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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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.

Posted in: General
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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.

Posted in: General
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Carter & Gary
Carter Wrenn
Gary Pearce
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.”
Carter is a Republican. 
Gary is a Democrat.
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.
They enjoy talking about politics. So they started this blog in 2005. 
They’re still talking. And they invite you to join the conversation.
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