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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.


Click to Read & Post Comments

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.

Posted in: General, Raleigh
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07

The News and Observer (4-4-06) reports the ‘buzz’ in Washington is that John Edwards is running second in the Democratic race for President – behind Hillary Clinton. According to the Washington Newsletter Hotline, Edwards is “the only major candidate who seems comfortable going to Hillary’s left.”



I didn’t know there was such a place.


Not long ago John Edwards was calling himself a ‘mainstream’ new Democrat – meaning the last thing on earth he wanted to be called was a liberal. And Hillary was the darling of the left.


Now it seems John and Hillary have changed hats. Or, maybe it’s that Edwards couldn’t get elected President (in a Democratic Primary) as a moderate so he’s going to try it as a liberal.


This all goes back to what’s troubling about John Edwards. One day he’s one thing – the next day he’s something else. On Monday, he’s for the war in Iraq. On Tuesday, he’s against it. One day, he’s opposed to taking PAC contributions. The next, he’s flying all over the country in corporate jets to political events.


To reprise an old question, “Where do you stand, John?”

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07

The current debate in Raleigh over higher impact fees reminds of a political-consultant friend who liked to tweak his politician clients. When the politicians agonized about whether to support any tax increases, my friend would suggest – with a straight face:

“Tell them you support higher taxes on foreigners who don’t live in the United States.”


Impact fees, in other words, have become the sure-fire easy solution to raising money without making anybody mad.


I wonder if the business-development community will figure out a way to fight this political gorilla.


Here is what my friend Bob Geary – who is an excellent writer, fellow blogger and local political activist – said in a comment on my earlier post:



“Gary, I know you’d want to say in your attack ad that an impact fee is just another cost the city is putting on you IF YOU ARE BUYING A NEWLY CONSTRUCTED HOUSE OR CONDO ON THE OUTSKIRTS OF TOWN. (Emphasis in original.) Because, of course, impact fees are only levied on NEW developments, not on an existing “house or condo or any property.”
And the competing plan would exempt development downtown where the infrastructure already exists to support it.”


In other words, the only consumers who will pay more are people who buy a house or condo that isn’t downtown.


Bob and his allies on the Council are betting – politically – that these people are not going to be an effective political factor in the 2007 Raleigh races.


And the pro-fee crowd is betting heavily. I understand they paid for a lot of phone calls to Raleigh voters supporting higher fees – as an alternative to higher taxes.


I know the Wake Homebuilders are paying for anti-fee ads. Does anybody know who is paying for the pro-fee calls?



Posted in: General, Raleigh
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06

Last year, Democrat leaders in the General Assembly put $400,000 in the budget to give to the Sparta Teapot Museum.



Earlier the foundation they (Mike Easley, Mark Basnight and Jim Black) appointed to give out the tobacco settlement money gave the Museum $590,000.


Now Congress has given the Teapot Museum another $500,000.


In fact, Congress budget includes $29 billion in ‘pork barrel’ giveaways – which is more than the entire North Carolina State Budget. This time the biggest offender is a Republican – Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska.


Politics runs off money. Republicans and Democrats in Washington are fighting over the Abramoff scandal, the DeLay scandal, and funding of ‘527’ groups. We’ve seen our own bevy of scandals – including Democratic House Speaker Jim Black – here in North Carolina.


But the politicians in Washington spending $29 billion for pork barrel projects to ‘win friends and influence people’ and get reelected tops them all.

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06

Three Republican House members from Wake County waxed indignant this week about Speaker Jim Black. According to The News & Observer, the Three Musketeers “rolled out a list of reforms Wednesday that they say would limit the speaker’s power and open up how the chamber operates.”



“North Carolina desperately needs to transform our state government into a modern 21st Century democracy,” said Rep. Nelson Dollar of Cary. “It’s time to leave behind the secrecy, the log rolling and the perception that trading campaign cash for legislative favors is required or helpful.”


You can track down the story to see all three reform proposals. Here is the one that interested me:



“Establishing an independent redistricting commission to avoid gerrymandered legislative districts to favor incumbents.”


Hear, hear. I think that’s a great idea.


But one question: Should the same rule apply to Congress? More specifically, to the partisan gerrymandering that Tom Delay engineered in Texas to strengthen Republicans?


How could the Mainstream Media not ask that question?


But let me make it perfectly clear, as a Republican President once said: I strongly support independent redistricting if it leads to more competitive races for more congressional and legislative seats.


That’s good for democracy. More to the point, it’s good business for political consultants.

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30

Some supporters of the Wake County school bonds are unhappy with my blog – which was reprinted in The News & Observer Sunday – saying the bond issue is dead with the voters.




I’m not their problem. Their problem is the voters.


And – more specifically – their problem is a failure to realize that God gave us two ears and just one mouth for a reason.


Here is what I mean. The school bond supporters – like a lot of educators – believe they just need to “educate” people about the need for the bonds. In other words, listen to me and you’ll learn what you need to know. Then you’ll do the right thing.


Wrong. The supporters need to listen before they start talking to people.


They need to understand why support for bonds is so weak. Some of the factors probably include:



• General anger about taxes and spending by local governments (including some of the city’s projects)


• Anger about the school transportation theft, which cost taxpayers a lot of money


• Anger about illegal immigration – whether it’s justified or not


• A suspicion that a lot of the bond money will go to plush administrative offices, not classrooms for students


• Anger about the reassignment plan.


People who dismiss polls and focus groups don’t understand how good public opinion research is just good listening.


Once the bond supporters listen better – and respond – they can start selling.


Until then, they won’t be heard.

Posted in: General, Raleigh
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27


“The Democratic Party is focused on filling the void of moral leadership in America.”



– John Edwards
News and Observer


The question, when a politician starts talking about morality, should be – is his real interest morality or politics?


If the answer is he discovered “morality” through a poll, there’s not much more you need to know.


In 1998, John Edwards ran for Senate as a sort of ‘Snow White,’ as a fresh face who said he wasn’t going to take one penny from PAC’s and special interest because it was wrong. He said, instead, he would spend his own money to get elected.


Just a few days ago, the newspapers reported that after he got elected, from 2001 to 2005, Edwards took more trips on corporate jets than anyone in Congress – more even than the President. Whatever happened to not taking money from special interests?


What is the ‘moral’ difference between taking cash on the barrel head from a special interest, and having a conglomerate – in Edward’s case Archer Daniels Midland was one – crank up its corporate jet and fly him from, say, Washington to Los Angeles. According to newspapers, all Mr. Edwards had to reimburse Archer Daniels Midland for the use of their jet was the cost of a first class ticket. According to the New York Times (March 8, 2006), experts say the real costs could run five time the first class fare or more.


Mr. Edwards paid those corporations $313,749 (in first class fares) for flying in their jets. Do the math. If the New York Times is correct these corporations and special interests put, in effect, the equivalent of $1.2 million into Mr. Edwards’ coffers. How ‘moral’ was it of Mr. Edwards to take $1.2 million, roughly, from corporations and special interests while he was serving in the United States Senate?


My suspicion is Mr. Edwards may have discovered ‘morality’ the same way he discovered poverty. How was that? My guess is back during his presidential campaign someone looked at a poll and told Edwards, ‘Eureka, John, we have found an issue you take no risk at all speaking out on.’ Because who, from George Bush to Osama bin Laden, was going to criticize John Edwards for being against poverty?


I suspect John Edwards may have discovered morality the same way.

Posted in: General
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27

The McClatchey chain, which bought The News & Observer from the Daniels family some years back, now has bought the entire Knight-Ridder chain. Knight-Ridder’s biggest paper in North Carolina is The Charlotte Observer.


As they always do, the corporate execs promise that this will mean nothing less than a golden age for readers.


Bull.


The reason for the acquisition is to cut costs and achieve economies of scale: centralized ad sales, newsprint purchasing, etc., etc.


The big question for North Carolina is this: Will this mean less competition for state government and political news in Raleigh?


Will the Charlotte and Raleigh papers start pooling some of their coverage? If they do, won’t that mean an inevitable lessening of competition for news?


That competition is one reason North Carolina has had aggressive press coverage of politics – and, thus, one reason we’ve had relatively honest government over the years.


But the newspapers’ commitment to that coverage has declined in recent years. Not coincidentally, the level of corruption in government has risen.


So I think taxpayers have something to fear here.

Posted in: General
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24

“The Democratic Party is focused on filling the void of moral leadership in America.”






– John Edwards
News and Observer


The question, when a politician starts talking about morality, should be – is his real interest morality or politics?


If the answer is he discovered “morality” through a poll, there’s not much more you need to know.


In 1998, John Edwards ran for Senate as a sort of ‘Snow White,’ as a fresh face who said he wasn’t going to take one penny from PAC’s and special interest because it was wrong. He said, instead, he would spend his own money to get elected.


Just a few days ago, the newspapers reported that after he got elected, from 2001 to 2005, Edwards took more trips on corporate jets than anyone in Congress – more even than the President. Whatever happened to not taking money from special interests?


What is the ‘moral’ difference between taking cash on the barrel head from a special interest, and having a conglomerate – in Edward’s case Archer Daniels Midland was one – crank up its corporate jet and fly him from, say, Washington to Los Angeles. According to newspapers, all Mr. Edwards had to reimburse Archer Daniels Midland for the use of their jet was the cost of a first class ticket. According to the New York Times (March 8, 2006), experts say the real costs could run five time the first class fare or more.


Mr. Edwards paid those corporations $313,749 (in first class fares) for flying in their jets. Do the math. If the New York Times is correct these corporations and special interests put, in effect, the equivalent of $1.2 million into Mr. Edwards’ coffers. How ‘moral’ was it of Mr. Edwards to take $1.2 million, roughly, from corporations and special interests while he was serving in the United States Senate?


My suspicion is Mr. Edwards may have discovered ‘morality’ the same way he discovered poverty. How was that? My guess is back during his presidential campaign someone looked at a poll and told Edwards, ‘Eureka, John, we have found an issue you take no risk at all speaking out on.’ Because who, from George Bush to Osama bin Laden, was going to criticize John Edwards for being against poverty?


I suspect John Edwards may have discovered morality the same way.

Posted in: General
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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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