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The price of Mayor Meeker’s downtown Convention Center just soared again: to $215 million.

The City Council just approved spending another $23 million on the Convention Center without a blink or hardly a nay vote. In fact, every County Commissioner and every City Councilman but one – Councilman Tommy Craven – voted for the increase.

But those same County Commissioners are telling us they don’t have the money to pay for schools – so they have to pass bonds and raise taxes.

In fact, when someone suggested using part of the Meals and Hotel tax money (which the politicians use to pay for things like Convention Centers) for the schools, Commissioner Betty Lou Ward said indignantly, in effect, You can’t use that money for schools by law that money has to be spent on tourism.

Where did she find that in the Constitution?

What’s a fact is whoever passed that law (that says the Meals and Hotel Tax can only be used to pay for Convention Centers and such) can unpass it and what Ms. Ward is really saying is she’s not about to ask them to. (By the way how about using that some of that money to build for roads – don’t tourists use roads?)

Anyway, we now have a $215 million dollar Convention Center, a $20 million dollar downtown hotel, a million dollar downtown supermarket, a million dollar white tablecloth five star downtown restaurant and the Exploris Museum – all paid for or subsidized by taxpayers and no money for schools. And on top of that the word on the street is Mayor Meeker is going to ask for something like $40 – 50 million to pay for an underground parking garage to go with his Hotel and Convention Center (he’s also against spending one penny of city money to help build schools). And by the way the Airport Authority wants to tear down a nineteen year old terminal and build a new one for $500 million.

What the City Council and County Commissioners should do is take all this money and spend it on schools and put a bond on the ballot to pay for all those other things they say are needed – and see if voters agree with them.

Posted in: General, Raleigh
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How easy is it to make fun of Dick Cheney shooting a fellow hunter?

Here are just a few of the jokes and one-liners I’ve heard since his hunting mishap:

• The White House says it wants to make up with Hillary Clinton. So they’re inviting her on a hunting trip with the Vice President.

• Now we know why Dick Cheney got five deferments from the Vietnam War.

• Dick Cheney can’t find Osama, but he can nail a 78-year-old lawyer.

• Isn’t the administration carrying its attacks on lawyers too far?

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The News & Observer recently called my old boss, Jim Hunt, the closest thing North Carolina has to a “policy Pope.” (I assume they meant Benedict of Rome, not John and Art of Raleigh.)

Unfortunately, I’m afraid Pope Jim has taken on a tough crusade with tax reform.

The Institute for Emerging Issues that Governor Hunt leads at N.C. State University has put forward a sweeping tax reform plan for the state. The plan includes reducing the corporate income tax and personal income taxes for the highest-earning taxpayers – while extending the sales tax to a host of services.

Governor Easley immediately flinched. He invoked the barbershop test: How can you explain to your buddies at the barbershop that you’re going to tax them for haircuts and cut taxes for big businesses and wealthy taxpayers?

Good question.

I’m just glad Governor Hunt didn’t assign me to sell this one when I was working for him.

Posted in: General
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The downtown hotel has hit a stumbling block – but not because City leaders decided it was a mistake to stick taxpayers with a $20 million bill to build a Marriott Hotel. Instead, the problem is stucco. That’s right, stucco. Councilman Thomas Crowder is raising all sorts of cain because the builders want to put stucco on the taxpayers’ hotel.

I’m not an architect (Crowder is) and I don’t know the advantages of, say, granite over stucco and Crowder may be dead right, stucco may stink. But it seems to me the City Council has missed the whole point. It’s not the stucco we don’t need – it’s the taxpayer subsidized hotel.

Maybe a miracle will happen and stucco will torpedo the whole project. (But, I’m afraid, it’s also possible – just to get rid of the stucco – the City Council will decide to give the Marriott folks more money.)

Posted in: General, Raleigh
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When I first heard about President Bush ‘wire taping’ calls (from U.S. citizens to overseas) I thought that sounded pretty bad – that the President shouldn’t just have the power to go out and wiretap calls made by American citizens anytime he wants to. Then I thought about the pictures on the Internet of hooded terrorists standing behind hostages holding swords and changed my mind. I thought, Well, if the President says has to have those wiretaps to catch those thugs that’s fine with me.

Then I read about the secret court the President can ask to approve secret wiretaps and how it’s approved, something like, 7000 wiretaps over the last twenty years and only turned down four. So, then, I was asking myself, if President Bush could have gotten those wiretaps that way why didn’t he? After all, if wiretaps are good to catch terrorists, wiretaps with a little oversight – and a little of ‘checks and balances’ built in – would be even better.

I still want President Bush to have those wiretaps. But I would also like him to explain why he doesn’t want to use that court. And it’s troubling that – so far – he hasn’t done that.

Posted in: General
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Ever wonder why the MBA presidency of George Bush seems so incompetent when it comes to managing government?

I’ve got a theory. But first, let’s review the evidence:

• “Heckuva job, Brownie” of FEMA and Katrina fame;

• The lack of armor for American troops in Iraq;

• The mess in the Medicare drug benefit program;

• And – my new favorite – the 24-year-old political appointee at NASA who tried to limit reporters’ access to a top climate specialist, then told a Web designer to add the word “theory” to every mention of the Big Bang. (This genius, George Deutsch, resigned after it was revealed he lied on his resume.)

Here’s the explanation. Like most things in life, as Hunter Thompson once said, it is deceptively quick and simple:

Republicans are miserable at running the government because they have nothing but contempt for government.

They love business. The bigger the better. And maybe some of them are good at running big and small businesses.

But how can they be good at running something they hate?

Democrats, of course, love government. To a fault. We study government, go to school to learn more about governing and dream at night about making government better. (Pathetic, isn’t it?)

Democrats take seriously the job of running government. Republicans don’t, and they’re lousy at it.

Posted in: General
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Wednesday’s New York Times has a front-page story about the problem I’ve blogged about: national Democrats’ ineptitude at challenging governmentally inept but politically skilled Republicans.

In the article, numerous Democrats concede the party has missed a golden opportunity while Bush & Co. fumbled and stumbled the past few months.

And they blame the party’s current talking heads: Kerry, Pelosi, Reid, Dean, Obama and Clinton. (That’s Hillary Clinton, whose tone-deafness was on dramatic display when she made the mistake of speaking after her husband at Coretta Scott King’s funeral.)

Democrats need two things:

• A leader with the ability of a Reagan or a Clinton (Bill) to articulate a message and a vision.

• A leader with the ability – which no Democrat has shown since JFK – to speak to national security concerns.

In the 1990s, Clinton united a party divided over domestic issues: the Jesse Jackson liberals and the DLC moderates.

But national security didn’t matter in those elections. It matters now.

It will be much tougher for a Democrat today to find a way to speak to both the party’s now-dominant peace wing and Americans concerned about national security.

It’s a daunting challenge. But the vacuum of politics usually creates that leader. Here’s hoping it happens again.

Posted in: General
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Bill Graham, the Republican John Edwards wanna-be, says he will spend $40,000 a week on TV ads opposing the 2.7-cent state gas tax increase.

I wonder if he will run ads attacking ExxonMobil for making $36 billion in profits last year – by raising the price of gas a bit more than 2.7 cents a gallon.

Posted in: General
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My choice: the refs.

Maybe Seattle didn’t get jobbed. And as an N.C. State grad, I’m glad to see Bill Cowher win.

But I hate to see the Super Bowl decided by the zebras’ close calls.

Posted in: General
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No matter what school bond issue faces Wake County voters this year, here is an issue I promise will come: illegal immigration.

You can see the Republican pollsters salivating right now.

Advance word is that one of the key issues President Bush will address in his State of the Union speech will be illegal immigration.,

Senator Richard Burr used it to beat Erskine Bowles in 2004.

And the right-wing talk network around here is already buzzing about illegal immigrants in the schools – the cost of students who can’t speak English and the like.

One little-known fact: Not all Democrats are sympathetic to immigrants. In fact, Democratic polls have shown that the most anti-immigrant opinions are held by the most pro-Democratic voters: African-Americans.

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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