Thursday, March 29, 2007

Column for March 29, 2007

Annexation deserves fair treatment by Council

Usually, I write my columns as much as three weeks in advance. When a topic hits me, I become a scribe. Sometimes, I wait until I see something local and timely. This time, I waited and was glad I did so.

The last Selma Town Council meeting had a public hearing regarding the town's plans for involuntary annexation. Many citizens came to the meeting to express their opinions either pro or con. There were no pro arguments to be had. What bothered me greatly was that the council placed an undue restriction on time allowed for commentary. This has not been done at previous meetings, and the time limit was not equally enforced on each speaker. Only the speakers deemed "thorny" to the time keeper seemed to get the three minute rule enforced.

I have differed with Tony Tetterton on other issues, but on this issue, I believe that he should have been heard in full. As a proxy for others, he could have offered a full presentation that fully outlined the problems with the report on the annexation project. Mr. Tetterton went to the trouble of preparing a full multi-media presentation on behalf of those who are being annexed. Quite frankly, if he went through this much effort and there was a full house of people all wanting to have their collective opinions heard, this would have been entirely appropriate.

There have been long winded presentations about energy savings, how electric rates are calculated, and for slide shows made about the town. I do not belittle those projects or the information. However, if the council can take the time for these presentations, it would seem that they could take the time to discuss an issue that would affect an entire subdivision full of residents, as well as other areas just outside the town. I found the time restriction and refusal to hear the presentation unjust and hypocritical. For the meaningful and impactful things such as involuntary annexation, there is no time, but for a presentation about where to have polling places, there was time to spare in the same meeting. The simple request for the town to actually choose a polling location in a timely fashion could have been accomplished in three sentences. Instead, it took the time that a presentation from a group of potentially forcibly added citizens could have taken.

When an entire group of citizens offer to relinquish their three minutes of their rightful time to a proxy such as Mr. Tetterton so that he can speak collectively for them, I find it arrogant to deny that request. Furthermore, when there is an entire page of problems enumerated by the group about the report upon which the decision to annex will be made, then it is only prudent to listen.

I am already on record as opposing involuntary annexation except in specific cases, as I wrote a month ago in this very column. I am very much for private property rights. Unless someone is getting all the benefits of being a resident of the town such as the roads, street lighting, water, sewer, fire protection, ISO insurance ratings, and local development but not paying the supporting taxation whereas a neighbor does, then there is an inequity. When there is a whole group not benefiting from all of these things except paying the fire district tax, I believe that they have the right to stay outside the town. The fiat of five people should not decide the taxation fate of a large number of private homes.

If the town council will not allow the property owners their time to be heard in full, I will offer the time on my own internet talk show which is heard each week. More information can be found on A letter to the editor that was in last week's paper is another way of communicating the issue. Either way, the information should be heard by the town for consideration.

In the end, if there are problems and errors in the annexation report, then they need to be seriously addressed by the council and the town attorney. Private property rights need to be taken into account. In addition, those potentially affected need to be treated fairly, equally, and with respect.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Column for March 22, 2007

Fighting eminent domain abuse

Usually, I strongly encourage government jobs to be done as cheaply and efficiently as possible. I believe that the government has the responsibility to be efficient and accountable with the tax payer funds they take and use from the citizenry. Just recently, however, I was reading news accounts that make me want the government to actually spend more money, a lot more money than originally planned. The Clayton bypass road project just got a few million dollars more expensive, and I am actually glad to see it.

It is a heinous thing when the government takes money from taxpayers unjustly and spends it with flagrant disregard for monetary, ethical, or legal sensibility. It is just as bad, perhaps even worse, when the government makes an obvious attempt to steal from a single citizen or family.

The Fifth Amendment to the US Constitution says "nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation." Occasionally, the federal government, states, and municipalities will abuse their authority in taking private property.

Sometimes the execution of eminent domain is for public use. Other times it is solely for increasing tax base, such as in the Kelo vs. New London, Connecticut decision. That was one horrific and unjust decision. Basically, that decision stated that a municipal government may condemn a property and/or take it by eminent domain powers, then turn that property over to private developers. The developers would in turn make that property more valuable with construction and use that would produce more tax revenue. Either way, it is the legal theft of personal property to give to other private citizens to generate increased tax revenue. That is just immoral and does not serve the public good. Sure, more tax revenue is better for the rest of the tax payers, but the infringement of personal property rights is not a good and just thing.

Locally, we saw eminent domain abuse by the State of North Carolina. That state attempted to shaft property owners by not paying the fair value of the property being taken for the US 70 Clayton bypass. Donald and Edna Williamson are a couple that were getting hosed by the State of North Carolina and were not being paid the fair value for their property. Not only did the State condemn their property and then grossly undervalue it, their justification for the undervaluation was based upon a situation they themselves created for the property years ago when they took some of that farm for eminent domain use.

The first eminent domain property taken to build a highway left the remaining property with no main highway access, only service road access. Allegedly, that made the property less valuable. That is not a situation created by the couple who owned the property. It was solely a creation of the state. Now the state wants more of their property to do more highway construction. The state has undervalued the property, based upon the fact that they created a lack of access to the property previously. The polite way of saying it would be that it is ethically challenged behavior.

The couple put up a fight, had a private appraisal of their land, and won in court. To attempt to shaft the property owner while taking away their land "without just compensation" is disgraceful. I am glad to see that they won their case and will get their true, just compensation for their loss.

It should not have to come to a couple putting up a legal fight, spending money on private appraisers, and on legal fees. However, if that is what it takes to fight back against tyranny, then it must be done.

When you go to the polls and vote (and we have votes coming up in May and November), vote for issues and people who will protect your rights, not infringe upon them. If you are facing unjust eminent domain or even forced annexation, stand up and fight for what is right. We are the people. Supposedly, "government of the people, by the people, for the people" is our domain. We must be vigilant to hold said government accountable to be ethical and to protect the rights of us, the people.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Column for March 15, 2007

Protect the 2nd Amendment

For those of you who follow my column and/or blog, you know that I am a huge advocate for liberty. I don't care who you are, as long as you are on American soil and are here legally, I believe that you are blessed with a great amount of freedom. The key in this nation is to preserve those freedoms. Even if we are "endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights", we still must be vigilant about preservation of those rights.

If the Declaration of Independence is correct and these rights are given by God, not man, then man must not infringe upon the rights of fellow citizens. Unfortunately, history is replete with despots, dictators, and freedom haters. Men love to exert control over other men. What amazes me is that we actually elect people who would abridge our civil liberties.

I was only a tot when "Mr. Conservative", Barry Goldwater was serving in the U.S. Senate. Though interested in politics and civics, I was not as aware of the national political climate as I am now, as a middle aged man. Thus, I was not as aware of Goldwater's politics as I am now. I have read his book, "Conscience of a Conservative" and seen documentaries about his life. One thing that I loved about Goldwater was his unwavering dedication to the principles of liberty. There are a few areas in which we disagree, namely abortion and gay rights. Those areas, not being enumerated in the U.S. Constitution and being public situational ethics issues, are not a matter of liberty to me.

One issue that is a sore subject with me is the Second Amendment debate. For years, I have seen the debate of the right to keep and bear arms rage on. There are those who would attempt to interpret the text of the simple amendment to mean that only the military should have weapons, not the public. Of course one has to bend the meaning and read into the text in order to arrive at that conclusion. It is the same way with the right to have an abortion. It is not in the Constitution and one has to make that up.

Others believe just what the amendment says, meaning the words "shall not be infringed" means just that. I would simply say, "What part of shall not be infringed do you not understand?" James Madison thought it so important that he originally wanted to have the text inserted into the main body of the new constitution rather than be an amendment added as part of the "Bill of Rights". I am a firearms enthusiast and fully support the Second Amendment.

There is currently proposed in Congress H.R. 1022, the "Assault Weapons Ban and Law Enforcement Protection Act of 2007". Real so called "assault weapons" have been highly regulated and generally illegal for the average citizen to own since the 1930's. It is sheer ignorance, fear, and efforts to control that lead to gun bans. I have handled many of the guns on the list that some in Congress want to ban. The proposed ban is not to protect law enforcement, it is control law abiding citizens. Criminals do not abide by the law, which is the definition of a criminal.

I am thankful that the previous Congress allowed the original "assault weapons ban" to expire without renewal. Now, with a Democrat controlled Congress, we are again seeing attempts to infringe upon YOUR rights. My advice is to get all the guns you can now before a Democrat is elected President and signs a bill that would infringe upon your rights, offend people like Barry Goldwater, and make me want to get on a rooftop with a so called assault weapon. [edited at request of paper's editor to read "makes me fully comprehend why the writers of the Constitution felt that the citizenry should be armed in the first place."

The infringement of gun rights, however, is not limited just to our federal government. I have seen such infringement happen by our own Johnston County and state governments. With action and vigilance, perhaps liberty will be restored and preserved.

Please don't form opinions about issues such as this out of emotion, ignorance, or irrational fear. Get educated. If you support the 2nd Amendment, join a group like Gun Owners of America and contact your elected representatives. Get involved and preserve freedom.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Column for March 8, 2007

Corporate welfare programs are bad policy

Well, it figures. I rarely miss being a spectator at a Town Council meeting in Selma. Each of the few times I have, I miss interesting developments in the town’s government. The last meeting, I missed the agreement to lease the Harrison school property to a charter school and the plan for economic development incentives here in town. I think the charter school plan is an innovative use of otherwise unused property. The proposed economic development zone and incentives, however, I am not so keen about.

I have never been a fan of corporate welfare programs. Here in North Carolina, we have seen our share of them. Dell, Google, FedEx, Honda, and other industries have been lured to the state with multi million dollar incentive packages at taxpayer expense. Here in Johnston County, we have seen our share, as well.

From what I have read in the media, the Selma Town Council and Town Manager seem to be supporting the recent plan for local town to offer tax rebates to encourage business development. First, if we just plain lowered taxes across the board, business would be encouraged. The high tax rates we already pay are a disincentive for development. Government regulation adds to the high costs of doing business, as well. Here in Selma, we already have an increased property tax rate plus sales tax, income tax, FICA, and federal taxes. If that burden was lessened, we would not have such a hard time with getting businesses started and continuing. Present businesses would have more to invest in their companies and ordinary people may be able to start their own businesses.

The current plan is to rebate people who build and improve property along a specific, generally undevelopable stretch of road in Selma, the differential in rate of the property tax paid for five years. I understand the concept and the reasons behind the tax rebates. However, I think that the five year plan is a bit of over kill and akin to the deals that Dell and others have gotten. I realize that after five years, a business will have their normal tax rate and may (not a definite, since businesses come and go) pay full freight then.

The area targeted in Selma is not ripe for development primarily because of what is there. Exit 98 is one of the worst exits for access and egress on the interstate. No business will solve that challenge to development. It is not right off Highway 70, a major throughway like at exit 97. There is a major railroad crossing there, a train station, the town electrical department, and a propane farm. A restaurant or bank would just be "out of the way and out of sorts" from the already settled area and would not really conform to either the surrounding area or usage thereof. That is why I believe that the stretch in question is certainly not ripe for development. It really has less to do with encouraging building there and more to do with the uselessness of the terrain. I believe that the reality is that no incentives would really make that area attractive to development.

The same proposal is going across Johnston County. I am all for encouraging business. However, corporate welfare programs at taxpayer expense, no matter how large or small, are inherently unfair to all other taxpayers. Sure, the local proposals are relatively small. But do we just join the bandwagon of the practice of corporate welfare for development or do we stand on principle? To compare something recent in the news, if Jim Black had just a little bit of corruption while in office rather than a heap big amount, would it have been acceptable or fair? Not to be cliché, but I believe that a little leaven will leaven the whole lump.

Don’t send me hate mail claiming that I don’t understand business and am not for developing our area, or am a regressive. Sure, I can handle that, no problem. But, better than your letters, emails, or phone calls would be your commentary at the public hearing that will be held on the subject. Show up and let your voice be heard where it counts.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Column for March 1, 2007

Flipping the switch on "Old Sparky"

I highly value human life. I can say for a certainty that God values life, as well. That is why he put the ultimate price on the taking of innocent life. He is the one who invented the death penalty, not man. God is not schizophrenic, so I figure that he didn't change his mind on the topic of murder and the punishment thereof.

The State of North Carolina is heatedly debating the death penalty. Death penalty opponents claim that the proposed moratorium on executions is not an attempt to thwart the existence of the death penalty in this state. I don't buy it at all. There is an agenda at work here.

Medical boards have decided that it is unethical for a doctor to comply with the law and have a physician participate in lethal injection executions. It was a stupid requirement in the law to begin with. Let's change the law. Either that or allow the judicial process to strike down that provision. That won't happen, though, since the liberal judiciary only takes activist stands on liberal issues, not conservative. Personally, I hate judicial activism with a passion. I do believe that it can cut both ways, though. It just doesn't.

Genesis 9:6 "Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man."

Romans 13:3-4 "For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil."

What part of both then New and Old Testament is so hard to comprehend in this?

Not that I relish the thought of taking someone's life or seeing someone "step into eternity" and into Hell, but I just believe what those verses say. I believe it to the point that I would be willing to perform the execution myself. I have no problem flipping the switch on "Old Sparky", pulling the trigger, or jabbing someone with a needle if that is the sentence. I do not say that I will not have a few feelings of my own to sort out afterwards, but I do believe it to be righteous and therefore believe it to be just and right.

I just wish that our elected officials had the guts to have the same resolve. I am tired of hearing about the moratorium, protesters, and from whiners. I have seen several articles and watched news reports in the local media about the death penalty, a moratorium on executions, and power plays to cease the use of the death penalty indefinitely.

In our state legislature, committee recommended legislation that would let convicts appeal their death sentences if they can allege that the sentences were based on racial discrimination. How in the world is the sentence based upon race? If someone committed murder, then they get whacked themselves. Simple. It does not matter about the race of the convict. The only fact that should matter is "has he/she been found guilty of murder?" If the answer is "yes", then it is time to whack a convict.

Our Lieutenant Governor, Beverly Perdue has publicly stated that the state should impose a moratorium on executions until some esoteric, supposedly "constitutional" questions about how the state carries out the death penalty are resolved. What constitutional questions? How is something as easy as lethal injection cruel and unusual for punishment? Personally, I believe it to be too easy a form of execution. The victim of the murder they committed probably died a far more violent or painful death. It is painless and non violent. The end result is the same, but the convict gets off light.

To our elected representatives and all opponents of the death penalty, grow a spine, let government be a terror to evil, bear not the sword in vain, be the minister of God, and execute wrath upon him that does evil.