Saturday, April 18, 2015

Just what N.C. needed: More partisanship

Just what N.C. needed: More partisanship
Editor | Asheville Citizen-Times

EDITOR: "Backers say it gives voters more information and increases voter participation and that local elections are already partisan. First, let’s dispense with the 'information' argument."

The writer did NOT dispense with the information argument, nor any of the other backers' arguments. He merely asserted that he did.

The truth is that these are elections. Party affiliation matters in elections. A person's political philosophy matters in electing legislators, local government officials, judges and school board members.

In each case, the conduct of public affairs is guided by certain principles. In certain mundane affairs, like getting off a school bus, it make little difference. But in the really important things, a person's political philosophy can determine the moral landscape for a generation. It serves no honest purpose to have those guiding principles suspended in mystery in the crucial moment of exercising voting rights.

In nonpartisan races, the candidates are often unknown to the voter, leaving them with the choice of marking the ballot based on solely on name recognition, for good or for ill, or of skipping that race altogether and not participating in the moment of truth when it matters most. The only information voters have to go on, in those cases, is affiliation. But that is the one piece of vital information that is missing.

Indeed, activists go to great lengths to inform voters of this missing information in nonpartisan elections. They scramble to print "cheat sheets" and hand them out of street corners at election time so that voters will be informed. And all because this information is not included on the ballot handed them.

We can lower the political temperature at no cost by simply informing voters at the point of sale.

If we accept the writer's premise, that elections should be less partisan, then we would advocate for nonpartisan elections statewide. And yet we do not.

Recall that Asheville city council elections are nonpartisan and you will get a sense of how helpful that has been.

The question asked by an unbiased newspaper editor should be, why would anyone running for elective office want to conceal their party affiliation from those voting for them? I suspect it is because voters, regardless of their own affiliation, tend to favor the morally serious conservative mindset in matters of education and jurisprudence. (Judicial and school board elections are the only nonpartisan elections left to us.)

We've already seen what this concealment has given us in education. Let us now try the fully informed path.

Friday, October 10, 2014

LTE: Education Cuts

Dear Editor
Asheville Daily Planet

Here we go again with the parade of lies on the campaign trail. First from Senator Kay Hagan and now from Brian Turner, Representative TimMoffitt's opponent in his re-election bid from District 116. They both have said in campaign ads that the North Carolina General Assembly "cut $500 million from public education."

That's simply untrue. The Washington Post knows it. They gave that canard two “Pinocchios.” and know it. They flat out debunked the oft-repeated falsehood on their websites too. Even WLOS-TV has finally had enough. They recently broadcast a story that set the record straight. In his report, anchor Frank Fraboni said, “For viewers and voters, the deception is disturbing.” (

SarahCurry of the John Locke Foundation pulled the relevant numbers from the state Fiscal Research Division and determined that the legislature actually increased spending on public education this year by $302 million*. In fact, over the last four years, education spending increased by nearly a billion dollars. What's more, in the final two years of Democrat control, $610 million were cut from public education.

So, there you have it: the current General Assembly did NOT "cut $500 million from public education."



The Pete Kaliner Show, Oct 2, 5:0p, "$500 million lie."

Saturday, April 05, 2014

LTE: Water Merger

Regional authority needed for accountability to users

Dear Editor,

I recently read that Asheville city council is gearing up for another rate increase for water customers in the region (“Asheville considering water rate increases,” March 25, 2014). But some water customers don't live in Asheville. Roughly half of these regional water system customers live in Buncombe County, outside the city. And yet, it is seven people sitting on city council who are in charge of water system policy for the region and they alone are making important decisions which will affect many people who are not their constituents.

If customers outside the city were to have input regarding unreasonable rates, poor service or quality, or matters of future development, where would they turn? They are without representation on Asheville's city council and could not express their point of view by voting in city elections.

To ensure accountability to all water system ratepayers, we need broader representation by a locally-appointed board in a regional authority. It is long past time that these disenfranchised customers outside the city were given a seat at the table and a sure way to voice their concerns to their appointed representative.


Sunday, March 23, 2014

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Education Funding

State education spending: the facts

K-12 Education Cuts: Outright Lies

Did North Carolina’s budget make Cuts to Education?

Hoodwinking Education — Lies Continue

Superintendent salaries across NC

Chuck McGrady: While the budget did not provide a pay raise for teachers and state employees, what was not noted by many commentators was that the budget did include a reserve for future salary adjustments for teachers and state employees. At several points over the past few years, the State has had to add several million dollars for spiraling Medicaid costs, and the legislature again faced another 'Medicaid surprise' that took pay raises off the table in the first year of the two year budget. If there isn’t another surprise, House leaders have said that pay raises will be their top priority in the 'Short Session' next year. (Note: Since most of the criticism of the budget has focused on funding of education and since I am one of the co-chairs of the House Education Appropriations Subcommittee, I’m going to more fully discuss the funding of education in a future General Assembly Bulletin.)

Local School Teacher Pay Authorization

Setting the Record Straight on School Vouchers

School Vouchers: From Friedman to the Finish Line

School Choice Scholarship Programs Would Not Violate the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution
Education Budget:
  • Fully funds enrollment growth in K-12, community colleges and the university system.
  • Adds $23.6 million to continue funding the Excellent Public Schools Act, which will strengthen student literacy, improve graduation rates and increase accountability.
  • Eliminates guaranteed lifetime employment for teachers by replacing the outdated tenure system and employing teachers through contracts that are renewed based on job performance.
  • Continues our commitment to implementing a pay for excellence system by including $10.2 million in the second year to fund annual pay raises for the most effective teachers.
  • Implements opportunity scholarships in the second year of the biennium.
  • Provides funding to implement critical school safety measures, such as resource officers, and expand the use of technology and innovation in schools.
  • Eliminates the K-12 flex cut for local school districts, implemented by Democrats under former Gov. Bev Perdue, to make the education budget process fully transparent.
  • Restores $33 million in recurring state funds to our community colleges.
  • Funds the N.C. Back to Work program, providing nearly $5 million to allow for a more effective job placement program.
  • Incorporates the administrative and operational savings, instructional efficiencies and program consolidation efforts identified by the university system in their Strategic Directions Plan.

The Impending NC Teacher Shortage

Setting the Record Straight on School Vouchers.

School Choice Scholarship Programs Would Not Violate the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Fact: Of the $7.2 billion state public school funds for FY10-11, all but 10.4% was used for salaries & benefits.

Fact: North Carolina ranks 11th in the Nation & 2nd in the SE for the highest % of funds from State revenue.

Fact: North Carolina has almost 100,000 teachers and almost 1.5 million students...a ratio of 1 to 15.

Fact: There are 1,786 Central Office Administrators in the state of North Carolina. Some receive packages of over $200,000/year.

Fact: the Asheville City Schools gifted its outgoing Superintendent $175,000 for quitting. That would be $875 for every teacher in the city.

Fact: #AVL City Council gave the Art Museum $2 million. That's $1,000 more every year for every teacher in the city for the next 10 years.

Fact: Average Daily Membership in NC Schools has remained essentially flat while this year's appropriation rose by $400 million.

According to BCS Superintendent Tony Baldwin, NO current employees are expected to lose their jobs with the education budget:

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Lame Media Excuses

Margaret V. Williams

7:27 PM (1 hour ago)

to me
Aug. 11 query: Why am I being moderated?

Mr. Peck, your status has remained at moderated for some time, largely due to past violations of our comment policy and periodic violations since then.

If you're asking about more recent posts, some have gone through and some have not (some follow our policy, a few do not). When posts aren't allowed, it's because our moderation team determined it violated policy at some level.

The main posts I can think of that have recently been moderated (i.e. disallowed) are repeat attempts to post a video that YouTube took down. If that dispute is resolved, we'd consider allowing it.

If there's another specific post that you'd like to ask about, please do so and I'll consult with other moderators, who may have taken action.


Friday, July 26, 2013

Monday, July 01, 2013

GOP may need to step aside, Libertarians told

By Tim Peck
Special to The Asheville Daily Planet
July 2013

Michael Cloud
FLAT ROCK, N.C — "Maybe it's time for the Republican Party to go." So says Libertarian author and speaker Michael Cloud, who delivered the keynote address at this year’s 3-day North Carolina Libertarian Party Convention in Flat Rock on Saturday, June 9.

As the sixty or so attendees dined on the catered buffet in the Sandburg Room at the Mountain Lodge, Cloud spoke to the audience in passionate tones about the arc of Libertarian electoral disappointment. "What seems to be the problem?," Cloud asks. "We have the right ideas. Still, at best, we are only getting about twenty-three percent of the vote in state legislature campaigns.

Cloud then goes on to outline what he sees as the causes and the cures of party woes in an engaging walking-and-talking style, pacing the front of the room and calling on people by name to answer pointed questions. Cloud has distilled his observations down to a few cogent points and lays out a strategy for moving forward.

First, Libertarians are being virtually brainwashed into believing the critics who reflexively claim that Libertarian candidates simply can't win. "It's a disease," he says, that perpetuates a self-fulfilling prophecy that defeats candidates and their supporters before they get started. It's a psychological problem, not a problem of ideas. The ideas are winning, says Cloud. It's only our candidates that are struggling. In his hypothesis, The Impossibility Trap, as Cloud coins it, is often expressed in defeatist terms when supporters are called on to take action: "I like your candidate but I don't want to waste my vote." "You candidate will be a spoiler." "The courts will just strike down any real changes." "And the voting machines are rigged anyway."

Cloud’s retort? “Don’t you buy into it!” These perennial bromides only serve to do one thing: to convince sympathetic voters to take a pass, to turn their attention elsewhere, or to simply do nothing. "We are quitting on the five yard line after a long drive to the goal zone," says Cloud. "We are believing that it's impossible. It's a case of 'learned helplessness,' as some psychologists put it. It's a debilitating condition that can be taught to people and animals alike. If we believe that it's impossible, we're not going to make that extra phone call, we're not going to walk that extra block to knock on doors. We become conditioned to aim lower. And it's a weakness that we must overcome if we are to ever make any advances in the political arena."

Second, Cloud talks about the right ways to think about their underdog political party, about how to go from being a Spoiler to being a Dark Horse to being a Contender. "One, don't faint when someone says, 'hey, that makes sense.' Also, recognize that when we get a fair hearing, we win. It’s our job to get a fair hearing. Next, start modelling possibility behaviors."

Cloud then offers an inspirational analogy to the movie "Rocky" where the themes of humiliation, courage and hard work are played out in dramatic form. When boxer Rocky Balboa quietly agonizes over his poor chances in the ring against his betters, his clear-eyed wife advises him to pick another goal and win that one. His goal of winning is replaced with the goal of ‘going the distance.’ As Rocky pursues his new reachable goal, his supporters are taken with enthusiasm and excitement and eventually cheer him on to his own right-sized victory in the ring. It's a tale work emulating, says Cloud.

Third, Cloud implores his audience to recognize actual incremental success. Election to political office is not necessarily the measure of success. “When we move the ball forward, we are succeeding.”

“Instead of asking people if Gary Johnson can win, ask them, ‘if he could win, would he make a good president? Would he be good for the country?’ If their answer is ‘Yes,’ then ask them, ‘Why?’ You’ll be pleasantly surprised. Ask them, ‘if you and you alone could push a button and elect a candidate, would you push it for Gary Johnson?’”

Here’s a little secret I learned from Mary Kay Ashe. She said, ‘you don’t have to win to win. I failed my way to success, but I kept failing forward.’ If we fail at 4%, then next time we’ll fail at 6%. Recognize that we can make progress and progress is victory.”

In concluding his vigorous pep talk, Cloud makes one final impassioned and definitive plea to his audience:

“Ladies and gentlemen, I ask you: step aside from your impossibility beliefs. Drop your impossibility behavior. Be willing to move forward. Be willing to open new minds. And we will open ourselves to the possibility of liberty in our lifetimes.”

Friday, June 21, 2013

Water Lawsuit

Asheville Water Merger Lawsuit


The city has filed a rather weak lawsuit against the state and MSD. Buncombe and Henderson counties are, oddly, not named in the suit.

You can read their complaint on my Scribd account.

The key features of the complaint are that the legislation is unconstitutional, that the bond transfer injures the city, and that the corporation of Asheville is a person.

The city contends that HB488 was a local bill and it is unconstitutional to pass legislation in a local bill that affects sanitation. First, the law does not affect sanitation. It changes operational structure only. Second, the legislation is a public bill and would apply to any municipality that meets the conditions set forth. Therefore, it is constitutional.

The city contends that forcing a transfer of bonds to MSD would jeopardize the city's credit standing. The bonds that Asheville "floated" were Revenue Bonds backed, not by taxpayers, but by current and future water system ratepayers. It doesn't matter who holds those bonds, Asheville or MSD, the ratepayers will always be the obligors. Nothing changes with a transfer of ownership. In fact, handing local government bond transfers is what the state treasurer does on a regular basis. They should be done by now.

The city contends that Asheville is a person and must be compensated for a taking. First, a corporation is not a person. Second, the city does not own the water system. Third, a transfer of assets from one government entity to another does not obligate either to any financial reconciliation.

Interview with Attorney Frayda Bluestein, School of Government
Asheville water lawsuit.

Ownership is difficult to untangle. But the one thing that is clear is that it's not owned by Asheville. See this report for a breakdown of ownership:

The water merger is law but is now subject to a temporary restraining order brought by the city. The defendant, the State of North Carolina, asked for the TRO to be extended another 60 days, which was granted by the judge. That is so that the bond transfer matter can be resolved before the case is heard in court. That will blow a big hole right through this lawsuit. The last nail is to ******REDACTED*******. That will completely dispose of the lawsuit to the city's disfavor.

The lawsuit claims that Asheville, the corporation, is a person. And I thought they were against that sort of thing.

Eliminate Corporate Personhood
By Gordon Smith
January 26, 2012

"A resolution calling for a Constitutional Amendment to invalidate the 2010 Supreme Court’s Citizen United decision will be on the February 14th agenda of Asheville City Council"

Resolution No. 12-37 - Resolution to Eliminate Corporate Personhood
Asheville City Council
Page 16

"Councilman Smith said that the groups Move to Amend and Asheville Growing Business Alliance asked him to move forward the resolution to eliminate corporate personhood...Councilman Bothwell moved for the adoption of Resolution No. 12-37 to eliminate corporate personhood. This motion was seconded by Councilman Pelly and carried unanimously."

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Asheville Water System Lawsuit Press Conference

Asheville City Council Press Conference on Water System Lawsuit
Council Chamber, City Hall
May 10, 2013, 11:30am

TERRY BELLAMY: Good morning, everyone. Thank you all so very much for coming out. Good morning. Good morning. Good morning. Thank you all so very much for coming out. Instead of having people sit down, I'm going to ask literally if my council, former mayors, former council members would come, and state legislators would come and stand with me as we start this out. [SPEAKERS ASSEMBLE BEHIND PODIUM] [APPLAUSE] Good morning, everyone. It's a pleasure to bring you all to city council this morning under unfortunate circumstances. It's great to see so many leaders here who have influenced the direction of our community. It's because of the leadership that you have behind me that the City of Asheville has seen unprecedented growth and that we've been able to weather the recession and the many storms our city has faced. I'm really proud that over the years that our representatives here behind me, we can say that the City of Asheville is a beautiful place not only to live and work but also to visit. It's because of the collective policies that were approved by the individual who are standing behind me, we have seen Asheville become one of the best places to live. And farmers have said that we are one of the best places to do business. But more importantly, we have one of the lowest unemployment rates in the state. We've added more jobs from January 2012 to January 2013 percentage-wise than any other city in North Carolina. [APPLAUSE] Yeah, you can clap about that. Because of this group behind us we have unprecedented partnerships we have created as a community. When we think about the vibrancy of Asheville and what makes us a unique community, it's because of the people behind me during the time that they've served, they've worked and they've built bridges, whether it's through the Land of Sky Regional Council, whether it's working with Pack Place, whether it's working with Buncombe County Commissioners, our leaders have committed to working with individuals to make this community better. And they've not only thought about the City of Asheville and the citizens of Asheville, they've thought about the citizens of Buncombe County and the millions of citizens from across this country and the globe who come to Asheville to visit our community. So, today it's troubling when we think about House Bill 488. It forces the loss of the city's water system. Forcing the transfer of Asheville's assets is harmful to our statewide efforts to encourage economic development and business growth. Stability and predictability in terms of municipal assets and agreements are extremely important in terms of how Asheville and North Carolina are viewed as a place to do business. Based upon the opinion of the state treasurer, those factors could impact the bond ratings in North Carolina which may increase the taxpayers cost to borrow funds for critical capital infrastructures. The uncertainties created by this move could also undermine the ability of other cities and towns to issue bonds because they would have to be disclosed to potential lenders in the future, impacting desirability in the bond market. Over the last few months, you've heard this council and myself talk about the issues impacting House Bill 488 impacting our city. I'm not going spend time talking to you about how bad this bill is. Today, I'm going to tell you that we are proud that we put the legal team together of Moore and Van Allen and Long, Park, Warren, Anderson and Payne and our city attorney Bob Oast to help us defend our water system. [APPLAUSE] I'm proud to let you know that we will file a complaint in Wake County Superior Court early next week to help us keep our water system. I'm really proud of the fact that Senator Martin Nesbitt is here standing with us and he's going to speak right now.