From the StarNews:
A bill ordering the N.C. Department of Transportation to look for money now to fund restoration of the abandoned rail line between Castle Hayne and Wallace will be filed this week. The cost of re-establishing that link is expensive. A 2004 estimate put it at more than $80 million, including about $49 million for track restoration and $32 million in CSX rehabilitation costs.
There are lots of pros and cons on this proposal, but the costs (mentioned above) are buried deep in the story. Is rail really the future? That’s $80m that could have gone to roads, bridges or simply not been spent. We’ll see where it ends up. Justifying it for the port seems like a stretch looking at the broader picture, but that’s just my opinion. Why now?
There is a lot that could be said about this, but it is a shame. The award is truly diminished when it’s presented for the heck of it.
Why are we just learning about it now? Why was it awarded? Why was it hidden from the public until a month after Bev Perdue left office?
You can read more here, but it’s just sad because there are truly great people in this state that would be worthy of such an award. The comments attached to the story say more than I could possibly say here.
I just had to laugh. The StarNews striving for a puff piece on city governance gave me a good laugh with the following headline:
That was just hilarious! Heck, being seen in public would be more visible than what we see now. Cheatham’s role in city government has almost been Rasputin like. In the most visible and poorly envisioned project last year, the baseball stadium, Cheatham ducked all leadership instead letting assistant city manager Tony Caudle do the legwork and take the hits. He even had to make a multi-hundred thousand dollar change in the budget that he had forgotten to put in at the last minute on that very project.
What the StarNews essentially says is that Cheatham has survived, not that he has shown leadership. A good excerpt from the StarNews praise piece:
In council meetings, Cheatham relies upon his staff, routinely deferring to his department heads or their designees to give presentations before the council.
Understand, this isn’t personal, but there is no real leadership coming from the city of Wilmington and certainly not from the city manager’s office. Former councilman Jason Thompson said it best, “I would not say he’s a risk-taker at all. I would say he’s more risk-averse.”
And Wilmington’s clearly not a city, under this leadership, that has shown anything truly remarkable At $173,679 a year, we should expect something more than just delegating to staff and showing up. He has a standing offer to come on my radio show for two years and has never done so. More visible? Ha! And doesn’t want to take tough questions!
This could become an election year issue! And what prompted such an odd story from the StarNews?
After the dramatic failure of the city with respect to a taxpayer funded baseball stadium (which was supported by their non-scientific surveys), they’ve decided to gather more wisdom from the same failed technique.
(PortCityDaily.com) As an extension to its recent “debriefing” with stakeholders on the positives and negatives of last month’s Martin Luther King Parade downtown, the City of Wilmington has posted an online survey asking residents’ opinions on its route, time and parking situation among other aspects.
Sadly, the survey will be useless, provide nothing of value and won’t be worth the paper it might well be printed on. If they city truly wanted to solve a problem, they might actually use their highly compensated staff to do some research or work along those lines. Heck, even putting together a Citizens Advisory Committee would provide more useful information. But again, this council and this management team does not have a strong record of looking for solutions. It does have a habit of seeking out external validation.
Councilman Charlie Rivenbark tried to add some saliency to the situation saying the event’s apparent problems, like the gaps and the access points for business employees to come and go, were individually “minor” concerns that could disappear with some tightening and tweaking. “We ain’t got to reinvent the wheel here, and they can make that thing run just as smooth as butter,” said Rivenbark.
Sadly, the city seems hellbent on reinventing the wheel with virtually everything it does from convention centers, to baseball stadiums, to parade route planning, to parking and to a stubborn refusal to get actual data.
WECT paints a pretty stark view of Economic Development (government trying to create jobs, not to be confused with Economic Growth which is what happens when government stays out of the way) jobs in the area.
Here’s the sad truth (via the story):
1) A conservative estimate of the amount of public money funneled into these local non-profit organizations last year, is $8 million.
2) Wilmington – Chamber of Commerce CEO Connie Majure-Rhett is making almost $150,000 in salary and benefits.
3) Wilmington Business Development. The non-profit is primarily funded by private money, but it also does work for the City of Wilmington, New Hanover County, and Pender County, and accepted $310,000 in public funding last year.
4) Their CEO, Scott Satterfield makes $303,426 in total compensation a year – including a $27,515 bonus.
One of the funniest lines in the story by Ann McAdams was, ”We asked Satterfield if it was difficult to explain to people why the director of a non-profit with 3 full-time employees would be so highly compensated. His reply: ‘My board sets my compensation, and I do the work.’ ”
Really? That’s a lot of wasted money out there! And what the heck have ANY of them actually accomplished?
If the prediction made in the early 90s held true, most of the area beaches would have moved inland by now. If Al Gore’s prognostications from the early 2000s had come true. . . again we’d lots of recently transformed beachfront property. Now we’re still addressing the long sought after sea-level rise via the N.C. Coastal Resources Commission:
(StarNews) – The 15-member commission, which oversees development in the state’s 20 coastal counties, will meet in Room 162 of the University of North Carolina Wilmington’s Education Building, 970 Reynolds Drive, beginning at 1 p.m. Wednesday. The initial report, released in 2010, originally recommended that coastal communities prepare for 1 meter – or 39 inches – of sea-level rise by 2100.
It will never stop. And when we arrive at the year 2100 with beautiful coastal areas that will have been ravaged from time to time by naturally occurring hurricanes, such meetings will still be taking place. Or maybe we’ll be be talking about sea level fall by then.
Mayor Bill Saffo will deliver the state of the city address this evening.
(PortCityDaily.com) – “The mayor will review some of the city’s major accomplishments from last year and will also touch on upcoming goals for 2013,” said a bulletin from the city’s communications office. Saffo will begin his address at 5:30 p.m.
Residents who cannot attend may view the speech live on Time Warner Cable channel 8 or on the city’s website, wilmingtonnc.gov.
There will be much discussed, but what we have not seen is a public accountability for the money spent on the baseball endeavor. It would be interesting to find out out how much (beyond the consultants) the city spent on staff time from the manager’s office on down. The public should know, but we don’t.
Sometimes typos are just funny and make you wonder if there is really something more at work. The News & Observer’s “Under The Dome” section has one that just bears mentioning:
Economist Art Laffer told state lawmakers that the movement to overhaul the tax code in North Carolina is crucial to the national “fight for a different sort of economics. You are wearing the white hat,” he said. “Don’t let them take the white hate off you. Go to the goal line.”
New Hanover County commissioners, law enforcement and school board officials were eager to get gun toting cops in the schools quickly for the rest of the year. $600k of taxpayer money was thus dedicated and everyone felt safer. But the conversation is now evolving:
Keeping sheriff’s deputies in New Hanover County’s elementary schools for the 2013-14 school year would cost about $1.18 million, members of the board of education learned Wednesday. But they aren’t yet sure if that’s the route they want to take for next year’s elementary school safety.
Hmm. . so they’re eager to do it with no proof that it will help make schools safer. But when looking at long term costs, the situation changes? Yep, that’s $11.8 million dollars for a decade without ANY increases. That won’t put one more book in a classroom, another teacher on the payroll. Not sure this is a good reaction either, but it might generate some ideas.
But members did decide to poll parents through Alert Now, the district’s automated phone calling system, about what they’d like to see in terms of security.
Here’s hoping there will be more discussion about what will work rather than simply reacting. . . expensively!
It wasn’t like this wasn’t predictable, but commentary, posing as journalism is still a shame. In Kate Queram’s piece at the StarNews on DENR today, such commentary slips in:
That mindset, coupled with a Republican super-majority in a state government that has in recent years slashed both DENR’s budget and its oversight capabilities, could spell disaster for protective measures currently in place to preserve natural resources, according to environmental experts.
But the quote from the Coastal Resource Commission does NOT assert that there is any looming disaster:
“It will absolutely be easier for deregulation to take place under this administration,” said David Webster, a biologist at the University of North Carolina Wilmington and a member of the state’s Coastal Resources Commission. “I’m always suspicious of the influence that special-interest groups have on the political process. By nature, they are advocates for their own narrow agendas and unfortunately, our political process allows that.”