John Locke Update / Research Newsletter (Archive)

Watauga County voters have had enough!

posted on in Local Government

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Here are three items for your consideration.


1. Watauga County voters have had enough!


The Watauga County sales tax increase goes down to defeat, 62 to 38 percent, with a turnout of nearly 18 percent, quite large for a special, one-issue election. It seems that taxpayers in Watauga County have had enough — enough of commissioners spending their money on the most expensive school ever built in the state. It appears that this excessive and unnecessary level of spending caused voters to lose confidence in the commissioners’ ability to spend the $1.9 million in the new tax revenue they wanted wisely. This vote may be a foretaste of how the ten-plus county tax increase votes will fare in November.


2. High-speed rail — or, how low- and moderate-income families subsidize wealthy elites who live and work downtown


High-speed rail seems to be on everyone’s minds in Raleigh and all along the proposed route in North Carolina. Unfortunately, most of the discussion is the usual "not in my backyard" (NIMBY) variety, as in "High-speed rail is great, but don’t build it in my backyard." See, for example, The News & Observer’s report here.


Last year, before the state applied for the federal money, we at the John Locke Foundation took a look at the plan and found it wanting. Our report, "Why North Carolina Should Not Build High Speed Rail," written by Randal O’Toole, found that:

  • The average rail speed in NC would be far from "high-speed" because it would average only 55 to 75 MPH 

  • The nationwide cost would be twice the cost of the interstate highway system and would serve only one-tenth the number of people.
  • The average North Carolinian would take a round trip on these trains only once in every 27 years. 
  • The federal government would likely force state and local governments to further diminish property rights of landowners near the rail line. 
  • Average taxpayers would be subsidizing more wealthy downtown residents and workers who would ride those very expensive trains.


3. The never-ending list of Raleigh downtown boondoggle projects


It seems that the Downtown Raleigh Alliance never gives up. These business leaders who argue for subsidies for downtown at the expense of other parts of the city believe that downtown will be a success if they get the city taxpayers to pay for their never-ending list of boondoggle projects. The latest boondoggle is "Raleigh’s own version of the Rockefeller Center, around the new skating rink at City Plaza." Raleigh, of course, is not New York City, and the alliance is highly unlikely to convert Raleigh’s average January temperature of 40 degrees into New York City’s 32 degrees.


Michael Sanera is Director of Research and Local Government Studies at the John Locke Foundation. He served as a policy analyst for the Washington, DC based The Heritage Foundation, and the Competitive Enterprise Institute and the California based Claremont Institute. ...

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