scharrison's blog

Public investment, private profit? Broadband bill has serious flaws

The need is great, but the need to do it right may be even greater:

(a) A county shall have the authority to construct facilities or equipment of a broadband service as defined by G.S.62-3 for the purpose of leasing such facilities or equipment, in accordance with G.S.160A-272, to one or more lessees who are not a governmental unit as defined in G.S.160A-274.16. (b) A board of county commissioners may utilize ad valorem tax levies authorized under 17G.S.153A-149(c), grants, or any other unrestricted funds in exercising authority granted under this section.

Bolding mine, because caveats kind of piss me off. A few years ago, Republicans in the General Assembly basically outlawed municipalities from constructing and operating broadband networks, ostensibly because they represented "unfair competition" to private companies. Said companies lobbied the hell out of Legislators to make that happen, but since then have done little (or nothing) to bring broadband into areas that desperately need it. The above bill, as you can see, pulls the cost of construction out of the hands (wallets) of taxpayers, and gives whatever profits are made to private sector entities. What happens when said company starts raising rates above what people are willing (or able) to pay? I see no mechanism for the municipality in question to regulate that. There is also no mechanism for the municipality to take over operation in case of mismanagement, or if said private company decides to pull out of the lease agreement. In the absence of those mechanisms, this bill is terminally flawed.

UNC's interim President in hot water over conflicts of interest

You can't serve five masters:

William Roper, the current interim president of the University of North Carolina system and former longtime CEO of the UNC Health Care System, failed to disclose his seats on the boards of major corporations between 2011 and 2019, at the same time as those corporations did business with the state, records show.

None of his corporate board service was disclosed on state ethics forms until last week, when Roper filed amended forms in response to an inquiry from WBTV for this story.

James and I discussed some of these issues on our radio program nine years ago, and finding these potentially unethical connections (or overlaps) is not always easy. Google searches often drill down into corporate press releases, but the names of board members rarely show up in those broad searches. By the same token, when searching an individual, you may not see their corporate affiliation until you get to page 7 of the search. And you can forget LinkedIn, because that is almost exclusively information provided by the member, and if he/she doesn't want a connection to be made, well. Anyway, back to this story, and the dueling salaries involved:

Tuesday Twitter roundup

If not now, when?

They shouldn't have to do this, but Republican leaders have neither the desire nor the courage to protect our citizens.

Federal debt projected to reach 28 Trillion by 2029

I've never been much of a deficit hawk, but this is crazy:

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the federal government — aka U.S. taxpayers — will spend $455 billion on interest next year. By 2029, that figure is projected to rise to $921 billion.

Beginning next year, he said, the federal government will spend more on interest than it will on programs affecting children. By 2025, he said, taxpayers will pay more on interest than they do on national defense. “Our budget will be spending more on our past than we do on our future,” Peterson said. “That’s a stark reminder of what we’re leaving our children here.”

Reaganomics was bad enough, when excessive tax cuts for the wealthy ended up with Social Security recipients paying fricking tax on their own retirement money. But Trumpism has broke the mold, and we will look back on the $1.5 Trillion tax giveaway as the epitome of ignorance by the time 2030 hits. And before you say, "they always do it," take a look at the late 1990's:

Dale Folwell is not a "friend" of state employees

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Friends don't try to get your children booted off your health insurance:

Since he took office in 2017, Folwell has repeatedly advanced or acquiesced to policies that would ultimately reduce the number of people on the SHP rolls. In May of 2017, for example, state employees received an email and letter sent via “junk mail” rate postage instructing them to resubmit a copy of the first page of their tax returns, or children’s birth certificates in order to prove they are not fraudulently covering spouses or dependents under the SHP.

After receiving the letter, I for one thought that it was a scam since it had all the telltale signs, and I had already recently submitted my tax return to prove that my children are my children, and are eligible to be covered on my plan. Folwell’s letter said I had to submit copies of their birth certificates by July 31 through an online portal, or my children would be removed from my health insurance plan on August 1. Six hundred people were removed from the SHP for the rest of 2017. Of that number, how many were actually fraudulent?

In a sane world, the employees' union would have pushed back on that, and made sure that nobody (or their children) fell through the cracks. But "sane" and "SEANC" probably shouldn't be used in the same sentence. Tweets I saw back then were completely supportive of Folwell's "fraud" claims, and SEANC's website itself published Folwell's entire statement with no comments or rebuttal:

NC's tobacco farmers get the shaft in Trump's trade war

When your market is destroyed and nobody wants to help you:

The USDA lists more than two dozen crops that are eligible for the payments, but tobacco is not included among them due to federal rules that preclude the crop from receiving federal funds to promote its sale or export. “Tobacco did not receive one penny of that money,” said Larry Wooten, president of the North Carolina Farm Bureau. “And I’ve got news for you, the new money that’s coming out, tobacco is not going to share in that either.”

Wooten said that North Carolina farmers exported $162 million worth of tobacco products to China in 2017. In 2018, that figure was $4 million. He said the state’s farmers this year have planted the smallest crop of tobacco since before World War II.

I hesitated to write about this because I realize that probably 95% of the people reading don't care, and a good portion of you would love to see NC stop growing tobacco entirely. I get that. But that unbelievable drop in exports listed above is a stark reminder of just how dangerous this President is to our economy. And like it or not, tobacco was one of the main drivers of NC's economic growth for centuries. Follow below the fold for a mostly pointless and boring personal anecdote:

Tuesday News: Trust but verify

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NC BOARD OF ELECTIONS IS LEANING TOWARDS "READABLE PAPER BALLOTS": Anderson, Black and Carmon want to add new language to the state’s rules specifying that any voting machines used in North Carolina “shall produce human-readable marks on a paper ballot.” That’s in response to concerns raised by members of the public, including at a Sunday night meeting, that some of the machines in question would only produce a barcode printout — which most people wouldn’t be able to read to make sure that the touchscreen machine had correctly recorded their vote. Lynn Bernstein, a Wake County resident who has advocated for paper ballots, said after the meeting that she agrees with the vote to delay the decision. “It allows North Carolina to have the most secure elections in the United States,” she said. But Cordle, the board chairman, told the board he is worried about what the delay means for local officials scrambling to make arrangements for 2020. “I think the counties are going to be running into a real problem,” he said.
https://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/article233278201.html

Tuesday Twitter roundup

This is what you do with bad legislation:

If they want to expand, they need to start by fixing their problems. But frankly, this "pilot" is about to crash that plane...

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