Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Column for Dec. 24, 2009

Last week, I was in a bit of a rush to ship a package by a deadline. On the way towards Durham, I wanted to ship out a small box to a business half way across the country. Since I have shipped literally thousands of packages over the years (I used to own a business in which I shipped packages to customers all over the world) I figured it would be no big deal to get one into the postal system.

I remembered that the Selma Post Office opened around 8:30 AM. One time I tried going earlier and found that they opened up then. So I grabbed the list of errands I had to perform which also included stopping by my bank and grabbing a freshly brewed Dunkin' Donuts coffee after I hit the Post Office, and headed out the door.

When I got to the local Post Office, I found a small line forming in front of the interior door at around 8:45. It seems that even in the holiday season, and especially the week before Christmas, the Post Office had changed its opening hour to 9 AM. I was not about to wait for another 15 minutes, so I hit the bank, the coffee shop, and went on to the Post Office in the next town. I figured that Smithfield was a bigger town and for sure their Post Office was open already. Negative. Their Post Office opened even later. I saw several upset potential customers walking away with the same disgust I was feeling. Surely Clayton's Post Office would be open, and since it was generally along my way to my destination for the day, I headed there.

After walking away from the Clayton facility with my package still in hand, I answered the inquiries of fellow customers that the facility was not opening until 10 AM. I should have known from watching a young mother departing with a toddler in one hand and a package in the other that the Post Office was closed upon my arrival.

I traveled further into Clayton to a facility I thought for sure would be open. A very large shipping company that delivers worldwide has a franchised agent store in Clayton. I am not going to mention the business name, but its initials are UPS. Bingo, they were open. Score one for private industry.

Private industry will only flourish however, when it meets customer needs at a price customers are willing to pay. I was astonished as I watched two extremely unsatisfied customers storm out of the business without transacting any business. One simply wanted to leave a dollar on the counter for the busy clerks to ring up later for a small card worth far less than a dollar. He was rebuffed so he dropped the card on the counter, made a deserved sarcastic remark to the clerk, and left.

One lady in front of me was quoted a price for shipping a large, gift wrapped, framed picture of some sort and a book. She was quoted over thirty dollars and we both winced. Then she was quoted an extra twelve plus dollars for the actual shipping. It seemed that the original figure was just for packaging the items for shipping and did not include freight charges. The customer got angry, felt misled, grabbed her items, and left. The two clerks shrugged off a second irate customer.

Then it was my turn to get annoyed. An item that costs about six dollars packed in a small box would cost over seven dollars to ship. Since I was not willing to go out of my way for a fourth time and find yet another Post Office, I paid the higher than expected shipping charge and left. At least I got tracking information for the package unlike I would have gotten at the Post Office and it shows that as of this writing, my package is on time for an expected delivery.

Here is the bottom line. The Post Office is run like a government bureaucracy instead of a business. The holiday season is the busiest shipping time of the year. Instead of catering to customer needs, some pinhead government bean counter decided that the Post Office would open at an inconvenient hour allegedly to save money. Instead of providing a competitive operating schedule and competitive service, they continue to act like a monopoly and as a result lost my business. How many millions more people like myself did the same thing this year instead of using the United States Postal Service? If a private company can ship a package half way across the country and track it as it goes, so can the Post Office.

Sure I am beating up on the Post Office, but I feel the same way about ABC stores in North Carolina. The same principle applies. If a government operation wants to make better revenue, they need to think like a business instead of like a bureaucracy.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Column for Dec. 17, 2009

I have been recently complimented by several readers about the fact that I don't sugar coat things and am not afraid to state my opinions. That has been either a great gift or a great bane in my life, depending upon how you look at it. Then again, that is why I am sitting behind the keyboard right now. I have a list of things about which I have been pondering. I do believe that I will touch on several subjects today from my list.

First, I read with interest the plans to perhaps establish an historic district in Selma. I find it equally interesting that the Town of Benson recently voted down such a proposal. Historic districts are nothing new. I have been familiar with hysterical, I mean historical societies and their work in other towns, as well. My biggest opinion on this topic is simply that something, whether it is a building or other object, is not inherently historic just because it is old. In town, the Mitchener Station building may be considered historic since it was in effect the genesis of the town. My house in town was built in 1950. By definition, it is qualified as historic. However, it is a plain single family residence, and nothing of noteworthiness occurs here except that this is where I usually craft this column and where I raise my family. There are many such homes and buildings in this town. Big deal. Perhaps the most interesting and most noteworthy thing in Selma of historicity is the Vick Building. Vick's Vaporub is a world famous product and was developed right down the street from my non-historic home. I am going to stop myself before I get into the concept of developing an historic district and the eventual resulting regulations and disrespect for personal property rights. It is allowing the proverbial camel to put his nose in the tent.

I despise political correctness, as you may know. I was amazed when I was informed that I can no longer refer to particular restaurant employees as a waiter or waitress. My six-year-old informed me that the proper term is "server" and that we should never call a waiter a waiter or a waitress a waitress. I was informed that this is the type of garbage that is being taught in elementary schools. So, a first grader is not being taught how to look at a clock and tell time in school but is being taught about parallelograms, trapezoids, and servers. I don't know about you, but I learned to tell time long before I ever learned geometric figures. Impressionable young minds that can not tell time can be taught the politically correct terms for wait staff, and I think I have to remedy both at home.

Is it just me or is North Carolina about the worst state anywhere for leaving road kill on the side of the highway? I have traveled through a good many states and do not recall seeing anywhere near the amount of dead deer, possums, dogs, cats, raccoons, and other critters laying dead on the road side as I do here in Carolina. What is worse is that these carcasses are left to rot for weeks, sometimes months. I recall seeing dead deer become flat from decay after months of neglect. Other states are very active in picking up dead animals. We could do a whole lot better. Don't even get me started on the litter problem here compared to other states. Enough about flat cats and smeared deer, though.

The Christmas holiday season excepted, am I the only one left in the area that flies the American flag every day? I am just curious. It used to be common to see people fly the flag regularly in many areas of the state and country. I now rarely see ordinary citizens fly a flag at their own homes except maybe for a few days at the beginning of July. I will offer my old flag and maybe even a flag pole and mount to the first person who contacts me and asks for it. My old version of Old Glory may be faded some and a little weathered from waving in front of my non-historic home, but she is still beautiful and stands for a great nation.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Column for Dec. 10, 2009

I almost got it out of my system after my last column, and then I saw another news report of more of the race wars being perpetrated by the NAACP. Racism will not end unless all parties, regardless of race, stop the bigotry.

In Wake County, I was thrilled to see the newly elected Board of Education decide to stop some of the insane policies that were going on in there. This included an end to early dismissal Wednesday, and it looks like they may stop the forced bussing of students across the county in the name of diversity instead of allowing students to attend neighborhood schools. I see little value in putting a child on a school bus and sending them to the other side of the county rather than allowing him or her to attend a school a whole lot closer to home. That wastes both time and tax dollars, and adversely affects families.

In Wayne County, on the other side of our fair County of Johnston, school administrators a few years ago had that same epiphany of brilliance and decided to return to neighborhood schools instead of resorting to ineffective and expensive bussing. Apparently the National Association for the Advancement of Crazy People believes that sending a child to a school close to home is tantamount to the re-institution of segregation. That's just a dishonest assertion.

Segregation was the practice of exclusion and separation. Going to community based schools is a practice of inclusion and equality. There is nothing exclusionary about attending school with whatever fellow students happen to be in your immediate area. Regardless of your background, financial status, or race, you get to go to a community school.

The NAACP argues that many schools in Wayne County are almost completely populated by Black students. I fail to comprehend to how this is segregationist. If the admission criterion is that you live nearby the school, then Black people must predominantly populate the neighborhoods serviced by said schools. If they are predominantly poor, then the proportion within the school population will reflect that, as well.

Ironically, if the school population is primarily poor, then more students will qualify for free and reduced lunch at the schools. When that school reaches the magic number percentage thereof, they get even more federal funding under Title 1 provisions under federal law. In theory, this will lead to better education and accountability for academic achievement.

State NAACP President "Reverend" William Barber claims that Wayne County school policies have resulted in "poor performance statistics, including lower graduation rates, higher dropout and suspension rates, and stiffer discipline for Black students". Barber further claims that some schools that are "100 percent African-American with maybe one or two white children."

If there were few white children in the neighborhood by percentage, then I would expect that fewer white children would be at some neighborhood schools. To be sure, Barber is not claiming that if there were more white children at these same schools that they would have better performance statistics, higher graduation rates, lower dropout and suspension rates, and lesser discipline for Black students.
I do not for one minute believe that Black students are less intelligent, by nature perform poorly, and are innately prone to behavioral problems. By way of example, white children are the minority at our own Selma Elementary School and overall school performance statistics have risen the past few years.

Anyone who believes that Black students (or adults for that matter) are inferior and need government (or NAACP) intervention in order to achieve equality of intellect, behavioral standards, and academic achievement is truly blind to the truth. That scorns Martin Luther King, Junior's wish for a nation where his children "will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

Throwing around terms such as segregation is simply a tactic to incite people into angrily supporting the agenda. The agenda is to continue to have sufficient racial tension to continue to have a raison d'ĂȘtre. If we all, regardless of race, treat those of other races or even our own with dignity and the belief that all men are created equal (I remember that phrase from somewhere in antiquity) then we will dampen the racism that unfortunately continues in our midst.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Column for Dec. 3, 2009

For the past 20 years, I have been hearing the term, "racial reconciliation". In many regards, I believe that this nation has come a long way since the Jim Crow era. For the sake of simplicity and this column, let us say that the term "racial reconciliation" will only be applicable to Negroes and Caucasians.

This so-called reconciliation can not be a one way street. By definition, two parties can not reconcile if one is not willing to do so. Within the past week or so, I have seen two examples of this very premise. One is local, the other is on a national scale. Let me first tackle the local episode.

I wrote last week about Mr. Harris Jenkins' appeal to the Johnston County Board of Elections. I wrote that I thought the idea that Selma Elementary School being too far to travel as a polling place was ridiculous. A reader commented to me via email that I was possibly mistaken and that the complaint was about the polling location at Selma Baptist Church. Thank you for the communication, by the way. I greatly appreciate the feedback.

I was going by the printed news reports in newspapers and one radio station in the county. Within the past week, one news report said, "Jenkins, who ran for mayor in Selma, said the town's two polling places were too hard for some of his supporters to reach." That pretty much supports what I wrote.

Here is how this ties into racial reconciliation. The argument was basically made that minorities and the poor were disenfranchised with the allegedly distant polling places. But wait, it get better. According to one news report, it was alleged that "the lack of minorities working at another polling location affected the outcome". A lack of minorities working the polls? I quote myself from last week. "This is a joke, right?" Why not quote myself again? "You have got to be kidding me!"

What in the world does the color of the skin of a poll worker have to do with whether or not someone will cast a vote? If someone is so petty as to allow that to affect the decision of whether or not to vote, I don't want that person to vote at all. The country will be better off that way.

Personally, I like the idea that the poll workers are the same faces each time I cast a ballot and that they know me by name when I walk through the door. They work all day long every election day, and I have no idea if they are even paid for their efforts. I suspect that if more minorities actually volunteered their time, then perhaps more minorities would be working at the polling location(s).

The national disgrace to which I refer is the foolhardy Jesse Jackson, Sr. Supposedly he bears the title "Reverend" but since I became aware of his existence in the 1980's, I have yet to hear him ever have anything "Gospel centric" to say.

Jesse Jackson actually chided a Black skinned Congressman (who is also a Democrat) for voting against the health care boondoggle bill. He was quoted as saying, "You can’t vote against health care and call yourself a black man."

What in the world does being Black (note that I have sufficient respect to capitalize the word) have to do with being intelligent enough to realize that the bill was contrary to The U.S. Constitution and that its passage would effectively cripple the economy and our health care system? Why should one illegally vote in favor of national suicide just because he is Black? For that matter, what does the health care bill have to do with race, Mr. Jackson? Health care affects ALL Americans, not just Blacks. Note that I do not use the fallacious term, "African-American". Not all people of the Negroid race are from Africa and not all dark skinned Americans are of African heritage. If you are an American, you are an American. Period.

Look, folks, if people truly desire "racial reconciliation", then they have to stop being race conscious regarding every last detail of life and stop seeing hidden institutional racism where none exists. If you truly want the races to reconcile, then stop whipping out the race card. There are indeed some unjust cases of racism in this world, but when it does not truly exist, the "little boy who cried wolf" scenario gets mighty old and makes reconciliation harder to accomplish.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Column for Nov. 26, 2009

I don't know if I can get in all I wanted to address this week, since I have a notepad full of topics, but let me see how far I can get. As I said a few weeks ago, I am an equal opportunity offender. I don't care who you are or from what side of an issue you come, if you are wrong, you are wrong. And I don't mind saying so.

I was aghast after reading in this and one other newspaper about the decision of Harris Jenkins to file a formal protest with the Johnston County Board of Elections after he lost the mayoral race here in Selma. Was it about voter fraud or candidate shenanigans? Nope. It was about the polling place for the west precinct being "inconvenient". Inconvenient? This is a joke, right?

Since I have lived in Selma (over seven years now. I have been a Johnstonian for a dozen years and a Tarheel for over two decades) there have been at least four voting locations that I can recall for the west precinct. I remember voting at the town library, Harrison Gym, a church six miles out of town (according to, the police department annex building, and now Selma Elementary School.

There is no way possible that Selma Elementary School can possibly be considered to be "inconvenient". If hundreds of people can ensure that their children can one way or another, arrive safely at that school each and every school day I can hardly consider it to be inconvenient. If parents can show up there for school activities and Miss Railroad Days Pageants take place there, the venue can hardly be considered to be inconvenient. If voters had to drive six miles outside the town limits for a period of time in one of the stupidest decisions taken by the Board of Elections and have us vote at a distant, out of town church, then voting at Selma Elementary School can hardly be considered to be inconvenient.

According to one news report, the "West Selma polling place is about a mile from some historically poor neighborhoods on the south side of the railroad tracks." One mile? 5280 feet. You have got to be kidding me! Just one mile? People in Iraq walked miles and stood in line for hours, under the threat of death for voting in their elections. Yet many people still dipped their fingers in purple ink to show that they got to vote.

Less than 10% of the population of Selma even shows up to vote in this town. Jenkins was quoted as saying, "Look at where all the black people live, look at where all the multicultural diverse population lives, look at where primarily the poor live".

Well, Mr. Jenkins, you were campaigning in my neighborhood. You even spoke with my wife. Have you seen my neighborhood full of Blacks, Hispanics, and the poor? Yet they seem to have no problem getting to Selma Elementary school to sign up their children for free and reduced price lunch. 60% of the students there are Hispanic and that is not to mention the amount of black students. 90% of the students there get government lunch subsidy. Quite honestly, I am tired of helping pay for them. I pay for my child's lunch plus help but theirs, too. How is it that they can get to the school for that, yet it is too far to go to vote? It is a matter of being spoiled and apathetic, not inconvenienced.

In all fairness, it has been ridiculous that the polling place keeps changing for both precincts in town. Furthermore, I don't see why we even have more than one voting location, since Selma is a small town. Even in a small town, I would still like to see three precincts and us elect two council members from each. That would be more effective for local representation purposes and give greater diversity to the town council. But that is a rabbit trail and I am not going to get to other topics today, obviously.

The bottom line is that if people are not willing to make arrangements to travel just one mile to vote in an election, they do not deserve to vote. One mile is not excessive, inconvenient, and certainly not worthy of whining.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Column for Nov. 19, 2009

There are many things over which I can differ with others and yet not need to have division. I find this especially true in matters concerning Christianity. For instance, I have a Charismatic/Pentecostal background and yet fellowship currently with a Presbyterian congregation. We have more in common than we have in conflict. I am a non-cessationalist, Arminian that is not fond of infant baptism; whereas the doctrines taught at the congregation where I attend regularly tend to be cessationalist, Calvinist, and baby sprinkling. However, we have some core doctrines with which we align and have great fellowship together.

There are many with whom I differ politically. Some of them choose to divide over these differences, others not. Some choose to absolutely refrain from any discussions regarding politics or religion and believe them to be private matters that are not to be discussed openly. Oddly enough, as opinionated as I am in matters of both politics and religion, my dear, sweet mother holds her opinions "close to her chest". To this day, I still do not know where she stands politically and she believes that if I bring up my faith, I am cramming religion down her throat. The ironic thing is that she lives in the heart of the region of the country that brought us The Great Awakening and George Whitefield in the 1730's and 40's. This period spawned great discussions of religion and as a result, politics that contributed to The American Revolution.

Recently, a young man commented "call me unpatriotic, but Christians with a political agenda test my sanctification". I find this position to be greatly conflicted. I responded to this 20 year old, "I have no problems with Christians having a political agenda. Actually, I prefer them to have one, since it is one way to be salt and light unto the world. However, one must form his political views in light of his faith and have the courage to stand by them. One well known ministry says, "Politics determines how we spend time here on Earth. Religion determines how we spend eternity." I have no great issue with that statement. Many of our Founding Fathers were ordained clergy. They, too, had political agendas."
Now you would have thought that this would have been sufficient. Instead, I got a flippant response. "Yeah to each his own. I am not a fan of abortion. Aside from that, I literally don't care what the government does." Here is where I see the hypocrisy in such a position. If you believe that abortion is wrong, which it is both Biblically and ethically, then it is incumbent upon you to attempt to do something about it. I find that in Proverbs 31:8-9 "Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy." Who could be more needy and require the right to life be protected more than the unborn? It is the government that has decided that these rights do not need protecting, and it is the government that needs to be changed by its citizenry.

I believe wholeheartedly that Christians should take the lead in running our government, since God, in his mercy and grace, has bestowed upon us in America a form of government that allows us to participate and form government. Thus, my simple reply to this young male (one is a male by birth, a man by choice), "You should [care about government]. 1. They are ministers of God. (Romans 13) 2. Government affects your life on a regular daily basis and that of your fellow believers. 3. The form of government you were given by God takes participation to make it work. Since you are allowed to affect it, you have a God given responsibility to care. To leave the government to just the heathen is reckless, immoral, and in my opinion, sinful. (James 4:17) 4. You are told to pray for the government leaders. (1 Tim 2:1) That should be sufficient grounds for anyone who is a follower of Christ to take up a political agenda."

I am limited by the constraints of print space, but I will simply leave you with this encouragement. If you are a person of faith in Christ, let your light so shine before men. Do not allow the heathen, those who are in opposition to God, and who have a purely secular agenda determine your nation, state, or local governmental agenda. Allow your political views to be determined by your faith, not the other way around. I changed my political views greatly after I came to faith in Christ. You have an obligation to have a political agenda and views, the way I see it.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Column for Nov. 12, 2009

Congratulations, Selma. I just watched the town's municipal election returns on News 14 (an exclusive service of Time Warner Cable. Yes, I work for that company. I am the engineer who brings you all of their advertising. I install and maintain their advertising automation systems for a living. Now the newspaper can send them a bill for the mention) and on the county web site. You just voted for at least another two years of the same old status quo. This little town in which I keep hearing about wanting a change in leadership has just refused the change.

To all those who live outside the town limits, you can look forward to an increase in regulation without representation. The same people who brought you town ordinance control extended to the extra-territorial jurisdiction are still in office. The same people who tried to annex your land and raise your taxes are again in office and will most likely assault your property rights again.

To those who live within the town limits, you can look for an increasingly stringent set of laws and regulations. The same people who brought you tax increases three out of four years in a row and higher utility bills than those on a privately owned electrical grid are still in power (pun intended).

The same town council members who need to have each and every issue explained, re-explained, and then rephrased to be comprehensible to them will again sit in the seat of power. Those with questionable eligibility for even holding municipal public office are still holding on to it. Way to go, Selma. The same mayor who brought news crews, the NAACP, lawsuits, and just plain negative attention to our sleepy little town will have control of the town gavel.

To all of you readers who keep telling me you want change but did not vote for it or even failed to vote at all, please refrain from telling me you want change in this town. For the past three municipal election cycles, I have made an effort to spread the message of conservative, proven, and decisive leadership. Instead, people apparently would prefer an existing clique.

Sitting at a local restaurant or barbershop, I have heard several people either postulate or assent to the idea of candidate X being a nice "airhead" or indecisive, and yet the same candidate has been returned to office yet again.

I was personally hoping for a changing of the guard, since I am tired of the status quo. We had status quo four years ago, but I do believe that perhaps some of that status quo was better than our existing status quo. When liberties are marred, taxes are raised, town public relations and perceptions worsened, volunteer advisory boards repeatedly ignored, and hand picked cronies empowered, I question the legitimate progress therein.

To be fair, there have been some positive results over the past four years of the tenure of our incumbent town "govering [sic] body". The town did indeed trim some of its budget. Though from what I have been informed by those who would know, the town was never in as bad shape economically as was claimed.

The town did reorganize its fire department and hired a full time fire chief, regardless of the questionable methodology in doing so. The town leadership did hire two different town managers, though again, its methodology and end result are still in great question. The town council and mayor did adopt clearer planning and zoning ordinances, though they were brought about by the diligent work of a new Planning Director and the few accepted recommendations by a frustrated Planning Board. Just ask them and you will find that most on that board are very frustrated.

Here is the saving grace. The phrase, "the devil that you know is better than the one you don't" may be appropriate in this case. At least the incumbents are a known quantity, though I was looking forward to something different. I figured that the race for mayor could have been an upset, and it was even closer than two years ago, with just a twenty-seven vote difference. That means that just 14 voters could have changed the outcome of that election. I figured (and wrote some time ago in this very column) that the two incumbents for the town council would return handily, and they did. In all honesty, there was little in the way of opposition to worry about. There were some write-in votes, but those were not reported.

Oh, well. It's time to simply pick up my pickaxe and keep swinging. In the meantime, I am going to spend less time involved in public affairs in this town and more time with my family, my church, and in my cozy home sanctuary.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Column for Nov. 5, 2009

Sometimes I do not have to go looking for entertainment. Sometimes it finds me. Sometimes I do not have to search for topics upon which to write this column. Sometimes they find me. When they both come in the same package, then that is a serendipity of laughter in which I revel.

My entertainment and fodder for this week came in my mailbox. I am used to getting email, phone calls, and even mail from readers. Seldom, however, do people actually sign a letter or leave a name if I get an answering machine message. Occasionally, someone will have the integrity, courage, and decency to actually include their identity. Not this time, however.

"With reference to your commentary dated October 22, 2009 of your interest in local and public affairs you seemed unhappy in the govering [sic] body in Selma. Why not leave Selma? Go back where you came from and perhaps you will be happy and not confused." That was the full content of the handwritten letter.

The amusing thing is that the speech pattern and handwriting are very familiar to me. I immediately knew the origin of the letter. I could be wrong, but if I were a betting man, I would lay money on this one. Just for fun, I could call upon a contact I have who processes fingerprints for a living, but I would rather just chuckle.

One thing for certain is that I am not confused, as the writer asserts. The problem is that I am just the opposite, which is what offends the "govering [sic] body" or any others that would be the point of a rant. Make no mistake, I am an equal opportunity offender. I don't care what race, sex, or creed you happen to be or hold. Elected officials usually deserve whatever praise or jeers they get, depending upon their performance. A classic example is Congressman Bob Etheridge. When he takes a wise decision as my representative, I give him kudos. When he acts like Bob Etheridge normally does, he deserves my criticism. The "govering [sic] body" in Selma is no different.

Knowing what I know, I can see why the author of the letter did not take kindly to criticism of the "govering [sic] body". I actually believe some on the "govering [sic] body" to be far less competent than others. The more competent members of the "govering [sic] body" are not up for re-election this year.

As to the suggestion that I move back to where I came from, I can say this. If I relocated back to where I was raised, my taxes would be lower. The public education my sons would receive would be better, and people would generally be courageous enough to own their comments. On the same note, I have actually considered leaving Selma, since my job, church, and extra-curricular activities tend to pull me to another county. However, I am right now, right where God would have me. I am doing exactly what I am supposed to be doing and where I am supposed to be doing it.

Would I be happier elsewhere with another govering [sic] body? That would entirely depend upon the actions of the local govering [sic] body where I would reside. If a govering [sic] body respects personal freedom, property rights, is not solely interested in control, is educated about the issues instead of needing them explained repeatedly at a Town Council meeting, and is not concerned only with personal agenda items rather than the public good, then I would be fully in support of and happy with such a govering [sic] body.

In the meantime, I am content with writing here, in my own little print space, and trying to make a difference. I will keep swinging a pick-axe at the mountain of ignorance and liberalism as long as I am allowed.

I am not ashamed of what I write. I own it, affix my name, and even my picture to it. Here is my admonition. Own your opinions. Don't be a coward. Stand up with a spine and personally own them. Better yet, if you disagree with something I write and have published publicly, have the courage to write it here, in the same venue. Give the publisher something to print on this page. Then again, the writer of this letter would not do that for a reason that is all too obvious to me. He/she should know better, and I could have really embarrassed him/her publicly. However, I will allow the letter to do it for me.

I don't mind hate mail. I actually wear it as a badge of honor. Whether you love what I write or hate it, you are reading. The message is communicated, the print space filled, and I have done my job. For that, I am thankful.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Column for Oct. 29, 2009

If you don't recycle this newspaper, birds are going to die. I'll bet you did not know that was a fact. Neither did I, until my six year old came home from school and informed me that it would happen. Sure enough, I was told this not once, but twice on two separate days. When I inquired as to where he had heard that, he told me that it was being taught in his first grade class and that his teacher told him that. He was beginning to tear up over the thought of sweet, innocent little birdies laying on the ground, dead as a result of someone not recycling a newspaper.

Twice, I had to instruct him that what he was hearing was itself, rubbish. I had to inform him that newspapers are made of paper, which come from wood products, i.e., trees. I realize that he is too young to understand basic economics, so I tried to put it in a way he could understand. He has seen and helped family with growing vegetables, flowers, and the like. I told him that if he wanted a harvest from his plants, he had to put seed or starter plants in the ground. Trees are no different. They are a renewable resource.

Trees are harvested for wood products, plain and simple. Whether the use is lumber for construction, toilet paper, furniture, baseball bats, whatever, we need wood. Lumber companies are smart enough to use good forest management techniques so that they will still be in business decades down the road. If all trees are cut down, it will be like the Dr. Seuss story, "The Lorax", and we will have nothing for a forested landscape. According to The Center for Free Market Environmentalism, "The amount of new growth that occurs each year in forests exceeds by a factor of twenty the amount of wood and paper that is consumed by the world each year".

I have done some research on recycling. There are a lot of myths being foisted upon the public from both sides of the issue. Actually, we have plenty of landfill space and the United States does well with its waste generation. Two facts according to EcoWorld I found interesting. First, "the total land area needed to hold all of America’s garbage for the next century would be only about 10 miles square". The Center for Free Market Environmentalism clarifies this point, saying that the landfill would be ten miles "on a side". The second interesting fact was that "the average household in the United States generates one-third less trash each year than does the average household in Mexico." Since we have so many immigrants from Mexico in the U.S. and that number is growing rapidly, will that figure change? Doubtful. As stated by EcoWorld, "we now produce about twice as much output per unit of energy as we did 50 years ago and five times as much as we did 200 years ago." Thus, we are far more energy efficient in today's manufacturing.

I could go on with a bunch of facts and figures, but I would simply encourage each of you to do your own investigation. I know that birds can fly to a new tree if his tree is cut down. I know that nature adapts and that man has a way of making efficient use of the natural resources available when profit is on the line.

I will add this one particular quote, though. "On average, extensive recycling is 35 percent more costly than conventional disposal, and basic curbside recycling is 55 percent more costly than conventional disposal." Just from personal experience here in Selma, I find that not all items are taken by the recycling vendor in town. More than once, I have found items left on my lawn which I have placed in the recycling bin. My neighbor has had the same thing happen. I did not know that the sorting facility was at my curb, and I certainly did not appreciate the polymer container being littered on my lawn.

If you are like me, you don't run outside every time you open a can of cat food. I use an old plastic bucket to collect my recyclables right next to my garbage can in my kitchen. When the bucket gets full, we empty it into the recycling dumpster. Of course, I don't want Spaghettios, Coke, tuna, or the Wal-Mart special Ol' Roy dog food cans all nastily crudding up, smelling up, and attracting bugs into my kitchen, so we take the time to rinse out the containers first. Ah, there is nothing like using up more natural resources in an attempt to allegedly save natural resources and "save the planet". Phooey.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Column for Oct. 22, 2009

This may be the first municipal election since I have lived in Selma in which I may either not vote or may support a write-in candidate. I read last week's issue of "The Selma News" which had answers to questions posed at a candidates' forum. Quite honestly, I wish that there was such a forum the past several election cycles. Alas, one never came to pass.

I have to admit, I was eager to read the questions and answers. I was not able to attend the forum in person, since I already had to choose one of two scheduled activities that same evening. Thus, I was hoping to find a glimmer of hope for Selma's future in the newspaper. I was underwhelmed with what I read.

There is a reason I stopped going to regular town council meetings. I often had to sit and stew while watching the goings-on. Many times I wanted to shout out as if it were a session of British Parliament. I am not one to easily and quietly observe those things that just "chap my hide". Even after sitting on the council for years, one would think that incumbents would have highly educated answers. Fresh candidates should have an idea of how a municipal government works and its priorities rather than having copy cat, obviously politically correct, or uninformed answers to basic questions. I am going to pass along to all current candidates as well as ordinary citizens a good resource. The Center for Local Innovation, a division of The John Locke Foundation, is an excellent place to gain perspective about the priorities, needs, and role of local government. They are easily found on the internet.

There is a reason why I got the endorsement of a county wide newspaper when I ran for Selma Town Council. I paid attention to the needs of and the role of government. Unfortunately, government tends to exceed its rightful role, and Selma's government is no exception. Local government should not have as its primary goals the inclusion of more and more territory under its control nor the increase of its tax base. As I have preached for years, the primary focus should be on essential services and maintenance of existing infrastructure above all else. That means keeping the police cars and fire trucks rolling, the fresh water flowing, the sewage and waste water outgoing, the garbage picked up, the streets paved, and the electricity flowing. The only reason that I see water, sewer, and electricity as essential services is that the town has set itself up as a monopoly business in these areas. I would actually prefer to see private industry take over these utilities, since I believe in private enterprise, competition, and decreasing prices by not burdening tax payers and citizens with the maintenance of such services.

I was glad to read that life long residents have chosen to become engaged in their community, but I was hoping to read some great insights that made me pump my fist in the air and say, "Yeah, there ya' go!" I have a few comments that I would like to proffer, but have to keep it brief in the interest of print space.

It was stated that "senior citizens are the backbone of our community". No, they are not. I do not minimize their importance. They are an integral part, a necessary part, and a welcome part of our community. However, they are no more or less important than any other segment. Our local children are likewise. They are not to dominate our focus and we certainly are not to concentrate our law enforcement activities on them as a target demographic. We do not have inadequate emergency medical response, and the ridiculous notion that you don't get a live person on the other end of the phone when you dial 9-1-1 just because that person is in Smithfield instead of Selma just astounds me. Furthermore, EMS is not a town responsibility, it is a county one. For crying out loud, know the role of your government before filing for elected office or at least before opening your mouth at a public forum. I have more commentary, but don't have the space for it and need to go take a blood pressure pill before I pop a blood vessel.

Before anyone accuses me of simply having "sour grapes" over not having been elected myself, you can save your breath. Nay, it is a growing annoyance as a citizen of this town, this county, this state, and this nation. As I stated, I am glad to see people become engaged in their local town and government. I only wish that people took being an informed candidate or elected official as seriously as I do being an informed citizen. Yes, that is one of my pet peeves, which is one of the reasons why you get to read my rants each week.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Column for Oct. 15, 2009

"Shut up, dogs!" I hollered from my bedroom. The barking stopped for just a moment, then continued. Both Barack Odoga and Daisy the killer Pekingese kept yapping...and yapping. "That's unusual," I thought. Hearing the dogs bark in the middle of the night was not especially odd. We get that a lot in this area. One of the neighborhood dogs barks at a pedestrian or cat, and the alarm system travels throughout the neighborhood. This time, however, something was different in how my two canines kept barking.

I wiped the sleepiness out of my eyes, as it was about 1:30 in the morning. I stumbled my way towards the bedroom door to make my way to the living room, where the pups were both on alert. "What is it, babies?" I asked. I looked around the room after turning on the ceiling fan light switch and saw a normal living room, just as I left it earlier in the evening. I walked into the bathroom, my office, and around the kitchen to ensure that nothing was wrong. I had listened to hear if I could hear what the dogs were barking about before I even got out of bed. The baby monitor often amplifies sound that only the dogs hear before I do. I often hear movement, outside dogs, and outdoor noises on the monitor before I do naturally. I did not hear anything out of the ordinary.

When I walked back into the living room, both dogs stood at attention, pointing towards the door to the carport. I flipped on the floodlight to the driveway and cracked open the living room door to the carport. I peered out to see if anyone was standing in my driveway, but saw nothing. When I looked down at the three brick stairs below my door stoop, I saw a body laying there clad in denim, sneakers, and white socks. I peered through the living room window and could not see much better.

Since the door opening, the dogs barking, and the light did not make the person stir, I figured that some drunken individual had passed out on my door step. I immediately put on some jeans, shoes, a shirt, and went to one of my gun safes. I despise the gun control laws that require me to lock up firearms since I have children in the house. I believe in safe handling, teaching respect for firearms, and having loaded weapons available at a moment's notice. Since becoming a dad, I complied with state law and locked them up (that's my story and I'm sticking to it). I went to the safe with my favorite revolver for concealed carry purposes, which also has a laser grip sight and wanted to at least carry it, should I need to take action. Since this is not where I keep my quick grab firearms, I had not used this piece in months. I found that the electronic lock was dead. This is not what one wants to run across when needing quick access to a gun. Fortunately, there was no imminent danger in this situation, so I took the time to try to solve the lock issue. Eventually, I used key access and figured I would fix the stupid thing later. Thankfully, that particular safe only held one gun.

I debated whether it was tactically better to handle this vagrant myself or to simply let the local constabulary force handle the situation. I weighed the pros and cons. If I took care of it myself, I would ensure that this individual was removed from my property on my terms and if medical assistance was necessary, my long expired emergency medical technician skills would come in handy. On the other hand, I am one person, and the police usually send at least two officers should things get physical. I had no idea if this person is armed or not or what would happen if he was startled awake suddenly. I could have gone out another door and approached the subject. However, I figured it was tactically best to have the local police to come remove the drunk.

Well, it turned out that an illegal immigrant with little or no English speaking capability had been so intoxicated that he either could not make it back to his residence or thought that my house was his and he just could not get through the door. Unfortunately, the Latino population, especially those here illegally, have a high instance of alcohol abuse. I understand being away from home and lonely, but there is still no excuse for drunkenness. Or illegal immigration, for that matter. At least he was not driving. I read far too many stories of drunken Latino drivers killing innocent people.

I have a t-shirt that says, "I DON'T DIAL 911" and has a picture of a Smith and Wesson 45 auto pistol firing (it looks like a model 4506, for you gun aficionados out there). Two things I know are that when it is not an emergency situation, it is worth it to sit back and wait for local law enforcement to handle non emergency situations. If it was a life threatening situation, I would have definitely done things differently. I also know that I despise gun laws, since they seldom deter law breakers but often inhibit law abiding citizens.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Column for Oct. 8, 2009

Hidden in the classified section of "The Selma News" and other periodical publications are announcements of public hearings on various topics. Whether they are budgets, zoning changes, ordinance changes, etc., towns must advertise these things. There were two in last week's paper that intrigued me. One of which I knew about, the other I did not until I read the announcement.

There is a public hearing on October 13th about a proposed change of the name of the south side of Railroad Street to Martin Luther King Avenue. The funny thing is that this announcement was in the newspaper edition reporting all of the upcoming (now past) Railroad Days activities. That irony did not escape me.

I first want to state that I believe that the Civil Rights Era of the 1960's was necessary. I believe that the work of Dr. King included a lot of good. I have read and heard many of his speeches and biographical material on the man. I spent a few days discussing race relations with one of his disciples many years ago. Though in my reading and discovery, I found many things about Martin Luther King, Jr. that I will not laud, I will not diminish his good work. I certainly do not advocate his execution nor that of any other man who works for the betterment of his fellow man, whether I agree with him or not. I am the sort of man who, had I been alive at the time, may very well have joined his marches in support of what was right.

That having been said, I do grow tired of the political correctness, capitulation, and appeasement of elevating this man's life to near deity or martyr status. It is a fad of apology and it is getting old. My personal opinion is that I would not mind naming a street after MLK if Selma already had James Madison Boulevard, George Washington Avenue, Thomas Jefferson Street, Ronald Reagan Circle, and the like. How about William Hooper or John Penn, North Carolina's signers of the Declaration of Independence? Or our representatives to the Constitutional Convention of 1787 like Richard Spaight or William Blount? Of course most have never heard of these men, as I doubt that their work is as valued today in history class.

This has zero to do with skin color and everything to do with political correctness or lack thereof. As I said, I would not mind renaming a street in honor of King, but to follow a fad and ignore the rich heritage that came before him is, in my opinion, a travesty.

I did not plan on spending so much time on that topic, since I wanted to bring up the Land Use Plan draft that was presented to the Planning Board and Town Council. There will be a public hearing on this "plan" on the same evening.

It was reported in this paper that the Selma Planning Board and Town Council had a joint meeting last week to hear about the plan. What is generally not public knowledge is that this same meeting was also supposed to be for "…the Council, Planning Board, and Land Use Plan Steering Committee [to] be able to offer commentary on the plan."

I had a copy of the plan for several weeks and had made numerous notes thereon. I came prepared for a discussion of the plan, yet no such opportunity was afforded by the Town Council, whose meeting this was, in all actuality. We were basically expected to be spectators while the town's contractors explained the philosophy behind their work. This is typical of the paradigm of some in our town government, unfortunately. We are going to have their vision of Selma regardless of what anyone else wants or says. For this reason, many on the Planning Board are disillusioned and frustrated. Many people in our town and extra-territorial jurisdiction are the same.

It is ironic that in my notes, I wrote that "we aren't Cary", since I had no idea at the time that one of our contractor's employees was the planner for the Town of Cary at one time. We were told that many things go into a plan, including philosophical values. This is what most of my commentary encompassed and was not necessarily technical in nature. For this reason, I was looking forward to the meeting for discussion.

One other thing we were told by The Wooten Company (the town's contractor) was that the State of North Carolina will be requiring towns to follow their "land use plan" when taking into account decisions relative to planning and zoning. The town's staff informed me that the plan is not regulatory in nature. However, if that shall indeed be a requirement by the state, and the town must abide by its plan for decision taking purposes, then the plan becomes defacto regulation. This plan affects the town and especially the ETJ.

Unfortunately, the Town of Selma rarely publishes any full documents online for review. Whether it is a full copy of the budget or a land use plan, you have to go by town hall for your own review. If you want your own copy, you will be charged for the photocopies. This is a control technique. I know this from experience. No big deal, though, since the public hearing is really only a formality and your input is not really welcome, anyway.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Column for Oct. 1, 2009

As I write this, I am sitting in front of my laptop computer in a motel room in Greenville, South Carolina. The motel, by the way, is a very nice, very well run motel with no interior corridors. The motel is of a national brand and is one we do not yet have in Johnston County. Selma Town Council take note.

This however, is not the subject of my column. This week's column is actually fairly solemn topic and a plea. I am in the Greenville area for my brother's funeral. He died earlier in the week. I found out on Wednesday that he had died on a Monday afternoon. On Thursday, I packed up my wife and baby, and headed out of town. I had made contact with one of my other brothers and we chatted about the arrangements, or lack thereof. He lives in Upstate New York. I have two other brothers who live in New Hampshire.

Today, my wife and I spent the afternoon at my brother's house helping his son, a friend of the family, his step father, and his first ex wife (he had three ex wives, by the way) go through boxes upon boxes of stuff, searching for some sort of paperwork indicative of a last will and testament, insurance information, or anything helpful for the disposition of his property, for a way to pay for the funeral, his wishes for his remains, etc. It was not a fun day.

My brother, Ed, was apparently a pack rat. He had a garage he could not use because it was full of boxes. His family had already been searching the house for two days by the time we arrived. They had found some 401(k) statements, some old pay stubs, old bills, and the like. As I helped paw through boxes of stuff, I found more of the same.

As of this evening, there is no sign of a will. One of his sons (my nephew) said that he remembered my brother saying once that he wanted to be cremated. His mother is a practicing Jehovah's Witness, which Ed and his two older brothers resisted since their youth. She said that Ed would have wanted a Kingdom Hall memorial service. Knowing Ed, all of us brothers knew better. His mother was married to my father and they divorced in the early 1960's. Technically, that makes my three older brothers my half brothers, but I consider them brothers nonetheless.

As with many families, there are rumors, accusations, and emotions towards different family members. Since my family has always been fairly aloof towards one another, I have nephews I have not seen in many years, and in some cases, decades. Since Ed's mother remarried twice since divorcing my father (her religious conversion was one major reason for the split), there are a bunch of people whom I have either met seldom or never met at all. Since my older three brothers have a different mother than I and my younger brother do, we have not been considered close family. Oddly enough, his mother and both of my older brothers all consider that I was the one closest to Ed. He was nine years older than me. At age 50, it is possible that he had a major heart attack. The body still has not been released by the coroner's office.

Over the past year to two years, Ed and I had been working on redeeming the time and building our relationship anew. We had been planning a visit down here sometime soon. Now I am visiting, seeing a lot of people I don't really know, and helping frantic people attempt to find what my brother may (or may not) have planned for his heirs and his wishes.

Why do I write all this? I want to encourage you, whomever you are, to make some plans for the end of your life. I made sure that I did so. The day I got married, just after we said our "I do's", this same brother was a witness on my newly signed last will and testament, living will, and health care power of attorney. Yet, it is possible that he did not do the same for himself and his four children. Hopefully, something will be found, but it does not look promising at this point. I implore you to make plans, save your family the heart ache and work, and make your wishes known in advance. It is not hard, it is not expensive, and your family will thank you for it.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Column for Sept. 24, 2009

The whole country is still abuzz over the proposed health care reform bill before Congress. The gigantic bill that has not been read by most of the Congress and is being pushed heavily, including by our own Congressman, Bob Etheridge, is seeing various proposed amendments and proposals come forth. Just recently, it was proposed that insurance coverage be procured by every individual in the nation or face a $3800 fine by the government.

I had a sad but interesting conversation with someone I had not seen in over twenty-five years. He thought it was horrible that in a civilized nation such as ours, we do not consider health care to be a basic human right. He further went on to deride health insurance companies for rapacious profits. For those who do not know what rapacious means, the adjective is defined as "taking by force; plundering; greedy; ravenous".

I simply said that I do not see in the Constitution where the federal government is allowed to provide a health care system. I was informed that he was not an originalist, which is a euphemism for being one who is either too intellectually lazy or non-caring to believe that words mean things and that we have a supreme law to follow. Rather, he believes that we can bend the Constitution to mean whatever we want or ignore it completely.

I found his term rapacious interesting, since the definition surely fits the federal government better than it does the free market system. We have the "War on Poverty" that transfers trillions of dollars from taxpayers to leaches. Social Security is broke after almost 75 years. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac went broke and cost us taxpayers billions in bail-outs later. Medicaid and Medicare are broke. The Post Office is perpetually broke. The so-called "stimulus" spending gave us all time high debt and spending to no real avail. The so-called "Cash for Clunkers" program went broke in just a few weeks, burning through $3 billion. Now people want to trust the same government bureaucratic system to handle one of the largest sections of our economy?

While my old acquaintance is a self-proclaimed non-originalist, I am one to go to the original documents and opinions of the ones who wrote the Constitution. James Madison, arguably the most influential man in the writing of the document, wrote in The Federalist Papers # 45 the following. "We have heard of the impious doctrine in the Old World, that the people were made for kings, not kings for the people. Is the same doctrine to be revived in the New, in another shape that the solid happiness of the people is to be sacrificed to the views of political institutions of a different form?" Basically he asks "does the government serves the people or do the people serve the government?" If you believe that the people serve the government, then you believe we should all line up, turn over our hard earned money to them, and allow those all wise, all knowing masters to redistribute our wealth as they see fit.

Madison further wrote in that same letter, "The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined…[to] be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce; with which last the power of taxation will, for the most part, be connected." I do not see health care as one of the few and defined powers in the Constitution. Madison wrote much of the document. Who are we to argue with him?

I will quote myself from my own short, well-received Twitter commentary. "Nobody should feel entitled to my money to pay for their health care nor empowered to tell me what sort of health care to provide myself."

If you robbed me at gunpoint to get money to pay for your insurance coverage, you would go to jail. If you and millions of others get the government to do it on your behalf, it is considered legal and yet is no more ethical.

This old acquaintance, that is admittedly a heathen, even tried to cite Jesus' admonition to do unto others and to care for the poor to support his desire for a public health care system. I would simply cite the 8th Commandment, "Thou shalt not steal."

Just because there is a majority consensus to forcibly, rapaciously steal from the majority and give it to the minority does not make the theft ethical or even Constitutional. You can apply the principle of that last sentence to many government actions at all levels. A right is not a right if the government has to steal from other people to provide it.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Column for Sept. 17, 2009

Most government programs and spending problems are caused by so called "good ideas". My cry for years has been that not every good idea, nice idea, feel good idea, or desired outcome has to be pursued by government or warrants the expenditure of tax dollars. Nowhere has this been more prevalent than at the federal government level. However, this happens at the state, county, and even municipal levels as well.

I am somewhat of a "news hound", though I do not read every article, listen to every detail in every news cast, or go into endless detail on some issues. Sometimes I stop and read with great interest. I just read two local stories with great interest. Both are so called good ideas that are going to expend your tax money for someone's desired result.

In Smithfield, there is a problem that is dear to the hearts of the police department. The dear problem is deer. According to the news story, "for the past three years, police officers have been instructed to reduce the overabundance of white-tailed deer by shooting them." The police officers will "use deer stands, archery equipment, and shotguns to control the deer heard along the Neuse River basin in South Smithfield."

Do we not already have a North Carolina Wildlife Management Division for such things? Is killing deer a law enforcement function? Are the deer breaking the law? Is the penalty for Bambi's jay walking now a death sentence?

I have no problem with either hunting or with guns. I have some rifles that would serve nicely as deer hunting instruments. I personally am not into shooting Bambi and his cousins, nor have I seen Bambi Helper at my local Food Lion to use for cooking the meat. Many hunters I know are not really hunters, anyway. I shoot for fun and use open sights. A lot of hunters are not hunters at all, but rather snipers with high powered scopes and shoot from great distances. Nonetheless, I would rather the thinning of the deer population be reserved for private citizens who would be willing to take care of the problem at zero expense to tax paying citizens and reserve law enforcement officers for law enforcement activities.

I would have other concerns, such as whether the Town of Smithfield can disregard laws regarding hunting seasons, the types of weapons used in hunting, and the like. Those things are governed by the state, not a municipality. Are law enforcement officers being paid to break the law? What about the liability associated with any mistakes they commit while trying to whack a white tail?

A second thing I read that made me scratch my head was the Town of Selma's desire to build a $28,000 train-viewing platform. Yes, Selma has taken the moniker of a railroad town. Yes, there are some people who like to sit and watch trains from time to time. Yes, there is federal DOT money leftover from the remodel project. Yet, this is money that was forcibly taken from taxpayers.
Like I said at the outset, not every nice project is something we need to sink tax money into. I would rather see that money sent to Amtrak to help offset its budget deficits or lower the unreasonably high ticket prices that often are higher than airfare. Believe me, I have done some comparison shopping just within the past week.

I just had the conversation with a buddy of mine about the amount of use that such a platform would get. He said he knows folks who come to Selma just to sit, watch trains, and listen to the railroad radio traffic on scanners. My reply was that instead of spending $28,000 for an overblown gazebo (albeit a nice gazebo), I could spend $40 a piece for some benches at Big Lots and mount a scanner and speaker for far less.

I was also informed that some of his friends who come pack a lunch, take lawn chairs, and make a day of train watching. First, I can not imagine what it would be like to not have a life, like those folks, but bringing a lunch and loitering at the station does not bring tourism dollars except maybe for a few Coca Colas at the local Short Stop convenience store.

If you enjoy paying for police officers to summarily execute stags and does for breathing air and taking up space, or can equate train spotting in Selma to seeing planes take off at RDU Airport from observation decks, then you are going to love staying here in Johnston County. And if Selma does build such a train observation deck, at least I can hook up the town with someone I know who does excellent work. I am sure I can get a kickback somehow, thereby returning some of my tax money to me.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Column for Sept. 10, 2009

I found an article in this newspaper interesting. You, the taxpayers, are paying for local businesses to borrow money for their businesses. To quote the article, "A $75,000 loan fund, made available to the town of Selma through a USDA grant, has made it possible for six Selma businesses to finance their operations in the midst of a tough market." This is not the first such program I have read about here in Selma.

Let me start with this disclaimer. I have absolutely no issue with any business or business owner that would take advantage of a program for them to finance a business. I get it. I was a business owner, myself. I just have a problem with a government that would use taxpayer money for such purposes.

I owned three small businesses that were running concurrently. Two of them were profitable. The third made a profit, as well, but was more of a hobby with which I made a few dollars or did work pro bono. My two main businesses were both at the point where I had to either expand or get out of business, since the growth was overwhelming on one and as a result, the other was being neglected and was more of a nuisance to keep running, though profitable.

I owned a used book business that grew huge on the internet and I really needed to either open a brick and mortar retail location or get some warehouse space. I had more books than the town library stuffed in my home. Like all businesses, the revenue was in direct proportion to the amount of effort expended in the endeavor. Already having a decent full time job, I could not afford the time to make book sales a full time job in addition to my regular one. Unfortunately, my business partner decided to be a slacker and failed to put any appreciable effort into the venture, although it was rather profitable and easy to do. If I had been more engaged full time in that business as a livelihood, I might very well have considered the revolving loan program provided through the USDA grant to the Town of Selma.

I am looking at the US Department of Agriculture web site right now. There are many programs that they administer for rural areas. They are involved in water and environment programs, housing loans, tourism promotion, rural economy loans and grants, utility services, etc.

I have been racking my brain trying to find where the US Constitution authorizes these activities. The 10th Amendment seems to reserve any such things for the individual states. Furthermore, since these programs are administered through the USDA, I am trying to figure out what business development in downtown Selma has to do with agriculture. The last I knew, we did not grow corn, wheat, tobacco, hogs, or cows in antique shops, bridal stores, and furniture factories. Again, it is hard to blame a business for taking advantage of a program. It is not hard to fault a government entity for violating its constitutional authority, forcibly taking billions of dollars of tax money and giving it away to towns, and earmark that money for private enterprise.

From a taxpayer perspective, there is possibly one good part to the program. The money from the USDA is a grant and not a loan to the town. If this were a loan to the town, we would have been taxed on the one end to provide the original funds and then taxed on the other end by the town to pay back the money. Being taxed twice to provide loans to small business is just plain unethical; not that taxing us once for the program is exactly in and of itself ethical, either.

Are you fed up with the level of federal taxation? Look no further than programs such as this. Not every good idea necessarily should be implemented or is fair to all. Multiply this single grant of $75,000 times the literally thousands of rural areas in the country that have similar grants, and we have budgets of billions of dollars. If we are to ever get spending under control on the federal level (not to mention state, county, and municipal levels), then we have to start somewhere. I, for one, am tired of paying for others' businesses and households to operate. I have my own household to keep rolling financially.

When does it all end, people? With how much public debt and taxation are we going to saddle future generations? When are we as a nation going to abide by our own constitution?

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Column for Sept. 3, 2009

I am trying my best to keep down my lunch and not blow chunks all over my keyboard and monitor. I try not to be disrespectful of the dead, but when debauchery filled men are lifted up as paragons of virtue, I have a problem with that.

The death of Senator Edward "Ted" Kennedy of Massachusetts is of course tragic for him and his family. I do not wish death upon anyone, especially by brain cancer. I actually had compassion for Mr. Kennedy, since I could not imagine having brothers of mine assassinated as he did.

I have met and even exchanged brief words with Ted Kennedy, but I did not know him personally. I have, however, followed him politically for years. I do believe that he was perhaps the most powerful Kennedy of the bunch, considering his length of tenure in office and continuous senatorial powers and influence.

His death was not unexpected. I quickly found the news of his passing in my morning news read. I found all sorts of flowery praise for his years of service, his compassion, and his vision for our country, etc. I also found his detractors discussing Chappaquiddick some 40 years after the fact and his liberal record in the Senate.

Here is what I find extraordinary. When Senator Jesse Helms died, I heard quite a bit of rancor from his liberal detractors. There was a lot of hateful, spiteful commentary in the media and from his haters. People rejoiced at his death. Pundits swooned with glee. These same pundits are attacking anyone who now would criticize Helms' archetype in Ted Kennedy.

Today, I have been reading comments from different people I know online. Yes, I have some liberal leaning friends. I read things such as "God bless the Kennedys", "[God] will call a Kennedy home but he'll leave a Barack Obama to insure the vision is alive", and "the legacy [Kennedy] leaves is one of service and compassion for his fellow man."

I will admit that Kennedy had a long history of public service. I doubt he had a private sector job in his entire life. My commentary about blessing the Kennedy family is that I, too, wish blessings upon them. First, understand what the very first blessing is, and then you will understand my blessing prayer. At the end of the Book of Acts, chapter 3, Peter was preaching and said "Unto you first God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities." It is my honest prayer that an entire family who has never known Christ repents and comes to know Him, thereby finding eternal life.
I seriously doubt that Ted Kennedy is resting in peace as I am typing this. He led a life of drunkenness, debauchery, adultery, and deceit. I compare this to Senator Helms who was a born again Christian. Helms received scorn at his death from a sinful world, Kennedy is getting praise.

Just since I started typing away on this column, I have gotten personal messages from acquaintances touting Kennedy's accomplishments in the areas of civil rights and the passage of the 26th Amendment to the US Constitution. Actually, it was probably more the influence of Richard Nixon that helped in that regard.

There were some things Kennedy supported that I agreed with, but those constitute the minority of his voting record. I am looking at a long list of his major votes in Congress. The vast majority are laws for which no Senator should have ever voted, simply because they were unconstitutional, not to mention often immoral and/or just plain bad fiscal policy. We Americans are going to be paying dearly for the havoc inflicted by politicians like Ted Kennedy for years to come.

Here is the struggle I have when people like Ted Kennedy die. I wish to be respectful, but I also weigh principles such as Jeremiah 12:1 "Righteous art thou, O LORD, when I plead with thee: yet let me talk with thee of thy judgments: Wherefore doth the way of the wicked prosper? wherefore are all they happy that deal very treacherously?" Also in Proverbs 11:10 "When it goeth well with the righteous, the city rejoiceth: and when the wicked perish, there is shouting."

Yes, I really do struggle with these. I want to shout and I miss Jesse Helms.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Column for Aug. 26, 2009

Last week, I wrote about LaPlante's Law and made a tangential comment about a streetlight being burned out and my neighbor having asked for a year to have it replaced or repaired. I am pleased to type that the very afternoon that the column hit the news stand, I got a phone call from the Selma's electrical department wanting to know which light to replace. The next morning, a crew replaced the offending light. Kudos, guys. My neighbor is happy and took the time to write me a note saying so.

Last week's column actually started out being entirely different. I had planned for a few weeks to write about some casual observations around town. That is how I intended to write, starting with LaPlante's Law and going from there. It is not unusual to end up somewhere other than my intended destination when I sit down to craft my weekly rant.

Well, here are some of my observations.

  1. New streetlights in Selma are very bright. In fact, they are brighter than the old ones nearby. This is by no means a complaint. It is merely an observation.
  2. Selma actually has properties in town selling for over $350,000. Though some of the higher end homes I have seen are beautiful and the real estate listing web sites have showcased some flattering pictures, I wince that the two or three houses I absolutely love in town are well beyond my budget right now.
  3. It takes years to get the flagpole in front of the post office painted. But it was painted. I even got to see it being done. Yay!
  4. There are some young, intelligent, attractive teachers at Selma Elementary.
  5. I am not quite old enough to be the father of some of those teachers, but some days I sure feel like I am and then some. Today was one of those days.
  6. There are/have been three day care centers opening in Selma recently or in the near future. And I thought we already had a bunch of them.
  7. There are also two new barbershops, bringing the total of which I am aware to at least four. I did not know that there were that many male heads of hair to be shorn in this town. In the town where I grew up, which was slightly bigger than Selma, there was but one. When my old, faithful barber lost his lease on his shop, he would come to our home on an appointment basis.
  8. My word processor does not like the terms "flag pole", "street lights", "barber shops", and "post script" to be separate words. It prefers them as compound words, but that is not the case with "news stand" versus newsstand. Both are acceptable. My word processor also does not like the possessive form of my last name. It tells me that "LaPlante's" is misspelled. Misspelled, one of the most often misspelled words in the English language, however, was accepted without objection.
  9. I forgot some of my other observations and should have written them down when they crossed the synapses of my brain. That in itself was a fresh observation.
  10. I can not find a whole lot of people from Selma on but did find a bunch on The people on MySpace are mostly younger whereas Facebook folks tend to be a bit older. Find me on either, user name troylaplante.
  11. Even after road closures and construction projects, we still can not get a smooth crossing over the railroad tracks on Ricks Road. On Peedin Street in Smithfield and at the main crossing in Lillington, that is possible, but apparently not in Selma. Crossing those tracks at that spot is annoying, but nothing I type here will make any difference. After all, it is not a streetlight (one word).

Though I am not currently outside applying LaPlante's Law, the law of entropy is applying itself to me. I have struggled all day to keep a positive attitude, not speak too negatively, and resist just plain being ornery. My resistance to orneriness was severely tested at this evening at a meeting, especially with the postscript (one word) attached to it. However, I am sure that subject will be fodder for another column some other day as well make for interesting news in this paper.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Column for Aug. 20, 2009

I often have trouble sleeping. I have for years. It is just one of those things I have come to accept, and I am not sure why I can not sleep well. I can count on one hand the number of times I have woken up in the past two decades and said, "Well, that was a good night's sleep." I have had a sleep study done and I know what the problem is not. Either way, I live with it. Having a five week old baby in the house contributes to this, but I am relatively used to a lack of sleep as it is.

My dog is the beneficiary of a master that does not sleep well. I often take him outside in the middle of the night for him to check his territory, mark his scent, and come back inside. I get to do the same in some regards. I have my little quarter acre of paradise and I get to walk around on my grass, rain or clear skies, warm or cold.

It is on these nightly jaunts onto my kingdom grounds that I have postulated LaPlante's Law. LaPlante's Law basically states that no matter what time of the day or night it is, if I go outside and walk on my front lawn facing Anderson Street, I will see cars on my street or an adjacent street 95+ percent of the time. Seldom will I not hear an automobile coming and watch one pass. This is true whether it is midnight, 2 AM, 4 AM, 6 AM, whatever. I see pick up trucks, cars, police, bicycles, vans, even commercial trucks at all hours of the night. When sitting in my rocking chair feeding Junior in the wee hours of the night, I often hear vehicles passing by my modest home, though I do not count them as conforming to LaPlante's Law if I was not outside at the time.

For a small community, we are a noisy town at night. That is why I still think about and chuckle at the public comments that were at the public hearing a couple of years ago when it was proposed to build an ethanol plant outside of Selma. Don't get me wrong, I was not in favor of the plant being built. However, I thought that some of the comments were outlandish.

From my front lawn on Anderson Street, late at night, I stand and listen. Sometimes I hear the cicadas screaming in the early evening. I often hear crickets chirping late into the night. I can also hear the interstate traffic that is over a mile away from here. I often hear the railroad, since I am only a block away from one set of tracks. I am only a few blocks from the water plant, so I hear its dull roar all night long. I can also see the glow of the lighting from that same facility.

That is why I chuckle. The complaints about the proposed ethanol plant covered such things as alleged noise and light pollution at night. Yet right in the midst of a residential district I hear the noise from the water plant that fills my faucet with clean drinking water. As to the alleged "light pollution" (which is fallacious, in my opinion), my neighbors have been trying to get a street light fixed for about a year now as it is. People want more, not less light along my street. When I think about these ironies, I inwardly snicker to myself and at the folly of human whining. I literally think about this every time I listen to the hum of the water facility and see the non-functioning street lamp.

Like I said, for a small town of only seven thousand people and 4.6 square miles, we have a lot of noise and activity. We have a lot of traffic at all hours of the day and night, even on side roads. Most of that traffic, by the way, ignores the town speed limit. West Anderson Street is one of those routes that has no stop signs along its path, thus attracting rapid cross town traffic.

Though I would enjoy a good night's sleep once in a while, there are several things I love. I love being a daddy to my baby, even if it means middle of the night feedings and diaper changes while listening to automobile and locomotive traffic. I love my jaunts outside with Barack Odoga, who has turned out to be a much better dog than I ever thought he would be. I love the cooler months when I can look into the clear North Carolina night sky and see my old, faithful friend, Orion, in the stars overhead. I love this despite the noise and light pollution of street lights, interstate traffic, freight trains, and water plants. And I love living in a nation in which I have the freedom to own my own quarter acre patch of land to call my own and hang its flag year 'round at my front door.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Column for Aug. 13, 2009

Are you enjoying helping other people buy their new cars?

Have you purchased a new car recently? If so, have you enjoyed either helping others buy their new cars? Or have you been enjoying others buying your car for you? With $3 billion now into this boondoggle, the "Cash for Clunkers" program has been in full swing. The automobile industry may love it, but as a taxpayer, I detest it.

Sorry people, but a new car is not a necessity, it is a luxury. Just because your car is older and may get a little worse gas mileage than you would prefer does not entitle you to government money.

I see nothing in the Constitution that gives the government the power to authorize such expenditure of public money. And yet we are paying for people to have the luxury of a new car.

One part of the Cash for Clunkers catastrophe that falls under the “law of unintended consequences” is (as I just read) that the price of new cars is being driven up because of the lack of a need to discount prices to attract customers.

A second consequence is that the cars traded in for new ones have to be destroyed under the law. Good, older used cars will not be available to the less fortunate or those who do not have the budget for something newer. As long as the populace in general is getting hosed on such a boondoggle, lawmakers could have had the charitable foresight to give away these used cars to the less fortunate. At least then, welfare recipients without a car could wake up before noon and have transportation to go find a job.

The original Cash for Clunkers program was supposed to last all summer and only require a $1 billion budget. Now they are two billion dollars over their original budget. Are we sure that we want the same people who could not run such a simple program like this to be in charge of our health care system, as well?

What is the bottom line purpose behind the Car Allowance Rebate System (Cash for Clunkers, as it is called)? Control. When more money is taken out of your pocket and redistributed, it is control over your life. If you look to the government as your supply, then you will tend to re-elect those who gave you money. This principle transcends all levels of government. Follow the money trail and it always shows the hidden agenda.

To continue on the idea of a hidden agenda, I was watching a news report that users of the Car Allowance Rebate System web site ( must agree to a term of use that says you agree to give up ownership of your computer. You actually have to agree to the fine print stating that your computer has become part of a government computer network and that the computer is now under the ownership of the US Government.

A software application gets installed on your computer and you agree that all files on your computer are accessible by the government. Hey, I don’t make this stuff up. I just report what I have read and seen.

I don’t know about you, but that is just Big Brother at work. For the $4,500 or so in the form of a rebate, I am not willing to totally relinquish my cyber privacy and allow any jack booted brown shirt to come from the government to claim my personal property as that of the government.

One way to ponder the $3 billion for CARS is that though it is a pittance compared to the overall national budget, it is huge when put into perspective locally. The $3 billion is 15.789 percent of our entire North Carolina state budget.

We certainly would not have a $900 million tax increase with that sort of money added to our state budget instead of being blown on new cars. Also, more people would have directly benefited. Three billion dollars is 174.446729115106755 times the entire annual town of Selma budget.

Before I pop a blood vessel thinking about how our tax dollars are being spent, I need to wrap up this week’s column.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Column for Aug. 6, 2009

At the last two Planning Board meetings here in Selma, we have taken up the issue of limiting the sort of lodging establishments that can be built in town. There is a proposal to prohibit motels from being built and only allowing hotel type lodging. This does not affect existing businesses, but rather future growth or replacement structures.

The difference between a hotel and a motel, as proposed by the town, is the manner of construction. A motel would be defined as having room access from the exterior of the building whereas a hotel would have interior corridors. It is argued that a hotel type business attracts (in general) a higher class of customer and brings in higher taxes than a motel.

I do a significant amount of traveling in my job and personal life. Just recently, I stayed at a fine Best Western motel (as defined by proposed Selma ordinance). I have stayed at some fine hotels, as well.

It was the opinion of the Planning Board that the town ought not adopt an ordinance discriminating against motel type facilities in favor of hotels. The reasons were several, including the infringement upon the private property rights of a motel franchisee, discrimination against a viable form of business, and losing potential tax revenue from fine motel type establishments.

Let's face it, Selma will never attract a Hilton Garden or Embassy Suites. We are a crossroads on Interstate 95 and not a major tourist, convention, or business destination. Interstate travelers are looking for a clean, comfortable, affordable room, not a luxury suite.

Let's also face this fact. Selma does indeed have several establishments that I would term "flea bag motels". At one time, I am sure that they were decent establishments. Now they are aged, lacking in amenities, attract a lot of drug users and dealers, and some are high crime areas. It is precisely these sorts of clients that the town seeks to eliminate. I am all for that, but at what price? Sure, you are not as likely to find that sort of activity at the Holiday Inn Express or Hampton Inn. That is the nature of the franchises and clients to whom they cater, not necessarily construction.

The Village Inn in Smithfield has been a well run motel for years, as have several others. On the other hand, there were several fine motels that degraded into drug havens and cesspools. Some have since been torn down to make way for nicer businesses. That is all about the commitment to fine management and respect for the community versus trying to get a few bucks from a sleazy clientele roster.

If one of our craptacular motels here in Selma was to burn down or be demolished (which would not hurt my feelings. I will refrain from naming business names), the proposed ordinance would prohibit any type of lodging establishment that did not offer only interior corridors for room access.
Don't get me wrong, I love Microtel and have a stack of hotel rewards program cards for different hotel chains in my desk. However, if a Best Western, Red Roof Inn, Motel 6, or other company wanted to build a nice, clean, new facility that just happened to provide rooms accessible from the exterior of the building, I have a hard time with the Town of Selma saying, "Sorry, but we do not want your million dollar facility on our tax rolls, we are holding out for hallways."

Furthermore, unless one of our existing motels is indeed demolished, there are few places for the construction of a new facility. However, since we are not a major tourist destination, I doubt we will attract much more than we already have. Roanoke Rapids attracted a Hilton Garden, but they also have a major music theater on site, and we see how negatively that whole scenario worked out for the town.

I have a few thoughts about the argument that a hotel brings in more tax revenue than a motel. First, show me some hard numbers and I may soften my position, but property rights still prevail in my estimation. Second, I had guests in July and will have family here in September. Both parties elected to stay in a local lodging establishment since we do not have much room for accommodations at the house. Both parties chose lodging near the Factory Stores. Selma lost tax revenue since I advised against the flea bag motels, and the corridor edifices in town exceeded the cost they were willing to pay.

I do not know what the Town Council will decide on this issue, as they have been known to ignore recommendations by the Planning Board for various reasons. Will we uphold property rights and freedom while potentially missing out on property and room taxes from establishments that do not conform to fancier corridor construction?

Monday, July 27, 2009

Column for July 30, 2009

I want to tell you the story of a friend of mine named Paul. Paul was a teenager whose life was on a downward spiral. He was just 18 years of age and was about to flunk out of high school. With just a few weeks left in the school year at Garner High School, this boy of Puerto Rican extraction was on the street after having a major fall out with his family. He had no place to turn. The pastor of the church I attend is the chaplain for the Garner Police Department. Garner PD has officers at the school and there was a relationship being built through the high school administration, as well.

Garner High School is full of crime, drugs, and gang activity. The school population is more than some Johnston County towns. There are a lot of at risk students there, and Paul was one of them, well known as such to the school's resource police presence.

The pastor and one member of the congregation met with Paul that night and hooked him up with a hotel room for the night as well as intervention with his family for living arrangements. There are a lot of details to which I am not privy, and other details that I do know and would take up more space to relay than I have.

The pastor of the church dealt with the school to help ensure that Paul would not be just another statistic. Paul did not want to be a stereotype and wanted to make something of his life. Unfortunately, Paul had no motivation to succeed. He was an intelligent guy, but he was mentally and physically lazy. There is no good way of saying it, and I know that he would agree.

Different men of the church took Paul "under their wings" and hounded him to get to school and graduate. Despite their assistance, Paul had already missed well above the allowed absence limit by something like 20 days. At the behest of the pastor, the school administration agreed not to force Paul to repeat his senior year of school and waive the issue if Paul would pass his final exams.

Even with that waiver, Paul failed one final exam and was going to fail for the year. With pleading, prayer, negotiations, Paul was allowed to repeat the one literature class he failed during the summer session. The favor of God was with my friend Paul. He eventually passed that class after much cajoling and pressure by the pastor and others to actually show up to class and study. His discipline was just not there on his own to succeed.

Paul then became a lot more involved with the church fellowship. Different men who owned businesses allowed Paul to work with them and even transported him to work a job he managed to get. Paul even helped do some work on my home here in Selma. He came to church on a regular basis and even to men's prayer meetings. He was getting Godly male advice and love for the first time in his life, apparently.

When deciding what to do with his life, Paul said that he wanted to become a Marine. There was one problem. Paul was not exactly tiny at 260 pounds. Paul started to get motivated towards a goal for possibly the first time in his life. He started exercising, dieting, and working to lose the necessary weight to enlist. His recruiter worked out a weight waiver for him if he got down to 205 pounds. Eventually, Paul was able to ship off for Marine Corps boot camp.

This past Friday, I had the distinct honor of traveling with a group of men, including the church's pastor, to Parris Island to see Paul graduate along with almost 600 other Marines. He had changed his attitude, prepared himself for the rigors of Marine Corps training, and mostly had to deal with the physical challenges of being porky by Marine standards.

I was amazed at how Paul had gotten down to a svelte 185 pounds, was a lean fighting machine, and had a lot more confidence in his communications. Now this obstinate, lazy Puerto Rican boy who squeaked through high school by the skin of his teeth has become a man of honor and discipline, and is on his way to a military career in computer networking.

It never ceases to amaze me how prayer, persistence, God's grace, and the love of God shown through His servants can help transform a life. I am proud of Paul, as well as the men with whom I am associated in their pursuit of one of God's lost sheep. Oh, that I had many more such stories to tell.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Column for July 23, 2009

As usual, since I have been a resident of Selma, I have been following the news about the upcoming municipal election. I peek at what is happening in other towns, but obviously my main focus is upon the town in which I reside, as it should be with residents of every town.

Many people neglect the municipal level of elections and instead focus on the national political scene and maybe even state level. However, no level of government affects your daily life more than the municipal level. Unfortunately, this is most often the most neglected level in terms of voter participation, media coverage, and even candidate participation.

It is at the municipal level (and often the county level) that decisions are taken regarding the water you drink, the electricity you use, the sewer rates you pay, and the property and sales taxes you pay. It is also where you are told whether or not you can build a home or business, whether you have to repair or tear down a dilapidated house, if you have to mow your lawn, and sometimes even how fast you can drive.

The deadline for filing for municipal elections has come and gone already. This year's election will either be very interesting or very dull. I have not decided which. I guess that time will help me with that conclusion.

Incumbents Debbie Johnson and Jackie Lacy have filed for re-election to the Town Council, and Charles Hester has filed for the mayor's job yet again. Hester has two opponents for the upcoming election and there are a total of five people running for just two seats on the Council.

Four years ago, Debbie Johnson was quoted as saying that she was not sure if she was going to run in that election cycle, but she did anyway. Four years later, she apparently thinks that she is a good enough representative to stay in office for yet another term.

Jackie Lacy is an interesting case. I have been to many Council meetings and observed all members of the Council and the Mayor. I like Jackie as an individual, but as a representative in government, I am underwhelmed. I have plenty of more commentary on the ladies, but I choose to exercise self-restraint.

Mayor Hester has been a controversial individual for both of his two-year terms. Though I appreciate the propensity to actually lead, it is no secret that I strongly disagree with his dictatorial methodology and bullying tactics. I don't care how long one has spent in the military in a previous career, a municipality (or any other representative republic) is no place for those tactics. I agree with many of Hester's views but I equally, vehemently disagree with others.

With two opponents this year, it will be interesting to see how the vote is split and whether that will help or hinder Mayor Phineas T. Bluster. With less than a 25 vote swing in the last election, Chucky could have lost to a relatively unknown candidate. In all probability, had the polls not closed an hour later than normal in the east precinct, yielding time to make numerous phone calls and truck in voters for his cause, we would have had a new mayor.

Here is something I want everyone to remember regarding the incumbents. It was under the watch of Debbie Johnson and Jackie Lacy that we got the spending and budget crunch Selma had that resulted in employee layoffs, budget cuts, questionable accounting practices, and are now on our third town manager. It was under theirs and Hester's watch that we had property taxes raised three out of four years, had attempts at forced annexation, and attempts to control private properties up to two miles outside the town limits…all for money and power.

Speaking of property taxes, Tommy Holmes is running again for the town council. Though he and I agree on taxation, one can hardly be a "one issue" candidate year after year. I don't know if Tommy will make any headway this year, and I hope that he actually chooses to participate in candidate forums rather than sit them out yet again this election cycle.

The bottom line, my philosophy is not that we should kick out all incumbents and put in all new leadership. However, the quote from success guru Tony Robbins is axiomatic when applied to elections, not just business. "If you do what you've always done, you'll get what you've always gotten." Will voters remember this in November? I doubt it.