in today's N&R, from Mr. Arthur Julich.
Mr. Julich not only denounces the four young men who stole the Kerry-Edwards sign from his yard, but places the incident in a broader context:
"Freedom of speech is apparently limited to those who support the current occupant of the White House, according to four of his supporters," he writes.
My advice to Mr. Julich: Get another Kerry-Edwards sign and put it in your yard. They're plenty to be had. Show these four young Bush operatives that, no matter how hard they try, they cannot squelch your freedom of speech.
Better yet, a Kerry-Edwards bumper sticker cannot be stolen as easily. Trust me, there are plenty of them to go around, too.
So there a few pissed-off parents at the Guilford County Board of Education
meeting. OK, more than a few.
One after another, they stepped to the mike and presented the board with incidents of 12-hour days full of confusion and chaos as their kids tried to navigate the school’s bus hub system. The first kids are still being picked up picked up at 5:55 am, and the last kid is dropped off at 5:50 pm.
The worst story was from one lady who said she had no idea where her daughter was for eight hours. She looked everywhere, but could not find her.
“My daughter was somewhere in Greensboro, and I didn’t know where,” the speaker said.
But it was Harold Parker who really got the crowd rocking with his parting shot at superintendent Terry Grier.
“You hired the superintendent. You can fire the superintendent,” he said.
In response, Grier apologized, once again.
“We’re sorry for the worry and inconvenience we’ve caused,” he said.
So we know there are a lot of pissed-off people. The more important issue was what went wrong and what were they going to do to fix it?
Based on the board’s (with the exception of Kris Cooke
) soft questioning of the staff, it appears the school system will stay the course with the hub system and hope all the kinks will work out.
Assistant superintendent John Wright did most of the talking . It was clear the board was reluctant to come down hard on transportation director Jim Moen. If anything, the board was complimentary of the work Moen and his staff had done over the years.
Wright said several factors contributed to the hub dilemma: transportation forms turned into the wrong place, including 600 applications that didn’t make it until the first day of school; staff failure to enter names into the system, lack of understanding of the transportation system and inadequate staff to handle the overwhelming phone calls and e-mails.
But Wright also pointed out that Guilford's a big county with a lot of magent schools. If, as an example, you want to send kids from Gibsonville to Penn-Griffin School, it’s going to take a while.
“How large a magnet zone will you allow and still expect timely transportation?” Wright asked. “You need to have discussions about what you’re willing to do and what you’re willing to pay to do it.”
Board member Anita Sharpe took it a step further. "The problem is greater than transportation,” she said. “This board needs to discuss whether or not we can afford magnet schools.”
But it was Cooke who asked the hard questions. She got a little testy when she started her line of questioning and Grier interrupted her.
“Let me finish,” she said. “This has been building for some time.”
Then she asked Wright what would happen if the school system did away with the hub system.
It would cost about $3 million to buy the buses to handle it, Wright said.
Then Cooke asked how much the system was spending on overtime, canopies, extra phone lines, etc. Wright assured her that those costs were negligible. In other words, a lot less than $3 million.
In the end, the only thing that happened was the board will get an update at its next meeting. So parents, you’re stuck with the hub system. Either roll with it or drive the kids to school yourselves. You can’t change this one, but you can change some things at the ballot box in November.
Thursday, August 26, 2004
Thank you, Tony
, especially for capturing al-Qaeda operatives in London a couple of weeks ago.
Thank you, Cone
, for introducing me to other conservative bloggers.
I found this article
in the N&O interesting because I am an alumnus of J.W. Ligon Junior High, now
Ligon GT Magnet School
I've had reason to reflect on Ligon recently as I've covered the High Point school choice plan. For two school years, 1978 and 1979, I was bused from north Raleigh downtown to Ligon. I remember there was a big controversy surrounding the reassignment. My parents were concerned, but when they realized the new assignment would be reality, they went with the flow. One consequence was I lost contact with one of my close friends at East Millbrook when his parents put him in private school.
After about a 20-minute ride,the bus would pull up right next to the Chavis Heights housing complex every morning and let us off at the school. I didn't think much of it, because I didn't even know what a housing complex was. I even noticed a few times that a couple of the brighter kids in school lived there. I never felt in danger the whole time I was there. The only weird thing I remember is one morning being directed straight into the school building after getting off the bus, where normally we were allowed to hang out in the courtyard or play basketball in the gym. We found out later the gym teacher found a wino lying dead outside the gym.
On the whole, the teachers at Ligon were better and the discipline not as bad as they were at my neighborhood school. I made friends with other kids who were bused in from schools in other parts of Raleigh. I also made friends with many of the black kids already there. I even played football in ninth grade. I got beat up pretty bad in practice and hardly played in the games, but had fun nevertheless. I considered it an honor to be part of the same football tradition that gave the sport the pro linebacker John Baker.
While I viewed the choice plan with a skeptical eye, I viewed the anger with which many parents fought the plan with an equally skeptical eye. I understand their concern. But I don't go in for doomsday prophecies. I didn't like the idea of going to Ligon, but I not only survived but thrived. Hopefully, many parents will realize the benefits and the well-meaning intentions of the school system when all is said and done.
Two footnotes: A lot has changed in public schools in the last 25 years. Also, the school bus picked you up at home and took you straight to school and then brought you straight back. No hubs.
Garbage day. You put it out on the curb and they pick it up. It's very satisfying to know that part of the system works. The next time you see your garbage man, tell him to have a nice day.
Bush the environmentalist
You wouldn't expect environmental groups to cut Bush much slack. But it would have been nice had the reporter put the Competitive Enterprise Institute's
reaction in some sort of context. Seeking that context, I searched CEI's Web site, where I came across this interesting article
on the state of air quality.
Wednesday, August 25, 2004
Is it me, or is it crazy to hold city utilities hostage
for the sake of restricting billboards? I simply can't imagine developers and businessmen holding restrictions on billboards in higher esteem than availability of water and sewer.
Tuesday, August 24, 2004
wants to “facilitate collaboration among school boards, county commissions and planning departments in selecting sites for schools.”
The initiative would be part of a pilot program by the Center for Regional and Urban Studies
, which is currently involved in Pilot Projects that are being implemented in Charlotte Mecklenberg and Macon Counties. He suggested convening a school budget committee meeting to discuss the project.
The interesting thing is CURS would conduct the project in collaboration with the Orange County Settlement Dispute Center
. After looking at its Web site, it seems to me like this situation would fall under the public disputes
Thigpen wants ideas on whether or not this is a good idea. In my haste to slam the school board (blogging and ADD sometimes don’t mix) I misread the letter posted on his blog. I though the letter was from Terry Grier and Alan Duncan, not to them. So I commented that I thought this was the school board hiring some eggheads to do their talking for them. When I re-read the letter and realized it was from Thigpen, I immediately posted another comment saying what a good idea I thought it was.
I don’t really know if it is or isn’t a good idea. As I’ve written many times, I’m amazed at the lack of communication among government entities. Do they really need professional help, or should they just pay the price at the ballot box for lack of communication skills?
The problem with that logic, some elected officials might say, is government staff doesn't pay the price at the ballot box.
I'm amazed at the reaction from some of my readers about my Saturday post regarding my neighbors' obvious support for Kerry-Edwards.
I'm lucky here on Wharton St. in Fisher Park. On any given night, you can find an impromptu party out on the sidewalk. Our street has a wide demographic, with older people blending right in with younger (40) people such as myself, not to mention a few thirtysomethings. Kids are constantly running up and down the sidewalk. When dinner time comes, somebody jumps into the closest kitchen and cooks something up for everybody.
Last night featured one of those impromptu parties. My neighbor wandered across the street with his dog and his baby daughter.
"What, did someone tip you off I'm a Republican?" I asked. "You've got that sign pointed right in my direction."
"Hell yea," he said. "My wife even parks the car just for you. We figure if we exposed you enough, we could convert you."
"What, you're not convereted yet? my other neighbor asked me.
"Maybe if I see 'Kerry-Edwards' enough, that's what I'll be thinking when I walk into the voters' booth," I said.
We laughed, and left it at that. He's got his reasons, and I've got mine. I care about this election, maybe too much. But I care more about my neighbors and my fellow Greensboro citizens, since they care more about me than the guy in thw White House, whoever he may be.
Paper route day. Driving around the downtown our wonderful city watching everybody go about their workday routines.
Monday, August 23, 2004
Braves fans, wish Julio Franco
a happy 46th birthday. Yesterday vs. the Dodgers, he went 3-5 with a run scored.
I'm working on a freelance assignment for a local publishing company
. I enjoy the work because I write about pharmaceutical trends, which is a fascinating subject. The challenge is not only to discover those trends, but analyze who is going to pay for those trends.
Last week, I did quite a bit of research on injectable drugs. The injectable drug we're probably most familiar with is, of course, insulin. But now there are a large number of injectable drugs being developed to treat a wide variety of autoimmune diseases, most notably AIDS and cancer. Injectable drugs enter the system more quickly and thus more effective in fighting disease.
But here's the problem: who's going to pay
for this new wave of injectable drugs. Traditionally, injectable drugs have been administered in the doctor's office, making them part of the consumer's medical plan. But as injectables become expensive and more and more consumers start injecting themsleves, there is pressure to make injectables part of pharmacy benefits.
But there's another problem: The majority of injectable drugs are distributed directly to doctors by the manufacturer. Very few pharmacies are have the experience in handling, distributing, and instructing the patient on how to use injectable drugs. so pharmacies and pharmaceutical plans not only face the financial risk of injectable drugs but could also face considerable liability if the drug is not used properly.
There was an interesting letter to the editor
from Ms. Julie Ann Jones in today's N&R.
I loved her opening paragraph: "When I relocated to Greensboro a few years ago, I remember my stomach turning at the tacky billboards along I-40. With growing apprehension, I read the advertisements for strip clubs, cheap cigarettes and discount retailers. What kind of city had had I brought my children to live?"
If Ms. Jones has a problem with billboards, I respect her opinion. I'm more open-minded than my readers might imagine. But emotional melodrama, especially the kind that evokes one's children, makes me run the other way on a particular issue.
It's true government has a right ot respect the wishes of people who are offended by billboards. But they also have to respect the wishes of people most affected by a scenic corridor ordinance, the landowner, who has already been adversely affected by the construction of the Urban Loop. To paraphrase Pat Short, the area was pretty scenic before an interstate highway came through there.
Now, if Ms. Jones' children had to ride a school bus last week.........
My suggestion for required reading at UNC
: Thomas DiLorenzo's The Real Lincoln
Sunday, August 22, 2004
Interesting NY Times article on the state of the George W. Bush joke
. Note the considerable number of people doing John Kerry's "dirty work" for him.
Blog or play frisbee with an old buddy? Play frisbee.
Quickly, though- Good feature
in today's N&R. Aside from the line about the "thatch that's one missed haircut away from curls" (huh?), it was very straightforward and readable, both necessary elements in a full-page article.
I wrote probably 50 profiles of various business leaders and public officials while I was at the now-defunct Triad Business News. It's not easy to get all the facts right and give the reader an idea of what the person is like without embarrassing them in print. I know for sure I would be very nervous reading an objective summary of my life in 1200 words.
Saturday, August 21, 2004
I flipped between the Olympics and the Braves-Dodgers game last night. Joe Simpson and Don Sutton had the "Penguin," Ron Cey
,in the booth with them. He talked about the early days when he, Lopes, Garvey and Russell first came up. None of them had established themselves at a position yet, so there was a lot of defensive shuffling going on before that solid Dodger infield of the 1970s took shape.
Inevitably, the conversation came around to Tommy Lasorda
. The camera showed to Tommy sitting in the stands, answering a call on his cell phone. Funny, I never thought of Tommy as a cell phone-type guy. I couldn't help but wonder who was calling him.
I'm seeing Kerry-Edwards
signs and bumper stickers all over the place. Cause for concern? Maybe. Part of the their game plan is to get the word out, while Bush supporters are kicking back, comfortable reason will prevail in the voting booth. But complacency cost Bush Sr. during his reelection bid.
The worst part is my neighbors across the street, with whom I'm friendly. But someone must have told them I'm a Republican, so they're trying to subliminally convert me. In addition to Kerry-Edwards bumper stickers on both cars, they have a sign in their yard that directly faces my house. So "Kerry-Edwards" is the first thing I see when I go out to get the paper in the morning and when I look out the window to spy on my other neighbors. In fact, I'm looking at it right now as I type.
They're both professionals, have a nice house and drive nice cars. It looks like they're doing pretty well, so I'm curious as to why they think a change needs to be made. I'll bring it up in polite conversation the next opportunity I get.
Friday, August 20, 2004
Tough, frustrating deadline day. It was oneof those days when you're inundated with information and you just don't know what to do with it all in the short time you have.
To begin with, there's the situation with the school buses. I'll admit I haven't been as aggressive as I should be. But by the same token, I'll give the N&R credit for covering every conceivable angle. That said, their stories have a familiar plot: Parents pissed, can't contact school, Grier apologizes.
I'm javing trouble coming up with an alternative angle. My strategy now is to attend the board meeting and observe carefully as the board grills the staff. So I did a "photo essay" instead.
I'm still trying to get my arms around the scenic corridor issue. It has been whittled down to "billboards" or "no billboards" when the issue is much more complicated than that.
Sources provided me with some documents related to a side issue. I'm aware these documents have been provided to another publication, who could run with it more quickly than I could if I held off this week. But I needed to make damn sure I understood the issue and accurately portray everyone's viewpoint.
It seems as though there is a descrepancy over whether land zoned "residential" includes land zoned "agricultural." This could have an effect on the billboard issue because, under existing county ordinance and the scenic ordinance, a billboard can't be built within 300 hundred feet of a residential area.
As it turns out, a billboard mounted a legal challenge to the agricultural as residential ordinance. The case went all the way to the NC Court of Appeals
, where the billboard company prevailed
The problem is, some feel the county has not amended its
. Or has it? Planning director Mark Kirstner said the ordinance was amended in the definitions section
of the county's development ordinance, which lists agricultural under the residential definition.
Not good enough, county commissioner Billy Yow says. The court of appeals decision represents the letter of the law, and the county commissioners never amended the ordinance. Yow says that the ordinance needs to be clarified and consistent with the court ruling.
I read Rosemary Roberts' column
in this morning's N&R and.....ah, screw it. Ditto for Molly Ivins' column in tomorrow's paper.
Thursday, August 19, 2004
I spoke with county commissioner Billy Yow today about the scenic corridor. Unlike his fellow commissioner, Steve Arnold, Yow was more than happy to talk to me while conducting business.
I asked him what he thought about the scenic corridor.
"I don't think much of it," he said.
Yow's major problem is with the setbacks and the buffers, which can create hundreds of acres of unusable space on a parcel of land, space on which landowners are paying property tax.
Yow's suggestion: make land rendered undevelopable by the scenic ordinance tax-exempt.
Hood's views on mass transit
. Again, we're easily talking billions of dollars here.
I was also at the special meeting of the Guilford County Planning Board where they made minor changes to the scenic corridor ordinance relating to billboards. Based on off-hand comments by some board members, there is a fair amount of hostility toward the News & Record
and its coverage of the issue.
I asked a board member about it.
"Allen Johnson hates billboards," the board member said.
Wednesday, August 18, 2004
I called county commissioner Steve Arnold this afternoon to get his thoughts on the county's proposed scenic corridor ordinance. He was polite, addressing me by name, but said he was overwhelmed with work and just couldn't talk right now. Besides, he added, "It wouldn't break my heart if you just called the others. I'm not a commissioner who likes to be quoted in the paper all the time."
Fair enough, and I hung up. Funny, I get the feeling Arnold doesn't care much for the local media. Which is too bad, because I think he could more effectively get his message out. By contrast, Billy Yow's a little too media friendly.
Anyway, I guess a sharper reporter would've reminded Arnold he's a public official and if he didn't want reporters calling, he shouldn't have run for office. But that's my fundamental personal flaw: I'm not into forced conversation. If you don't want to talk to me, well, I reckon I don't want to talk to you. It's something I'm working on.
In fairness, reporters are like telemarketers, except instead of trying to sell you something, we're asking broad questions, the answers to which may or may not be quoted accurately. Arnold's method with me was the method I use with telemarketers: polite but curt. Yeah, they've got a job to do, but I don't have the time.
But I'd like to get 10 minutes with Arnold and ask him a few questions of substance. What does he think is the most pressing economic issue facing Guilford County? How can the county commissioners regain control of the budgeting process? How exactly can the schools run more efficiently on less money?
If you're able to, audio stream yesterday's Michael Medved show
. During the first hour (12 pm) he discusses the issue of confronting terrorism. He also comes down hard on Alan Keyes.
His discussion of these issues is purely coincidence, as I didn't have time to listen to him yesterday. I wouldn't want anyone to think I'm being fed my talking points.
Tuesday, August 17, 2004
Here's my official pitch for the Piedmont Blog Conference
. I sent my rsvp to Hoggard.
I'm disappointed that Vernon Robinson will not
be moving on to the general election. Again, I think it's important that black conservatives get their message out in order to prove that not all African Americans chant the basic Democratic party line.
I guess the problem is many black conservatives are so far right they scare voters off. Even I was shocked when he said, "Kamran Akhtar didn't come here to live the American dream. He came here to kill you."
Ok, so it's a little over the top, even though every one of us knows damn well what Akhtar was doing videotaping Charlotte.
Yet that commercial symbolized something that's been gnawing at me this campaign season: Many consider it extremism to confront the terrorist threat facing this country. In my opinion, the Bush administration has done a damn fine job of capturing terrorists, espcially in light the recent arrest of al Qaeda operatives
by our close ally Britain. I can't imagine another administration, especially a more liberal one, doing a better job. Yet Bush is an extremist, a whacko.
I'm very concerned that, as lawyers, Kerry and Edwards will attempt to litigate and negotiate the war on terror, when there is no negotiating to be done.
Paper route day. Only one sighting so far- Board of Education member Dot Kearns walking down Arlington St.
Today can't possibly be any better than last tuesday, where I spotted Hoggard making a left onto Maple Street off Wendover, Sheriff Barnes having lunch at Palmer Plaza Restaurant, Mayor Holliday driving down Elm Street and lady inmates painting the lobby of the old Guilford County Courthouse.
"You're doing a good job," I said as I walked out the door.
"Thank you sir," one inmate replied.
It's only lunch time now, so I'll keep my eyes open.
Monday, August 16, 2004
I'll agree with the guy who posted a comment
on Hogg's Blog
that Kris Cooke
is a babe. But she runs a slight third behind Patsy Ward (Guilford County Planning Board) and Virginia Johnson
(candidate for U.S. House of Representatives).