sam's notes

notes on government, sports and popular culture

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Self-fulfilling prophecy.....

So Hoggard and I stand in front of Elm Street Tire and Auto for a few minutes, talking about what a good job it does on auto repair. I go about my business, making GGO deliveries. One of my stops is the Old County Courthouse as well as the snack bar in the new county courthouse. I make my drops, hop back in my car.....nothing. Radio plays, dashboards lights on, no engine action. I call my neighbor and he comes over and tries to jump me....still nothing. I call AAA....he tries to jump me...still nothing.

So, as I write this, my car is sitting outside Elm St. Tire and Auto with 45 bundles of Greater Greensboro Observer in the back. Go grab yourself one. Hoggard's International Scout was on the lift with no back wheels.

Paper route day. I've already run into Hoggard at Elm Street Tire and Auto, which we both agreed was a good place to get your car fixed.

Monday, August 30, 2004

Paul Chesser of Carolina Journal has an interesting take on land use issues, filtered through the News & Observer.

But take note, Guilford County voters: You'll be asked to vote on a $20 million bond in November, half of which would go toward the purchase of 1,400 acres to preserve open space. In other words, buy land and do nothing with it.

I'm not saying it's right or wrong, but $10 million is a lot of money for the "preservation of open space." It's just something else to think about when we walk into the voter's booth in November.

Check out this article about publicly-funded NFL stadiums linked on Out of Control, the Reason Public Policy Institute's blog. Don't tell me Texas Stadium, birthplace of the Shotgun, is ready for the wrecking ball.

Ranting Profs calls it "shameful" that the major networks are not covering tonights speeches at the Republican Convention.

It's real simple. The mainstream media, who have been portraying John McCain as some sort of Democrat throughout the campiagn season, don't want anyone to see the truth: that McCain stands behind the president.

After aggressively covering the school bus hub-bub, the News & Record backs off and cuts school superintendent Terry Grier some slack.

I still don't know what to make of Grier in the five months that I've been covering the school system. On the whole, I think he does a good job of explaining the system's needs to the school board. Yet, in my opinion, he is not forceful enough with them. Many times he simply runs ideas up the flagpole and lets the board hash them out, which often results in concepts becoming confused.

I know people are strongly opposed to the school system becoming politicized, but I frankly don't see how an entity that consumes the majority of the county budget can't help but be politicized. Can the schools be any more politicized they are right now?

That's why the school superintendent needs to be as forceful and dynamic as any other local political leader such as a county commissioner or the mayor. He needs to explain clearly and concisely what the schools' needs and concerns are not only to the public but to other elected bodies. That's where Grier falls short. Does that mean he's not up for the job? I don't know. That's for the newly-elected school board to decide.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

A rich guy's a rich guy....

I have to respond to Steve Greenlee's review of Thomas Frank's "What's The Matter with Kansas."

The review appears to be objective. Basically, the book is Frank scratching his head, wondering why on earth any middle-class citizen would vote Republican. But, according to Greelee, the book chastizes Democrats for watering down "its own selling point - its economic policies- and allowed Republicans to win over heartland voters on the moral issues."

But, late in the review, Greenlee writes that Frank meanders a bit in his argument before "he soon returns to his point: that somehow middle America gets outraged about disappearing jobs and wealth distributon, and then elects the very people who will make matters worse."

Greenlee may simply be explaining Frank's point of view, but he does not challenge it, which I interpret to be agreement with that point of view. So they know for certain that Democrats have the answers to the economy? Nobody knows that for certain. The economy may or may not improve under Kerry. Same for Bush. Greenlee should have pointed this out.

Look, I realize the stakes when I walk into that voter's booth. If I win and I'm wrong, I'll be partly to blame. Conservative voters make their decisions based on what they believe is right, not, as Frank writes, because they are deaf "to the patent insincerity of their leaders," which is "one of the true marvels of the Great Backlash."

Why does this middle-class person vote Republican? A few years ago, a sociology professor assigned Thomas Edsall's The New Politics of Inequality, which made the case that the Democratic party had strayed from its roots and was being taken over by rich guys.

Should Kerry and Edwards be elected, they would by far be the two richest guys to hold the two highest offices. In my opinion, it's less hypocritical for a rich guy to come out say he's going to help other rich guys than to pretend like he can identify with with us middle-class guys. How can Kerry, with his $550 million bank account, reach out to me any more than Bush can?

There's no doubt the News & Record's blogs will need the corporate stamp of approval before they're posted.

If you want my opinion, a "newspaper blog" is a contradiction in terms, much like "journalistic ethics." That's what we're here for: to give people information they won't read in the paper.

Bad headline of the day: "Soldier killed in wreck had ties to Iraq."

The story then opens: The paratrooper who died in a training accident at Fort Bragg earlier this week was a veteran of the war in Iraq, the Department of Defense announced Saturday."

So I'd say the soldier definitely "had ties to Iraq."

But I'll be fair. I don't know how many of you writers out there have ever written headlines, but I have and I'm here to tell you it's not an easy job. Many variables are in play when writing headlines. First, the reporter may not have given the editor a good enough understanding of the story to be able to sum it up in 8 or 10 words.

Then they only have so much space and so many characters to fill that space. There are only so many combinations of characters that will fill the space and make sense. And they must be little complete sentences, with a subject and a verb.

I wrote the heads for my arts column at Triad Business News, and I often spent almost as much time writing the head as I did the column.

How about this headline: "Kerry had ties to Vietnam."

I just couldn't help myself.

Saturday, August 28, 2004

It get the sense everybody's taking a break today. Hey, we did our blogging face-to-face today. It was great to meet the people behind the blogs. Thanks to Cone and Hogg for bringing us together.

Friday, August 27, 2004

Both the Cubs and the Red Sox are hot. I said it last month and I'll say it now: It could be 1918 all over again.

The Republican Party just called me, requesting a donation. I gave the guy the polite-but-curt routine.

Great letter to the editor 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

Thigpen 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 category.

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 on Hoggard 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
development ordinance
. 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).

The Reason Public Policy Institute has a blog,Out of Control, which I like to check put from time to time because it has some interesting stuff.

The August post, entitled the Ban Wagon, lists the different things and activities under assault from various local governments around the country. I click on the billboards link, and, lo and behold, is the News & Record's coverage of Guilford County's scenic corridor ordinance. Somebody's watching.

To tell the truth, I'm a bit confused by the N&R's coverage of the issue. As you well know, I was at the county planning board meeting where the scenic corridor ordinance was discussed. Several members of the billboard industry spoke out against the ordinance, as well as many members of the business community in general. In spite of those protestations, the planning board voted 7-0 to recommend the ordinance.

In the N&R's opinion, this represents a victory for the billboard industry. The county ordinance was not an outright ban, like the one the city adopted two years ago. The N&R won't be happy until that happens.

"There are times when the public good outweighs a landowner's right to use property as he sees fit. Banning billboards along the Urban Loop is one of those times- doing so will make the road safer and more pleasant to travel," the paper writes in today's lead editorial. Ooooohhhh.

This isn't the first time the N&R has had a bizarre take on the issue. A couple of months ago, tobacco farmer Pat Short brought a straight rezoning case before the county, requesting his land be designated light industrial, which, under current zoning regulations, allows billboards. Mind you, a county scenic corridor ordinance, at that time, was still on the drawing board. The county commissioners approved the rezoning, but the headline in the N&R read, "County to allow signs on corridor."

I've driven across the country and back three times, not to mention all around North Carolina. Not one time have I ever been offended or distracted by a billboard. Anyone who allows a billboard to distract him while going 80 mph down the road ought not be on the road. To paraphrase planning board member Larry Proctor, it's not a "scenic corridor," it's an interstate highway. I'll make the argument that drivers are more likely to be lulled into inattentiveness by nature's beauty than by billboards.

What's hilarious is the N&R seems relieved that the county commissioners will have the final say on the issue. Which county commissioners are they talking about? Not the same ones who downright embarrassed themselves at their last meeting, I hope.

The thing is, the ordinance more than likely will have trouble passing, anyway. Skip Alston, as a lobbyist for the billboard industry, will have to abstain, setting up a possible 5-5 vote. I can't imagine any Republican voting for this, which would kill it right there. Furthermore, it's hard to predict which way Chairman Bob Landreth will go, and Mike Barber at least has an ear tuned to business interests.

The county is just trying to make everybody happy. If the commissioners vote down this ordinance, it will delay the process even further.

Scott Fowler of the Charlotte Observer, whose opinion I've never really cared for, is just a little too eager to proclaim the end of American dominance at the Olympics. He cites one basketball game and one swimming event as evidence of our country's demise. We're only three days into the Olympics, dude.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Yankees fans: Interesting article on what's it's like to work for Steinbrenner.

Saturday, August 14, 2004

This is an interesting NY Times article on the state budgeting process in New York.

I dare say the situatiuon here in Guilford County pales in comparison, although school funding has become heavily politicized.

The point: a government budget is a humongous, living, breathing, creature. With a $450 million budget, what's the big deal if the county moves around a few hundred thousand here and there over the course of the fiscal year? It happens all the time.

Friday, August 13, 2004

This is a very important article on Iraq and the U.N. oil for food program. In my mind, it clearly illustrates why Saddam Hussein should have been removed from power.

Today's episode of Happy Days: Fonzie falls in love with a deaf girl and learns to sing "Happy Birthday" in sign language. Richie warns him not to lead her on. When Fonzie goes to tell her, in sign language, that she's the one, her off-again and on-again boyfriend shows up to tell Fonzie (he's not deaf) that they're getting married. The boyfriend is Richard Masur, who played Ann Romano's boyfriend in the first season of "One Day at a Time."

A little research reveals that, in addition to his acting roles, Masur is not only a director and president of the Screen Actors' Guild but is also active in the deaf and hard-of-hearing community.

Just a bit of levity after a week of dealing with the school board and county commissioners.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Given the severity of his injury, it would be a cold thing to do, but I predict the Reds will release Ken Griffey Jr. at the end of the season.

Planning board recommends scenic corridor ordinance.....

What is this, a county commissioners' meeting or something?

The marquee event of the Guilford County Planning Board was supposed to discusson of the proposed scenic corridor ordinance. The place was packed. A guy with earrings and painted fingernails was present, taking pictures of placards with his camera phone. County commissioner Skip Alston was in attendance. You could sense this was an emotional issue.

Also on the agenda was a major mixed development project on McConnell Road by Shugart Enterprises, which drew a fair amount of opposition.

But, of all things, the board got hung up on a rezoning case involving a peaceful family farm trying to make some extra money. In the process, the board discussed naked men running out of bushes and Boy Scouts sleeping with goats.

"I have to tell you, I don't think those Boy Scouts ought to be sleeping out there with the goats," said board member Mary Skenes.

Here's the deal: Joe Hodgin, representing the Hodgin family farm, wanted a special use permit to open a bed and breakfast and use the surrounding land for various outdoor events. Weddings. Busloads of kids coming out to feed the goats. An annual event honoring emergency workers. Perhaps in the future, some Boy Scouts can pitch some tents out there.

The closest neighbors would be the Hodgins themselves. Still, some neighbors were opposed, worried about loud music and wild parties. One neighbor said that, in 1993, someone saw a naked man come running out of the bushes.

Hodgin admitted there may have been some wild parties in the past, but he assured the board that those days were past and his establishment would be devoted to the betterment of the community. He convinced me of his honorable intentions.

(Speaking of wild parties, I ran into Alf, who had a few of his own in West Jefferson.)

But the board went round and round about the conditions of use. Hodgin stood there and said he'd do anything the board wanted to get it over with. Then the board went around again. Could he sell tickets? what kind of music? How late into the night? Etc. Just when everyone thought the issue was setttled, board member Apple asked Hodgin one last time if he was comfortable with the no-camping restriction.

To tell the truth, Hodgin said, some Boy Scouts might want to come pitch a tent there on the farm.

That led to another round of figuring out how the county can legally let Boy Scouts pitch a tent on the farm. Finally, the board passed the most controversial unanimous vote I've ever seen, allowing Hodgin to set up his "outdoor events facility."

By this time, everyone was starting to realize they weren't getting out of there until midnight at the latest. It's entirely possible scenic corridor proponents had given up and gone home, except for the guy with the earrings. (To tell the truth, I didn't talk to him, so for all I know he's a billboard proponent.) That's because the overwhelming majority of the people left were billboard proponents. Just about every speaker, including many advertising industry reps) spoke out against the ordinance, evoking property owners' rights and a local economy that needs all the help it can get. Board member Winchester asked everyone who was against it to stand, and the just about the whole room jumped to its feet. (I didn't notice if the guy with the earrings did.)

Little good it, as the board recommended by a unanimous vote to pass the ordinance on to the county commissioners, where no one knows what will happen. Too much work went into crafting the ordinance to let it die there, one board member said. But it will have a tough time surviving the county commissioners.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

The way I see it.....

Hoggard briefly addressed funding to help with school discipline problem in his early-morning post. I had a different view of the situation, and posted a comment on his blog. Here is my view, for the rest of the public. If my memory is faulty, someone help me out.

Hoggard said that $1 million in funding was denied for SCALE, the alternative school for kids who are suspended from regular school. The $1 million included in the school's budget was basically for "sensitivity training" for administrators and faculty. That turned off more than a couple of county commissioners.

During budget negotiations, I asked one county commissioner about the $1 million. "It ain't gonna happen," he said.

The improvements to SCALE were more in the $369,000 range, and were not included in the system's formal presentation to county commissioners. I remember because I attended both the presentation and the school board meeting later that night, and could not believe my ears the school board wanted to tack another $369,000 onto a budget they already knew would be lean.

But board member Marti Sykes had a solution: Divert some of the $1 million to address discipline problems toward improvements at SCALE.

But, as I reported in that week's GGO, superintendent Terry Grier held firm.

"That's not what (the $1 million) is for," Grier said.

At any rate, the $1 million was not included in the budget passed by the school board last night. But, according to today's N&R, school funding is again an issue with the county commissioners, almost a month after the county has passed its budget.

The thing is, the particular issue seems misguided: funding for more teachers. I've followed the school budgeting process from the beginning, and the issue of funding for more teachers never came up. Trust me, we would know if that was an issue. The system might be short on teachers, but not due to a lack of funding. So it seems to me that any commissioner who wants to provide more funding to the schools for more teachers is missing the point.

Somebody set me straight if I'm the one missing the point..... I've got calls out to school board members.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

In a mercifully short meeting, the Guilford County Board of Education passed a budget on the evening before school starts.

The way I read it, the board is returning a minimum of $1 million to the schools, reducing per-pupil cuts to $64.85. The board had been prepared to cut as much as $136 per pupil, but board members had penciled in about $80 per student in previous budget sessions.

The administration proposed freezing 20 teacher assistant vacancies, which saved $470,000. The board balked at freezing 24 TA positions at previous meetings, but obviously were able to compromise on a lower number. An adjustment to the maintenance budget saved another $363,000.

Classified employees got a .25 percent raise instead of the full 1 percent for which they lobbied hard. Teacher supplements were also increased to a minimum of 10 percent, depending on tenure. But again, a 1 percent across the board increase did not make the cut. Nor did the $1 million to address the high out of school dropout rate. That's good, because to my memory that involved a lot of politically-correct sensitivity training.

The budget motion passed by an 8-2 vote, with board members Anita Sharpe and Dot Kearns voting against it. (Garry Burnett was absent.) Very few questions were asked of CFO Sharon Ozment, as board members were still weary from the marathon July 22 meeting, which lasted long into the night.

Check out this AP blurb on Tom Glavine. Ouch. Check out the record, but note the ERA. It makes you think: Had Glavine remained with the Braves, he might be headed for another Cy Young, and the Braves wouldn't have struggled early in the season, although they might be peaking at the right time for a change.

Cone was right to chastize the lead in the NY Times article on the International Civil Rights Museum. He shouldn't be surprised, however, as the national media is still obsessed with portraying the South as a backwards region. Specifically regarding Greensboro's image in the national media, the publicity surrounding the Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Project didn't help matters any. (By the way, after giving this some thought, I asked myself: Is it really a good idea to model ourselves after South Africa, where the murder rate is one of the highest in the world?)

We also have a bit of an image problem in the local media, as evidenced by the News & Record's recent "Dividing Line" story. Greensboro resident John Beaman eloquently addressed the issue in his letter to the editor in this morning's N&R.

There's a fact in the Times story that I question: "The museum expects to attract 100,000 visitors to Greensboro annually and create 300 jobs."

I hope 100,000 people do visit the museum every year. That's not an outrageous expectation. But where dothey get 300 jobs? I'd have trouble believing the museum itself would create 300 jobs. Maybe they mean 300 jobs would be created as a result of the economic development surrounding the museum. But why 300? Since this is an estimate at best, why not 500, or 1,000, just to make the museum look really good? Maybe it's 300 jobs over the next five years, which would average out to 60 a year.

It seems to me this is another figure floated out there that goes unquestioned by the media. Though it sounds like it, I'm not judging anyone. Trust me, I've printed plenty of figures that were based solely on someone's word. Sometimes it's just easier to write the damn story and make deadline. Editors like figures, you know.

Monday, August 09, 2004

Although Guilford County approved the $20 million bond for the November ballot, there were complaints that the bond package was a bit short on details, preventing voters from making an informed decision.

"We don't know what this bond package is going to buy," complained commissioner Skip Alston. "I'll be asking my citizens to vote against it because I won't be buying a pig in a poke."

The N&R story covering the commissioners' meeting on Friday definitely lacked details regarding what $20 million would buy citizens of Guilford County if they approved it. Here, then, are a few details of the bond package, with which a majority of the commissioners were obviously satisfied:

Half the money, $10 million to be exact, would go toward the "preservation of open space," a concept that raised the ire of commissioner Billy Yow.

The Guilford County Open Space Committee (I didn't even know there was such a committee) would purchase 1,400 acres at $7,000 an acre. Lands purchased would be focused on stream corridors and will provide for protection of water quality, flood control, widlife habitat and connections to existing open spaces. Bond funds would purchase critical tracts and accelerate the rate at which the county's Open Space Plan is implemented.

Another $3 million would go toward the construction of Southwest Park, which would be located at the headwaters of the proposed Randleman Reservoir, which should be filled by 2005. Proceeds from the 2005 bond have started construction of the park, but more funds will be needed to complete it.

Yet another $3 million would go toward "school parks," basically soccer and softball fields and which would be used by students during the day and other residents after school and on weekends. As you

Another $2 million each would go toward an addtion to Bryan Park and a Greenway expansion. In addition to continuing construction on the Bicentennial Greenway (for which funds have already been dedicated), there are two other greenway initiatives online: Lake Brandt Greenway, which would link Greensboro and Summerfield and Stokesdale, while Piedmont Greenway would link Greensboro to Winston-Salem. Both would be cooperative efforts involving local governments, DOT and private funding.

I hope these few details will help voters make a more informed choice come November.

In response to Hoggard's post yesterday: I just love it when people "threaten" to leave Greensboro when things don't go their way.

You know what I say? Bye-bye.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

Hooked on the classics...

I don't have expanded cable. Fortunately, my relatives do, so when I visit my mother or my in-laws, I'm always sneakiung off to see what's on ESPN Classic.

This weekend, I happened upon a couple of gems. Motel 6 sponsored a block of programming with the "six" theme, so Saturday afternoon featured Game 6 of the 1975 World Series and Game 6 of the 1986 World Series.

As a Reds fan, I hung on every pitch of Game 6 of the '75 Series, which many still believe to be the greatest game ever played. One thing I'd forgotten: The Reds went up 5-3 in the top of the seventh on a George Foster double off the top of the wall in center field. If the ball had just goen over the fence, then the Reds could have won the game and Series in nine innings. Mind, you Bernie Carbo's homer would still have been dramatic, but Reds fans would have been spared watching Carlton Fisk "willing" the ball fair.

Yet Reds fans would not have been treated to Game 7, when the Big Red Machine showed what it was all about after falling behind 3-0. In the top of the sixth, Johnny Bench hit into what would have been an inning-ending double play. But Pete Rose barrled into Denny Doyle making the turn, and his throw sailed wide. The Tony Perez calmly jacked a Bill Lee eephus pitch over The Wall, getting the Reds withib striking distance. The rest is history.

As for Game 6 of the '86 Series, I remember watching the game in Brott's bar with my buddy Glenn. When the Red Sox brought in Bob Stanley, Glenn said, "I bet he throws a wild pitch." Stanley did, allowing the Mets to tie the game. A few moments later, Mookie Wilson hit the ball that went through Bill Buckner's legs.

Whenever I see that game, I put myself in the place of Red Sox fans. I'm sitting there, watching the Reds get within one strike of the title. In the back of your head, you worry that something might go wrong. But then again, what can go wrong, especially with a two -run lead?

Then it all gets pissed away. I can say right now I'd be depressed for days afterward. My buddy Matt's a Vikings fan. When they let the NFC title game slip away to the Falcons, I saw him the next Tuesday and the color still hadn't returned to his face.

Had the Reds not gotten up off the mat in '75, I don't know what I would have done. My poor parents sure wouldn't know what to do with me.

Saturday, August 07, 2004

I was driving through Davidson County on my way to Charlotte and the air was so dirty I could hardly draw a decent breath.....

Friday, August 06, 2004

A public defender I spoke with defended Alston's actions toward the $18,000 appropriation request from the Inmate's Welfare Fund - partly. He agrees there needs to be more seating for family members, and anything possible should be done to help speed up the paperwork process. But he didn't see where the $14,000 ID card system would make the inmates - or anyone else- safer. In his opinion, things are locked up pretty tight down there at the jail.

Sometimes it's just not that funny.....or, if the inmates only knew they cared

The Guilford County Commissioners meeting would have been interesting had things not gotten so out of control.

There was interesting debate on agenda items, but the back-and-forth bickering that's sometimes amusing went on a little too long. By the end of the evening, everyone was tired and ready to go home. Except for the four female commissioners, no one, I mean no one, was listening to the speaker representing county Workforce Development.

An inside source told me to look for commissioner Skip Alston to be in rare form. He was, going head-to-head with Sheriff B.J. Barnes over an $18,000 appropriation from the Inmate Welfare Fund, $14,000 of which was for an ID card security system, $1,000 for a copier and $2,800 for public seating.

Alston just didn't see where any of this contributed to the welfare of inmates in Guilford County jails, which, he noted several times, he's visited.

"I think it's a stretch," Alston said. "There may some sheriff's puppets on the board, but I'm not one of them."

Barnes' rationale was the security system is for the inmates' safety, the copier will help process paperwork that will get them out of jail sooner, and the seating was for visiting loved ones, who provide a psychological boost.
At any rate, Barnes said, it's all legal.

"This all fits the legal criteria to allow for this money to be spent," Barnes said.

Commissioner Billy Yow backed Barnes.

"This is clearly a legitimate request," Yow said.

Alston has the right to speak his piece and vote against it. But then he made a power grab by making a motion to deny the funding. The usual protocol for consent agenda items is to make a motion passing the item. If it fails, it fails.

But he made a motion to deny funding. Mind you, throughout the discussion the normal wandering around was going on. Commissioners Mike Barber and Mary Rakestraw disappeared for a while, and Barber was still absent when the vote on alston's motion took place.

It passed 5-3, but commissioner Linda Shaw was obviously confused about the motion and requested her vote be changed. Confusion reigned as everyone tried to figure out how to change Shaw's vote. Confusing matters further were alternate motions, one by commissioner Jeff Thigpen proposing an alternate funding source.

Finally, everyone figured out Shaw, by voting for alston's motion, could bring the matter up again. She did so, and by this time either Barber or Rakestraw (I'll check the tape tomorrow) returned and help pass the motion 5-4 to appropriate the funds.

The motion to put a $47 million bond on the November ballot for expansion and infrastructure improvements at GTCC passed unanimously. But the $20 million park fund caused trouble. Hoggard spoke in favor of the bond, referring specifically to Aycock Middle School.

Then, all of a sudden, Yow and Alston were on the same side. Both complained that the proposal, half of which was dedicated to "preservation of open space," was too vague.

"We've got several different plans, but it doesn't say how much money is going into each one," Yow said.

"We don't know what this bond package is going to buy," Alston said. I don't want to buy a pig in a poke."

Thigpen then vociferously defended the bond.

"The idea that citizens don't want their money used for parks is wrong," Thigpen said. "We're losing more and more open space in this county."

Commissioners Carolyn Coleman and Bruce Davis also complained about the bond's specificity. But in the end, Yow and Alston were the lone holdouts on a 7-2 vote. Mind you, the voters will make the ultimate decision, and if it passes, the commissioners will have the ultimate say in how it's spent.

It got uglier after that. The school system had the audacity to ask for $68,000 for a new school resource offer, and the Jamestown Public Library didn't do something right to get $20,000. People were testy about requests for more money a month after a budget was passed.

Not to mention the fact that there was very little trust as to what would be done with the money.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

I was on my way to the store to get my post-commissioners meeting brew (or should that be pre-commissioners meeting brew?) when I stopped to chat with my neighbor for a while. He's a Cowboys fan, so I was teasing him a bit about the team's quarterback situation. He's optimistic, nevertheless; he cited the addition of Eddie George, which means the quarterback will do a lot of handing off this season. He also cited the good karma between Parcells, Testaverde and Keyshawn Johnson, who were all with the Jets a few seasons ago.

Then the subject turned to baseball. He's a long-suffering Red Sox fan. I checked the standings this morning, and the Sox are just a game and a half off the wild-card pace. If they get their defense straightened out, they could have a strong finish, setting up a possible rematch with the Yankees.

The same is true with the Cubs. whom I was watching them play the Rockies earlier this afternoon. Their hitting is strong; they've just had injuries to their pitching staff. If the pitching gets healthy, they could finish strong and then be dangerous in the playoffs.

So you're hearing it here first: a Red Sox-Cubs World Series.

Cowboys fans beware: As of yesterday, your starting quarterback is 40 years old and his backup hasn't played football in three years.

On Tuesday, the county planning board will make a recommendation to county commissioners regarding a scenic corridor ordinance . The board's recommendation will follow a public speaking period. The topic caused quite a bit of controversy with the Pat Short rezoning request, so it should be an interesting meeting. Needless to say, it will be even more interesting when the matter moves on to the county commissioners.

Did I dream it?

I was lying in bed, half-asleep, listening to NPR, when I swore I heard that a major al-Qaeda operative was one of 12 men arrested in London. This is big news, is it not, considering the fact that Britain is our major ally in the war against terror?

I got up and began searching my regular news sources for a story detailing this development. Print edition of the News & Record : nothing. What did I expect? In fairness, this latest development might have broken after the N&R went to press.

So I turn to my online sources, and I'm similarly frustrated. I search the NY Times and find nothing. The same with the Charlotte Observer and the News & Observer.

Finally, after doing a search on the London Times, who reported the arrest, I found this account through Bloomberg. It turns out that one of the men arrested was Abu Musa al-Hindi, aka Bilal, who just happen to be head of al-Qaeda's British network and received direct orders from Osama bin Laden. Bilal evidently was planning the final stages of an attack at Heathrow Airport when he was arrested.

I'll give NPR credit for reporting the story. But why did I have so much trouble finding the story in U.S. media outlets?

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Here's the deal with the $47 million bond GTCC hopes the Guilford County Commissioners will place on the November ballot. This hasn't been reported on in a while, and my memory was a bit fuzzy.

GTCC is identifying five major needs for bond money: New classrooms to accommodate increasing student enrollment; new equipment for new buildings coming on line from the 2000 bond referendum; support for a biotech initiative in a partnership with local economic developers; land acquisition to expand all three campuses plus the PTIA Aviation Center; and heating and air conditioning upgrades at the Jamestown campus.

Bond money is a controversial topic, and it will be interesting to see commissioners' reactions as GTCC officials plead their case.

OK, it's official, this is my new blog. Yesterday was not a pretty day. I had a lot to say between stops on my paper route. A couple of letters to the editor in the News and Record upset me and I wanted to comment on them. But I'm ready to forget it and get off to a fresh start.

Here's another new post. I'm just playing around to make sure I like this service.


Moving on.......

I've had it with blogstudio. I'm moving on.


Moving on.......

I've had it with blogstudio. I'm moving on.


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