15 to watch in 2015 – NC Spin

No matter how good the crystal ball, it is impossible to predict what will happen in 2015. Perhaps it will be easier to identify the people likely to either make or respond to North Carolina news events.

Governor Pat McCrory took a more active legislative role in 2014, frequently butting heads with Senate leadership. This year he needs to pass Medicaid reform, a transportation and infrastructure package and lead from the center, without alienating either his conservative base or independents, in preparing for his 2016 re-election campaign.

Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger, arguably the most powerful politician in North Carolina, is likely to flex his muscles in 2015. Berger doesn’t mind taking firm positions and negotiates grudgingly. Will he be the roadblock or dealmaker? House Speaker Tim Moore is not widely known, so it will be interesting to see if he sides with the governor, the Senate or becomes an independent voice. (Source: Read more)

Virtual charter schools have serious financial and academic questions – NC Spin

Despite major concerns and numerous unanswered questions, a special committee appointed by the State Board of Education recently recommended approval of both applicants seeking to create virtual charter schools in North Carolina. While the concept of introducing more technology into classrooms is almost universally lauded, virtual charter schools are a relatively new concept in which children take courses online on a computer at home and spend no time in a brick-and-mortar classroom.

The committee’s members may have been unsure if they were authorized to block either applicant even if they felt the school would fail students. A provision slipped into the General Assembly’s budget this past summer directed the State Board of Education to open two virtual charter school pilot programs and at present there are only two applicants. (Source: Read more)

Online BS – NC Spin

An outfit called Verifeed says “social conversations” on Twitter helped Thom Tillis beat Kay Hagan. Put me down as a skeptic.

You hear a lot of sweeping claims about how social media is transforming politics. The acolytes can drown you in numbers about “clicks” and “reads” and “open rates.” But is there hard evidence that all this moves votes?

If there is, please share it.

WRAL’s Mark Binker is another skeptic. He posted the story on Facebook and said, “Posting this mainly because I think it’s wrong. For Twitter to be a place where a race is won or lost, wouldn’t it need to be a more persuasive medium? My window into the platform is that people are sharing news, jokes, etc… but there’s not a whole lot of persuasion going on. Tell me why I’m wrong. (Seriously, I don’t buy the argument in this piece but I think there might be one to be made.)” (Source: Read more)

Sequestration Could Cost NC Thousands of Jobs – NC Spin

It is estimated there are 30,000 civilian employees at Fort Bragg, Camp LeJeune, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, Cherry Point Marine Corps Air Station and the Coast Guard Air Station. These jobs are not only vital to those employees but also essential to our state’s economy. Unless something happens before December 31, we stand to lose as many as 20,000 of those jobs. (More)

SPINCycle for September 23, 2010

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Welcome to this week`s edition of SPINCycle.

This week on NC SPIN we’ll ask our panel to discuss the Congressional elections, whether current laws are too restrictive regarding new political parties, whether our state’s policies concerning sandbags and jetties are clear and correct and the seriousness of the drought many counties are experiencing.

This week’s panel includes:  Chris Fitzsimon, Director of NC Policy Watch; Becki Gray, columnist for Carolina Journal; John Hood, President of the John Locke Foundation and Cash Michaels, columnist for Wilmington Journal. Tom Campbell will moderate the discussion.

We can avoid the lawsuits, bad relations and restrictions metro Atlanta has experienced if we will address our water issues now.  Check out this week’s column “
Water: Our Most Important Issue”.

Heard on the Street

Saying goodbye
Since 2003, we have published a weekly e-mail newsletter for followers of NC SPIN. It has been a labor of love. As time passed, the content and length of this newsletter has grown, as have the number of subscribers. More than 4,000 receive our letter each week and we are thankful. You have honored us with your time and attention over the years.

At times we have been controversial, hopefully interesting and perhaps humorous, more often than not wordy, and occasionally wrong. We hope we have corrected our mistakes when they happened. We have broken news stories on many, many occasions and for that we are proud. We have been praised and criticized, even threatened once or twice. Through it all we have loved communicating with you each week.

This will be the last edition of this version of the newsletter and I wanted you to know the reasons behind its termination. Your reporter has aged both literally and figuratively, having officially moved into senior citizen status this summer. This newsletter now requires about a half-day of my personal time and several hours of staff time each week. I am not complaining, but we receive no compensation for it. We’ve never asked to sell you a subscription or for contributions to support this effort.

Having been in the broadcasting and public affairs game for over 46 years I now want to cut back just a bit.  My pastor spouse, Lib, is now working three days a week and I would like more time with her. Also, I think I have a book in me and would like to see if fewer deadlines might help me finish it. I am convinced a fettered mind does not lend itself to creative work. NC SPIN, which is totally funded by underwriter support, cannot afford to hire a researcher and writer to continue the newsletter.

Rest assured I have no plans to reduce my efforts for NC SPIN TV and radio, believing the need for an independently produced talk show that focuses on state issues is more needed now than ever.

Our relationship, hopefully, isn’t over. I still intend to feed you tidbits, gossip, opinions and news stories whenever we run into them. But we will using the new social media that is so popular these days. Look for us on our blog site NCBlogger.com or on Facebook. I am going to be asking our NC SPIN panelists to provide conversation on topics each week to make the discussion more interesting. Who knows, you might like it more than the current format.

You can subscribe just as you have done our newsletter by filling in the box on the right side of the site with your e-mail address. Each time we post a comment you will be notified. Even better, there is more chance for you to respond to our blog and have it available for others to read.

So let’s not stop the conversation. Just look for us next week on ncblogger.com

I am eternally thankful and humbled by your great loyalty and attention.

Tom Campbell, publisher

UNC appeals penalties
The UNC football program has been under investigation, both by the NCAA and the school. The team has withheld 13 players from games this year due to the investigations. Wednesday the NCAA issued sanctions for two players. Cornerback Kendric Burney, who received $1,333 in benefits, is to be required to sit out six games and pay back $575.19 to a charity of his choice. Deunta Williams, a safety, received $1,426 in benefits and will be required to miss four games and pay $450.67 to his favorite charity. Oh, the first two games they already missed count against that suspension.

UNC Athletic Director Dick Baddour says the penalties are too harsh and is appealing the decision to the NCAA. Never mind that the appeal won’t likely be successful, Baddour and the university are sending the wrong message. Players who break the rules should have consequences for their actions.

It would send a message to all college athletes if the NCAA penalty was even stiffer, like suspension for the entire season.

We still don’t know the fate of 10 players who have been withheld or the results of the internal investigation Carolina has undertaken regarding improper actions surrounding tutors. Let’s hope.

What do you think? We’ve written our thoughts on our blog ncblogger.com and now we would invite you to respond. Send us your reactions and we will post them.

And look for a discussion on this topic next week on NC SPIN.

College spending under the microscope
There’s no disputing the escalating costs of tuition at colleges and universities across the country. Tuition in the $30-40,000 per year range is not uncommon in private colleges and universities but even publicly supported schools have experienced dramatic increases.

Where is all this money going? Is the value of higher education increasing at the same rate costs are rising? A new book, “Higher education? How Colleges Are Wasting Our Money and Failing Our Kids and What We Can Do About It”, examines the subject and reports that colleges are not spending their increased revenues in ways that benefit students. Tuition is now $40 billion a year higher than in 1980.

Andrew Hacker, on the faculty at Queens College, and Claudia Dreifus, from Columbia University, are authors of this new book, saying that much of the increase goes to athletics. There are now 629 colleges with football teams, 132 more than in 1980. All but 14, according to the book, lose money. The number of women’s sports programs has soared. Women’s soccer teams have increased from 80 to 956 since 1980. Few sports programs are revenue producers. Varsity golf at Duke, the book says, costs an estimated $20,000 per player. So the $40,000 plus tuition at Duke helps fund two golfers?

Administration costs have risen dramatically. Since 1980, the number of administrators on college campuses has doubled, almost matching the number of faculty. How much value can there be in a senior specialist of assessment, director for learning communities, assistant dean of students for substance education or director of knowledge access services? Colleges claim folks like these are necessary, but they add to the cost of education.

And let us not forget faculty salaries. While pay in most sectors of the U.S. economy rose about 5 percent since 1980, full-time faculty members at Yale now average $129,400 (up 64 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars from 1980). At Stanford, faculty salaries are up 83 percent, with tenure-track professors now pulling down $153,900 per year.

We must pay these high salaries, we are told, to attract the top talent. But a close examination shows these folks are not in the classroom as much, having negotiated frequent leave packages and smaller teaching loads.

And the pay for presidents is double what it was in 1991. The authors say there is no evidence that the pay of the president has any influence on the quality of education. Most of their duties are now public relations and fund raising. At Vanderbilt University, in Nashville, it requires the tuition of 31 students to pay the $1.2 million a year salary of the president.

This book is compelling reading and a compelling topic for a future NC SPIN. You can learn more about the book and read the authors’ blog.

Dalton for Guv?
Lt. Governor Walter Dalton is quietly making telephone calls to major Democratic donors across the state weighing a potential campaign primary challenge against embattled Governor Beverly Perdue. We hear some of the talks are fruitful, with major donors backing away from Perdue, who has historically low voter approval ratings. We understand that Dalton is telling his team he will wait to see where things end up in November, but will begin moving shortly after the first of the year if he plans to move forward with plans to take on a sitting Governor.

To groin, jetty or just sandbag
How long have we been having the conversation about what to do about erosion on waterfront property in our state? Property owners have long wanted permanent groins or jetties, but regulators and environmentalists have just as strongly opposed the action, saying there is not hard proof that they really work and plenty of evidence these structures might impact a property owner downstream. We allowed sandbags, but only on a temporary basis. The Coast Resources Commission has been nothing if not confusing about their policy on beach erosion and the legislature, at least the Senate, seems to be yielding to wealthy property owners who are lobbying hard for groins. We’ll talk about this issue this week on NC SPIN.

Victory Mosques?
One of the reasons we enjoy politics so much is that interesting people do interesting things. Take the new cable ad by candidate Renee Ellmers, trying to unseat 2nd District Congressman Bob Etheridge. The first ad of her campaign speaks of Muslims erecting victory mosques following victories in great battles. That’s exactly what the proposed mosque near ground zero in New York is to be, the ad says. And where is Congressman Bob Etheridge in this debate over whether or not to put a mosque at ground zero?

At first blush this is a laughable. The whole concept is pretty bizarre. Are there really such things as victory mosques? What do mosques in New York have to do with the 2nd Congressional District of North Carolina? And what influence could Bob Etheridge have on this issue? More importantly, how does this help us believe that Renee Ellmers could be better in Congress than Etheridge?

She has plenty of ammunition she could use against Bob, stuff that might even resonate and differentiate her candidacy from his. Take his votes on health care, the federal relief funding and other instances where he sided with President Obama. These are issues voters in the 2nd might care about. But victory mosques?

We have seen stranger things, however. Like the long-remembered visual of the aircraft carrier going through the canal and John East’s harangue about how Senator Robert Morgan (also from Harnett County) singlehandedly gave away the Panama Canal. It worked. Who knows, maybe this will also.

One thing is sure. Ellmers got publicity for her campaign (good or bad) and that is something that she hasn’t been very successful in doing.

You can hear a complete summary of the Congressional races in this year’s elections on this week’s NC SPIN. Be sure to tune in.

Goodwin goes to Washington
NC Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin got plenty of attention yesterday, including some personal praise from the prez. Goodwin was in Washington for a meeting of Insurance Commissioners. The Obama team is looking for some good news to highlight and picked up on our state’s negotiation with Blue Cross, subsequent refunds of $155 million to customers and lower than anticipated rate increases for the year. President Obama seized on this story to indicate how his health reforms are already working and on several instances praised Goodwin by name.
Read the biz buzz blog.

Nonprofits under fire
The Great Recession has impacted our non-profit organizations severely, as donors are holding onto dollars. The NC Center for Nonprofits has been a valuable tool to help these organizations through the years, but Jack Betts, columnist for the Charlotte Observer, reports that they have just released a helpful piece of 9 challenges facing nonprofits. Betts lists them in his
“This Old State” blog. Worth reading.

Drunks off the roads
Drivers under the influence kill people, cause wrecks and all citizens pay for their actions through law enforcement officers, court costs, even jail costs. Too often a slap on the wrist and a small fine are their punishment. North Carolina just hasn’t decided to get drunks off the roads.

Nationwide, more than 140,000 people charged with driving under the influence have been forced to wear ankle bracelets that monitor their sweat every half-hour to determine if they have been drinking. North Carolina doesn’t think that’s an effective tool, according to a state panel. The NC Administrative Office of the Courts has opposed using the bracelets for repeat offenders because they are too pricey for some offenders and don’t prevent anyone from driving drunk.

Too pricey? Those who wear them are required to pay $12 per day. Let’s get this right. They can afford to buy alcohol but can’t pay for a bracelet? They can increase costs to taxpayers by their actions but $12 a day out of their pockets is too much? And on, it cannot prevent them from driving drunk but we will know if they are still drinking and require treatment for them.

Here’s the question to AOC. If you don’t like the bracelets, what is your solution to getting drunks off our highways, cause what we’ve been doing isn’t working.

Pardon our rant but we are fed up with repeat offenders killing our residents and costing taxpayers money. You can be sure we’re gonna talk about this on NC SPIN.

First time jobless claims signal bad news
Just as economists have been trying to convince us the recession is over, the Labor Department has released statistics that prove otherwise. New unemployment claims rose to 465,000 last week. While still below the 600,000 weekly claims in June 2009 the figure surprised many who had thought the nation’s economic picture was getting better. One reason for the weekly increase was the number of census workers who were laid off because of completion of the census.

Swindell Campaign Draws Critical Fire for Buck Newton Attack Mailer
State Senator A.B. Swindell’s campaign is under the media microscope for sending out a campaign direct mail flyer alleging that his Republican opponent Buck Newton had been arrested on drug charges 20 years ago when he was at ASU in Boone. But the opposition research folks working for Swindell’s camp never caught the fact that the charges were dropped and the District Attorney had written a letter stating this fact, a letter that the Newton camp is parading around to media outlets in the Wilson/Nash District as well as with the Capitol Press Corp.

This is a big mistake for Swindell in a campaign where he can’t afford any mistakes. Recent public polls have shown Swindell in a neck-to-neck race with Newton.  Now, Swindell is on the defensive and that’s the last place he wants to be going into the final weeks of the campaign.  No word on who sent the mailer out, the disclaimer said the flyer was paid by the NC Democratic Party and authorized by Senator Swindell.

We don’t want to be Atlanta
The Atlanta Metro area, like North Carolina, has seen a rapid increase in population growth. Like our state, they have also experienced hot, dry summers. Leaders in the region turned their heads to the growing water crisis for too many years, resulting in 6 major lawsuits, angry relations between counties and cities, severe water restrictions and stymied economic growth.

The warning signals were ignored. Will North Carolina ignore the same signals? It is time we had some frank discussions about water in this state before our problems reach the crisis levels experienced in Atlanta and other areas of our country.

NC SPIN’s day-long conference, NC H20, features a group of North Carolina’s best experts on water issues, talking about the issues and proposing some viable solutions to them. This conference is open to the public, however seats are filling rapidly.

If you want to hear the problems and explore the solutions, you need to register now. Registration is $60 and group discounts are available.

Read more in this week’s My Spin, “Water: Our Most Important Issue.”

Claire Cox-Woodlief, Editor
Tom Campbell, Publisher

NC SPIN`s facebook page

SPINCycle for August 19, 2010

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Welcome to this week`s edition of SPINCycle.

This week depending on where you tune in, two different programs will air.  Due to some mix up’s, WRAL and WFMY did not air our special edition of NC SPIN last week which included a discussion between Reverend William Barber and John Tedesco regarding school assignment and student achievement.  This show also included regular panelists John Hood and Chris Fitzsimon.  This show is too important for you to miss, so we have asked them to air it this week.

All other stations will air a program where we will talk about the investigation into the State Bureau of Investigation, look at November’s elections to tell you what to expect, talk about the recently released end of grade test scores to see if real progress is being made and ask our panel whether all this stimulus money has really helped North Carolina.  This program will include political consultant, Brad Crone; Chris Fitzsimon, Director of NC Policy Watch; John Hood, President of the John Locke Foundation and former House Speaker, Joe Mavretic.  This show will be moderated by Tom Campbell.

Both of these shows can also be viewed and heard by visiting our website www.ncspin.com where you can either hear the radio version or video stream the show.

Tom Campbell`s Spin
It is time for adults to resolve the dispute about school assignment plans.  Read this week’s column “
School Assignment”.

Heard on the Street

Attorney General Facing Mounting Legislative Pressure
Will Roy Cooper be able to put his finger in the dike to protect the tarnished SBI Crime Lab?  There’s mounting pressure from a coalition of legislators to move the SBI Crime Lab out from under the supervision of the Attorney General and put it in an independent office such as a Special Superior Court Judge at the Administrative Office of the Courts.  Powerful Representative Mickey Michaux has fired the warning shot – noting that the Black Legislative Caucus and liberal Democrats are demanding accountability. Cooper is already smarting from his bitter legislative fight with the same group over DNA Testing.  The Black Legislative Caucus and the liberal Democrats are using the negative press about the sloppy results at the SBI Crime Lab as further evidence to show the SBI can’t be trusted to handle DNA evidence obtained from suspects facing minor charges – not to mention major felony cases including murder suspects.

It’s unlikely that Cooper will win the fight to keep the labs under his supervision, Cooper will have bigger fish to fry – trying to repair his reputation and protect his political flank from a potential run by Republican U.S. George Holding, who wore out the SBI and Attorney General in press clipping last week. That was the opening shot in the 2012 Campaign. We understand that Holding is being recruited by the GOP to challenge Cooper and point to his record of fighting corruption in state government, sending Democrats and Republicans to federal prison.

We Stand Corrected
Heard on the Street incorrectly reported last week that Capstrat had done business with the Governor’s Highway Safety Program on their seat belt safety campaigns and drunk driving enforcement efforts. That’s not the case we have been told by officials at DOT. We apologize. We also learned that Capstrat has represented the Health and Wellness Trust Fund on their anti-smoking initiatives.

The story remains that Democratic legislators are asking state contractors to raise money after the Democrats blocked efforts to pass ethics reform legislation that prohibits candidates for the General Assembly and state offices to solicit campaign cash from people who do business with the state.

Heard on the Street understands GOP Senator Phil Berger said he would support a special session of the Legislature to pass the bill if the Democratic Leadership in the State House and Senate would make the call.

Alice Garland the Heads Up Favorite to Assume Lottery Job
Who’s going to replace Tom Shaheen, the outgoing lottery director who resigned this week, to take a job in the video lottery terminal business?  Shaheen is leaving his $247,000 a year job that he’s held for nearly five years to work for a lottery vendor who wants to sell lottery tickets through machines like an ATM.

Will Shaheen get into the the video gaming business?

Who’s going to replace Shaheen?  It looks like Alice Garland, a fixture in Democrat politics and public affairs, will be the lead candidate for the job. Garland is former head of PR for Electricities and is married to Johnston County native Mike Davis, who is one of the top Democratic political consultants in the state.  Garland is well connected and we hear she has done a tremendous job at the lottery, serving as a good in-state foundation for Shaheen, who came to the state from the New Mexico Lottery.

Garland would be a good fit, she has the experience and understands the state’s politics and with four years experience at the Lottery, understands the gaming business. She would enable the state to have a ‘home grown’ candidate.

GOP Senate Caucus Makes a Haul in Western North Carolina
There’s parity in the fundraising fight for the N.C. Senate and that’s something of a first. We heard earlier this week that Senator Phil Berger and a number of Western Senators and Senate candidates were on the stump raising money in the mountains. Heard on the Street was told the GOP Senate Caucus took out more than $150,000 out of the hills to fund competitive senate elections.

All eyes remain on a few seats:

            Boseman – Wilmington

            Albertson – Duplin, Sampson, Lenoir

            Snow – Cherokee

            Forriest – Burlington

            Davis – Greenville

            Dickson – Fayetteville

            Soles – Columbus / Brunswick Counties

            Queen / NW Mountains

            Goss / NW Mountains

GOP campaign operatives are telling us they think there will be some will be some surprises.  The Republicans are pushing the theme that State Government Is Broken and it’s gaining traction.

Meanwhile-Jim Hunt back on the Trail
With Governor Bev Perdue’s numbers in the tank, Democrats are calling out former Governor Jim Hunt to help.  Hunt is hosting a series of fundraisers to help Sen. Basnight and Sen. Martin Nesbitt. He is also headed to Lexington next week to help House Majority Leader Hugh Holliman.  We hear Hunt is scheduled to help State Rep’s Van Braxton and Randy Stewart as well with special efforts targeted to the business community.

Hunt is talking about education – surprised? Hunt is making the pitch that the state has to invest in public education and work on improving our public schools performance to educate the next generation so that they kids growing up will be able to compete in a competitive global market.

A New BOE Report on Perdue’s Plane Flights
We hear that the State Board of Elections will be seeing a new report from Kimberly Strach on the Bev Perdue Flightgate story. It’s reported to us that Strach has updated her report with additional information and new interviews including statements given to her from Perdue’s campaign accountant, Dunn Mayor Oscar Harris, a prominent CPA in Harnett County.

One of the key findings – there was no computer glitch, the staff just didn’t know how to reconcile the computer programming to the scheduling information. One set of records was kept the old fashioned way – in a ledger notebook.

Democrats Coordinating Field Efforts
Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx; former U.S. Senate Candidate Cal Cunningham and former DOT Board Member, Nina Slozberg are heading up the coordinated campaign effort for the Democrats this fall. Chairman David Young has been relegated to the back seat because of the internal grumbling about his low-profile performance and the lack of any type of aggressive communication effort coming out of the Goodwin House.

The Democrats are hosting a huge party in Raleigh next Thursday, August 26 at the home of Bruce and Heather Thompson on Stratford Court featuring NC Secretary of State Elaine Marshall and Lt. Governor Walter Dalton. Among the top dollar donors.

Water Forum report
We continue to make plans for the NC SPIN Water seminar which will be held October 12th.  The keynote speaker for the event will be Dr. David Moreau, former chair of the NC Environmental Management Commission and Professor Water Resources & Environment at UNC-CH. Moreau will provide statistics and information about current water conditions, availability, supply and demand. The luncheon speaker for the event will be Norris Tolson, President of the North Carolina Biotechnology Center. A series of panel discussions on relevant topics is being developed and there will be ample opportunity for audience input. For more information, including sponsorship details, contact us at (919) 832-1416 or

Until next week, watch out for the SPIN!

Claire Cox-Woodlief, Editor
Tom Campbell, Publisher
NC SPIN`s facebook page

NC Spin Sunday August 15, 2010

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Welcome to this week`s edition of SPINCycle.

This week`s special edition of NC SPIN will include a discussion between Reverend William Barber and John Tedesco regarding school assignment and student achievement.

Tom Campbell`s Spin
Who else is innocent and what is going to be done about it are just two questions that need answering in this week`s column “
SBI guilty of poor law enforcement”.

Heard on the Street

Barber-Tedesco debate airs Sunday
In the 12 years we have produced NC SPIN we have never seen the amount of interest being generated from the upcoming debate between Reverend William Barber and John Tedesco about school assignment plans. While the context of this discussion focuses on Wake County Public Schools, it is highly relevant to most every school district in North Carolina. This NC SPIN promises to be worth watching, regardless of where you might live, as we discuss diversity, neighborhood schools, school choice and student achievement.

Because this program is not being taped at our regular time the show is being overnighted to TV and radio stations across the state. If, for some reason your station doesn`t air the show, you can always visit our website www.ncspin.com and either hear the radio version or video stream the show.

No indictments
In last week`s Heard on the Street we indicated that state indictments of former Governor Mike Easley might come as early as this week. The Rowan County District Attorney who heads up the state investigation has been telling reporters there won`t be any immediate action on former Governor Mike Easley. He`s telling reporters to call back in early September. Meanwhile, we hear U.S. Attorney George Holding is telling friends his term won`t be extended when it expires at the end of this month. Holding is telling folks there will likely be an interim U.S. Attorney until the Senate confirms the President`s appointee.

Election update
Labor plans to play in North Carolina`s election cycle.  Last week we reported that SEANC would not be endorsing candidates for the State Legislature.  This week we learn that other labor organizations such as AFL-CIO, Teamsters and NEA plan to create a joint campaign effort to support Elaine Marshall for US Senate and to work in targeted races for the General Assembly. We hear labor will spend more than $250,000 to back Marshall, which is down from the past campaigns, but we are in a recession. Will it be enough to counter the $6 million Burr reportedly has on hand? Look for a complete discussion on this election cycle next week on SPIN.

Last week SPINCycle broke the story about Capstrat CEO Ken Eudy, a former executive director of the Democratic Party, hosting a fundraising event featuring former Governor Jim Hunt and Senators Marc Basnight and Martin Nesbitt at his Harvey Street home in Raleigh.  The story is gaining traction with campaign finance watchdogs complaining that it is another example of pay-to-play politics. The Wilmington Star-News
reports that Eudy`s firm recently won a large PR contract with the State Ports Authority and states that while it doesn`t appear to be a quid-pro-quo arrangement, the situation doesn`t look good.  Capstrat has contracts with many agencies of state government for programs such as Booze it and Lose It, Click it or Ticket, the Seniors Health Plan and many others. Those contracts amount to millions of dollars in PR and advertising revenues to the firm.

Republicans say they are watching with a close eye and point to the fact that this fundraiser is another example of why lawmakers should pass an ethics law that prohibits legislators from raising money from state contractors.

SBI in scramble mode
The News and Observer in Raleigh has written three excellent stories on problems in our State Bureau of Investigation. Charges are damning and Attorney General Roy Cooper is in scramble mode to salvage the reputation of this once-proud agency. The N&O series has reported “junk science” in blood stain investigations, shoddy investigative work by agents, a penchant for favoring prosecutors and law enforcement agencies in pursuing investigations and irresponsible oversight and management at all levels.

A growing number of critics are calling for the state crime lab to be moved out of the Attorney General`s office and placed under the direction of a special superior court judge to have more independents and accountability.  The idea is gaining momentum especially in the African American community.  The Black Legislative caucus is likely to support the move especially after the bruising fight over the new DNA registry law. The African American community is concerned if there are already systematic problems in the state crime lab, how will they handle DNA swabs collected from suspected criminals? There are even some murmurs that perhaps the SBI needs to be removed from the Attorney General`s office in order to ensure better management.

Meanwhile, Sheriffs, District Attorneys and law enforcement officers across the state are shaking their heads about the apparently strange appointment of Greg McLeod as interim SBI Director. The Sheriffs and District Attorneys are privately complaining that McLeod has no managerial experience and no law enforcement background. McLeod was Cooper`s legislative lobbyist before being moved to the SBI.

Look for more discussion about the SBI on next week`s NC SPIN and read My Spin on the issue, “SBI Guilty of Poor Law Enforcement”.

New UNC Prez
Attorney General Roy Cooper is one of three reported finalists for the UNC President`s job. Many are asking how the revelations about the SBI, coming as they do when the final decision is nearing, might impact Coop`s chances. The other two are former Jim Hunt lobbyist and former UNC Board of Governors chair Jim Phillips, a Greensboro attorney, and Bill Roper, head of UNC Health Care.

GOP makes impression on Business
GOP State House Leadership got very high marks from Chamber folks last week following their presentation to the NC Chamber.  All four caucuses made presentations to the Chamber`s Executive Committee in RTP last Friday. Charlotte lawmaker Tom Tillis got very high marks for outlining the GOP platform and showing the contrast between the GOP agenda for business and the Democrats record on business issues. Tillis made the point that the business community needs leadership in the House Finance committee that understands the elements of running a company and making a profit.  Meanwhile, some Chamber executives were stunned by Rep. Pryor Gibson`s opening comment, "I`ve either done something for you or something to you," said Gibson, a lawmaker from Wadesboro. Gibson made the comment in jest but some folks in the room weren`t laughing.

Perdue popularity
Why do pollsters repeatedly survey popularity numbers of politicians who aren`t up for re-election anytime soon? To keep their polls names in the news, we suspect. The recent Civitas poll showing that Governor Perdue has a 33 percent favorable rating is relevant to what? Her re-election campaign, if there is to be one, doesn`t take place until 2012.

Sixty is the new 40
Several weeks ago we wrote a column about
getting older, in honor of my advanced age birthday. I reported on my new stand-up comedy routine that will take the place of this column, stating that I was printing a bumper sticker that said “60 is the new 40.” The folks at the News and Observer`s Under the Dome obviously liked the concept, heading one of their blog blurbs with the same title.

The story is about a new law that allows drivers up to the age of 66 to renew their drivers` licenses for eight years if they fall between the ages of 54 and 66. Unfortunately (for me) the new law doesn`t take effect until January.

State Board of Elections stories continue
The controversies swirling around the State Board of Elections continue. The News and Observer reported this week about the contract for Printelect, a New Bern printing company, to print election ballots in our state. Follow ups included contributions to political candidates by Owen Andrews, president of the company, trips for SBOE head Gary Bartlett on Andrews` boat, as well as contributions to the meeting for county election directors.

Government officials need to take note. Any contact with anyone doing business with the state or local governments, especially those units with whom you do business, are going to be reported…and probably not in the most favorable light. Find your entertainment and contributors elsewhere.

Now if our legislature would get serious and pass ethics laws to make such contacts illegal.

UNC-TV and Alcoa
Another issue that won`t die is the UNC-TV handling of the Alcoa story.

Following our story last week, Steve Volstead, UNC-TV Director of Communications and Marketing, wrote to respond to points raised by us (and other media) about the School of Journalism investigation into UNC-TV`s handling of the issue.

Says Volstead, “Opinions about the issue may vary, but there are some objective factual errors that have been part of the continuing discussion that need to be clarified for the sake of accuracy.
“First, there is recurring reference to reporter Eszter Vajda having `compiled more than 200 hours of video investigation` related to this story.  It is true that Ms. Vajda cited that figure in her sworn affidavit to the State Senate Judiciary II Committee meeting on July 6.  However, when UNC-TV requested that Ms. Vajda provide her supervisors with her working tapes in order for UNC-TV to comply with the committee`s request for materials, she turned in 13 DVD discs with a total of 10 hours and 47 minutes of content, which she said was all the material in her possession.  If there is more existing video, UNC-TV is unaware of it and has not seen it.  

“Secondly, it has been stated that Ms. Vajda `had originally been working on this as a documentary to air on the statewide network when she was suddenly told the documentary project would be halted because of lack of resources.`  This is inaccurate.  When she was given the assignment in February 2010, her original and sole assignment was to produce a series of reports for North Carolina Now.  At no time was she asked to produce a documentary for UNC-TV.  The 56-minute piece she turned over to the Judiciary II Committee for screening is an unauthorized derivative work that she produced independently using UNC-TV work product, and in fact, no one at UNC-TV was aware that a “documentary” existed until the committee screened it.

“Finally, regarding the independent evaluation of the North Carolina Now pieces that UNC-TV Director and General Manager Tom Howe requested from UNC-Chapel Hill`s School of Journalism, it has been said that `he withheld the report of the panel.`  In point of fact, after requesting the original review on July 9, on July 13 Mr. Howe asked the panel of journalism experts to postpone doing the critique while he and others were engaged in trying to evaluate the broader and rapidly evolving situation.  At that point, Mr. Howe did not know if the review had been started or what conclusions it might draw.  After Alcoa made a public records request of the J-School to get a copy of the draft report, Mr. Howe followed suit, making his own public records request of the journalism school in order to obtain his own copy.”

We wanted to give UNC-TV the opportunity to respond. The one, inescapable, conclusion about this matter is that UNC-TV bungled this whole affair about as badly as someone could. Don`t take our word for that. Read The Charlotte Observer`s editorial, Carolina Journal`s editorial, and Laura Leslie`s blog, “Alcoa: UNC-TV tries to Unring the Bell.” Leslie also reports “The Latest on Alcoa,” on her Issac Hunter`s Tavern blogsite. The High Point Enterprise wrote an editorial about the Alcoa takeover attempt by the state. Good points were raised.

Water Forum report
We have been keeping you updated on the progress about the NC SPIN Water seminar which will be held October 12th. We can now report to you that the program is coming together. The keynote speaker for the event will be Dr. David Moreau, former chair of the NC Environmental Management Commission and Professor Water Resources & Environment at UNC-CH. Moreau will provide statistics and information about current water conditions, availability, supply and demand. The luncheon speaker for the event will be Norris Tolson, President of the North Carolina Biotechnology Center. A series of panel discussions on relevant topics is being developed and there will be ample opportunity for audience input. For more information, including sponsorship details, contact us at (919) 832-1416 or

Until next week, watch out for the SPIN!

Claire Cox-Woodlief, Editor
Tom Campbell, Publisher
NC SPIN`s facebook page

Barber, Tedesco face off at WRAL – Source: WRAL

Raleigh, N.C. — Only WRAL cameras were rolling as the two men most often associated with the Wake School Assignment controversy – N.C. NAACP president Rev. William Barber and school board member John Tedesco – met face to face on Thursday night. (Source: WRAL)

See related:

Tedesco, Barber debate Wake school issues – News & Observer

Wake County Public Schools


NC Spin July 29

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Welcome to this week`s edition of SPINCycle.  Due to technical difficulties we learned that the Thursday edition did not launch, so here it is, better late than never!  Enjoy.

This week on NC SPIN we are delighted to welcome young people from North Carolina’s 4-H Clubs. We are very impressed with this organization and these young people and look forward to hearing what they think about a variety of national and statewide issues.  They’ll give us their thoughts on the gulf oil spill, the wars our nation is involved in and they’ll give our president a letter grade.  They’ll tell us what they think are the biggest issues our state is currently facing and will also share their thoughts on education.

This week`s panel includes:  Sarah Osborne from Graham; Will Farlessyost from Mars Hill; Curtis Crump from Wadesboro and Ashten Bergstedt from Winterville.  The show will be moderated by Tom Campbell.

Tom Campbell`s Spin
Tom’s birthday this week was one of those milestone events.  Check out Tom’s weekly column, “
Getting Older”.

Heard on the Street

Barber and Tedesco to appear on NC SPIN August 15th
NC SPIN announced Wednesday (July 28th) that the Reverend William Barber, state President of the NAACP, and John Tedesco, Wake County School Board member, have agreed to appear together on the August 15th airing of the statewide talk show.

“What is taking place in Wake County has implications throughout our state,” NC SPIN executive producer and moderator Tom Campbell said in announcing the joint appearance. “With so much drama and noise surrounding public education in the largest school system in our state it is time for the two most visible leaders of this debate to sit down in an intelligent discussion on issues such as diversity, school assignment and student achievement. I commend both John Tedesco and William Barber for their willingness to participate in a civil debate, demonstrating that people of good will can have honest discussion that will benefit our children. We are excited about having them on NC SPIN.”

Campbell added that regular panelists Chris Fitzsimon and John Hood will also be featured on the show. “We want Reverend Barber and Mr. Tedesco to be the principals in this discussion, but John and Chris have many years of experience discussing public education and will enrich this debate. I pledge to our audience this program will continue our high standards of civility, will give both sides equal time to be heard and will be fair to all.”

The format of the program will be much the same as normal NC SPIN programs and will be pre-recorded so that the show can air on the NC SPIN network of stations across the state. Campbell was quick to add that viewers will see the entire, unedited half hour debate on August 15th.  “We believe this program will be significant, with implications in most every school system in our state. We encourage everyone interested in education to watch this show,” Campbell concluded.

Controlled choice
Wake County School Board members and citizens heard a presentation from consultant Michael Alves about student assignment using a program he called “Controlled Choice.” The presentation contemplates creating districts within each county, ensuring each district passes a test of practicability and fairness. Parents would be given their choice of schools within the district in which they reside and, according to Alves, most parents would receive either their first or second choice. “The Devil is in the Details,” NAACP President William Barber told us this week. The plan sounds good but there are many questions left to resolve. School board member John Tedesco favors the plan but agrees there must be much done to assure fairness. Once again the diversity yardstick is being applied. We will talk about this subject on next week’s NC SPIN, to set up the Tedesco-Barber debate the following week.

4-H students shine
This week’s NC SPIN is one you will want to catch. We feature four of North Carolina’s best and brightest on our show, ranging in age from 13 to 17, including Curtis Crump from Wadesboro, Sarah Osborne from Graham, Will Farlessyost from Mars Hill and Ashten Bergstedt from Winterville. We were blown away by their great observations on both world and state issues. You will be also. Catch it over the air or you can video stream the show by going to our website
www.ncspin.com on Sunday morning.

Alocoa renewal issue not dead
Alcoa’s relicensing of power generation facilities on the Yadkin River drew a lot of press attention before the legislature adjourned. We wanted to know where things now stand and here’s what we found out. A group of concerned citizens in Lexington are meeting tonight in the home of Commissioner Cathy Dunn to discuss the future of the Yadkin River. We understand the sponsors of this event are opposed to Alcoa’s relicensing.

Meanwhile we checked in with Eszter Vajda, who produced a documentary for UNC TV which was subpoenaed by a Senate Judiciary Committee in the closing days of the session. Vajda reports that UNC TV management has made it clear they want nothing more to do with the Alcoa documentary. But Vajda reports that the airing of segments on UNC-TV has created a wave or responses from former employees and their families, as well as folks in other states, telling us there are facts which have not been released and that she is working on her own time to complete the project.

We will keep you posted on future developments as this has implications for many folks in our state.

Why not just give them the state?
It seems that we can never do enough in financial incentives to corporations. Governor Perdue is grousing because the recently passed bill that exempted didn’t go far enough. The bill raised the cap film productions can take from 7.5 to 20 million dollars. Perdue says we are in competition with other states over a Nicholas Sparks movie and she doesn’t have enough tools in her toolbox to compete. How much is enough? Will we ever give out enough incentives?

Meanwhile back in North Carolina
The National Conference of State Legislatures just released a report showing that North Carolina listed Texas, North Carolina, New York and California as the four states projected to have the biggest budget deficits next year. Our state’s projected $3 billion puts us in the big leagues. Are we having these budget problems because we aren’t giving out enough tax incentives?

Basnight fundraiser uses public e-mail list
We are surprised GOP Chair Tom Fetzer hasn’t been jumping up and down about this. The town of Kill Devil Hills keeps an e-mail list of residents so they can send out announcements such as utility problems, crime alerts and weather updates. But last month the public list was used to mail out an announcement of a fundraiser for Senate President Pro Tem Marc Basnight. Aw shucks, the town clerk says. She didn’t even think about the fact that this might be aiding Basnight’s political campaign. Right. Is this all there is to this story?

Rand nominated to be US Attorney
The Good Ole Boy Club in North Carolina is alive and well. President Obama, at the behest of Senator Kay Hagan, nominated Ripley Rand, son of political power figure Tony Rand, to be the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of North Carolina. He will have to go through confirmation hearings to get the job.

You can count on the fact that Rand will be asked about allegations of federal investigations for his dad.

Speaking of investigations, we pondered last week why US prosecutor George Holding was taking so long to move on the Easley investigation. More eyebrows are raised but there are suggestions that negotiations are underway for a plea bargain agreement with the former governor. Don’t be surprised if the subject of the agreement involves an issue that hasn’t been raised in the media to date.

Keeping drunks off the roads
The story of an habitual DWI offender who killed a 17 year old girl has created more cries for stiffer laws and more severe punishment in our state. Judges can require repeat offenders to wear an ankle bracelet that measures alcohol levels in the wearer’s sweat, but laws don’t permit more than 60 days of required wearing. We’re going to talk about this subject on next week’s NC SPIN. Be sure to catch it.

Senior moments
This week your intrepid reporter celebrated a milestone anniversary, one not necessarily to boast about but nevertheless one to mark. Operating under the premise that you might as well laugh and enjoy it, we dedicated our My Spin column to this seminal occurrence. Read
Getting Older.

Highway Patrol panel meeting
Governor Perdue named a panel of notables to help advise her as to who should be the next leader of the Highway Patrol. The Governor obviously wants some shielding to her next selection.  Most of the reaction we heard was that these picked to serve were safe selections, but some wondered why there were no average citizens represented. The panel is scheduling their first meeting today to discuss the new leader.

Rogue agents
Marvin Austin and other athletes may have had illegal contacts with professional agents, according to UNC Football Coach Butch Davis. ACC Commissioner John Swofford and others in college sports are calling for tougher sanctions from agents who violate the rules. NC Secretary of State Elaine Marshall has also started an investigation into these agents. NCAA rules are lengthy and complicated. Colleges and universities spend a lot of time trying to inform their student athletes about what is and isn’t appropriate conduct. No question the athletes must be accountable for their own actions, but Swofford says the NFL and other pro leagues need to institute tougher sanctions. We plan to talk about this on a future show.

Stimulus funds
Look for a big topic in this year’s Senatorial race to focus on whether or not the federal stimulus funds have helped North Carolina. Have we gotten too much or too little? Have they made a significant impact or not? Why do we have so much unspent? These are good questions worthy of response from our candidates.

Cooper on the warpath for Medicaid Fraud
Attorney General Roy Cooper fired a large shot across the bow of Medicaid fraud perpetrators today when he announced that Robin Pendergaft, director of the State Bureau of Investigation, is stepping down from her post to become a special prosecutor in Cooper’s office to investigate and bring to court those firms and individuals who have defrauded our state. We have been told there are hundreds of millions involved and Cooper plans to make it clear that North Carolina won’t tolerate people who cheat the system.

950 Million gallons per day
A recent special edition of National Geographic Magazine indicated that the average citizen in this country uses more than 160 gallons of water per day. With more than 9 million people in North Carolina, we need more than 950 million gallons of water a day to drink, bathe, cook, water crops and other needs. No wonder a growing number of folks are worrying about the impact of growth and climate on North Carolina’s water supply.

NC SPIN’s planning for a half-day water forum is shaping up. A steering committee of experts in the field has been assembled and is planning an informative program on October 12, 2010. It won’t be long before we begin accepting registrations, so mark your calendar and stay tuned for more announcements.

Health Care in North Carolina
The Health Reform legislation may have been passed by Congress but the debate is far from over. Look for more discussions as we approach the 2014 implementation of the laws. Blue Cross has implemented a
new website to explain to our citizens the new laws. It is worth reading.

Until next week, watch out for the SPIN!

Claire Cox-Woodlief, Editor
Tom Campbell, Publisher

NC SPIN`s facebook page

See related:

Wake County Public Schools

Rev. William J. Barber II NC NAACP President and John Tedesco Wake County Public School Board To Appear On NC Spin

I hear a special NC SPIN show that will feature Reverend William Barber and John Tedesco of the Wake County School Board will take place. The show will be taped Thursday, August 12th and will air Sunday, August 15th. In addition to Barber and Tedesco regular panelists John Hood and Chris Fitzsimon will also be on the show.

See related:

Wake County Public Schools

SPINCycle for July 22, 2010 – Debate offer for Barber and Tedesco on NC School Diversity Controversy

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Welcome to this week`s edition of SPINCycle.

This week on NC SPIN we’ll ask our panel to comment on recent news about our economy, about whether legislative chaplains should be allowed to mention the name of a deity, about who should be the next leader of the Highway Patrol and whether there was interference in a campaign investigation.

This week`s panel includes:  political consultant, Jeanne Bonds; Chris Fitzsimon, Director of NC Policy Watch; John Hood, President of the John Locke Foundation and former House Speaker, Joe Mavretic. The show will be moderated by Tom Campbell.

Tom Campbell`s Spin
The interference by the State Board of Elections chairman warrants Governor Perdue’s action to assure voters this agency is fair and impartial.  Read this week’s column “
Stop the Leake”.

Heard on the Street

NC SPIN challenges Barber and Tedesco to debate
You know it must be a Wake School Board meeting if folks get arrested. Following a protest on the streets of Raleigh, a group of protestors attended the Wake County School Board meeting, disrupting the meeting and resulting in 19 arrests.

A couple of observations about what is taking place in the largest school system in North Carolina. First, did anyone else notice that the News and Observer’s picture on the story featured a woman, fist raised in protest, wearing a tee shirt that said, “Women who behave rarely make history?” Of the 19 arrested, only 3 come from Wake County. What does that say? The School Board Chairman, obviously wanting to conduct business, changed the meeting schedule for the board from two meetings per month to one, adding an additional work session each month. This action raised protests from those claiming the board is trying to stifle public input.

Today’s N&O had an interesting article about an alternative approach between diversity and neighborhood schools, a concept called “controlled choice.” The author of the approach, Michael Alves, says this alternative gives parents more choices without creating high poverty schools. The Wake School Board will hear a presentation by Alves next Tuesday. Even though NAACP head William Barber dismissed the concept out of hand, Ann Denlinger, former Superintendent of Durham Schools and now head of Wake Education Partnership, had hopes that perhaps this might be a middle-ground solution and was willing to listen to Alves’ concept.

This raging debate in Wake County is being played out in other school systems across our state, including New Hanover schools.

The NC SPIN challenge
It is time to hear the two sides of this discussion, sit down to some reasonable, unemotional discussion about the benefits and challenges between the diversity policy and neighborhood schools. NC SPIN hereby publicly offers to the Reverend William Barber and John Tedesco an entire 30 minute episode of our weekly TV and radio program to present their case to the public and to debate each other. NC SPIN moderator Tom Campbell will moderate this discussion and pledges it will be conducted with civility, will honestly deal with issues and will be fair and balanced. We will make this offer formally to both parties. If Barber and Tedesco are sincerely interested in the best interests of students and in finding solutions, instead of name calling and accusations, they will accept this invitation and we will undertake the program immediately.

The two reportedly appeared separately on CNN this morning, however the story is not on their web site and few North Carolinians probably saw it. NC SPIN’s debate would be a face-to-face discussion that would be available statewide.

Since we issued the invitation, we have had conversation with Reverend Barber and it looks promising he will be willing to appear. We have not heard from Tedesco.

More problems for Perdue
It isn’t enough that Governor Perdue is trying to govern in one of the worst economic times in the last half century. She also has crisis after crisis to contend with. There are still rumblings about the ferry division management fiasco.

The Highway Patrol mess won’t go away, as noted in today’s Insider. A drunken state trooper, fired for having sex in the back seat of a patrol car with the wife of a subordinate officer, landed another state job less than six months later, as an investigator for the North Carolina Education Lottery at a salary of $46,000 per year. This is punishment? Will the governor be associated with this hiring?

The Highway Patrol issue gets a full hearing on this week’s debate. Be sure to catch the show.

But that’s not all. The State Board of Elections story has long, hairy legs. Chair Larry Leake’s interference into the campaign flights of 2008 gubernatorial candidates is generating calls for Leake to be replaced. One of those calling for Perdue to “Stop the Leake” is this week’s My Spin column. Be sure to read it. And be sure to catch this week’s discussion on this topic on NC SPIN.

When temperatures soar a politician’s thoughts turn to…..
Fundraising. Between now and mid-August, candidates need to focus on raising the money they need to conduct their fall campaigns and this year the pickin’s are scarce. Donors do not seem excited about either the issues or the candidates in this election cycle.

Incumbent Congressional representatives always have an advantage, as once again the PACs and special interests donate to their efforts. Bob Hall and Democracy North Carolina have studied campaign finance reports and tell us, “An analysis of disclosure reports through June 30 reveals that the five Republican members of the US House of Representatives from North Carolina have out-fundraised their Democratic challengers by a whopping 12 to 1 margin – $2,968,000 to $245,000. Meanwhile, the eight NC Democrats in the House have raised more than three times as much as their Republican opponents – $5,244,000 to $1,569,000. Altogether, the 13 incumbents are swamping their challengers by a nearly 5-to-1 fundraising advantage, $8.2 million to $1.8 million.”

If you were wondering how much 2nd District Congressman Bob Etheridge’s (D-Harnett) confrontation with “students” hurt his campaign, Hall’s report shows that as of June 30th Etheridge had $1.2 million in the bank while Renee Ellmers (R-Harnett), who got a quick burst of support following the episode, had only $42,000.

8th District freshman Democratic Congressman Larry Kissell is perhaps the weakest fundraiser in the Congressional delegation, with a June 30 balance of $300,000. His Republican challenger, Harold Johnson, who had a June runoff contest, had a campaign bank balance of $82,000. This still might be the most interesting and closest Congressional contest.

Read Democracy North Carolina’s report.

Governor signs ABC and Video Sweepstakes bills
Governor Perdue signed the ABC reform bill into law as well as the ban on video sweepstakes games in our state. In so doing, she made an interesting comment that she would be willing to discuss having video poker made legal again in our state. We have to wonder why she didn’t make this declaration at the time the legislature was debating the subject.

Make no mistake about what is getting ready to happen. As we reported several weeks ago, video sweepstakes was banned, but not forever. Look for a new bill to authorize video poker games in North Carolina in the 2011 session, with authority to run the games given to the NC Education Lottery.

Even with Governor Perdue’s signature, the matter is not dead. Video gaming interests have been interviewing lawyers in Charlotte and Raleigh and a lawsuit will be initiated before the December 1 deadline. The challenge will be based on the constitutionality of allowing Publishers Clearinghouse Sweepstakes or McDonald’s Monopoly games while outlawing video sweepstakes.

NC SPIN gets award
At the 4-H Congress meeting taking place this week at McKimmon Center in Raleigh, young men and women from all over the state have gathered. Yesterday was recognition day and NC SPIN was recognized as a Partner in Excellence, along with Carolina Farm Credit, the North Carolina State Grange and the North Carolina Farm Bureau. We were flattered to receive this recognition from one of the most outstanding organizations in North Carolina. Our partnership with 4-H has been extremely valuable in getting to know the future leaders of this state.

Speaking of outstanding future leaders, next week’s NC SPIN program will feature four of these outstanding young men and women. Sarah Osborne from Graham, Will Farlessyost from Mars Hill, Curtis Crump from Wadesboro and Ashten Bergstedt from Winterville will be on our panel next week. Be sure to catch this special NC SPIN.

While at the 4-H recognition luncheon, we ran into many NC SPIN friends. Secretary of State Elaine Marshall sat at the table beside us and we quizzed the Democratic candidate for US Senate about her connections with 4-H. Marshall proudly responded that she had once been president of the Maryland state 4-H and had been actively involved with North Carolina’s 4-H for years, having been made a lifetime member.

Pressure mounting to remove HoldingUS Attorne
y George Holding is a holdover from the Bush administration. Even though Senator Kay Hagan has nominated someone to take Holding’s place, she agreed to leave him in place until such time as he had concluded the investigation into former Governor Mike Easley. But that was many months ago and Hagan is being urged by a growing number of Democrats to have the replacement take Holding’s place because the investigation is dragging on and seems to have no conclusion.

Corrections bill has interesting inclusions
One of the last pieces of business our legislature undertakes is the technical corrections bill, the legislation to clean up mistakes in math, language, etc. Our experience is that this is also where a lot of mischief takes place because neither legislators nor reporters take the time to examine it thoroughly.

This year’s corrections bill is no exception. Here are a couple of examples. Section 2.3(b) explains what funds will be reduced to make up the projected $518 million in federal FMAP funds if Congress doesn’t fund the extension of this portion of Medicaid. Among other things, it calls for $30 million from disaster relief funds, $35 million from unclaimed lottery prize winnings, $50 million in interest earnings on all state funds, $38 million from savings reserve funds, 1 percent reduction in state budgets to all agencies and $139 million in reductions of contributions to pension funds.

In section 9.1(a) of the bill, the University of North Carolina is allowed to furlough employees. Despite the fact that teachers and state employees did not receive any pay increases, section 9.2 allows salaries of University employees to be raised if the raised portion comes from non-state funds. Section 11.20 prohibits a reduction in the amount of funds transferred from the Highway Trust Fund to the Global TransPark.

You might want to take a gander at this technical corrections bill yourself.

Republicans are aiming to take over the legislature. They need to gain 6 seats in the Senate and 9 in the House. Given there are 5 Senate Democrats who are retiring, this might be doable. House Democrat seats being targeted include Alice Underhill from New Bern, Arthur Williams from Washington, Van Braxton from Kinston, Randy Stewart from Rocky Mount, Jimmy Love from Sanford, Jane Whilden from Asheville, Lorene Coates from Salisbury and Cullie Tarlton from Blowing Rock. There’s also an open seat in Mecklenburg County.

Drought setting in
rain in sections of the state, the hot, dry weather is taking a toll on landscaping and crops throughout the state. The NC Farm Bureau has produced four very good videos on water which you might enjoy watching. They have given us permission to link to their sites. Be sure to watch all four. Watch here for
Number 1. Here for Number 2. Here for Number 3. Here for Number 4.  Thanks to Farm Bureau.

And remember to put October 12th on your calendar. The NC SPIN Water Forum planning is coming along well and we should be able to report more in next week’s newsletter.

Until next week, watch out for the SPIN!

Claire Cox-Woodlief, Editor
Tom Campbell, Publisher
Join the discussion on NC SPIN`s facebook page

Note: I don’t think Tedesco can win the debate after watching he and Rev. Barber on CNN yesterday. C. Dancy II – DCN Publisher

See related:

Wake County Public Schools

SPINCycle for July 15, 2010

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Welcome to this week`s edition of SPINCycle.

This week on NC SPIN we will talk about the short session of the legislature, what they did and didn’t accomplish. We will examine a mysterious story about UNC-TV, Alcoa and the legislature. And we will discuss the firing of the ferry division head after less than 60 days on the job.

This week`s panel includes:  Charlotte Observer reporter, Jack Betts; political analyst, Dan Blue III; Chris Fitzsimon, Director of NC Policy Watch and John Hood, President of the John Locke Foundation. The show will be moderated by Tom Campbell.

Tom Campbell`s Spin
Few would argue our economy is improving quickly. We are working on the wrong end of the job creation pendulum. 
Job 1 is creating jobs.

Heard on the Street

They’ve gone home to campaign
The legislature has adjourned and if current polls are accurate, some of our lawmakers have participated in their last session. Voters adamantly believe our state is headed in the wrong direction, think government is broken and don’t believe those currently in office know how to fix it.

Democrats should be worried at the signs that indicate they might be headed into a perfect storm scenario. Independent and unaffiliated voters say, by a two to one margin, they plan to vote Republican this year. Democrats didn’t help themselves in this past session with their constituent base vote of labor unions, teachers and state employees. In the closing days, the legislature agreed to allow state employees to be reduced in order to make up for the 500 million in federal Medicaid funds that don’t look like they will come. In addition to no pay increase for two years, teachers and state employees also face the threat of a large reduction in the contribution to the employee pension funds, putting their retirement in some jeopardy. These groups have no reason to turn out for Democrats.

But the biggest threat perhaps lies with minorities. In order to win elections in our state, political consultant Brad Crone says Democrats must have a 20 percent turnout from African Americans. If recent elections in New Jersey and Virginia are an indicator, that turnout may not exceed 16 percent.

Republicans, on the other hand, smell blood. While House Speaker Hackney and Senate President Pro Tem Marc Basnight are still outraising the GOP in campaign funds, the margins are narrowing; in fact, the state GOP has more money on hand than do Democrats. Basnight’s on-hand totals are about 400,000 dollars less than at this point in 2008, meaning he has less money to dole out to the party to help elect Democratic Senators. Given the large number of retirements in that body, Basnight is rightfully worried.

To add insult to injury, we are hearing that Senator Richard Burr is considering giving the North Carolina Republican Party as much as 1 million dollars to conduct a full-blown Get Out the Vote effort in our state. Republicans got skunked in ’08 in turning out their voters and don’t want to do so again. Burr, with his 6 million dollar war chest and 10 point lead over Democrat Elaine Marshall can afford the contribution.

Should the Republicans take over the legislature, you can expect the Senate President Pro Tem to be Phil Berger, the Eden attorney who is currently Minority Leader. Senate Majority Leader will likely be Wake County’s Richard Stevens. If the GOP takes over the House we might see Thom Tillis, the Cornelius consultant, become Speaker and Wake’s Skip Stam to become Majority Leader. The East will lose power, more especially after redistricting following the 2010 census.

Some Democrats are quietly saying that if they lose control of both houses the big worry is over redistricting that will surely take place before the 2012 elections. With as much as a 3 billion shortfall looming for next year’s legislature, some are saying they would delight in seeing what solutions Republicans have….maybe they can cut another billion but it is highly unlikely they can make up 3 billion in budget cuts. Democrats smile and say they want to become the party of “No.”

For an interesting discussion on what the legislature accomplished in the short session, as well as what they didn’t, be sure to catch this week’s NC SPIN.

Ferry firing won’t float
Governor Perdue, sensitive to the flack her administration is receiving over the abrupt firing of the recently appointed head of the ferry division, decided to make a surprise visit to the Bayview and Aurora but she hasn’t commented on the firing. We will, this week on NC SPIN. Look for this discussion to get interesting.

Video poker isn’t finished
Lest we think the video sweepstakes parlors are going to vanish December 1, we understand legal challenges are being prepared to challenge the law passed by the legislature in the close of the short session. This should stall action for awhile. Even if the law stands, video poker operators are at work to increase the skill requirement for the games, which might render the new law unenforceable. As Yogi once said, “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.”

But few think video games will disappear. A growing number believe we will see this issue once again in the next legislative session, with the Education Lottery ending up with authority to run video games throughout the state.

Another controversy that isn’t calming is with the UNC-TV, Alcoa and Freedom of Press issues. There are basically three issues here. First there is the issue of UNC-TV deciding not to air the Alcoa documentary. No one disputes this is a management decision that occurs in many newsrooms and organizations every day. But those same folks say that UNC-TV was disingenuous in their reasons for not airing the program. A spokesperson even denied the network even knew such an effort existed, but we have obtained evidence that they offered the tapes to a commercial TV outlet over a year ago with the suggestion that the station edit and air the documentary. If they felt it worthy of airing, why would they do so? The lingering impression is that UNC-TV management has displayed either a lack of courage, either in future funding from the legislature or from Alcoa, or a lack of understanding of what is expected of public broadcasters. Is there a cover up, as some suspect?

The rough cut of the program is now available for anyone to watch on Vimeo. But who actually owns the footage? Is it UNC-TV or Eszter Vajda, the reporter and producer? If the network doesn’t want to air the documentary, why would they allow it to be put on Vimeo?

The second issue concerns the actions of the legislature in issuing a subpoena for the film. They were clearly without merit or basis for doing so. How did this come about?

The third, and to most minds largest, issue surrounds the voluntary release of the documentary by UNC-TV, virtually surrendering their freedom of press privileges. Criticism from most every front has been severe and UNC-TV has done little to respond to it, other than saying they felt that as a public agency they were impacted by state sunshine laws. Jack Betts, columnist for the Charlotte Observer and NC SPIN panelist, has written well on the subject. Read his column, reprinted three days later in the News and Observer.

You can also hear Betts and the other NC SPIN panelists sound off on this subject on this week’s NC SPIN.

State GOP Chair Tom Fetzer is a proud new papa. Fetzer and wife Kate announce the candidacy of Thomas Harrison Fetzer, III, running for Governor in the 2032 election. While the candidate isn’t saying much, his father indicates the 7 pound 9 ounce candidate is crying…yes, crying to clean up state government, discontinue end of grade tests, end corruption in the State Highway Patrol and wrest authority from Marc Basnight. Some things never change.

Papa Fetzer started the ball rolling by calling for the ouster of Highway Patrol Colonel Randy Glover, saying that to clean up cronyism and corruption, a new leader who doesn’t come from within the ranks should be chosen.

A growing number of leaders and media voices are urging a change in the nepotism policy of the State Highway Patrol that dictates leadership must come from within the ranks. That’s the very reason we have the problem we currently have, many believe. Governor Perdue obviously recognizes this and is trying to remedy the situation without legislation. This organization has been under fire for years but the culture hasn’t changed much, so we will only have to wait to see if Perdue’s efforts yield results.

The sad result of all this recent flap about the SHP is that there are many dedicated and honorable troopers who, in many instances, dedicated their entire careers in service to the state, sometimes putting themselves at risk, who are being tarnished by the shenanigans of those who have misbehaved.

Merge the TransPark with rail and ports?
Governor Perdue has expressed her desire to make government more efficient. News stories this week indicated that the Governor’s Logistics Task Force is considering merging the Global TransPark, the North Carolina Railroad and the State Ports Authority into one agency. Republican Representative Danny McComas says the whole is greater than the parts and the combination would go far in helping economic development. But Representative Carolyn Justice says three wrongs don’t make a right. Find out what our panelists think next week on NC SPIN.

New biography coming
I recognized Ned Cline in the K&W Cafeteria line. We sat together and reminisced about old times, politicians and events over the past thirty years. Cline is retired now but was one of the most respected journalists to ever cover Capitol politics. I asked him what he was doing in town and he reported he is writing a book on former Lt. Governor Bob Jordan and was here doing research and conducting interviews. Cline has previously written books on Joe Bryan, the driving spirit behind Jefferson Pilot Life Insurance Company and also Walter Davis, the North Carolina-born oil man.

We look forward to reading about this underappreciated humble subject of Cline’s new book, Bob Jordan.

The Politician on the big screen
Meanwhile we learn that Andrew Young’s best seller, The Politician, will become a movie. Aaron Sorkin, who produced the West Wing TV series and The American President movie, has purchased the movie rights for an undisclosed sum. Who do you suspect with play John Edwards? Is Kevin Costner too old? How about Brad Pitt?

Happy birthday Bill
Our state has never seen a crowd like the one that showed up Tuesday for former UNC President Bill Friday’s 90th birthday party. The line in the Hill Alumni Center doubled around the inside of the auditorium. It was a great place to see and be seen. Some of our more recognizable politicians were glad handing guests. Even at 90, Friday took the time to speak to every one and it was remarkable how he was able to place every one, remember names and events connected to them and through it all was upbeat and positive about the state and the university he has loved.

Several asked about the Evening with Bill Friday videos we recorded and wanted to know if copies were still available. The 70 minute interview is $20 each, with $5 from each purchase donated to the Ida Friday Faculty Development Fund at Meredith College. You can purchase by e-mailing clairecw@carolinabroadcasting.com or by calling (919) 821-1416.

Hackney stops jetties
One of those we saw at the Friday birthday party was House Speaker Joe Hackney, obviously rested after Friday’s marathon legislative session that didn’t end until 5:32 a.m. Saturday morning. I had previously inquired whether or not the bill the Senate passed to allow jetties along our coast had made it to the floor of the House for a vote. Representative Pricey Harrison, a former member of the Coastal Resources Commission, said it had not because Speaker Hackney hadn’t allowed it.

Speaker Hackney confirmed the action, adding that he was catching flack for it. The Figure Eight and Bald Head Island crowd, McMansion owners along the coast, and some business owners weren’t happy. I told the Speaker this coastal property owner strongly supported his actions and I was betting plenty of others also applauded his leadership.

Speaking of the Coastal Resources Commission, that group is about to deal with the issue of sandbags again. Current permissions for the bags run out this summer and the legislature did not authorize another extension.

Another drought?
The lack of rainfall is causing drought conditions in 18 counties in North Carolina. Officials are becoming worried that we might see another serious drought like the one in 2007. All the more reason NC SPIN is going to be conducting a half day discussion on water issues in our state on October 12th. Save the date.

Was investigation stifled?
Kim Strach, deputy director of campaign finance at the State Board of Elections has revealed that she was asked to halt further investigation of witnesses in the matter of campaign flights for Governor Perdue. Chair Larry Leake ordered her to finalize her report without further interviews. Leake says it was just time to move on. Many, including GOP Chair Tom Fetzer, say it was a cover-up to prevent further damage to Governor Perdue.

Observers are asking what is the truth to the matter. SBOE has been even-handed in investigating Democrats in the past, giving Strach credit for being thorough and impartial. Leake has demonstrated a willingness to take on Democrats, even as he has been appointed by them.

Meanwhile The State Board has been given funding to hire a lawyer for investigations. Does this mean Strach is being shoved out? Looks like further discussion is needed here.

Prayers in the House
There’s the story of the House Chaplain who mention Jesus was asked not to return for the rest of his week-long engagement. There is no formal policy about using the name of a Deity in prayers that open each session, but each person offering prayer is required to furnish a written copy of the prayer in advance and, in at least one case, the Chaplain was told to delete a reference to Jesus.

The whole issue has raised the question as to freedom of religion and separation of church and state. Look for more discussion on this on next week’s NC SPIN.

Until next week, watch out for the SPIN!

Claire Cox-Woodlief, Editor
Tom Campbell, Publisher
NC SPIN`s facebook page

SPINCycle for June 24, 2010

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Welcome to this week`s edition of SPINCycle.

On this week’s show we will give you our analysis of Tuesday’s runoff elections, whether we will have a new state budget July 1, discuss whether or not we are in a war for school resegregation and get our panel’s opinions about whether universities get preferential funding treatment.

This week’s panel includes: former legislator, Gene Arnold; Rufus Edmisten, former Attorney General and Secretary of State; Chris Fitzsimon, Director of NC Policy Watch and John Hood, President of the John Locke Foundation.  The show will be moderated by Tom Campbell.

Tom Campbell`s Spin
If legislators want to restore the breach of trust, they must get serious about ethics and campaign reform.  Check out this week’s column, “
Restoring public trust”.

Heard on the Street

The scorching heat and time of year brings to mind a similar scenario that took place in Philadelphia in 1776. Then, as now, the Continental Congress was stalled in debate. Delegates were about to declare their independence from England. Our lawmakers are also seeking freedom…from dealing with continuing budget deficits, on-again, off-again federal funding on Medicaid, but mostly they want freedom from Raleigh. Our legislators are past eager in their desire to go home.

But many won’t find freedom when they return home, as most have re-election challenges and will find an unhappy electorate awaiting them. These are not good times to be a state legislator.

We heard late yesterday that a budget compromise is close but few details are being shared. Some are saying it is very possible lawmakers will have a plan to present and vote on before the beginning of the new fiscal year, however that seems a stretch, especially if they expect rank and file legislators to read the documents and have any meaningful discussion about the budget before a vote. But stranger things have happened.

There are two main hang ups, as we understand it. The first concerns the big differences in the education budget. More specifically, the discussion focuses on whether the Senate will prevail in giving Universities more money or whether the House can hold out with more funding for public schools.

A schism is developing in the education community. In years past, k-12 public schools, community colleges and the university system have maintained at least a public front of unity for education. But insiders know that both public schools and community colleges have privately chafed at an obvious bias toward universities, especially within our state Senate. That public front was shattered recently when the president of the NCAE fired a shot over the university system’s bow, accusing the system of “questionable spending.” Advocates for k-12 and community colleges are upset about teacher cuts while the university gets $9 million in in-state tuition grants for out-of-state students. They are weary of the predictable “gloom and doom” press conference and full court pressure from a swarm of lobbyists any time university funding is threatened.

North Carolina spends more than 56 percent, about 10.6 billion dollars, of our state budget on education. NC Policy Watch’s Chris Fitzsimon reported this week that about 2.6 billion of that is allocated to our university system. North Carolina needs to have a frank discussion about what are our top priorities in education. We are asking our NC SPIN panel to talk about this very subject this week on our show.

Most folks we’ve asked say the priorities should be k-12 primary education first, community colleges second and universities third, since fewer than one-third of our citizens attain a college degree. But when we ask their perceptions of how we actually prioritize education many admit that our university system appears to get top priority. Is it because they have more lobbyists, have more “good ole boys” who attended university or spend more in contributions to top legislators? This will be an interesting debate…and perhaps the start for future discussion on the topic.

Back to the budget. The other big hangup is the six month extension of the federal Medicaid assistance (FMAP) funds originally provided in the federal stimulus relief to states. North Carolina’s share of those funds will be about $480 million. As of this week, the Senate didn’t have the votes to approve that extension. To pass, all 59 Democrats and at least one Republican must vote favorably. A few moderate Democrats and all Republicans are holding out.

What to do? If the legislature has to cut another $480 million in the budget there will surely be jobs lost. Some discussion has focused on employee furloughs. A one day furlough of state employees will save about $35 million, we have heard. It would be tough to make up the entire FMAP amount that way. With 56 percent of the budget in education and another 20 percent allocated to Health and Human Services, it is only reasonable to expect further cuts in both budgets.

What we’ve got is the proverbial crap shoot. Lawmakers had hoped this would have been resolved in Washington before they had to finalize a budget but that doesn’t appear likely. We’re told the House wants to pass a budget without the FMAP money, endure the pain and have clear plans for what can be restored if the federal funds become available. The Senate prefers to pass it with the federal funds included, as some 30 other states have already done. If the funds don’t come through, the plan we hear is for Governor Perdue to have to deal with the problem in January, after the elections. If the Senate approach is adopted, the problems could be exacerbated. If lawmakers, for instance, approve a $19.5 billion dollar spending plan, then learn three or four months into that budget that the federal funds are not coming, they then have to cut the budget by the $480 million over an 8 or 9 month period instead of the entire 12 months of the budget.

Governor Perdue’s team is hoping lawmakers will do their job to resolve the issue so she doesn’t have to be the hatchet person again. Perdue has already taken the knife to last year’s budget and helped ensure this fiscal year would end without major deficits. Give her credit for being fiscally responsible in administering the budget when it became obvious that revenues weren’t matching spending. It doesn’t seem fair for legislators to knowingly pass a budget with a $480 million question mark. It is unconstitutional, for one thing. It will also be considered irresponsible.

Either way, Democrats are going to face criticism in November. But you can bet discussions are being held about which plan would make them look more or less fiscally responsible.

Elections shape up
Few were surprised that Secretary of State Elaine Marshall defeated Cal Cunningham for the nomination to run against Republican Senator Richard Burr in November. If there was any surprise it was in the 60 percent margin Marshall received. Following the defeat, Cunningham immediately threw his support to Marshall and Democrats tried to heal rifts in order to beat the incumbent, who already has more than 8 million in the bank. That might well be the determining factor in the US Senate race. Who can raise the most money? Marshall has not been a big money magnet in times past. If she cannot take her case to the public on TV while Burr is all over the tube, it might be the nail in the coffin.

Over on the Republican side, former WSOC sportscaster Harold Johnson handily defeated Tim D’Annunzio, the loose canon candidate, in the controversial 8th Congressional District. Political insiders are predicting that Johnson will defeat one-term incumbent Democrat Larry Kissell, especially since the State Employees are on the warpath trying to field a third-party candidate.

In the 13th, longtime Raleigh fixture Bernie Reeves suffered a big defeat against a newcomer, Bill Marshall. Republicans believe they can take the seat and may be willing to put money and muscle behind the effort. Marshall, while outspent, demonstrated he understands grass roots, retail politics.

The sides are set. The players are in place. Let’s see what transpires over the summer. If the elections were held today, most all insiders believe the GOP will take control of the State Senate, stand a fighting chance of doing the same in the House and will likely retain the US Senate seat. They may pick up one or two Congressional seats in North Carolina.

Our NC SPIN panel will give you their views on the runoffs on this week’s show and will keep you posted on events throughout the campaign.

“The days of pay-to-play are over”…or are they?
The State Senate’s ethics and campaign reform was trotted out Monday night with bold proclamations from Senate Majority Leader Martin Nesbitt. "The days of pay-to-play are over," Nesbitt boldly proclaimed. "This is all about good government and transparency. We think government works better when the public can see what’s going on."

This statement was humorous because the legislation that was proposed was all drafted behind closed doors with no public input. The public couldn’t see what was going on in this legislation. Perhaps if they had, Nesbitt wouldn’t have so much egg on his face this morning.

There is speculation that Senate Democrats wanted to include the public financing extension for Council of State elections because they knew Republicans would never vote for this provision. Democrats could then make a campaign issue about Republicans voting against ethics reforms. But the plan backfired for many reasons. It didn’t go far enough in the opinion of most to reform ethics and campaign laws. The public financing part of the bill was way off the page with Republicans. From Monday night until Wednesday afternoon, the GOP (through Americans for Prosperity) went to work through a campaign of robocalls in closely contested Senate districts, urging voters to call their Senator in protest of a further “tax” to pay for elections. Nesbit and Senate Democrats panicked and pulled the bill before it went to the floor for debate and a vote. That dog won’t hunt.

Senator Nesbitt has just re-learned a basic lesson in politics. You can call a pig a horse but it doesn’t make it so. The Senate’s ethics and campaign reform bill didn’t come close to ending pay-to-play and there was such tepid support for the “reforms” that Democrats had to withdraw the bill.

Legislators have had long enough to get serious about ethics and campaign reform. The Senate bill didn’t do the job. Are they going to leave town without addressing the issue?

If ever there was further evidence needed why people don’t trust elected officials, this latest under the cover of darkness move by the Senate is proof. Be sure to read my “My Spin” column this week, “Restoring Public Trust.”

Video Sweepstakes
The Senate has passed a bill that would extend the video poker ban to video sweepstakes parlors across the state. The House appears ready to follow suit.

The media has been pointing to ads run on NC SPIN by the Entertainment Group of North Carolina that touts the possibility of $500 million in tax revenues if the state would license and tax the games instead of banning them. The ads are gaining traction with the public, but not politicians, so about 500 people marched on the legislature this week to encourage the legislature to make video gaming (aka video poker) legal and get the cash revenues for the state.

We’re told the cards are stacked. For some months there has been speculation that the state lottery is involved in scuttling video sweepstakes. Some believe there is a method to their madness that calls for reintroducing the subject in 2011 with the lottery running the games.

Swipe fees hurting small businesses
Much is said about helping small businesses, but when truth is told, little is done to help this essential sector of our economy. More than 7 out of every 10 jobs is created by small, closely held businesses in our state, but our economic development policies and most laws benefit larger corporations.

Fran Preston is the longtime head of the North Carolina Retail Merchants Association, an organization that works for 25,000 retail merchants in our state, from the largest chain to the smallest mom ‘n pop store. Yesterday she had an interesting op ed column in The Charlotte Observer about a problem retailers are encountering that customers don’t know about. Every time you or I give a store a debit card, the card provider charges that retailer a “swipe fee.” Preston says those fees have quadrupled in recent months, primarily because Visa and Mastercard own most of the debit card market and can get away with the fees.

Retailers either swallow the costs, thereby reducing their profits, or pass them along to customers, through increased costs. Preston is encouraging us all to urge our Congressional delegation to pass legislation that will keep these swipe fees “reasonable and proportional.” Read Fran’s op ed piece.

Public Private Partnerships
Two years ago the Emerging Institute’s Forum dealt with our nation’s and our state’s growing need to replace and repair our infrastructure. The Forum didn’t end with the presentations. For over a year, a high level business committee on infrastructure has been meeting, with a goal of addressing how to repair and expand public infrastructure. Traditional ways of funding and project management will not help in what has been projected to be more than $30 billion in needed repairs and expansions.

This week that committee released the results of their report, urging our legislature to initiate a study commission that will investigate expanded public private partnerships in our state. Senator Clark Jenkins and Representative Deborah Ross were on hand for the press conference. Read the committee’s report and stay tuned to NC SPIN for more discussion on this important topic.

Until next week, watch out for the SPIN!

Claire Cox-Woodlief, Editor
Tom Campbell, Publisher

NC SPIN’s facebook page


In our Heard on the Street column we mistakenly used the wrong name for Republican Bill Randall, who won in the 13th Congressional District.

We ask Mr. Randall’s and your forgiveness.

Thank you

Tom Campbell

SPINCycle for June 17, 2010

If you are having trouble reading this email, you may view the online version

Welcome to this week`s edition of SPINCycle.

We are just days away from the runoff elections so this week on NC SPIN we will ask our panel to give you their thoughts on these contests. We will talk about the scuffle Congressman Bob Etheridge was involved in and will also talk about the state establishing new national standards in reading and math. Finally we’ll discuss whether changes need to be made in our pension system. This week’s panel includes:   Chris Fitzsimon, Director of NC Policy Watch; John Hood, President of the John Locke Foundation; former House Speaker, Joe Mavretic and former legislator, Connie Wilson.  The show will be moderated by Tom Campbell.

Tom Campbell`s Spin
Changes are needed soon if we are to avoid major unfunded liabilities.  Read our suggestions in this week’s My Spin, “
Keeping our retirement promises to state employees”.

Heard on the Street

More budget cuts
While not publicly announcing it, legislative leaders apparently learned yesterday that the $480 million in federal funds earmarked for Medicaid would not be forthcoming from the Congress. The news went viral, to use today`s vernacular, spreading rapidly throughout the legislative building.

Now legislative leaders go back to the drawing board to adjust spending targets downward again. Now leadership will have to cut another $480 million out of a budget they already considered “bare bones.” Conferees trying to agree on a final budget have another set of variables with which to factor, making it less likely we will have a budget in place by the start of the fiscal year July 1. This will also move back possible adjournment for this session. Some had speculated that if the budget was in place we could see lawmakers head home to campaign by July 8th or 9th.

There were some interesting discussions about what to do following this news. Some suggested that the legislature pass a budget with the $480 million included and dump the problem on Governor Perdue to fix if Congress didn`t come forth with the funds. That idea seems to have been scuttled for two reasons. Governor Perdue sent word that she wouldn`t accept this approach but even more importantly legislative leaders didn`t want her to make those decisions…they wanted the power to make them.

So the legislature will pass a budget without the $480 million in Medicaid funding even though there is still some hope the federal government will come through. About 30 states have already passed budgets for the coming year and there has been a strong feeling that the feds wouldn`t face the negative reaction from not restoring this funding, but hope is waning, especially after Congress failed a key test for extending unemployment benefits. If the federal funds are allocated, we are told there will be a spending bill to direct how the funds will be spent.

Where will legislators find another $480 million in cuts? Look for mental health to take more cuts. Education will definitely be impacted. Look for more across the board cuts in general government. It would be nice to think the Senate would abandon their ridiculous $450 million bond package to build two engineering buildings at NC A&T and NC State, as well as the $500 million in special obligation bonds they passed (46-0) that includes $55 million for Kenan Stadium at UNC Chapel Hill, $45 million for a new football stadium at UNC Charlotte and $120 million for the NC State student center.

Blackboard battle
Teachers have grown tired of the blatant favoritism for UNC (especially by the Senate) and the quiet rumblings of previous years have erupted into protests and threats of a battle for education. Public education leaders have taken a page from the UNC playbook and are going public in their campaign for priority in spending.

The state president of the North Carolina Association of Educators, Sheri Strickland, has accused the UNC System of trying to protect “questionable spending” within the system, saying UNC gets $9 million in breaks for out-of-state athletes while public schools are firing teachers. NCAE is being joined by the Department of Public Instruction, State Board of Education and Principal`s association in aggressively seeking the scarce funds this year.

NCAE raises a good point worthy of discussion. With k-12 public schools, community colleges and our university system we have three separate divisions within education. At some point we should discuss and decide which of the three should receive the highest priority for funding, also determining which should rank second and third. A strong case can be made that current prioritization has UNC first, public education second and community colleges third. How do you think they should be ranked and why? Sounds like a good topic for NC SPIN to discuss on a future show. Let us hear your suggestions.

Etheridge has a bad day
Hardly a breathing soul in our state isn`t aware of the confrontation Congressman Bob Etheridge had with a “student” in Washington last Sunday. Two young men confronted the Congressman, failed to identify themselves, stuck a camera in his face and asked Etheridge if he supported President Obama`s political agenda. As we have seen in the You Tube videos that have even aired on Comedy Central this was clearly a set-up and Congressman Etheridge took the bait and responded very poorly, grabbing the “student” by the arm and later by the scruff of the neck.

No one argues that Etheridge acted badly and there is no excuse for his behavior…he said that himself when he emphatically apologized. He should have smiled and kept on walking. But we are a bit surprised that it has become such a big deal. Some are suggesting that he should be arrested for assault, which could prove interesting, by the way, because then we would have to learn the identity of the two students and just who they represented. (I don`t think that will happen. The “students” have already gotten more from this than they ever thought possible. They have embarrassed a Congressman and gotten national attention.) Others claim this will definitely impact Bob`s re-election in November, perhaps even ending his political career.

I am obviously in the minority here but I have a great deal of empathy for Etheridge. I won`t defend what he did but people in public life live in a fishbowl. None of us acts as we should every moment of every day and our politicians, movie stars, star athletes and other public persons are constantly approached by folks who are trying to make themselves famous by getting a rise out of the star. We`ve seen how out of control that can get. It is possible this story becomes so political that people grow tired of Etheridge being publicly attacked and respond in support of the seven-term Congressman.

For more on this subject be sure to catch this week`s NC SPIN and read my blog on www.ncblogger.com.

What runoff?
The farce of this runoff election grows greater in light of the budget problems our state currently faces. We are going to spend in excess of three million dollars for a statewide runoff election and if political experts are correct, maybe 150,000 of the state`s 6.1 million voters will even bother to vote. The differences between Cal Cunningham and Elaine Marshall are minor, most notably about support for the war in Afghanistan. Face it, neither of the candidates has looked like a Senator so far. Neither has run a campaign that energized voters. Neither has raised enough money to go on TV.

The debate Tuesday night was better organized and produced than the one last week. The candidates were generally better than in their first TV debate but few watched and even those who did weren`t jazzed about either candidate.

It is generally agreed among the pols with whom I`ve talked that Marshall will likely come out of this a winner on Tuesday but not with a mandate that will help much in November. Democrats have hurt themselves some by arguing amongst themselves rather than focusing on Senator Richard Burr. Meanwhile, Burr is raising money and building his warchest (currently estimated at 8 million dollars) for the fall campaign.

But the Senate campaign isn`t the only runoff. In the 8th District two Republicans (Tim D`Annunzio and Harold Johnson) are vying to see who will run against first-term Congressman Larry Kissell. D`Annunzio is a loose cannon who has pumped one million dollars of his own money into his campaign. Even the State GOP head, Tom Fetzer, has said it would be a disaster if Tim won. Johnson appears headed to victory, the State Employees Association/Service Employees International Union candidate may be certified and Larry Kissell will be handed a re-election gift from all the mayhem.

Over in the 13th, Bernie Reeves just won his runoff contest without being his “usual charming self.” His opponent, Tea Partyer Bill Randall, came out yesterday suggesting that the oil spill in the Gulf was a deliberate conspiracy by Barack Obama and BP. You think Etheridge had a bad day? Say goodnight Bill.

Resegregation war
Governor Perdue, appearing at the fundraiser for the NC Legislative Black Caucus, enthusiastically declared that “North Carolina is in a war,“ referring to recent efforts by school systems to return to neighborhood schools, an effort that the NAACP claims will resegregate the schools in those districts.

Warming to her subject, the Governor continued by saying, “From my position as citizen, not as governor but as a citizen of this great state, I applaud every single thing that [Rev. Barber] is doing, and I, for one, do believe that diversity does make for a better end product for children in this state.
“If it takes going to the Supreme Court of this great country from Wayne County and for Wake County, and for other counties in North Carolina, so be it. We will stand together, to make sure that all of the children of this state have a chance.“

Read the full story from The Wilmington Journal.

Barber and three others appeared at the Wake County Schools board meeting this week and led protests that resulted in their arrests.

Is there really a “war” underway? Get our panelists` views on this next week on NC SPIN.

By the way, did anyone bother to look at who the contributors were for the Legislative Black Caucus Fundraiser? This is Exhibit A in the efforts of some who want to make it illegal to give money to charitable causes of lawmakers, regardless of how well-intended the cause might be.

Until next week, watch out for the SPIN!

Claire Cox-Woodlief, Editor
Tom Campbell, Publisher

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