Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Column for Oct. 27, 2011

One of the things I have opined about since moving to North Carolina is the paradigm I found here about relative disregard for the inconvenience that people cause others. Call me a Yankee if you want, I really don’t care. I realize that I have a French surname not often found below the Mason-Dixon Line. Then again, I was born farther south than most anyone reading this column. I was raised in the state of New Hampshire and moved to Raleigh after graduating college to take a job there.

I have been in North Carolina more than half of my life now, certainly about all of my adult life. If that makes me still a Yankee in the eyes of some, so be it. I have a few news flashes for all those Southerners who readily throw around the term Yankee. First, the Civil War has been over since 1865. Second, Reconstruction is over and nobody who was considered a “Carpetbagger” is still alive today. Third, Yankees don’t consider the term a derogatory one, so try as you might, you are not going to get anywhere tossing that term around.

So why do I preface my column this way? Well, I was raised with the Yankee ethic that you should put forth a little more effort so as to not inconvenience other people if at all possible. For an area that claims “Bible Belt” status and high morals, the non-inconvenience concept does not seem to be among high on the priority list. Whether it is regard for others’ time, money, or effort, I have quite honestly found such consideration lacking in The South. Nowhere is this more evident to me than in the willingness to close roads around here.

In a small town of only 3.2 square miles (if Selma were a perfect square, that would mean that each side would only be 1.788854381999832 miles long) I find a good many street closings all allegedly in the name of safety or for the convenience of a select few. There are a bunch of streets that plain stop at railroad crossings. We have endured repeated street closings at live crossings that seem to drag on for weeks on end, and there has even been a debate about closing yet another street at a rail crossing. I wrote my opinion on that matter a few weeks back.

The Clayton Bypass was just fine the way it was for traffic entering onto Interstate 40. The problem was not design of the interchange but rather the sheer volume of commuting traffic. But some well intentioned control freak that does not mind further inconveniencing motorists thinks that it is a good idea to shut down one of the two lanes of traffic merging onto the interstate, so we have another example close to home about which to rant. Someone could not leave well enough alone.

What really cheesed me off recently was that I was driving to Research Triangle Park one morning and saw a work crew nailing down wood forms in the road at the rail crossing on North Pollock Street. I thought “To be sure, they are not going to make a traffic island there.” Sure enough, when I came home later in the day and drove southward on Pollock Street from Anderson Street, there were concrete traffic islands on either side of the tracks. Some pinhead behind a desk somewhere probably thinks that this is going to be a great safety feature. I see it as a huge inconvenience.

October 31st for many people means Halloween. For me, it marks the ninth anniversary of the day I closed on my house inside the 3.2 square miles we call Selma. I found out that there are some traffic lights that are short cycled and that there are some traffic lights that really need a protected left turn signal installed. One such light just happens to be on my regular route of travel here in town. In order to turn left onto West Anderson Street from Pollock Street, I used to wait at the traffic light on Pollock. Before 7 PM, that can be a difficult thing to do, believe it or not. I found that it is much more convenient to catch a break in traffic just after the railroad track and turn left onto Railroad Street, drive past the backside of my house, and go halfway around the block in order to get to my house. It is usually faster and more convenient that way. For the nine years that I have been living here, I have taken that shortcut, even if it is longer in distance. But no more.

Just how many reported accidents do we have at that intersection and rail crossing that would warrant the expenditure of revenue and inconvenience to drivers? I can not recall a single one that I have witnessed in my nine years of living here, not to mention several years of working in Selma previously. I am not sure if this was a governmental expenditure or a railroad expenditure. Either way, it was entirely unnecessary but probably made some bureaucrat feel good about the existence of his job.

Why the inconvenience and expense? Why the disregard for revenue expenditures and the inconvenience to motorists? I just don’t get it.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Column for Oct. 20, 2011

I wanted to take a quick diversion right at the beginning this week to share a chuckle I had from the front page of last week’s “The Selma News”. There was a headline that said, “Just in time for Halloween: Selma has a bat problem”. I chuckled when I saw that because I have known that Selma had bats since I moved here. No, I am not talking about some of the residents or even Town Council members, but I have heard bats at night in this town for almost a decade now. Sometimes when I am outside late at night walking my old, trusty dog, Barack Odaga, also known as Slime Dog (his given name), I will hear the screech of bats overhead or nearby. I just took it for granted that this town had bats in it. Now I read that someone is just now making it known to the Town Council that there is a bat problem in town. I chuckled and sarcastically said to myself, “Noooooooooooooo, ya’ think?” Anyway, now back to the regularly scheduled rant, already in progress.

A friend of mine who lives in Wake County and decided to home school his son said to me and a television audience that if Wake County Schools are not smart enough to take a compass or protractor, lay it on a map, draw a circle around a school’s location, and have the children that live within the circle’s radius attend that school, then he didn’t want them educating his child. That seems like a common sense thing to me. It made sense when I went to school that I would go to the closest, neighborhood school available.

Unfortunately, voters in Wake County seem to have lost their common sense in their election this past week. They fell prey to the progressive mantra about diversity. The very people who fought for the right to simply go to a neighborhood school during the civil rights era of the 1960’s were the very ones who argued that the act of letting neighborhood children go to a neighborhood school in this present day is racist and hateful. They were organized and unrelenting in their attacks and disinformation. Of course the left leaning media outlets lapped it up like my aforementioned dog slurps the leftover milk from my morning bowl of cornflakes. As a result, some courageous school board members have been voted out of office.

Men and women who stood for the common sense concept of letting children go to schools in their own neighborhoods rather than needlessly transporting them across the county for the sake of racial and economic diversity will be replaced by potentially snivelling control freaks who don’t think that parents should have a say in the education of their children. One dear friend of mine was rather upset by this election result and, well, I can’t print here what she had to say about it.

I am thankful that we do not have such issues here in Johnston County. If we did and we were going to truly follow the spirit of racial and economic diversity, we would probably have to bus in White children as well as students from wealthier neighborhoods from the other side of the county. White children at Selma Elementary, by nature of the town demographics, are the vast minority. Also, children not receiving government assistance in the form of free and reduced lunch prices are also a tiny minority. In order to balance this out, should children from perhaps the Cleveland community be put on school buses and sent clear across the county to help populate Selma Elementary? For that matter, should students with Hispanic surnames who live in Selma be bused to Polenta Elementary School? Of course not.

Here is one thing I will say about the lefties in this country. When they think that they have a cause, they rally behind it, however misguided it may be. One only needs to look at the “Occupy New York” and other similar “Occupy” rallies held across the country. They have no real coherent message other than to demonize those who hold wealth in order to force some of it to be appropriated for use by others. Redistribution of wealth makes as little sense to me as redistribution of students for the sake of diversity. Both have politically correctness and socialist indoctrination as part of their core.

How is that “hope and change” thing working out for you? I would say not so well. Yes, there can be change, but let us not continue the slide into socialism and government control. Keep that in mind this next election season, even when we have municipal elections next month.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Column for Oct. 13, 2011

Every once in a while, my thoughts in life seem to fall in direct order with something I will see or hear. I have had a few conversations recently with people and even written about my living in Johnston County and my involvement in public activities over the years. I believe in getting involved, whether at the governmental level, in Christian service, in a group like Cub Scouts, or even banging away on this keyboard for years. I endeavor to leave my impact on my town, my county, my state, and my nation in one way or another. It may be through my offspring or via my direct influence.

Sometimes I wonder if anything I write or say has an impact. Recently I had a conversation with a young man with whom I was engaged in a disagreement. Weeks later he came to me and told me that something I said during that less than calm dispute stuck with him. A seed was planted, took root, and bore fruit. This young man’s life was seemingly changed for the better.

Recently I had a conversation with someone who has stepped their foot into the local public spotlight. I was told that this person’s family reads my column regularly, for which I am grateful to hear. I have long said that I want to impact people’s thought patterns for the better, which in my opinion, would be the adherence to the principles I have been hammering away on and espousing here for the past five years.

Do I do it for the pay? (Snicker, snicker!) Good grief, no. My pay has remained the same for the past five years, which is the satisfaction of knowing that my ramblings are printed here each and every week and that people, whether they love or hate me, are reading. I do get a free copy of this paper every week, though, so I guess you could say that I do it for the satisfaction, the love of writing, and a $20 subscription. And for those, I am both very grateful and content. I am happy just being a small town newspaper columnist.

Many times I have listened to big name talk radio show hosts and known that I am better than what I was hearing come through the speakers of my stereo or streaming on my computer. Though I wonder why those opportunities come to some and not others, I am learning more and more to be content. I am striving to live out Paul’s admonition in 1 Timothy 6, “But godliness with contentment is great gain.”

Just this Sunday, I listened to a sermon that dealt with our attitudes towards government officials. I admit that I often fall short on that topic, primarily because there is so much of which to be critical and I happen to be a rather outspoken individual, having no shortage of opinions. Those opinions have grown and matured over time to a place where I feel comfortable with what I believe. Ergo I am confident to and endeavor to be a beacon with a truthful, steady message. Anyway, the passage mentioned was out of the book of Jeremiah, in chapter 29. “But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare” (CEV).

Sometimes I feel like I am in exile, maybe even Babylon. I never wanted to move to Johnston County. I was quite satisfied living in Raleigh with the exception of the ever increasing rent on a townhouse I was renting. It took God Himself telling me that he wanted me in Johnston County to get me to move here. I have often wondered why. I have now been a Johnstonian for about fourteen years and a “Selmite” for nine. Wherever I find myself planted, I endeavor to seek the welfare of the city where I was sent. I try to do so with this column, with my community involvement at various levels, it is why I ran for elected office, and why I will continue to plug away at what I know to do.

The Jeremiah 29:7 principle sums up my reason for being in this town. I need to pray more for our community. I am sure that we all do.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Column for Oct. 6, 2011

You vote with your feet. You vote with your wallet. How many times have you heard those two statements? Well, they are true, which is why those sayings are still around. Then again, untrue statements like, “It takes a village to raise a child” still linger in our vernacular. No, it takes committed parents to raise a child, but that is another topic for another day.

I vote with my feet. I decided to leave ineffective organizations, whether they were political parties, town advisory boards, church groups, civic organizations, or county government boards. I vote with my wallet, too. I currently have in place family boycotts on two restaurants and one grocery store. One restaurant boycott is in place because of political and ideological treason committed by its owner in 2010. The other restaurant boycott is against a Mexican cuisine establishment because they were closed May 1, 2006 in observance of “A Day Without Immigrants”. If you remember, that was a nationwide event in which primarily Hispanic businesses closed down for a day in protest against stances for tighter immigration policies and in support of illegal immigrants. I used to go to that restaurant almost every week because of their excellently priced dinner specials on Tuesday nights. The grocery store boycott is because of the obnoxious treatment I received from the store’s proprietor in 2005. For six years I have not bought any groceries at that one store despite its convenient proximity. For over five years I have not eaten at the Mexican restaurant. For well over a year, I have not taken my family to the other restaurant, and we used to patronize them regularly. These businesses have lost many thousands of dollars of my business as I voted with my wallet. The ineffective groups have not had my assistance or participation because I voted with my feet.

In a day when most politicians practice kissing babies while stealing their candy, and mortgage their futures with unsustainable debt, every so often one elected official does the right thing by voting with the wallet of his constituents and with his feet. I give applause to Johnston County Register of Deeds, Craig Olive, for his decision to withdraw Johnston County from the North Carolina Association of Registers of Deeds. That organization gets money from member county governments and has come under scrutiny for its activities behind closed doors and poor fiscal responsibility.

Mr. Olive was quoted as saying, “I fought against customer fee increases, membership increases, opposed the organization's secrecy, and pushed hard for the removal of personal identifying information that can lead to identity theft. When the statewide association wanted to close its meetings to the tax-paying public, I said no. They did it anyway. Last year, when the association wanted to raise customer fees and member dues, which come from county taxpayers, I said it was too much. They went ahead with them anyway. In an effort to cut costs in these dire economic times, I have reduced my office's budget significantly. Meanwhile, the statewide association continues to spend recklessly. Even after the recent newspaper expose, its leaders suffer an arrogant sense of entitlement. I can no longer contribute Johnston County tax dollars to support such a wayward association, so I will not be renewing our membership and our financial support of it.”

That sort of decision by Craig Olive took a bit of political courage to buck the current system, but it also took some common sense. Why continue feed the beast that is ravaging you? Why waste taxpayer dollars on causes that are antithetical to your charge as an elected official and your beliefs as a responsible citizen?

On a side note, I still cannot get past Craig’s elected title. Is not the Register of Deeds the official record of deeds whereas the person who oversees the register should be the Registrar? Who came up with the title “Register of Deeds” with which to refer to a person? That has never made sense to me. Nonetheless, my thanks as a taxpaying citizen and as one who voted for Registrar Olive. For what it is worth, Craig Olive has done a better job than for which I first gave him credit. I was willing to vote for him because he has always had an ambition for public service and because I knew his conservative ideology. He has been the exception to the rule, in my opinion, outperforming my personal expectations. Craig has fortunately voted with his feet and with our wallets on our behalf. Thank you, Craig.