RALEIGH — Gov. Mike Easley announced at a Currituck County groundbreaking ceremony Friday that an automobile auction will expand its Virginia-based auto wholesale operation into North Carolina. The governor’s comments at the event and in a press release are inconsistent with other information uncovered by Carolina Journal. The discrepancies include the reason the company chose North Carolina, the influence of financial incentives, and the number of jobs for North Carolinians. The company pursued the North Carolina site only after a 2001 extortion scheme to secure a site in Suffolk, Va. had failed.
RALEIGH — The N.C. Supreme Court ruled June 25 that landlords can he held liable under certain circumstances for bites inflicted by tenants’ dogs. The ruling represents a significant change in case law. Traditionally, it has required that a bite victim must prove that a dog was vicious and that the owner knew of the dog’s dangerous nature before the victim could recover medical costs from the owner. Recovering costs often proved difficult or impossible if the dog owner had a limited income or assets. The new ruling creates an alternative means for bite victims to attempt to recover damages, allowing them to sue landlords, who likely have a greater ability to pay, under a theory of negligence.
CHAPEL HILL— Proposed legislation affecting the UNC system captured headlines throughout the 2004 session. Most centered on two different bond packages. There were other bills, however, concerning higher education that either passed or were dropped in anticipation for greater discussion next year. While both the House and Senate versions of the fiscal 2005 budget included significant increases in funding, the budget bills also include authorization to replace chancellor's residences at two campuses, a new William Friday Institute for Higher Education, and a study of a tuition-grant program. A cap on out-of-state enrollment didn’t move this year.
CHARLOTTE — Since 2001, 16 firms have bought transit assets from cities through leasing deals that allow buyers to save millions on taxes as the assets depreciate, even though they don’t operate the equipment. Washington lawmakers say that this practice is an abuse of tax law. The companies blame the nation’s convoluted tax system for creating incentives to shelter profits. Says a Bank of America spokeswoman, the company “followed the letter of the law, and if the government changes the law, we will act accordingly.” Further, defenders of the shelters say the Department of Transportation actually encouraged transit authorities to pursue the contracts as a creative way to secure capital.
RALEIGH — An administrator for a taxpayer-supported association characterized Rep. John Rhodes, who has asked State Auditor Ralph Campbell to investigate a state-funded economic development agency, as a “true nutcase” whose only allies “are the very religious right folks.” Meredith Norris, a former aide to House Speaker Jim Black, now is a registered lobbyist for the NC Partnership for Economic Development, an association for the state’s seven regional economic development partnerships. Norris made her “nutcase” comment in an e-mail exchange with an official and a consultant with North Carolina’s Northeast Partnership. She later expressed regret about the statement.
RALEIGH — In a potentially significant decision, the North Carolina Court of Appeals has held that the addition of the phrase “without limitation” to a list of specific reasons why a town can reject a land-use decision does not grant the locality new authority. The town may reject only an application for a reason that is specifically listed in its zoning ordinances, it found. The case involves a Knightdale couple who wanted to put a modular house on a piece of property zoned “residential/agricultural.” After hearing public comment, the town council rejected the proposal, citing fears about the impact a modular home would have upon the value of neighboring properties.
RALEIGH — It was a feat that pirate Captain Jack Swallow of the Black Pearl (Pirates of the Caribbean) would have envied. A horde of about 9,000 people slipped into town and took over every bed in the city’s largest hotel, its convention center, and nearly every eating establishment and parking space in the city. They did all this without raising a single alarm in the local press. Too bad, because the media missed some significant stories. A number of politicians worked the crowd, for example, including gubernatorial candidates Dan Barrett, Bill Cobey, and Patrick Ballantine; Brooke Burr, wife of U.S. Senate candidate Richard Burr; and Jeanne Smoot, running for state school superintendent.
RALEIGH — Author Douglas Morris and other “smart growth” advocates say that suburban sprawl contributes to increased violent-crime rates. But a comparison of crime rates among cities characterized as smart growth and “sprawlers” shows a different story. And a study of Raleigh showed that street robberies were less likely in neighborhoods having sprawl-associated features such as cul-de-sacs, high rates of home ownership, and single- family homes. In other research notes, former NYPD officers are using innovative techniques to fight crime across the country, public housing authorities are requiring public service, and activists are exaggerating the extent of hunger in the U.S.
CHAPEL HILL — About 30 people attended a forum May 8 to discuss bias against conservatives on college campuses. Speakers cited personal examples of bias from North Carolina, Virginia, and New York. The forum was held at the headquarters for Robert “Whit” Whitfield’s campaign for the 4th District U.S. House seat. Forum sessions included “Persecution of Professors” and “Intellectual/Ideological Abuse and Bias.” “To me intellectual diversity is a no-brainer,” said one Connecticut history professor at the event. “Universities that do not practice intellectual diversity are guilty of nothing less than malpractice.”
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.
CHAPEL HILL — With the war on terrorism ongoing in Iraq and Afghanistan, graduates at some area colleges heard firsthand from two individuals who have been involved in policy decisions regarding Iraq and the Middle East. Secretary of State Colin Powell and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright highlighted a list of graduation speakers this May at colleges across North Carolina. Powell at Wake Forest. Albright spoke at Duke. Others who spoke during graduation ceremonies included Sen. Elizabeth Dole and Elizabeth Edwards, the wife of former Democratic Presidential candidate Sen. John Edwards.
CHARLOTTE — An arts group has proposed a $190 million vision for Charlotte’s cultural future. If, how, and to what degree the proposal will be accepted and built remains to be seen. Under the proposal by the Arts & Science Council, the city would spend $88 million over five years. Mecklenburg County would contribute $14 million. The remaining $88 million would be raised privately. Some local officials are asking tough questions. In other local-government news, the entire Northeastern county of Currituck may incorporate as a municipality, while Duke University and Durham officials are debating the use of impact fees.
RALEIGH — When NC legislators decided to drop the planned high school graduation exit exam for 11th graders, they weren’t necessarily saying that there should be no final requirement for graduation. With the four-year graduation rate at just 60 percent, they also weren’t willing to see it go lower on the basis of one test. But new research suggests that tougher exams don’t cause fewer students to graduate. Some say that tougher tests may inspire high school students to do better, though there is little evidence yet for this effect, either. Even if it doesn’t occur, the “meaningfulness” of a diploma should increase with harder exit exams.
CHARLOTTE — When the Federal Transit Administration released its proposed fiscal 2005 budget in February, there were plenty of disappointed transit supporters in both the Triangle and Charlotte. Rather than committing to pick up half the tab for new rail transit systems in the two communities, the FTA’s upcoming budget recommended providing only limited funding for the systems. Though the two authorities may well get the funding they sought in the future, the coming year’s limited authorization makes it likely that the completion date for the routes will slip. The Charlotte route was to open in 2006, the Triangle line a year later.
RALEIGH — Onerous urban planning is driving former Portland, Ore. residents across the Columbia River into Vancouver, Wa., according to a community development director who warns that the story of those two states and two cities should serve as a caution to other urban centers. Richard Carson, director of community development in Clark County, Wa., said Oregon’s mandated state land use planning from the 1970s has turned “the Mecca of American urban planning” into what he says the media now calls “Little Beirut.”
CHAPEL HILL— In a few short months, thousands of college football players will put on their helmets and pads and begin final preparations for the season. College sports are a central aspect of life at many colleges and universities. Administrators hope for strong athletic success in marquee sports to reach out to prospective students. Still, those who participate in college sports are supposed be students first, athletes second. That issue has been placed under the microscope recently by the NCAA in its attempt to increase graduation rates. A 2003 report indicates that 62 percent of student-athletes graduated within six years of entering school.
RALEIGH — When Harris Microwave Communications Division President Guy Campbell announced Thursday that his company will relocate its headquarters from Northern California to Durham, he said North Carolina’s offer of incentives won out over Florida and Texas in a “competitive” process. But while North Carolina offered a package of up to $4 million in withholding-tax rebates to Harris, it turns out that Florida and Texas decided to forfeit instead of play the incentives game. North Carolina’s Economic Investment Committee awarded the grant June 3. Long before then, however, Harris Microwave had identified its location in Durham as its corporate headquarters.
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.
RALEIGH — Harris Microwave Communications Division, the latest beneficiary of tax rebates through North Carolina’s Job Development Investment Program, was granted up to $4 million in incentives Thursday for relocating its headquarters from Redwood Shores, Calif. But at the time the state Economic Investment Committee awarded the grant yesterday morning, the communications-equipment company had long prior already identified its location in Durham as its corporate headquarters, both verbally and on the web. Under the statute that created the program, incentives may only be granted to businesses that otherwise would not relocate to the state.
RALEIGH — A paradigm shift from test-based education to a more liberal, free-flowing learning environment is underway in some North Carolina schools. The quiet revolution, known as “choice in the classroom,” is meant to bolster students’ self-esteem, personal motivation, and happiness. These permissive class environments allow each child to choose and design his own learning tasks, choose how to complete his assignments, correct his own work, and determine the grading criteria. But similar programs have failed when they forced the teaching pendulum to swing too far from the ultra-academic “teaching to the test” mode to “there are no wrong answers” environment.
RALEIGH — Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney ended his distinguished career with the U.S. Air Force as assistant vice chief of staff after combat in Vietnam and long service overseas in various capacities. He now regularly appears on “Fox News Channel” as the cable network’s senior military analyst. He recently spoke at the Headliner Luncheon Series in Raleigh, hosted by the John Locke Foundation. While in North Carolina he sat down for an interview with John Hood, publisher of Carolina Journal and host of “Carolina Journal Radio.” The following are exceprts of the interview.
CHARLOTTE — Last year, Gov. Mike Easley unveiled a new road-building initiative called N.C. Moving Ahead! By tapping into approved but never issued bonds, the N.C. Department of Transportation could spend an additional $700 million on transportation projects across the state. However, a lack of competition in the paving business plus a failure to make fundamental reforms to address ongoing maintenance needs and regional disparities in road conditions mean that the condition of North Carolina roads won’t be moving that far ahead. Some of the money will also be used for mass transit rather than highways.