Impressive! Royal palms frame a gigantic symbol of America’s industrial strength in Florida. A dramatic and beautiful picture by photographer Mike Spencer captured the essence of mankind; our relationship with aesthetic earthly elements and natural resources that improve our lives—here art and functionality came together. A Wilmington StarNews report by Kevin Maurer and Mr. Spencer documented works of a great productive industry and how we benefit from them. (link)
Titan America represents the worthiness of creativity: producing valuable products and wealth from the earth. Who among us would dishonor the people who do these things? Sadly, some do exist.
This refreshingly informative and mostly positive news was tarnished by infusing antipathetic claims by a few spooked environmental activists. When contrasted with the important contributions of American natural resources industries to our economic well-being, these people are remote and irrelevant—their failed and flawed cause isn’t worthy of attention.
Cement has been produced in America for more than 60 years without harming people. Some timid and easily offended souls out there may not like temporary unsightly mining and unrefined mechanized production processes, but these affronts do not define “harmful” in the normal sense: damaging, dangerous, unhealthy, destructive etc. As far as I know, actual public harm has rarely, if ever, been found from practices at cement plants or mines.
Florida activists have attacked the Titan people with frivolous charges. In a lawsuit they claimed that federal and state government permitting processes were flawed. They lost. And they alleged benzene contamination of water from the cement plant. They couldn’t prove it. Yet, Titan plant managers (in Florida and Virginia) can demonstrate that “there are no safety concerns” from water unearthed and returned from the mining sites.
North Carolina Coastal Federation agitators and their regional affiliate groups have for three years tried to discredit Carolinas Cement, a Titan subsidiary, and interfere with plans to build a modern plant near Castle Hayne, N. C. They persist slandering the company, spreading malicious speculative propaganda and litigating to stall the state permitting process.
Reasonable people don’t accept arguments “based on speculation”— such as carelessly thrown at Carolinas Cement. There’s a vast disconnect between producers and utopians that deceitfully attack our American industries and destructively try to prevent the development and use of our natural resources—disparate and irreconcilable causes.Read full article » 1 Comment »
Sen. R.C. Soles (D-Columbus) retired in 2010, his contemporary in the NC House, Dewey Hill (D-Columbus) retires this year. An interesting legacy to their leadership ran in the Whiteville News Reporter, but nobody tied it to their leadership or lack therein. Pay attention to the desperate attempt to spin bad news in the lede:
A new issue brief released by the N.C. Justice Center, a non-profit think tank, tells most residents living in Columbus something they already know. Columbus County is one of the least wealthy counties in the state and the number of people living in poverty has long been a problem here.
Simply put, all they had to say was Columbus is one of the POOREST counties in the state and it’s persistent!
The Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina published a profile of Columbus County in fiscal 2009-10. That report identified more than 12,335 people living in poverty in Columbus County, or nearly 22 percent of the population. More than 2,000 of them are individuals 65 or older and nearly 4,300 children ages 17 years and younger.
A new issue brief released by the N.C. Justice Center says Columbus County is one of 10 counties in the state that was persistently poor every year from 1970 to 2000. Each year 20 percent or more of the population of the counties identified lived in poverty.
Gotta make RC and Dewey proud! Makes you wonder what RC accomplished during his 40 years in public office?
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Wilmington is now the ONLY city in the nation utilizing “white space” per a national experiment on the now unused bandwidths now unused when TV converted from analog to digital in 2008. With that, a rush to jump into this new wireless world known as “super wi-fi” will be an interesting test on monitoring by local government.
During the testing phase, cameras and wireless Internet access were installed at Hugh MacRae Park and other locations in the area. . . Cameras using the white space network also are installed at Airlie Gardens. . . . Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo said the white space network enables the city’s police department to install surveillance cameras at a fraction of the cost of installing one using cables and other wires necessary to reach a signal. . . For now, county visitors and residents can only tap into Internet access over the white spaces in areas provided by the county.
Just something to think about with caution. This is not something in the private sector and is mainly being utilized by government for monitoring folks at this point in time. What will this mean to competitive Wi-Fi? How much content monitoring will take place? How much will you eventually be monitored by public light poles?
Though this sounds a bit conspiratorial, red light cameras are real, public monitoring polls are installed in areas downtown like the post office. It’s not far fetched at all.
And you’ll be able to look back and say it all started in Wilmington, NC!Read full article » No Comments »
It was noticeably subliminal: a Wilmington StarNews subhead about business and political people discussing their relationships at the recent Biz-Tech Conference & Expo here in River City. “Leaders at business conference say education incestments key to profits.” I know; it was a typo mistake. The word “incestments” probably was intended to be “investments.” However, I was struck with how this created word inadvertently identified the improper connection between government and business: incestuous. (link)
Former North Carolina Governor Jim Hunt told the luncheon group that “businesses should make education their business”—including funding, according to the StarNews article. Pharmaceutical company executive Fred Eshelman asked the wealthiest business people in the state a suppositional question: “I want a million dollars from every one of you for education.” Both he and Hunt implied that not enough public money is spent on education—with no apparent recognition of that falsity. (link)
However, they both cited results of poor quality education: failure of students to be taught history, civics, economics and math. Eshelman said he was “stunned by the lack of knowledge” of employees at his company. He and Hunt seemed to recognize the lack of quality in our education systems. But they don’t understand that more money will not fix it.
Quality of education begins at home. It is reinforced and expanded by teachers knowledgeable in subject matter; and schools with administrators who enforce discipline, ensure that traditional/fundamental curricula be taught and promote high expectations. No amount of money spent can substitute in schools lacking these basics.
Families’ dependent on government and government/union-controlled education has created many of the problems leading to an increasingly dysfunctional culture and education system.
Business people should stay out of “collaboration” with political institutions. In this case, they don’t know how to solve government- created problems. And they end up being used to support activist’s self-serving agenda. Dumping more money into these systems will only exacerbate the problems.
Of course, business people have a big stake in education. Poor results— ill-prepared employees—have negative impacts on employer’s missions to wisely and efficiently provide products and services. It would be appropriate for them to lobby our state representatives who have some power to improve education—not for more money, but to demand quality of results in this poorly performing system—for example, encouraging free market competition. (link)Read full article » No Comments »
New Hanover County Commissioner Brian Berger was supposed to be in court this morning. Here’s the latest from the StarNews:
New Hanover County Commissioner Brian Berger was scheduled to be back in court Friday morning to face charges that he violated a domestic violence protection order against him.
But as of 9:30 a.m., Berger hadn’t shown up for the hearing before District Court Judge Shelly Holt – and even his attorney, state Sen. Thom Goolsby, wasn’t sure where he was.
Commissioner Jonathan Barfield, however, was there. Barfield has been subpoenaed to testify in the case.
Berger has continued to assert that there is serious corruption in New Hanover County, but has yet to produce any documentation or succinctly illustrate where he believes that corruption exists. Several e-mails and communications have asserted that all members of the media are failing to report a “major” story, but everyone is left wondering what it is. Sadly, more questions are being posed about Berger than his assertions.
WWAY coverage of the no-show here.
There is much that can be said, or should be said about the ongoing fiasco in Leland. The officer largely responsible for former Officer Sherry Lewis being shot in the crotch with simumitions that led to a $25 settlement from the town, has been promoted. Chief Jayne was put on “probation” which is a term that is found nowhere in their policy manuals. He has paid back an unpublished amount of money to the town. He also allegedly used a town car for personal use. On that issue former New Hanover County Sheriff’s PIO, Charles Smith plead guilty and was forbidden from serving in law enforcement again.
The town has been secretive, not denied numerous additional issues, has not released (even to elected officials, illegally) the results of a private investigation, and has NOT restored public trust in either the police department or the leadership of the town. The bizarre nature of how Leland has dealt with all of these issues continues to plague their legitimacy as representing citizen interests.
WWAY had a scathing editorial, here’s an excerpt:
Back in September, ironically on the same day that the town agreed to settle former Leland Officer Sherry Lewis’s EEOC complaint for $25,000, then Town Manager Bill Farris put Jayne on a six month probation and made him pay back an unknown amount of money for “misuse of town property.” Although current Town Manager David Hollis refuses to say how much and what was misused, reports are that it was less than $100.
By releasing this information last week, town manager David Hollis actually raised more questions than he answered. What did Jayne do to be put on probation? How much money did he have to repay to the town? How did he misuse town property (his vehicle?) And why was he only put on probation when everything he’s accused of doing is a terminable offense? Are these the people Leland residents was running their town and their police department? Something still stinks across the river, and it’s not drifting over from Riegelwood.
We’re all waiting for the truth. . . here’s hoping we’ll someday get it.Read full article » No Comments »
There are multiple problems with a taxpayer funded stadium, most notably the elected officials who won’t openly discuss how they would pay for it. Thus far, we’ve only heard that it won’t be supported by “property taxes” but that leaves a world of tax options. Folks in Florida have plenty of taxpayer funded sports endeavors and it might be worthwhile for Wilmington to consider using taxpayer funded endeavors in similar fashion (tongue firmly in cheek).
I’m sure it’s an issue that won’t be addressed locally.
Homeless Bills Targeting Sports Teams Make Rounds
A pair of bills making their way through the Florida legislature could have local homeless sleeping on the 50-yard-line of Sun Life Stadium or up in the rafter of the AmericanAirlines Arena.
Florida State Senator Mike Bennett (R-Bradenton) and State Rep. Frank Artilles (R-Miami) have introduced bills to demand Florida’s professional sports franchises to either start housing homeless folks in their stadiums and arenas, or give back the hundreds of millions of dollars they have received from the state.
“I want to make good citizens out of them,” Bennett told CBS4 News Tuesday. “Here we are cutting money for Medicaid, we’re cutting money for education, we’re cutting money for homeless programs and shelters and all these other things and we’re saying, you know what maybe we should ask for that money back since they didn’t do it, they didn’t comply, they chose to ignore the law.”
The law Bennett refers to is a provision of a 1988 statute requiring teams that take state money to convert to homeless shelters when the teams aren’t playing. In the 23 years the law has been in existence; it has never been enforced.
Bennett and Artilles point out that every sports team in South Florida has taken millions of dollars of state taxpayer’s money. Across the state the total figure is more than $270 million.
“I think they should follow the rule and the rule was you took the money you were supposed to use it for a program for homeless people and you didn’t do it and therefore we want our money back,” Bennett said.
But homeless advocates argue warehousing homeless individuals in large facilities is not the answer and would actually be counter-productive.
In 1988, when the stadium homeless law was first enacted, there were more than 8,000 people living on the streets of Miami. Today, there are fewer than 800 – with many of those refusing help. “Miami-Dade has a more comprehensive, broader program than most anyplace else in America,” said Ron Book, chairman of the Miami-Dade Homeless Trust. The Trust was created in 1993 and spends more than $45 million a year on helping the homeless.
“The 27 person homeless trust board would never look at a solution as to housing people in our stadiums and our arenas as an acceptable method to end homelessness,” he added. “That’s just not what we do.”
It should be noted that Ron Book is also the lobbyist for the Miami Dolphins. Whether this bill will make it very far remains to be seen.
It seems unlikely that legislators will actually be able to claw back the millions they’ve given the various franchises. At the very least though, it offers legislators a chance to beat up on the pro sports teams and their billionaire owners; a sport that is always fun for politicians.Read full article » No Comments »
I read your Editor’s Note in the Sunday paper. (link) Congratulations that “all is well” with you and the new owner Halifax Media Group. I was pleased to learn that CEO Michael Redding “clearly loves newspapers.” I, too, love newspapers. I’m an avid reader—and sometime critic.
It’s good to know that you and Mr. Redding are on the same page, so to speak, for investing “time and resources into producing more in-depth and investigative stories”; and that you have “plenty of room” to expand those news areas and want to do a better job of reporting what matters to us—I presume to speak for those of us who look for meaningful reports (rather than “stories”) on the political fronts.
We yearn to know what goes on behind local political meetings; learn about how bureaucrats actually manipulate spending and regulation—and our elected officials; find out how they get away with spending money taken from taxpayers on self-serving projects; and what interest groups actually benefit from that spending at the expense of the majority of citizen taxpayers.
Your “Watchdog” series has been helpful, but only scratches the surface of all the irresponsible waste of our money and foolish regulations. Your exposure of the Alcohol Beverage Control board fraud was great investigative journalism. In my opinion, there’s much more out there worthy of critical examination —especially downtown and at Carolina Beach in New Hanover County.
Frankly, in the past, I’ve observed that certain public programs seem to be “off-limits” to serious, in-depth investigation and reporting. The unaccountable, questionable spending and proliferation of UNCW projects, programs and curricula; taxpayer’s hard-earned cash handed out to nonprofits and select charities by our political class; and the huge WAVE Transit bureaucracy serving very few people measured against the massive costs are embarrassingly obvious examples.
In addition, real estate deals using public monies by downtown interest groups benefiting well-connected operatives at the expense of the larger body of city residents demand continual critical scrutiny. Also investigating the network of radical environmental activist groups behind the Stop Titan campaign to prevent the Carolinas Cement Company from rebuilding a former plant in Castle Hayne desperately needs exposure by “in-depth” investigative reporting.
I hope we will see the results of more “time and resources” put into investigative journalism such as “Watchdogs.” Patrick Gannon and others on the staff have made valuable contributions in the public interest.
I offer these suggestions because you asked for ideas from readers.
Thanks for “taking some time to consider how (you) might serve (us) better going forward,” to paraphrase your words.
R. E. Smith Jr.
Wilmington, N. C.
During the State of the Union speech tonight, the following words were used by the president.
“Values” – 6 times
“Taxes” – 17 times (mentioned a company minimum tax, went after millionaires, also proposed a 30% tax for millionaires)
“Fairness” – 5 times (referred to fairness numerous times using words like ”rules”, “leveling playing field”, “equal pay for equal work”, “shared responsibility”)
“Economy” – 5 times (interesting that this wasn’t mentioned often)
“Jobs” – 33 times (indirectly via “hiring” several additional times, employment, hiring, working, etc.)
“Energy” – 18 (open 75% of offshore resources for oil and gas, natural gas to be safely developed, disclose chemicals, government developed fracking, clean energy – thousands of jobs, will not walk away from clean energy, double down on clean energy, stop subsidizing oil, allow development of clean energy on public land, military will commit to clean energy ) A lot to think about here.
• Blamed 8 million job losses to everything before his policies took place. (4 million jobs during the 6 months prior to getting in office, 4 million prior to his policies taking place.)
• Still pushing Keysensian economics. Proud of government restructure of GM. No mention of placing bond holders at the bottom.
• Masterlock Unionized plant running at full capacity. Tied this to America being competitive globally. (But unions aren’t globally competitive.) There was a degree of protectionism to his thoughts during this part of the speech.
• Proposed massive new incentives. . . and. more inspections. . . .these ran counter to one another.
• Mentioned that states have laid off teachers at the state level. In NC, state funded teachers increased while the Fed cut teachers in NC.
• All students graduate or stay in school until they are 18. . . OH my!! More government?
• Stop interest rates from increasing in July on student loans, extend tuition tax credit.
• Illegal immigration – Comprehensive reform right now, stop expelling young people, give young’uns the opportunity to earn their citizenship.
• More regulations, rules, for the financial sector. New Federal unit with Eric Holder to go after more people on financial/home loan stuff.
• If a millionaire gets a tax break someone else has to pay. Tried to assert that government spending is a zero sum game.
• Wants to ban insider trading by members of Congress and have some lobby reform.
This speech will be picked apart by many, but a VERY political speech. Personally, I’m not sure where he was heading. He talked about the need to get rid of regulations and yet proposed having many more regulations. Talked about more drilling for oil, but doubling down on clean energy. Avoided some of the most damaging aspects of his tenure. Never addressed health care reform increasing costs of health insurance dramatically.
It will be picked apart by the talking heads. We’ll talk about it a great deal on the show in the morning from 6-10 on TheBigTalkerFM.com. Can’t wait to see John Hood’s column over at Carolina Journal in the morning as well.Read full article » 1 Comment »
New Hanover County Commissioner Brian Berger’s voting record has, again, become a distraction to more serious political dysfunction. Apparently he voted against a “13.1 percent revenue increase” by the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority before he voted for a “rate model that included rate increases,” according to a Wilmington StarNews reporter—and consistent with his erratic behavior. (link) But the more important question of why hundreds of people “can’t” or won’t pay their water and sewer bills has not been reported.
In a typical do-good, knee-jerk reaction, Commissioner Rick Catlin reacted with the message: other people should pay these bills. Mr. Catlin has crafted an ill-conceived plan to subsidize “low-income” resident’s default on paying for services provided—with charity for some and disregard for others. Catlin wants to transfer “private donations” (whatever that means) to delinquency. Our politicians have acquired a bad habit of providing for their favorite charities with other people’s money.
Mr. Berger voted against Catlin’s scheme on the grounds that officials were “overlooking the larger issue” of lowering rates for all users; a solid conservative position. Unfortunately, Berger has a bad habit of muddying his message with irrational, over-reactive verbiage. (link) This tends to send reporters chasing sidebars and neglecting the more important story line.
Big Talker FM radio talk show host Chad Adams posed some need-to-be-answered questions about Catlin’s bigheartedness. For starters, who decides what residents get subsidized: government bureaucrats, nonprofit personnel, Catlin?
Apparently, Mr. Catlin has investigated this issue. He reported that people in 480 households don’t pay their bills. Further, he concludes that $150,000 will be needed to reconnect water and sewer service to them. Catlin doesn’t seem to understand the role of government; it’s authority not charity. If government is unjust and abusive it must be curtailed, not manipulated to favor some and take from others. But if his charity scheme prevails, questions must be answered.
How will “donations” be collected? Can donors be assured their money will be properly spent? Who will be accountable for it? If enough to pay all delinquent bills can’t be raised what criteria will be used to determine the lucky beneficiaries? What happens when bills paid again become delinquent? Will this project become another never-ending program to encourage dependency? And most important: Is this fair to all responsible people who pay their bills?Read full article » No Comments »