(7.20.04) Interests Clash Over Calendar
RALEIGH — While North Carolina’s coastal tourism industry celebrates legislation that extends the summer vacation season by preventing public schools from opening before Aug. 25, school boards and advocates around the state are angry at what they view as a quest for cash at the expense of students. “It’s steamrolling right over logic,” said Roger Aiken, chairman of the Buncombe County Board of Education. “We shouldn’t be letting tourism run schools.” Mayor Sherry Rollason of Kill Devil Hills thinks her town will see more tourists because of the calendar change. In the summer, the Dare County town’s population surges from 6,500 to 40,000 or 50,000 per week.
(7.07.04) Regulations Push Up Rent, Waste
RALEIGH — Clarke Martin is keeping his fingers crossed that the Apartment Association of North Carolina can convince the General Assembly that consumers and environmentalists will both benefit from proposed legislation to change the rules covering how apartment owners monitor and bill their tenants for water, and to cut industry regulation by the NC Utilities Commission. Martin, executive director of the Triad Apartment Association, believes the reforms will pay off in less water consumption, government intrusion, and business costs, which over time, will lead to lower rent. Last year, the AANC secured a change in EPA policy that removed onerous federal rules from the owners.
(7.01.04) No. 761: State Gives Itself License to Overkill
It's no laughing matter, government carries licensing and regulation of occupations to the extreme.
(6.17.04) Canadian Health Care in Crisis
RALEIGH — Brian Lee Crowley is the founding president of the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies, Atlantic Canada’s public policy think tank. He has written extensively on the centrally planned, government monopoly model of health care in Canada. Carolina Journal interviewed Crowley during his recent visit to Raleigh. He said because of rapid medical inflation in the country, roughly half of the budgets of Canadian provinces are now spent on the country’s single-payer health care system, and that poorer Canadians are actually more likely that wealthier ones to see the current system as broken and a market-based option as attractive.
(6.07.04) 911 Capability Differs by County
RALEIGH — Cellular-phone customers may think their service includes access to anything and anyone they need 24 hours a day, but the value of the technological wonder will depend on which county customers are in when they make the call to 911 for help. The uneven capability to detect a cell caller’s location exists despite the fact that the state’s wireless users have paid more than $125 million in monthly cell-phone surcharges since 1997 to upgrade systems that serve the growing cell-phone market. One issue: Gov. Mike Easley and the General Assembly have used nearly $41 million of the earmarked funds to help balance the state budget, and may take $25 million more in 2005.
(5.05.04) Regulatory Delays Impose Cost
RALEIGH — The biggest backup most are likely to encounter in a bathroom is easily remedied with a 99-cent plunger or a bottle of drain cleaner. But imagine being a builder whose new subdivision, school, or store can’t open on time because paperwork is clogged up in the state’s wastewater permit approval process in Raleigh. Critics say the Department of Environment, Health, and Natural Resources has a “culture problem” and is not “service-oriented.” After initially agreeing to address the permit delay complaints and confirm for Carolina Journal the number of engineers who provide service to counties, a spokeswoman for the agency did not provide the information and failed to respond to a second request.
(3.31.04) Downtowns Pin Hopes on Program
RALEIGH — Since 1980, more than 50 N.C. cities and towns have embraced the Main Street project, created in response to what many viewed as failed federal urban renewal programs of the 1960s and ‘70s. It was also supposed to resist the growing suburban lifestyle considered devastating downtowns across the country. Like many government programs, Main Street comes at a price, this time in the form of a potential new tax on businesses in participating cities. About two thirds of the cities have opted for a special Municipal Service District that levies property taxes within the designated downtown area, and then funds renovation and promotional activities.
(3.02.04) Gaston-Meck. Road May Have Tolls
RALEIGH — A proposed turnpike connecting Gaston and Mecklenburg counties over the Catawba River will likely be the first toll road project to be planned, built, and operated by the North Carolina Turnpike Authority, according to two sources familiar with plans for the so-called Garden Parkway. Despite the fact that the Garden Parkway is common knowledge and is referred to as “a candidate toll project” in the minutes of the Dec. 5, 2003 NCTA board meeting in Gastonia, officials in the N.C. Department of Transportation’s Public Information Office would not acknowledge the project’s likelihood or provide details about it or any other toll projects being considered.
(2.16.04) Growing Threat to Property Rights
RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK — Kay McClanahan wishes she could scan the horizon around her South Carolina farm and blissfully enjoy the green pastures and beautiful horses. But under the guise of preserving open space, local “smart growth” activists and politicians have used rural down-zoning to deny infrastructure to the area outside a new urban growth boundary. It also imposes large-lot zoning, buffer zones, and other restrictive rules. McClanahan and others who live in the area fear their land will be rendered worthless to buyers or legally manipulated away from them altogether.
(2.09.04) Track Blocked to NC Rail Transit
RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK — Rail transit systems proposed for NC metropolitan areas are destined to fail because they conflict with demographic trends, high auto usage, and complex driving patterns, experts said at a recent Center for Local Innovation conference. In Charlotte, the cost of the proposal to build less than 10 miles of rail is estimated at $371 million. Yet proponents concede it will reduce auto traffic by just one-tenth of 1 percent, concentrate traffic around rail stations, and create new congestion. In the Triangle, estimates on the reduction of congestion are slightly better but still minuscule — perhaps 1 percent.