Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

NC Senate makes bold and courageous move on tax reform

Friday, June 14th, 2013

Yesterday, Thursday, June 13, 2013, the NC Senate, led by President Pro Tem Phil Berger, took a bold move towards cleaning up state government. Senators voted overwhelmingly to get rid of the corporate income tax, one of the nastiest parts of the state tax code. The supporters of the status quo (which is not working, as our economy clearly attests) are going to have hissy fits.

Those who profit from misleading the public are going to be on the attack. This fight should provide some real insight into who is really attempting to serve the public and who is cashing in on insider deals.

It is easy to see why greedy crony capitalists support a high corporate income tax. Legislators can reward their strongest supporters with special tax breaks. The higher the overall rate, the greater the rewards for cutting special deals out of public view. High corporate rates are not just a sign of bad government, they encourage and enable bad government. That’s one reason well run businesses view high corporate rates as a major negative when considering business locations. (The other obvious reason is that the higher the tax rate, the harder it is to break even, much less make a profit. And even people who don’t know much about business know that a business that keeps losing money instead of making money eventually runs out of money and closes. )

But it is truly a mystery why  people who claim to be Progressives call for a corporate tax, when the real effect is to lower wages, reduce job creation, and to tax the truly poor on income that would otherwise not be taxable. Are the “Progressives” who support corporate income taxes really crony capitalists in disguise, or are they just as confused by the nonsense the media spouts about economics as most other citizens?

If you really want honest government, an essential first step is the elimination of one of the greatest enablers of bad government. Besides, corporate taxes reduce employee income and tax less well to do investors at the same rate as the wealthiest investors. Here are the easily verifiable facts:

While corporations are legal entities, most intelligent adults (as well as many not so intelligent adults) realize that they are not real people. They don’t go out and party. They can’t eat, drink and make merry. They’re just a stack of papers that allows real people to pool their funds to make investments.

A lot of those invested funds come from very ordinary, not very wealthy, individuals who have managed to save a little money in pension funds, college savings plans, or mutual funds. While the poor and middle class don’t have as much to invest as the seriously wealthy, there are a heck of a lot more people in the 99% than the 1% (try arguing that one) and what they earn on their savings is probably even more significant to them than those with sufficient wealth to live on for the rest of their lives.

Once a group of people, regardless of wealth or income level, puts their money together to form a corporation, that money and all the other money the corporation earns will only leave the corporation legally in one of three ways – to buy goods and services, to pay employees, or as a distribution to the investors who formed the corporation.

Purchasing goods and services is simply a cost of doing business. Paying employees is usually considered a good thing, and the employees are taxed on the income they receive. And when corporate earnings are distributed to the owners, they are taxed based on the tax bracket of the recipient. In other words, those so poor they don’t pay taxes don’t pay taxes on the distribution and those who have higher income pay at whatever tax rate is required at their particular income level.

Absent a corporate income tax, all funds coming into the company go out in one of the three ways mentioned. When the company makes a distribution to its owners, they are taxed on what they receive. And why should the owners be taxed before they receive any funds? Because the government wants their cut as soon as possible, or because imposing a tax at the corporate level lets the government tax people so poor that it would be embarrassing to try to tax them at the individual level?

For example, North Carolina has billions of dollars invested in state pension funds that retirees count on for retirement income. The returns on those investments are closely monitored and those returns include dividends on stock. North Carolina doesn’t directly tax its state pension funds; it taxes retirees when they receive pension payments at varying rates depending on their particular income level and employment agreement. Yet by taxing corporations, NC manages to transfer funds that would otherwise be available to pension recipients into accounts that can be spent on whatever the legislature decides without those recipients even realizing what is happening. And the corporate tax rate reducing the funds available for pension payments is the same for all pension recipients, regardless of contract agreement or income level.

Corporate taxes are merely a way for government to take more funds from all citizens without the citizens realizing they are being taxed, and for politicians to impose taxes on the poor while claiming they’re targeting the wealthy.

To repeat, taxing corporate shareholders on income at the corporate level imposes the same tax rate on poor shareholders as wealthy shareholders. Taxing the income when distributed actually yields a more progressive result.

And as for the funds not distributed, it is fairly obvious that if the tax were not imposed at the corporate level, the business would have more money to invest in goods and services and employee labor to make more money. Obviously, those additional funds would be spent in one of three ways – [see above]

Thanks to the UNC athletics department – for raising awareness of the much larger academic integrity issue

Monday, November 19th, 2012

The following article was originally written and distributed in January 2006. I’ve tried for well over a decade to get the NC media to report the facts about the testing fraud and insane university admission policies used to hide the fact so many high school “graduates” are unprepared for work or higher education.

I’m amazed that the N&O has printed Mary Willingham’s revelations concerning the way cheating is tolerated at UNC. Maybe they thought they could confine the discussion to athletics. I’ve made (and documented) similar charges for years, including holding well-attended  press conferences at the General Assembly, but somehow what I said or did never made the papers.

Remember, this was written in 2006 and discusses a bill I tried to get passed over a decade ago. There are two scandals that deserve attention: one is the failure of the University system, our K-12 advisors, to be sure students were adequately prepared for college in high school, instead of admitting unprepared students and flunking them out . . . and the other is the refusal of the press to pursue this story a decade ago!

Will Bowles Address the Problems He Inherited?

Time Will Tell, But He’s Off to a Good Start

 

According to the Raleigh News & Observer (January 14, 2006), in his first speech to the UNC Board of Governors, new UNC President Erskine Bowles said there’s an “economic tsunami heading our way.” Bowles didn’t stop with vague comments; he stated some facts that demand attention from anyone who cares about the future of this state.

 

For years, the UNC administration has ignored my concerns about our low high school and college graduation rates, but how are they going to ignore their new president? Bowles said he is concerned that of every 100 eighth-graders, only 58 graduate from high school, 38 go to college and 18 graduate from college.

 

For years, the Department of Public Instruction has ignored my concerns about our low standards and misleading state tests. How are they going to ignore the president of the UNC system when he worries that “40 percent of eighth graders in Singapore score at the most advanced level in math and science, while in North Carolina, less than 34 percent are even proficient in reading, math, science and writing.”

 

But as bad as this sounds, combining Bowles’ comments with the recently released results of the National Assessment of Adult Literacy gives a really scary picture. (The full results of the report are available at http://nces.ed.gov/NAAL/, but George Leef has provided a useful summary posted at http://www.popecenter.org/)

 

According to the Assessment, only four percent of high school graduates achieve proficiency in prose literacy, “the ability to search for and comprehend information contained in written material.” Only five percent achieve proficiency in document and quantitative literacy. “Document literacy questions were designed to see how well the individual could understand documents – for example, finding what time a certain bus arrives at its destination. Quantitative questions were designed to see how well the individual could perform mathematical tasks such as calculating the cost per ounce of a brand of peanut butter.”

 

“Among college graduates, 31 percent achieve proficiency in prose and quantitative literacy and 25 percent in document. However, both prose and document literacy registered substantial declines compared with the 1992 data, which were 40 percent and 37 percent respectively.”

 

In other words, most college graduates, over two-thirds, would have trouble figuring out a bus schedule or figuring out the cost per ounce of groceries. So how did they graduate? In fact, how did they get admitted to a college in the first place?

 

Research has shown that when students are admitted to college who are unprepared for college, they are unlikely to graduate. That’s why, in 2001, I introduced House Bill 1211 which sought to stop the University system from profitting at the expense of their students, the students’ parents and the taxpayers by admitting students who were unprepared for college.

 

The bill was very simple. This is what it said:

§116.3.  No remedial programs provided by constituent institutions.

(a)       No constituent institution shall provide a remedial education program or course of remedial study for a student enrolled at the institution.

(b)       The Board of Governors, in cooperation with the State Board of Education, shall develop and implement a plan to ensure that each high school student who plans to seek a college degree upon high school graduation is adequately prepared in his or her course of academic study so that no remediation should be needed by a student who enrolls at a constituent institution.

(c)       The Board of Governors shall direct each constituent institution to develop a program that will provide, upon request, a referral for any student enrolled or seeking enrollment at the institution to an appropriate remedial program of studies offered elsewhere.

 

It also said “This act becomes effective July 1, 2003, and applies to academic periods beginning on or after that date.”

 

The bill was intended to force the Department of Public Instruction to provide the remediation before the child graduated from high school. If the Universities made it known that they would not admit students who were unprepared, there would be tremendous pressure on the Department of Public Instruction to align their standards with those of the University system.

 

When the bill was assigned to a subcommittee, I believe UNC had more lobbyists present than there were subcommittee members. I spoke to the head of the University delegation and told her that while I had already provided a two year delay in the effective date of the bill, I would be happy to delay the effective date an additional two years if the Universities would just support the bill. Surely that would give them enough time to work with the schools to identify the eighth graders who needed remediation and act before they graduated. I told her I did not want to deny anyone access to a college education. I wanted to make it possible for more students to be successful in college.

 

My efforts at compromise were a waste of time. I was told that the University had enough votes to kill the bill in that committee meeting and they planned to do so. Obviously even the University system has trouble finding people with adequate math skills. The bill was not killed that day. Unfortunately, in our legislature, the majority no longer rules. The bill “disappeared.”

 

If Mr. Bowles is serious about addressing the problems he recited, he might want to reconsider that bill.

 

 

What Are Children Being Taught?

Monday, July 23rd, 2012

An article by Michael Gerson in the Charlotte Observer (July 22, 2012) states, “In 2000, 5 percent of African-American fourth-graders and 7 percent of their Hispanic peers were assessed proficient in math. . . By 2011, math proficiency had risen to 17 percent for African-American fourth-graders and 24 percent for their Hispanic peers.”

That means less than 10% of African-American or Hispanic children who were in the 4th grade in 2000 were prepared to be successful in any career demanding math skills or even to manage their own finances, and by 2011, while there was improvement, still less than a fourth were adequately prepared. Where is the outrage? How bad does it have to get before people understand changes are needed?

Want to know why there is so much unemployment in the minority community? Read the article again. Most skilled workers, not just office workers but carpenters, electricians, plumbers and others, use math every day.  And math skills used to be a prerequisite for college admission, but diploma mills are now in place to sell degrees with no requirement that the recipient actually demonstrates real proficiency in anything useful.

Want to know why so many jobs are going overseas? When other countries can supply skilled workers more cost-effectively than we can, it hurts our economy. The mismanagement of our education system is hurting everyone in this country.

Gerson is generally on target, but I would only agree with half of his assertion that “Public education demonstrates that a highly decentralized governmental system can also be arrogant and mediocre, particularly when parents are denied objective information about outcomes.”

It is true that parents and the public have been “denied objective information about outcomes.” I’d go farther and say the lies told have been so outrageous that they could not have succeeded without the enthusiastic non-reporting of the major papers.

And since this piece was actually printed, maybe it is disinformation, since the suggestion that public education is decentralized is so incredibly off target. Local school boards can control the non-essentials like providing classrooms and hiring staff, but the decisions on the big issues, things like curriculum and required staffing and staff credentials, are highly centralized.

My favorite aunt taught math in North Carolina’s public schools for years and combining her input with information furnished by NC teachers while I was in the legislature, I have no hesitancy in saying the math curriculum taught in our public schools has been dumbed down over the years and the UNC Schools of Education were complicit in the process.

Thank goodness for the classroom teachers who had the good sense and awareness of education history to ignore the “experts” and fads and focus on the needs of the children! Despite their best efforts to substitute paper credentials and portfolios for actual knowledge, the “experts” have been unable to remove real teachers from the educational process. Without those teachers, the damage caused by a centralized system run by “experts” with no responsibility for outcomes would have been even greater.

If an enemy wanted to destroy this country, denying our children the education needed to be productive citizens is a sure way to succeed.

If we want this country to survive, we’d better take a closer look at what children are being taught (or not being taught).

 

Prosperity Project Still Being Blocked

Sunday, July 22nd, 2012

Today’s Charlotte Observer (July 22, 2012) has an excellent article about Mary Zigbuo’s work as a missionary with the United Methodist Church to address the extensive poverty in Anson County. It includes the following quote:

“Anson’s statistics are staggering: One in five people live in poverty. The unemployment rate in May was 11.7 percent.

“You’re talking 45 minutes south of Charlotte,” said Owen Furuseth, a UNC Charlotte geography professor and expert on rural land who, like any good teacher, gave me a history lesson: The reason, he said, is because of geography and predates the Civil War.

“Anson is more like the Deep South – the cotton belt/ black belt counties – than anything you’ll find in the Piedmont,” he said. “The land is flatter and more fertile and lent itself to larger plantations. Anson is over 50 percent African-American because of the large slave population. Today’s poverty is a legacy of all that.””

I couldn’t resist commenting as follows:

The article is wonderful, as is Ms. Zigbuo’s attempt to help people learn how to help themselves, but the history lesson is somewhat misleading.

In the fifties, or at midnight, Anson may be 45 minutes from Charlotte, but if you plan to go to the Charlotte airport from Wadesboro, you’d better allow at least three hours because the Monroe parking lot very effectively blocks economic development by providing random shutdowns of traffic.

Anson is not poor because of the African-American community. It is the white plantation-mentality leadership in Anson and Union that has worked to prevent the completion of the Monroe Bypass that bears the primary responsibility for the extreme poverty along the 74 corridor all the way from Monroe to the coast. Prosperity can’t make it past the intentional roadblock maintained by the “best people in society.”

During the time former Senator Aaron Plyler was one of the most powerful people in Raleigh, Union County was dead last in the whole state in per capita highway funding. He was Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and able to have his political allies named to the DOT Board, but while Pamlico County, with a population less than 15,000, enjoys mile after mile of five lane highway (four lanes plus a center turn lane), thanks to Senator Plyler and his friends, there are too few roads wider than two lanes in Union County, a county of over 200,000.

I was very pleased to help get the Death Highway reworked to stop the carnage, but despite my best efforts, the opponents of opportunity have been very successful in blocking the road the people of Union County paid for years ago, the Monroe Bypass.

How is it possible (absent political corruption or extreme incompetence) that despite being one of the fastest growing counties in the state, Union County doesn’t have a single inch of interstate quality road and there are NO plans to build any because the toll road authority has planned a tolled bypass that doesn’t meet interstate standards? (Why don’t the plans tie in to 485? Could it be because that would require interstate standards and eliminate some interchanges?)

And now there’s another hold up because DOT lied to the courts. If the folks there are really that incompetent, why wasn’t someone fired? Or was the real intent to continue to block the Bypass, until the connected developers figure out how to kill it altogether so they can open the 218 corridor to more development?

Instead of building the Garden Parkway toll road, the state needs to build the Monroe Bypass and fill in the other missing links needed to complete an Interstate Highway linking Asheville and Charlotte and Wilmington. If the state would stop building roads for insiders and build roads for the public, maybe they’d be built where needed for a change.

Perhaps if the public would pay a little more attention to their government they might get it to work for all of us instead of the least honest among us.

If you want honest government, vote accordingly

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

Bearing false witness is clearly not a Christian value. Practicing crony capitalism is the opposite of free enterprise. And hiding behind lies to avoid personal responsibility is simply low.

I’m supporting Jim Pendergraph because I’m fed up with being lied about by Robert Pittenger and his pal Tommy Tucker. I’ve asked them both nicely to quit spreading lies about me. Apparently nice doesn’t work with some people.

In 2010 Tommy Tucker spread outrageous lies about me to get elected to the NC Senate and I took the high road. Now Robert Pittenger is doing the same thing to Jim Pendergraph to get elected to Congress, but he is also helping Tucker spread still more lies about me. Some good people are repeating their false statements because they don’t know any better, but follow the money and you’ll find the truth.

Anyone who knows me knows that I am the opposite of a tax-and-spend liberal, but the fact I fought so hard for liberty that Freedomworks gave me their Liberty Tree Award didn’t stop the crony capitalists from tarring me as someone who wants to raise your taxes. (Talk about a big lie; that was a whopper.)

And Tucker even claimed I sponsored or co-sponsored 100 bills but had Z-E-R-O bills pass when I was in the Senate. Obviously I had bills that passed, but Tucker correctly counted on the public not checking and the press keeping his dirty little secret. The proof that I had bills that passed as a Senator has been available on the NC General Assembly web site for years, but the fact I was elected Senate Republican Whip should tell anyone with any knowledge of government that my peers thought I was pretty effective as a legislator.

Last week, in a feedback column he wrote in response to the Charlotte Observer article that suggested Pittenger voted on a bill for his own personal profit, Pittenger used my name three times in an attempt to deceive the public by tarring my reputation. His associates had been spreading lies about me for years, and I had just had enough.

I made the documents public that prove Pittenger is lying when he denies responsibility for an annexation he engineered as a legislator to make property he owned more valuable. Take a look at the documents posted at RaleighReport.com. There is no doubt Pittenger, as a legislator, pushed the annexation that made him and his partners money.

The annexation bill I introduced had absolutely nothing to do with the Waxhaw annexation, contrary to the falsehoods spread by Pittenger and his allies. In fact, as the record shows, I refused to support Pittenger’s annexation unless I was permitted to add an amendment making it crystal clear my bill couldn’t be used in any way in connection with his proposed annexation.

Pittenger claimed it was OK to vote for a bill that made him money because it was a local bill and “100 per cent of local bills pass” but that too is a lie and anyone who knows much about the NC legislature knows it. I’ve personally helped kill local bills, and that is why Pittenger sought my support for his annexation. I didn’t think I could kill his bill since he already had Black and Basnight on board, but he was sufficiently concerned that he accepted my amendment.

The people who attack Pendergraph because he became a Democrat when that party controlled the state to such an extent you couldn’t get a government job as a Republican apparently see nothing wrong with Pittenger working with Democrats like David Hoyle and Pryor Gibson to obtain state funds to build the Garden Parkway. Which is worse? Registering as a Democrat when that was the only way to even participate in the political process because there weren’t even Republican candidates in most races, or distributing a fraudulent document in the NC Senate earlier this year to obtain millions of dollars in funding for a road that is of little or no public benefit?

I draw a strong distinction between political differences and downright dishonesty. Honest people can disagree on any number of issues, but when someone persists in dishonesty beyond any possibility of honest error, that should be a warning to onlookers.

If someone seeking public office says the right things in public and give money to causes you support, are you willing to ignore dishonesty? If you claim you believe in the Golden Rule, ask yourself how you would feel if people who had no problem working with the worst Democrats in Raleigh spent serious money spreading lies about you to divert attention from their misdeeds.

And if that doesn’t persuade you to reject Pittenger, consider the following cautionary tale:

Once upon a time a politician took a bribe to vote a certain way, but when the time came to vote he did the opposite of what he was paid to do. The people who bribed him went looking for him, furious that he had deceived them, but he just laughed at their anger and said, “Heck, fellows, why so upset? You knew when I took your money that I was dishonest.”

If you know someone is willing to lie to avoid responsibility, why would you trust him to represent you?

Who Would Arthur Williams Represent?

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

Hint- Williams voted FOR Pryor Gibson’s bill to help raise gasoline prices by reducing competition. That no doubt pleased the Petroleum Marketers Association who pushed the bill, but it should offend everyone who buys gasoline, whether for business or personal use.

 

Would you vote for a Representative who was flagrantly opposed to fair competition when it comes to setting gas prices? Would you vote for a Representative who voted to make you pay more, significantly more, to buy gas, to enhance the profits of service station owners or gasoline distributors?

You would think the voters back home would know Arthur Williams by now, but you might be wrong. After all, the Capital Press Corpse (spelling intentional) has for years done a great job of burying the misdeeds of politicos they choose to favor.

Some people may wonder why I write so frequently about former Representative Pryor Gibson. It is because he has been one of the most favored when it comes to hiding actions from the voters that most voters would find amazingly offensive.

But while running cover for Gibson, the Raleigh reporters who did not report have also helped out a number of other Representatives who did not represent the people who elected them and Arthur Williams is one of those legislators.

You don’t have to take my word that the Gibson bill Williams supported was anti-consumer. The North Carolina Retail Merchants Association opposed it as anti-consumer, as did the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FTC said “We believe there is a significant risk that the bill could harm consumers. Gasoline is a significant consumer expenditure; assuming no change in demand, even a 1 cent increase in the retail price of gasoline would cost North Carolina consumers approximately $42.5 million annually.”

Gibson’s bill (H1203, 2003) passed the House but it was sidetracked in the Senate by an unusual coalition. The public got lucky that time, but you shouldn’t have to count on luck to save you from being thrown under the bus by your own Representative.

Would someone who claims Williams is Conservative please explain what they mean by the term? He’s even donated to Bev Perdue. He’s about as Conservative as Pryor Gibson. (You know Gibson, the guy who wanted to throw money at the Garden Parkway when even DOT said it wasn’t needed.)

Proof Positive Pittenger Pushed Controversial 2003 Waxhaw Annexation

Friday, July 6th, 2012

Proof Positive Pittenger Pushed Annexation – Key items highlighted

 

I don’t like most satellite annexations. One of my favorite sayings for years has been that the best way to make serious money in NC is to buy cheap land and cheap politicians, because the politicians will make the land a lot more valuable.

Politicians can make land more valuable by providing a road, water & sewer, or higher density zoning, to name a few of the more popular options. While any of those options may be justified, unless the public closely monitors policy in those areas, strange things will inevitably happen.

In 2003, because I didn’t like some of the strange things I’d seen happening in Union County, I introduced a bill attempting to limit satellite annexation while increasing the chance a satellite could grow by voluntary annexation to join the town of which it was in theory a part.

My bill had absolutely nothing to do with the 2003 Waxhaw satellite annexation. Repeated attempts to suggest I filed a bill to make the Waxhaw annexation possible were simply attempts to divert attention from those really responsible. The people I thought owned the property at issue, Pace-Dowd, didn’t even know about my bill until I met with Steve Pace at Pittenger’s request. Here is a note from Steve Pace written after I met with him, told him about my bill, and asked him to see if there was any possibility he could work things out with Wesley Chapel rather than go the satellite route:

—–Original Message—–
From: Stephen Pace [mailto:space@pacedevelop.com]
Sent: Tuesday, June 17, 2003 6:43 PM
To: ferns@ncleg.net
Subject: Cuthbertson Road Annexation

I called Jim Mullins and talked with Carol. She said that she would have
him call me but he has not. I just finished reading your bill 452. Item
numbered (2) gives me a little concern. Our property adjoins Wesley Chapel.
If I am reading this section correctly, Waxhaw could not ever annex our
property if Wesley Chapel chose not to annex us unless Waxhaw annexed all of
the property between our property and their town limits. Am I correct in this reading?

My response to Mr. Pace makes it clear that I did not initiate the Waxhaw annexation amendment, contrary to the impression spread by Mr. Pittenger and his allies, and that I was going to oppose it unless I was permitted to make sure that my bill did not apply to the property annexed. While I introduced a bill, S452, dealing with satellite annexation in 2003, a bill which by the way passed, it had nothing to do with helping Waxhaw annex the Pace-Dowd-Pittenger property.

Note that copies of my response to Pace also went to Pittenger and Hartsell, since I met with Pace at Pittenger’s request and Pittenger had said Hartsell was handling the annexation amendment.

(By the way, in order to get elected to the Senate, Pittenger ally Tommy Tucker spent thousands of dollars on mailers claiming that while I was in the Senate I had Z-E-R-O bills pass. Obviously not true. Birds of a feather and all that.)

—-Original Message—–
From: Sen. Fern Shubert
Sent: Tuesday, June 17, 2003 11:17 PM
To: ‘Stephen Pace’
Cc: Sen. Robert Pittenger; Sen. Fletcher Hartsell, Jr.
Subject: RE: Cuthbertson Road Annexation

Absent special legislation, Waxhaw can’t annex your property as a satellite now, but that is current law. The only change in 452 is the part underlined which permits contiguous annexation to a satellite even if another town is closer. In other word, S452 permits annexations that are not currently permitted provided they are contiguous to a satellite because denying voluntary annexation means there will eventually be involuntary annexation.

Thank you for your willingness to discuss your issue with Wesley Chapel. They are, as you have surmised, not happy to see anything other than R40, but no one has explained to me why they have any realistic belief that the property would be developed at that density. In talking to the council I tried to make it clear that I was not so much interested in whether they supported or opposed your development but on the reasons why they felt as they did.

I have told them that while I understand their displeasure with higher densities, Wesley Chapel can’t annex the property unless it is voluntary or until it is developed, which means that it will ultimately be part of Waxhaw. I’ve also told them that I don’t think they can hope by opposing your development they will get anything better and in my opinion anything else could and probably would be worse from their perspective. Not one of them has disagreed with the facts as stated; they just don’t like those facts and it seems they wish the situation would go away.

Based on your representations re your plans, I’ve told them that I am not inclined to oppose the request from Pittenger and Hartsell, although I would probably feel differently if your plans were less concrete and if I didn’t feel your project would represent a desirable buffer. (I’ve also told them if they want to see what can happen without buffers they can visit my family farm in Wingate. I just wish I could have something like you propose on the boundary there.)

Because of S452, I am making my agreement contingent on including a provision stopping Waxhaw from using your development as an anchor to permit contiguous annexation since that might well include something that would be detrimental to you and to Wesley Chapel.

After letting Pace, Pittenger and Hartsell know my decision, I sent a note to Gerry Cohen, Director of Bill Drafting, confirming my verbal request for assistance in drafting an amendment to be sure my bill, S452, did NOT apply to the annexation being advocated by Pittenger and Hartsell.

—–Original Message—–
From: Sen. Fern Shubert
Sent: Wednesday, June 18, 2003 10:27 AM
To: Gerry Cohen (Bill Drafting, Director)
Subject: FW: Cuthbertson Road Annexation

Amendment or PCS needed per conversation (see last paragraph)

Under the rules of the legislature, while bills or amendments are being drafted, they are the exclusive property of the legislator(s) requesting the proposed legislation be drafted. Other members are not allowed access without the permission of those who made the initial request to bill drafting.

When I asked for access to the Waxhaw annexation language, a request that would make no sense if I already had access (which I did not since I had no part in initiating the annexation), the original sponsors of the legislation in question were asked for permission to let me see their language. Note who was asked for permission:

—–Original Message—–
From: Gerry Cohen (Bill Drafting, Director)
Sent: Wednesday, June 18, 2003 10:32 AM
To: Sen. Robert Pittenger; Sen. Fletcher Hartsell, Jr.; Rep. Jim Gulley
Subject: HB705 amendment

Senatro Shubert has asked me to draft some language for HB705 (Matthews annexation) to conform a proposed Waxhaw annexation in a proposed committee substitute to the language in her SB452 which deals with Union County satellite annexations so that SB452 would not apply to it. Can I share a copy of the Senate PCS with her in roder to draft her amendment?

(Note: Gulley was the original sponsor of HB705, the Matthews annexation bill that Pittenger chose to amend. Jim Black had signed on to the bill as co-sponsor, whether before or after the Waxhaw annexation was discussed with him I do not know.)

And here is Robert Pittenger authorizing Bill Drafting to share the Waxhaw annexation language with me:

—–Original Message—–
From: Sen. Robert Pittenger
Sent: Wednesday, June 18, 2003 10:57 AM
To: Gerry Cohen (Bill Drafting, Director)
Subject: RE: HB705 amendment

yes, thanks for your help. rmp

Pittenger Forced Me to Endorse Pendergraph

Thursday, July 5th, 2012

It seems odd to defend The Charlotte Observer, but Robert Pittenger’s attempt to make me the fall guy in his Waxhaw annexation leaves me no choice. His comments in “Observer didn’t tell whole story about annexation and me” were a continuation of the misinformation campaign he apparently started in 2003. I don’t like being lied to and I really don’t like it when people spread lies about me. This is to set the record straight.

I could quibble with a couple of items in the July 1 story that so upset Mr. Pittenger. I was actually amused by the suggestion Pittenger supporter Tommy Tucker has no ties to Pittenger because he claims he does not invest with him, but the story was not about who financed Tucker and the lies Tucker used to get elected.

(By the way, Tucker’s company sells HVAC equipment and, no surprise, he enjoyed builder/developer support. An amazing number of former Senator Aaron Plyler’s Democratic supporters also helped pay to spread the lie that I couldn’t get a bill passed in the Senate. Tucker and Pittenger need to co-ordinate their stories better. If I couldn’t get a bill passed, how could I have put through the Waxhaw annexation?)

My only real objection was Morrill’s failure to tell his readers, few of whom have extensive knowledge of the legislature, that Pittenger’s statement that 100 per cent of local bills pass, made to excuse the fact he voted for a bill of direct benefit to himself, is easily proven to be untrue.

My favorite example of a local bill failing spectacularly is S46 in 2001, sponsored by Senator Aaron Plyler with Representative Pryor Gibson handling the bill in the House because I would not, which I personally helped go down in flames. (In a 120 member House, it got 25 votes.)

Contrary to Mr. Pittenger’s suggestion, I’m not criticizing him because I support Pendergraph. I support Pendergraph because I really don’t like how business was (and is) being done in Raleigh. Pryor Gibson’s recent attempt to use deceit to obtain funding for the Garden Parkway shines a light on a dramatic and very expensive example of crony capitalism teaming up with corrupt government officials who are bi-partisan when it comes to personal profit.

But to get to the details of the Waxhaw annexation, details Mr. Pittenger clearly would like to go away.

I wondered in 2003 why so many people seemed to blame me for an annexation that I did not initiate and could not block, but now that I’ve seen the letter sent to the press when questions were raised about Pittenger’s involvement in the Waxhaw annexation in 2003, the reason is clear. According to the June 26, 2003, letter signed by Waxhaw Mayor Jack Hemby:

“The Town of Waxhaw has been attempting to annex the area in question for over two years. After failed attempts we asked Senator Fletcher Hartsell and Senator Fern Shubert to sponsor a bill to bring this land into Waxhaw. This bill was requested by the Town of Waxhaw and not Senator Robert Pittenger.”

I have no idea who wrote the letter, but I know I was not contacted by anyone from Waxhaw concerning the annexation. No one asked me to run a bill. No such bill was even introduced. The repeated attempts to suggest a bill was introduced to permit the annexation when, so far as I know, no such bill was even requested in 2003 is part of a pattern of misleading the public. And from the sentence referencing Pittenger, the reason the letter was written is clear.

How odd that just before the letter was written, Waxhaw officials were denying any involvement in the annexation. Suddenly, after people named Pittenger as responsible, a letter from the Mayor specifically denying Pittenger’s involvement and trying to pin full responsibility on me and Hartsell appears.

And in 2003, Mike Simpson initially disclaimed any involvement in the annexation. Now Pittenger cites “An email from Councilman and Waxhaw Town Administrator Mike Simpson to senators requesting their support” but fails to mention the June 22, 2003 email was only sent to Democrats. If the Democrats all voted with Pittenger and Hartsell, as could be expected, no one could stop the annexation in the Senate.

The op-ed Pittenger just wrote continues the myth of a bill when it references a statement from Curtis Blackwood, who actually represented the affected area, and says “Without his critical support, there never would have been a bill. He would say I never discussed it with him.”

I believe Representative Blackwood when he says Pittenger never discussed it with him, both because I have found Blackwood to be honest and because Pittenger had no need to discuss a non-existent Waxhaw annexation bill with a freshman Republican in a Democrat-controlled House if the annexation already had Jim Black’s support.

If you ask Blackwood, and I did, he doesn’t remember anyone asking him to take a role in the Waxhaw annexation at issue, which makes sense as it was never even debated in the House. When H705 was debated in the House it was about a Matthews annexation. The only time the Waxhaw annexation was even presented to the House, it was a concurrence vote on the House Bill that Jim Black co-sponsored after it was amended in the Senate to include Waxhaw. Adding an unrelated issue to a bill that has already passed one house is a well known legislative trick to enhance the chance of success by avoiding the usual procedures, but it only works with the support of the legislature’s leaders.

Robert Pittenger came to me on the floor of the Senate, with Fletcher Hartsell following him, and told me Hartsell was going to amend a bill coming over from the House, H705, to help Waxhaw with a satellite annexation and he hoped I would support the amendment. At Pittenger’s request, I arranged a meeting with Steve Pace to learn about his proposed development. Pittenger led me to believe that Pace-Dowd owned the land.

At that time, for all practical purposes the NC House was run by now-disgraced former Speaker Jim Black and the Senate was run by Marc Basnight. Both were Democrats and both bodies were firmly in the control of the Democratic legislators.

Fletcher Hartsell was a very unusual Republican since he was a very close political ally of Marc Basnight and the Democratic leadership in the Senate. As I was the Senate Republican Whip, to say we had our differences is a considerable understatement, though our relationship remained civil. When Pittenger said that a bill Jim Black co-sponsored with Gulley in the House was going to be amended in the Senate by Hartsell that told me that the Democratic leadership in both houses had signed off on the annexation. I wondered at the time and still do how Hartsell was persuaded to take the point on an annexation not even in his district.

When I met with Pace, I was very relieved to learn that what was planned was not nearly as bad as I feared. The density was greater than the one-house-per-acre permitted in the county, but there were no plans for commercial or very high density. And I was told that if their plans were not approved, Pace-Dowd would probably sell the property and there was no way to predict what would happen then.

My main concern became what to do about a bill I had sponsored to try to rein in satellite annexation because I’m not a fan of satellites. The bill included a provision permitting voluntary annexation to a satellite under the same rules as voluntary annexation to any town and I was concerned that it could be combined with Pittenger’s proposed amendment to permit the commercial or apartments that appeared most objectionable to residents in the immediate area.

I agreed not to oppose Pittenger’s annexation amendment (made by Hartsell) if I could amend the bill to make it clear my bill did not apply to that particular annexation. Yes, I made a deal and felt lucky to get it since I didn’t think it likely I could have stopped the annexation had I tried. (Admittedly, given what Pace-Dowd planned, I wasn’t that enthusiastic about stopping it. I believed Steve Pace when he said that if they didn’t go forward, what went there might well be worse.)

So I readily admit, as I always have, that I agreed to accept the annexation provided it could not be used to anchor additional development that might be considerably less desirable, but I had nothing to do with initiating or carrying forward the annexation. So who did?

Robert Pittenger.

Sorry, Robert, but you picked the wrong fall guy.

Crying Wolf Once Too Often

Monday, June 25th, 2012

Most people have heard the story of the little boy who cried wolf when there was no wolf. Now might be a good time for Pryor Gibson to revisit Aesop’s Fables or the older quotes that bear witness to the same thought: when you make a habit of not telling the truth, people tend not to believe you.

Maybe Gibson made an honest mistake when he rewrote Trogdon’s letter to say the exact opposite of what the letter said and what Trogdon had said previously, but if that were the case, why rush the new letters to the legislature to be used to obtain funding Gibson knew Trogdon opposed?

Gibson had to know he changed the meaning of the letters. Maybe he thought Trogdon wouldn’t say anything if the dirty work was done and the funding passed before he got wind of the way the letter was changed, but that’s a lot different from saying Gibson believed the letters he distributed honestly conveyed Trogdon’s opinion.

According to Mark Johnson, formerly of the Charlotte Observer, there was “Nothing nefarious” about Pryor Gibson circulating a document that had been altered to say the exact opposite of what the author of the document actually wrote in order to influence legislators to appropriate funds for the benefit of special people.

If Johnson knew nothing of Gibson’s history, or if Gibson didn’t enjoy one of the most amazing records in Raleigh of using deceit as a political tool, Johnson’s attempt to defend the indefensible would merely be lame. But Mark “Nothing Nefarious” Johnson has covered Gibson for years and he knows Gibson is no newcomer to the legislative process or the use of deception to influence it.

For that matter, most of the reporters covering the story of the rewritten DOT letter know enough of Gibson’s history to know they’re omitting key facts. I know, because I took the time to send a number of them some of those facts. But since they have chosen not to share, I’ve posted a collection of my favorite Gibson gaffes at www.RaleighReport.com.

On October 2, 2002, Representative Pryor Gibson addressed the North Carolina House of Representatives and just flat lied. It was not an accidental misstatement. It was a classic example of using deception when the truth would have served him better. And the overwhelming majority of the Representatives present clearly demonstrated their displeasure.

The bill Gibson hoped to pass by deception, S46, the Monroe Prepared Meals Tax, was rejected overwhelmingly. There are 120 Representatives in the NC House and only 25 voted for the bill after it was revealed that Gibson had attempted to deceive the body.
In 2002 Representative Gibson did not represent Monroe; I did. But Gibson had friends who wanted to impose a tax on Monroe restaurant patrons and they insisted and Gibson insisted that the public supported the tax. I opposed the tax, so I had an amendment prepared that would require a referendum just in case Gibson tried to push through a bill to impose the tax without a referendum. I kept that amendment handy and made sure Gibson knew what I planned.

But when the bill came to the floor, Gibson was recognized first and proposed his own amendment that he claimed would require a referendum. It passed easily. When I was recognized, probably because it was expected I would support the bill with the referendum, I pointed out the fact that his “weasel-worded amendment” didn’t require a referendum and that he had just attempted to deceive the entire NC House in order to avoid a referendum.

I noted that I could try to further amend the bill to require a referendum, since I already had the needed amendment drafted, but that I was so disgusted by his dishonesty that I didn’t plan to do so and I hoped everyone else would feel the same way.

Sadly, 25 Representatives were willing to reward Gibson for lying (Allen; Baddour; Bell; Boyd-McIntyre; Cox; Crawford, J.; Culpepper; Cunningham; Dedmon; Fox; Gibson; Hackney; Haire; Hall; Holliman; Hurley; Lucas; Miller; Oldham; Owens; Redwine; Tolson; Willingham; Womble; Buchanan). Happily, the majority, members of both parties, were not.

A bill calling for a referendum on imposing the tax later passed, but the Monroe Prepared Meals Tax was a gift that kept on giving.

On May 17, 2006, Representative Pryor Gibson once again flat lied, this time to the House Principal Clerk. Gibson signed a false certification that his bill, H2726, which postponed the Meals Tax referendum and let Wingate and Marshville impose ETJ without discussing it with the County Commissioners or even residents of the affected area, was non-controversial and had the approval of the members of the legislature representing the affected areas.

Gibson knew the bill was controversial and he had not even bothered to ask for approval because he knew he wouldn’t get it. An ethics complaint was filed, but the Ethics Committee sidestepped the issue by issuing a ruling that lying in the future was unethical. Who knew that lying was ethical unless specifically prohibited?

And this time Gibson got away with breaking the rules because the press and the ethics committee and the House leadership let him off the hook for an absolutely flagrant written lie. Ironically, the requirement for a written statement was imposed because someone – guess who – lied to get an ineligible bill heard in a previous session.

(Amusingly enough, when the citizens of Monroe finally got to vote on the meals tax, they rejected it.)

On April 21, 2010, Gibson lied to the Committee on Water Resources and Infrastructure to advance a bill, H802, deceptively designed to drastically change the interbasin transfer rules to reduce public notice requirements.

In order to explain this one, I’m going to have to admit that Representative Gibson was of tremendous assistance to me when he served in the legislature. I couldn’t possibly review all of the bills filed, but Gibson was my spotter. When he was interested in a bill, I became interested, because there was usually more to it than was immediately apparent.

In the case of H802, it seemed a simple study committee bill to define river basins. But Gibson was the sponsor so I read it and re-read it until I understood the trick. The new definition meant that most of the rivers in the state, all of the rivers that were tributaries of larger rivers, were no longer defined as rivers and transfers between any of the rivers in a major river basin were no longer covered by the IBT rules that required public disclosure and input on transfers between them.

Rather than being a boring, minor housekeeping bill, H802 was actually a big money bill. While it had huge possibilities statewide, a simple example should make the point.

At that time, Concord was engaged in a major fight over water withdrawal rights from the Catawba River and they were losing. Quite logically, they looked to the other side of the County to the Yadkin/PeeDee River and saw a huge resource with few competing interests to fight them for the water and an easy way to return water withdrawn from the PeeDee by flushing it down the low-flow Rocky River. But the Rocky River is also the northern boundary of Union County and Anson County and a lot of people who own land along the river could be expected to fight such a transfer tooth and nail if they knew about it before it was a done deal. The old IBT rules would require disclosure and hearings. H802 would eliminate that requirement.

Unfortunately for Gibson, his bill had a companion bill in the Senate, S833, and he had neglected to inform the Primary Sponsor of that bill of what the bill actually did. Gibson’s bill made it out of the House Committee with a favorable report April 21, but on April 22 the Senate version passed and was sent to the House making it the bill that should go forward since it passed first. But on April 27 the bill was recalled by the Senate and held. In other words, it was killed. And Gibson deserves full credit, because had he not sponsored H802, I never would have caught the trick.

Gibson’s habit of claiming to live in other counties when he and his family actually live in Wake County is sort of old news. The Carolina Journal covered his claim that he resided in a house in Montgomery County that lacked utilities years ago. But for the last few years of his legislative career, Gibson claimed his residence was in Anson County. (Since his wife works for Attorney General Roy Cooper, I guess he can claim to live anywhere he likes, but his family lives in Wake and I sort of think he lives with them.)

His new interest in Anson was very flattering to me, because it coincided with his attempt to help former Speaker (and now convicted felon) Jim Black engineer an un-Constitutional NC House District that sure looked like it was designed just to get rid of little ol’ me.

There are those, obviously ignorant, who think I resent Gibson’s effort to replace me in the House. Actually, I thoroughly enjoyed watching the show and even egging it along. When Gibson brought in new maps to a Monday evening House session, I even helped him out. I went over and asked whether Black was mad at him since it looked like the map included former Representative Max Melton’s home in the new district. I suspect I was the only one there enjoying the spectacle of him and Black having it out at the front of the Chamber who knew what the fight was about.

Of course, while Gibson was planning to get rid of me, I was planning to remove Senator Aaron Plyler, and I did just that. Gibson didn’t get rid of me; he helped me move up to the Senate where I became Senate Republican Whip.

Gibson is a brilliant man who can be charming when he chooses, but he has too often chosen to align himself with those who do not have the interest of the public at heart and to use deception to advance his various causes. Aside from his enthusiasm for raising taxes, I can’t understand why many Democrats support Gibson since so many of his legislative initiatives look like the kind of insider big money deals that Democrats usually try to attribute to Republicans.

To make that point, last but certainly not least, let me mention H1203, a bill Gibson introduced in 2003, supposedly as an anti-Walmart bill, that was actually designed to raise gasoline prices by prohibiting service stations from limiting quantities so that if anyone tried to compete on price, the high price stations could simply send a truck and drain’em dry. And since former Speaker Harold Brubaker, a Republican, signed on as a co-sponsor, the bill sailed through the House with bipartisan support even though it was shockingly anti-consumer.

You don’t have to take my word that the bill was anti-consumer. The North Carolina Retail Merchants Association opposed it as anti-consumer, as did the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FTC said “We believe there is a significant risk that the bill could harm consumers. Gasoline is significant consumer expenditure; assuming no change in demand, even a 1 cent increase in the retail price of gasoline would cost North Carolina consumers approximately $42.5 million annually.”

Once again, Gibson’s well-laid plans hit a run of bad luck. The bill was assigned to Hartsell’s committee in the Senate, where Gibson probably expected easy sailing given Hartsell’s strong ties to the Senate’s Democratic leaders, but both Hugh Webster and I were on that committee and what emerged from committee looked so unlike what went in that the bill never made it through the Senate.

Why did you never hear of a bill that should have made front page news? Because, just as in the recent flap, the press decides what they want you to know. “Nothing nefarious” Johnson and his associates have been protecting Gibson from himself for a long long time.

Will they manage to save him this time? Or are they getting tired of taking the heat for him?

Who Got to Dority?

Thursday, May 17th, 2012

If the leaders of the Republican Party took the same approach to the AG race that they took in the race for State Auditor, I understand why Roy Cooper is unopposed. The first official reaction to my filing to run for State Auditor was a phone call from a Republican party officer, acting on a request from “someone farther up the political food chain,” asking me to drop out of that race.

Why would anyone in the leadership of the NC Republican Party want the Auditor candidate with the best chance to win in the fall to drop out? I’m sure those responsible, if asked, will claim they acted for the good of the Party, but after the Party’s failure to field an opponent for Roy Cooper, that just doesn’t wash. Had I dropped out, that would have left three people in the race, two non-CPAs and a CPA who had help hiding his ties to Larry Leake and Roy Cooper. (And that’s another much bigger story.)

There was, of course, a carrot. I could run for Treasurer and they would get the only announced candidate in that race to drop out, since he didn’t really want to run, and I would have a “free ride” through the primary and the help of the Party in November. That conversation is why I had no trouble believing Greg Dority’s claim that he was running for Auditor because he was asked to drop out of the race for Secretary of State and encouraged to run for Auditor. Unlike Dority, I didn’t take the bait.

Perhaps I should not have endorsed anyone in the expected runoff for State Auditor, but there were only three possibilities for Auditor for the next four years when Greg Dority asked for my endorsement. I certainly didn’t intend to endorse the incumbent Democrat. Goldman (and some of her supporters) had convinced me she did not need to be auditor. Dority had at least done a little auditing and obviously had strong support from those who knew him best, the people in his area, plus he sounded sincere when he talked about his desire to clean up state government.

When Dority asked for my endorsement, he was enthusiastic about running against Goldman. When I spoke to him last night, he said he was leaning against it because he wasn’t confident he could win. I told him that if he didn’t file for a runoff, there was a 100% chance Goldman or Woods would be our next auditor and asked who got to him since he had previously been so opposed to either possibility.

He denied any pressure or promises and said unnamed consultants advised he should not run if he didn’t have X dollars, but he would not give their names or state an amount. He said he had been trying to raise money and was going to keep trying to raise the money needed to win right up to the deadline for filing a runoff request, but he was not believable. He never asked for money or asked me to help him raise money. Given the complete change in attitude since his original request for an endorsement, something had obviously happened. Influential people had obviously found a way to influence him.

After reading the interview he gave the Washington Daily News yesterday afternoon, I have no doubt something happened since I now know for a fact he was lying to me last night. I told him last night, if he wasn’t serious about running for auditor, he should never have gotten in the race in the first place and if he refuses to file for a runoff, he needs to get out of politics and stay out.

And why do I so strongly believe someone got to Greg Dority, despite his song and dance about raising money and helping the Party? Because what he says now is completely at odds with what he said prior to my endorsement, and because the very day I filed to run for Auditor, I was asked to drop out of the Auditor race. Since Dority did his about face when Goldman and Woods were the only other options, I have to think those who wanted me out of the race wanted one of them to be the next Auditor and I sure do wonder why.

But make no mistake, taking orders from on high and ignoring those who supported him actually enhances Dority’s electability as Arthur Williams so amazingly demonstrates. Unless Dority has a belated attack of conscience or is driven from the party by those who don’t tolerate dishonesty (or those happy to encourage it if they can hide their hand), he will remain and continue to work with those who can apparently tell him when to run and when not to run. I made the mistake of trusting him. I’m writing this not just to explain my error, but to warn others.

Once upon a time, supporting Republicans in NC was akin to supporting honesty. The Democrats had a monopoly on power at the state level, so there wasn’t enough money in Republican politics to make corruption profitable. Now, people need to forget Democrat and Republican and look for the Greenback Party label. It is usually hidden, but you can spot it if you watch for personal dishonesty and a willingness to hide facts for the benefit of the Powers that Be.