sam's notes

notes on government, sports and popular culture

Thursday, September 30, 2004

I was doing some thinking as I was bringing my garbage can up from the curb. Even though Bush is out there doing bad things such as causing hurricanes and making life impossible for people in John Edwards' hometown, he hasn't screwed up garbage service too bad. So I might change my mind and vote for him after all.

I'd been wondering where John Edwards has been for the past couple of weeks. Paul Chesser of Carolina Journal updates us on what the VP candidate's recent activities.

On Larry King Live, Edwards spoke about what Bush has "done" to the people of the small town where he grew up.

"I think he's made life almost impssible for them," Edwards said.

Made life almost impossible? That's not very nice of Bush to do that. OK, I'm voting for Kerry again.

Interesting article in the N.Y. Times sports section on baseball players snapping under the stress of the pennant race.

The article discusses two separate incidents, both involving California teams. After being removed for a pinch runner in a game last week, Angels outfielder Jose Guillen pitched a fit in the dugout, throwing his helmet in the direction of manager Mike Sciosia. The Angels, to their credit, wasted no time kicking Guillen off the team, and it's probably no coincidence the Angels have surged ahead of Oakland heading into the last week of the season.

Like Guillen, the Dodgers' Milton Bradley is a well-known head case. The Dodgers took some heat for picking him up this year, but he settled down and is cited as a major factor for the team being the verge of its first Western division title since 1995.

But his case is somewhat different: a fan threw a bottle at him after he committed a two-run error against the Rockies Tuesday night. Bradley went after the guy, and was suspended by Major League Baseball as the Dodgers head into the season finale with the Giants.

So let me get this straight: Bradley's team is fighting for the pennant, and that idiot in the stands has the gall to throw a bottle at the guy? The fan gets what he deserves, if you ask me. 

Just like the idiot in the stands at Oakland, who says he bought seats behind the bullpen just so he could jaw with the opposing bullpen. He got his money's worth: his wife got a chair in the nose, courtesy of a Rangers' pitcher.

I don't disagree that, for the money they make, athletes should have thicker skins. But sports fans never fail to amaze me, either. It's like the Cubs-Reds game I watched on TV yesterday (while working, of course). Here the Cubs are, fighting for playoff spot, holding on to a one-run lead with one strike to go. Cubs closer LaTroy Hawkins gives up a triple, then Austin Kearns singles home the tying run. After getting the third out, Hawkins is booed as he walks off the field.

The Reds go ahead by two in 12th, and, trust me, that's not a safe lead with their pitching this year. As the Cubs bat in the bottom of the 12th, I noticed a lot of fans had already left Wrigley Field. The Cubs rallied for a run after the Reds committed an error, but a double play helped secure the victory.

I've always said I quit pulling for Carolina because I couldn't stand the fans any more. In my opinion, many of them weren't true basketball fans because if the Tar Heels weren't playing, then they could care less about college basketball. I kind of feel the same way about the Cubs now. I was pulling for them to take the bogus wild card spot and perhaps make a run during the playoffs, setting up the elusive Cubs-Red Sox World Series. But if their fans can't treat them any better than this, then they might as well miss out.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Reds 4, Cubs 3, 12 innings.

The Reds have just tied the Cubs 2-2 in the top of the ninth. Wrigley fans boo closer LaTroy Hawkins as he walks off the field.

Hoggard weighs in a bit on yesterday's post regarding the N&R's coverage of the Triad Equality Alliance's billboard campaign.

He rightly questioned my language: "...the fact that the N&R endorsed homosexuality...."

He's right. It is not a "fact" that the N&R endorsed homosexuality in either Saturday's news story or Sunday's editorial.

But, in my opinion, it's a logical inference. I don't think anyone who read the article or the editorial would disagree that they were favorable in tone. That the N&R would write favorably about any billboard campaign was a surprise to me, and I believe it did so in this instance because the billboard campaign fits the paper's liberal political agenda. Do these billboards not add to the "clutter" along major thoroughfares?

In re-reading Saturday's article, I noticed it repeated the media misconception that "President Bush announced plans to push for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage." It's a moot point now, but the amendment itself would not ban gay marriage. It would "leave state legislatures free to make their own choices defining legal arrangements other than marriage."

I know you guys think I'm a homophobe. No way. I have wonderful gay neighbors around the corner, and one of my close friends is gay. I've openly expressed my thoughts to her that the gay community and the media are politicizing homosexuality as much as conservatives are. But, as most people in Greensboro do so well, we agree to disagree and move on.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

N&R editor John Robinson addresses comments regarding the article and subsequent editorial on the Triad Equality Alliance's billboards.

What surprised me was not the fact that the N&R was endorsing homosexuality, but that it was endorsing (gasp) billboards. Based on its coverage and editorials, I got the feeling the paper views billboards in the same regard as some readers view homosexuality.

Hey, the Alliance's billboards are OK with me, just so long as they're restricted to areas zoned light industrial.

I could have watched it on TV......

In a marathon five-and-half hour meeting, the school board praised superintendent Terry Grier and granted his request - not to have a salary increase this year.

"We realize the superintendent's salary is scrutinized by the public on a yearly basis, as it should be," said board chairman Alan Duncan. But, Duncan added," We have chosen not to provide a (salary) increase.

Earlier in the public session Grier, who met with the board for quite some time, issued a statement.

"I share the board's disappointment with the way some things went," he said. "I know where the buck stops in this orgainization. I did not expect to receive a raise from the board and that is my request."

The board chastised Grier but for the school bus foul-up that started this school year and, depending on who you listen to, still hasn't been fixed.

But on the whole the board praised Grier for academic achievements and sound management of capital improvement projects.

Then Duncan added a personal note.

"I am personally thankful for the superintendent's enthusiasm and efforts," Duncan said.

Of course, a lot of people think this is all total bullshit.

I knew the board would open the meeting and immediately go into closed session. I even thought about just watching it on TV tomorrow. But I went up there anyway, never imagining it would take five-and-half hours, considering the fact the board spent at least five hours meeting on Thursday.

But I went up there like a responsible journalist and sat and sat and sat.....I'm not real friendly with the other media types. They're nice people, but they not seem like they want to interact too much. I'm not real outgoing myself. So we just sat in the lobby and read for the most part.

I read an article in the N.Y Times article aboutKerry's management style. My take on the article: If you want a micromanager in the White House, vote for Kerry.

I like the Times' obituaries. I read the headline and think I would never be interested in some guy's life, but when I read the article I'm fascinated. Tonight I read about W. Doran Teague, inventor of, among other things, the modern reclining dental chair. It made the dental experience more pleasant for patients and dentists, who were now able to sit to perform procedures, saving their backs.

I also tried to open up the lines of communication with school board chair Duncan, but I'm not sure how successful I was. I'm sure he was as eager to get home as I was.

Monday, September 27, 2004

OK, I thought it over on the way to the grocery store and I'm not voting for Kerry after all.

So, according to Cameron Pitts of Greensboro, the hurricanes are Bush's fault.

Well, that does it. I'm voting for Kerry!

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Louisville leaves Heels feeling blue.....

I thought of that headline myself. Well, I had a little help from the N&R......and the Raleigh N&O. I guess sometimes you just can't ignore the obvious.

Full disclosure: I'm a State fan. But as someone who has been observing Carolina football for many years, it's been interesting to see such high expectations produce so few results. Once upon a time, people actually thought Carolina could win the national championship. Now, the program's on life support. In retrospect, Dick Crum's still the best thing that ever happened to the Tar Heels.

Fans and sportswriters alike are wringing their hands over the state of Carolina football (no pun intended). It would be easy to suggest that Carolina adopt Duke's strategy and just give up on football and concentrate on the basketball program.

But how confident should Carolina fans be that the basketball team will return to its former glory? Yes, Roy Williams had good teams at Kansas. Yes, he is a Dean Smith disciple. But the game and the players have changed. And the expectations are very high.

Every time I get out and about, which isn't much, I see Mayor Holliday. Last time it was the rooftop at Ganache; last night it was M'Coul's.

I feel better knowing the mayor's comfortable mixing with the people.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Too damn nice to sit inside and blog today. I've already aerated and seeded, and this afternoon I'll be in the backyard with the garden and the State game on the radio. I'll try not to crack my first beer until...........2.

Tonight it's out and about downtown with the neighbors.

Friday, September 24, 2004

While the school board didn't finish evaluating superintendent Terry Grier's job performance last night, it did pass one motion after emerging from closed session.

It seems as though the school system has its eye on a 30-acre tract of farmland in near Pisgah Church Raod and N.C 150 for the new "Northern" elementary school. However, the owner doesn't want to sell, so the board passed a motion threatening th land owner "with its statutory right of emminent domain to acquire the site for the new elementary school."

At first, I thought this might be the same tract of land for which the county commissioners approved $660,000 of money the schools realized from favorable bids. But that tract is 22 acres and fronts Pleasant Ridge Road. It's slated for the "Northwest" area elementary school.

I didn't know a school had a statutory right of emminent domain. But then again, I'm naive.

Mean Streets, Part II: It looks like some wayward automobile took out a section of the brick wall at the Battleground entrance to the Mexico restaurant.

They may be 30 games out of first place, but I'm damn proud of the Reds for playing the Braves tough and making them wait another night to clinch the division title.

Watch out Cubs, you're on deck, and you've got a lot more to lose than the Braves.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

I went to the school board meeting in High Point. I listened to the remembrances of Garry Burnett, some of which were emotional.

But the best remembrance (yes, I checked the dictionary and removed the "e" from the earlier post) of Burnett came not at the school board meeting but over the conference table at GGO today as we were planning tonight's candidates forum.

My colleague J.P. Swisher told me that, in the early 1980s, he was a budding filmmaker and worked at a local singing telegram company with Burnett. He asked Burnette to play a secret service agent in the (needless to say, low-budget) film he was making, and Burnett agreed. In one scene, Swisher said, Burnett, as the secret service agent, threw him into the back seat of a car.

Board chairman Alan Duncan ran the board meeting at snappy pace because they had a lengthy closed session ahead of them.

Board CFO Sharon Ozment presented the finalized budget to the board,which, with all sources of funding, is just over $494 million. But it also included a decrease in state funding of $2.5 million, a shortfall that drew critical comments from a couple of board members.

"The state did not fulfill its responsibility, and we need to keep that in mind in November," said board member Anita Sharpe.

Duncan criticized not only the state but the federal government for its unfunded mandates.

"That kind of shortage is untenable with a rising student population," Duncan said.

But the good news regarding the budget is the fact that there are 174 more students enrolled than the system budgeted for in 2004-2005. Based on the per-pupil county appropriation of $1900, the schools now feel justified in asking the county for another $331,000. The money could be used to hire seven teachers and offset costs for providing transportation.

Then the board discussed whether or not SCALE should be a reassignment or a voluntary alternative. The reasonable move appeared to be to make it a reassignment for for kids under 16 but not for kids 16 and over since they are allowed by law to drop out.

They agreed to look at it another time.

Then I had to leave to go to the candidates' forum. I'll share my thoughts on that event, if I have any, tomorrow.

Why not just dissolve the Expos?

Should it make us feel any better that Guilford County is not the place that has problems with its school system?

Two things to note in the N&O article: Gov. Easley's initiative to reduce thrid-grade class size is hitting very close to home. Also, Wake County has its own "ABC" group, Assignment By Choice.

Schools, kids, ABCs..... I get it!

No (expanded)cable blues.....

So I could have been watching the Reds rally for five runs in the ninth off John Smoltz for an 11-8 moral victory over the Braves. When you're 69-82 in late September, all victories are moral.

Instead, I found myself watching The Bachelor. Yes, I could have been reading or blogging or watching public TV or anything else. But what can I say, I was tired at the end of the day. My first reaction while watching The Bachelor is the faces on the 25 babes weren't that great, which is why they 're having a lot of bikini scenes. The problem there is the bodies weren't that great, either, as far as I could tell. Could it be that the pool of nice-looking women willing to embarass themselves on national TV is shrinking?

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Interesting commentary on Kofi Annan's comments last week.

In case you didn't get the press release....

The Guilford County Board of Education has moved its meeting time to 4:30 Thursday afternoon, and the meeting place 900 English Road in High Point. The change is noted on the system's home page.

Of course, the board will remember Garry Burnett, who died tragically of a heart attack on Friday. It will also discuss what to do about the vacancy his death has created so close to the election.

There will also be an update on the Sodexho custodial contract, which has created quite a bit of controversy lately. Not only was Sodexho one of the private contractors attending the same "conference" as superintendent Terry Grier, but there have been many complaints that the company has not done a good job keeping the schools clean.

It will be interesting to see if the board is satisfied with the work Sodexho has done so far this school year.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

I damn near got T-boned today at the intersection of Greene and Smith Streets. I was approaching the intersection when an old lady in an Oldsmobile ran the red light bigger than you-know-what. An instant sooner and it would have been wham!

I'm all for individual rights, but I also know that the majority of close calls in my driving days have involved elderly drivers. What the answer is, I don't know.

In case you were wondering....

School officials e-mailed me and said they planeed to close on the land for the new Northwest Elementary in the next two months, with construction hopefully starting in mid-2005. The school is set to open in fall 2007.

Back to the paper route.

Monday, September 20, 2004

If Bob Herbert's worried about Kerry......

Sunday, September 19, 2004

I was going to blow off Saturday's edition of the N&R upon my return from Raleigh because, as many of you know, it generally upsets me. But as I was gathering the mail and newspapers, I just happened to glance down and noticed the headline that school board member Garry Burnett had died. He's the second public official I've covered that died suddenly, the first being Robert McInnis, the High Point banker who was very active in community affairs in the furniture city.

This sounds crazy, but I was actually relieved to read that Burnett had previous heart attacks in 1997 and 2000, an indication of chronic heart problems. But when I first read the headline, my first thought was the endless controversy and stress surrounding the school board directly contributed to his heart attack. It still may have.

When you observe the school board closely, it's hard not to get angry from time to time. In my mind, many of their decisions, and those of other public entities, have defied common sense. As a result, it's easy to objectify public officials and cite them as "the problem," when it's way more complicated than that. It's unfortunate that it takes a tragic event like this to make everyone - watchdog groups and the media- stop and realize that public officials here in Guilford County are basically well-meaning, hard-working people dealing with the ordinary stress of everyday life just as we do.

Sometimes it's a good idea to just stop and take a deep breath. Kind of like the presidential election. After all the shouting and screaming, the earth's not going to shake on Nov. 3. There may be a mass suicide of young people, but....

Friday, September 17, 2004

I'm removing myself from the blogosphere to go visit my mother. Bye bye.

I'm glad Greensboro's not the only place with political sign issues.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Pretty tame meeting, by county commissioners' standards.

Actually, there were some interesting points of contention. To begin with, I was wrong in my prediction that Skip Alston would pull the request for $110,000 for an SRO officer from the consent agenda. His questions about funding were resolved. The schools are going to pay for the position.

"If they'd asked the county to pay for it, then I'd pulled it," he said later.

The commissioners took note of the county's mandate that vendors for A&T's homecoming get permits and restrict themselves to the poarking lot of War Memorial Stadium. Former city councilman Earl Jones spoke to the issue, saying the geographic restriction would "diminish the festival atmosphere."

He also argued that vendors were definitely not given enough notice that they would have to acquire permits. Nine months ahead of time was proper procedure, Jones said.

Alston and Carolyn Coleman expressed their concern, wondering why, all of a sudden, vendors for homecoming needed a permit.

"Why now?" Alston asked. "This has never happened before."

"I don't all of a sudden feel as though there's a health issue involved," Coleman said.

Commissioner Bruce Davis, also a member of the health board, said he'd look into it.

Health was also an issue during the next major point of contention, the inmate welfare fund. According to Sheriff Barnes, the fund contains about $400,000. Barnes wants to pull $5600 to upgrade elevator walls in the jail, outfitting them with stainless steel.

When Davis asked him how new elevator walls contributed to the inmate's welfare, Barnes said, "It's a health issue. Stainless steel is easier to clean."

"Do you not have a building maintenance fund?" Davis asked.

"We are not allowed any excesses because of the way the budget is set up," Barnes replied.

Alston, who questioned the sheriff's use of inmate welfare funds at the last meeting, weighed in again.

"The sheriff is stretching the truth about the intent for the welfare fund," he said.

But then commissioner Trudy Wade weighed in.

"It's utterly absurd to me not to use the welfare fund to pay for this and provide some relief for the taxpayer," she said.

Chairman Bob Landreth made a motion to pull the funds from the contingency fund to pay for the elevator walls while the board studied the inmate welfare fund more closely. The motion passed by a 7-4 vote, with Wade, Linda Shaw, Steve Arnold and Billy Yow voting against it.

This is the second time Sheriff Barnes has come before the board requesting money from the inmates' welfare fund for upgrades to the jail, so it's clear he sees it as a steady source of income. I see it two ways: First, it's only $5600 out of $400,000. Second, why not have the inmates help pay for the jail? Just don't call it "the inmate welfare fund."

Then the schools (Superintendent Terry Grier and CFO Sharon Ozment) came before the board, asking them to approve the $600,000 gained by favorable bids, etc. for the land on which to build a new elementary school. That passed by a unanimous vote.

Then came the resolution supporting death penalty moratorium, then I'm taking a break to check out the boardroom. It passed by a party-line vote. Believe it or not, I'm anti-death penalty. There are a couple of people out there who I do not think should be consuming oxygen. Charles Manson comes to mind.

But one day in jail for me is way too many. In a country based on freedom, putting a guy (or gal) away for life without parole would, in my mind, would be worse than death.

Interesting views from Iraq, including a review of Fahrenheit 9/11 by I. Adnan.

He writes, addressing Michael Moore: "I don't know why you have to cheat to make the people believe you coz the whole world knew how the iraqui people suffered from Saddam and you try to show that they were happy with him!"

R.I.P. Johnny Ramone: Republican and baseball fan.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Guilford County commissioners will likely debate whether or not the
Guilford County school system will get another school resource officer (SRO). The item is on the consent agenda for tomorrow night’s meeting. But given the controversy surrounding the issue, it likely will be pulled, probably by commissioner Skip Alston.

The estimated cost for the extra officer, including salary, fringe benefits and equipment is $110,000. The additional position will allow full-time SROs at Allen Jay and Southwest Middle Schools, which have currently been sharing an SRO.

The way I read it, the funding will come out of the school systems’ budget to be paid to the sheriffs’ department. The mystery here is the school board, not that I can remember, has not publicly authorized this expenditure. That was the bone of contention between Alston and board member Anita Sharpe at the last commissioners’ meeting. I’m sure Alston will want to get to the bottom of the issue at this meeting.

The schools also want to move some money around for various projects. This money became available "due to favorable bids, untapped contingencies and/or sales tax refunds...." The biggest chunk is $660,000 the system wants moved form projects at several schools in order to purchase 22 acres of land off Pleasant Ridge Road on which to build a new "Northwest area" elementary school.

Just out of curiosity, I did some research on Idea Connections, the Rochester-based consulting company that's going to help with Greensboro's Community Relations Initiative.

My research revealed that Idea Connections has ties to — da, da, DA — the oil industry!

From its Web site: "Idea Connections was called in as an outside consultant to an oil company who needed to develop new strategies for oil exploration — a problem they had grappled with for over 20 years. By working with Idea Connections they achieved a breakthrough in 3 days that had eluded them for years."

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Just checking in to let everyone know I survived the Panthers-Packers game. Started tailgating at 6p. Lots of nice-looking ladies wearing slinky tops, hip-hugger jeans and high-heeled sandals. A lot of guys in starched button-down shirts and khakis. Impossible to get through on a cell phone. Watched the Packers run misdirection plays all over the Panthers defense. Saw Patrick Ballantine on the club level at halftime. Shook his hand and told him he had my vote. Asked how old he was. He's younger than I am. Walked out of the stadium in stunned silence. Went to bed at 1:30a. Got up, drove home, hit the paper route. Ate a cheeseburger and read the N&R in the station wagon. Learned there's a racial divide in Greensboro. Too tired to care. I'll pick it up tomorrow.

Monday, September 13, 2004

The feud between Mayor Holliday and the N&R is hilarious. It would be even funnier if the N&R blew just off the news conference. It's only a community relations initiative, for heaven's sake.

I'm still trying to figure what the N&R has done to piss the mayor off. From my point of view, he doesn't seem like the kind of guy that gets worked up easily. As I've written before, I don't think the N&R is that hard on city government.

But I think I have an idea. During last week's city council meeting, the mayor made a point to note that a small percentage (10-some might not consider that small) of the coliseum's deficit was due to getting for $260,000 by the hockey team.

Then I re-read the N&R's coverage of the meeting, and at least two-thirds, if not more, of the article was about the hockey team. That might have something to do with it.

The story will conveniently shift from Bush's National Guard service to doing coke at Camp David.......

Fortunately, I have better things to do.....Panthers-Packers, live in Ericsson, uh, I mean, uh, what is it....A convenient check of my morning N&R tells me it is Bank of America Stadium. I'm so pumped up I can barely contain myself, much to the chagrin of those around me.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Pretty funny analysis in today's N.Y. Times, where reporters reveal the smoking gun (McDonald's) behind Clinton's health problems.

I loved the photograph of Clinton at The Varsity, a place where I've pigged out many times while visiting Atlanta. Good onion rings.

I've been affected by Clinton's illness. You can probably imagine I wasn't a Clinton fan when he was our leader. But what bothered me at the time was I knew, in the back of my mind, that Clinton and I were a lot alike. Both left-handed. Both voracious readers. Both played in the high school band (I played clarinet). Both sports fans. Both love to use friends' vacation homes. Both happy-go-lucky guys.

Finally, we're both guys who believe that moderate exercise will offset a passion for junk food. I know now that's not necessarily the case. So I will now make the effort to change my ways so that I don't suffer the same fate as our beloved former president, whom I wish a speedy recovery.

Yeah, I know I ripped Clinton yesterday. But I was really ripping Molly Ivins.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Cone corrects me on my post regarding the liberal talk radio station in Asheville. What can I say? I just ASSumed a liberal radio station would play NPR's "Morning Edition."

As noted in earlier post, I will more stringently fact check myself.

Here's the N.Y. Times review of "Namath," a book I have been eyeing on shelves for quite some time. I can't fork out $28 for a book, so I'll wait until the price comes down. For now, I'll enjoy it vicariously through reviews.

Initial question: why is Janet Maslin, a movie critic, reviewing this book instead of, say, Damon Hack, or even William C. Rhoden?

Anyway, what I would be interested to read about (and which the review did not touch on- hell, I guess I'm reviewing the review) are Namath's early years in the old AFL. That's what's fascinating about him- he represents the bridge between the Vince Lombardi era and the game as we know it today. I'm sure there are some stories there that football historians like me would find intriguing. I'd to read about the seasons when he, his team, and his league were fledgling forces to be reckoned with.

I have vague memories of the latter stages of Namath's career, when his knees were in such bad shape he was practically immobile. I remember one Monday Night game where he dropped back to pass and just fell down.

I thought he was a good football commentator - on NBC, where he where shared a booth with only one another announcer.

I fact-checked myself and am a better man for it. I almost wrote in the above graph that Namath's problem at ABC was he had to shout over Cosell. But Namath and Cosell were never in the same booth.

At the end of a long, angry column, Molly Ivins writes this gem: "John Kerry will bascially rehire the Clinton team and presumably remain faithful to his wife. Of course, Clinton didn't get Osama bin Laden, either. But his people worked harder at it."

Yeah, right. In fact, we're acknowledging on this very day their hard work.

Friday, September 10, 2004

Check out this article on the new liberal talk radio station in Asheville. Note the programming schedule at the bottom. A typo, or a conservative copy editor with a sick mind?

Then again, I'll take the time to share a story about our good friend Dan Rather.

I'll take us back to the happy, carefree days of November 2000. It was a Friday afternoon. I was still working at Triad Business News, and I had been driving around doing interviews all day. Decisions from two different judges on whether recounts could begin in separate Florida counties were expected to be issued that afternoon.I knew one decision had been issued, but I couldn't pick up on the radio exactly what it was.

As I walked into the office, I saw Rather on the television in the conference room. I took one look at his face, filled with disappointment,angst, worry. Before I heard one word, I told myself right away the decision favored Bush. My hunch was immediately confirmed.

I actually finished my work for the week early, so I'm looking at a free Friday afternoon. The Bush memo story is still breaking so quickly that I haven't had the time to hash things out.

So I have two choices: to spend it trying to stay on top of things and provide eloquent points of view for my readers(a losing battle) or ease into the Friday happy hour by trying to tame my out-of-control garden. I think I choose the latter. Peace. Neutrality. Removing the burdens of the world from my shoulders for one afternoon.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

John Kerry, religious fanatic.

My version of Tuesday's City Council meeting, after watching it again on tape. The coliseum's running a deficit and is smoky.

During council discussion of the issue, I noticed Mayor Holliday appeared somewhat animated as he explained his position on the coliseum and the hockey team. He addressed what he preceived to be a misconception among the public regarding the situation.

"People tend to think hockey is the sole thing that has created the deficit at the coliseum and, as we know, that's not true," Holliday said.

City manager Ed Kitchen said that roughly 10 percent — $260,000 — of the coliseum's $2.6 million deficit was attributed to being stuck for $200,000 by the group that owned the team. He also pointed out that the economy was still struggling.

"The slow economy has cut into the available money people have to spend on this money," Kitchen said.

I personally thought coliseum manager Matt Brown did a good job explaining the situation. He pointed to other coliseums with major sports tenants who also posted losses last year. The Nashville arena, with the benefit of 41 dates by the NHL Predators lost $4.3 million last year and is on target to lose $5 million this year.

The RBC Center in Raleigh, the NHL Hurricanes and N.C. State basketball, had a $2.5 million operating loss. The Charlotte Coliseum lost $3.3 million, but it will be obsolete next year with the opening of the new downtown arena.

Brown also noted the difficulty of submitting a budget to 15-18 months ahead to operate in such a volatile business. You just never know what's going to happen, he said.

"I wish we'd had this much notoriety about our operating deficit last year when we came in 20 percent under budget," Brown said. "The number are what they are. We're very disappointed and we're addressing everything possible to assure those numbers aren't replicated this year."

Holliday then weighed in again on the hockey issue.

"We had a choice," Holliday said. "We were looking at between $400,000-$500,000 in losses by not having a hockey team. We propped it up for a year with the expectation we could break even. That's the tough job this council, and all public councils have to do. From a business perspective, I would make that choice again today."

Council member Robbie Perkins supported Holliday's view that the city was looking at even bigger losses without the hockey team. He then gave his perspective on the situation.

"At some point in time, we're going to have to look at cutting that operating deficit as low as we can cut it," Perkins said. "This body is going to have to make some judgment about whehter revenues are important or 40 years of tradition are important."

After all was said and done, the council voted 9-0 to fill the shortfall with money by outsourcing the coliseum's concessions operations.If the coliseum's operating deficit weren't depressing enough, the public found out that it's way too smoky as well.

It seems as though the coliseum for several years has been operating under a "smoking grandfather clause." When it reopened several years ago, 11 percent of space was set aside as a smoking area. The problem according to council member Sandy Carmany, is people entering the coliseum from the north gate have to walk thorugh the smoking area, which get pretty heavy on large-event nights.

"We get lots of complaints," Carmany said.

But if the smoking area were moved, it would have to increase to 20 percent according to state law. so Carmany suggested that, given the coliseum's budget situation, more money would have to be allocated to study and perhaps remedy the problem.

Holliday said the council would take that under advisement.

There's a lot of spin on Cheney's controversial comments. But the bottom line is he didn't say anything that isn't already on a lot of people's minds. Perhaps a majority of the people.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

I thought I hated Paul Krugman, but.....

I went to the school board meeting last night. Lucky me.

There were two major topics of discussion: a pilot school watch program and, you guessed it, transportation.

Chief administrative officer John Wright and GPD captain Dwight Crotts presented the pilot program to the board. The program is described as a "proactive approach to school safety and crime prevention, which includes attention to observation and reporting such as identifying actual gang related graffiti or involved indviduals WHILE (caps theirs) eliminating misconceptions and perceptions regarding this type of activity." Huh?

There are three major means of doing this: educating school respource officers (SROs) and staff; establish guidelines for reporting and investigating information; and community interaction, which would entail providing consistent information to affected parent and community groups. Wright wants to start the program at five middle schools in the system: Aycock, Guilford, Hairston, Jackson and Kiser.

The only cost, Wright said, would be the time school faculty and employees would have to devote to the training.

"We're trying to be proactive, considering some of the concerns that have been raised," Wright said.

The plan was greeted with skepticism by the board, but not for the reasons one would expect.

Board member Deena Hayes spoke out the loudest.

"This isn't about being proactive," Hayes said. "This is about gathering data on African-American children and children of color."

Other board members were concerend that the program didn't do enough to reach out to the community.

"If we don't get community interaction, we can't be as effective as we want to be," said school board chairman Alan Duncan. "This won't work without buy-in."

After tossing it around some more, the board voted 11-0 to table the issues pending more effective communication with the "school community." Hayes made it known that she wanted members of public housing to be a part of that communication.

"These are people that are never invited to the table, and that has to stop," she said.

I don't know what to think of the whole situation. To begin with, the proposal is phrased in such a way that no one knows for sure exactly how it would be implemented. And exactly how the police department and school staff would work with the school community was never directly addressed. They were just instructed by the board to go out and do it. My gut reaction is to say it's a dumb idea, but I guess if it's not going to cost the schools any more money, go for it. I guess at this point, it can only help.

The other issue, of course, was transportation. While only two parents made comments during the public speaking portion, their stories weren't pretty.

"The bus routes have improved," one parent said. "My daughter no longer has 12-hour days. She has 11-hour days."

Both parents who spoke about the transportation problem lived in High Point and had children attending Weaver Academy in downtown Greensboro. I worked in High Point for two years, and I can tell you it takes half an hour to get from one place to the other traveling over the interstate in a Honda Accord. So one can only imagine how long the trip takes in a school bus. Well, wait a minute, the kids can: it takes about two hours.

But transportation director Jim Moen reminded the board that it just takes a while to get kids from High Point to downtown Greensboro.

"The Weaver rides will be tough to adjust," Moen said. "I know people don't want to hear that."

Board member Dot Kearns was overly concerned about the situation, saying she's heard from parents with kids attending Weaver more than anyone else. She had a remedy for the situation.

"We need another place like Weaver in the southern part of the county," Kearns said.

Throughout the discussion, a recurring theme was trying to tie the High Point choice plan to the bus hubub. Both Kearns and fellow board member Kris Cooke, both sitting on political hot seats, asked Wright and Moen how the choice plan was affecting bus rides in Greensboro.

"I don't think it has any impact," Moen said.

Ironically, Wright made the case that all students involved in the school choice plan were the ones getting to school on time.

"We have a limited number of students that are over 65 minutes," Wright said.

Moen then explained the complicated process of getting more buses on the routes, which should get all the students to school on time. It takes a while to get new buses on line, he explained. The other option, he added, was to "cash in" school bus "credits" gained when the system turned in buses as a result of the consolidation several years ago.

But that process takes time, too, Moen said, especially when you're dealing the state.

"When you turn the credit in, the question then becomes, 'can you get the bus fast enough?'" Moen said.

Then board member Darlene Garrett expressed concern about the number of elementary school students riding the buses with middle and high school students.

Why not pull the elementary kids from the hubs, Garrett asked.

Because it would cost between $2.8 and $3.5 million to do that, Wright replied.

Though the board was more direct with its questions this time around, nothing was resolved. Parents can only hope the new buses will shorten ride lengths. The effort to make the High Point school choice plan the "smoking gun" in the bus hubub might be a waste of time, in my view.

As I've written in this space before, the best thing parents can do is make board members feel the political heat. They're doing a good job so far.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Just in case you missed it (and you probably did), Ron Silver's speech at the Republican National Convention. I first remember him when he played Brenda's boyfriend on "Rhoda."

N&R editor John Robinson answers an earlier post where I write, "There's no doubt the News Record's blogs will need the corporate stamp of approval before they're posted."

I thought it was interesting that I didn't warrant a link. Robinson just referenced my post, describing me only as "one writer." I don't know if Robinson knows who I am (not that I'm anybody) and doesn't want to give too much credence to a guy working for a competing publication. Maybe he just didn't have time to link me.

Robinson writes that, following my statement, "No elaboration or evidence (is) given." I think it's obvious: I'm my own publisher, editor and writer, as are the majority of bloggers. I can do what I want. I'm blogging the school board meeting tonight. If, in addition to providing the details of the meeting, I want to interject my opinion, I'm free to do so. I just don't believe the N&R reporters will have that freedom. Based on what I've read so far, that seems to be the case. It's not a bad trade-off: They get paid to blog, I don't.

I knew it would come sooner or later- a rainy paper route day. Fortunately, the Performance rain jacket I bought 10 years ago for $95 is still doing the job.

Early morning sightings: My neighbor's black cat strolling down the sidewalk with some type of rodent in its mouth; a guy walking his dog down Elm Street, smoking a cigar (I indulge myself, but never that early in the day); a guy driving down Elm Street with a totally flat tire who gave no indication he was about to pull over; a realtively subdued downtown considering the fact that the man who would be president is visiting. I talked to Ogi yesterday and he was trying to wrangle media credentials for someone so GGO can cover Kerry.

After my paper route, I have to finish some freelance work before covering both the school board and the city council meetings. Don't ask me how I'll be in two places at once....

Monday, September 06, 2004

Cone answers my post about Elizabeth Edwards' N.Y. Times mag interview. It's good to know the Greensboro blog guru is reading your stuff. I also hope he didn't think I was trying to get his goat. I saw where he linked her interview, but I didn't read it until I got my hard copy Sunday morning. I was legitimately disappointed in what I read.

Here's my point: As a concerned citizen, Ms. Edwards certainly has the right to say anything about her government. Still, she is a public figure whose opinions hold weight. By not qualifying her statement about Condoleeza Rice, she politicized it. And while her husband is personally working to unseat the Bush administration (and Ms. Rice along with it), Ms. Edwards is not running against Ms. Rice. So to float out unqualified statements about another public figure was, in my opinion, bad taste, especially about a subject where, right now, there is no one truth.

That's why, in my opinion, it was in bad taste for Ms. Edwards to make such a statement. It was also in bad taste for the interviewer not to press her. After reading those statements, I said to myself, "She's just a senator's wife, what the hell does she know?"

But I also know she's an attorney and a very intelligent woman. Perhaps she's an amateur expert on the subject. Perhaps she's relying on her husband's knowledge and opinions. Perhaps a little of both. I'd like to know so I can give Ms. Edwards the proper respect, if she's deserving.

Sunday, September 05, 2004

It's interesting that Sodexho is at the center of the controversy surrounding school superintendent Terry Grier's outside consulting work.

At a school board meeting a while back, a major issue was whether or not renew Sodexho's contract. The outsourcing of custodial services was a money-saving move, which, Grier said, returns more money to teachers.

But several school principals complained about Sodexho's standards of cleanliness. Also, during the public speaking portion of the meeting, several custodians complained about Sodexho's employment practices. Board member Darlene Garrett was particularly concerned, saying "health department officials" told her that the schools were not up to standards, though she refused to identify those officials. Even assistant superintendent John Wright admitted "there were some bumps in the road" where Sodexho was concerned. But Wright and Grier assured the board those bumps had been smoothed over, and that the schools were "cleaner today than they were four years ago."

After much discussion, the board decided to renew the contract with Sodexho on condition that a monthly report be issued. If Sodexho's work is not up to standards, it will complete the work and be billed by the school system.

An update on Sodexho is not on the agenda for this week's school board meeting. But it should come some time this month.

Elizabeth Edwards on Condoleeza Rice, in N.Y. Times magazine:

"She has said some totally incredible things — particularly when you go back to her comments on 9/11 — things that are out-and-out erroneous."

Edwards did not elaborate on exactly what Rice said was erroneous, nor did she say how she knows Rice made erroneous statements. If Deborah Solomon asked her, which I doubt she did, it didn't make it to print.

Saturday, September 04, 2004

The pennant races are getting really interesting. All of a sudden, the Marlins are hot, going into a crucial three-game series with the Cubs. It looks like they might not get to play this weekend, due to Frances. It would be really cool if they had to make it up at the end of the season. Also, what if the Yanks implode and fall completely out of the playoff picture?

I'm disappointed FOX is foregoing baseball coverage today, obviously deferring to the opening of the college football season. But Oklahoma and Bowling Green? Wake at Clemson? If we had the old Game of the Week, Joe Garigiola and Tony Kubek would be right there in Yankee Stadium, aanlyzing the Yankees' implosion between pitches.

Friday, September 03, 2004

I just heard on ABC Radio that former President Clinton will undergo quadruple bypass surgery later today after failing a stress test this morning.

I thought Mayor Holliday's comments about the local media (i.e. News & Record) were right on time. The N&R is not just a business, it's a corporation, and it absolutely does need to be held accountable for its actions. The paper's bias against billboards bothers me. I still can't figure how a 7-0 vote by the planning board for a billboard ordinance, which the billboard industry vociferously opposed, represents a victory for the billboard industry. Then, all of a sudden, our county commissioners became the wise men and women who will protect citizens from these horrible billboards.

Then there was the recent story about how Greensboro is divided along a east-west geographic line. The story portrayed Greensboro as the same dumb segregated city it was 50 years ago. Anyone who's lived here for any length of time knows it's much more complicated than that, if simply not true.

That story probably pissed Mayor Holliday off. It didn't make me feel real good, either. Yet I'm curious to know what else the News & Record has done to draw Mayor Holliday's scorn, because I agree with Cone that the N&R is not overly hard on local government. The paper was pro-downtown stadium. It was perfectly right to dig into Project Homestead. It's also done a good job of ignoring the Truth and Reconciliation Project, which has further served to portray Greensboro as a dumb Southern city. I'm sure the paper will do some sort of retrospective on the 25th anniversary of the Klan-Nazi killings, but that's fair enough. I think what gets under Mayor Holliday's skin is the fact that the paper on the whole is positive, yet picks and chooses strange battles, like billboards and video poker.

Greensboro disease? I've never been afflicted. I'll admit I've had extended periods of unemployement or underemployment. I'm more committed to the area than I am to a job, and that's my problem. The good news is the cost of living isn't that high, so if you're careful with your money, you ride out those periods. I've never had a problem entertaining myself. Then again, I can waste half an hour standing on the sidewalk talking to my neighbor.

Krugman in today's NY Times: "There was plenty of hatred in Manhattan, but it was inside, not outside, Madison Square Garden."

He's kidding, right?

Well, there was some anger inside Madison Square Garden yesterday. If you've got the 'puter power, audio stream the middle hour of the Michael Medved Show, where Medved and Al Franken go at it. You tell me who's angrier.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

County commissioners.......

Pierre A. Goria II's letter to the editor wasn't posted on the N&R's Web site this morning, so you'll have to settle for my summary.

Goria writes: "I was shocked to see Guilford County Commissioner Bob Landreth receive the Commissioner of the Year Award. At a recent meeting, I observed Landreth flippantly listening to caring Guilford County residents voice their concerns on how money should be spent in the public school system......He even turned his body sideways, again giving the impression he was not interested in citizens' opinions."

I've written many times in this space about the lack of respect on the part of the county commissioners (with the exception of the four female commissioners) shown speakers from the floor. This needs to be a campaign issue: Candidates need to be asked, "Will you sit still at meetings and listen to public speakers?"

As you could probably tell by my earlier post, I’m fascinated with the fact that Schwarzenegger evoked Nixon during his speech Tuesday night.

I’m surprised that someone along the line didn’t advise him to drop the Nixon reference, considering the fact this was the night Republicans were bringing out the moderates. Does Nixon not represent the worst of our country, no matter his true achievements? When the academics finish writing history, Bush could very well emerge as the Great Republican Satan. But for now, Tricky Dick still holds the title. Don’t ever try to make the point in mixed company that Nixon did anything good for this country.

Which is tough, because I’m a Nixon apologist. Even though I was just a kid when he was president, I liked the guy.. I remember waiting in line with my parents at the fire station to vote in 1972. I went into the voting booth with my dad and watched him pull down the McGovern lever. I didn’t say anything, but I was pulling for Nixon.

I felt sorry for him when he resigned 30 years ago last month. I can’t shake the pity, though I try by exposing myself to the reality of the events through books and documentaries. My defense: As the ultimate insider, Nixon didn’t do anything he hadn’t seen before.

My theory: perhaps Schwarzenegger is so thankful for the inspiration Nixon provided that he, like me, might be willing to overlook his crimes. Then again, to a guy who grew up in a socialist country “where Soviet soldiers could take a man out of his own car and ship him off to the Soviet Union for slave labor,” perhaps Nixon’s crimes weren’t that heinous.

Somebody help me out here…..

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

"I remember watching the Nixon and Humphrey presidential race on TV. A friend who spoke German and English translated for me. I heard Humphrey saying things that sounded like socialism, which is what I had just left. But then I heard Nixon speak. He was talking about free enterprise, getting government off your back, lowering taxes and strengthening the military. Listening to Nixon speak sounded more like a breath of fresh air.

"I said to my friend, 'Which party is he?' My friend said, 'He's a Republican.' I said, 'Then I am a Republican! And I've been a Republican ever since!"

— Arnold Schwarzenegger at the Republican Convention

Full text, if you didn't get enough last night. It was good to hear what's right with our country.

Here's the Dallas Morning News article that's got school superintendent Terry Grier in hot water- again.


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