Carolina Journal Weekly Report

January 21, 2002

In this issue

Feature 1 - National Agency Wants ID Rules

Ahead of the Curve

Feature 2 - Feingold Speaks at UNC

Capital Quotes

Feature 3 - Stick with the "Loopy" Idea

Coming Up

National Agency Wants ID Rules

Background checks to halt instant driver's licensing

On Jan. 14, the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators‚ Task Force on Identification Security announced its recommendations for enhancing the issuance of secure identification credentials.

The AAMVA said a state driver's license has become the most requested form of identification, and the importance of secure identification credentials has become a more visible public policy issue because of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. "It took these heinous crimes to bring these problems to public attention," said President Linda Lewis in a press conference.

"Unscrupulous individuals shop for the easiest way to get a license, and they put us at risk," she said. "Improving the driver's license issuance process is important to prevent fraud, protect privacy, and save lives."

Instant licenses would no longer be permitted under AAMVA's recommendations. A person getting a license for the first time in a state would have to go through a thorough background check. The association expects to achieve a "vision of a safer North America," through recommendations that include: improving and standardizing the initial driver's license and ID process, standardizing the definition of residency in all jurisdictions, establishing uniform procedures for serving noncitizens, and ensuring greater enforcement priority and enhanced penalties for credential fraud.

One of the key messages from the news conference was that the AAMVA supports and encourages the use of driver and vehicle databases for verification of vehicle ownership and to confirm identity. It encourages state motor vehicle agencies to use the databases of the Social Security Administration and the Immigration and Naturalization Service. Only U.S. citizens and people on visas would be able to get a license.

Last fall, State Rep. Russell Capps, R-Wake, introduced an amendment to a bill that would have North Carolina's Division of Motor Vehicles perform much of what the AAMVA has recommended. The bill he amended was sent to a committee and no action was taken before the end of the legislative session. In response to AAMVA's news conference Capps told Carolina Journal the recommendations were needed in North Carolina because "legislative leadership did not show the will to correct the problem." He said now that the AAMVA has announced specific proposals, he plans to revise his amendment to make it compatible with the organization's recommendations.

N.C. Department of Transportation spokesman Bill Jones told CJ that his department was reviewing the AAMVA recommendations and that in March, DOT planned to launch a pilot project to verify Social Security numbers before issuing a driver's license.

Ahead of the Curve

After negotiating $4.6 billion from tobacco companies in a lawsuit settlement intended to reduce economic dependence on tobacco products and provide health care for smokers, a commission created by the North Carolina legislature is now devising an antismoking program. The Health and Wellness Trust Commission hopes to have a campaign in place by July. Board members are considering a $5 million plan that would run for three years. If the board follows through with the plan, the $5 million would represent 5 percent of the about $100 million the trust has now. It would represent 0.4 percent of the $1.15 billion that the trust is to receive over 25 years, and 0.1 percent of the state's entire portion of the settlement. Last week the National Center for Tobacco-Free Kids issued a report placing North Carolina last in its efforts to prevent smoking by youth.

Charlotte's City Council, under pending threat of a lawsuit that probably would have been successful, abandoned its program that steered a percentage of its road construction projects to women and minorities. Minority-owned United Construction sued Charlotte because the city rejected United's project bid, as the company was not going to farm out 6 percent of the project to other women or minority-owned subcontractors. United's proposal was to use only one subcontractor, which was female-owned, for 1.2 percent of the project. The city had awarded the contract to the next-lowest bidder.

Feingold Speaks at UNC

Blames corporate oppression for attacks

In a talk sponsored by Young Democrats and Choice USA at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on Jan. 14, Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., called for increased activism by challenging youths to "help us face reality" and to "educate Americans about the role of civil liberties."

The two-term senator, first elected in 1992, rose to fame by joining Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., in a bipartisan effort to overhaul the nation's campaign finance laws, restricting the amounts of money citizens can contribute to candidates. Although gaining a lot of attention in the media, the plan never gained favor with most Republicans in Congress, nor did it rise above a minimal level of importance to the public.

"We should have seen this [Sept. 11 terrorist attacks] coming by our choices of activism," meaning America's young people protesting oppression in the world, Feingold said at Memorial Hall.

Sweatshop protests, globalization opposition, and anti-NAFTA positions by this generation of college students were the warning flares sent up by the oppressed people of the world that they were about to strike back, Feingold said.

During his lengthy speech on civil rights, Feingold criticized the Bush administration for not cooperating with other world governments on environmental issues (Kyoto Treaty), its failure to incorporate an HIV/AIDS policy into U.S. trade policy with African nations, and for turning a blind eye to the oppressions occurring daily in countries such as East Timor and Sierra Leone.

"Some people get rich," he said of American corporations who prosper because of diamond trading in Sierra Leone, which is believed to fund al- Queda terrorist groups. "Extremism and terrorism are the resort for hopeless people."

"[This] generation is specially charged to fight the gnawing sensation of terrorism," in all its forms, he said. "We must take more responsibility for the way we are perceived, what we do, and what we don't do."

Feingold blamed himself and his generation for their failure to become bilingual as a reason for the world‚s hatred toward the United States, noting that his mother spoke five languages. He suggested, however, "We can change this ugly aspect of our image."

Concluding his message, Feingold reminded the audience that it's time to „begin returning to the fights for domestic reforms." He suggested bringing an end to racial profiling, and abolishing the death penalty and the "spectacle of constant execution, especially in Texas." Again, he also called for "genuine campaign finance reform."

"If we don't [keep] vigil; if we don't address these issues (campaign finance, death penalty, and racial profiling) then we destroy our unity," he said.

According to his website, Feingold "authored a bill to enact a moratorium on the death penalty so that a commission can examine, among other potential problems, the role of racial discrimination in the application of capital punishment." He has also introduced legislation to authorize the study of racial profiling on U.S. roadways.

When asked later whether he would support the death penalty for Osama bin Laden because of the terrorist attacks Sept. 11, he responded, "I hope he gets killed in action. I don't want bin Laden to go through our legal system."

Capital Quotes

“The voters said 'no.' Do you not understand the 'n‚' or do you not understand the 'o.'? Y'all are spending money like drunken sailors.”

— Charlotte businessman Jim Cherry, as quoted in the The Charlotte Observer, addressing Charlotte City Council. Cherry was referring to the June referendum in the Queen City in which voters rejected by a 57-43 percentage a proposal to build, among other things, a new uptown arena for the Charlotte Hornets. The issue is back in the public eye with the Hornets threatening to leave town and a proposal by leading business interests in Charlotte offering to essentially assume some of the risk of building a new arena. City Council voted to study their offer, which would still cost the city at least $150 million if implemented.

“I'm pleased. It's not really a surprise. Based on the North Carolina Supreme Court decision, there really weren't many other outcomes.”

— Daniel Shatz, lawyer for Phillip Boyd, commenting to the Herald-Sun of Durham on his client's successful appeal to the N.C. Court Of Appeals. Boyd's case is one of two in which the N.C. Supreme Court first applied the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Apprendi, which requires that sentencing enhancements be charged and be presented to the jury.

“You're either government or you're private, and the TDA right now is both.”

— John McConnell, chairman of the N.C. Technological Development Authority, commenting to The Business Journal on the agency's budget. The authority, which was scheduled to receive $128,000 a month, has seen its state funding frozen since December in the wake of an audit. Auditors found numerous questionable expenditures by the authority, including $15,000 paid by the TDA's then chief financial officer to his brother for landscaping work at the agency's Research Triangle Park offices.

Stick with the "Loopy" Idea

Former Raleigh Mayor Paul Coble tells lessons learned

Former Raleigh Mayor Paul Coble felt the need to illustrate a few word meanings at a John Locke Foundation luncheon Jan. 14. He used a chart as a visual aid.

Exhibit one was a curved line, shaping what could be imagined as a western portion of the proposed Interstate 540 around Raleigh. He defined it as a "segment," which was accepted by the audience. He then revealed exhibit two, an arc, which he defined as an "semicircle," again agreeable to his listeners.

Finally he unveiled exhibit three, a completed circle, defined in capitalized bold letters as a "LOOP." It was a vivid illustration as Coble hearkened back to his mayoral race against recently elected Mayor Charles Meeker, who clearly told voters he supported completion of the I-540 loop during his campaign. However, in a Raleigh News & Observer article Jan. 9 , Meeker said, "When I think of the Outer Loop, I think of the section that runs north of town. The first semicircle is under construction and needs to be completed."

Coble, a longtime supporter of completing the Loop, repeatedly used subtle suggestion and sarcasm in referring to Meeker's curious definitions, but usually not mentioning him by name.

"I'm amazed at the conversations going on," Coble said about the unfinished southern portion of the loop, previously planned for completion by 2025. "It's going to make life a whole lot easier for those in Raleigh."

Coble said that what the northern portion of the loop would do for alleviating traffic congestion in Wake County also holds true for the southern segment. He said Meeker's and Cary Mayor Glen Lang's desires to detour funds intended for I-540 completion to the widening of local roads in western Wake County was unwise. He called it a change of the rules in midgame to fit their own criteria.

"I think it is a slap in the face of the other [Wake County] cities," Coble said.

Regionalization, as it related to other issues such as water service and rail transit, was a theme Coble repeatedly returned to at the luncheon. "We need to be in the business of being cooperative, not controlling," he said.

Coble warned of the potential for Lang and Meeker to merge their cities‚ water systems, which he said would raise ratepayers‚ costs in Raleigh and likely diminish water quality also. Raleigh has allowed Garner and Rolesville to adopt its water supply system, which is known for its relatively low cost and good quality.

Coble also discussed the charged issue of proposed rail transit in the Triangle, being developed and continually changing under the responsibility of the Triangle Transit Authority. He said many residents will think rail is a good idea, but will resist tracks running through their neighborhoods.

"Trust me, that's going to be a problem," he said.

Coble said regionalism is commonly viewed as a "you've got yours, and now we want ours, and we want your taxpayers to subsidize it" attitude. He said deals for regional efficiency must be mutually beneficial for municipalities. Regional authorities are often born out of such agreements, which end up being new bureaucracies with no accountability to voters. "I'm concerned about making decisions about our money without our input," he said.

As for the rail idea, Coble's opinion of it remains low. Citing the city's old trolley system that eventually faded away, he said rail wouldn't work for the same reason: inflexible routes for a spread-out populace.

Coming Up

Syndicated columnist and CNN personality Robert Novak will speak at a John Locke Foundation Headliner luncheon at noon Feb. 11 at the Brownstone Hotel in Raleigh.

Novak writes the political column "Inside Report" three times a week and appears in more than 300 newspapers nationwide. He is perhaps most well-known for cohosting the programs "Crossfire," "Capital Gang," and "Novak, Hunt & Shields," on CNN.

"Inside Report" is noted for its rapidly moving dateline and its hard-hitting analysis of national and international developments.

Novak has also coauthored the following books: Lyndon B. Johnson: The Exercise of Power; Nixon in the White House: The Frustration of Power, a comprehensive study of the first 2 1/2 years of the Nixon administration; and The Reagan Revolution, an analysis of Ronald Reagan's blueprint to transform the U.S. government.

Contact Kory Swanson at (919) 828-3876 or info@johnlocke.org for more information, or to register for either event.

 

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