Thursday, January 31, 2008

Column for Jan. 31, 2008

Remember, grant money is not free. We pay for it either way.

Is grant money from the federal government that is awarded to local towns or states free money? How about grant money that is given to private corporations or citizens? Is there any such thing as free money? Of course not. If it comes from our tax dollars one way or another.

I read with interest the news that the Town of Selma was awarded $850,000 in grant money last week. The money is intended for "community revitalization, infrastructure improvements, and the construction of affordable housing". Selma was one of eighteen municipalities that received grants. The money was supplied through U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and was doled out through the NC government. Also, I read that the towns of Pine Level, Henderson, and Dunn were awarded grant money through the Federal Emergency Management Agency for the purposes of safety, operational expenses, and fire equipment acquisition.

Perhaps we would have more ability to do things locally if the federal and state governments did not siphon off so much money into Washington, DC. Second, even though these are "grants", they are still coming from tax dollars. Furthermore, the purpose of the grants are to be for "rehabilitation of housing" and the construction of "affordable housing". The term affordable is subjective. The idea of my tax dollars being taken from me, a man who works a full time, skilled labor job, on the threat of force if I do not comply voluntarily to dole out my hard earned money, and having those dollars inefficiently laundered through the world's largest bureaucracy only to be filtered down to another bureaucracy, then to another, then to private citizens for them to pay minimal money for housing or to renovate their existing homes is just plain repugnant. It is insulting. It is unfair. It is a disincentive to succeed. It is communistic and evil.

There were 18 towns in NC that got the HUD grants and three FEMA grants in the state. Multiply this times hundreds of towns across the country each year and you can see how our tax dollars are being wasted on programs that are not even supposed to exist. Take this program and multiply it by the countless such programs that some communistic or ignorant fools have pushed through Congress, and some well meaning but selfish President who wants to get re-elected and play politics with our tax money have passed, and the amount of money is mind boggling.

Perhaps the only thing more insidious than the idea of a grant from the federal government to a municipality is the concept of the federal government providing a loan to a local municipality other local government for the purposes of infrastructure development and community revitalization. In such instances, we are taxed at the federal level to provide the loan and then get taxed on the local level to pay the loan back to the federal government.

I had an email discussion with a close friend about an article from 1955 in "Housekeeping Monthly". I have a copy of this article on my personal web site. The article was full of tips for women on how to take care of their husbands, how to run the home, how to relieve personal and family stress, and the like. This conservative lady asserted that the article was from 1955 and this was 2008. Below is my response, which is related to my disdain for such government spending.

"In 1955, most women did stay at home and take care of the kids and do the house work. Unfortunately, our tax burden increased substantially necessitating a dual income family. Also, the women's liberation movement only hurt the family structure. The 1960's forward really hurt with the hedonism, atheistic, and hyper libertine agendas. That led to a decline in the family unit, an emphasis on self reliance instead of family reliance, a rise in births out of wedlock, single parent families, divorce, and the need for women to work outside the home." By family versus self reliance, I was referring to the idea of only thinking of one's own self, not supporting the family unit but instead believing that one can and should only rely on one's own self. For instance, a woman can and should be able to stay at home and raise her children rather than paying some low income earner with a different set of values to raise them for her.

It is bad enough that we have a high percentage of our money taken in the form of taxation of various types and from various levels of government. To have my tax dollars, which could be used to renovate my own home (which I have been trying to work on more and more lately) and have them sucked into a giant bureaucracy and given to someone else to renovate their home is a travesty. It angers me, and it should you, too. I believe that I know how to spend my money better than some bureaucrat does.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Column for Jan. 24, 2008

Analysis of rezoning public hearing

On January 8th, as readers of this newspaper know, there was as part of a town council meeting, a public hearing on the rezoning request of a tract of land to change to industrial from agricultural and residential use in Selma's extra-territorial jurisdiction.

During that hearing, there were many impassioned pleas to vote against the rezoning. There were many concerned area residents from Selma and Pine Level, as well as the outlying areas thereof. There were calls for a recall of any town council member who voted for the rezoning request. There were people giving allegedly expert testimony. There were demands for the education level and the identity of the issuing institution of higher learning of said degrees of education. There was a lecture on the four types of loam on the proposed site. There were accusations of "spot zoning" and illegal configurations of zoning in that area.

The problem that I had with most of the well meaning public commentary is that most of it was emotionally based, including the so called expert testimony. I saw little reasoned and informed public commentary. I understand that this is an issue that will bring many passionate views. Industry wants to encroach upon the quiet, countryside way of life. I get it wholeheartedly.

Here are some of the problems with the public hearing, as I saw it, inappropriate opening commentary by the mayor aside. I am just calling it as I see it. Keep in mind, too, that what I am about to write may not necessarily reflect my personal desire in this entire situation. First, there were automatic assumptions of chemical pollution, "light pollution" (not that I believe there is any such thing), noise pollution, and foul odors that would come as a result of the proposed plant. My simple commentary is that only one person in the room aside from the men representing the interests of East Coast Ethanol seems to have been anywhere near an ethanol plant. Certainly, nobody amongst the public has been anywhere near a modern day plant.

Next was the absolute ridicule of the government standards by which the plant would have to abide. There were people claiming that the EPA does not know their business and there was a great degree of distrust in government regulations expressed. At the same time, there was an extolling of the virtues of the USDA and their standards and reports. What in the world is supposed to make anyone think that one bureaucracy is any better than another? They are just two suckers on the same tentacle of government regulation and thievery. That was, in my opinion, a serious double standard and only detracted from the validity of the public commentary.

I was dismayed with the sheer arrogance of claims of lack of "due diligence" upon the part of the plant investors and contracted agency. What people just may not understand is that the project is nowhere near the stage of the investment in soil sampling, scientific investigation, and site planning to the extent expected by some in the crowd. A company is not going to invest literally tens of thousands of dollars into expensive surveys and testing until they are confident that they can advance with the project. The rezoning is an essential first step in the process. This is not the first plant ever built by the contracted company, so they do know what they are doing in site selection and process. In fact, they have built the vast majority of such plants in the country.

I found it ironic and hypocritical of one man to denounce the credentials of the men representing East Coast Ethanol and their contracted agency while he himself did not have the credentials of a soil scientist. Yet, he lectured people on the soil of the proposed site, cited the USDA studies of the area, and at the same time decried and debased other authorities. First of all, since when is a company obligated to fly in every chemical engineer or member of its engineering and scientific crew for a simple rezoning public hearing? Yet they were derided for not having these experts present. Furthermore, I have personally worked on huge construction projects where the soils present became a non-issue. Entire industrial and educational facilities under my jurisdiction have long ago emerged from fallow kudzu fields. Innovation and money is all it takes to mitigate those problems.

The public hearing was for rezoning. It was not a debate over the merits of an ethanol plant. The process of an ethanol plant takes a lot more steps of regulation than simply getting a piece of land rezoned to industrial use. Even if the land was rezoned, this facility would still have to obtain a special use permit from Selma to even think about operating. Furthermore, there are mountains of county, state, and federal regulations with which they would have to comply before even thinking about building. I found the assumption that there is going to be a plant built after this public hearing absurd, emotional, illogical, and borderline stupidity. For this reason, I also found it absurd that anyone would even consider calling for a recall of any town council member for voting for a rezoning of the property in question.

Another concern expressed by one citizen was the safety of the plant. Again, we are dealing with heavy government regulation. It is also just plain good business sense to have fire mitigation planning on site. My background is in this very field, I am the vice chair of the Johnston County Local Emergency Management Planning Committee, and this year will be the chairman of the county committee. The expressed concern of cooperation and training with local fire departments will be a non-issue, I assure you. I will personally be responsible for working closely with county Emergency Management and will be in regular contact with most every fire department leader in the county. With any such facility in the county, I can safely assure that this will be a non-issue.

The claims of emissions from the facility may or may not be a moot point. There have been great advances in pollution control. Just as there are catalytic converters and other emission controls on automobiles, there are going to be some new innovations in industry. I am not defending the industry position, I am just being realistic and honest.

Let us assume for a moment that the zoning of the tract of land in question will stay as it is, i.e., agricultural. Let us also assume that the land will be used as such. A hog, cow, or poultry farm would also have a great degree of emissions. Cow flatulence is never fun. Hog waste can be smelled for miles, as I have found out from my extensive travel throughout North Carolina. Poultry, whether turkey or chicken, can also give a "fowl" odor (I could not resist that pun, sorry). There is always a degree of noise associated with farming. Livestock makes noise 24/7 when there is a concentrated population. That pretty much destroys the noise argument against the ethanol plant.

Irrigation and/or watering of farm animals also takes a certain degree of water to do so, as will an ethanol plant. They may not be equal amounts, but the increased demand is still a certainty.

I say this to show that regardless of the use of the land, even under its existing zoning, there would be issues, complaints, and problems. What I do know is that one way or another, that tract of land and its surrounding area will eventually be developed.

With all this having been said, do I want an ethanol plant on the outskirts of Selma? I personally have relayed my opinion to some of my elected representatives on the town council. That is the best way of getting my desired result. Being emotionally driven, staying uninformed or subjective, and railing against the unknown are not the effective nor desired methods of accomplishing my desired end.

Regardless of my personal opinion, I have had plenty of opportunities to think about this topic and look at things from both sides. I do believe that I have the ability to be objective rather than subjective. For this reason, I have offered to the town leaders to be one of the town citizens to travel to take up East Coast Ethanol's offer to visit an ethanol plant. Unlike the comments from one of the citizens at the meeting, I do not want to visit one of the worst plants in the country in order to explore one. I want to see one exactly like what is proposed for Selma. To see anything else would be illogical. Will the town actually take up East Coast Ethanol on their offer? Will I get the opportunity to go? I have no idea, but I would certainly be fair either way.

That is the whole point of this column today. I want to be fair, not emotional. I am not an ethanol apologist. As a matter of fact, I am not a fan of ethanol as a fuel source, nor of the government boondoggle that has given us ethanol as such. However, I can still be open minded enough to at least be objective. I hope others can be as well.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Column for Jan. 17, 2008

My analysis of the mayor's lynching comment

Last week, I attended the Selma Town Council meeting and public hearing along with almost 200 of my closest friends. OK, so they were not my close friends, but it was good to see people who were concerned and wanted to get involved in their community, even if many of them do not live in the Selma town limits or even extra-territorial jurisdiction.

I should probably start with my expert analysis of the latest embarrassment brought to Selma in the form of the opening remarks by Mayor Hester. I was there for those remarks, heard them, found them to be entirely inappropriate, and am quite frankly, tired of this same sort of thing month in and month out. For over two years now, I, along with other citizens, have been witness to some comments, attitudes, and political gamesmanship that I find repugnant. I have personally seen Mayor Hester purposely back his vehicle into another man's (more accurately, political opponent's) automobile, I have heard him say obnoxious comments, and witnesses near tantrums he has thrown. I find the latest comment about having a lynching just one more in a long string of embarrassments for the Town of Selma.

What amazed me is that Mr. Hester attempted to explain away the comment as "Just Hester being Hester". If that is the case, the comments and behavior need to go, and if said behavior defines Hester, then Hester needs to go. I was further amazed that Mr. Hester used the obvious "damage control" scenery of Selma Baptist Church as a back drop to have an interview with WRAL. During the interview it was explained that there are people who do not much care for him in this town, but that is just small town politics. The ironic thing is that Mr. Hester himself practically defines small town politics but decries it in others. I know that other reporters tried to get in touch with Mr. Hester, without success. I personally was contacted by one of them and spent time myself with that same reporter. The comments by the mayor were on the web sites of the three major television stations, various news services, local newspapers, national news aggregator services, and local and national bloggers.

Did Chucky apologize? Sure, I was there and heard it myself. I have blogged the video of the commentary, seen it numerous times on television and online, played the audio of it on a talk show, and read the transcript. Regardless of my opinion of Mr. Hester's sincerity, I do have to take him on face value and accept that he did apologize. As to the denial that the comment was aimed at any one particular individual, I find that an absurd attempt to help excuse the commentary.

As many of you know, I am a regular writer on the internet, a talk show host, and I keep in regular contact with several people in the media. I saw my web site traffic statistics rise this past week. I found many web searches performed for terms such as "Selma mayor lynching comment" and other similar terms. I also found many visits to my web page as a referral from other web sites that have national news and commentary. The comments by Mayor Hester have carried across the nation and are not just a local "black eye" for the town. We now have national implications, commentary, and scrutiny of our little town. The sad part is that none of it is positive.

I have no doubt that the comment about lynching was not meant to be racist in nature as some on the internet and even at the public hearing have alleged. The comment was directed at a Caucasian male by a Caucasian male. By its very nature, the comment is not racist. There are those who automatically assume that just because the word lynching is used that it is to be assumed as racist. That is an extreme and prejudicial view. First, it was a minority of lynchings in this nation that were racially motivated. Most were carried out upon guilty parties for their crimes. I am so tired of the hyper-vigilance against all things even remotely or potentially racist in The United States of the Offended.

I find just as offensive the self flagellation of the usually liberal, overly cautious White race members because of some undeserved guilty conscience towards race relations. That being said, I would almost love for Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton to show up in Selma over the comment by Mayor Hester. This would serve two purposes. First, to demonstrate how absurd the comment was in the first place and hopefully effect some degree of change. Second, to demonstrate how absurd those two individuals and their ilk can be.

Since I am out of room for this week's column, perhaps next week I will write my analysis of the meeting itself, the claims made by both the public and by the men from East Coast Ethanol. For those who missed either the mayor's comments or wish to hear the entire two and a half hour public hearing audio, you may do so at my talk show web site, which can be accessed through If you did not make it to the public meeting and want to hear for yourself what the big deal was about the public hearing, you can listen 24/7 via web streaming or simply download the entire show for your listening pleasure.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Column for Jan. 10, 2008

Does LaPlante favor la plant d'ethanol?

By the time this column is published, the latest Selma Town Council meeting will have taken place and a scheduled public hearing will have been held about the proposed rezoning request in Selma's extra-territorial jurisdiction (ETJ) to accommodate the construction of a proposed ethanol plant. These plans were detailed in last week's edition of "The Selma News" as well as in other local media outlets. The rezoning request has already passed the Planning Board and is now going through the process necessary to become reality. I am predicting that the public hearing will have brought forth some "great moments in sports," so to speak.

There is opposition being generated by Tony Tetterton, who lives nearby in the Selma ETJ, as reported in the paper. I have respect for Tony for several things. First, he is willing to "put his money where his mouth is" for the causes in which he believes. I don't see that too often nowadays. Regardless of anyone's opinions of his positions, you have to respect the willingness to take a stance and get involved. I do not agree with Tony on everything, and he knows this. We have, however, developed a good working relationship because we are willing to listen to one another's opinions and concerns. I have allowed him to share with me at length on various topics. Some I have agreed with him about, some not so much. None the less, I hope that he will get his due consideration, especially since he has spent significant time and effort to become educated about the things in which he believes.

That being said, the entire ethanol plant plan for the Selma area is only in the process of having a parcel of land rezoned. The ethanol company has not even bought the property yet. It would be some time before a plant is actually built, if at all. I personally serve on the Planning Board, as do other fine citizens of the booming metropolis of Selma. This request came before the board, we met with the representatives from East Coast Ethanol, and we looked at the zoning map and requirements. We did remark about the necessary upgrades to the roadways to accommodate the plant, its method of delivery, and other items of interest. However, our duty was not to debate the merits of an ethanol plant. Our duty was to determine whether or not it was appropriate to rezone residential and farm land to an industrial application. To that end, I was amenable.

There are arguments against the ethanol plant, as enumerated in last week's newspaper, so I will not get into them here. I also will not debate the merits of those arguments in great depth here. I will save that for my talk show. I personally am for progress and development when it is appropriate and beneficial. Is this the case with the proposed plant? I personally don't know yet. I do know that there was one quote from Mayor Hester with which I take issue, or at least wonder why this would be a consideration. He said, "If the plant is constructed, it will have a positive impact on Selma. It could add $100 million to our tax base. That's significant for the town." I agree that such an addition would be significant to our tax base. However, the proposed plant would not be within the Selma town limits and therefore is not subject to taxation by the town. As I understand it, Selma would have to annex that property in order to realize any such benefit.

There are also issues about court precedents that require Selma to take the zoning of Pine Level, the nearby ETJ jurisdiction. Do I think that Selma should have to take what another town does into consideration when determining our own town's destiny? Absolutely not. As a matter of fact, I think that Selma should totally ignore what other towns have for requirements of zoning just because we are an autonomous entity and should act as such. I have a hard time with another town determining Selma's jurisdictional authority and influence and vice versa.

I also have the thought that I am not fond of the very concept of an extra-territorial jurisdiction. I have a hard time with allowing a town to regulate people and businesses that are not getting to have a say in the governance as people within the town get to have with their vote. There should be the town limit and that is it...period. Either a property is within our town borders or it is not. Either it is within our jurisdiction and its owner(s) pays taxes and gets the same services and say in governance as others in town or not. There should be no property, person, or business held in limbo. That is just plain unethical. Unfortunately, that is how the State of North Carolina has determined that towns should run their affairs and we have to deal with it.

There is a balance to be struck somewhere, I am sure. The town leaders wish to expand Selma, as do I. There is the ongoing concern between freedom and regulation. There is the feud between development and environmentalism/preservation. What is the right answer for Selma in this case? Again, I am not sure. You will probably read the results of the public hearing in this issue of the paper. Hopefully I was able to be there in person and will be addressing this issue further if it develops.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Column for Jan 3, 2008

The Sissification of America

If you are like me, you fail to comprehend the use of the term "progressive" as it refers to current ideology. Often times, the term should instead be "regressive". Just in the past month or two, I have been extremely frustrated with some alleged "progressive" thought patterns. I am very thankful for those around me who keep me sane by maintaining old fashioned values that were and have always been progressive.

I have had the great fortune to be able to play "big brother" to a youngster lately. For years, I had pondered volunteering in a Big Brother/Big Sister type program, and now through a mutual connection, I am doing that very thing with a youngster. What I find refreshing is that this little guy is being raised as I believe a boy should be raised, meaning that he is allowed to be a boy. I have been able to wrestle, play with toy guns, will be buying some Super Soakers, and doing all the boy things like playing baseball, basketball, and football with him.

I recall the days of my youth spent running through the woods. A stick was the only toy I needed, since it served as a toy gun. The fellow children in the neighborhood also had the opportunity to play as boys do. We threw lawn darts, had pocket knives as toys and tools, we went into the woods and shot at each other with BB guns, had slingshots, rode in cars without seat belts or air bags, and wore large Buck knives on our hips to school every day just as in the show, "The Dukes of Hazzard". Young boys played with toy trucks, moved dirt with the assistance of Tonka, dug for worms, caught bullfrogs, and caught fish with our own fishing poles. Nowadays, children are told that catching fish is cruel, that every pocket knife is a dangerous weapon rather than a tool, that toy guns lead to violence, and we put children in booster seats with a paranoid guarantee of certain death. Children get suspended from school for drawing pictures of guns, carrying nail clippers, or making a joke about physical violence.

Would we have been able to fight World War II if little boys were never allowed to play with toy guns, wrestle, play physically demanding games and athletics, and only kept them sheltered from any and all harm? I doubt it highly. We would have had such a sniveling bunch of sissies masquerading as men that I doubt we could have ever had the resolve to win a war. It is that same "sissification" of American children today that has undermined the entire war effort in Iraq and Afghanistan. I have heard many comments made by our soldiers that they just want to be able to win. The major proponents of a sissy-boy approach have opposed the sending of more troops into Iraq but later had to admit that the "surge" tactic has worked effectively.

Remember, I was not in favor of the war in Iraq. I did not agree that Iraq was a threat to our national security and wanted a formal declaration of war before any invasion. Sure, I thought that Hussein was an evil dictator that needed to be toppled, that Iraq did and still does have weapons of mass destruction (fighter jets were just found buried under sand dunes this past week), and that there may even have been a connection between Iraq and the events of September 11, 2001. Fortunately, the men and women we sent into harm's way were not sissies and were able to get the job done and continue to do so. However, when I read the repeated rhetoric of opposition to all things Bush, I want to scream. I personally am no fan of George W. Bush and am glad that his eight years is coming to an end. However, I do give credit where credit is due. I would rather have had "W" on duty than Al Gore on September 12th, 2001 and forward.

The Sissification of America, or as I have often called it, The Wussification of America, is something that greatly disturbs me. I have heard it said by one popular Raleigh preacher years ago that "girls are not just long haired boys". The reverse is also true. Boys are not just short haired girls. Men and women are created differently. I know that is news to some, but for the six thousand years of recorded history, we have already known this fact. Let boys become men and girls become women. Boys are male by birth, but become men by choice. Girls are naturally female, but become women by choice, and hopefully, ladies.

If we do not take control of the simple fact that we need men and women, not some unisex sissies in this country, I can see that our nation will falter in our families, our communities, our governments, and eventually, our sovereignty. I don't know about y'all, but I am going to do my part to see that youngsters upon whom I have influence know, appreciate, and practice the difference between men and women and don't become sissies.