Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Column for Sept. 25, 2008

So Selma finally has a new Town Manager. Richard Douglas does seem to have an impressive résumé. Along with that résumé, however, expect impressive results.

The Town Manager serves at the whim of the Town Council. This means two things. First, he/she can be hired and fired at the Council's bidding. Next, it means that the employee is subservient to the Council and should take direction on administration while at the same time providing expertise to the Council for their authoritative decision taking.

Looking back, I see that we have had several town managers with diverse personalities and methods. Bruce Radford, now in Apex, was a bit more flamboyant and outgoing. Jeff White was much more reserved, and despite the heavy criticism he received, still served at the direction of the town council and mayor. Stan Farmer and I got along well and I thought he carried out his financial mission well, but I found him a bit obsequious, often afraid to offer a strong opinion. My interactions with interim Manager, C.L. Gobble have shown him to be articulate and knowledgeable, yet bold enough to offer insight and be contrarian if necessary.

I remember when the town laid off the entire Planning Department a few years ago. In talking to Mr. Gobble at the last Planning Board meeting, I learned that there were a lot of planning items left lacking with Stan Farmer's departure. Whether that was because of the lack of a planning department, the lack of planning expertise, or because of Mr. Farmer's general work load, I do not know for sure. What I do know is that Selma is only 3.5 square miles in territory and can not be so swamped with planning issues as to backlog the town's progress. After all, we do have plenty of Planning Board meetings get canceled because of a lack of agenda.

I recently got notice that the Planning Board would not be meeting this month until the new Town Manager and Planning Director are in place. I wonder, however, if these two positions need to remain and the same. If our interim Town Manager can push through the new Walgreen's project with it never coming to the Planning Board for a formal vote or review (not that the Planning Board has any authority whatsoever other than to recommend action to the Council either in the affirmative or negative), then I wonder about needing a separate employee to do so.

Jeff White was paid in the low 70,000 dollar range, if memory serves correctly. Stan Farmer was paid in the sixties to start. We just hired a new manager for $90,000 per year, and Mr. Douglas has a Master's Degree in planning as well as a good amount of experience in that field, from what I read in this very newspaper. If we are going to hire someone for that much money more than we were previously offering, and we are now in a time of an economic slow down, then I believe that we, as tax payers should expect more for our dollars, which are harder to come by. This is especially true when we have been hit with nearly a dime's increase per $100 valuation in property tax with another property valuation coming around the corner.

I have seen towns with a lot more square miles and close to 100,000 population paying not much more than what we in little old Selma will be paying for our new manager. Don't get me wrong, I do not begrudge any man getting as much salary as he can negotiate. This is absolutely nothing personal with Richard Douglas, since I do not know him and probably have never met him before. It is, however, an issue of public trust. My mortgage escrow rate just went up because of a higher tax rate (again), I see areas of neglect in town (as I have previously addressed in this very column), and yet I see that we are going to pay well over a third more in salary to our next Town Manager than we did our last one. For that, I expect more effort and customer service. We, the citizens, are the customers.

One request that I would have for Mr. Douglas as he starts his new job is not to allow the political bullying that we have seen in this town for the past three years push him too far. I would hope that he would not let strong personalities railroad him into taking wrong decisions or going contrary to what he knows to be the proper course of action according to Selma's best interest. I would hope that he would show the same degree of boldness shown by Mr. Gobble and speak on behalf of the taxpayers, the future of the town, and not be obsequious.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Column for Sept. 18, 2008

So called "racial profiling" is a misnomer and is not necessarily a bad thing

Well, the saga of Sheriff Steve Bizzell just keeps getting better and better. Now our old "friends", the NAACP and the ACLU are attempting to investigate Sheriff Bizzell's department to see if he is guilty of "racial profiling" in law enforcement efforts.

Folks, I do not care who you are, there is common sense that must be in play. When I look at airport security efforts, I see the effects of political correctness run amuck. Little old ladies and toddlers are being screened as if they are in the same class as young Muslim males. The last I looked, no terrorist acts were perpetrated by mad grannies or diaper wearing children. As of this writing, there have been 11,849 deadly terror attacks perpetrated by Muslim males, usually of Middle Eastern descent just since September 11th, 2001. This does not take into account the events of 9/11, the USS Cole, the first World Trade Center bombing, and a host of other acts. The point is that it makes sense to look to a certain group if they are the ones primarily responsible for crime and acts of war and not those who do not fit the profile.

It makes sense to me that if our population of illegal aliens has been growing and the crime rate also grew disproportionate to the overall population of the group compared to the whole county, then there would be a reason to profile. If 30% of all DWI arrests (and those are just the ones caught) are from about 14% of the overall population, then there is a reason to pay heavier scrutiny to that population. Hence, Sheriff Bizzell's success in lowering the crime rate in Johnston County.

If there is a group of people who are known to violate the law (not including making the first illegal step on American soil by crossing the Rio Grande), then it makes sense to enforce the laws where the violators are known to be. If there is a bar where a lot of Gringos (White guys) are known to congregate and drive drunk after visiting the establishment, then I would hope that Sheriff Bizzell and other local law enforcement would constantly frequent that spot until all violators are caught or they simply cease said behavior. It just makes sense.

My previous columns and expressed opinions have drawn a lot of commentary from readers. One just this past week said (direct quote, so spelling errors and grammatical mistakes left as delivered to me). For the record, this comes from a Black man who takes issue with Sheriff Bizzell.

"Troy..I'm not trying to insult you…I'll explain it to you this way...Bizell's apology expalins that he didn't mean to talk about all mexican people..there are law abiding mexicans..just like there are law abiding black people..and black people who are jerks...and white people who are crazy..and whte people who are great. But I can't buy into hating a whole race of people..sorry man. There's no need to repeat mistakes of the past. Sorry..but it's a lot deeper than you make it out out to be..especially for people of color. I'm not going to argue with you about it. It's something you'll never understand, which isn;t a bad's just your point of view. But I served my country to protect the freedom of all americans and the flag that flies over this nation promises freedom for all. there. I have enough sense to know right from wrong and hating people based on color or race is wrong. The underlying thing is racism. If I say all white people in johnston county have wrecks on i-95 and have atv accidents..that's not accurate...and it would be racist. I hope you can understand why..if not..let me know I'll suggest some books you can read to get a better understanding."

I sympathize with the man in that he has a victim's mentality, which is hard to shake off. However, I do believe that there are things that transcend race. Behavior is not race based. It is culturally or personally taught and has nothing to do with the color of one's skin. It is not an issue of skin but is often an issue of sin. I have never been fond of those who see everything through the lens of racism and especially those who profit off the fears and race fears of others, such as the NAACP.

Here was my reply to the gentleman with a few edits for the sake of brevity and for a few details that would reveal identity. The individual is a fellow member of the media and would be known to some readers had I mentioned his name.

"I wholeheartedly disagree with your assumption that it is all about racism. Not everyone who hates to see 52% of our school growth come from people who are here illegally, see one third of our DWI rate come from people who are here illegally, see our emergency rooms packed with non-English speaking people who are not here legally and are ripping off our system for free health care that we are paying for, or just plain have a problem with people breaking the law are inherently racist.

I can't stand young men who walk around with their boxer shorts showing and their pants around the cracks of their butt or lower. Does that make me racist? No, it makes me someone who has respect for our society rather than be obnoxiously offensive to the rest of the community in defiant fashion.

I do not and can not ever support a candidate such as Barack Obama and think that TD Jakes' endorsement of him is racist. Does that make ME racist? No, it makes me observant and one who stands for principles in the candidate of his choice. For the record, I have strongly supported people like Allan Keyes and Clarence Thomas because of the principles for which they stand. I could not care less about a person's skin color. I care about character.

I understand the racism cry all too well. I run across it routinely from people who find it behind every tree, every comment, every action... When I make a comment based upon common sense and rational observation, I get the accusation hurled at me.

I spent the better part of a week listening to a disciple of Martin Luther King, Jr. scream at me and a few of my coworkers about how we are inherently racist because we are White. I have heard it all over the years, just in different forms and from different sources.

Yes, I can understand it. When I first moved to NC, I got flack from both Whites and Blacks. I was a big White guy from New England. I got the comments from the rednecks that I was not from around here and I got the hate from some Blacks that I was a big White guy and therefore worthy of hate. Racism comes from BOTH sides and is never unilateral.

When I was ordained by an all Black church (the only White boy there) do you think I gave a whit about what color the skin was of my fellow brethren? Heck, no. I cared about what we had in common.

I spend time talking to a lot of people, having a background in media. I was in radio for years, have been an active blogger, have been active in politics, a columnist, and a few other interests. That has gotten me involved with a lot of civic leaders, it has caused me to meet a lot of star athletes, politicians, actors, writers, and high profile preachers. I often get to spend time with some of the leaders, especially. I have run across a lot of LEGAL immigrants who are now elected officials and heads of advocacy groups that think exactly as Steve Bizzell does in terms of the blight upon our society caused by rampant illegal immigration. Are you going to claim that Honduran, Peurto Rican, and Cuban men I have met and fellowshipped (even teamed up with to lobby our lawmakers in Raleigh on immigration issues affected by NC legislation) are themselves racist? No, they are about the rule of law. They want illegal immigrants to be as legal as they were and follow the rules, too. But let a White man say that and he is racist?

Take a drive with me sometime to the same trailer parks that Steve Bizzell [referred to]. Stay at my house on a weekend and see the chickens running around in the yard of a home rented by illegal aliens while they drink beer, do the laundry on their front porch, let the grass grow two feet high, and play Mariachi music until after 1 AM. Visit my town where 60% of the residents are renters, not homeowners, having no respect for the taxes paid or cost of government. Come with me to my 5 year old's kindergarten class and see how 60% of his classmates are Hispanic, mostly the children of illegal aliens that do not speak English, are anchor babies, their parents do not pay taxes here, I am furnishing the classroom supplies because their parents refuse to buy them for their own kids, they are getting free lunch while I pay full price and in actuality, pay for their kids' lunches, too. Is any of that racist? Hardly. It is called simple economics, common sense, and respect for America and society. To find a racist thread in that is looking for goblins where there are none.

Why can one not refer to a problem with a particular group of problematic population without it being deemed racist? Bizzell used the term "trashy". Considering that I have plenty of trashy relations, I can definitively say as Forrest Gump would have, "trashy is as trashy does". Does that make me racist? No, just observant."

Obviously, I encourage Sheriff Bizzell to continue in his efforts in law enforcement, regardless of the ethnicity of the perpetrators involved.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Column for Sept. 11, 2008

There are some things for which our sheriff should not apologize

The past couple of weeks, I wrote about Selma becoming a third world nation, being a microcosm of the entire United States. This is reflective of what the US will become if we do not get a handle on immigration issues amongst other things. I shared some feedback from column readers and have even gotten more in the mail since last week. Thanks to all who wrote, by the way.

Apparently, our county sheriff agrees with me and has taken some heat for his impassioned stance. Steve Bizzell has been under fire for saying that "Mexicans are trashy" and that the illegal immigrant population is "breeding like rabbits". Steve is not alone in his thoughts.

Sheriff Bizzell did apologize for his comments, which were made in an interview with a large regional newspaper based in Raleigh, the name of which, like Lord Voldemort in the Harry Potter movies, can not be spoken (or in this case, written). He said, "I made broad statements that reflected on the legal and law-abiding Hispanic population – that was never my intention".

Obviously, I personally have made comments in this very column that reflect the same thoughts of some immigrants being "trashy". I make no apologies for that, nor should I. As Forrest Gump might say, "My mamma always says, trashy is as trashy does." Believe me when I say that there are trashy people who are kin to me. Trashy is a behavior, an attitude, and often is embedded in a culture. Unfortunately, many Hispanic immigrants to the United States bring their third world culture and ways with them, refusing to assimilate into the American culture. Furthermore, they often carry a blatant disrespect and disregard for America, seeking only to benefit from her hospitality and liberality offered them here rather than taking responsibility for the welfare of their new communities.

In Sheriff Bizzell's apology, he did say that he did make broad statements. Like Steve, I do not have a problem with law abiding and legal immigrants. I don't care where they are from or what they look like. All I care is that they come here legally, abide by our laws, and do not trash our country. One particular Hispanic advocate, however, is livid with Sheriff Bizzell's words, even saying he "wants his badge".

The call for Bizzell's resignation is out of line, but that is what I expect from selfish people. Being an advocate for illegal immigrants is like lobbying for the right to drive while intoxicated, in my opinion. There is always a self-interest in such advocacy.

This summer, I got the opportunity to meet with the founder of the Americans for Legal Immigration Political Action Committee and with the founder of The Minuteman Project. I joined these two men for a morning of lobbying lawmakers in Raleigh to support an agenda that is hostile to illegal immigration. That day, I also got to meet representatives from two different organizations that were founded by Hispanics and vehemently oppose illegal immigration.

Like the advocate who wants Sheriff Bizzell's badge for his comments, Roan Garcia-Quintana is an immigrant from Cuba whom I had the pleasure of meeting. Roan works with the organization "Americans Have Had Enough!" which is on the internet at Roan is a legal immigrant, now living in South Carolina. He has been very active in state government there and has been elected to the SC Legislature. Another man I met is Lee Nieves, from the Charlotte area, who is a Hispanic man affiliated with the organization "You Don't Speak for Me", found on the internet at They are both staunch advocates for sealing the American borders and coming down hard on illegal immigration. They believe just like Sheriff Bizzell that the American culture is being polluted by illegal immigrants, that illegal immigrants do not belong here, that our society is in danger from the increased crime by these people, and that they are multiplying like rabbits.

Sheriff Bizzell, I have read your comments. I have read your apology. I have read the comments on the internet by web readers of the publication in which you were quoted. I agree that your initial comments may have been broad, but trashy is as trashy does. Your eyes simply bear testimony to what is. That is the bottom line. You see more of it than most citizens, since you deal with the crime problems, help with deportation, and have a responsibility for the public well being.

Steve, I have been one of your strongest advocates for years. That is not to say that I agree with all of your decisions. I personally have one issue with you, feeling that you violated the United States Constitution on a few things. That is a major issue in my view, though overall I think your job performance has been outstanding. You need not apologize for stating the obvious. Like the many legal immigrants I know personally, you abhor illegal immigration, the crime perpetrated by those who started out their journey in this nation with their first covert and illegal step across our border, and the disregard for our laws and our culture. You hate paying for anchor babies and the cost to our society. For that, never apologize. Just keep working and hammering away at the mountain of the problems caused by illegal immigrants with your pick axe.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Column for Sept. 4, 2008

Last week's column evoked some interesting feedback from readers

It would seem that my column last week struck a chord or assent or dissent with some people. I have received some interesting feedback from readers this week. As much as I would love to comment on the Republican's error of making their convention short because of an impending hurricane or the brilliant selection of a gun toting beauty queen as a vice presidential running mate for John McCain, I will stick with the current train of thought.

I wrote last week about the possibility of Selma becoming like a third world nation if we do not take the reins of our own town and protect our American culture and town from degradation. Selma is just a microcosm of the rest of the nation. Apparently, that idea has really registered with some folks. Therefore I asked permission to share some commentary from readers. I believe strongly in using spell check functions in my email and word processor. However, I am preserving the format of the messages as they were delivered on purpose.

The first commentary I received was from someone who only identified him or herself as "royalblkrose".

"This issue is not new or news to Selma, Berkeley, Jacksonville. Take your pick of cities and it's the same issues. Immigrants, looking for a better life bring with them the only life they know.. the one they left, with all of its' oddities. Cities, states and the country are in an ethical fix where these new aliens are concerned. On the one hand, there' cheap labor. Cheap labor is good for employers but bad for employees, Because another component of cheap labor is IGNORANT labor. Most immigrants are not aware of their rights in the workplace, and because they are illegals, they will work under any and all condtions in fear of losing what little they do have.On the other hand, once they do know their rights, it then becomes harder for these immigrants to keep their jobs because they know their rights and it is therefore more expensive to have these individuals on the payroll! Don't believe me? Ask any Union rep what happens when an employee speaks up when something's out of whack!One of the worst things that happend in this country was when air traffic controllers union was busted and NAFTA was signed, giving large manufacturers a legal reason not to invest in keeping skilled people in the states working.just a couple of thoughts...."

My response to "royalblkrose" was the following:

"One of the major issues, as I have written, is the losing of the American culture. I absolutely agree that this is not new to my town. Keep in mind that the article was specifically written as a newspaper column for the local newspaper, so I have a local centric perspective in my writing. This is, however, as you pointed out, just a microcosm of the rest of the nation. The issue is lack of assimilation. I grew up in a French family. Though there was still a Quebecois mindset and French was spoken in the grandparent's home, they assimilated into the culture. It is the absolute accommodation and coddling of immigrants to woo a potential voting block or to succumb to political correctness that is killing this nation and will put us in a position of weakness, lack of unity, and a perpetually schismatic means of living."

Someone who called himself "ColdWarBaby" had this to say:

"The assimilation of immigrants also means being prepared to pay them at least minimum wage and perhaps even provide minimal benefits and marginally safe working conditions. This would not be good for the “economy” as it’s defined by fascist capitalism. Once u.s. workers have been reduced to accepting the same working conditions as those in china, mexico or vietnam, the “illegal aliens” will be gone.If the ruling class has its way, property values will be of little concern. Only they will be allowed to own real property. The only way a laborer will be allowed access to private property will be as a menial, a slave. Workers will be confined to labor camps or factory barracks, out of sight, out of mind.This is the Utopia of fascist corporatism, a world of masters and slaves."

I found the commentary by ColdWarBaby interesting. I replied to him or her this way.

"No, the assimilation of immigrants does not mean paying them minimum wage. They are here ILLEGALLY to begin with. They are not entitled to the same protections under the law, nor the benefit of citizens or even migrant laborers here legally. Period. Once we enforce our existing laws, protect our borders, value our culture, and stop committing national suicide, the illegal immigrants will stop coming. It is ridiculous to think that our standard of living would have to lower to their level in order to keep them from showing up. Your assumption that a ruling class believes that property values are of little concern is fallacious for several reasons. First, the revenue that the ruling class obtains is through valuation of property and taxation thereupon. Furthermore, their property would be subject to the same eventual fate of others, whether it is lower taxation value, lower retail value and profit margin, lower rental rates, lower dividends on investments, or even eminent domain. Fascist corporatism? Whatever."

I got one last commentary from someone who asked not to be identified, so I am editing out any information that would reveal clues as to the writer's identity.

"I look forward to reading your weekly commentaries in the selma news. I pass thru selma daily and sometimes stop at a couple stores on my way home, honestly i am looking over my shoulder the whole time i'm there…i cannot believe all the crime that goes on around selma,it is unreal. The infrastructure of most of the town reminds me of something i seen on a ghetto movie,it really needs a makeover. I know the people that have been here all their lives hate to see all the crime that goes on ,and to me it seems like an attraction for all the mexicans as you wrote about this week. I'm not saying all the drugs come from mexicans but a large part of them do,then that gets on the streets and leads to more crimes such as robberies etc. i believe to get the town back as it was before all the drug and criminal activity, it starts with town officials taking and showing action instead of just talking about it. I realize it is not just selma it is everywhere,but since i moved here and started reading your articles it has opened my eyes. well i've been on my soap box long enough now. I look forward to reading your future articles."

As you can tell, not everyone who reads my columns necessarily agrees with me. I enjoy reading from people on both sides of an issue, generally. Many people are interested in civil discourse. Others are merely interested in bashing. Fortunately, this week's feedback has been from those who chose to be civil but wanted to express themselves in response to my ramblings. I have gotten a lot of hate mail, as well as fan mail over the past two years. Some of the hate mail has been full of anger. With some people, I have been able to engage in meaningful dialogue. Some have simply been spiteful; others had their say and I never heard from them again, even after answering their emails. Rest assured that if your email hits my inbox, I am willing to respond.

What are your views? Do you have opinions about my column, about a news story, or about how things are in your community? If so, I encourage you to write. Even better, I encourage you to write your opinion as a letter to the editor of this very newspaper. I don't always like being the sometimes the only opinion on the editorial page, even if I am always correct in what I have to say.