Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Taxing authority for the CMS school board?

Just two of the 16 Charlotte-Mecklenburg at-large school board candidates showed up at the Tuesday Morning Breakfast Forum today - Elyse Dashew, Aaron Pomis, Ericka Ellis-Stewart, Tim Morgan, Mary McCray and Hans Plotseneder attended last week - but there was a spirited conversation nonetheless.

One hot-button item was whether the school system should have taxing authority. Candidate Lloyd Scher was for it; candidate Larry Bumgarner was against it.

Scher said he thought the school board needed to be directly accountable for the money it spends. He also said he'd support two year terms of school board members - the length of city and county terms - if they got taxing authority so voters could get rid of them sooner if they didn't like the way they spent money.

Bumgarner fired back that no one likes the way they're spending money now, and he liked having controls on how the money was spent with Mecklenburg County having the authority to levy taxes to support schools. (He's talking about local tax dollars; most of the money to support schools comes from the state.)

Taxing authority also came up last week at a forum where 12 of the 16 candidates appeared. The question was posed to only a portion of the candidates but most including current district school board member Tim Morgan, now running for an at-large seat, supported the school board having its own taxing authority. Morgan supports it as well only if school board members had two year terms.

What do you think of the school board having taxing authority?

Are we coddling the super-rich?

Super-rich guy Warren Buffett thinks so. In a Sunday New York Times column that's been appearing in Opinion pages and online sites across the country, Buffett says that he (and his super-rich friends) are ready to pay taxes like they did in the 1990s.

The piece doesn't really break new ground for Buffett, who has been trying to give away his money in op-ed columns for some time now. But it's prompted some buzz in the wake of our debt stalemate in Washington.

Predictably, President Barack Obama thinks Buffett is right about taxes.

Also predictably, Samuel Gregg disagrees in the conservative National Review Online.

The Wall Street Journal's Robert Frank doesn't know how much difference such tax increases really would make.

CNN notes that Buffett isn't the only super-rich guy calling for tax increases.

And in Forbes, Peter Baker says we won't get ahead by taxing Buffett more. But Jennifer Aniston? Well...

- Peter St. Onge

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A shared (and maybe funny) misery

Matthew Robison is having difficulty finding full-time work in his new hometown of Madison, Wisc. A bank foreclosed on his parents’ California home last year.

But Robison has found a way to laugh - at least a little - at a misery that's shared.

Robison's web site, The Brokers With Hands on Their Faces Blog, got 50,000 page views last Friday by showing, well, just that. He tells the New York Times Peter Lattman that the site, which he started in 2008 during the last big financial calamity, sprung from him getting some laughs from a few photos of anguished traders.

You know the rest of the story: A few clicks later, he was viral. .

“With these photos there are a number of layers to laugh at — the poor broker, the photographer waiting to take that perfect photo of the poor broker, the media who love to run with these photos,” he told the Times. “And then there’s me, this guy who collected them and made a blog, which is totally ridiculous as well. People can laugh at whichever part they want to laugh at or maybe they’re not laughing at all. Maybe they think it’s beautiful, or horrible, or stupid. All of them are probably right.”

CMS at-large school board race revs up

If you haven't turned your attention to the upcoming Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board race, now would be a good time. With 16 candidates seeking three at-large seats, whittling the number to the best three will take some time and commitment to find out what the candidates stand for and will do once they join the other six district members.

Candidate forums have already started. You missed one today at the Tuesday Morning Breakfast Forum in west Charlotte. Six candidates - Elyse Dashew, Aaron Pomis, Ericka Ellis-Stewart, Tim Morgan, Mary McCray and Hans Plotseneder - showed up to get grilled on a number of subjects. Among the highlights, all but two said they would not have closed schools last fall, a move that brought howls of citizen protests and spawned anger and community divisions. Dashew said the issue was too complex for a yes or no answer - which the questioner wanted - without explanation. Morgan, a current district school board member, said he voted to close the schools to have money to return teachers to the classroom.

Next Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. the League of Women Voters of Charlotte-Mecklenburg will provide an opportunity for informal interaction with at-large school board candidates at the YWCA, 3420 Park Road. Refreshments will be provided. The public is invited.

Monday, August 8, 2011

North Carolina in Obama's top 10?

The 2012 presidential election could come down to North Carolina and nine other swing states, says Washington Post political guru Chris Cillizza.
Cillizza cites new Gallup poll numbers that show President Barack Obama's approval ratings in each of the 50 states. Those numbers suggest that a small number of states will decide whether Obama gets a second term.
In North Carolina, which Obama won by the slightest of margins in 2008, voters are evenly split: 46 percent approve of him and 46 percent disapprove (on average, January through June of this year.)
That makes the Tar Heel state and its 15 electoral votes a coveted prize for both parties in 2012. Expect a lot of visits -- and TV ads -- from Obama and the Republican nominee over the next 15 months.
The other nine states on Cillizza's list: Iowa, Pennsylvania, Florida, Virginia, New Mexico, Ohio, Nevada, Arizona and Colorado.
In South Carolina, voters disapprove of Obama 47-43 percent in the Gallup numbers, and no one thinks the Palmetto State is up for grabs in November 2012.
Obama has his work cut out for him in North Carolina. It depends on who the Republican nominee is, but we wouldn't want to bet much that Obama repeats his 2008 performance here. If the economy doesn't start turning around by early fall of next year, no amount of advertising or get-out-the-vote efforts will save him in North Carolina.

-- Posted by Taylor Batten on behalf of the Observer editorial board

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Profiles in cowardice

If you ever need Stan Bingham in a pinch, we feel sorry for you. The state senator from Davidson County sold out an entire gender to save his own political hide.

Bingham showed some courage this summer when he made himself the lone Senate Republican to vote against a wrong-headed bill that gives North Carolina some of the nation's most extreme abortion restrictions. When it came time to vote on Gov. Bev Perdue's veto of that bill, though, Bingham took a walk. With Bingham gone, legislators overrode the veto. Had he stuck with his convictions, the veto override would have failed.

It's not just that it was a bad bill. It's that Bingham admits it was a bad bill, but that he had to consider his political survival.

The News & Observer reports that Bingham "said he felt strongly that the bill ... is wrong. But he did not want to take a position contrary to all other Senate Republicans."

Whatever you think of the abortion bill, what do you think of a legislator who declines to vote one way or the other on legislation he feels strongly about?

"I felt like I made the choice that was best for the circumstances," Bingham said.

What a guy. North Carolina's women, and the men who support them, in Bingham's district should also make the choice that's best for the circumstances next November.

-- Posted by Taylor Batten, for the Observer editorial board