Thursday, June 24, 2010

McCrory: 'I'm not desperate'

Former Mayor Pat McCrory, who's almost certainly going to run for governor again in 2012, calls Daily Views to dispute today's earlier Daily Views post that quotes Chris Fitzsimon about McCrory's role in getting the proposed ethics bill sent back to committee. Nor was he happy with the DV headline: Pat McCrory tries to derail N.C. ethics bill?"

"I'm not against the ethics bill," McCrory said. What he didn't like, he said, was the last-minute addition to the ethics bill which would have expanded the state's public financing program for statewide campaigns to four more Council of State offices and pay for the financing with what the News & Observer of Raleigh, in its news account, dubbed "relatively modest new fees on the businesses and firms regulated by the elected offices involved – attorney general, state treasurer, agriculture commissioner, labor commissioner and secretary of state.
"For example, candidates for secretary of state could have received campaign money through an extra $5 fee imposed when a new corporation is formed."

It's that $5 fee that was the target of some overblown rhetoric, making it sound like a gigantic income tax hit, that you'll hear on this robocall (listen here) taped by McCrory and sponsored by the right-wing anti-tax, anti-health-care-reform, anti-climate-change legislation advocacy group, Americans for Prosperity. The robocalls urging voters to call their state senators succeeded, making enough pols nervous that the public financing measure was expected to be stripped from the bill.

McCrory said he opposes public financing for statewide campaigns. It forces N.C. taxpayers to support campaigns for people they may not support, he said.

As to Fitzsimon's jab that he "is desperately trying to stay relevant until the next election by appealing to the Republican's tea party base," hiz-ex-oner said, "First of all I'm not desperate. And what's wrong with trying to stay relevant?"

Pat McCrory tries to derail N.C. ethics bill?

What's former Charlotte mayor Pat McCrory up to these days? Robo-calling about legislation before the N.C. General Assembly for one thing. Here's a piece from the Insider:

"Senate leaders decided to send a wide-ranging ethics bill back to committee. The decision follows an effort by anti-tax group Americans for Prosperity to enlist former Republican gubernatorial candidate Pat McCrory to robo-call supporters to oppose public campaign financing provisions in the legislation. In the calls, McCrory calls the fees aimed at those regulated by state government and used to support the campaigns a tax. A tax in an election year can be a scary thing, can't it? (THE INSIDER, 6/23/10)."

Chris Fitzsimon also wrote about it today for his "Fitzsimon File" on N.C. Policy Watch, a project of the North Carolina Justice Center (read entire piece at
"State Senate leaders are now scrambling to reshape major ethics legislation after backing down in the face of misleading right-wing attacks and robocalls by removing provisions to expand public financing of election for Council of State offices.
North Carolina already has voter-owned elections for judicial candidates and three Council of State offices. The concept of providing public money to candidates so they won't have to rely on private special interest money to get elected is well established and it makes sense to expand the successful program to more offices.
But the public debate in the last two days has not really been about special interest money or the best way to pay for campaigns. It has been about partisan politics, the fall election, misleading soundbites, political ambition, and maybe most importantly, the problems with the way the Senate conducts its business.
The robocalls were apparently delivered to several swing Senate districts by the right-wing group Americans for Prosperity. The recordings featured former Charlotte mayor and unsuccessful Republican gubernatorial candidate Pat McCrory who is desperately trying to stay relevant until the next election by appealing to the Republican's tea party base."

Desperately trying to stay relevant? Wonder what former Mayor Pat would say to that?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Public-private partnerships for schools?

With the economy in a bad slump, new construction projects are at a standstill in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools - and probably elsewhere in the state. So we were interested to read about a statewide committee's recommendations today on funding school and other public capital projects.

Here's part of a news release:

At a press conference, the Institute for Emerging Issues Business Committee on Infrastructure (BCI) released its final recommendations, urging lawmakers to make public-private partnerships (PPPs) an available option for state and local governments to meet current and future infrastructure demands.

“For the right infrastructure projects, public-private partnerships can be an effective way to distribute the risks and rewards of not just building or financing public capital projects, but operating and managing them as well,” said Committee co-chair Bill Klein, Bovis Lend Lease Director of Capital Projects for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. “At a time when public resources are particularly scarce, we need to explore innovative finance and delivery methods like these.”

The BCI agreed that PPPs can be an important tool in the financing toolbox for state and local governments and proposed that North Carolina further explore how best to support such partnerships. This would ensure greater accountability and transparency, and provide a predictable path for project development. Coupled with well-informed partners, PPPs have the potential to more efficiently develop infrastructure and achieve better value for the taxpayer.
Virginia is one of several states to pass a public-private partnership statute, and as a result the state has over 100 projects either completed or under review. Similar legislation in North Carolina could make public-private partnerships an option in developing and maintaining the state’s schools, water and sewer systems, roads, and other critical infrastructure.

In 2006, the NC General Assembly passed legislation allowing for the use of PPPs to alleviate the growing need for more public schools. However, no successful school construction projects have been completed under this law to date. The BCI believes that creating a sound regulatory framework for these types of partnerships would better serve the state and its localities in closing its infrastructure gaps.

N.C. Sen. Clark Jenkins announced his intentions to propose a Legislative Study Commission on public-private partnerships during the 2010 legislative session. N.C. Rep. Deborah Ross was also on hand to encourage the creation of a PPP study commission, particularly in exploring how PPPs can enhance our transit options and transit-orientated development.

The Business Committee on Infrastructure was comprised of a very diverse group of high-level business leaders from across the state representing primarily the development, legal and financial sectors. The BCI’s final recommendations incorporate the views and expertise of national experts as well as state and local public sector leaders who were active participants throughout the BCI process.

For more information on the recommendations, go to:

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Winston-Salem smoking rules fume some

Here's a change that's got some Winston-Salem smokers fuming: The city is instituting a new policy to save money by raising health-insurance premiums for municipal employees who use tobacco products.

Starting in January, health-insurance premiums will go up by an undetermined amount for Winston-Salem employees unless they take a test to prove they are tobacco-free, defined as having no nicotine in their body, the Winston-Salem Journal reports.

Also, for the first time, people who smoke or use other tobacco products will be eligible only for the city's basic health-coverage plan. They will not qualify for the city's Basic Plus health plan, in which the city covers more costs.

The city banned employees from smoking in city buildings two years ago, and some people said they thought the continued restrictions were unfair to smokers. The city has offered smoking cessation classes to workers but some say even that doesn't work. Jeff Goins, a technician in the city's parts department, has smoked for years, although he's tried to quit several times. He took the first round of classes. "It's a waste of time. I know I have a problem," he said. "I have to go with their policy, but I don't think it's a fair decision."

Martha Wheelock, an assistant city manager, said that health-care costs are still being analyzed and the exact amount of the premium increase is not yet clear, although a preliminary figure of $20 per month was given in the city's proposed 2010-11 budget. "We as a city have talked about smoking in particular for a number of years, at least internally, and I think we're ultra-sensitive to the topic given where we live and the roots of our city,'' she said.

Those roots? Winston-Salem is home for the corporate headquarters of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, and was once nicknamed "Camel City" for the Camel cigarettes manufactured there.
Is Charlotte next with such restrictions? According to the Journal, of North Carolina's major cities, Winston-Salem is the only one adopting such a change, but Charlotte is considering restricting smokers to a higher-deductible plan next year. For more on this story, go to

The unedited Etheridge video

There's been some debate on the web as to just how out of line North Carolina Democratic Congressman Bob Etheridge was when he was confronted by self-described students with video cameras. Those inclined to defend Etheridge point out that the original video was heavily edited. Here (lifted from Doug Mataconis' 'Outside the Beltway' blog) is the unedited version of the videos, a separate film from each camera. As you can see, Etheridge's defenders lose one line of argument. While it was obviously planned as a set-up of some kind, Etheridge mindlessly seems to fall into the trap (for which he later apologizes). If these students wanted to be another James O'Keefe of ACORN video fame, they couldn't have hoped for a better result.

Update: These videos originally posted at Stephen Gutowski's blog

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Teacher merit pay: What do we know? Not much, says report

Is teacher merit pay or pay for performance worthwhile? Well, the nonprofit, nonpartisan Education Commission of the States just released a report that essentially says the jury is still out on the idea - though it's being tried in several states, and is highly touted, including here in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. The report, called "Teacher Merit Pay: What do we know?" is in the June issue of The Progress of Education Reform, the ECS's monthly news organ.

The paper looks at four places - Iowa, Texas, Chicago and Denver - that has pay for performance projects under way, and doesn't find much evidence that the programs have had any effect on student performance. But the evaluators say that might not be because of the idea but other factors such as the limited implementation of the programs with small student samples in some districts or incentive pay for teachers being too low to make a difference or promote change.

It's interesting reading though not conclusive about the value of pay for performance. But as CMS gets more involved in setting up and implementing its own model, this does give an idea of the potential difficulties in determining success. Find the report at

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Jobless S.C. senate nominee facing felony charges?!

In case you missed it, our sister state South Carolina just keeps getting crazier. In primary elections on Tuesday, a jobless military veteran who raised no funds and put up no campaign website plus our source says he has a pending felony charge (AP confirms it, reporting that he felony charges for allegedly showing obscene online photos to a University of South Carolina student. The pending charges carry a possible five-year jail term.) won the Democratic nomination for the U.S. senate seat held by Republican Jim DeMint. And he won with 60 percent of the vote!

His name is Alvin Greene. He's 32 and was phantom-like during his campaign. He surprised the S.C. Democratic leadership in March when he walked into the state Democratic Party headquarters with a personal check for $10,400 to pay his filing fee. Democratic Party chair Carol Fowler told him he'd have to have a campaign account. So he left, set up an account and came back with a campaign check. She said she asked him if it was the best use of his money seeing as how he was unemployed. But he said he wanted to become South Carolina's U.S. senator.

Well, he closer to the goal now - though no one expects him to beat DeMint.

There's some speculation that he only won the primary because South Carolina has an open primary - meaning you can choose which party's primary you vote in, regardless of your party affiliation. Some speculate that Republicans voted for Greene since he was less competition than four-term state lawmaker Vic Rawl, 64, who had raised about $186,000 - who Greene handily defeated to Rawls' amazement.

Fowler said this might have been the determining factor: People voted alphabetically - no lie. Our source said that was a likely factor. It was a very low-profile race so voters didn't have any opinion before entering the voting booth. The source also said because Greene was black and he possibly got most of the black vote.

Read more: