scharrison's blog

I-77 toll opponents get another day in court

Trying to stop a privatized monster:

The North Carolina Court of Appeals is considering the effort of a group opposed to the toll lanes which prefers that additional regular traffic lanes be built. A judge in Charlotte last year rejected the challenge by the group Widen I-77. Wednesday's arguments came in the group's appeal of the rejection.

Widen I-77 attorney Matt Arnold says the group thinks North Carolina lawmakers were wrong to allow a private company to build the toll lanes. Arnold also says the company should not have sole authority to set the rates if the lanes are allowed.

Both the process leading to the contract and the company chosen to fulfill it have been a model of how *not* to do the public's business, and I encourage Roy Cooper and his administration to take a long, hard look at this thing before dismissing concerns raised. I do have a personal stake in this, as my daughter lives right along the I-77 Corridor, and is forced to use it going to and from work most days. I say "forced" because many of the communities in the Lake Norman area don't have a well-connected road system to use as an option to the Interstate, and the stunning growth in this area has turned traffic into a huge problem. Which may be one (big) reason the toll company Cintra signed the contract in the first place, because they knew locals would be forced to pay, and not leave the company counting pennies and filing bankruptcy:

Two more HB2 Repeal bills filed in General Assembly

Including a state-wide non-discrimination policy similar to Charlotte's:

Democrats filed the bill in both the House and Senate Thursday. In addition to a “clean repeal” of HB2, the bill will include a broad statewide nondiscrimination law that would include sexual orientation, gender identity, military veteran status and other categories, according to Rep. Pricey Harrison of Greensboro.

“It’s long overdue,” Harrison said. “We will do our hardest to enact this legislation.” The nondiscrimination provision would ban discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations – including bathroom access for transgender people.

I'm probably going to get tarred and feathered (and maybe rode out of town on a rail) for the following commentary, but I choked back these words last week, and now I'm thinking that was a mistake. There has not been a "clean" HB2 repeal bill filed by either party, and regardless of how much you value the additional language or policy initiatives inserted in said bills, they are simply not viable. As in, they will never escape from a Committee to earn a vote on the floor, much less pass that vote. Even Jeff Jackson's bill, which is virtually identical to the one filed back in December, has additional (and in my mind unnecessary) language that killed it upon birth:

Blatant sexism in Tim Moore's staff salary levels

Welcome back to the 1960's:

A list obtained by North State Journal indicates that Moore's Chief of Staff Bart Goodson, is the highest paid in the office at just more than $172,000 in annual salary, followed by senior adviser Mitch Gillespie at $104,545. In total for 2017, the 14 staff members supporting the N.C. Speaker of the House earn $1,046,135. In 2016, the 13 member staff made $1,108,154.

On the staff list for 2017, is a key promotion; Leah Burns is now deputy chief of staff, earning $69,000. In 2016, Burns served as a policy adviser to the speaker.

In typical Republican fashion, Moore is trying to show off how he's "reduced spending" and "tightened his belt," or whatever is the conservative Pavlovian bell phrase of the day. But it doesn't take Hercule Poirot to figure out where he saved most of that $62,000, by seriously stiffing one of his female employees. I tried to find Bart Goodson's salary (who held the deputy chief of staff position last year) before this promotion, but I had to go back to 2015 to get pertinent numbers:

Voters fight back: Guilford GOP accuser sued for defamation

This isn't Salem in the 17th Century, and false accusations have consequences:

William Clark Porter IV, who is named as the defendant in the lawsuit, could not be reached for comment. Porter is committee chairman of the Guilford County Republican Party. He accused nine voters of casting ballots in another state, eight of voting with felony convictions and said one deceased person voted.

Karen Niehans, 74, and her husband Sam Niehans, plaintiffs in the lawsuit, were both accused of voting in two states. They moved to Jamestown in 2016 to be closer to family and both of the claims against them were found to be without merit. “This was personal,” Karen Niehans said. “My democratic right to vote was challenged. It’s as if someone was saying that I was less than others, that my voice shouldn’t count. That’s just plain wrong to do to someone and I am not going to take it. I want to make sure that this doesn’t happen to anyone else.”

I hope this dude gets raked over the legal coals, and I also hope there is some evidence uncovered of monetary compensation from state GOP officials for leveling these false allegations. So tired of their unethical behavior, and having to watch them get away with it, over and over again.

Digging deeper into wind farm opposition

Lisa Sorg skewers John Droz for his disingenuous deceptions:

However, the tone of the letter — histrionic and at times, sycophantic —and even the punctuation are similar to that in Droz’s blogs and articles. Reached by email, Droz did not answer a direct question about any involvement in drafting the letter. Instead, he wrote: “I have no problem with communicating with journalists who are making an honest effort to objectively describe a situation. However, years ago I made it clear to you that I was never a real estate developer — yet you continue to include that falsehood in your correspondences.”

(Droz’s online “real-estate focused resume” says he owns and has renovated numerous properties in New York State. He also claims to have co-founded one of the largest real estate companies in central New York. He also writes that in the 1980s he taught a widely acclaimed course on “How to Succeed in Real Estate Investing.”

Yeah, not sure how much of that resume is fact vs fiction. It does say he's a member of Mensa, which is difficult to swallow, after engaging in a few online debates with him. Pretty sure there's less there than meets the eye, if you catch my drift. But back to the notorious letter and its dubious claims:

Republicans hate eminent domain, except when they love it

The Atlantic Coast Pipeline has more rights than citizens:

(1) Corporations, bodies politic or persons have the power of eminent domain for the construction of railroads, power generating facilities, substations, switching stations, microwave towers, roads, alleys, access railroads, turnpikes, street railroads, plank roads, tramroads, canals, telegraphs, telephones,communication facilities, electric power lines, electric lights, public water supplies, public sewerage systems, flumes, bridges, facilities related to the distribution of natural gas, and pipelines or mains originating in North Carolina for the transportation of petroleum products, coal, natural gas, limestone or minerals.

Underlined text is new, and text that has been struck through is being removed. Republicans are pretty much letting the pipeline company steal people's property, and (once again) the faux Libertarian "property rights" crowd at Civitas and JLF are exercising selective silence on one of their biggest issue platforms.

Josh Stein joins lawsuit opposing Trump's Muslim ban

Because fighting injustice is part of the job:

“President Trump’s executive order undermines the core American value of religious tolerance, and it makes us less safe,” Stein said in a statement released Monday. “It signals to the world that America sees all Muslims as terrorists, strengthening ISIS’s propaganda and efforts to recruit terrorists.

“Not only is Trump doing immeasurable damage to our country’s standing, he’s doing it in a way that is unconstitutional. That is why I will join my colleagues in taking action.”

What he said.

Tuesday Twitter roundup

It's never too late to do the right thing:

HB2 was flawed from the start, trying to fix a problem that didn't exist. And it became (much) more flawed when Republicans took away other existing worker protections in their zeal to punish Charlotte. It's long past time to kill this particular bill.

On the chopping block: NC retiree health care benefits

Austerity for some, tax cuts for others:

The Joint Legislative Committee on the Unfunded Liability of the Retiree Health Benefit Fund shall examine the following options for reducing the unfunded liability of the Fund:

(1) Increasing the assets in the Retiree Health Benefit Fund through appropriation by the General Assembly.
(2) Increasing the costs of retiree benefits borne by the federal government, by means such as the automatic enrollment of Medicare‑eligible retirees in Medicare Advantage or the offering of financial incentives to early retirees to obtain insurance through the health insurance exchange created under the Affordable Care Act.
(3) Reducing the State's future liability by transitioning the State's retiree health benefit from a defined benefit approach to a defined contribution model.
(4) Reducing the number of persons eligible for retiree benefits by increasing the service time requirements for the benefit or by eliminating the benefit for certain groups.
(5) Requiring employees to contribute to the Retiree Health Benefit Fund, as they do to the Teachers' and State Employees' Retirement System.
(6) Increasing the amount that retirees pay for their health benefits by means such as increasing premiums or out‑of‑pocket costs.
(7) Any other proposals for reducing the unfunded liability of the Fund identified by the Committee.

The reason 3-6 are italicized is because 1&2 were merely put there to make people think everything's on the table. Again, classic bait-and-switch. Like when you get that "You are a winner!" glossy bullshit notice in the mail, where you've either won a fancy new automobile, $25,000 cash, an all-expense-paid vacation to Cabo San Lucas, or a free photographic portrait sitting, where you end up either stalking out with a frowny-face or ordering $75 worth of pictures. This is a frowny-face bill, and SEANC needs to start lighting torches and sharpening pitchforks.

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - scharrison's blog