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Welcome to this week`s edition of SPINCycle.
NC SPIN’s 600th show
Plans are coming together for our 600th show event to be held Tuesday, March 23rd at the new Dorothy and Roy Park Alumni Center on the campus of NC State University. In addition to hearing from most of your favorite NC SPIN panelists we will be conducting a one-on-one interview with former UNC President Bill Friday, who has promised to share with us the rich experiences and stories of a lifetime of service to this state. Because this is being arranged as an intimate “Evening with Bill Friday,” a very limited number of individual tickets are available for purchase. A few sponsorship opportunities remain available. For more details be sure to call (919) 832-1416 or write email@example.com.
Be sure to watch this week`s show when we ask our panel to discuss state debt, whether to revise the history curriculum in public schools, who should represent state workers and whether we should call a special session of the legislature to focus on jobs.
The panel includes: Chris Fitzsimon, Director of NC Policy Watch; John Hood, President of the John Locke Foundation, former House Speaker, Joe Mavretic and Elaine Mejia, Director of NC Budget and Tax Center. Tom Campbell will moderate the discussion.
Tom Campbell`s Spin
For some this will be exciting, while others may be worried. Wait until you see what’s in store for North Carolina.
Heard on the Street|
Emerging Issues Forum
The 25th edition of the Emerging Issues Forum this Monday and Tuesday at the Raleigh Convention Center was the best yet. Attendees were challenged, entertained, informed and awed by presentations on the subject of creativity. Showing off the new technology the Forum once again asked the 500 people present to vote on certain key issues, using their cell phones to text their answers. Younger members obviously loved it, but we heard mumbling from those around us who didn’t know how to participate. Nevertheless, here were two interesting results:
Do you think North Carolina is headed in the right direction, wrong direction, or don’t know?
Right Direction 60 percent
Wrong Directions 19 percent
Don’t Know 21 percent
Do you trust leaders in business and government to solve our most important problems?
Trust 22 percent
Don’t Trust 57 percent
Don’t know 21 percent
The answers to the two appear to be contradictory. Again we credit some of it to a large number of non-voters and apparent skepticism among younger citizens.
Keynoting the opening session was Tim Pawlenty, the Governor of Minnesota, a Republican centrist who many think might be a presidential candidate in 2012. Pawlenty’s remarks were an appropriate beginning. After telling the crowd we could achieve whatever we believed, Pawlenty then cited New York Times Columnist and author Tom Friedman, who said that the tools of progress had migrated to the rest of the world…and they could afford it. Responding to Friedman’s book, “The World is Flat,” management guru Peter Drucker, in one of his last interviews before he died, responded that competition, technology and education may have leveled the playing field for now, “but not for long.”
Pawlenty’s take on Drucker is that some country, state, city or business will always be working to gain a comparative advantage, challenging the audience to think about the question “What is your comparative advantage?” Do you like the ones we have? If not, what must we do to get new ones?
The Governor asked the audience to think about their theory for change. How do you believe change occurs? Is it through crisis, moments of great leadership or by invention or innovation?
Pawlenty said this was an era for decentralization, citing two media illustrations. Stop to think about how news has been delivered. If you had never heard of or seen a printed newspaper what would be your reaction if someone said they wanted to cut down a lot of trees, run the wood through machines to make it into pulp and then paper, run it through some more machines that put ink on it, reporting yesterday’s news events, collated it, folded it, then gave it to someone to put in a car or on a bike that would drive by your house and throw it in your driveway at precisely the same time each morning? No wonder newspapers are having problems. Further, it hasn’t been that many years since TV networks dictated what time you were going to receive the evening news. If you wanted to watch you had to be in front of your set at 6 or 6:30. That was the time they offered it. Now you can get it 24 hours a day, seven days a week. News delivery has been decentralized. Change, he said, will not come from politicians and government. They are on the cutting edge of obsolescence.
Education is another example where decentralization is needed and indeed taking place. In today’s digital world with high speed Internet communications, think about why a student needs to sit within the confines of four walls (complete with dry erase boards at the front), at the time of the university’s choosing, being lectured to by a professor of the university’s choosing, using learning techniques that frequently date back to Aristotle. Is this how higher education will be delivered in the future? Pawlenty citied UNC President Erskine Bowles’ initiative to expand distance learning in our university system, adding that the state of Minnesota had set a goal to deliver 25 percent of college credits online by the year 2015. North Carolina has no similar goal. Think about how this could change both the funding and the nature of higher education. It is coming.
Speaking on public education, the Minnesota governor said we cannot have a country where one-third of our team is sitting on the bench. That’s what we have given the high school dropout rate. We must be open to education reform that matters.
The danger of working in government and politics, Pawlenty says, is the overuse of polling and undervaluing of creativity. He quoted Henry Ford, who once said that if he had taken a poll of people before staring on a new model for transportation they would have told him they wanted more horses and faster horses.
In a span of 10 years we accumulate more data than was previously known in human history. The world is changing. “Strongback” jobs, for example, have largely left this country.
In concluding his remarks, Pawlenty said that people with money and education have lots of options these days. They can choose where they want to live and work. We cannot be complacent and expect the future to be bright for us.
Another fascinating presenter was Tom Kelly, CEO of IDEO and author of several books. We won’t go into the same detail with his presentation, but there are several points worth mentioning.
Kelly started by telling the audience he was born and raised in Akron, Ohio, the rubber capital of the world. As a boy, Tom remembers sitting at the dinner table talking about tires. The three tire makers Goodyear, Goodrich and Firestone located there had 100 percent of the automobile tire market. But they were so good they became complacent. In the 1960’s the French developed a new kind of tire, the radial. Tom remembers the conversation at Thanksgiving dinner that year. Nobody would buy this tire, the adults said, especially from the French. Today Akron manufactures 0 percent of automobile tires.
Another example is Sony. In 2000 Sony dominated the electronics world but they weren’t bringing new products to market. Samsung, on the other hand was innovative and hungry. By 2005 Samsung passed Sony in sales and the gap has widened since. Kelly says there is always a Samsung out there.
Kelly, like many of the presenters at this forum, stated the great value of arts education and encouragement. He told the story of going into public school and visiting grades K through 6. In each grade the person asked who in the room was an artist. In the early grades most every hand raised. The numbers steadily decreased with every grade to the point where there were no more than three or four hands raised in the sixth grade. Why is this, Kelly asked? What happened to the artists? And what does that tell us about the creativity of our public school students? Marcel Proust, a French philosopher and essayist, once said that “The real act of discovery consists not in finding new lands but seeing with new eyes.”
Three examples from Kelly speak to the need for new eyes. Thomas Edison, after failing 10,000 times to create an electric light said that he had not failed. He just found 10,000 ways that didn’t work. The lubricant WD-40 derived its name because it was the 40th formula used. Then there’s James Dyson, inventor of the cyclone vacuum cleaner, who built 5,142 prototypes before he found success.
Kelly concluded by saying we have to lower the bar for prototyping, we must improve the pace of learning, take risks and try stuff.
Another fascinating presenter was Daniel Pink, author of “A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers will Rule the Future” and former speechwriter for Al Gore. We choose to report his remarks in this week’s My Spin, “Wait Until You See What’s In Store for North Carolina.” I think you will like it.
You can view excerpts from some of these great addresses from the Institute for Emerging Issues web site.
Seen at the Forum
Secretary of State Elaine Marshall….working the crowd hard
NC Biotechnology’s Norris Tolson
Bob Greczyn…recently retired as CEO of Blue Cross…looking happy…told us he was looking forward to working on some of his favorite projects.
Brad Wilson, newly installed CEO of Blue Cross, still accepting congratulations from friends.
House Speaker Joe Hackney… who told us he was guardedly optimistic about the state budget by year’s end, citing Governor Perdue’s actions to withhold spending as a big help in offsetting revenue shortfalls.
4-H’s Marshall Stewart… reporting record membership and accomplishments for 4-H.
State Treasurer Janet Cowell….coming into her own as the state leader for public finance.
A large selection of legislators including Jim Crawford, Nelson Dollar, Grier Martin, Dale Folwell (who reported that our Greensboro affiliate, WFMY has missed the past three weeks airing NC SPIN), and Pricey Harrison, with whom we had great lunch conversation.
SAS Institute’s Ann Goodnight…who had kind words about NC SPIN….much appreciated
Raleigh Chamber CEO Harvey Schmidt
Jack Hunt, longtime House Rules chair…told us he was about to turn 90, but still with that great smile and wit. Longtime pols and pundits still miss sitting at Miss Ruby’s table for home cooking and stimulating conversation.
Judy Hunt, former legislator and Utilities Commissioner, daughter of above.
Pat McCrory, former Mayor of Charlotte, who led one of the breakout sessions on regional planning with a new twist. Look for us to discuss this on a future NC SPIN.
There were lots of others but my poor memory is not bringing them up. Sorry! Lots of great friends of NC SPIN. Thanks for your support.
Chief of staff selection
Perdue has appointed Hilda Pinnix-Ragland, Norris Tolson and Ken Eudy to help her in the selection of a new chief of staff. Another of the names we hear being considered is that of Britt Cobb, currently Secretary of Administration.
Pressure on Poole
What’s the hurry to start the trial of former Easley legal counsel Ruffin Poole? In sentencing two men connected with pay-to-play permitting for a defunct biodiesel project, US Federal Judge Terrence Boyle sent a message to Poole, essentially telling him that if he wanted leniency from Boyle’s court he better practice singing…telling what he knows about the corruption scandals in Raleigh. To add urgency to this message Boyle set a trial date for late April. Not only should Poole start talking but he’d better do it quickly. Not so subtle messages.
Fetzer calls on Perdue to fire two key aides
State GOP chair Tom Fetzer called the press together this week to call for the resignation of two former Easley aides who hold high ranking positions in the Perdue administration. Is this political pandering? John Locke Foundation president John Hood says this might be advice worth taking by Perdue.
DHHS trying to reduce Medicaid spending
Following revelations by Lanier Cansler, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, that the Medicaid budget may end up $250 million in the red, we learn that department employees are working hard to get a handle on expenditures. They are focusing on patient access to physicians and prescription preferred drug lists, we’re told. Changes will be implemented this summer.
Look out for budget cuts ahead
As reported earlier in this newsletter, state leaders are breathing a bit easier regarding the outcome for this year’s fiscal budget. Where it was once thought that the budget would end the year $250 million or more in the hole, leaders are now thinking the deficit might not be so large due to two key factors. The first is the windfall Revenue officials secured in settlements on delinquent taxes. The second is Perdue’s rapid response to the possible shortfall and 5 percent reduction in spending she implemented. But no one we talk with has good feelings about the budget going forward. Federal stimulus funding is set to dry up starting July 2012 but continued revenue shortfalls and Medicaid overruns will likely see another round of budget cuts. We have also learned that the state will spend up to $1 billion in the next three years to reduce the unfunded liability in the state health plan, currently pegged around $40 billion.
What’s ahead for redistricting?
In a recent column we predicted that Eastern Carolina might lose seats in the legislature as a result of the 2010 census. One exception might be found in Pitt County, home to ECU and the ECU med school. This area is growing and might pick up a Senate seat. There is already some speculation about who might be in line to represent this district should they get a Senate seat. Area leaders are known to have approached broadcasting exec and talk show host Henry Hinton about possibly serving. Hinton, a Republican, has high name recognition in the area but recently told your reporter he nixed the idea, at least for the time being.
Senate seat heats up
We have reported that many are watching the Democratic Primary election for Senate District 3, currently held by Clark Jenkins. Frankie Bordeaux, an ACC basketball referee and business leader, is challenging Jenkins. We learned this week that Dr. Florence Armstrong, an African American also from Edgecombe County, will be entering the primary. While this has been a majority-minority district, previous campaigns have seen two or more African Americans splitting the vote, with Jenkins sailing to primary victory. Will there be more candidates?
US Senate debates?
If you want to know who the frontrunner in the US Senate Democratic Primary is, look no further. Chapel Hill’s Ken Lewis filed to run this week and followed a long tradition of underdog candidates, calling for a debate among those in the field. Cal Cunningham, another of the candidates, quickly chimed in support. Elaine Marshall, the front runner in recent polls, didn’t take the bait, saying three candidate forums are already planned and that was enough opportunity for the three to demonstrate their positions.
Filing season opens
The period to file for legislation and Congressional offices has officially opened and NC SPIN is keeping an eye on who is filing, who isn’t and what this means. Look for full discussion on this when we have a better handle on the offices.
Pension investments up
Treasurer Janet Cowell announced this week that investments in the state’s 60 billion dollar pension fund yielded a 15 percent return in 2009, a result largely of the stock market recovery. Cowell reminded state leaders that in order to ensure health of the pension fund, additional investments would be needed. This comes a week after also pointing out to them that they should not incur more debt over the next five years. Cowell is growing into leadership and speaking out, much as former Treasurer Harlan Boyles did for many years. To hear more about her admonitions about debt, be sure to catch this week’s NC SPIN.
Until next week, watch out for the SPIN!
Claire Cox-Woodlief, Editor
Tom Campbell, Publisher
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