The StarNews editorial staff once again wonders into the world of static views in a dynamic environment on highway spending:
For a politician, Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo did some pretty straight talking when he outlined the rock-and-a-hard-place transportation dilemma facing North Carolina. “The issue,” he said at a meeting this week with state officials, “is how do you pay for this stuff when nobody really wants to pay for it?” It’s the simple truth.
It may be a “simple truth” to them, but it neglects to mention the horrendous public relations nightmare DOT has with spending recently in Haywood County. The mayor and the StarNews are just plain wrong.
The June 29 report found poor management, cost overruns, questionable purchases, and possibly outright fraud in Division 14, primarily in its Haywood County operations. The division covers 10 Western North Carolina counties.
That’s just one division. The StarNews goes through taxes, toll roads and other reasons why road construction is underfunded, but never addresses that road construction should be a higher priority with the state. They also fail to mention that there is a great deal of potential waste, fraud and abuse in DOT. Here’s hoping the editors will realize that road construction is more complex than they portrayed. Also hopeful that the Mayor can see that as well.
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I’m reluctant to mention this for fear that the Wilmington City Council and Chamber might latch on to some new ordinance, but the City of Dunn is trying to stop baggy pants. (Note to Wilmington Council, some bars downtown actually have ABC nights, anything but clothing).
Councilman Robinson’s proposal would amend the city code to outlaw pants worn more than 3 inches below the waist. The council Tuesday night unanimously directed City Attorney Tilghman Pope to create an ordinance for the council to consider.
It’s interesting that nobody talks about WHY this is a fashion statement or that the citizens aren’t interesting in shaming the behavior rather than passing a new law.Read full article » No Comments »
The fountain at the intersection of 5th and Market has been hit seven times over the past ten years, over the past sixty, many more times. Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent repairing it, but it’s an icon so it can’t be removed, or so they say!
It originally had a pool at street level, but that was removed in 1953, after the State Highway Commission asked the city to move the entire fountain.
Even in the 50s it was a traffic hazard and city leaders wouldn’t move it. It is an obstacle in the middle of a street and council is more fixated on the icon than the safety of motorists. Oh, and 1 in 5 miles of roads in Wilmington is considered unsatisfactory.
In 2005, the city paid $370,000, including a $250,000 donation, to rehabilitate the fountain. The repairs included stone restoration, cleaning and sealing cracks and repairing the plumbing and lighting.
And yet it STILL gets hit! It’s a fountain in the middle of one of the busiest streets in Wilmington. What’s the genius solution?
improve lighting at the intersection; change the pavement around the fountain with brick pavers or stamped asphalt; implement a road diet on Market Street between 16th and Third streets to create a one-lane roundabout around the fountain.
Road diet? Really? More lighting? Hmm. . . It never occurs to anyone that moving the fountain removes the problem completely! Again, public safety is secondary to public icons. Maybe we’ll have a new statue at the intersection of Oleander and College, it will surely get lots of attention!Read full article » No Comments »
Politicians often label misguided legislation with innocuous words intended to deceive the public about the real purpose of their schemes. For example, “The Affordable Care Act.” Far from affordable— and actually careless— this new federal legislation will have negative consequences for everyone in our American medical system from providers to patients.
Another example is the word “reform” used on some legislative titles to hide the intention to expand laws and regulations that will increase the power, influence and benefits of some people at the expense of others. Such is the case with the political use of the word “incentive.”
An incentive can be used to encourage good, virtuous deeds, or it can be an enticement to corruption. In the case of film “incentives” the harmless word refers to legislatively induced corruption, cronyism and “corporate welfare”—an immoral result of collusion between Big Government and Big Business.
Proponents usually benefit in some financial way. In a Wilmington StarNews article by Patrick Gannon, a N. C. Film Council member and film trade union agent expressed concern about “tax-reform” promised by Republicans in the next General Assembly session. Although we should be leery when politicians say they will reform anything—usually the opposite results—film operative Jason Rosin obviously worries that legislators might take away his helpings at the incentives table. (link)
Mr. Rosin uses some inoffensive language to divert attention from a potential threat to his interests by expressing concern about undoing previous legislators’ work of “sheparding industries” to accept financial incentives from government (bribes would be a more appropriate word). Rosin trots out the usual victims to justify unethical legislation; “…thousands of families that are counting on these jobs.” What about other “thousands of families” who now must pay more taxes so film makers can get a special break?
Rosin claims the moral high ground by praising previous practitioners as responsible, “measured and intelligent” people. In other words, the corrupt ones are presumed answerable for their decisions; they could have acted more immorally and their opponents are stupid. Talk about convoluted justifications for bad behavior.
Unfortunately, some legislators from whom we would expect more ethical behavior, waffle on this issue or unabashedly hop on the film industry favoritism wagon. Sen. Bob Rucho, R-Mechlenburg, and chairman of the state senate committee “spearheading the tax-modernization effort” won’t commit to end the film incentives. And local state Rep. Danny McComas is well known as a “longtime ally of the film industry” (with possible financial conflicts of interest related to it), noted in Gannon’s story
Beyond the immorality of crony capitalism, it’s not clear that this industry (or any other) needs tax incentives to want to operate in North Carolina. Even Aaron Syrett, director of the N. C. Film Office (why does state government operate a film office?), has said: “(Film) people want to be here. They know they can get talent here and the infrastructure, and they can make a good movie.”
If this is true, there is no need to bribe these people to come here with special benefits unavailable to other businesses—and immorally shift the burden of taxes to the others. Furthermore, if businesses need tax break to afford to operate, what does that say about the onerous tax burdens in this state?
Jon Sanders of the John Locke Foundation has written a report on this subject. Mr. Sanders (and others) suggests that the responsible legislative action appropriate to this issue is to create incentives available to all business people that want to operate in North Carolina: reduce the tax and regulatory burdens that now exist on all of them. (link)
That’s the simple, honest, fair and ethical thing to do. Sadly, these words apply to the legislative actions of too few of our representatives.Read full article » No Comments »
The good people at CIVITAS REVIEW (www.NCCivitas.org) remind us of the moral case for capitalism and conservatism. They provide an excerpt from Arthur C. Brook’s new book, “The Road to Freedom: How to Win the Fight for Free Enterprise.” (A turn around on F. A. Hayek’s classic book title: “The Road to Serfdom.”) Mr. Brooks argues that the only way advocates for capitalism can win the debate with statists is to “make the moral case” for it.
Brooks believes that people of all kinds and status want a socio-economic system that “is morally legitimate, not just efficient.” He says that free enterprise champions celebrate capitalism because it is “essential to happiness and fulfillment.”
Free enterprise allows people the personal satisfaction of succeeding on merit; to do meaningful work; have control over their lives; and it gives everyone the opportunity to improve their lives. Yet, often during debates, advocates for capitalism rely on facts and figures showing the superiority of this system in terms of “productivity and economic efficiency.” (I cringe every time a politician publicly pronounces it’s government’s mission to “provide jobs.”)
Brooks believes these truths alone will not make our case with most Americans. He writes that “reliance on materialistic arguments is a gift to statists.” They will demagogue the debate suggesting we are “selfish and only motivated by money”—profiteers at the expense of others. And they seem to win on that false premise. As a result, emotional “redistributionist” arguments lead to failed public policies.
Mr. Brooks makes a painful point, but expects to win the debate by making the moral case for free enterprise.
Based on my experience, his premise makes sense. For example, when confronted with factual evidence showing that public welfare policies have cost billions of dollars but have failed in promises to eliminate “poverty,” a liberal friend responds: “Well, I’m in favor of helping my fellow man.” Others have more bluntly asked: “Why are you against poor people?”
It seems impossible to counter these emotional—feelings of moral superiority—retorts. These people obviously can’t support their statist views with evidence; they just resort to personal criticism; in this case accusations that capitalists don’t have compassion.
So, Brook’s strategy seems worthy. I’ll try it: Statists are driven by envy and greed.
Most of us have been taught that envy is a vice: “Thou shalt not covet….” Of course, that may not resonate with those who have no moral values. Clearly, though, statists covet what others have earned: “The rich must pay their fair share…Romney wants to give a tax cut to millionaires.”
Well, isn’t it morally right that by profiting themselves capitalists have incentive to provide jobs and a better standard of living to many others?
Isn’t it immoral for statists to use the police power of government to take a larger share of the property of some people and distribute small amounts (less than a “living wage”) to others through uncaring government bureaucracies?
How about the greed of statists to use confiscated wealth to encourage crony corporate activities that can’t succeed without government subsidies—thus, putting companies at risk of failure and workers more likely to be laid off?
Yes, I believe that statists are immoral. Their unprincipled, corrupt use of government power has led millions of Americans to dependency based on lies and false promises, depriving them of self-respect, and keeping them hopeless and in despair. Statists can never deliver on promises. It’s immoral to deceive people.
On the other hand, capitalists won’t promise what they can’t deliver. Those uncorrupted by collusion with government must succeed or fail on their own efforts. They have no legal power to coerce people or confiscate property; powers authorized by statists to government.
Truly free enterprise merely offers people the opportunity to use their God-given abilities to do meaningful work, provide for themselves and live fulfilled lives—the only chance to improve their condition and succeed in their pursuits of happiness.Read full article » No Comments »
John Locke’s Jon Sanders takes on the film incentives at comicbook.com with success. Here’s an interesting example citing a movie that wasn’t nearly as popular as Iron Man 3:
What I mean by the question above is: A Good Old-Fashioned Orgy was never going to drive the kind of general interest from the public that a movie like Iron Man 3, with the potential to drive $1 billion in global revenue, will. That seems as important a distinction as the free rider problem, doesn’t it?
Sanders – An interesting example, given that the taxpayers of North Carolina involuntarily committed nearly five times more money in tax credits for “A Good Old-Fashioned Orgy” than American viewers voluntarily gave it in at the box office. Nevertheless, I’m inclined to believe that the interest in superhero action movies is focused on the superhero and special effects, not the settings, which I think most viewers generally regard as generic backdrops.
Ouch!Read full article » No Comments »
At the close of the city council meeting last week, Mayor Bill Saffo made would many could see as a pitch FOR the new bond referendum. He cited Airlie Gardens and numerous other government projects as “successful” in how they enhanced quality of life. Here’s what the StarNews had to say editorially without even mentioning the mayor’s commnts:
By law city officials cannot be cheerleaders for the bond issue. That will fall to the stadium’s private-sector supporters, who have a difficult charge at a time when voters have a tight hold on their wallets and when many are having a difficult time meeting their routine household expenses.
The StarNews might have listened to Saffo’s comments because it came awful close to cheerleading. Another difficult detail is that the Chamber of Commerce received $20k in taxpayer dollars and will be paying to advocate for the stadium. This is a THIN line ethically for them.Read full article » No Comments »
Rarely do all but a few scholarly people question “common” knowledge that advocates, beneficiaries and “stakeholders” spread religiously about various ideologies and theories—“climate change,” “The rich don’t pay their fair share,” and government “investments” in education come to mind.
For decades progressives and statists have made vociferous calls for increased spending justified by an exaggerated (maybe even mythical) claim that the process of education warrants unlimited public funding because, somehow, it is a great benefit to all of us in American society.
Skeptics use evidence and reasoning to question “accepted facts” of these claims.
In fact, in the case of education, there was a time when a properly educated person learned to seek “truth” and question ideas and theories. In addition to personal improvement one’s knowledge did help many other people as wisdom was passed on.
However, to learn that, faculties at secondary schools and institutions of higher education demanded that students be prepared with English literature, history, civics, science and economics; subjects proven to be necessary for an educated person to become an informed, productive citizen. But those days are behind us.
In my opinion, politics, propaganda and pragmatism have pushed aside classic education. Others seem to share that view.
George Leef, research director for the Pope Center for Higher Education in Raleigh, comments on this subject in the August 2012 issue of the Carolina Journal. (link; pg.17) His longer original commentary is published by the Pope Center. (link)
Mr. Leef cites opposing views on the subject and makes a credible (and knowledgeable) case that government funded education has diluted and downgraded the purpose of higher education resulting in solid reasons to believe that we should “be leery of claims that we get more ‘education’… because government subsidizes it.”Read full article » No Comments »
“Diversity”—a word meaning “difference” has been coopted for political purposes. Environmentalism religion zealots use it as one of their icons to encourage worship of the natural, man-free environment.
Social justice promoters offer it to presumed victims of injustices as a weak crutch to support feelings of importance by members of selected groups. The politics of diversity is practiced to an unhealthy degree at our universities. It is costly, silly and destructive to human relations.
Duke Cheston, writing in the August 2012 issue of the Carolina Journal, reports from the Pope Center for Higher Education that some units of the University of North Carolina continue to expand racial and ethnicity diversity programs (gender and sexual orientation programs were not included, but are also contentious) despite complaints of “layoffs, repeated tuition hikes, and few raises.” (link; pg. 17)
These political projects usurp funds from the legitimate mission of the academy. In my opinion, they are counterproductive (and counterintuitive) in educational institutions. They waste money on staff and facilities. They propagandize and distort cultural issues. And they result in segregation and divisiveness between students.
Here in Wilmington the UNC has added another employee to make an even dozen people who occupy a Diversity Office. These social projects throughout the UNC system cost students and taxpayers “about $4 million per year for salaries alone,” according to Mr. Cheston’s article.
The University of North Carolina has other non-academia activities that should be eliminated to save money, but divisive “diversity” projects should be defunded by a responsible state legislature not just to save money, but also in the interest of improving relationships within the student bodies.Read full article » No Comments »
Recently, an Oak Island resident wrote to the Wilmington StarNews supporting the U. S. Government/auto industry bailouts. She also chose to buy a Chevy Volt as a “second car” and praises its fuel efficiency at “2,713 miles on 5.7 gallons “(she didn’t mention the cost of electricity to charge the batteries). This car was part of the deal between the Obama administration and General Motors. (link)
It was a cute anecdotal story, but also insidiously disturbing. The writer believes it’s “good citizenship” to buy this “Go Green” product promoted by the government.
I’m reminded that “good” German citizens approved of products promoted by the National Socialist Party in collusion with German industrialists in the ‘30s and ‘40s. Gleichschaltung meant coordination.
Jonah Goldberg in his book “Liberal Fascism” documents “the fascist bargain” where “all civil society was supposed to operate like a military unit.” Under Furhrerprinzip, business leaders reported all the way up to Hitler. Thus, “German business culture contributed to the rise of Nazism,” writes Goldberg.
For the good of the people, undesirable products were purged and everything from cider (Volksgetrank) to cars (Volkswagen) became officially promoted by the state and its corporate partners. Business people became the “transmission belts for Nazi propaganda and values,” as Goldberg notes.
All this has frighteningly begun to happen in America. Propagandists and politicians put fascistic pressure on American businesses, coercing their leaders into collusion on restricting our choices of health care, food, energy; and even what our business people should believe.
Too many of our citizens today have been duped by government propaganda. The first step in accomplishing their goals is for liberal fascists to dumb down our education processes. Without solid, objective learning of history, economics, science and civics by our citizens this Republic cannot survive the assaults on our freedom and liberties.Read full article » No Comments »