Thursday, June 25, 2009

Column for June 25, 2009

K.I.S.S. No, I am not referring to a great rock band. Remember that saying? Keep It Simple, Stupid! How hard is that? Keep things as simple as possible. Often, the old ways can be the best. Perhaps old ways have become old for a reason; they work.

Simple things can go a long way. A little simple affection from a spouse or child can go a long way. A little simple maintenance on a car can also go a long way. Simple things in town can go a long way. I want to share some simple things with you that have been of great benefit and something not so simple that is a bane to all North Carolina citizens.

Here in Selma, there are some things being done for the very purpose of simplification. If you have been reading this newspaper, you have seen advertising for public hearings on proposed changes to town ordinances. Many of them are for the better. A few, not so much, and I have pointed those out in past articles.

Some of the simplification for the better include the town's Planning Department attempting to get rid of the complex charts and tables in the town code for zoning regulation. Since I have been on the Planning Board for a while, I have had the privilege of seeing some of the work being done to that end. It is good to see some common sense and simplification. Keeping things simple and comprehensible will make code compliance and enforcement much easier.

Tangential to that is the performance of some simple things that go a long way to enhance the town's image. As you may have read, the town has worked to put a little more bite into its enforcement of the ordinance prohibiting tall grass growth in town. That is a simple thing that helps neighborhoods to look better and preserve property values.

One of the worst offending properties of this ordinance is right next door to me. The house used to be nice but is abandoned and in a state of disrepair. Every summer, I have to contact the town several times to complain. A $50 dollar fine is not going to get an absentee property owner to cut their grass. The town added hourly fees for labor to mow properties that are out of compliance. Perhaps that will help get action by property owners. If not, at least the town can continue to mow the lawns when they are out of compliance and keep the town looking better, all the while billing neglectful property owners.

I had conversations with property owners in times past about this concept. I am all for private property rights. I believe my record on this is clear. However, the rights of a property owner end where my property rights begin. Tall grass up to my chest is unsightly, is a breeding ground for insects, mice, and snakes, and affects the property values of neighboring tracts. I did not by a house next to the Muster's haunted mansion. I bought a house next to a house that at one time was fairly nice. Because of total neglect by absentee owners, that property and its lot have become a barren wasteland. That affects me. I have more problems now with fleas than ever before because of the jungle next door. If I choose to relocate, I will have a harder time than normal selling my house if tumbleweeds and prairie grass are blowing in the wind next door.

To the town council of Selma, I give thanks for their action on that issue. There are plenty of other simple, inexpensive things we can do as a town to improve. I only wish the State of North Carolina had the same view.

I read that Governor Perdue is calling for higher taxes "to save" education. If money was the solution, then we would have the best educated students in the entire world. We spend a tremendous amount of money on education in North Carolina and across America. Yet we get comparatively low results for those dollars. Obviously, the answer is much simpler than throwing money at the problem.

Instead of K.I.S.S. principles, we hire more principals. Instead of returning to rudimentary, time tested methods of teaching, we return sometimes untested and unqualified educators to the classroom and demand more money for their retention. Instead of operating on minimum staffing, we acquiesce to teachers' unions and settle for minimum results with maximum staffing. We obviously need to simply K.I.S.S. the current education system goodbye and stop robbing both taxpayers of their money and students of their education. Simplicity goes a long way.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Column for June 18, 2009

What Bizarro parallel universe is this again?

Before I start my normal rant, I wanted to take a moment for reflection. I am thankful that more people were not killed or injured in the explosion at the Con-Agra Foods plant in Garner this past week. In my years in emergency response, I have never personally been to such a large scale conflagration, for which I am also grateful. I have a friend who was in the facility at the time, as I am sure may be the case with other readers, as well. Fortunately, my friend was unharmed. Other families and individuals were not so fortunate. As I continue to thank my God that my friend was alive and well, I also thank Him that there were not more people seriously injured or killed in that explosion than was the case. I invite you to join me in those prayers of thanksgiving and for the recovery and comfort of the victims and their families.

Now back to your regularly scheduled programming, already in progress.

I often ask the question, "What Bizarro parallel universe is this again?" I have been reading the headlines of various news outlets and am scratching my balding, sun burned, shaking head.

People often think that the nation of Iran just plain hates the United States. There are, however, many freedom loving people in that country. Just this past week, there was an election in which there was obvious fraud, and freedom lovers have been protesting the election results. A dictator never relinquishes power willingly. As Vladimir Lenin so eloquently put it, "Those who cast the votes decide nothing. Those who count the votes decide everything."

People are willing to risk their lives to simply express their outrage about their government's actions in Iran. Dissidents are being beaten, tortured, arrested, and suppressed. Links to the outside world and media are being severed. And yet citizens there by the thousands are willing to continue to let their outrage be made known.

Cross the ocean to America, the supposed bastion of freedom in the world. We saw a few "tea party" demonstrations. We had some "Take Back Our State" rallies. People are indeed demonstrating, but I do not see the level of disgust, passion, and outrage seen in Iran. We have watched our freedoms diminish incrementally. We have seen election fraud. We have seen outright scandal and cronyism, especially at the state and federal levels of government. And yet the outrage seems to be a dull roar compared to what we are seeing in Iran. Something just seems backwards to me.

On one news web site, I just read had this headline: "Former President George H.W. Bush: 'There's too much government intervention into everything...too much spending…'"

All I can say is, "Wow, George…ya' think??" Where was your advice when your son was running up our spending and national debt? Sure, debt and spending are far worse now than when Junior was in office, but a lot happened under the younger Bush's watch. In the breeze, I hear the faint echo of "Read my lips…no new taxes." Hypocrisy only goes so far. What parallel universe is this again?

I was astonished with another of today's headlines. Apparently, we have released four prisoners who were detainees at Guantanamo Bay and flew them to Bermuda for release. Let me get this straight. We took four men captured in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and released them in a tropical paradise. Instead of dumping them from an airplane with no parachute in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, we dumped them upon the people of Bermuda so they can swim in a tropical resort and potentially become British subjects with travel privileges. What Bizarro parallel universe is this again?

When the health care industry boos the proposed health care (read socialized medicine) plans under the Obama Administration, they are simply dismissed as "fear mongering". I would think that the ones who have worked in the best health care system in the world (regardless of what director Michael Moore has to say) would know better than a man who has never held a real private job in his inexperienced life. Eh, what do doctors know? Professional politicians know better. What Bizarro parallel universe is this again?

The only thing that has made much sense lately is the dismissal of a nepotism receiving public leach like Mary Easley from her over compensated, do nothing job with NC State University. Then again, having worked there for several years when I first moved to North Carolina, I saw a lot of over compensated, do nothing employees at that institution.

There has to be a trans-dimensional portal around here somewhere to get us back to our own parallel universe. But where to find it?

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Column for June 11, 2009

Now that the emotional noise has died down about the proposed cut for Selma EMS budget item by the Town of Selma, it is time to consider how next year's fiscal handling of this same matter will play out. As was reported in this very newspaper, the Town Council voted to restore the full $30,000 budget level for the EMS operations.

I am 100% in support of our EMS operations, employees, and volunteers. I have great respect for what they do. I have done what they do for a living. I personally used to ride on an ambulance with a local rescue squad. I responded to sick calls, automobile accidents, and health emergencies. I even still have my expired Emergency Medical Technician certificate in my file cabinet in my office. I have no real problem with the fact that the Town Council voted to restore the budget for the Selma EMS squad this particular time. I do, however, believe it is time for Selma to cease this unjust expenditure.

The Town of Selma is giving money to subsidize a county function. If the Emergency Medical Services for Johnston County are to be run and paid for by Johnston County, then the burden of funding must be the sole responsibility of the county.

Selma is forking over tens of thousands of dollars every year for services that also serve the towns of Pine Level and Wilson's Mills. That being the case, it is patently unfair for the taxpayers of Selma to have the full burden of financially subsidizing the operation of the local EMS.

My thoughts on this subject are much like those I had on the Selma Police Department converting to the county's 911 dispatch center rather than maintaining our own separate police dispatch operations. As county taxpayers, we are already paying for the county's 911 center operations. As Selma residents, we were paying for a duplicate service which is tantamount to double taxation. When the county is responsible for paying for EMS operations with tax dollars and we end up paying at the town level, too, we are in essence being double taxed for the same service.

The tax burden of the money we give the EMS comes from a small pool of taxpayers, which means a greater amount of money per capita for that service. Take that same amount of money and spread it across the larger pool of 157,000 county residents instead of the 7,000 Selma residents, and it is less of a per capita burden. The proposed $30,000 EMS entitlement on the backs of Selma taxpayers amounts to approximately $4.29 per resident (not necessarily taxpayer) whereas that same thirty grand amounts to just nineteen cents per resident of Johnston County. That is a savings of $4.10 for each Selma resident. Furthermore, it places the burden of finance where it belongs and does not unfairly burden Selma residents with subsidizing the residents of its neighboring towns.

Now is the time for the Selma town leaders to work to get the county to pay its own way for its own operations instead of allowing the Town of Selma to burden its own people. The EMS crew deserves to have solid, regular funding from a regular source. Sure, I believe in being frugal with that money and cutting reasonable expenses where necessary and able. I just believe in fair funding, i.e., taxation.

I do have one question in all of this. When the town was allegedly in so much financial distress a few years ago, people were laid off from the town payroll, employee benefits cut, and budgets were slashed, why was the same argument about paying the county's debt not brought up then? Which employee's job could the town have kept with that $30,000? Or for that matter, how many rusted old water towers could we have torn down for that money? It is time to take it up with the county manager for next year's county budget.

Selma Town Manager Richard Douglas, who reportedly was the initiator of the budget cut, is on the right track towards removing this expenditure from the town budget. The methodology and timing of a highly emotional topic, however, were errors in judgment, in my opinion.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Column for June 4, 2009

Putting the right people in office is not a matter of race

I was just in a discussion about the political issues of the day, namely the nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor for Justice of the Supreme Court of the U.S. I was criticized heavily for not supporting a liberal Hispanic woman on the Supreme Court. I was asked if I "suppose America would be in a better state of being if we did not have those in office now? Should we maintain the white supremacist ideology that has tainted and permeated American government for too many generations as it is? Does diversity not matter; especially, when that is the only thing that is going to, even in the slightest manner, offer some degree of balance to the ideology of those serving in public leadership in America today so that we can move toward a better way of life?"

Here is the way I see things. I 100% believe that we would be better off without the current leadership in office, in the White House as well as in Congress. We have been on a downward spiral into socialism for years and now we are head first diving into it. Socialism is a failed system of government, not to mention an unethical one. The assertion that this is a matter of white supremacy is garbage. I could not care less about someone's ethnic background. That is the whole point of "all men are created equal". I vehemently disagree with appointing someone as judge, electing someone to Congress, or to the presidency simply based upon racial background or sex.

Following the Constitution and rule of law has nothing to do with race. It has to do with being a nation of law and following law. As a nation we should not concern ourselves with "diversity". Since when should we forsake our rule of law for the sake of having a diverse representation? Let us take that concept to its logical conclusion. If we were indeed to have a true representation of diversity in our government, 12 - 14 % of our governmental employees, representatives, expenditures, and operations would be Negro. 14+ percent would be Hispanic. The majority would still be white. About 1 - 2% would be Asian. Obviously, none of this holds true in the name of "diversity".

Is the definition of "a better way of life" one that rapes the American taxpayer and funnels money and benefits the way of minorities in the name of reparations, fairness, or correcting any perceived (usually incorrectly) disadvantages? That is just plain unethical, fiscally unsound, and the lazy person's way out of their own paradigm of despair. It is a false hope. It is unfairly burdening my children, grandchildren, and all of yours as well, with massive debt and constraints far greater than those some wish to remove.

The values I espouse are the very ones that drove tens of thousands of white men to die in the name of freeing enslaved people. They are the same values that brought the Civil Rights Act. They are the values that say you can succeed if you put forth the right effort. Yet there is no guarantee of success, just the equal opportunity to try. The world and our culture are based upon the equal right to strive, not the equal right to outcome. That is socialism or communism and is just plain illogical, failed socially and financially, and one of corruption.

And yet we have Democrats championing themselves as the saviors of values and of the minorities in America. Democrats were the ones who fought to keep the enslavement of a race of people here in America. Democrats were the ones who founded the KKK. Democrats were the ones who passed Jim Crowe Laws. Democrats were the ones who stood against integration and wanted blacks to ride in the back of the bus. It was Democrats who fought to keep blacks out of the public schools. It is Democrats who keep telling minorities that they are not smart enough, not good enough, and not able to make it in this country without the help of the government at the expense of everyone else. That is just one form of enslavement for another. Physical enslavement has been replaced with a profound dependency upon Uncle Sam.

We, as Americans, should be more concerned with what is best for our nation, not what is the best make up of ethnicity of our representation. Good representatives will do their job regardless of the color of their skin. Having a black man in office does not guarantee good results for blacks. I have no regard for white folks in office, either. I care about their VALUES, not their skin color. If their values are correct, their actions will be correct for the nation, not one particular group. I will vote for (and have) a black man or woman who has the right core values over an ignorant, liberal white guy any day.