Thursday, September 28, 2006

Column for September 28, 2006

I wanted to take this moment to thank each and every one of you for reading this column. Over the past few weeks, I have received a lot of feedback from readers, for which I am grateful. Whether you like the column, hate it, or are indifferent, I am glad to see that people are reading.

I visited the East Coast Old Furniture Festival on Sunday in Uptown Selma. One thing that I am glad to see is that people are starting to come together as a group for a common goal. Antique dealers, the Selma Development Partnership, and outside dealers have all gotten together to put on an event to their common interest. For only being the second show, especially under the circumstances surrounding the promotion of the show last year, it is good to see that people want to work together. All of you involved in the show have my respect for that.

I would love to see more such cooperation in town, so I hope that spirit of cooperation continues. There are a lot of relationships that can be cultivated, resources that can be shared, and a sense of community that I hope will resonate in Selma.

Along that same line of thought, I was able to attend the Selma Strategic Planning Committee meeting last Thursday night. If for no other reason than to hear what is being planned for the future of our humble town, I recommend that citizens attend a meeting. This also applies to the regular town council meetings. I try to attend as many of these meetings as possible. The meetings are not just fodder for my little newspaper column. They are my link to my town. Yes, I said MY town. I take ownership of my part in this town, and I can only wish that all citizens felt the same way.

When the municipal election season was heating up last year, I was not totally decided upon for whom I would vote for mayor. I had met both candidates at various times over the years. I had a chance to see the incumbent's record on issues, and had newspaper interviews that I was all too familiar with.

Since November's election, I have had the chance to observe Mayor Hester, his policies, his attitudes, and his leadership. I feel that I must give honor to whom honor is due. At the Strategic Planning Committee meeting, for the first time that I can recall, I actually heard that the mayor and a town manager in Selma announce some long range plans as to where they believe that the town needs to progress.

The last time I heard any real long term plan was a decade ago and was in essence, "Hey, let's refer to downtown as "uptown" and fill it with old furniture stores." Again, I have no problem with people selling old furniture in "uptown" at all. Actually, I applaud the effort of each and every business owner in town. It just wasn't much of a long-term plan for the future of the town. There is a lot more to planning than having a theme of stores in your business district. We could fill every store with parakeet toys, have a caged bird toy festival each year, and with sufficient effort, have a thriving business district.

What I have seen thus far from Mayor Hester is a vision for expanding the tax base in town, improving our infrastructure, encouraging business, residential development, and hopefully, long term wider based taxation. That, my fellow citizens, benefits us all as taxpayers and citizens.

Regardless of whether I agree or disagree with the decisions of our town administrators, I do want to encourage the forward thinking and planning that is happening now. Past shortcomings in this area have hindered our town's growth. I also want to encourage each of you readers to become more involved in your town's affairs. Contact your elected officials, attend the local meetings, and take part in YOUR town's future.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

The official "LaPlante's Rants" online store

I worked some on an online store for stuff with the LaPlante's Rants logo to help promote the column. Feel free to take a look at the online store and get yourself a calendar, tote bag, mug, or shirt. I guarantee that the prices on the site are not gouging for profit. I wish I could afford to just give them away, but I can't.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Feedback received

Here is an audio file of some feedback I received on my reader hotline after my column ran today.

Column for September 21, 2006

Two weeks ago, I wrote a column about the need for local towns, including Selma, to deal with the problem of illegal immigration. I wrote about Hazleton, Pennsylvania and their ordinance dealing with illegal immigration. That ordinance, by the way, is available for viewing on

Every so often I see something so incredibly outrageous that I just want to scream. I was doing some surfing on the internet and found a news bite about former North Carolina Governor Jim Hunt. He was addressing a conference of education professionals. He believes that we need to make public education more affordable for the children of illegal aliens by giving them in-state tuition rates in our state university system rather than nonresident rates.

Illegal aliens already abuse our health care system, flood our hospitals and clinics, get welfare, food stamps, fill our K-12 school systems, and some politicians are trying to give them Social Security benefits. Why in the world should we continue to subsidize them by helping with their higher education? Of course in-state tuition rates will be subsidized at taxpayer expense. In-state students usually get preference over out of state students. What this means is that people who are not here legally will get preferential placement over legal citizens as well as cheaper tuition.

Legal citizens in any other state can not get in-state tuition rates here in North Carolina. These potential students may have been born and raised here in the United States, already held jobs, paid taxes, and paid into the Social Security system. They may be spectacular athletes, exemplary citizens, totally law abiding, and even wonderful scholars. However, someone who broke the law by entering this country and continues to scoff at the law by remaining here will get lower tuition rates than any of these students if Mr. Hunt's idea is undertaken.

The odd thing is that Hunt claims that we need to offer in-state tuition to illegal immigrants to produce a more educated work force. Yet we are told by pundits and those who support open immigration that these same immigrants are necessary to take low paying and unskilled jobs that Americans are unwilling to take. Well, which is it?

The whole idea of giving in-state tuition to illegal aliens is just plain unfair to our citizens, taxpayers, and any student that has to pay out of state tuition rates in North Carolina. It is also unfair to every alien waiting to legally enter this country for a better opportunity. Rewarding criminal behavior is not only unfair and fiscally irresponsible, it is just plain morally corrupt.

Jim Hunt is quoted on the internet as saying "Education is our future - it's everything." Education is important. However, we are educating our own citizens and illegal aliens alike to believe that honest hard work, playing by the rules, and ethics are not as important as taking short cuts, ignoring the law, and demanding public assistance for reward. This will only contribute to a populace that will become morally bankrupt and a public financial picture that is just plain bankrupt. Let us not rob the future of those who deserve our support and give it to those who literally steal that future.

I realize that the children of illegal aliens may not have willingly come here illegally and are the responsibility of their law breaking parents. However, that does not change their status. Nor does it make it any more fair to tax payers, legal immigrants, and in this case, out of state students. Furthermore, we all realize that it is not just children of illegal immigrants that will take advantage of the lower tuition rates, if enacted.

Perhaps out of state students just need to claim that they are illegal immigrants rather than honest American citizens that just happen to live in another state. Then at least they may have a chance at getting the slot in one of our schools that would be denied them because that place is being taken by an illegal alien...and for a lower price.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Column for September 14, 2006

The Johnston County Schools have been in the news a fair amount lately. The schools have reportedly done well compared to the entire state in SAT scores. The School Board, however, has not done so well. The students they are working to educate have shown more acumen than they have. As has been reported about the school board complaining about not getting all the money that they wanted for their annual budget. The county's Board of Commissioners voted to give them 149/150th of the budget the school board requested. There was early talk about a court battle over that last one million dollars of the budget.

The School Board at first refused to have a meeting with the County Commissioners to discuss any issues. This was the status quo for about a month. I tried to follow the story the best I could, in this paper and in other news sources. Just Friday I read that the School Board has finally agreed to meet with the Board of Commissioners. By the time this column runs, the meeting will already have happened.

Well, hallelujah! This should have been a "no brainer" from the beginning. Instead, the school system resorted to complaining, threats, and whining. They attempted to mount a media campaign for the last 1/150th of their budget. Apparently that spin campaign must not have worked out as members had planned. Now the School Board will talk directly and openly with the organization that "writes the checks" for their budget.

A month ago, the Board of Education passed a resolution to only "one on one" with the County Commissioners rather than meet at a scheduled open meeting this week. Two Board of Education members had the "spine" to stand up against this resolution, but were voted down. Larry Strickland and Donna White both dissented on the vote to be secretive.

I am not going to tell all of you how to vote in the next election, but I will certainly keep this knowledge in mind when going to the ballot box in November. Closed and secret meetings are not the normal thing to do and should only be reserved for matters of personnel confidentiality and legally sensitive matters. The same goes for special meetings. Other than that, all such meetings should be open to the public and on the record for all to be informed about the proceedings. There are regularly scheduled and open meetings for a reason.

One of the main reasons for wanting to boycott the open September 11th meeting was the excuse of The Board of Education having insufficient time to present its list of needs and concerns. That is perhaps one of the most lame, arrogant, and irresponsible excuses that I have heard in a long time. As with a child needing comfort and assurance, the School Board was subsequently guaranteed sufficient time and follow up meetings, as needed.

My opinion is that there is a procedure in place to handle financing the school system. The County Commissioners are elected to be the ones who decide how much money the Board of Education gets to spend, not the other way around. If the Commissioners have decided that this is the way it is going to be for now, then so be it. Enough of the whining. The Johnston County School System budget was set, now deal with it.

I would be more inclined to support increased funding requests when our Superintendent of Schools does not have a higher salary than the Governor of North Carolina. And when we are not paying for the education of students that are in our country illegally, Johnston County Schools stand at the top of the state in every metric, and wasteful expenditures are eliminated. It is, after all, our money that is funding the schools. Why should we as citizens demand anything less?

Either way, it looks like we may have another bond on the ballot in the spring of 2007. If all goes according to history, the bond will be passed and the Board of Education will get everything they wanted, anyway. I can't recall the last time a bond referendum was defeated. Get ready to open your wallets.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Hazleton Ordinance

Before my next column gets published here, I wanted to take the time to include the text of the Hazleton, Pennsylvania orinance referenced in the column. Here it is.



This chapter shall be known and may be cited as the "City of Hazleton Illegal Immigration Relief Act Ordinance."

The People of the City of Hazleton find and declare:

A. That illegal immigration leads to higher crime rates, contributes to overcrowded classrooms and failing schools, subjects our hospitals to fiscal hardship and legal residents to substandard quality of care, contributes to other burdens on public services, increasing their cost and diminishing their availability to lawful residents, and destroys our neighborhoods and diminishes our overall quality of life.

B. That the City of Hazleton is authorized to abate public nuisances and
empowered and mandated by the People of Hazleton to abate the nuisance
of illegal immigration by diligently prohibiting the acts and policies that
facilitate illegal immigration and punishing the people and businesses
that aid and abet illegal aliens.

C. This ordinance seeks to secure to those lawfully present in the United States and this City, whether or not they are Citizens of the United States, the right to live in peace free of the threat of illegal alien crime, to enjoy the public services provided by this city without being burdened by the cost of providing goods, support and services to any whose presence in the United States is contrary to its laws and to be free of the debilitating effects on their economic and social well being imposed by the influx of illegal aliens to the fullest extent that these goals can be achieved consistent with the Constitution and Laws of the United States and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.


Whenever used in this chapter, the following terms shall have the following meanings:
"City" means the City of Hazleton.
"Contract employer" means any person who obtains the services of one or more individuals through a day labor agency.
"Illegal Alien" means any person whose initial entry into the United States was illegal and whose current status is also illegal as well as any person who, after entering legally, has failed to leave the United States upon the expiration of his or her visa.
"Legal Work Status" means that a person's employment is not in violation of any law of the United States, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania or this Ordinance.
"Vehicle" means a vehicle as defined in Pennsylvania Vehicle Code as the same now reads or may hereafter be amended.

Any entity or any parent, affiliate, subsidiary or agent of any entity (other than a charity recognized as exempt from federal income taxation under Sec. 501 of the Internal Revenue Code of the United States and which has obtained and continues to have in force an exemption from federal income taxation), that employs, retains, aids or abets illegal aliens or illegal immigration into the United States, whether directly or by or through any agent, ruse, guise, device or means, no matter how indirect, and even if the agent or entity might otherwise be exempted from this section, or violates any provision of this Ordinance, shall from the date of the violation or its discovery, whichever shall be later, be denied and barred from approval of a business permit, renewal of a business permit, any city contract or grant as follows:
(1) For the first violation for a period of five years,
(2) For any subsequent violation, for a period of ten years.
A. "Aids or abets" includes, but is not limited to:
(i) hiring or attempted hiring of illegal aliens,
(ii) providing, renting or leasing real or personal property to illegal aliens,
(iii) funding or providing goods and services to illegal aliens, except as provided in Sec. 4 C.,
(iv) funding, providing goods and services to or aiding in the establishment or continuation of any day labor center or other entity providing similar services, unless the entity acts with due diligence to verify the legal work status of all persons whom it employs, provides job assistance for or in any way assists or facilitates in obtaining any employment.

B. Except as provided in C., any action or failure to act done within the boundaries of this City that aids and abets illegal aliens or facilitates their avoiding detection and apprehension anywhere in the United States, its territories or possessions violates this Ordinance.

C. This Ordinance shall not be construed to prohibit rendering emergency medical care, emergency assistance or legal assistance.


A. Illegal aliens are prohibited from leasing or renting property. Any property owner or renter/tenant/lessee in control of property, who knowingly allows an illegal alien to use, rent or lease their property shall be in violation of this section.

B. Any person or entity that violates this Ordinance shall be subject to a fine of not less than $1,000.00.

C. A separate violation of this Ordinance shall be deemed to have been committed on each day during or on which a violation occurs or continues.


A. The City of Hazleton declares that English is the official language of the City.

B. Unless explicitly mandated by the federal government, the state of Pennsylvania or the City of Hazleton, all official city business, forms, documents, signage will be written in English only.


If any part of provision of this Chapter is in conflict or inconsistent with applicable provisions of federal or state statutes, or is otherwise held to be invalid or unenforceable by any court of competent jurisdiction, such part of provision shall be suspended and superseded by such applicable laws or regulations, and the remainder of this Chapter shall not be affected thereby.

ORDAINED by Council this 13th day of July, 2006.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Column for September 7, 2006

Column for September 7, 2006

At the risk of sounding like Mel Gibson after a night of drinking, I did want to bring to the forefront something that is pretty much already there. I am not getting on the bandwagon on this topic, but have been blowing this trumpet for almost two decades now.

When school bonds are reaching $1 billion in a neighboring county and Johnston County Schools are looking for more money and space, I wonder why. I have read figures that estimate that as much as 52% of our school's increase in population is because of illegal immigration. Just within the last week, I read news reports that Johnston County Schools have increased enrollment by about 1500 students this year. 52%, folks.

Some statistics show that illegal immigrants cost the U.S. Government $2700 more in services than they pay in taxes. That does not account for the local costs of schooling, medical care, law enforcement, accommodations of foreign languages, prison populations, court costs, and various public assistance programs.

Roughly 60% of Selma's residents are property renters. The remaining 40% of us, in reality, shoulder the burden of responsibility for the services used. Many of these renters are in fact illegal immigrants. I need only to sit on my front porch steps or visit Wal-Mart on Sunday to realize this.

If the federal government is going to continue to abrogate their responsibilities in regards to securing our borders for the sake of national security and immigration control, then it is unfortunately left to our local governments. The State of North Carolina has not "stepped up to the plate" so it is unfortunately left up to the local counties and towns to take care of the issue.

Visit the emergency room at the local hospital, the county health department, and read the police report in this paper. Tell me that we are not paying for these services as taxpayers. Tell me that it is appropriate that we should continue to pay for free medical care, education, food stamps, welfare, and coming soon to an alien near you, Social Security benefits for those who flaunt the law to enter this nation. We should not tolerate this as taxpayers any longer.

One town, Hazleton, Pennsylvania, realizes the drain on their finances, not to mention the moral consequences of allowing illegal immigration. Hazleton started denying business permits to companies that hire illegal aliens, fining landlords who rent to illegal aliens, and made English the official language of the town.

The Town of Selma has passed measures that help curb the hemorrhaging of money because of non-paying utility customers. If we started requiring proof of legal status of immigration for utility customers and business owners, that would help cut that problem down. Forget what the State says about how we should run our town in that regard. They don't pay our bills, hire our employees, or run our utility. Let's have the courage to do what is right rather than what is required.

If the federal government is going to continue to abrogate their Constitutional responsibility, it becomes our responsibility by default to do something at the local level, even if it is not pleasant or seems hateful.

I do not comprehend why any government official would not want to take action against the continuing waves of illegal aliens draining our resources. When our towns and our schools are feeling the crunch, it is time to have the guts to do something about the problem. I applaud the town leaders in Hazleton, Pennsylvania. They had the fortitude to stand up and refuse to take the burden any longer, which is the morally and fiscally responsible thing to do.

I can only hope that leaders in Selma and across the nation will have the spine necessary to deal with this issue. It is not an easy thing to do, is not popular with some groups, but it is the right thing to do, in my opinion. By the way, my position on this has absolutely nothing to do with race or culture. It has everything to do with the rule of law, financial responsibility, ethics, and fairness. Period. My opinion is my own and does not necessarily represent that of the staff or management of this newspaper, though it probably should.