Tuesday, February 28, 2006

New businesses coming to the area

I saw the new sign up in front of the new shopping center in Clayton, across from the new Wal-Mart. A Starbuck's is coming to Clayton. Earlier on this blog, I had an email conversation with the district manager for Starbucks. It was hinted that we will have on in the area. I am hoping that we will have one closer and more convenient than that, although it will be along my route to work when I have to go west.

I see that a Rose's department store is coming (again) to Smithfield. That may or may not be the final "nail in the coffin" for the K-Mart across the street.

Thought on the mayor's role, as written

Sec. 2.3. Mayor; Term of Office; Duties.
The mayor shall be elected by all the qualified voters of the Town for a term of two (2) years or until his or her successor is elected and qualified. The Mayor shall be the official head of the Town government and preside at meetings of the Council, shall have the right to vote on all matters before the Council, and shall exercise the powers and duties conferred by law or as directed by the Council.

I take note that this section of the town charter defining the mayor's duties and powers does not say that he is a full member of the council, only that he presides over the council and has the right (not duty) to vote on all matters before the council. It would also seem that the council can direct the mayor, not the other way around. Just a thought.

Monday, February 27, 2006

A legal opinion on the mayoral voting issue

I just got off the phone with the town attorney, Chip Hewett. Earlier, I had left him a voice mail inquiring as to the issues I had written about on this blog, and he returned my call today. He told me that the issue had recently been investigated, since someone else had also asked the same question at about the time of transfer of power to the new mayor.

Apparently, the statutes I quoted are accurate. However, the town charter makes provision that the mayor is a full voting member of the council in addition to presiding over the council. That is the key difference in this case. Other towns in this area do not have this provision, so Clayton and Smithfield, among others are set up that the mayor only presides over the council and can only vote in the event of a tie. Since the mayor in Selma, by charter, is a full voting member, he can also vote at any time along with the other council members.

Apparently, the charter is silent on the ability of the mayor to make motions. The opinion of The North Carolina League of Municipalities is that if the mayor is a "full voting member" but the charter is silent on "motions", then the mayor should have the ability just as other full members.

Sec. 2.3. Mayor; Term of Office; Duties.
The mayor shall be elected by all the qualified voters of the Town for a term of two (2) years or until his or her successor is elected and qualified. The Mayor shall be the official head of the Town government and preside at meetings of the Council, shall have the right to vote on all matters before the Council, and shall exercise the powers and duties conferred by law or as directed by the Council.

IF this is the case, then I am fine with things happening as they are with Mayor Hester. My concern was for things being done properly in Selma and not open up our town for issues of liability/illegality.

Since this is not something that I have read anywhere else, I will assume that most readers of this blog have not had knowledge of all of this, either. Well, now it is made public somewhere.

I am glad that this is the case, since it means that things have not been done illegally at council meetings. Figures that Selma is the oddball in local governments. After all, I live here.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

The latest on the Selma Town Council

Yesterday, I went to the Selma Town Council Meeting as an interested observer. Other than the news report from "The Selma News" article from their web site (below), there are a few items of noteworthiness.

First, there were few people attending the meeting. I was a bit disappointed that with all the publicity of this meeting, there were so few people in attendance.

The next thing was that after a prayer, a pledge of allegience, and a monologue, the councile went into executive session. The prayer was more like preaching than a prayer. I really dislike that. When someone prays and preaches to the people intended to be the recipients of the grace of God, the prayer is usually just someone trying to either get in a "dig" at the listeners or a method of propaganda to manipulate the hearers. I have seen it for years. It is a weapon, not a supplication. Let God be God and stop playing Holy Spirit and conscience for others.

The monologue was basically more preaching. Charles Hester talked about how the town needs to be fiscally responsible (in that we are in complete agreement), about how people need to be held accountable for mistakes made (again, we agree), and how the town needs to start charging people for the financially hurtful problems such as a well being too close to a cemetery, the water main breakage we had a few months ago, etc. On those items, we agree. He also brought up about how the town paid about $6000 over the problems we had with Hester and others filing for election. I do believe that some of this was simply a justification for firing the town manager. Yes, firing. The monologue was not directly relevent to layoffs, but was entertaining none the less.

After all of this, Mr. Hester wanted the council to go into "executive" or closed session to discuss the business of applicants for the town manager position. In all of my years of going to different town council meetings, civic groups, etc., I have never seen a meeting start out by going into closed session. Everyone in the audience was asked to leave for an hour and come back if we wanted to watch the rest of the meeting. That was completely inappropriate. To have an open meeting begin, close the open access, and then reconvene after about an hour (we were told an hour, and it was about 55 minutes or so) is rude and obnoxious behavior. It shows a lack of consideration and leadership.

I am glad that Charles Hester is showing a good amount of leadership in some areas. It is good to see that someone has an idea of exactly what he wants to accomplish and a direction in which to head. For that, I am glad. However, leadership also entails due consideration for the methods of operation, being mindful of the order in which things are done, ensuring that all things are done properly, legally, and ethically, and do not impose unreasonable demands upon those who would be in attendance of an open meeting.

I personally believe (as do others) that this was a political tactic to get audience members to just leave and not witness the remainder of the meeting. It did work to some extent in that a reporter for "The Smithfield Herald" did not return for the re-opened session. A few reporters, myself, the police chief, and a few others stuck around for the remainder of the meeting.

What I witnessed during the meeting was not surprising to me, but was discouraging. There seemed to be a lack of leadership amongst the elected leaders of this town. Only Jeff Weaver and Charles Hester seemed to have sufficient courage to take the hard decisions. Whether you agree with the lay-offs or not, whether the move to reduce staff was right or wrong aside, an elected official needs to have the "spine" to do the hard things that the job requires. Nobody promised that being on the council would be easy. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it. If you rise to the level of leadership, more is expected of you. The sorry part is that few witness what their elected officials are doing and therefore have an uninformed mind on election day. To Jeff Weaver and Charles Hester go my thanks for having the spine to show leadership on the tough decisions.

I believe in being fair. When kudos are deserved, the are given. When criticism is deserved, it comes. Also, this blog is my space to write as I see fit. It reflects my opinion and nobody else's, unless I choose to share them. That being said, I do have a few more "negatives" to share.

Earlier, I wrote about my bit of research into the mayor, council, and town manager form of government in North Carolina, since that is our town's charter form. I wrote about this in an earlier post, since I was witnessing the mayor make motions and vote on issues, even if the vote is not a tie. The same thing happened again last night. The mayor made a motion and voted outside of a tie vote. In the instance of a tie vote, it was never a tie, since the mayor voted with the "ayes", making it a three vote majority before a tie could occur. I am concerned that this may be illegal and the town could eventually face legal challenges if it continues.

Jackie Lacy expressed dismay in the meeting with the process and the way things have gone on the council. She said something like, "With all due respect, Mr. Mayor, it doesn't matter what the rest of us think, you are going to have your way, anyway. In the end, you have the final say." That may not be the exact verbiage, but it is close. Basically, she was saying that Mr. Hester has the support of two others and on "touchy" issues that she disagrees with, she will be voted down. Also that Mr. Hester tends to be a bully on a few things. With that sentiment, I agree to an extent. I have thought the same thing. Perhaps we see it from different perspectives, but do see it. I agree with a lot of the agenda thus far, but not necessarily with the methods used. There are things on the agenda with which I know I will disagree.

I don't mind if things happen by council vote, even if I disagree with the vote. At least it was by a representative majority vote. I may not like the outcome, but at least it would be done by the correct process. In this case, even though I have agreed with the outcome, I have a problem with the process. Let's do it correctly or not at all.

Here is the summary on "The Selma News" web site. I wrote all of the above summary since I don't know whether or not you will see it anywhere else.

Selma Council terminates 4 employees

Selma Town Council made good on its promise to reduce the town's budget Friday afternoon by eliminating four employees.

Council eliminated the town's planning department along with its director, its administrative assistant and another planning employee.

Also eliminated was the librarian position but on a 3-2 vote.

A motion to downgrade the town clerk's position failed because no one on Council would second the motion to do so.

Council members also agreed not to fill a lineman's position in the electrical department.

In eliminating the planning department, Council agreed to keep two part-time employees to handling building inspections. One of those positions will be eliminated when the Sysco plant is completed.

Council set the stage for Friday afternoon's firings last Tuesday when it met to talk about staffing levels. Council seemed ready to begin eliminating employees then but delayed the action until Friday afternoon on the reqest of two council members who said they wanted to study the situation more.

When Council met Friday afternoon in its two-hour session, it spend the first hour meeting behind closed doors discussing town manager candidates.

Then it opened the doors and began to eliminate employees.

Interim Town Manager Jim Vones told Council that once it hired a permanent town manager, he would be willing to cut his hours to 8 to 16 hours per week to help the town cut its expenses. He was hired as the town's finance officer and was promoted to interim town manager when town manager Jeff White was asked to resign in January.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Typical government employee mentality

Teresa and I got back from the county courthouse a few moments ago. I took her there to get her concealed carry weapons permit. I called earlier today about the cost and form of payments accepted. The cost is the same as it was when I got mine almost five years ago.

When we got to the sheriff's office, we checked in with the receptionist. We were told to have a seat and someone would be with us shortly. There was a gathering of several women in the reception area. They were discussing the fact that the fingerprint office was not open at the moment. We could hear them from the lobby. A few minutes later, a small, middle aged man came out and asked if someone was there for a pistol permit. The man had a scowl on his face, was terse, but not rude. I told him that my wife was here to get her concealed carry permit. He asked if we could come back later in the afternoon, since the fingerprint office was closed down and would not re-open until 3:30. Also, that they typically prefer to do CCW fingerprints in the mornings. I told him that would have been a handy bit of information to have earlier in the day when I called to inquire about the CCW. Very condescendingly, he said "Well, you didn't talk to me, and if you had, I would have told you that."

He was obviously annoyed at the very concept of a citizen actually being at the sheriff's office for a public service that we are about to pay a decent sum of money to obtain (even though the idea of a permit is in reality null and void by the 2nd Amendment to the US Constitution).

We were told that the best time for getting this done is in the morning. When I tried to ask "when in the morning", seeing that obviously 2:30 seems to be a bad time in the afternoon, he seemed annoyed at the interrogatory. He said between 8 and noon. OK, fine with me.

This man was extremely negative and condescending. He had the attitude that we are an inconvenience to his department, and that we were stupid for coming in the afternoon. He acted as if everyone in the world knows that the fingerprint office is closed during that time of the day, and we were stupid, ignorant fools for even asking. That is stereotypical government employee mentality. I don't know the man's name, but he deserves a smackdown.

I thanked him for his time and for the wasted trip to the sheriff's office all for nothing, and that we would come back another time. As he closed the door on us and he went back into the office area, I said simply (loud enough for anyone nearby to hear it) "Well, his attitude certainly sucks." And it did. Steve Bizzell, if you are reading this, please take note. One of your employees has a horrible attitude and scorns the public. I know you and know that you are better than this man is representing your office to be. It does, however, reflect negatively upon you. How many others (read voters) have gotten treatment, too?


I have been on the phone all morning long working on issues for work. We are having networking issues, are trying to solve the problem of reinstating an old network, I have been calling about video problems. I have had a few conference calls and a bunch of other calls to coworkers. So far, it has been fairly unfruitful. I have some last minute work that may hit me, should the company take a particular direction in troubleshooting. The part that is sad about all of this is that we have been handed obstacles by management and now management is saying to overcome the very obstacles they created. Hey, that is what they pay me for.

The annoying part is that all of my plans get put on hold to accommodate this work. It may get sprung on me that "hey, we made some progress, so we are ready for you to do your Mr. Wizard thing now."

I want to make it to the town council meeting at 4PM. Hopefully, I will be able to be there to observe.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

South Dakota Senate passes abortion ban

So, South Dakota is about to pass a ban on abortion. Cool. Don't fall for the arguments from so called "Planned Parenthood". Their motive is $$$, not "the health and safety of women".

The slaughter of innocent babies for the sake of convenience and irresponsibility is an abomination. I know that some liberals will probably bring up some pablum about the rights of a woman to do with her body as she sees fit, that a fetus is not "life" yet (just watch a secular documentary on fetal development and you will learn otherwise), etc. I guess the rights of a tiny life are not important and can be violated. Oh, and we can't punish the guilty by execution, but we can kill the innocent.

I used to be stupid enough to support abortion and even shamefully allowed three of my children to be aborted in my youth (one set of twins and a single baby a few years apart with different girlfriends). I was too young, stupid, and selfish at the time to comprehend the concept of it being murder. I am not proud of that fact. It was in my B.C. days.

These are cute

Another comparison

I was doing a little more comparison between the Town of Selma and my previous hometown, Franklin, New Hampshire. I was looking at the town budgets. Selma's budget ordinance provides for roughly $15.5 million in operational expenses, including payroll, water, sewer, and electrical. Franklin's budget includes a full time fire department, water, sewer, less payroll, and 7.9 times the square mileage, and one third more population has a budget (excluding the school system) of less than $9.1 million. If you add the entire school system into the budget, it grows to almost $22.3 million. Can you see why I am a bit puzzled by the budget proportions?

There is no state income tax in New Hampshire and no sales tax (except rooms and meals), but there is a fairly high property tax. Here in NC, we have a state income tax, state sales tax, AND property tax. The schools here are handled at the county and state level. The schools in New Hampshire are primarily handled at the town level with some state funding. There is a lottery in NH (first in the nation to have one...as if that is a big deal), and NC just got one. I am not even going to get into the lottery lies here in North Carolina.

I am by no means touting how great things were "up north". I am simply comparing what is familiar to me. I had no idea what Franklin's budget was, what the total square mileage was, the personnel numbers were, etc. until I was curious about how they compared to Selma. I started digging for information and started making comparisons. When I started hearing numbers about Selma, I was a bit curious as to why things are the way they are.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

This is what I meant in my last post

This is the sort of thing that I said in my earlier post today. Though I don't have any problem with the idea of giving consideration as to what positions you "whack" from the town payroll, I also believe that if you are on the town council, you should have already given due consideration to the topic. The concept of layoffs has already been discussed at previous meetings. To come to a meeting unprepared for handling the town business is a bit baffling to me. Why be on the council in the first place if you are not willing to get down to business? Excercise courage to do what needs to be done, if that is the route the town is heading. If you don't have the courage, step down and let someone who does take your place.

If we need to do more with less, we can. How do I know? Almost every job I have ever had has been that way. I don't like the idea of disrupting someone's livelihood any more than the next person. However, we are talking about the public trust. It sucks, but something has to be done. I am not privy to all the details, but I hope that the right course of action is being pursued.

From "The Selma News" web site today:

Town employee layoffs imminent in Selma
By Kelly Lake, News Editor 21.FEB.06

Heads are on the chopping block in Selma. At a special meeting at noon today, the council stopped short of eliminating the town planner position, currently held by Dave Roesler.

After much discussion, council decided to review a list a town employees, their duties, and their salaries before making cuts on Friday during a special meeting set for 4 p.m. in the Selma District Courtroom.

While Councilmen Gary Jackson and Jeff Weaver, and Mayor Charles Hester, were prepared to cut positions today, Councilwomen Debbie Johnson and Jackie Lacy felt they needed time to review an employee list before making any cuts.

Selma budget woes

There is no excuse for the town being in so much debt/behind in finances. I am also trying to comprehend why Selma has 100 people on staff for a town this size. I have seen towns with larger population function with far fewer people on the payroll.

One example is the town where I grew up. I use this as an example, since I am familiar with the town. In Franklin, New Hampshire, there is a population of 8683. That is not that much larger than Selma. It is somewhere between Selma (6600) and Smithfield (11,700) in population. There are a total of 304 people on the payroll there. HOWEVER, that includes all primary and secondary education personnel. Unlike in NC, the school systems there are locally controlled and funded. That probably accounts for some of why their SAT scores are always in the top of the nation yet have among the smallest amount of funding per capita in the nation.

Anyway, if you subract the school system employees from the amount of employees on the payroll (for a fair comparison), Franklin only has 89 employees. This includes a full time fire department, which Selma does not have. The City of Franklin also does their own sanitation, rather than contracting it out like we do here. They do their own water and sewer, but not electricity system. The link I gave to the city data shows the break down.

With supposed revenue generating endeavors such as an electricity delivery, water, and sewer systems, WHY THE HELL is Selma spending so much money?

Another noteworthy comparison is how the two towns compare in area. Selma is only 3.5 square miles. The City of Franklin (yes, it actually has a city charter) is 27.6 square miles. That means more roads to maintain, more water and sewer lines than we have in Selma, and fire protection (and EMS) region to cover.

I don't know all the reasons for financial differences or problems, but I hope to see the information soon. I also hope that the current members of the town council here have the backbone to make the necessary changes and take the hard decisions necessary.

I am not bitter, but rather an interested observer in all of this. I read stories like the one below from WMPM and remember hearing how much people said they wanted a change in town government prior to the last election. Then voters re-elected half of the very town council under whose watch we got into this financial crisis. My face does not appear on the town's web site, so I can only write about it, not vote on it.

Selma Town Council Considering Layoffs, Eliminating Positions Due To Budget Crisis - The Selma Town Council may have to layoff or eliminate some positions because of a budget crisis. In a special council meeting on Tuesday, Selma Mayor Charles Hester said five or six positions could be cut from the 100 person staff. Interim Town Manager Jim Vones said as of January 31, the town had spent $400,000 more than they had collected this fiscal year. During the last fiscal year, the town had to spend $800,000 in reserve funds just to balance the budget. The spending crisis came to light in October following a report from a new auditor. No action was taken during Tuesday’s special session. The council agreed to meet again on Friday to review a list of employees and their wages, plus to start the process of hiring a new town manager. Seven candidates have applied for the position following the resignation [Troy's note: In reality, it should read "firing"]of former town manager Jeff White.

The desire for a coffee shop in Selma

I know that there is a coffee shop in the Johnston Medical Mall and there is Riverside Coffee in Smithfield. I visit both shops. I also visit Java Joe's at 40 and 42 occasionally. My favorite is Dunkin' Donuts. Thank God one finally opened up in Johnston County...wish it was closer. I stop by there most often, since it is convenient if I am heading towards Raleigh AND they beat the crap out of Krispy Kreme's donuts and coffee ANY DAY. I also visit The Coffee Mill in Clayton, though less frequently than I used to since Dunkin' Donuts opened. The problem is that most of these shops are out of the way and out of town.

When I choose to get some coffee, I want quality. I brew only quality coffee here at home with half and half for a creamer. I really dislike the powdered stuff, so I am going to have it the way I want it. I love a good latte or cappucino once in a while. I am not likely to go to the local convenience store, McDonald's (for the world's largest restaurant, they have the world's worst coffee IMHO), or greasy spoon for a cup of coffee. I am willing to pay more for better quality.

If we had a good coffee shop in Selma, perhaps right off the interstate, I would frequent that shop. I would actually alter my daily routine to stop there regularly, and even go during odd hours. I don't know how many times I have had the desire for a mocha latte at 7 or 8 PM.

This weekend, I stopped by a Starbucks in Raleigh. I like "mom and pop" shops, but also like that corporate giant. It is the Wal-Mart of gourmet coffee. I saw a business card holder in the shop with cards for the district manager. I grabbed one and figured that I would email to see if they had any plans on locating a shop nearby.

Here is what I wrote and the reply I got just a few minutes ago:

From: Troy LaPlante
Sent: Saturday, February 18, 2006 8:17 PM
To: Arlene DeCotis
Subject: Location in Johnston County

From time to time, my travels take me by one of your stores in the Raleigh area. Just today, I took the wife by North Hills for two caramel macchiatos, which we both love. Unfortunately, we live in Selma (used to live at North Hills in Raleigh years ago) and don't get to a Starbucks often. There are a few good, small coffee shops in Smithfield and Clayton. They are usually out of the way and I only get to stop when I am headed in those general directions.

I live near the intersection of Interstate 95 and Highway 70, which is a major crossroads in North Carolina and a high traffic portion of I-95. I have often thought that exit 97 off I-95 would be a great area for a coffee shop, donut shop, etc. There are none others for miles. The nearest Starbucks up I-95 is at exit 173 in Roanoke Rapids (75 miles).

If I had a local coffee shop to visit, I would be there regularly. There is nothing local to this area, nor near the interstate...period. Are there any plans to expand in this direction at all? I would love to have a regular coffee shop hangout!

Thank you,

Troy LaPlante
Selma, NC

The reply:

From: Arlene DeCotis
To: Troy LaPlante
Sent: Tuesday, February 21, 2006 10:20 AM
Subject: RE: Location in Johnston County

Mr. LaPlante-

Thank you for your interest in Starbucks Coffee Company. I will pass on your concerns to our real estate department but I can assure you that we are working diligently to find locations in eastern NC. Unfortunately, some of this information is considered very confidential but you shouldn’t have to travel to Raleigh or Roanoke Rapids for much longer. Have a great day and we thank you for your loyal patronage.

Arlene C. DeCotis
District Manager
Greater Raleigh Area
SVM 59707

Time will tell if this means that we are getting a Starbucks nearby. By nearby, I DO NOT MEAN the other side of the county or significantly out of the way. I have that already. It is hard to give "loyal patronage" if a shop is not local to patronize.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Actual common sense?

One of my pet peeves by government is the improper use of eminent domain to seize private property for illegitimate purposes such as mere "economic development". Thankfully, it seems that lawmakers may be taking note and actually getting a clue. Here is the article.

Dick Cheney story continues

I am growing weary of all the rhetoric and poking fun at Dick Cheney's shooting mishap. It is still very much in the news, on talk shows, and the butt of a good many jokes. At least someone is being intellectually honest about the whole situation and dealing with facts. Whether you support and believe Cheney or not, at least some scientific methodology is being used in this video.

A friend of mine gave us a cat carrier on Saturday. Thanks, John.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Research on mayoral powers of voting

I mentioned the mayor's role in voting in a recent post. I have been doing some research on the topic.

I can found the following on the topic is the following from the town charter:
Sec. 2.3. Mayor; Term of Office; Duties.
The mayor shall be elected by all the qualified voters of the Town for a term of two (2) years or until his or her successor is elected and qualified. The Mayor shall be the official head of the Town government and preside at meetings of the Council, shall have the right to vote on all matters before the Council, and shall exercise the powers and duties conferred by law or as directed by the Council.

I have not found any more powers and duties conferred by law or as directed by the council yet. I did find a few things in the N.C. general statutes.
160A‑1. Application and meaning of terms.
(6)"Mayor" means the chief executive officer of a city by whatever title known.

160A 67. General powers of mayor and council.
Except as otherwise provided by law, the government and general management of the city shall be vested in the council. The powers and duties of the mayor shall be such as are conferred upon him by law, together with such other powers and duties as may be conferred upon him by the council pursuant to law. The mayor shall be recognized as the official head of the city for the purpose of service of civil process, and for all ceremonial purposes. (1971, c. 698, s. 1.)

160A 69. Mayor to preside over council.
The mayor shall preside at all council meetings, but shall have the right to vote only when there are equal numbers of votes in the affirmative and in the negative. In a city where the mayor is elected by the council from among its membership, and the city charter makes no provision as to the right of the mayor to vote, he shall have the right to vote as a council member on all matters before the council, but shall have no right to break a tie vote in which he participated. (1971, c. 698, s. 1; 1979, 2nd Sess., c. 1247, s. 3.)

Since Selma does not elect the mayor from amongst its members, Selma's mayor is NOT allowed to vote unless there is a tie. Mr. Hester has been voting anyway, even when there is not a tie. Granted, the recent vote on the closing of the courthouse would be an instance in which the mayor is allowed to vote, having been 2 aye, 2 nay. However, Mr. Hester was voting BEFORE the split decision and therefore voting illegally in that vote as well as on other issues.

I can find NOTHING on the mayor having any power to introduce motions for consideration. If that is the case, then some of the recent council actions, specifically the closing of the courthouse, are illegal.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Today was another one of those days where I have the weekend off, but worked today, anyway. Hey, it's three extra hours of overtime.

We drove through Raleigh today. We stopped in at North Hills, the area in which we used to live when we wre first married. Actually, where I got my first apartment when I moved to North Carolina. The entire area is so different from what it used to be. The shopping plaza has been totally redone, the post office torn down and a condo and office building in its place. The Blockbuster that replaced the old Cardinal Twin Theater is now a restaurant. We stopped at the Starbucks for a caramel macchiato. The old mall was completely torn down, except for J.C. Penney's and rebuilt. It looks nice, but I have never been to check it out.

The thing that really caught my attention was that the old apartment complex, Tara East, has been completely torn down. My first apartment was in 3970C and then in 3948A, where I lived when we got married. Now, there is nothing but empty land. There is a fence around the entrance to Tara Drive. The same developer who did North Hills is going to develop that entire complex.

It doesn't surprise me in that the apartments really didn't go along with the upscale environment they were creating in North Hills. It did surprise me to actually see the entire landscape where I lived for nine years just gone.

Teresa cried a bit over the apartments being gone, since pretty much everything from our early relationship is now gone or dead. The apartment and all the pets we used to have are all gone now. But we still have each other.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Enough is enough

I was reading over some old minutes from town council meetings. Specifically, December's meeting. Mayor Hester wants to rename a street or stretch of road "Martin Luther King Boulevard". Enough already! The man died about forty years ago. He already has a pseudo holiday, statues, streets, etc. named after him across the country. I am tired of hearing about it, I am tired of the appeasement mentality behind this, and find it insulting to force this drivel upon the populace.

I have written about King before. I agree with his message. Those who know me know that I am all about the fairness of treating people according to their merit. I couldn't care less about skin color when it comes to dealing with character. Unfortunately, this message was hijacked and perverted by the likes of the NAACP, Al Sharpton, and Jesse Jackson.

Hester was grandstanding at the last council meeting about how we should remember King's wife, who recently died. Yeah, like that has an relevance to the town of Selma, North Carolina. Selma, Alabama, maybe, but not here. OK, she was a famous figure who recently died. Let us NOT worship her or her husband.

From the WMPM news page

Ah...OK. It is hard to have a 5 to 3 vote when there were only five people voting. By the way, the council did not vote to close the courthouse. The council was split and the mayor was the deciding vote, just for clarification. I was there. The mayor was the one who made the motion for the closure vote. I was told by a former mayor of Selma that the mayor is not allowed to make motions, only vote, especially in a tie breaker type situation. Perhaps that information is erroneous.

Selma Council Votes 5-To-3 To Close Courtroom - In a 5-to-3 vote, the Selma Town Council has voted to ask judicial leaders to permanently close the Selma District Courtroom. Some have said loitering and traffic are big problems on Anderson Street on the days court is held. Sheriff Steve Bizzell expressed safety concerns last year after an inmate was stabbed in the parking lot while being transported to Selma court. On Tuesday night, the town board heard a report from a study committee appointed in January to study the issue. After hearing the report, the council voted to seek the closure of the courtroom in 30 days. However, law enforcement officers already have court dates scheduled through the end of March and the 30 day timeframe may be too soon. Selma town officials must write a letter to Clerk of Court Will Crocker and Chief District Court Judge Andy Corbett, who in turn will take the closure request to the Administrative Office of the Courts.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Nothing like gov't interference

For a long time, I have been wanting to find a good set of WKRP episodes on DVD or VHS. I have seen pirated copies on ebay. They are not commercially available in stores or online. Licensing laws have changed over the last decade or more. The problem is that WKRP had a lot of music on the show. That is appropriate, since the show was about a rock and roll radio station. The problem is that every piece of music that is in each episode, even if for a few seconds, now needs to be licensed. A while back, a crappy release was made to VHS that replaced all the actual music with generic music and was only of a handful of episodes. The reason is simply music licensing for all of the music clips in the show. That is precluding the release of a great sitcom. Figures, the one show that I want to get on video is the one that I can't get.

Selma town council meeting

I stayed for the loooooooong Selma Town Council meeting last night. There were a lot of topics on the table. The meeting lasted over three hours. There was a lot of "grandstanding" and some power plays. The good thing is that it was all there for everyone to see.

The town is already over $400K behind in the budget. There were no huge money saving measures passed last night, although a few policies may help. I don't know. A few actions that were taken will turn out to be futile and petty. A few may help things.

Mayor Hester steamrolled over citizens and council members on the issue of train quiet zones and closing the courthouse. I agree that tough decisions need to be made. However, the manner in which things were done was a bit rude and excessively forceful.

To put out a sign along Hwy. 301 adversiting a "Town Meeting" and to then stomp on citizen comment during issues that warrant citizen input is inappropriate. There is also a time and a place for citizen input and a time to allow the elected officials do what they were elected to do. Last night was not a good balance.

Personally, I am ambivalent about the closing of the town's courthouse. I think that the idea of a "quiet zone" for railroad traffic is inappropriate, considering the financial impact on the town.

Some things bothered me, such as the approval to continue to give thousands of dollars of town funds to some area charities (not that there is anything wrong with these charities or their work) yet complain that the town can't meet its own financial obligations.

Another thing that bothers me is that the town is about to get a $750,000 loan from the USDA for water supply improvements. I am fine with the improvements, as I see them as necessary to the town's future. The problem is that we are going to borrow the money from the U.S. Government. We get taxed to provide the loan funding by the feds and then are going to pay for it on the other end over the next 40 years through water service rates. It is pork projects like this that cause a nearly $3 trillion dollar federal budget. Granted, less than a million dollars is negligible by comparison. However, it is the concept of paying for it on both ends that burns me up and is, in my opinion, irresponsible in the long run. I despise the mentality of looking to the state, county, or federal governments for funding in all that we do. The town looks to the state. The state looks to the feds. The feds look to my wallet (and yours). When does it end?

There are more things on my mind, but I will ponder them a bit more.

In the "so tell me something I don't already know" category....

Saddam general: WMDs in Syria
Another former confidant of ex-dictator makes claim, also links Iraq to al-Qaida

Click on the post title for the article. I have been saying this for several years.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

More abuse of power with the tool of eminent domain...one of my pet peeves

Another Government Taking
By Debra Saunders

Conaway Ranch is a 17,300-acre spread north of Davis, Calif. On property that sidles up to Interstate 5 and provides a fine view of the Sacramento skyline, owners grow rice and alfalfa, boast rights to 50,000 acre-feet of water and extract natural gas. The gray sky and Sierra runoff are home to countless birds -- ducks, egrets and hawks -- some of which the owners hunt.

Yolo County wants the land. In 2004, county supervisors voted to seize the ranch by eminent domain. "We want to keep it from being developed," explained Supervisor Mike McGowan.

The owners are fighting back, and they're media savvy. In 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its infamous Kelo decision -- which supported the seizure by New London, Conn., of taxpayers' waterfront homes so that the properties could be handed over to private development. Americans on the left and right were outraged at this expansive definition of a "public use" taking.

Then-Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wrote in her dissent: "The specter of condemnation hangs over all property. Nothing is to prevent the state from replacing any Motel 6 with a Ritz-Carlton, any home with a shopping mall or any farm with a factory."

Now, the owners -- a group of developers that calls itself the Conaway Preservation Group and bought the property after Yolo commenced the eminent-domain action -- are arguing that what Yolo wants to do is worse than Kelo.

Spokesman Tovey Giezentanner argues that while Kelo was outrageous -- for it allowed local governments to seize homes and hand them over to private developers -- if Yolo wins, it will be the first time the "government got into the business of trying to run an existing business." There will be nothing to stop governments from seizing other profitable businesses -- parking garages, farms, hotels -- and running them themselves.

"I've got some news for you," countered McGowan. "After going through this, it is highly unlikely I will ever do this again." The political fallout has been no picnic.

McGowan bristles at the notion that Yolo wants to go beyond Kelo. A county buying land to preserve it is "pretty old stuff." I have to agree on that point.

That doesn't make the seizure of the ranch a good thing. Steven Anderson, an attorney with the Institute for Justice, which has been a key player in fighting eminent-domain abuses, said of this case, "There may not be a constitutional claim," and the preservation may be considered a public use, but "that does not mean it is right."

Oh, and there's another wrinkle. Yolo doesn't plan on using county money to buy the property. Later this year, a jury will set the value of the ranch. The owners purchased the ranch for a reported $60 million, but it may be worth much more. So who pays for it?

The Rumsey Band of Wintun Indians will put up the front money. The Yolo supes call this a "handshake deal" -- with no quid-pro-quo for the tribe. I should note that the Rumsey tribe owns Cache Creek Casino.

It all comes does to: Whom do you trust? The developer owners, who at this point can't build on any of the land but might be able to build on small portions in the future, if Yolo politics change?

Or the county, with McGowan's word that "we have not made any concessions with the tribe"? McGowan argues that while the Conaway Conservation Group may act as good stewards now, the minute conservation is not profitable, the owners will try to build where they can. (Not that I think that's necessarily a bad thing, but McGowan thinks it is bad.)

Giezentanner argues that voters would be foolish to believe this land grab is a "stringless deal." While the casino grows as a political force in the county, it will be able to build on some of the land -- and this is a hot location, not far from the airport and easy access to I-5. That is, not a bad spot for another casino.

All I am going to say is that this stuff works

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Somebody gets it. Unfortunately, it is the leader of Russia.

Vladimir Putin understands how to deal with terrorists. "Make pinpoint strikes against them, find them in all the caves where they are hiding, and eliminate them like rats," he said. Click on the title of this post for the entire article.

Monday, February 06, 2006

This is TOO funny...and TRUE!

Product Description

* Pastor a simulated church and create your own Christian empire
* Build a church from the ground up
* Hire and fire staff
* Deal with idiots, naive volunteers, and denominational egos
* Attract fickle unchurched people with Bingo, revival meetings or fasting--it is all up to you!
* Select a pre-loaded community
o Xurban or suburban church plant (for those who want it easy or just starting out)
o Or pastor an inner-city, multi-ethnic 80 year old church with 50 members and $1 million mortgage debt (for those who really want a challenge)
* Choose a denomination (Lutheran, Catholic, Baptist, Pentecostal plus many more obscure factions)
* Or load a brand new emergent plug-in
* Take weekly offerings and go over budget
* Start your own radio or cable-access show
* Attend the latest conference to hone your skills
* Implement the latest ministry fad
* Review weekly attendance and giving records
* Earn points with God by winning souls for Christ
* With network play enabled, you can steal members from other churches and earn points just like you saved them yourself.

The possibilities are endless! To grow your church, work on all the strategic variables,

* Write a mission statement
* Choose a logo
* Get a billboard
* Hire a professional musician
* Buy plasma television for your PowerPoint presentations

Prayer, study and preparation get thrown in there too--and the mysterious (or fickle) will of God! Deal with real-life scenarios including,

* Troublesome board members
* Elderly donor who wants to buy a new organ
* A son starts using drugs
* Your trusted deacon sleeps with your secretary
* The city starts a construction in front of your building
* Offering stolen

Denominations and Bible colleges use it to prepare potential church planters or associate pastors. It is better than an internship!

Do it all without a degree, license or even the Bible! Just like Joel Osteen

Another true Islam cartoon - and now back to the rioting

Yeah, it has been a few days

I took several days off from blogging. I thought about writing a few things. Maybe I will make quick mention of them.

1. The riots by Muslims over a cartoon...a freakin cartoon! Get over it. They use the Bible as toilet paper while occupying a Christian church and they flip over a political cartoon. And people wonder why I despise Islam and call it evil.

2. The Superbowl...YAWN! The ads were lame. The game was boring. Once the Patriots and the Panthers were both knocked out of the playoffs, I lost a lot of interest.

3. I was just reading in a New Hampshire newspaper online edition (yeah, I still read NH newspapers) about a town clerk wanting a pay raise. Here is what it says:
MANCHESTER - City Clerk Leo Bernier is again asking aldermen for a $4,500 raise to bring his position in line with other top officials.

Bernier, who now earns a $94,500 salary, has renewed a request based on a Human Resources Department analysis that found he's underpaid.

The median income in Manchester is under $41K a year. This man makes more than twice that already. Manchester has a population of 108,000. Getting almost $1 per resident is actually a better return than the $10 per resident that we pay here in Selma for a glorified secretary. The median income here in Selma is under $24,000 per person. We pay our town clerk 2.66 times the median income here.

3. Time to get back to work. I worked some late last night/early this AM. I still have things to go do.