The Locker Room

December 5, 2008

Re: Palin

Posted by Geoff Lawrence at 7:05 PM

Roy,

Alaska has the highest per capita tax collections of any state (excluding DC - which is not a state) according to the Tax Foundation (p. 9). Not exactly a statistic that bodes well for fiscal conservatism.

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Hood guides you to helpful health care material

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 4:57 PM

John Hood shares with National Review Online readers some valuable tools in assessing the pros and cons of various proposals for improving American health care. 

You'll find the John Locke Foundation's health care reform ideas here.

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Professors honored with Spirit of Inquiry awards

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 4:48 PM

The Pope Center for Higher Education Policy honored Thursday night winners of the Spirit of Inquiry award. You'll find details here.

Click play below to watch a snippet of top-prize winner Bart Ehrman's remarks.

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Re: Swat 'Em

Posted by Becki Gray at 2:41 PM

Clint,  Here's an explanation of the Swat-A-Litterbug Program from the 2007
North Carolina Interagency Report On Litter Cleanup, Education/Prevention and Enforcement
dated March 7, 2008.

Swat-A-Litterbug Program: The Office of Beautification Programs continued to administer the Swat-A-Litterbug program. The Swat-A-Litterbug Program is an educational tool intended to inform those observed littering, that it is illegal to litter.

Those observed littering can be reported using the Swat-A-Litterbug online at the Office of Beautification Programs Web site at www.ncdot.org/~beautification, through the mail or by calling the NCDOT Customer Service Office at 1-877-DOT-4YOU. Reports include information regarding the offender’s vehicle license plate number, time, date, street, city, county, and a description of the littering offense.

When reports are received, a letter signed by the Colonel of the N.C. State Highway Patrol is mailed to the registered owner of the vehicle reported. The recipient is informed of the observed littering, that littering is illegal and that it’s a fineable offense upon conviction. There are no citations or warnings issued from these reports.

The program is totally anonymous and no record is kept regarding who submits or receives a letter. In 2007, more than 7,800 Swat-A-Litterbug letters were mailed to those observed littering – in 2006 there were 8,250 and in 2005 more than 7,500.

How do I know about this?  My daughter received a letter which came to my address.  Apparently a "friend" threw a cigarette butt out her car window and yes, she found it pretty Orwellian.  

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Alaska needs a Locke Foundation--to oppose Sarah Palin

Posted by Dr. Roy Cordato at 1:52 PM

The new conservative icon is proving that there probably are no conservative icons. According to the Anchorage Daily News Sarah (I can be compassionate with other people's money too) Palin is proposing "$5 million in new spending on areas like Head Start, obesity prevention, a test program of half-day preschool, and expanded Denali KidCare insurance." The Alaskan governor, who has apparently been influenced by her association with the ABC (Anything But Conservative) John McCain states that "That means more working families will have health coverage." And of course an expanded nanny state to watch over their pre-school kids and to keep those obviously ignorant working families from eating too much. By the way, if you think that maybe she plans on cutting other areas of the Alaskan budget to pay for this spending increase of more than $7 for every person in the state of Alaska, think again. According to the Daily News "Palin will release the rest of her proposed state budget next week and said not to expect any significant cuts."

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Swat 'Em!

Posted by Dr. Roy Cordato at 1:21 PM

Upon casually browsing North Carolina's Environmental Education website, I found a link to a program conducted by the NCDOT's Roadside Environmental Unit entitled "Swat-A-Litterbug," which seeks to get citizen tipsters to report examples of littering from across the state

If you see a litterbug and "Swat 'Em!," you are required to give the person's license plate, the date, time, county, and highway/street where the littering occurred.  You also have to report what was littered in the process (were they throwing a Jolly Rancher wrapper out the window, or pushing a sewing machine out the back of a pickup going 78 mph?). The site seems to be missing a box where you give actual proof of the event that "transpired."

It all just makes me wonder what happens if you are reported?    Do you get a nasty letter, or "threat" of a future citation?  Do they have David Caruso and the CSI folks out on the road fingerprinting each piece of litter and observing the detailed minutiae of the crime scene?  I don’t know.

The best part about it is that if you report someone, you can do it anonymously. Pretty Orwellian, if you ask me.

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Arctic sea ice growing

Posted by Dr. Roy Cordato at 11:15 AM

This is from the Daily Tech:

Data from the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) has indicated a dramatic increase in sea ice extent in the Arctic regions. The growth over the past year covers an area of 700,000 square kilometers: an amount twice the size the nation of Germany.

So now both poles are increasing in ice cover. According to the the same article, “recent research has indicated Antarctica is on a long-term cooling trend, for reasons which remain unclear.”

 

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Corporate Welfare Weekly

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 10:57 AM

From Chester Johns at the N.C. Institute for Constitutional Law:

Raleigh, NC. — During the week of December 1 – December 5, the following “incentives” were publicly announced:

  • Up to $2,000,000.00 to Sypris Technologies, Inc., by the North Carolina Job Development Investment Grant. The Morganton News Herald. December 4, 2008.
  • $150,000.00 to Dynapar Co., from the One North Carolina Fund. WWW.WRAL.com. December 3, 2008
  • $142,000.00 to Precor, Inc., from the One North Carolina Fund. The Triad Business Journal. December4, 2008.
(I apologize for the lapse in sending these reports out. If there is anything positive to come of the recent economic downturn, it is that there are very few, sizable incentive packages being awarded!)
 
The North Carolina Institute for Constitutional Law compiles this information from media sources only as a public service to all North Carolina taxpayers.

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Update on Forced Annexation

Posted by Becki Gray at 10:15 AM

The Joint Study Commission on Municipal Annexation met for the first time yesterday.  The Commission was set up by the General Assembly in their annual studies bill and charged with looking at North Carolina's laws that allow cities to forcibly annex property owners without their consent.

At this first meeting David Lawrence, from the UNC-CH School of Government presented an overview of current Nortth Carolina annexation law.  Lawrence gave the commission some annexation history, talked about basic principles of annexation laws, the standards, city service requirements and legal challenges to annexations. 

All very interesting stuff but the most telling part of the meeting was (as is usually the case) the Commission members' questions, discussion and comments.  Their comments give us an indication of where the biggest concerns are and where changes in the law may occurr.

Here is a list of those questions and comments from yesterday's meeting with some of my notes:

How many active anti-annexation groups are there now?  No one could answer this but judging from the packed room of folks in red shirts, there are alot.

How many states allow forced annexation?  Lawrence said he’d never seen numbers he felt like he could rely on but estimates between 6 to 10.  Anyway you look at it, it’s just a few.

The state (including legislators) has no knowledge of a municipal annexation until it is done.

The general public does not understand their rights. The commission needs to address making sure that people understand the process and their rights.

Can staff conduct an analysis of the 1957 study committee’s recommendations and what actually resulted in the annexation laws that were enacted in 1959?

Do the 1959 laws need to be re-written?  Considerations:  there was no sales tax until 1970s, have the size of cities and population density changed in fifty years?  Do the thresholds determining urbanization set up in 1959 need to be re-visited?

How has the population of NC grown since the laws were enacted in 1959?  About doubled – from 4.9 million in 1959 to 9 million in 2007

Revenue stream changes from county to city coffers.  Who’s left holding the bag?  Since the initiation of the sales tax in the 1970’s how much revenue have counties lost to cities through annexation? What has the impact been on building schools?

Concerns about the loss of revenue to counties, particularly with the impact on school constructions funds and social services, which are in greater demand during the economic downturn.  How are counties supposed to make up the revenue?

What is the scope of the local government commission?  During the depression most cites and counties in NC went into default so the state took over most responsibilities, i.e. building roads and education.  The LGCs were set up to monitor the finances of local governments as some responsibilities were returned to them. Over the years they have assumed additional powers but they exist mainly to monitor local governments’ finances and are administered through the state treasurer’s office. They have no authority over municipal annexations.

How can the commission fix the doughnut holes?  (Cutout areas that are excluded from annexation – usually low-income areas that cost a lot to provide service and don’t provide much revenue – cities tend to annex around them)

Who monitors completion of services provided?  No one.  If citizens are unhappy, they can go to court.

How do cities fund water and sewer? Almost all do it through user fees (aka enterprise funds) and not general revenue funds

What about partial subdivision annexations where services are provided by the city on one side of the street and the county on the other?  Hasn’t work well.

Are North Carolina cites annexing too fast?  Of note:  Between 1990 and 1999, 319,000 annexations took place in NC; the average across the country was 40,000.  Can they provide infrastructure as fast as they are annexing?  If cities can’t keep up and provide services to their citizens, should they have to re-pay the taxes those citizens have paid?  Could we look at situations where infrastructure was not in place with in 5 years and propose solutions?

Could you pro-rate taxes based on how many services the annexed citizens actually received?  Some constitutional concerns here.

What about setting up a legislative committee that would approve or disapprove all annexations?

What exactly are the rights of a homeowner in a forced annexation?  They seem to have no real leverage in NC. Here’s the process:  homeowner is mailed a notice from the annexing city; city holds a public information meeting; city holds a public hearing; annexation takes place.  It the homeowner doesn’t like it, they can petition the Superior Court to determine of the annexation is legal.
        
What rights do annexed homeowners have in other states?  Some states allow affected homeowners to vote on whether they want to be annexed.

Some municipalities (mostly the larger ones) have annexation plans years in advance so home buyers and owners are aware that they will be annexed and when.  Are those annexations considered involuntary?

What is the counties’ role?  None.  The city has to provide a report to the county but it is purely informational.  

Is there authority for cross county line annexations?  Yes.

Local governments have great authority.  Some are aggressive and some are conservative.  Are we better off than other states with this law?

And the final point:  
We need to look at the basic principles of democracy that are being violated. 

The next meeting will be December 17 at 9:30 am at a location at the General Assembly to be determined.  Check here for posting of the meeting details.

Linkable Entry

Congress "educates" the public about the Constitution

Posted by Dr. Michael Sanera at 10:06 AM

Constitutional scholar Matt Spalding at The Heritage Foundation writes this disturbing review of the "educational" exhibits in the Capitol's new underground Visitors Center.   

"If Congress can do whatever in their discretion can be done by money, and will promote the General Welfare," James Madison wrote, "the Government is no longer a limited one, possessing enumerated powers, but an indefinite one, subject to particular exceptions."

Wrong, Mr. Madison. The Constitution, according to the new Visitor Center, isn't a list of powers but "aspirations" that Congress is expected to define and realize. I guess those are like the rights the Supreme Court, in the 1960s, began discovering in "penumbras" and "emanations" of the Constitution.

This exhibit is Congress' temple to liberals' "living Constitution," the eternal font of lawmakers' evolving mandate to achieve the nation's ideals. There are no fixed meanings in their version, only open-ended "aspirations." The Constitution is an empty vessel, to be adapted to the times, as required to bring change. It means nothing - or anything.

Not surprisingly, the rest of the exhibit details the unfolding of liberal progress and the rise of modern administrative government. Everything is about movement away from America's sins (slavery, treatment of Indians, Vietnam) toward congressionally led enlightenment (direct election of senators, voting rights, the New Deal, Medicare).

The education experience concludes by quoting Sen. Robert La Follette, the great progressive reformer from Wisconsin: "America is not made. It's in the making."

 

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Raleigh Charter High in top 100

Posted by David N. Bass at 08:07 AM

Raleigh Charter High School has once again made U.S. News & World Report's list of 100 best high schools in the nation. The charter is ranked 20th overall.

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This weekend on Carolina Journal Radio

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 07:02 AM

With the prospect of a multibillion-dollar shortfall in the state budget, agencies that rely on that budget are preparing now for potential battles over funding. Joe Coletti describes that process in the next edition of Carolina Journal Radio.

One area of the state budget that deserves more funding — shifted away from ineffective programs, of course — is career and technical education in North Carolina’s public schools. That’s the recommendation from Terry Stoops, who will explain his reasoning during an interview with Donna Martinez.

We’ll also hear a post-election assessment of American politics from John Gizzi, who has spent three decades covering Washington, D.C., for Human Events. Tony Woodlief of the Market-Based Management Institute will join us to explain the basics of MBM, and we’ll get an update on North Carolina sheriffs’ participation in the federal 287(g) program, which is designed to find illegal immigrants who have been taken to county jails.

Linkable Entry

Today's Carolina Journal Online features

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:54 AM

This week's Carolina Journal Friday interview features a conversation with Harvard Business School professor Regina Herzlinger, the "godmother" of consumer-driven health care.

Donna Martinez's guest Daily Journal focuses on efforts to provide tax credits for parents of kids with special education needs.

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