Saturday, February 25, 2012

Column for Feb. 23, 2011

I occasionally get to read another county newspaper, if and when it actually hits my driveway, which it doesn’t more often that it does. I communicate with several of my elected officials on the internet via email, Facebook, and other means. Just ask Selma’s mayor, our Congressional representative, some of our state representatives, and some of our county representatives. Since some news stories and opinion columns about our local hospital were unable to be read in print (because unlike The Selma News and The Wilson's Mills News, that paper almost never gets delivered), I had to check the online version after reading some Facebook comments by my elected county representative.

It has been alleged that the Johnston Health Board of Commissioners has been holding secret meetings with suitors for a possible affiliation for Johnston Medical Center. That basically means that the county is seeking out possible avenues for new management of the county hospital system. It does not mean that the county is looking to sell off the hospital, nor does it mean that the hospital is in dire financial straits. Upon reading the comments by both the newspaper and the claims of horribly inaccurate reporting, I went to the source and asked County Commissioner and Johnston Health Board of Commissioners member Tony Braswell for some details on the matter. He sent me his comments, which are now public record, so I am not sharing anything that is not open for all to read.

He said that the county is investigating whether or not to stay with the same hospital management company that has been in place for twenty years, or if there was a way to improve upon existing services and economics. That, to me, is only wisdom. Not only do I find that appropriate as one who uses the hospital facilities (and in less than 60 days, my next son will be born there, most likely) but as a county taxpayer.

It was alleged that the Johnston Health Board of Commissioners signed non-disclosure agreements, which according to Mr. Braswell is totally untrue. It is true, however, that some discussions with third parties will be (and frankly should be) done in private session. Nobody supports open meetings and transparent government more than I do. However, I also realize that some business matters and negotiations need to be done without potential competitors being fully aware of every detail. That is only good business sense. It is true that some governing bodies abuse private session discretion, and I have been critical of such. Business details that affect private bids and arrangements may need closed doors from time to time, but the fact that such will happen still needs to be public knowledge.

Also, according to Commissioner Braswell, contrary to allegations of “the hospital's financial picture is so bleak that its leaders are willing to pledge their loyalty not to the people of Johnston County but to outside companies dangling cash in their faces”, the truth of the matter is, in his own words, “we are financially better now than we were a year and a half ago and we have the capabilities of paying the debt service to HUD. So we are actually in better financial shape and that information is easily available if anyone chose to attend our meetings that we have every month over there.”

I have no problem with any sort of hospital affiliation, or even the direct sale of the county facility, for that matter. As a father who has had to deal with the birth defect of a child and has traveled to both Duke and UNC hospitals for treatment, I would not object to having an affiliation with another group. If that would help bring good management, better access to other health care systems, and better resources to us here in Podunk, Johnston County, then I am in support of the concept.

As a taxpayer, if the cost of running the hospital can be minimized or even eliminated altogether, I am all for it. If officials serving on the Johnston Health Board of Commissioners or even the County Board of Commissioners are not considering, in Braswell’s words, “Is this the best way to do business or is there another way to do business?” then they should not be serving at all. To help insure that such a question gets asked, I volunteer openly to serve on the Johnston Health Board of Commissioners.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Publishing oops.

Because of a mixup, the column published in this week's paper was not the one for the 16th but rather the one intended for the 23rd of February.  The column below will actually be published in the newspaper on the 23rd.  I will post the other column here next week.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Column for Feb. 16, 2012

To many blind fools, this is going to sound very racist.  Actually, it is intended to be completely the opposite.  So, if you are easily offended, see racism behind every criticism of activity, or have such a small view of mankind that you can only filter everything through the lenses of your race tinted glasses, please close the newspaper now.

Every February, Black History Month is celebrated in America.  I enjoy history that has a focus upon Black Americans, I truly do.  I am fascinated by the stories of valiant Negro men and women who had a strong faith, love of country, love for their fellow man; who fought, died, and contributed greatly to the nation’s formation.  Such stories should be an inspiration to all Americans, not just Black folks.  Just as many Blacks were enslaved in America, they were enslaved all over the world.  And, as is little taught, there were indeed a good many Black freemen who also owned slaves in America.

I don’t want there to be a distinction between “history” and “Black history”.  When the history of America is taught, it should be taught in its fulness, not just with an agenda attached to it, regardless of from whence the agenda comes.  Black history in America is inseparable from American history and should be taught as part of the whole, not neglected or relegated to one month per year.

Of course there are some who believe they are owed special treatment.  While working at NC State University years ago, I marveled at the “Black Cultural Center” and wondered why people who fought against segregation at a public university would want to self-segregate on campus and demand special consideration.

On television, we have Black Entertainment Television and The Black Shopping Channel.  I don’t begrudge anyone their TV viewing tastes or cultural choices.  That is why there are now hundreds of channels on cable and satellite TV.  Can you imagine the outcry, however, if someone came out with White Entertainment Television and only featured programming with actors as white as Marshmallow Fluff?  

How about our tax dollars paying for a White Cultural Center at NC State University?  Should we have a White Anglo-Saxon Protestant History Month?  When we study world history, it is not WASP or Euro-centric, so maybe we need one.  Yeah, that would go over real well, I am sure.  I do believe that there is an incredible double standard in place.

I am especially disgusted when it comes to American politics and the race card is played.  I remember asking the question that if Herman Cain actually got the Republican nomination for this year’s Presidential Election and I supported him over Barack Obama, would I still be considered a racist?  Of course anyone who does not support Obama was told that we were indeed racist if we did not support him.  Sorry, but I didn’t care for the White half of him either, nor did I support Joe Biden, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, Bob Etheridge, or Kay Hagan.  All of them are fish belly white and have the same ideology as Obama.  Am I racist for not supporting them, as well, or do I just oppose socialism, communism, and values antithetical to the American founding?

I am going to quote a friend of mine from Wilson.  “Today, in light of black history month, when we watch black-achievement movies like “Men of Honor,” “The Express,” “The Pursuit of Happyness,” “Remember the Titans,” “The Great Debaters,” “Red Tails,” etc., we are inspired by people who transcended every obstacle, through persistence, personal sacrifice, self-determination, self-interest, and hard work, to become great. And to think they did it all on their own, while all of Hell seemed to fight against them, without an ounce of government assistance. [sic]”  

That, my friends, is the attitude we should take and how to honor greatness.  Yes, there are many stories of great Black men and women that we should celebrate in America.  Whether it is Crispus Attucks, Prince Whipple, Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, George Washington Carver, or a host of others, we should celebrate their achievements and contribution to America right along side any other facts taught as American history; the good, the bad, and the ugly.  Would this not be the essence of Martin Luther King’s famous quote, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character”?

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Column for Feb. 9, 2012

When considering the government expenditure of public money, we all have to ask, “To what end?”  Not everything that is a nice idea is necessarily a good idea, nor is it in the public best interest.  Furthermore, government has to take into account the impact on area residents when entering into contracts.  There are several cases in point in the news.

There have been and will be meetings in the Town of Selma at which residents can express their concerns to the town leadership.  One big concern has been the high cost of utilities in town.  Selma, like other towns, is a public power community, meaning that the town owns the electrical system and is contracted to purchase energy and then retails it to its citizenry.  I have written many times about this.  Basically, this amounts to another tax upon the town residents.  Since we pay significantly higher rates than customers who deal with Progress Energy directly, any dollar amount above what would be charged if we bought the electricity ourselves from the power company should be considered taxation, not merely utility costs.

What I found unacceptable was the town’s attitude of “Too bad, we have a contract to do business this way, so you have to live with the high costs.  Try cutting back on your electricity use.”  No, the town brought this burden upon us by a poor contract for services, so the town, if not already doing so, should be looking at being released from that contract.  I never hear that as a possibility from anyone.  Also, any town should never obligate itself and its citizens for numerous decades as has been done with many local communities.

I looked with interest at an article about the Town of Selma moving forward with building a train viewing platform.  I still laugh at this one.  We may be a railroad-centric town, but this is ridiculous.  I don’t care if the town is seeking funding from some grant.  If the grant comes from any governmental source, it is tax money.  If it is from a private institution, that is another thing.  Either way, the town has to pay $2500 just to have a company process the grant application.  Then it is recommended that the town commit to at least a $5000 sum of public tax dollars to help attract the grant.  So the town wants to spend at least $7500 to hope to get a $75,000 platform.

I am making an offer right now to the Town of Selma.  I will gladly save them all of the money mentioned, go to Lowe’s or Big Lots and buy a couple of park style benches out of my own pocket.  I won’t even ask to have my name on a plaque attached to them.  We don’t need a train watching platform in town.  We already have a nice train station with a sizable concrete pad.  People already come here with lawn chairs and sometimes even radios to hear the train radio traffic.  When the come, however, they come with their own coolers, drinks, and lunches.  I doubt that they purchase much, if anything, in town.

Again, I ask, “To what end?”  If the desired end is to attract more people to town, will we ever attract sufficient people to little old Selma to watch trains to justify the public expenditure of $75,000?  That is doubtful, regardless of from where that money comes.  How about the $7500 that the town will be staking for the project?  I doubt highly we will make that back in tax revenue, ever.  How about just the $2500 the town will spend for someone to process a grant application to pursue the money?  Yeah, right.  I doubt even that would be recovered.

People who come here to watch trains are not going to be interested in purchasing antiques.  And if they do venture into town to find a restaurant, their choices will be limited.  Creech’s Drug can’t sell enough homemade orange-ade to gain sufficient sales tax to cover the town’s expenses on this project.  Just because it is a nice idea, it doesn’t mean that the town should spend money on it.

I like the Selma Development Partnership’s idea of having a town museum as one example of how to do a project without tax dollars involved.  Granted, the small building may end up falling off the property tax rolls now that it is owned by a non-profit group, but at least we are not spending tax dollars.  It is ironic that one of the smallest business buildings in town will be the Selma museum.  Basically it can showcase a jar of Vick’s Vaporub and a model train and that about covers the town.  At least my tax dollars won’t be paying for it, though I will be willing to buy the jar of Vaporub at Creech’s Drugstore to donate to the museum.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Column for Feb. 2, 2012

This political scene just got a little more interesting.  I am not talking about the national campaign scene, either.  There will be several changes that I look forward to seeing play out.  Probably the biggest news is that North Carolina Governor, Beverly Perdue has decided not to run for re-election.  It was actually a bit surprising to me, though I did not really expect her to win if she ran again, anyway.  Apparently, neither did she.  Wish low polling numbers, droves of voters expected to vote against liberal candidates, low funding for a campaign, and a strong opponent for the next election, I guess it was the smart thing to do.  

People have been lining up to announce that they want to seek the governor’s position.  There is already a list of candidates that have either formally announced, announced that they will announce, or there is strong speculation that they will run.  Among them are Lieutenant Governor Walter Dalton and hugely liberal/socialist State Representative Bill Faison from Berkley East, meaning Chapel Hill.  

Other possible candidates are former State Treasurer Richard Moore, U.S. Congressman Mike McIntyre, Congressman Heath Shuler (from the western part of the state), and Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx.  Then there is speculation that our old friend, Bob “Who are you” Etheridge may seek the governor’s seat.  If Old Bob runs, that will make for some interesting moments in sports in our family.  My wife’s family literally were Etheridge’s neighbors and think that he was the most honest and helpful statesmen to come along in ages.  I, on the other hand, found him to be your typical, greasy, snake oil salesman of a politician who has no idea what the US Constitution says.

With people like Bev Perdue and Congressman Brad Miller deciding not to seek re-election, I wonder if there was pressure from The White House to step down so as to help Barack Obama in a key battleground state come election season.  I realize that Miller, like Etheridge, is now in David Price’s district with the redrawn election districts, so that may have weighed heavily in his decision.  Either way, I would like to take this opportunity to formally announce that I am NOT seeking the office of Governor of the State of North Carolina at this time.

Another noteworthy decision was that of Wake County School Board member John Tedesco to run for State Superintendent of Public Instruction.  I have long supported Tedesco’s stance on local schools and abolishing the so-called diversity policy in Wake County.  He will have my vote.  I was disgusted to see some of the horrible comments that his critics had left on the internet on news stories from the local TV stations about his intent to run.  Keep in mind that these are the sorts of people who call conservatives intolerant bigots.
  • “Haha he is such a moron [sic]”
  • “I fully intend to support whoever runs against him. He's the WORSE.[sic]”
  • “He's a true idiot and can't even put together a coherent sentence.”
  • “This is NO good for the state and it is really an insult that someone with so little experience with our state and the educational system in general could even be considered to run for this position! I'm disgusted!![sic]”

I find that last one very amusing considering that Bob Etheridge used to be Superintendent of Public Instruction at one time with no experience in the field of education.  At least John Tedesco has served as a member of the board of the largest school district in the state.

I decided to weigh in on this Tedesco discussion myself and left the following commentary.  “I think that all the previous commentators on this thread are pretty hateful and ignorant.  I will vote for him.  I love his stance for Wake County Schools in getting rid of the useless, (not really) progressive, politically correct diversity policy.  It was only common sense to let children go to a local school.  Any ignorant fool who thought the policy that was in place prior to John Tedesco was actually proper or effective should turn in their voter registration card and stay home.”  I have no idea what comments may have been made after I gave my opinion on that public forum, but then again, I don’t really care.