On 27 October 2008, Chapel Hill Transit (CHT) driver Mr. James Willie Orr (age 65) struck Ms. Valerie Hughes (age 33), a radiology imaging specialist for UNC Health Care. Ms. Hughes had a “walk” signal to use the crosswalk at the intersection of Mason Farm Road and South Columbia Street, near UNC Hospitals where Ms. Hughes worked.
The bus was traveling about 15 miles per hour and making a left turn onto South Columbia Street and into the crosswalk. October's fatal accident was the third collision this year between a pedestrian and a Chapel Hill Transit bus on the UNC campus.
Mr. Orr, 65, was fired after the death of Ms. Hughes. However, the Hughes incident was hardly the first bus driving accident for Mr. Orr.
Mr. Orr had worked for CHT for eight years. During that time, the Chapel Hill Police Department investigated 10 wrecks (not including the Hughes accident) in which Mr. Orr was involved.
Mr. Orr was at fault in most of the wrecks. In eight of the ten accidents Mr. Orr was in a town bus.
Mr. Orr has compiled the following accident record. In December 2007, Mr. Orr clipped a utility pole on East Franklin Street, damaging the bus's side-view mirror. In 2004, he rear-ended a vehicle that “stopped suddenly for a bicycle” on West Franklin Street. On two separate occasions (2005 and 2002), he backed into a car causing minor damage. In 2001 clipped his first utility pole on Pittsboro Street. Also in 2001, his bus collided with a car near University Mall when he failed to yield the right of way as the car stopped to make a turn.
Chapel Hill Transit's personnel policy states that when a driver has had two “preventable rear-end accidents,” the driver may be terminated. Mr. Orr wasn’t.
Town officials refuse to discuss why they allowed Mr. Orr to remain on the job, citing personnel privacy rules. In a “take charge” fashion, Town Manager Roger Stancil referred questions to public information officer Ms. Catherine Lazorko. In keeping with Chapel Hill bureauccratic tradition, Mr. Stancil has also hired yet another consultant to the town staff instead of requiring the staff to handle the problem.(See the Daily Tar Heel Bus Accident Story.)
No word on how much town transit insurance has risen due to the management decisions of town staff.
No word on how much the town of Chapel Hill will have to pay in settlement for this wrongful death.
No word on whether or not Mr. Orr will move to Carrboro to run for town alderman, following in the footsteps of recently elected Alderman Dan Coleman.
As Citibank lays off over 50,000 employees, and domestic automakers head into bankruptcy, the local media reports in mid-November 2008 that UNC system leaders are asking for an “austere” budget in CY 2009.
What’s an “austere” budget in the context of an expanding, tax-exempt bureaucracy? Does it involve a decrease? No. An “austere” budget involves a $168,000,000 increase in spending. This increase is characterized by the local media as “austere” because the system leaders wanted more. How much? TWICE that amount. (See the N&O UNC Budget Story.)
Less than one week later, the local media reports that UNC-CH is hiking student tuition next year by 6.5% for in-state undergraduate students. Coupled with a fee increase, next year's student tab (tuition and fees, but not housing and food) is over $4000 annually. (See the N&O UNC Tuition Story.) Clearly, “austerity” is a relative term to junketeers traveling free of charge courtesy of state taxpayers to other university towns to learn how to spend more state taxpayer money. (See Pulp Junketeer Story. )
How can “austerity” be a 6.5% tuition (read revenue) increase and a $168,000,000 funding increase in the face of a deflating economy? Just be an expanding, tax-exempt bureaucracy that’s not subject to explaining an historical continuum of spending increases running at twice the rate of inflation. You’ll understand.
The inability to see hypocrisy when it’s staring you in the mirror is a hallmark of local progressivism.
In the summer of 2008, Chapel Hill Councilors tried to reward themselves with essentially free permanent health care if they had survived two terms in office. (One can’t have an outlier who’s not a true progressive believer getting free health care!) Although most citizens of Chapel Hill have no such policy, and it takes municipal employees twenty years to earn that privilege, the Councilors were surprised at the ensuing storm of controversy. See the Pulp Chapel Hill Healthcare Controversy Story.)
Lost in the brouhaha was the existing hypocrisy of differing healthcare standards for part-time municipal workers. Elected officials in Orange County, the town of Chapel Hill, and the town of Carrboro all get free healthcare for a part-time job.
Do regular part-time municipal employees enjoy the free healthcare benefits of their elected officials?
No. The regular part-timers have to pay for their benefits, unlike the elected officials. Such is the nature of progressivism in southern Orange.
While the Chapel Hill Councilors discuss the aesthetics of the proposed hotel for the Southern Village village-mixed-use community just south of Chapel Hill, just off US 15-501, no one will be asking the Councilors why the local hotel developers are allowed to “park” real property taxes on the parking lot site for the hotel?
Having secured northern Orange County “Buckhorn Village” development rights from the Orange County commishes, Developer Dream Team members Mr. D.R. Bryan, Mr. John Fugo, and former Chapel Hill mayor Ms. Rosemary Waldorf have returned to their Chapel Hill roots (see Pulp Southern Village story) as the developers of Southern Village. Now they seek approval of a four story hotel or condominium project at Southern Village’s Market Street “ground zero”.
One of the main features of the Southern Village “downtown” is the Market Street commons, dominated at one end by the steeple of the United Methodist Church. The church overlooks the open space of a giant “U” shape of retail shops and offices. Part of this open area is a large, one acre parking lot for visitors to the Southern Village retailers. Being in the heart of a high value area, this parking lot has a county tax revenue department assigned “land value” of just over $500,000. That land value is about equivalent to the land price for the shops and stores forming the “U”.
Do the Developer Dream Team owners pay the current Chapel Hill tax rate of $1.809 per $100 of assessed value for such a valuable piece of land? No. Why not? They get a break on the “total valuation”. Although the “land value” is over $500,000, the county tax revenue department assigned a “total valuation”, the value upon which taxes owed are calculated, of just over $70,000. So instead of paying about $9100 a year in taxes, the Southern Village owners have only had to pay about $1300 since Southern Village was developed. All the while, your taxes have doubled.
“Alternative valuation”, it’s just another small gift from local politicians to their campaign contributors.
In most of North Carolina, if a group of well-meaning, but incompetent, financial advisors were way off target and rewarded you with woefully below average returns on your retirement fund, then you would fire those advisors.
Not so in Orange County! Here poor performance is rewarded with continued support. It’s about electing your pals, no matter what.
The even more amazing aspect about local progressivism is the lack of responsibility for past actions. Poor performance is ignored until it can’t be hidden any more. At that juncture, local progressives announce that, lucky for you, they have “discovered” the problem in the nick of time. Of course, only they can fix it.
A prime example of such behavior is the pervasive institutional bias over the past two decades that has deprived Orange County of its fair share of sales tax moneys from the state of North Carolina, a clear case of “retail snobbery”.
Orange County receives two percent of the money spent in Orange County on items that bear the state sales tax. The more money spent on such good or services in Orange County, the more taxes available to pay for the county budget. If county citizens shop outside the county, then there’s a sales tax drain. Typical reasons for such actions are better pricing elsewhere, better selection elsewhere, or better convenience elsewhere.
Over the past twenty years, southern Orange politicians have gloried in their refusal to let “big box” or national chain stores into their neighborhoods. They have smiled maternally while telling shopping mall owners to look elsewhere. The loss of local sales tax dollars has been of little concern. Instead, local property taxes are raised to make up for the deficit. After twenty years of “knowing better”, Orange County taxes are among the highest in state, far surpassing its neighboring counties.
Being competent, for-profit business people, the snubbed store and mall owners (looked down upon here by the powers that be) have gone to Durham County and set up shop in places like New Hope Commons, South Square Mall, and the Streets at Southpoint Mall. Human nature being what it is and not what it is believed to be, a carbon-loading trail of southern Orange eco-consumers has followed these retailers outside Orange County, rutting the tarmac along I-40 and US 15-501.
The retail sales tax drain has become too large to hide or ignore (thanks in part to the wry wit of Squeeze the Pulp). In Durham County, where the median family income ($47,186 - U.S. Census Bureau 2007) is significantly lower (16%) than that of Orange County ($54,741 - U.S. Census Bureau 2007), the per capita sales tax return is 25% higher than in Orange County ($224 for Durham County versus $179 for Orange County).
The reason for this conundrum is obvious to any ordinary southern Orange consumer. All of the retail outlets that should be in Orange County are just a few miles away in Durham County. Why? The responsibility is squarely upon the shoulders of the palocracy that has ruled Orange County for the past two decades. It used to be fashionable among local leaders to look down one’s nose here at those neighboring counties that “allowed” national chain retailers and shopping malls to “invade” their local economies. It only became unfashionable after political challengers who are not part of the palocracy started running for office. Suddenly, the decades-building sales tax drain was announced to be a problem. Of course, who created that problem was not announced.
As Carrboro Alderman Dan Coleman has espoused in his anarchistic writings for years, maintaining multiple layers of inefficiencies through local businesses is the key to a “healthy economy”. If citizens aren’t smart enough to realize the evils of a national chain store like Target, then it’s up to local government to exclude such enterprises. The hallmark of local progressivism is having a “smarter elite” dictate policy to protect the well-meaning, but dim-witted local citizenry.
In most of “dumber” North Carolina, Target stores are seen as desirable corporate citizens. For example, the local Target stores in Durham County contribute money to southern Orange schools voluntarily. Target gives about 1% of sales by self-associated, southern Orange school parents to the southern Orange city school district. In just the first three quarters of CY 2008, Target gifts have been over $29,000 based on purchases from about 264 school households. That means that city district school parents purchased about $3,000,000 in goods or services from Target.
Thanks to the exclusionary actions over the past two decades of the Orange County Commissioners, the Chapel Hill Councilors and Mayors, and the Carrboro Aldermen and Mayors, you have lost about $90,000 in annualized taxes just from a couple of hundred families shopping at Target, and that's just this year.
Pulpsters know that the full implication is much greater. Orange County is home to about 120,133 people. There are 18,743 non-family households in Orange County, and 30,190 family households. If one projects just 25% of the non-family households and 60% of the family households spending in an equivalent fashion to these Target families, then the sales tax drain becomes about $8,000,000. That’s almost half of the $20,000,000 collected last year for Orange County as a whole.
What is the local progressive party line in response? First, if only we educate county citizens, then they will shop here. Why shop for price, selection, or convenience when local shopping can give your politicians more money to spend, and you can be inconvenienced in the bargain? Second, we need more inconvenient retail outlets in Orange County, so let’s have local developer pals build one (Buckhorn Village) further away from the southern Orange populous than the existing Durham outlets.
In the last election cycle did any local media group or any local politically endorsing organization speak out against those incumbents responsible for the sales tax drain disaster? No. Instead they heartily endorsed failure and incompetence.
As with all governments based on one party, “education is a weapon whose effects depend on who holds it in his hands and at whom it is aimed” - (Joseph Stalin).
Here are the details of Target store CY 2008 contributions to the city school district:
| School Name || Contributions || Contributors || Sales || Local Sales Tax
|Carrboro ES || $3,066.44 || 24 || $306,644 || $7,666
|Carrboro HS || $214.42 || 9 || $21,442 || $536
|Chapel Hill HS || $5,759.67 || 45 || $575,967 || $14,399
|Culbreth MS || $1,153.99 || 8 || $115,399 || $2,885
|East Chapel Hill HS || $2,661.59 || 34 || $266,159 || $6,654
|Estes ES || $2,900.95 || 15 || $290,095 || $7,252
|FPG ES || $2,605.73 || 17 || $260,573 || $6,514
|McDougle ES || $1,357.23 || 15 || $135,723 || $3,393
|McDougle MS || $2,048.35 || 16 || $204,835 || $5,121
|Morris Grove ES || $0.85 || 1|| $85 || $2
|Phillips MS || $1,257.66 || 10 || $125,766 || $3,144
|Seawell ES || $926.13 || 11 || $92,613 || $2,315
|Scroggs ES || $117.14 || 23 || $11,714 || $293
|St. Thomas More (pvt) || $5,158.28 || 36 || $515,828 || $12,896
|Totals || $29,228.43 || 264 || $2,922,843 || $73,071
In most North Carolina counties, eyebrows would be raised if a county commissioner spent dental insurance moneys outside their county, much less spent those moneys outside their country. The eyebrows would raise even higher if the dental insurance moneys spent are provided by taxpayers. That isn’t so in Orange County, home to hypocrisy in all its diverse forms.
Instead, Commish Mike Nelson openly extols the virtue of him using your local tax dollars to get dental care in Tijuana, Mexico over Hillsborough, North Carolina. All is dutifully transcribed without comment by the local stenographers. Yes, everyone should deduct foreign dental care travels from their income tax returns!
Most people in Orange County don’t have comprehensive dental insurance. (Over 15% of the county population doesn’t even have any health care insurance.)
Most people in Orange County get their teeth fixed in Orange County, or perhaps a neighboring county.
Most people in Orange County don’t travel outside the USA, much less deduct their foreign travel from their personal income taxes.
“Leading from the left”, Commish Nelson doesn’t behave like most people, even in Orange County.
In 2008 Mr. Nelson made three trips of undisclosed length to Tijuana, Mexico. His purpose? He was searching to get his cavities filled, his nerve endings cleaned out, and his gaps bridged. According to Mr. Nelson, the best Orange County estimate for having two crowns and one root canal performed is $5000. (Perhaps, Mr. Nelson needed to do a more exhaustive search for local dental care. Too bad he didn’t check out the low cost dental care offered at the UNC Dental School clinics.) However, in Tijuana, he found oral bliss at the cost of only $2600 ($800 courtesy of you).
“Leading from the left”, Mr. Nelson isn’t ashamed of spending your money (his free county dental insurance money) not just outside his county, but outside his country. In his words, “If you have medical or dental needs you can’t afford in the US, I highly recommend looking abroad. It’s not for everyone, but it worked for me.”
“Leading from the left”, Mr. Nelson isn’t ashamed of asking others to spend more of their money in Orange County where the cost of doing business is inflated (to offset the county tax revenue disaster he helped create over the past fifteen years of holding political office), while he spends your taxpayer money in Mexico, where everything is cheaper and easier.
For the record (which is not published at the county website), Mr. Nelson earns about $21,000 for his part-time commish work. Assuming that his political lobbying job in Raleigh pays only about $36,000 annually, Mr. Nelson is a single, non-family householder bringing in about $57,000 a year. That’s 80% more than the median CY 2007 Orange County income of $31,387 for male non-family households.
No word on whether county employees will follow their leading from the left leader in abandoning high cost dental care in Orange County.
No word on how much of the $2600 Mr. Nelson spent in flying, Tijuana hotel rooms, fine dining, and dental visits will be deducted from Mr. Nelson’s income tax returns as healthcare deductions.
No word on Mr. Nelson’s savings due to the lack of stringent environmental regulations in Mexico, as opposed to those in Orange County.
No word on Mr. Nelson’s savings due to the lack of labor health & safety regulations in Mexico, as opposed to those in Orange County.
No word on Mr. Nelson’s savings due to the lack of medical care health & safety regulations in Mexico, as opposed to those in Orange County.
Working for local governments isn’t necessarily easy. A review of the Orange County employee pharmaceutical usage reveals the stress loads endured.
Locals know about the allergies of Orange County, from the lovely molds and fungi, to the tantalizing pollens and danders. Orange County offers a cornucopia of allergens. So allergy and asthma medications top the list of ethical drugs consumed by county employees.
Having sneezed by the allergy medications, one sees the “stress pharmaceuticals” consumed by county employees. Meds are swallowed for combating depression, heartburn, insomnia, and migraines. That’s a sure sign that county employees carry a stressful load.
The rest of the top twenty drug list by patient use for county employees mirrors usage by the county population in general . “Lifestyle drugs” are used to fight against adult-onset diabetes, genital herpes, or heart disease. “Maintenance” drugs are used to combat unavoidable conditions like arthritis or multiple sclerosis.
| Patient usage ranked || Quartile script ranked || Cost ranked || Health Condition
|Allegra || 1st || 16 || Allergies
|Flonase || 2nd || 20 || Allergies
|Zyrtec || 1st || 21 || Allergies
|Lipitor || 1st || 3 || Cholesterol /heart disease
|Nexium || 1st || 1 || Heartburn
|Zocor || 1st || 7 || Cholesterol/heart disease
|Ambien || 3rd || 24 || Insomnia
|Zoloft || 2nd || 19 || Anti-depressant
|Valtrex || 3rd || 9 || Genital herpes
|Singulair || 3rd || 22 || Allergies
|Lexapro || 2nd || 11 || Anti-depressant
|Protonix || 2nd || 10 || Heartburn
|Wellbutrin XL || 4th || 14 || Anti-depressant
|Prevacid || 2nd || 4 || Heartburn
|Effexor-XR || 3rd || 18 || Anti-depressant
|Actos || 3rd || 5 || Adult diabetes
|Imitrex || 4th || 8 || Migraine headaches
|Topamax || 4th || 25 || Migraine headaches
|Enbrel || 4th || 2 || Arthritis or psoriasis
|Avonex || 4th || 6 || Multiple sclerosis
A strong and independent governance board helps to ensure fair, transparent, and understandable dealings. If a board is stacked with unknowledgeable and inexperienced figureheads, then the shades are closed on understanding, on the public knowing who is making what decisions, for whose benefit. The principle applies not only to for-profit corporations, but also to tax-exempt, governmental corporations.
The de facto southern Orange water and sewer development support bureau (aka OWASA) is a private, tax-exempt corporation owned by local governmental authorities. OWASA is a significant local employer, having 150 employee positions. The OWASA budget deals with $39,700,000 in projected revenues and other receipts. The OWASA governance board oversees an outstanding debt of $115,200,000 (as of 30 June 2007).
To oversee this substantial organization, the government owners (the town of Chapel Hill, the town of Carrboro, and Orange County) each appoint a portion of the OWASA governance board. Orange County has just appointed its newest board member.
OWASA announced recently the installation of board member Ms. Joy Preslar. She is presented as an easily engaging person you would find at a local non-profit gathering. She works as a substitute school teacher. Ms. Preslar’s past private work experience includes working at a daycare center, as well as working retail sales, public transportation, and private security. Her public work experience is as a member of the Carrboro Arts Committee. She sings locally in her own band – Storm Front. Perhaps Ms. Preslar’s strongest credentials for overseeing a 150 person, $40,000,000 organization is that she’s a pal of Commish Mike Nelson, having worked together on Carrboro Day events.
Even in tough economic times, the Chapel Hill governance board doesn't want to remove “big ticket” expenditures from the consent agenda, displaying its powerful sense of fiscal responsibility and communication with citizens.
On 10 November 2008 Chapel Hill town council meeting, Town Manager Roger Stancil announced at a town council meeting that town sales tax revenues in FY 2008-09 will be 5% to 10% below projections, i. e., about $500,000 to $1,000,000 less than projected.
In response Mr. Stancil has asked his managers to reduced expenditures by 5% – about $2,500,000. He has also frozen new hires without his express approval. According to Mr. Stancil, ”[The General Assembly] will find ways to shift their expenditures and the only place to shift that is to us and the county.” He relayed talk of the state shifting responsibility for some road maintenance to local governments.
Recent financal restraint convert Councilor Jim Ward responded by asking for even deeper cuts. He wants a budget cut of $1 million beyond the 5% goal. ”I just think let's be real serious about the need to reduce our spending now,” Mr. Ward didn’t explain why just more than six months ago he was voting for an 11% tax increase in the face of an imploding housing bubble and a looming credit crisis.
Only a few minutes after a general headshaking about having to cut spending by several million dollars, Councilor Matt Czajkowski asked to pull an item from the consent agenda - the purchase of seven new hybrid electric buses. The consent agenda is supposed to be a mechanism to speed the business of town governance boards. Uncontroversial items that don’t require discussion are voted on, up or down, en masse. Usually, if even one member of the governance board wishes to have a discussion, the item is removed.
As Mr. Czajkowski put it, the council spent half an hour on tough economic times that “sprang from nowhere”, so wouldn’t it be “fair” in the future to ask the town manager to put “big ticket” town expenditures on the action item agenda instead of the consent agenda. The alternative proposed by Mr. Czajkowski would provide for an explanation to town citizens of the need for the expenditure now and the cost or risk of deferral.
The response of fellow councilors was pure Chapel Hill “responsibility”. According to Councilor Mark Kleinschmidt, he bends over backwards to make the budget “as tight as [he] possibly can.” There's no need to discuss items that the town ”needs”. A more typical response comes from Councilor Lauren Easthom. She ignores the general principle of fiscal responsibility. She only wants to talk about the specific need for new buses, completely missing the fiscal principle of discussing all “big ticket” town expenditures in detail. Apparently, she sees no need to explain every costly expenditure to the public while an approved budget is slashed.
See the Herald Sun Consent Agenda Story.
No word on the wisdom of the town council raising town taxes 11% as the housing bubble collapsed last summer.
No word on the fate of the recently hired arts administrator position and the sustainability coordinator position.
No word on how the $10,000,000 (25%!!) overrun on the new town public works complex affects the budget deficit.
Local politician love to brag about the Chapelboro city school system, a system with one of the highest expenditures of instructional money per pupil in the state. Unfortunately, the system failed to maintain having even one of the 33 “School of Excellence” evaluations given in the state.
Twelve city schools gained “Schools of Distinction” status. The remaining four have “Schools of Progress” status. Three achieved expected growth, with the rest achieving high growth. The district lost the four “Schools of Excellence” ratings it had last year and gained three more “Schools of Progres” rankings, an overall substantial lowering of the system performance evaluation.
According to Ms. Diane Vilwock, city schools executive director for testing and program evaluation, ”It's difficult to help educators and parents understand that our students improved their reading skills last year when the percent proficient looks so dramatically lower. In raising standards, we may make students better readers in the end, but the presentation of the results the first year with new standards can be demoralizing to students and staff.”
Hopeful of better results next year, longtime city school superintendent Neil Pedersen says, ”The challenge, then, is for us to make the necessary instructional improvements that help our students meet these higher levels of performance.”
Orange County Schools
Ten of 13 schools in the Orange County district met high growth. The remaining three achieved expected growth. There were no Schools of Excellence and no Schools of Distinction.
See the Herald Sun School Performance Story.
No word on any connection between the change in the socio-economic background of incoming students and performance.
No word on how much more money will be needed to stop the bleed.
No word from the local realtors on how this “good news” will be spun.
| || 2007-2008 AYP Results || || ||
| School Name || School Met Math || Standard Met Reading || Standard Made AYP||
|Carrboro Elem. || No || Yes || No ||
|Ephesus || Yes || Yes || Yes ||
|Estes Hills || Yes || Yes || Yes ||
|FPG || No || No || No ||
|Glenwood || Yes || Yes || Yes ||
|McDougle Elem. || No || No || No ||
|Rashkis || Yes || Yes || Yes ||
|Scroggs || Yes || Yes || Yes ||
|Seawell || Yes || Yes || Yes ||
|Culbreth || No || Yes || No ||
|McDougle Middle || No || No ||No ||
|Phillips || No || Yes || No ||
|Smith || Yes || Yes || Yes ||
|Carrboro High || Yes || Yes || Yes ||
|Chapel Hill High || Yes || Yes || Yes ||
|East Chapel Hill || No || No || No ||
| || 2007-2008 ABCs Results || ||
|School Name || School Growth || Recognition || Performance
|Carrboro Elem. || High || School of Progress || 78.0%
|Ephesus || High || School of Progress || 79.9%
|Estes Hills || High || School of Distinction || 80.8%
|FPG || Expected || School of Progress || 70.5%
|Glenwood || High || School of Distinction || 89.3%
|McDougle Elem. || Expected || School of Progress || 78.4%
|Rashkis || High || School of Distinction || 87.6%
|Scroggs || High || School of Distinction || 84.5%
|Seawell || High || School of Distinction || 88.0%
|Culbreth || High || School of Distinction || 83.5%
|McDougle Middle || High || School of Distinction || 82.2%
|Phillips || High || School of Distinction || 86.5%
|Smith || High || School of Distinction || 84.8%
|Carrboro High || High || School of Distinction || 85.0%
|Chapel Hill High || High || School of Distinction || 86.9%
|East Chapel Hill || Expected || School of Distinction || 87.1%
No one really expected veteran Democratic Congressman David Price (first elected in 1986) to have any problem winning re-election in 2008. Once again he romped to victory with at least 70% of the Orange County vote. What Pulpsters may not know is that Mr. Price did so on campaign contributions (at least $1,117,429) raised mainly outside his district. In fact his percentage of out-of-district money (67%) almost matches his vote getting in Orange County.
| Mr. Price’s Top Contributors 2007-2008
|Donor || Amount ||
| Duke University || $12,700 ||
| UNC-CH || $10,500 ||
|Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu || $10,000 ||
|International Assn of Firefighters || $10,000 ||
|Natioanl Association of Realtors|| $10,000 ||
About half his money comes from individuals, with the remainder from PACS.
Mr. Price is not unusual in using mostly our-of district monies. A report just released by MapLight shows that 79 percent of campaign contributions Representatives are out-of-district. In fact, Mr. Price is a piker compared to fellow Democrat Rep. Fortney Stark (D-CA) received a staggering 99.6 percent of his campaign money coming from people and interests other than his constituents. Of the 421 Representatives included in the report, 408 of them got more than half of their campaign money from outside their district. That’s over 95%.
See the Open Congress Website.
Pulpsters know that Mr. Barack Obama will handily win the presidential election in southern Orange, easily trouncing his competitor, Mr. John McCain. After all, southern Orange County is the land of tolerance, understanding, compassion, and progressivism. So what are Pulpsters to make of the report that a UNC professor of statistics, Mr. Andrew S. Noble, of the affluent Oak Crest subdivision and an ardent Obama supporter, has been unable to instill in his nine year old son the notion that he shouldn't steal a neighbor’s McCain yard sign?
Mr. Noble's outrage is reserved not for his son's actions in trying to steal the sign (captured on video, sign stealing video, which requires an FLV player to watch), but is reserved for the audacity of his next-door neighbor in attaching an electrical pet fence device to the sign to try to prevent yet another theft.
Mr. Shawn Turschak is registered as unaffiliated, not as GOP. As the lucky neighbor of the ever-tolerant Mr. Noble, he already has had two sets of McCain-Palin signs stolen from his yard within hours of being planted. (Pulpsters should know that according to the local media, signs aren't “stolen”. They simply “disappear”.)
In response, Mr. Turschak, an electrical engineer, ran wires from his house and hooked the signs into an electric pet fence power source, a device that shocks, but does not injure even a small pet. For insurance, he mounted a surveillance video camera in a nearby tree and wired it to a digital recorder. He even included signs warning of an electric fence. The next day, on 28 October 2008 in broad daylight, the camera recorded Mr. Noble’s son in action. (Pulpsters should know that Mr. Noble lives on a four acre estate next to his neighbor's three acre estate, so the sign in question is not an irresistable temptation.)
After hearing that his son was zapped while trespassing on a neighbor’s lawn with the intent to switch the McCain sign with an Obama sign, Mr. Noble reacted in a tolerant, compassionate, and understanding fashion. He beat on his neighbor’s door and, when opened, chastised Mr. Turschak’s 13 year old daughter for “electrocuting” his son. (Mr. Noble didn’t explain how his son got the Obama sign.) In a truly noble gesture, Mr. Noble called the police on his neighbors.
Pulpsters can watch the video, witnessing the brtual horror of the “electrocution”, and see if they believe Mr. Noble’s explanation that his son just wanted to see how the sign was put together. That explanation was given before Mr. Noble saw the video.
Maintaining the progressive sense of tolerance for different thinking and opposing views, the thieving boy’s mother, Ms. Johanna Gisladottir, said, “she and many neighbors thought it was community property. They were troubled, she said, that someone had apparently claimed the corner on behalf of the Republican Party.” (See the N&O Tolerance Story.)
The new excuse given by Ms. Gisladottir is that her son was inspired to switch the sign after listening to a discussion she had with a neighbor of the correct political thinking. Unfortunately, that tolerant speech is not available. In her words, ”I don't know what his intention was when he ran out, or I would not have allowed him to leave. I honestly don't think he had a concrete plan.”
By Wednesday afternoon, while the Turschak family was at a daughter's soccer game, two McCain signs were stolen from their yard by a tolerant, compassionate, understanding, but “angry-looking woman” striding up in broad daylight.
No word on whether or not the new theft was “like son, like mother”.
No word on the statistics of a sign being stolen from the same yard within twenty four hours.
One of the Orange progressives mantras is that housing is just plain unaffordable for “too many” locals. That phrase “too many” isn’t quantified, but rather is felt in one's progressive heart in a progressive way.
Pulpsters know that the progressive answer is to create a non-governmental, tax exempt organization that becomes self-absorbed in perpetuating itself. (See Peeled & Sliced Affordable Housing.) The local hallmark tax exempt, government grant institution for affordable housing (yes, there’s more than one) is the Orange Community Housing Land Trust (OCHLT).
The OCHLT business model is to get government money to pay salaries, pay expenses, and also to buy houses. Maintenance? Oops, OCHLT now needs government grants for that too! These houses are flipped to less than 80% median income buyers, with the retention of a ground rent by OCHLT.
What’s a ground rent? The buyers never own the land their house sits on. They own the building, not the land. This is the favorite mechanism used by the landed gentry of English cities to maintain control and power. Most of central London is based on the wealth and power building of feudal ground rents.
OCHLT goes one better. They include a restriction that prevents the owner from selling to anyone except someone approved by… you guessed it, OCHLT! They also include a restriction as to how much equity the owner can realize, despite what the moves in the housing market. OCHLT “serfs” can only get 1.5% gain per year of “service”.
So who can qualify for an OCHLT ground rent home. In a recent sales pitch on the wonders of the OCHLT in a Chapel Hill real estate advertiser ( Chapel Hill News OCHLT Promotion), OCHLT executive director Mr. Dowling puts forth that a family of three with an income of $51,350 in Chapel Hill or Carrboro needs government help in buying a home. Of course, the help he has in mind is buying a home owned by the OCHLT in perpetuity, giving Mr. Dowling a job, in perpetuity.
Is a local family earning about $51,000 in trouble? According to Mr. Dowling, a former New York City banker and above median income earner, it is. That family earns less than 80% of the local median income.
So what can this economically disadvantaged family buy without Mr. Dowling’s help? What can they buy where they get all of the equity value increase over the years? According to a web based real estate database ( Trulia) the median home price in the Carrboro 27510 zip code area (historic Carrboro) for July to September 2008 was $182,500. (Half the homes sold for less than $182,500.) According to standard mortgage guidelines that family can afford at least a $150,000 mortgage. With a ten percent down payment, they can afford at least a $165,000 house.
Amazingly, local governance boards don’t ask the OCHLT how they qualify the $50,000 economically disadvantaged family. Are two potential income earners in the family? Has one simply elected not to work? Has one simply elected to earn less than their income potential because the OCHLT program is available? What is the net worth of the potential income earners in the family? Are any trustafarians (receiving money now or in the future) in the family? According to Mr. Dowling, it’s first come, first served… in perpetuity. All paid for by local taxpayer grants to OCHLT… in perpetuity.
No word from Mr. Dowling as to why local institutions will pay living family wages if they know the OCHLT stands ready to support a family on non-living wages?
In particular, no word from Mr. Dowling on why the hundreds of local tax exempt organizations would pay a living family wage if they know the OCHLT stands ready to support a family on non-living wages?
Only in southern Orange County would the victims of the Great Financial Crash of 2008 be characterized not as those local taxpayers who played by the rules and didn’t overleverage their housing on “liar” loans. Nor would the victims be characterized as those local banks that didn’t seek unsustainable rates of returns by buying “subprime” junk mortgages. The victims aren't even those local remaining for-profit businesses starved of credit and facing bankruptcy in order to pay local taxes. No, here in Orange County the victims of the Great Financial Crash of 2008 are local tax exempt organizations (aka non-profits).
Yes, in Orange County those organizations that for years haven't had to pay taxes are being punished because they can’t get any more tax relief than they already have. That Orange progressive logic bears repeating. Because local non-profits pay no taxes, they can’t get tax relief from the federal government like for-profit organizations. Thus, local non-profits are being discriminated against by the federal government.
In the words of Mr. Jon Wilner, executive director of the Carrboro Arts Center, a local non-profit, “Most of what I read in the newspapers or hear on television refers to tax breaks or tax incentives to help small businesses. Nonprofits do not pay taxes. Never have. So what is the government’s plan to help the thousands of nonprofit organizations survive the mess they have gotten us into?”
“What nonprofit mess”, you might ask?
According to Mr. Wilner, any time you feel less wealthy as in a financial downturn, you most likely will give less to organizations such as the Arts Center despite the important work they do which no government or for profit business could do. (Apparently Orange County entertainers are unware of the existence of Broadway and commercial for profit theaters.) Anything that causes a drop in Arts Center donations and reduces the untaxed revenues of the literally thousands of other local nonprofits here in Orange County is the fault of government.
No word on whether or not the Arts Center will sell its multi- million dollar property in the middle of the under construction 300 Main Street project in order to weather the financial storm.
No word on whether or not the Arts Center is willing to pay even half of the taxes a for-profit entertainment business would pay in order to get federal tax relief or incentives?
Timing is everything in life.
If a bureaucrat sees an impending disaster on the horizon, retirement is a good option. If a Orange County Commish sees an impending political disaster on the horizon, then delay it until few will pay attention and by the next election cycle it’s “old news”. An excellent example can be found in the latest “shocking” discovery from Orange County, where incompetence rules, and accountability is absent. It’s good to have a one political party system.
Barely one week before the general election in November 2008, the Orange County finance director, Gary Humphreys announces that he has discovered that $15,500,000 is “missing” from county capital project accounts. By missing Mr. Humphreys isn’t talking about embezzlement or theft. No he’s talking about good old fashioned bungling, bad bookkeeping and accounting practices. Apparently, Orange County has booked as “sold” bond monies that have been approved, but haven’t been raised, i.e., sold to the public. In the encouraging words of Mr. Humphreys, “This is like a Chinese puzzle.”
Mr. Humphreys did not explain how $15,500,000 could be “missing” from county bank accounts without anyone noticing it isn’t earning interest or being employed elsewhere.
So when did Mr. Humphreys discover the problem? One month ago? Two months ago? No. He discovered it before the primary election for county commishes. Somehow the news never was made public before current county commishes could waltz to reelection. (Pulpsters know that Orange County is a one-party palocracy where the primary is THE election for local partisan elections.) Could this news have changed the election outcome? You’ll never know, as intended by those in power in Orange County.
Mr. Humphreys somberly reports that all of the discrepancies showed up on the county books before 2003, before he and County Manager Laura Blackmon showed up on the job. Revenues were put in wrong accounts. Anticipated grants were not received. Costs were underestimated. These creative errors occurred under the administration of former County Manager John Link.
Commish response was intense and probing, as befits a governance board made entirely of people who have never created a for profit job or handled a for profit budget. Commish Alice Gordon says “This is all very mysterious the way you have explained it.” Commish chair Barry Jacobs said, “If I were asked to explain it to somebody I might be able to do it. I’m not sure I’d be right. I might be able to sound authoritative, but I’m not sure I’d be right.” Commish Mike Nelson, former pool chemical salesperson and faux environmental scientist, opines, “Now in probably the toughest budget year we’ve had in a decade, we’re going to have to find $5,000,000 to cover these mistakes.”, conveniently ignoring that over $15,000,000 of county net worth doesn’t exist. (See the Chapel Hill News Missing Money Story.)
No one will lose their job. No one will not receive a raise. No one will pay any price. According to your Commishes, that's just like in the real for profit world.
None of the Commishes asked why the discrepancies were hidden for months during the primary election cycle.
None of the Commishes asked why Mr. Link was not asked to attend the bad news presentation.
None of the Commishes asked, how much more than the double digit increase should the ad valorem real property tax rate been raised to fund the “missing” monies?
None of the Commishes commented on their decision to name the new county administration building for Mr. Link upon his retirement.
Timing is everything in life.