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14

My old friend and adversary Jack Hawke sponsored a conservative gripe-a-thon in Durham last week.

“It is a travesty that North Carolina is controlled by the Democrats,” U.S. Representative Virginia Foxx told the N.C. Conservative Leadership Conference.

I disagree, of course. I believe it’s a credit to the good judgment of North Carolinians that Democrats hold the Governor’s Office and both houses of the General Assembly.

But Jack had one thing right. The state GOP lacks a strong spokesperson. No star power, if you will.

In my view, Democrats have that quality of candidate on the bench for 2008. Berverly Perdue, Richard Moore, Roy Cooper, Bill Faison.

The Republicans have nobody. They’re so desperate I hear talk about Senator Elizabeth Dole running for Governor.

But she’s crawled into a hole so deep in Washington I doubt she can find her way back here.


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14

The Raleigh City Council has approved Mayor Meeker’s new underground parking deck – to go with his downtown Hotel and Convention Center. This $45 million parking deck brings the total cost of Mayor Meeker’s Center/Hotel complex to over $250 million.

What would taxpayers have saved if the Mayor had decided to build an above ground parking deck? $20 – $25 million.

That’s enough to build a class high school.

This is a question Republicans should ask Meeker in the next election. Why is putting a parking deck underground more important than building a school?


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Posted in: Raleigh
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13

A few days ago I saw Republican Bill Graham’s TV ads blasting the state gas tax increase. He and his ads are still running.


About the same time, I saw $3-a-gallon gas signs pop up.


Even the CEO of Chrysler has now accused the oil companies of gouging consumers.


But Graham, good Republican he is, has no problem swallowing oil executives lining their pockets. He only chokes on the few pennies we spend for better roads.


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13

Sometimes politics seems to slip from the unusual to the absurd.


The Lottery Commission is spending $10 million on advertising.


But, according to the Winston-Salem Journal (3-15-06), under state law “No advertising may have the primary purpose of inducing persons to participate in the lottery.”


So why is the Lottery Commission spending $10 million on advertising? Alice Garland, lottery spokesperson, had a hard time answering that question. Ms. Garland said, “We believe you can educate people about the game and make it appear fun and entertaining, without enticing people to play.”


So, we’re going to show people the lottery is fun and entertaining – but that’s not enticing them to play.


It seems to me the lottery has turned out to be a can of worms in an unexpected way. It has brought more dishonesty to North Carolina politics than any government program in memory. And that’s saying a lot.


First, the Governor and the leaders in the legislature promised all the money would go to pay for new education programs. Then that turned out not to be true. Governor Easley has taken half the money to spend on other things. We’ve had what appears – we won’t know for sure unless the Attorney General indicts someone – to be illegal lobbying to pass the Lottery Bill. We’ve had the paid agent (who, apparently, no one knew was paid) of one of the gaming venders appointed to the Lottery Commission itself – where, if it had not been for the newspapers, he would have been voting on who got lottery contracts. And we have Lottery advertising – but ‘not’ to get people to play the lottery.


The lottery is beginning to look like ‘Typhoid Mary.’ Maybe at first glance she looks harmless, but there are a lot of unexpected consequences.


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13

President Bush’s poll numbers are tanking because he forgot how he got to the White House.



The background is summed up well in an excellent piece in Time magazine this week by Joe Klein. Klein is one of the best political reporters going.



Klein’s article – in which he says consultants have ruined politics – says Bush’s campaign understood something about 2004 race that Kerry’s campaign never understood. The race wasn’t about issues. It was about who voters trusted.



Bush’s message was “you may not agree with me, but you know where I stand.” Plus: “You can’t believe anything Kerry says.”



(This, of course, will sound familiar to Carter and everyone who remembers the 1984 Hunt-Helms race.)



Well, that strategy worked for Bush. Unfortunately, he forgot it once he was sworn in.



Here is why voters don’t trust him:





  • He said Iraq would be easy, and he knew – or should have known – it wouldn’t.




  • When the trailers were found (read today’s Washington Post story), he said we had found the weapons of mass destruction. We hadn’t.




  • He said that revealing classified information put America at risk. Then he declassified information himself to get back at a political critic.


Now Bush is at the point – like Kerry – where nobody believes anything he says. Not a good place to be.



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11

To me, there are two mysteries in the debate over Raleigh’s impact fees:



  1. Who paid for the calls supporting higher fees?
  2. Why would downtown development be exempt from higher fees?

First the calls.


The News & Observer says this is a partial text of one call:


Hello. If you are a taxpayer, it is urgent that you attend the Raleigh City Council hearing tomorrow, Tuesday, 6:30 p.m. It’s about impact fees and who is paying for our growth. Right now, you are — about 90 percent of it — while developers — who pay only 10 percent — are getting a huge subsidy from every taxpayer for the new roads and parks that impact fees should pay for.


Raleigh’s fees on new development have not changed since 1987 and now the City Council is finally considering an increase. But the plan on the table would still leave taxpayers holding the bags for about $30 million every year.


We need to kill this weak proposal and put a better plan forward, as Mayor Meeker says. It is time that developers paid a fair share: No more taxpayer subsidies.


It is Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall. The developers will be there; we need to be there too. Come early and bring your friends. Let’s get it done before another 20 years passes.


But The N&O said the call did not identify who is paying – and, thus, who stands to gain from higher fees.


Do Mayor Meeker and Bob Geary know? If so, would they tell us?


Footnote: the Wake County Homebuilders, who paid for ads against higher impact fees, maintain that such anonymous calls may not be legal.


Second, downtown’s exemption.


As I understand an earlier comment on this site from Bob Geary, the higher fees would not be imposed on downtown development. Apparently, as I understand Bob, that’s because downtown development requires no additional infrastructure.

Really? No road widening? No more water and sewer? No more police or fire protection? No more people using all manner of city services?

Is this justified? Or is Raleigh’s government favoring downtown at the expense of the rest of the city?

This could become a lovely political fight in next year’s elections.


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Posted in: General, Raleigh
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11

Supporters of former State Representative David Minor on the Wake County Board of Commissioners, ambushed their Commissioners on Monday (April 13) to get Minor hired as the county lobbyist.


Earlier, Commissioners had decided not to retain Minor after several Raleigh legislators – the people Minor would be lobbying – said, in effect, ‘This isn’t going to make you any friends in the Legislature – it’s going to make you enemies.’


Commissioner Herb Council led the ambush to reinstate Minor. He made a surprise motion to give Minor $5,000 a month (through 2007) and it passed by a vote of 4 to 3.


So, now, Wake County has a lobbyist, lobbying people who are – shall we say – unfriendly to him.


With all the millions the County Commissioners spend each year, Minor’s $5,000 a month is a drop in the bucket. But a dollar here, a dollar there, and it adds up. But did we really need a lobbyist more than, say, a teacher – or to pay some of those bills the School Board says it so desperately needs money for.



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Posted in: Raleigh
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10

My Democratic friends are not only ecstatic about Tom DeLay’s fall, they are certain it presages the fall of the Evil Empire.


They’re convinced a Democratic “tidal wave” is about to engulf Washington and restore our party to its rightful majority in Congress.


I’m afraid they’re wrong. Three reasons:



1. Voters don’t believe Democratic politicians are any less corrupt than Republican politicians.


2. As I’ve said before, my party has an Achilles heel on protecting America against terrorists. Every day I wake up in fear that Howard Dean will start screaming that Saddam Hussein isn’t getting a fair trial.


3. Democrats – unlike the Republicans in 1980 and 1994 – don’t have a clear message for change.


“Had enough?” is sometimes enough to win. But not this year.


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Posted in: General
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10

Three Republican legislators have a remedy to the scandals in the State House. Representative Nelson Dollar, Paul Stam and Russell Capps say each party’s Caucus should appoint its members of House Committees. That the Democratic Caucus should appoint the Democrat members, and Republicans the Republicans. Instead of every Committee Member being picked by House Speaker Jim Black as is done now.



This may sound mundane, but it’s important.


Today, the State House and State Senate operate as political fiefdoms belonging to Jim Black and Marc Basnight. As House Speaker and Senate Leader, Basnight and Black, rule with powers not unlike medieval dukes. They decide every appointment to every committee – alone. That way they can control every committee and kill any bill. The rest of the legislators are, by comparison, merely cogs in the machine dependent upon Black and Basnight’s favors.


What Representatives Dollar, Stam and Capps want to do is make legislators more independent. They want to take the power that now rests in two men’s hands and spread it among the other Senators and Representatives equally.


This is how the Congress of the United States operates. Neither the Speaker of the U.S. House and the Majority Leader of the Senate have the kind of ducal powers of Marc Basnight or Jim Black.


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Posted in: General
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07

I mentioned Raleigh writer-activist Bob Geary in an earlier post. And he’s been kind enough to read and comment on our blogs.




Bob has done something I admire. He started out as a newspaper reporter – for the Independent Weekly. He writes a lot about Raleigh politics. And, apparently, he has been active in local issues and campaigns.


This is what I admire: Recently, a local political observer told me that “Bob Geary controls three votes on the City Council” – Mayor Meeker and Council members Thomas Crowder and Russ Stephenson.


Is that true?


If it is, I put Bob in the same league as Lou Dobbs. Dobbs has leveraged his CNN anchor’s job to the point where he is now the nation’s leading anti-immigration spokesman.


Let’s just pray that Katie Couric never uses her power for evil ends.

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Carter & Gary
 
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The Charlotte Observer says: “Carter Wrenn and Gary Pearce don’t see eye-to-eye on many issues. But they both love North Carolina and know its politics inside and out.”
 
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They met in 1984, during the epic U.S. Senate battle between Jesse Helms and Jim Hunt. Carter worked for Helms and Gary, for Hunt.
 
Years later, they became friends. They even worked together on some nonpolitical clients.
 
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