Local Government Newsletter
Dear Local Government Leader,
Greetings from the John Locke Foundation. As the Director of Research and Local Government Studies, I will be providing you with news that I hope you will find of interest. Don’t worry, I won’t be flooding your e-mail inbox. This newsletter will be sent only two or three times a month. I would appreciate your feedback on the information presented and any ideas on how it might be more useful to you.
You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
1. Cumberland County, like many North Carolina counties, faces a jail overcrowding problem.
The county commission sought solutions by calling a “Jail Summit” meeting on April 30. The commission wanted to hear from a variety of experts who would present solutions from diverse points of view.
I was happy to participate in this summit meeting. My recommendations included:
Follow the example of the counties that have consolidated their jails.
Build a new jail that is larger than needed, and lease the extra beds to neighboring counties and the federal government.
Reduce inmate transportation costs by increasing the use of remote video conferencing for minor court appearances.
Revise state law that prohibits counties from contracting with private jail providers. (State law permits private prisons in North Carolina, and currently the Department of Correction contracts out three of its prisons.)
Details about these and other money-saving ideas are in my Carolina Journal article, "Solutions to County Jail Problems."
2. The N.C. Institute for Constitutional Law reports on corporate welfare by state and local government in a weekly digest.
Check out this example from the April 26 edition:
So far, Celgard incentives total $57,850,000
$1,900,000 in local incentives has been approved for Celgard, LLC by the Cabarrus County Board of Commissioners. The county grants include more than $1.6 million in tax breaks and $350,000 in cash grants. The county board voted 4-1 to approve the package on April 19. Celgard has already been granted $49.2 million from the U.S. Department of Energy, a $1.2 million grant from the city of Concord, $4.6 million from North Carolina’s Job Development Investment Grant (JDIG), and $955,000 from the state’s One North Carolina Fund.
~ Karen Cimino Wilson, Independent Tribune, April 20, 2010
3. We recently graded the transparency of government jurisdictions and agencies in the state.
We report our grades on a new website: NCTransparency.com. In addition to state-level agencies, this website contains the grades for counties and cities. It’s worth checking the site for the grade of your county or city.
Government Transparency Grades
Top five counties
Bottom five counties
4. Cities should think twice before getting into the fiber cable communications business.
This Davidson News article reports that Davidson is facing a tax increase to pay a $2 million subsidy to the contractor that runs the system for Davidson and Mooresville. In order to avoid a tax increase, residents asked town officials about selling the system, defaulting on the Certificates of Participation, and better marketing to increase the subscription rate. One resident offered this analysis of the problem:
“This was something I didn’t support, but we’re there. And being a subscriber, I have to tell you, the system is not bad. And somehow that word’s gotta get out there, because the reputation is horrible.”
The service is “not bad,” and “the reputation is horrible.” No wonder the city is in trouble.
Wilson and Salisbury have also installed fiber cable, and our reports predicted similar problems. Cities should not get into the rapidly changing hi-tech business. Providing fiber cable communications is not the same as providing water and sewer.
Regional Brief: “Salisbury’s Fiber-Optic Cable System: Another corporate welfare project paid for by average taxpayers”
Regional Brief: “Wilson’s Fiber-Optic Cable Boondoggle: City Invests $28 Million in a Technology That Could Be Obsolete Before It’s Paid For”
John Locke Foundation – Local Government Update
©2010 John Locke Foundation | 200 West Morgan St., Raleigh, NC 27601, (919) 828-3876