ever more elusive.
The story also names Columbus County as the least healthy:
Columbus County, the lowest-ranked of N.C.’s 100 counties, is in a sparsely populated southeastern region of the state, where county health department director Kim Smith said residents are more accustomed to driving than walking or biking to school, work or shopping.
The report shows that 31 percent of Columbus’s 55,000 residents are obese, and 27 percent of adults smoke. About a third of Columbus’s children live in poverty, compared to 11 percent in Wake County.
Vehicle-related deaths are also high: 41 per 100,000 Columbus County residents compared to 14 in Orange and 12 in Wake County; and the teen birth rate is 71 per 1,000 girls ages 15 to 19, compared to 30 in Wake and 13 in Orange County.
So, the Columbus stuff is interesting for several reasons. First, it’s a rural county that the report says doesn’t have access to healthy food (ironic), It’s also a low traffic area that has a disproportionate number of vehicular deaths and is apparently overweight because they can’t get around and walk.
I’ll let our wonderful readers draw their own conclusions here on any front they so desire. I also bet it’s not the safest place to be if you’re a Frog.
Read full article » No Comments »
The saga of RC continues to careen and WECT has a short blip posted that seems to defend Soles but doesn’t really ask any important questions. I hope that WECT will start asking some tough questions or at least try to follow up. Here’s their story, the whole story. . .
COLUMBUS COUNTY, NC (WECT) – Many people think former state senator RC Soles is bonding former legal clients who vandalized his home out of jail, but Soles says otherwise. Weeks ago BJ Wright was arrested for damaging Soles’ property. He was taken into custody and was given a judge ordered modified bond in an effort to determine who keeps bonding Wright out of jail. Before Wright can be bonded out of jail, the person planning to pay the money has to go before a judge to explain why. During a town hall meeting in Whiteville, Soles swore he is not paying Wright’s bond.
I’m surprised they actually put this on their website, but I’ll take a stab (rather than a Frog bite) out of it.
Soles swore he is “not” paying Wright’s bond. . this time. He has apparently been paying for it on numerous occasions in the past and this would lead one to believe he hasn’t. What about Allen Strickland? What about the dozens of other young men in the past few decades? He isn’t denying that he did in the past, just that he’s not going to pay the $1m bond put on BJ’s head (the story forgot to remind folks about that!)
So, why is this a story? BJ is in jail, nobody has paid his bond and WECT runs a story saying that Soles hasn’t paid the bond. Heck, neither has anyone else. Why isn’t WECT wanting to interview Soles about his role with BJ? Why did BJ keep going to Soles’ home (three time in one night) prior to his arrest? What about the Saturday evening/Sunday morning altercation between he and Strickland? Why does RC call the city police when his home isn’t even in Tabor City? Why isn’t the Sheriff more involved?
Ahh, but there’s more. Why isn’t Soles facing a “fray” charge? That’s the same charge DA Jon David brought against the teem mom down in Oak Island when she and a gal pal got tangled up. Yep, that’s right, he could because there was a “fray” (legal term) that took place between these two. But that might just mean Soles would have violated his probation on the gun charge recently. And THAT might mean he would go to jail.
WECT really fell down on this one. This isn’t a story. It’s kind of like saying I didn’t discover a perpetual motion machine. No, I didn’t, but my not inventing one isn’t news, just like RC not posting a $1m bail isn’t news. The story also leads one to believe he didn’t post the bonds before, which he hasn’t denied.
Read full article » 1 Comment »
There is something ironic about the situation with Titan that places one squarely in the “pro” or “anti” side of things. The StarNews staff clearly despise Titan and their attempts to bring a new cement producing facility to the area. This missive is NOT a pro-Titan statement, but a simple response to their editorial today about the local government’s attempt to be even MORE restrictive with entirely new ordinances that will ultimately cost potential businesses more money to be in Wilmington under the guise of environmental protection.
But the StarNews should really stick to the script as there is plenty of fodder to fight against Titan without having to make things up. (Where’s the follow up to the land deal with Easley supporters and Titan?) But here is an example of where they mislead:
. . . as the cement industry and other industries fight at the federal level to dismantle what they see as “unnecessary regulations,” and as Republican leaders in the General Assembly seek to do the same with state environmental regulations, it is not unreasonable for communities to demand greater input into something that may affect public health and quality of life.
There isn’t a fight by Titan to dismantle “unnecessary regulations” and that’s just a false statement. They ARE seeking to keep things under the current regulations rather than the more restrictive proposed regulations which would be costly and don’t have a great deal of scientific merit, must as Roy Cooper learned when he lost the case against the TVA on sulphur dioxide emissions.
Republicans in the House are reviewing a host of DENR regulations that may have little use beyond pushing a political agenda, but they’re by no means gutting it. And the expansion of local regulations may have been in the works, but will be costly to business and ultimately citizens. Balance is important and so is the environment.
So goes the justification by the StarNews for a “special use” permit:
A special-use permit would allow greater local control over the impact of heavy industries; the public would have a chance to weigh in with officials who answer directly to the voters, and the commissioners could attach certain stipulations as a condition of approving a permit.
Problem here is that such hearings across the state and nation become the emotional equivalent of a meltdown. The hearings become an absolute drama without factual information being relevant. People may like them and it sounds nice to support them, but ultimately such a hearing would have little to do with air, water or life quality.
Part of the proposed ordinances the editorial mentions included prohibiting all types of mining which was a direct blow to Titan (and has been pulled) but saying this was all being done over the past few years makes it tough to believe. The proposals look more like a response to Titan than an actual update for the benefit of all.
Ultimately we’re going to have to believe that the EPA and DENR can actually determine what is safe and what is not. If not then the real issue is with them and not Titan. But again, anything that disagrees with more government interference is almost always interpreted locally as being Pro-Titan which is, again, an emotional reaction, not a rational one.Read full article » No Comments »
Ok, not the snappiest of headlines, but the News & Observer has an interesting piece about the failures of the busing that led to the push for neighborhood schools. Elizabeth Redenbaugh should take note as it appears she supports failing children by having them spend more time on a bus.
The report also cited data showing that academic performance for black students dropped as the distance from home increased. While the overall proficiency rate for black students was 51.7 percent, it was down to 23.8 percent for those who were assigned to a school 15.1 to 16 miles from home.
That’s stunning, but true and school board member Redenbaugh can collect all the liberal lefty leaning awards she desires and it won’t change the fact that sticking kids on a bus for longer periods of time hurts their academic performance. Sadly, it won’t change the tune of those who advocate for such social engineering over actual education.
The only thing being accomplished by the state’s NAACP on this front is to cost taxpayers more money to address their continual and predictable complaints.Read full article » 1 Comment »
For years politicians have enjoyed bemoaning pork barrel spending until it came to their home districts. Case and point would be local GOP legislative members that would quickly vote against incentives until it comes to the film industry and then rationalizations and “but” statements proliferate.
Not so for some other members of the legislature when it comes to hundreds of millions in federal rail project money.
(N&O Under the Dome) Representative Rick Killian (R-Mecklenburg) has signed up a dozen fellow Republicans to help sponsor a bill that would have the state Department of Transportation give back $461 million in federal railroad improvement funds, and bar it from seeking federal high-speed rail money for any project that has not been approved by the legislature.
The $461 million includes money that would be spent in counties represented by Killian and four of his co-sponsors from Cabarrus, Rowan and Davidson counties. Killian contends that the deal will saddle North Carolina taxpayers with future operation and maintenance costs as high as $50 million a year.
Hat’s off to folks standing on some principle when it comes to wasteful taxpayer dollars. Way to go Rick!!
Now if only some more local elected types could get on this “train” for a while. ;-)Read full article » No Comments »
I’m beginning to think the Wilmington area truly has a dearth of folks who know how to do things in government and/or quasi-government.
New Hanover County hired a consultant, for $300k, that told them that R3 would be a good solution to handle their garbage and incinerator. When that didn’t pan out, they’ve hired another consultant, for $29k, to tell them what to do with the incinerator. The county also paid a consultant to help them with their budget work sessions.
The City of Wilmington has hired consultants to tell them they need a taxpayer funded convention center and now a hotel attached to it (predictably) to make it work.
The Chamber, via Cape Fear Future, hired a consultant for almost $300k to tell them schools needed to be better, crime needed to be lower and a lot of additional readily apparent information.
And the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority, not to be outdone and on the heels of their rate study consultant’s work, has decided to hire another consultant:
(StarNews) The Cape Fear Public Utility Authority has hired a contractor to complete an efficiency study to make sure the area’s water and sewer system is operating at the highest levels. The more than $29,000 contract was awarded last week to Woolpert. The consultant will analyze the efficiency of the staffing, scheduling and productivity in each department.
I thought managers were supposed to do that kind of work, but we free market/public accountability types must be missing something. Wait, there is someone who agrees and his name is also Chad!
Chad O’Shields, a New Hanover County resident and authority watchdog, said the consultants are being paid to do work that should be done by the staff. ”I don’t know what this consultant can bring to the table that the employees or management can’t. Why not look to your employees first for suggestions? They are the ones doing the job,” O’Shields said. “I don’t see why they need to pay $30,000 when you have staff in place to handle this.“
Read full article » No Comments »
It’s not like this pattern isn’t predictable. Young, male, former clients seem to have a penchant for the state’s retired longest serving senator. RC continues to be steeped in controversy and it just gets more comical. I’m still surprised that his altercation with BJ Wright on his property in February during which he fired a weapon at BJ while cops were on the premises hasn’t warranted an arrest. Also curious as to why RC had a gun after his previous altercation that led to another young client being shot by RC. But alas, justice in Columbus County isn’t exactly like it is every where else.
This time (I can’t make this stuff up, really, I’m still laughing):
(WECT) Allen Strickland, who has been charged with other crimes involving Soles’ property, told Tabor City Police that Soles hit him with an umbrella Sunday morning. Strickland had a bite mark on one of his biceps, which he says came from Soles, according to police.
Former Senator Soles was also at the police station a short time after Strickland arrived. He had a big bruise on his back, according to officers, and accused Strickland of kicking in the door of his Mercedes.
Why is Soles still hanging around “Frog” Strickland? Why has Soles spend so much money on these folks? He has bought them houses, cars, bailed them out of jail, given them spending money and a cadre of alleged gifts as well. Information is being gathered and more folks are talking every day. ColCor, the infamous Columbus County corruption scandal of the early 80s, is alive an well it seems.
On a seemingly unrelated story, Gov. Perdue will be visiting Whiteville this week to kick of a jobs tour. Wonder if she’ll stop by to share a nice cold tea with her buddy and former legislative buddy RC???
UPDATE: This is the most telling part of this story. WWAY‘s version of the story included the following line that says more about this story than anything. ”Both men refused to swear out warrants for the others’ arrest.”
Read full article » No Comments »
Those without merit or facts on their side in desperation sometimes hope to win a contest by rule changes during the game—in their favor. We learn recently in a Wilmington StarNews article of proposed amendments to the New Hanover County zoning ordinance. Not surprising “the biggest change” has to do with land use for “heavy industrial purposes,” according to the report.
Can we name a “heavy” industry (aside from several operating here now) planned for a site near Castle Hayne? Hint: it digs rock from sacred areas called “wetlands,” spreads poisonous mercury everywhere and makes a building material that kills children in the process, according to opponents.
It’s probably just a coincidence that this zoning “improvement effort” started two years ago, about the time the Stop Titan movement began to ramp up its efforts to prevent this industry from operating. And, certainly, the proposed amendments to impose a “special use permit” requiring more “public hearings” are in no way connected to Stop Titan’s persistent efforts to stall the long permitting process already in place by state and federal laws.
County Commissioner Rick Catlin said: “The purpose of this zoning is to reflect new environmental realities.” Could those “realities” have anything to do with radical environmental activists infiltrating and influencing the county bureaucracy? Of course not. Yet, according to the county planning and inspections director “the language we first provided would prohibit any mining activities”—surely just another coincidence.
Company lawyers have suggested that more restrictive zoning rules may lead to further litigation costing taxpayers more money, whatever the county decision might be about issuing additional permits. But that won’t bother the Stop Titan Network. It will likely be a primary instigator of lawsuits.
Is the Network behind the proposed rule changes designed to further stall the permitting process? Who knows? But it’s a safe bet that these people with a pile of new money and teams of lawyers from the Southern Environmental Law Center and Duke University want to influence them in their favor—because they can’t win the debate about citing the plant on merit, based on facts in the case.Read full article » No Comments »
Do-gooders and the well intentioned abound in our society. They mean well; they want to improve conditions; they become activists for their visions. The usual result: bigger government, more regulation, increasing taxes, less individual freedom. During a recent meeting of the Wallace town council, all this lurked behind an impressive presentation by the executive director of the nonprofit Downtown Smithfield Development Corporation (www.SmithfieldNCDevelopment.com).
Chris Johnson projected his enthusiasm to the council members and about 20 in the audience. “I’ve got my heart in it,” said Mr. Johnson about his mission to revitalize the town of Smithfield. Johnson lives in Smithfield and has commercial interests there. By his account he has been successful.
Downtown Smithfield Officials have a “Master Plan”; they have a 93 percent business occupancy rate (up from 50 percent in the 70s and 80s); a three-mile trail connects two neighborhoods with the business district and a community park. Downtown has improved “walkability” and the removal of overhead wires vastly improves its appearance.
Johnson’s “DSDC Accomplishments” also lists: “Historic Preservation.” However, no building (Mr. Johnson’s office) older than 1850 exists from a community chartered in 1777. Overall, downtown now has more “character” and exudes a “Sense of Place,” according to Johnson’s power-point presentation. But at what cost?
These revitalization projects rarely pay for themselves. Money taken from uninterested citizens is distributed in the form of grants to satisfy the visions of a few local interests (“stakeholders”). First a bureaucracy must be organized. Johnson’s DSDC has a full-time director, a part-time assistant, and a 15-member board. It is supported from a “Municipal Service District” (MSD) tax. Declaring a historic district brings in state tax credits and federal funding. Nonprofits have the advantage of operating a kind of shell-game with private and public monies shifted around under real estate deals.
In the Smithfield Historic Area Revitalization Plan (SHARP) tax money from Johnson County, the town of Smithfield and the MSD gets manipulated (“granted” back) to land developers in a complex mathematical scheme—leaving us to wonder, who picks up the final cost? Johnson says it’s a positive because developers get back their tax dollars… “not someone else’s.” But if they don’t ultimately pay the taxes, who does?
The Smithfield streetscape improvement was a $3 million utility project with a $310,000 NCDOT “Enhancement Grant.” The Buffalo Creek “Greenway” cost state taxpayers $1 million in grant money. A total of $4.5 million of the public’s money was spent to revitalize downtown Smithfield during the past 5 years.
Mr. Johnson stayed for questions and in his energetic “cheerleader” role tried to sell the Wallace town council on the idea of a similar project. It all sounded exciting and hopeful for an improved downtown—whatever that means. We didn’t learn whether or not the majority of Wallace citizens need, or even want, downtown improvements or, if so, what they would be. Still, after a quick pre-meeting tour of the town, Johnson, who admitted that he had never been there before, had lots of ideas.
Pied Pipers playing the revitalization tune have led many astray. In this case, the council will have to establish a nonprofit bureaucratic front to get public grant money; they must tax their citizens in a “service district”; they will need money from other taxing jurisdictions; they’ll have to set up a regulated historic district. Johnson also suggests a visitors bureau and, of course, the no-political risk “occupancy tax” to lay their project costs on hapless travelers.
Should they decide that revitalization is necessary, the Wallace town council should ask themselves: Can we accomplish downtown economic improvements with private resources without subsidies using money confiscated from others? The “stakeholders” should be those property owners and residents willing to invest their time, talents and personal wealth in making a better place; rather than expect other uninterested citizens to forcibly share their wealth to support the local interests.
In my opinion this is a moral dilemma for all elected officials. Should they use their power and influence to take funds from a larger body of citizens who have no connection or interest in their visions and distribute it to further the local interests?Read full article » 1 Comment »
Local government doesn’t want to miss out on the greatest show in town. So, they’ve proposed changing their ordinances in a way that would directly impact the proposed Titan Cement facility. From the StarNews:
The draft language would require several new provisions to light- and heavy-industrial facilities, but the biggest change is that to use land for heavy industrial purposes, companies would first have to file for a special-use permit, which would then have to go through two public hearings – one before the planning board and another before the board of commissioners.
Other problems in the new rules:
Titan also (takes) exception to provisions that make mining impossible in the county, despite the fact that mining has occurred on the property where the proposed plant will be located for 50 years. Chris O’Keefe, the county planning and inspections director, said Titan’s letter had legitimate points regarding the changes in mining rules.
“Essentially the language we first provided would prohibit any mining activities because without explosives and without going beyond 30 feet there wouldn’t be much you’d be able to do,” he said.
Titan asserts that legal action will follow. Having witnessed many such processes I’ll say that both public hearings will be loud, emotional, and have a circus like flair to them. It will become the physical representation of the “Not In My Backyard” crowd and will have little to do with the facts related to economics and/or health implications.
StopTitan proponents Mike Giles and Tracy Skrable, appearing on the show this morning, asserted that they would like to see a “comprehensive review” of the proposed facility prior to anything being built. Such a review, they believe, would allow water quality, air quality, economic and other environmental issues to be addressed in with a broader scope.
Titan would probably assert that such a process, facilitated by the Corp of Engineers, would be costly and time consuming (two years at least). One could also ask why such a procedure isn’t required as the EPA isn’t exactly known to be friendly to such industries.
Emotions, unfortunately, will continue to run high as this high profile proposal moves on. The battle wages on and one can always hope that facts will prevail, but experience tells me that facts will have little bearing on this proposal. Unfortunately, that means that Titan will most likely retreat and fight this in the courts rather than the court of public opinion where they will never be able to prevail. And if they prevail in court, then they’ll simply be portrayed in an even worse light.Read full article » No Comments »