“Beware the people who moralize about great issues; moralizing is easier than facing hard facts.”
This quote by author John Corry appears at the beginning of Chapter 6 (“Crusades of the Anointed”) in Thomas Sowell’s 1995 book titled, “The Vision of the Anointed”—appropriate to the renewed local debate between conflicting visions of the proposed Carolinas Cement plant.
Dr. Sowell recognizes that varying political and social visions exist in individuals, throughout society and in different eras. These visions often compete, but some predominate at times. In the United States, Sowell believes, the “intelligentsia” in media, academia and politics set “a particular framework of assumptions” driven by a relatively few articulate people who “have great leverage” of influence—what he calls the “elite intelligentsia” and their followers.
The “self-anointed elite” perpetuate a social vision “dangerously close to sealing itself off” from reality. These people neither seek empirical evidence nor consult it later for their “crusades.” They present “facts” that can’t substitute for “systematically testing opposing theories by evidence” (scientific method). Mere data are not evidence, whether numerical or verbal, writes Sowell.
Ideological intellectuals have spawned socialism, medical safety, health and environmental crusades, among others. They have what Sowell calls “moral exaltation of the anointed above others” and use a common strategy:
1) Assert “great dangers” to everyone; of which most of us are unaware.
2) Require urgent action to “avert impending catastrophe.”
3) Demand that government must “drastically curtail the dangerous behavior.”
4) Disdainfully dismiss “arguments to the contrary as either uninformed, irresponsible, or motivated by unworthy purposes.”
We’ve clearly and persistently observed these tactics by anti-cement business opponents here in southeastern North Carolina during the past three years. They continue to assert certain dangers to human health from cement production (with no evidence); they demand action to “Stop Titan” claiming impending environmental catastrophe; they litigate and lobby to stall plant construction; and they dismiss supporters’ arguments with obfuscatory and demeaning language.
In this case a few self-anointed elite have “shown an extraordinary ability to defy evidence” (using Dr. Sowell’s words). Sowell notes that “…verbal nimbleness can elude both evidence and logic”—simply articulating a crusade does not equate with clear thinking; often big talkers dance around evidential reality with verbal foot-work to promote a confused utopian vision.Read full article » No Comments »
There are lots of areas worthy of comment, but here’s just a sampling of recent events. I just posted one on the transit situation. Here are some more worthy of thought.
1) How do you fund a “taxpayer funded” stadium? Well, you have to raise taxes, the rest are sordid details. The city wants taxpayers to believe stadiums can ONLY be built with taxpayers dollars and they’re just wrong. “Property tax is the only reliable source,” Cheatham said, adding that the goal will be to find a way to reduce the amount of taxes that have to be used by finding other sources of revenue or regional partners. “We’ve got to narrow that bottom line.” Sad, but that’s what he said. The rest of the story is here at the StarNews.
2) The City of Wilmington believes that YOU not showing up at a given meeting means you agree with what they’re doing. At least that’s the message as it relates to the city telling you what percentage of a window you own that you can put signage in.
Deputy City Manager Tony Caudle said (people not showing up) was a sign the city and business owners were coming to a compromise. The city decided to amend its ordinance to allow for 50 percent coverage. His next statement was ever more bizarre. Do you really see freedom loving citizens being allowed to put signs in the windows they pay for as “giving back?” ”Where we wound up, by far, is where the majority of folks wanted us to be,” Caudle said at a recent council agenda meeting. “We gave back to the community what they said they wanted.”
3) Worth noting is that UNCW students who will say a college education produces much more in earnings potential are facing tuition increases. People forget that taxpayer dollars subsidize the bulk of UNC system schools. But this was too funny.
The almost $600 bump in next year’s tuition changed DeFlavio’s plans for the fall. She’ll graduate in May, but she wanted to come back to school and get a second bachelor’s degree. “I just like to learn,” she said. “I just wanted to come back and have something to complement my professional writing degree.” But higher tuition coupled with fewer classes, another result of the budget cuts, made her think differently. ”I don’t want to re-enroll and have to fight tooth and nail to get into classes I need and be here for four or five more years racking up another huge debt,” DeFlavio said.
Huh? The taxpayers are subsidizing this, “I wanna stay in school” mentality. It’s worth thinking about the role taxpayers have in funding professional students. At least it should be. Tuition increases are tough, no doubt, but most folks have no idea what tuition actually costs because it’s so heavily subsidized.
The point of ALL of these entries is that this is just a sampling of local news related to taxpayer subsidies. Shouldn’t we be asking more difficult questions, be making more difficult choices and looking at what government should be doing rather than what it wants to be doing? And I didn’t even mention the pensions for folks retiring from elected office. Yep, that takes taxpayer dollars as well.
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It’s the reality of transit that it needs a constant subsidy from taxpayers to exist. Local folks get taxed for the system for 16% of the operation, US taxpayers support 32% of the system and state taxpayers chip in another 13%. That means Wilmington taxpayers get triple taxed to keep the buses running. Yep, they’re paying the bulk of it (the numbers don’t add up to 100%, but that’s what they provided the StarNews saying the remaining 33% is funded with fares, funny!)
Federal folks are looking to create a block grant for transit so that gas taxes go to road repair and maintenance for everyone rather than subsidies for a few. That’s made things uncomfortable for WAVE folks and their salaries, errr. . I mean services.
Because of its size, Wave Transit can use the federal funding for operating costs and capital costs. If it uses the funds for operating costs, it needs to receive a 50 percent local match, Albert Eby (WAVE Chief) said. With capital improvements, it can use 80 percent federal money with just a 20 percent local contribution. Eby feels that the removal of mass transit funding will eventually fail.
We’re $15 trillion in the hole and local folks are worried about protecting subsidies for local transit? It’s all tax dollars regardless of they dice it up. What’s interesting is that there is no recognition by transit folks that we’re, federally, in a serious situation. Ultimately, Eby feels the federal folks will continue to support a system used by few. Why?Read full article » 1 Comment »
“Even if it’s not a great business deal, let’s offer our support to the city…,” says Jack Barto former chairman of the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce. What? Mr. Barto backs local government officials in their new project scheme to spend $123, 500 of taxpayer’s hard-earned money for a “feasibility study” to learn how to spend much more to subsidize a downtown baseball stadium for a wealthy Atlanta team. (link)
Business people colluding with government operatives spell bad news for business and citizens whose earnings are confiscated to fund their ill-conceived ventures. But in his case we shouldn’t be surprised because Barto works for another government-subsidized project, the New Hanover Regional Medical Center.
However, it is surprising that the president of the Chamber blithely also hops aboard the new city spending vehicle—we wonder how many Chamber members have packed their bags for this trip with her. It’s a certain dead-end for city taxpayers, just as the convention center sits mired in progressive muck sucking in private money that should better be used elsewhere by its owners.
Chad Adams talk-show host on the Big Talker FM radio has laid out a clear and compelling case for why taxpayer’s money should not be part of this proposed project, starting with: “If this idea is truly visionary and worthwhile, then private investors would have plans for construction already in place.” Alas, no such have come forth. (link)
Mr. Adams cites other cities where taxpayers still pay for torn down stadiums and arenas; and cases of “taxpayer sport bilking.” For example, up in Winston-Salem people bought into a $22.6 million stadium that cost nearly $50 million. Sports people can walk away from these projects leaving taxpayers obliged to pay for the remnants of failed enterprises.
Here in Wilmington, Adams reminds us, taxes will be raised to pay for over-funded government and loss of property value. City officials continue to slap citizens’ up-side the head with never-ending spending and taxing. Mayor Saffo has said he “would not support raising property taxes to build a baseball stadium,” writes Adams, but he admits that it will require tax increases.
A few downtown business people may see this as potentially profitable for them, but the overall and long-term liabilities will surely cost the larger body of citizens—many of whom have business income that will also be confiscated by the city to fund this latest loser.Read full article » No Comments »
Chamber’s of commerce, sadly, are becoming progressively focused on big government projects. They support 1/4 cent tax increases, land transfer taxes, new fees, new regulations and a host of other issues that hurt businesses and their interests. It is sad, considering the Chambers are also seeing great declines in membership in towns and cities statewide.
Wilmington’s Chamber has been a supporter of the taxpayer funded convention center, more parks, greenways, higher taxes, and now ever higher taxes for a baseball stadium. They are NOT advocating private funding for the stadium. They are NOT advocating for lower taxes, fewer regulations or any aspect of government that relieves the pressures that hinder hiring and expansion.
Locally, they shill for more government involvement and even sell to the public the belief that government “invests” taxpayer dollars. Truth is, local governments SPEND taxpayer dollars.
“I believe that this is a great business deal,” outgoing chamber chairman Jack Barto told more than 400 people at the Wilmington Convention Center. ”I’m excited,” he continued. “I know that this study will answer the question of what return we’ll get on this investment.”
Even though the Chamber could have met in many places to provide much needed income, they choose to meet in the taxpayer subsidized center to promote more taxpayer subsidies. Jack Barton seems to be a nice fella’ but is misleading folks into thinking that the stadium is an “investment.” This “investment” will take money away from folks who earn it under the supposition that the city knows what is better than the citizens as to what they should be spending money on.
This line is pretty funny as well, ”Who wouldn’t want a beautiful stadium and a park that overlooks downtown that we can take our families to for 20 bucks?”
No family will be able to go to the stadium for $20 unless they intend to sneak in some microwaved popcorn and tin foil drinks.
Here’s hoping the Chamber, supported by members, will come around to supporting issues that actually improve business opportunities rather than positions that take money away from them. In so doing, they might actually increase their memberships.Read full article » No Comments »
The StarNews has an unbelievable story today about a man forced out of a camper, on his own property, and forced to live in a tent due to zoning regs.
McGinnis, 55, lived for about four years in a camper on land his parents passed down to him and his sisters about 10 years ago. But shortly before Thanksgiving McGinnis received notice from the county that he was in violation of a zoning rule regarding living in travel trailers and would have to move by Feb. 16. Not wanting to leave his land on Shephards Road, McGinnis pitched the tent that he now calls home.
This is the serious problem with zoning/planning today. And officials don’t even make excuses, read this justification for their actions. The narrative is scary:
Last October, an anonymous caller left a voice mail asking the county Zoning Department to investigate all campers parked on Shephards Road. Planning Director Kyle Breuer said if his department had not received a complaint, McGinnis would likely still been in his camper. ”The code enforcement department works on a reactive basis,” he said.
Hmm. . so it’s ok as long as nobody complains? Notice he doesn’t say that maybe the code needs to be looked at. This “camper” can travel all over the US and be habitable, in times of inclement weather it can be moved (fixed mobile homes can’t) and there is no reason to think it’s unsafe, he’s been there for four years.
But wait, zoning was really helping him out and they suggested he spend more money, which he doesn’t have, to purchase a mobile home he can’t afford to be in compliance. What is it that they don’t understand about his fiscal plight?
By all accounts McGinnis is a nice fella’, he works hard, is down on his luck and keeps trying. He is now living in a tent, trying to stay dry because the nice cozy camper isn’t good enough. It makes no sense!
A neighbor summed it up nicely. ”How many people are homeless because of rules and regulations?” he said.
“It’s not fair that you can’t do what you want on your own property,” Jones said. “When you’re on your own property, why can’t you put a camper on it, if you make it look decent, without trouble? It just ain’t right.”
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The 2012 winter issue of a public information report by the city of Wilmington warns taxpayers about officials “getting geared up for property revaluation changes”; many property values went down, but taxes must “bring in the same amount of money”—official jargon refers to this as “revenue neutral.” (link)
While many city residents endure the double-whammy of reduced property value and loss of income, government will never do with less. City numbers-crunchers are “still gathering data” on the financial impact of property revaluation. Bureaucrats will recommend a budget to City Council in May. However, we’re told that spending won’t be brought in line with revenue because it must be “neutral.” Obviously, in this case, the word is misused.
The word “neutral” means belonging to neither side in a controversy. City Council and the bureaucracies it supports clearly side with revenue rather than reduced spending that could neutralize (counterbalance) potential revenue losses. In case they forget which side they’re on, they will get their minds right about it.
The city manager and staff will make sure that council members understand that their job is to keep the desired amount of money coming to the agencies, programs and planned projects—council members publically represent government, but they have little control or oversight of it.
City spending hugely exceeds revenue from property taxes; admitted in the report: “The city spends almost the same amount on police and fire services as it receives each year in property taxes.” In addition, tens of millions of dollars continue to be spent on nonessential projects. New and improved parks loom large: a river walk; kayak launching; a cross-county bike trail; a tennis center; a Venus flytrap preserve; another golf course and various neighborhood parks usurp money from all who pay local sales taxes, and state and federal taxes/fees.
All this, and more, amounts to “Your City At Work”: progress by progressives doing what they do best: spending other people’s money—never mind the huge debt; money for repair and maintenance; and additional employees that will be necessary to keep up monuments to distorted visions of the role of government.Read full article » No Comments »
This is just hilarious!
WECT’s General Manager, Gary McNair, aired an editorial in favor of a taxpayer funded $40m+ stadium before the city had even agreed to fully explore the possibility.
I think the City of Wilmington needs to do whatever it takes to get this project done and get a team in here while the Atlanta Braves are ready to play ball with us. For a city this size, and with our other amenities, a community attraction like this would be a significant investment for the future. I applaud the Mayor’s Office and City Council for thinking big on this and even openly discussing the potential of a tax increase to get it done. Yes, that would affect everyone. And no, not everyone here is going to go watch baseball games.
But here’s the FUNNIEST part of all, Gary doesn’t even live in Wilmington (he lives in Leland) so he’s essentially saying that the City of Wilmington, where he doesn’t live, should take taxes from the folks who live there to build a baseball stadium that he, not a property tax payer in Wilmington, can enjoy. Kind of makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. The funnier aspect is that McNair tries to convince folks in a later editorial that responses have been “50/50 on the stadium issue” but if you read the comments, they are almost unanimously against it at taxpayer expense.
At the very least McNair should have included not being a resident in his commentary about OTHER people paying for a stadium. Some modicum of disclosure would have lent credence to his position.
For the record, I do pay property taxes in Wilmington so I feel plenty comfortable saying such an endeavor is a bad idea for my bottom line!Read full article » 3 Comments »
The Devil’s in the details when it comes to a citizen led effort to stop a baseball stadium. The irony is that the reason the petition has to be so broadly worded is because city leaders can’t be trusted to deal with a straight up or down petition on the stadium itself. In other words, if certain words were omitted, city leaders would use the caveat to bypass citizen intention. City leaders are now trying to strike fear in the public by saying the stadium petition could hurt the Azalea Festival. It’s just unhinged. From the StarNews:
The interim city attorney says the petition, which is to form a citizen initiated ordinance, would prohibit the city from spending money on all recreation related activities including Azalea Festival, Thalian Hall and possibly the whole parks and recreation department.
That’s simply ludicrous. Here’s the actual language, see if your own sensibilities can pick up the difference between a “professional sports” endeavor and the Azalea Festival:
No city monies shall be used, either directly or indirectly, to fund any multi-use sports stadium for the purpose of professional sports and other events, including but not limited to a baseball stadium. All funding for these ventures must come from the private sector.
The language is VERY specific to a “stadium” and not “events” which the interim city attorney apparently can’t understand. This petition in NO way hampers the Azalea Festival. Truth be told, if the city wanted to stop all of this they should promise the public that such an endeavor would be up for a bond referendum with the equivalent tax increase attached.
Pandering to fear is a pathetic attempt to misguide. I don’t use such harsh language lightly. It’s a shame that the intellect of council has to be questioned on such a simple matter. What this also says is that they do fear citizen backlash on the stadium issue.
UPDATE: The city attorney is now saying he was looking at “older” language and not the current petition. It’s a shame he didn’t try to get more up to date language. At the very least he owes an apology to organizers and needs to update his position with council. This amateurish behavior should be reviewed and quickly!Read full article » 1 Comment »
It was encouraging to read that there might be some oversight to the over-reaching of state government activities; maybe not much, but some is better than none. Wilmington StarNews reporter Shannan Bowen informed us of a state report that includes recommendations to form “public-private partnerships” with the expensive state-run zoo and aquaria. (link)
Of course, this could be another case of foxes assigned to guard a Big Government chicken house. The report was crafted by the state’s “Program Evaluation Division.” What government bureaucracy has incentive to save public money? Though the document will be perused by a legislative committee we can be sure that nothing will come of it if enough political oxen are gored. Do I sound cynical?
Yes, but in hard financial times all things wasteful receive, at least, a look-see—even sometimes by politicians. It will sound good during campaigning: “Mah friends, we tried really hard to reduce spendin’— Ah say, really hard— but we just couldn’t cut it. Ya’ll understand how it is.” Sure we do. We also know how it should be.
Dr. Michael Sanera of the John Locke Foundation has written about the “privatization” issue in a policy report “Agenda 2010” (www.johnlocke.org). In addition to public cost, competition is a fundamental flaw of government-run fun and recreation activities—as a “monopoly provider” government puts private businesses at a competitive disadvantage (one egregious example is the Wilmington city-run golf course).
Government has “unfair access to taxpayer funds,” writes Dr. Sanera. He describes several types of privatization that government can use to correct some of its costly, unfair operations.
The state aquarium at Ft. Fisher and the Maritime Museum in Southport locally represent two examples: The aquarium spends $3.4 million of our money hiring 57 employees and costing us $3.35 for each visitor. (Just down the road Myrtle Beach has a nice privately operated aquarium.) The Maritime Museum costs taxpayers $4.33 for each fun-seeker, according to the StarNews article.
Statists will continue to promote these costly and unfair public enterprises with mistaken assumptions. A StarNews editorial suggests that government should be involved in these activities to “enrich the lives of North Carolina’s residents.” (link) That’s not its purpose. Our founders understood that unless the citizens restrain government, it will “come to dominate our lives and interests” (Patrick Henry)—bad news for our liberty.Read full article » No Comments »