Thursday, December 9, 2010

Convention Center Advisory Panel Stacked with Insiders


The Star News reports that the Wilmington City Council is looking for "more community input" regarding the operation of the convention center through its Convention Center Advisory Committee (http://www.starnewsonline.com/article/20101207/ARTICLES/101209707/1177).



So what do they do? Stack the committee with the same key players that sit on boards like the Chamber of Commerce, Wilmington Downtown Inc., the Planning Commission, and many other influential and powerful public boards and commissions:

The council voted Tuesday to appoint six members to the Convention Center Advisory Committee, but they also directed the city attorney to review the provisions for the committee to see if the council could add more at-large members.
Mayor pro-tem Earl Sheridan suggested the city consider adding more members on the board to get a better representation of the city as a whole. The committee includes the executive director of the visitors bureau, a hotelier in the Wilmington Convention Center tax district, the CEO of the Greater Wilmington Chamber of Commerce, a representative from Wilmington Downtown Inc. and two at-large representatives.
Those key players are none other than Dale Smith, Louise McColl, Kim Hufham, Connie Majure-Rhett, Jackie Hodge, and John Hinnant. These folks all have been appointed to other boards by this same city council, and in some cases, multiple boards.

Louise McColl, who has gained notoriety as of late for her involvement in securing taxpayer money for the Gravely commissioning events such as "pub crawls" and plenty of fine dining for local V.I.P.s;, sits on the board for the Golf Course Advisory Committee, as well as the Cape Fear Community College Board of Trustees. Kim Hufham, Exec. Director of the Visitor's Bureau, sits on the Sister City Commission. Connie Majure-Rhett, in addition to her new role on the convention center board, is also the CEO of the local Chamber of Commerce, as well as a member of the heavily taxpayer-funded Southeastern Economic Development Commission. John Hinnant, Executive Director of Wilmington Downtown Inc., another heavily taxpayer-subsidized organization, is a member of the Downtown Parking Advisory Committee in addition to his new duties.

One may ask why in the world our elected leaders are so afraid of regular citizens. Could it be that they simply already have a pre-conceived agenda, and therefore need warm bodies friendly to their cause to simply play ball? All signs point to "absolutely".

It looks as if the convention center, and its careful masters, are in no danger of community input regarding its operations after all.

Chamber Awards... Itself

The Star News also reports that the Chamber has just given out its annual Business Achievement Awards (http://www.starnewsonline.com/article/20101209/ARTICLES/101209640/1177?Title=Chamber-presents-achievement-awards&tc=ar). Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo, Bill Sharbaugh of PPD, and Rob Kaiser, Publisher of the Greater Wilmington Business Journal were the recipients. Most notably, these men are all members of the Chamber of Commerce's Board of Directors. So when the Chamber searches for local business leaders to give awards to, it seems to really narrow the field by keeping it strictly within the bounds of its own organization.

Kaiser, in addition to serving on the Chamber, is also a member of Wilmington Industrial Development - yet another heavily taxpayer-funded organization. Saffo was awarded for his work on the convention center - even though his capacity is that of an elected official - not a capital investor, or free market visionary. His ability to spend other people's money well, against their wishes, must have been recognized as the key element in his deserving of the award.

What's the lesson here folks? It seems we have quite a cozy relationship between politicians, committee appointees, and taxpayer-funded organizations. Like any animal, they have learned to rely on each other for their own existence. Like a well-oiled machine, they constantly serve themselves and each other almost simultaneously; operating on the principle of quid pro quo; existing only to validate each other's existence, and to achieve the ultimate goal - gaining more power, influence, and more of your money.
________________________________________________

Please add your name to this petition, demanding that taxpayer-funded economic development agencies submit to accountability and transparency standards, so that we as taxpayers know where our money is going and what we are getting in return: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/wilm-transparency/

Wilmington Downtown Inc. Needs Your Cash


In a recent email sent out to his entire list, Wilmington Downtown Inc. (WDI) Executive Director John Hinnant had this to say:
Please encourage the City of Wilmington to increase its investment in downtown economic development.
Give the City of Wilmington your input on spending priorities by completing a short online exercise at www.cityofwilmingtonbudgetchallenge.com by December 14. In less than five minutes, you can complete this brief exercise. I also encourage you to forward this email to all your friends and colleagues.
Please feel free to use any of the sources below if you have questions or would like additional information. Thank you in advance for your participation.
More information:
On the web: www.wilmingtonnc.gov/budget
WDI is one of the cornucopia of duplicative so-called "economic development" agencies that receive a chunk of taxpayer handouts every year, and contribute to the reason taxes went up across the board for both city and county residents this past fiscal year. The City of Wilmington defends its funding of WDI and others with the argument that outsourcing economic development is cheaper than doing it themselves. But what actually constitutes as "economic development"?

According to its website (http://www.wilmingtondowntown.com/), WDI is still promoting the tree lighting ceremony of Nov. 26th; an event called "King's Run", a 5K and 15K race through Wilmington in remembrance of Martin Luther King, Jr.; and various self-promoting of WDI's new iPhone app, and other social media. This is what is so important for taxpayers to fund year after year; and the reason for Hinnant's shameless email begging for more money.

It was recently reported that Wilmington is facing a $6 million shortfall in the upcoming budget, and the local media never reports the fact that the amount of debt owed the city reaching upwards of $30 million.

Taxpayers are doing all they can to keep their homes and feed their children in this economy; and the well-insulated taxpayer-subsidized groups such as WDI cannot see past its own self-interest, and self-perpetuation; and are certainly never too proud to keep asking for more.

In addition, how do we know the efforts of these groups actually equate to economic development?

Economic development creates jobs and a more robust and vibrant economy. How many jobs have tree lighting ceremonies and fundraisers created? The city never holds WDI's feet to the fire to really prove its existence, and justify its funding. Hinnant and WDI take advantage of their comfortable position of doing nothing but self sustaining activities, knowing that they will never have to prove that they are really developing the economy; and have gotten so arrogant, that they are asking for more money, despite this current economy (which, ironically, should be in considerable better shape thanks to "economic development" agencies); and despite the city's position of debt and deficit hitting enormous levels.

In this day and age, local government's do not need any economic development organizations that operate on taxpayer money. They should instead focus on fostering a more business-friendly climate, and offer a more streamlined government that operates on less. Another local, taxpayer-funded "economic development" organization, Wilmington Industrial Development (WID), pays its director over $320,000 a year! That's more than most key positions in the federal government, such as Secretary of State, the Vice President of the US, and many others. Meanwhile, they have accomplished nothing of any significance, as we still have unemployment hovering around 9% plus.

Paying these organizations to do nothing but sustain themselves, host private functions, and promote small local activities for tons and tons of taxpayer money that could go toward public safety and other much needed uses, is far beyond irresponsible. The amount of money paid to these directors is vulgar, and serves as an insult to the struggling taxpayer that must fork over their money for these causes. We need to rise up and do exactly the opposite of what Hinnant is demanding - that our governments withhold ANY and ALL funding of these organizations.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Gravely Chronicles Part III: Spin Baby, SPIN!


The saga continues.

The Star News finally released their contribution toward the USS Gravely local funding fiasco on Tuesday. http://www.starnewsonline.com/article/20101130/ARTICLES/101139971/1177?p=1&tc=pg&tc=ar

In the aftermath of the USS Gravely commissioning, several folks are still trying to get a total accounting of what our $50,000 was used for. The Star News received a vague report regarding some of the expenses:
About $25,000 for a fireworks show. More than $15,000 for transportation expenses. Another $2,000 to give hungry sailors their first taste of North Carolina barbecue.
Originally estimated at three weeks for a full report, the Gravely committee has revised their timeline:
Scheu said he expects the committee will provide local governments and the media with an accounting of the taxpayer funds later this week.
Again, there are several key factors apparent in this issue. First, the Chairwoman of the Gravely Committee is Louise McColl, campaign manager to both Mayor Saffo and Chairman Thompson. It was McColl who received the taxpayer money for the committee from both the city and the county.
...government critic Ben McCoy, points out that commissioning co-chairwoman Louise McColl is politically connected and has managed election campaigns for Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo and New Hanover County Chairman Jason Thompson.
"It wasn't long ago we had both governments on hands and knees begging us for more money," McCoy said. "A couple of months later, the boss walks into the room and says: ‘I need $50,000' and it's no problem."
McColl did not return calls for comment.
According to the Star News, local officials have stated that citizens critical of the political implications of this maneuver are "missing the big picture".
They say the event was historic for the Navy and Wilmington, showed the area's support for the military and generated tourism revenue and good will for the Port City.
Those benefits are well worth the $50,000 cost, officials say.
First of all, it is a known fact that the US Navy had chosen Wilmington for their location to commission the Gravely regardless of Louise McColl's ability to use her underlings in power to rob the taxpayers of $50,000. They were coming here anyway, which negates any argument for the money being spent in the first place. Second, the Navy operates on federal taxpayer money - I'm sure that they are quite accustomed to paying for the expenses of their sailors without being subsidized by local taxpayers wherever they port at any given time.

Jason Thompson, known for his charming wit and razor sharp intellect, had this to say:
"The people who can't see that are shortsighted with ignorance and spite and can't look at the common good,"
Ignorance. Spite. Can't look at the common good. These are qualities that your elected official bestows upon mere citizens begging at the gate for a little transparency from their all-powerful and superior government who governs from above, more learned and intelligent than the rest of us; we the peons - who know not what is best for even our own good.

The "common good" is a mantra of those big government types who wield power with an iron fist, and look down with disdain upon those whom they lord over with the politics of self-interest and personal consumption. This is the oligarchy; the chosen ones whose mere existence far surpass those of us who live to serve their wishes, who bask in their glory; who pine for their favor and charity; who beg at their table like dogs. Jason Thompson, ringleader to this elite establishment, and a legend in his own mind; scoffs down at you and I from his perch high above; warning us to cease any inquiry into their actions - for they are all for the common good; something that they have monopolized; and we know nothing about.
Thompson and Saffo say the local governments made money from the ceremony through sales and room-occupancy tax revenue, and that the high-profile event brings recognition to the area, boosting its reputation, attracting more tourists and bolstering the local economy in the future.
Thompson said the county calculated the estimated economic impact of the commissioning, which showed that the county will get a 21 percent return on investment for its contribution.
Who would dare challenge the power cabal with an argument like that? Never mind that increased revenue through room and sales taxes merely go directly to government, and in no way lessen the continued burden of taxpayers; and let's ignore the fact that terms like "bringing recognition to the area" and "attracting more tourists" cannot be measured, proven, or in any way ever tied to the $50,000 in taxpayer funds given to a political operative. We'll overlook the idea that this event "bolstering the local economy in the future" is a vague and baseless argument that will never be quantified, and is nothing more than feel-good lip service from governments who have made it their number one priority to deliver propaganda ahead of all other services. And when the county issues mathematical equations that show that the more taxpayer dollars are given away to non-essential functions, the better off we all are - you'll just have to trust them; since if you've been paying attention, you're already aware that they know what's in your best interest far better than you.
"Anytime I can give a dollar and get back two in real dollars, I would think the taxpayers would want to do that every time," he [Thompson] said.
Wow! Everything you ever thought you knew about money has been rendered obsolete. The great economists are all wrong. Financial experts have been put to shame. Jason Thompson has discovered a secret that no one has ever figured out. If you give Louise McColl one dollar, you get two dollars back in return! This is amazing! Why didn't he just say so in the first place? Hey - I've got an idea! Let's raise property taxes to 100% - give ALL of the money to McColl - we'll all be rich! What? Oh... you mean he completely fabricated that illusion to try and dissuade the public from investigating his little investment with our money? Whatever money generated in the economy was not because of our $50,000, given that they were coming here anyway? Shucks.
Scheu said the money donated by the city and county represented less than 25 percent of the total budget, with the rest of the money coming from private donations. The StarNews was one of about two dozen sponsors.
 So the total budget for "pub crawls", drinking binges, all-night partying, gluttony, and other economic development initiatives was over $200,000? That's got to be quite a lucrative venture for Ms. McColl. She is chairwoman after all - one can't just invest that much time and effort organizing keg deliveries and how many cheese balls to have made without being fairly compensated. I wonder if we'll ever know the truth about how much exactly that figure is? She did tell us at the last County Commissioner's meeting that no matter what, she's not going to stop bringing commissioning ceremonies here to Wilmington. Sort of a career planning move on her part.

Minus our $50,000 so generously given by our visionary leaders, the committee would have had over $150,000 in private donations to play with according to their figures. One would think that this would be quite enough money to set up a pretty serious bar tab. The ship contained 283 sailors - divide that by $150,000, and each sailor has an entertainment budget of a paltry $530.04. With the involuntary contribution of unemployed taxpayers facing foreclosure on their homes in many cases, that figure jumps to $706.71 per sailor. Now we're talkin'. Like my Grandfather always said, "If you can't get over 700 bucks in free money to party with over a weekend, there ain't no sense in joining the Navy".

Thanks Louise. And thank you Jason and Bill. Without your impeccable guidance and courageous leadership, that money may have been wasted on something stupid like public safety; thereby helping us move out of #97 of most crime-ridden cities in the US - on a list in which Los Angeles is #158. But at least now we understand that without taxpayer-funded pub crawls, our economy would be in the toilet.


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Gravely Accountability to Taxpayers? Not So Fast...


$50,000 in taxpayer money to entertain sailors and wine and dine Wilmington's social elite? Sure - no problem. Accounting for where exactly that money went, what it was used for, and if any of it is left over? Good luck with that.

The issue is not with the US Navy; nor is this in any way a commentary against our fair city being honored with commissioning a new Naval Destroyer. This is about the political implications at the local level regarding this event.

It bears repeating, that Louise McColl, Chair of the Gravely Commissioning Committee, and incidentally campaign manager to both the head of our city government, Mayor Bill Saffo; and county government, County Commission Chair Jason Thompson; was easily granted $25,000 each from both governments for entertainment purposes related to the commissioning, which occurred this past Saturday, November 20. In the wake of this event, it has proven quite difficult to find out exactly what taxpayer money was used specifically for.

In an email to county and city leaders, your humble blogger made an official request for a complete accounting of  what taxpayer money was used for:

Mr. Thompson & Mr. Saffo:
Since both of you saw it fitting and necessary to give 50,000 in taxpayer dollars to your campaign manager for the Gravely commissioning, I am formally requesting a line item statement of all expenditures that said money was used for, along with receipts; and a statement of how much money is left over, and what happens to it. 
I assume that your respective managers had the foresight to request that such records be kept for auditing purposes. Taxpayers and citizens are entitled by law to know where every dime of their money goes.
Thank you.
Mr. Thompson, apparently irritated by such a request, responded as such:
You are right. There is a process prescribed by law to get said information. I suggest you follow it. If you need assistance with said laws please advise. 
 After a couple of emails parrying back and forth, Thompson had this to say:
Actually we gave the 25k to the friends of the battleship nonprofit. Louise McColl didn't get anything from us.
According to county documents, this simply isn't the case. The County Commission agenda item specifically references the USS Gravely Commissioning Committee was to receive the $25,000, as seen here:

Not only that, the funds used were contingency funds, set aside for emergencies and so forth. Apparently the official definition for "contingency" has been expanded to include pub crawls, steak dinners, dancing, mini-golf, movie passes, and ballroom galas.

After being confronted with clear evidence that it was the USS Gravely, not the Battleship North Carolina that received the funding, Thompson re-stated his position with:
Where does it say we paid Louise McColl? Until you ask or comment about something in the world of reality I for one am done discussing this topic with you. 
The animosity toward a lone citizen merely requesting that taxpayer money being used for an outside function be accounted for, is quite apparent. It seems that the chosen few inside the well-protected political fold can easily obtain subsidies from taxpayers; and subsequently be guarded against having ever to account for what exactly that money was used for. Unfortunately, the law is on the side of the hidden political interest - not the people. Greg Roney of the General Assembly Research Division, explains the law in an email:
An organization which is recognized by the IRS as tax exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code must make its federal tax returns available for public inspection. The federal tax returns would include information about expenditures. The organization does not have to provide public access to its books and records. The IRS has a helpful discussion on public disclosure at the following web site: http://www.irs.gov/charities/article/0,,id=96430,00.html. If the organization is incorporated in North Carolina under the North Carolina Nonprofit Corporation Act, then North Carolina law requires disclosure to members of the organization.
The local news media has been silent on the entire issue, until WECT reported yesterday:

WECT was referred to Louise McColl, the committee chair. While she was not required to report back on the committee's spending, after repeated media requests, she notified the New Hanover County budget department that she would provide documentation.
From: Louise McColl [mailto:louise@mccoll-associates.com]
Sent: Tuesday, November 23, 2010 9:16 AM
To: Griffin, Cam
Subject: Re: gravely
It will be at least 3 weeks. I will let you know what the 25000 went toward. Have them contact me/Dave
Phone calls to McColl were not immediately returned. Late Tuesday night she replied that she would not be available for an interview until all invoices had been returned. She briefly discussed the large expense that putting on such an event incurred and promised that her company, McColl & Associates did not "make a penny" off of the event.
Until McColl's itemized budget comes in, no one can be sure, specifically, which activities and expenditures public money was used for. At her city council presentation, McColl listed a variety of activities such as fishing, the pub crawl and volleyball for the sailors. However, various other expenses involving transportation, food and security could also be on the list.
Full Article: http://www.wect.com/Global/story.asp?S=13560499

Unfortunately, McColl has the law on her side by remaining silent. As a 501(c)(3) non-profit, the committee's expenditures do not have to be disclosed to the public. However, this law should absolutely not apply to taxpayer money. If public money is given to an organization of any type, the public should have absolutely every right and opportunity to see where every single dime of their money goes. At least one member of the NC General Assembly has expressed interest in taking a closer look at this law, and possibly changing or modifying it to allow for full disclosure of taxpayer funds.

In her email response reported above, it looks as if McColl is only planning to account for $25,000 of the $50,000 that she was given, and reluctantly at that. Organizations and committees should be not only willing, but absolutely forthcoming with their books regarding taxpayer money. It's the least they can do to since the good taxpayers have funded their operations. Citizens being treated harshly or vilified for demanding transparency and accountability regarding what their money is used for is completely unacceptable.

UPDATE: In an email from New Hanover County Manager Bruce Shell, I was told that the county has requested an accounting for their $25,000 portion given to McColl, and that I will be copied on that once it is received. No word still from the City of Wilmington. WWAY has now joined the fray: http://www.wwaytv3.com/first_3_update_your_tax_dollars_and_gravely_what_exactly_did_you_buy/11/2010

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Airlie Authority - Preservation Easement Hides Bigger Agenda


In just a few short days, the issue of an Airlie preservation easement has appeared on the radar, and generated a much public interest. The Wilmington Watcher exclusively reported to you from the New Hanover County Commissioner's agenda briefing meeting concerning the discussion the commissioners had regarding the issue. After concerns were addressed by Jonathan Barfield, Jason Thompson, and to some degree, Bobby Greer, the resolution passed unanimously at Monday's 2PM meeting of the New Hanover County Commission.

In an email from Commission Chairman Jason Thompson last week, after the agenda briefing, the Wilmington Watcher was told that "I felt like there were four no votes as presented." However, at Monday's meeting, all concerns suddenly quieted - the resolution had no difficulty receiving a unanimous five vote passage.

The final version of the resolution had some minor adjustments. Language that stated that the county would maintain the facilities in as good or better condition than they are now - was changed to simply reflect "as good condition". However, the primary concerns present in the resolution still remain intact. The Airlie preservation easement resolution still lays significant groundwork in establishing complete authority over Airlie in the hands of the Airlie Foundation, even though the county owns the land, and taxpayers fund Airlie's operations.

What is most noteworthy about Monday's meeting, is that after a public outcry to table the issue until the new commissioners could take their seat, no commissioner listed this as a concern before his vote. The Airlie resolution was carefully crafted by the Airlie Foundation and Ted Davis, and strategically placed on the agenda just in time for the last meeting featuring Greer and Caster - a safe vote for the wishes of the Foundation.

Also noteworthy, is that before the item was discussed, Ted Davis put on a pre-arranged production with County Attorney Wanda Copley by asking her if he had a conflict of interest in the issue, since he serves on both the Airlie Foundation and the county commission. After a long-winded explanation wrapped in what seemed to pass as legal definition, Copley said no. Not overlooked was the fact that Davis conveniently omitted the real issue that is a definite conflict. The issue of his being a member of the Corbett family, who sold Airlie to the county, and who still controls it. Copley never made any attempt to address this in any way.

After mildly manipulating the language in the resolution to appease certain commissioners and their faux concern, the resolution had no trouble gliding through. Public comments were not arranged until after the meeting when all votes had been taken, and commissioners were safe from the pressure of the public's will in rendering their decisions.

The effects of this resolution will keep the money flowing in from taxpayers to the Airlie Foundation - which is not forthcoming with their books; and how much of public funding is used to host out-of-work actors and wine and cheese galas so the local social elite can parade through, noses high, and appease their sense of civic engagement. Any attempt to reverse the decision would require a majority vote by the commission to undo the preservation easement - which would certainly cause a public backlash. Who would want to be responsible for removing Airlie from preservation status? However, such would be the only way to save the taxpayers money in tough times. With the resolution, the Airlie Foundation wields the unprecedented power over Airlie, and is relieved of any obligation or incentive to seek outside funding, or become self-sufficient in its operations.

The people of New Hanover County were patronized with a huge money grab and power shift cleverly shrouded as a "preservation easement". The Airlie Foundation is unelected, and therefore unaccountable to the public, so the public can easily be shut out from all inside occurrences, spending, and budgetary decisions by the Foundation. Surely there will be a couple of washed-up actors on hand at a soirée thrown in Ted Davis' honor for his unrelenting work securing "free" money for the Corbett family and the Airlie Foundation. The other commissioners will certainly be invited as well, for seeing the light and bowing to the wishes of those with whom their power is derived, and who they owe their political careers. They have served their masters well, as the emptiness of taxpayers' wallets will attest.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

BREAKING: NHC Commission to Vote on Binding Resolution to Tie Taxpayers Hands to Airlie Indefinitely


In an unbelievable move at the county commissioner's November 10 agenda briefing meeting, item #17 on the November 15th meeting of the New Hanover County Commissioners attempts to rush through a binding preservation easement between New Hanover County and the Airlie Gardens Foundation. Commissioner Ted Davis, Jr., did not mince words when he said that he thought it was important for the board to go ahead and pass this before the two new commissioners take their seat. "No offense to Mr. Berger or Mr. Catlin", Davis said.

Clearly acting in typical lame duck session form, Davis sees more of a chance of passing this resolution with Bobby Greer and Bill Caster, long-time proponents for taxpayer funding of Airlie Gardens. "This is what the citizens want us to do," said Davis.

What wasn't discussed was that Ted Davis, Jr. is cousin to Albert Corbett, of the infamous Corbett family, the same Corbett family considered to be Wilmington royal elite; and the original sellers of Airlie to New Hanover County.
http://www.starnewsonline.com/article/20041210/COLUMNIST02/41210008?p=2&tc=pg

Davis is acting as head cheerleader for the resolution, and did not issue any plans to recuse himself from the vote due to the obvious conflict of interest. In fact, when Commissioners Barfield and Thompson weighed in with reservations on the issue, Davis coolly replied that the Foundation would like to see this passed, and is requesting a unanimous decision of the commissioners.

The resolution, which can be found below, creates a binding deed of trust with the Airlie Foundation, in which gives complete control of the property to the Foundation. It also allows the Foundation to hold the county legally responsible for its funding. When the Airlie Foundation was originally constituted, the expressed intent of it was to seek out and obtain other sources of funding to sustain the gardens. http://www.nhcgov.com/AgnAndDpt/CCOM/Documents/Committees/Airlie.pdf

This current resolution attempts to remove any incentive for the Foundation to ever seek any alternative sources of funding, and ties Airlie Gardens to the taxpayer of New Hanover County indefinitely. State law prohibits a county commission board to bind future boards to anything, but being that this is actually a legal binding document, i.e. deed of trust, preservation easement, they may have found a loophole. The resolution also mandates that the county maintain the property and its resources at the same or better condition as they are now.

Ironically, several commissioners at the meeting kept repeating the sentiment that "this is what the citizens want us to do" - however, the citizens duly elected two new commissioners just over a week ago, and therefore it would seem that the public would rather the new board handle controversial issues such as this. This is a clear case of a lame duck session trying to force through a binding and lasting resolution that will tie taxpayer's hands to fund a project indefinitely.

Davis and the Airlie Foundation have a profound vested interest in the passing of this resolution. This would give the power completely to the Airlie Foundation (although the county purchased the gardens from the Corbett family) as to the fate of Airlie. In addition, the Foundation has complete legal authority to hold the county responsible for taxpayer funding. If the county decides it can't afford to fund Airlie in the future, there are legal repercussions that the Foundation can seek against the county.

This resolution is a bad deal for taxpayers, and a clear conflict of interest for County Commissioner Ted Davis, Jr. Commissioners Barfield and Thompson attempted to show some backbone and issued reservations, but were promptly put back in their place by Davis when he notified them of the Foundation's wishes. An air of reverence and fear descended upon the two dissenting voices, and collective support for the resolution was restored.

The public has expressed that it would like to see Airlie protected. But never has anyone in the public expressed the desire for a binding resolution and deed of trust that spans into the indefinite future, binding taxpayers forever. The public likes the idea of the Foundation constantly seeking alternative sources of funding, and there has been a loud cry for Airlie to become self-sufficient. For the commissioners to proclaim that they are doing with this what the public wants, without giving the public sufficient time to even become aware of the issue, or what is in the document is preposterous. It is obvious that Davis and the Foundation fear that the public would understandably not support this motion, would reject it outright, and that time is definitely not on their side. This why they seek to rush this through immediately, before the next commissioners meeting December 6, when Brian Berger and Rick Catlin take their seats as the two new commissioners.

The next meeting in which this resolution is to be voted on is scheduled for Monday November 15, at 2 PM at the old courthouse downtown, in the commissioner's chambers. Please write your commissioners and urge them to table this until the new board takes their seat, and the public has sufficient time to weigh in and issue their thoughts on the matter.

Email addresses for the commissioners are:

jthompson@nhcgov.com
jbarfield@nhcgov.com
tdavis@nhcgov.com
bcaster@nhcgov.com
bgreer@nhcgov.com
Agenda 2010 11-15-Airlie Easement

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

McColl's Navy: The USS Gravely Commissioning


As reported in the Wilmington Watcher, Wilmington City Council kicked in $25,000 to Louise McColl's PR firm for the entertaining of sailors, crew, and "dignitaries" affiliated with the forthcoming commissioning of the USS Gravely here in the Port City. Not to be outdone, and certainly no surprise, the New Hanover County Commission has followed suit as well, with their contribution of $25,000 to McColl, for a grand total of $50,000 for entertainment expenses.

McColl, campaign manager for Mayor Saffo, Councilwoman Tomey, and County Commission Chairman Jason Thompson had a relatively painless time obtaining the loot. In the case of the city, as previously reported, the agenda request for the funds was officially asked for by Mayor Saffo, according to City Manager Sterling Cheatham's agenda request, on behalf of Ms. McColl; certainly sparing her the time and effort necessary to put forth such a request. 

In the case of the county, the agenda item to approve the funds was also unanimously approved, after a dazzling presentation by the Co-Chair of the Gravely Committee, Captain Dave Scheu (See the agenda here: http://laserfiche.nhcgov.com/weblink8/0/doc/1149032/Page1.aspx). McColl lurked behind the scenes, and had no obvious involvement in this request; although in the case of the city's funding, she initiated the original request letter to City Manager Sterling Cheatham. 

One of the most obvious of unanswered questions is why was this project never put out to bid by either local government entity? McColl simply assumed the role of Chairwoman for the committee, easily got the funding, and the rest is history. The lesson here seems to be that it really does pay to sit on many public boards, and also serve as political consultant and campaign manager for as many local political figures as possible. When the time comes for a financial shot in the arm, your charges will certainly no doubt come to your rescue and deliver the funds without delay.

The entire event, though it may be a shallow, emotional, feel-good sort of honor; is being touted as an economic savior, by city and county officials alike. WWAY reports:

County finance director Avril Pinder says the money spent on the USS Gravely commissioning is a return on investment and it will make a huge impact on the local economy. Pinder says every time you spend one dollar, it is spent 2.5 times in our community. It's called the multiplier effect. Based on $1.5 million in sales tax, that would mean the community would generate $3.75 million.
WWAY Article

The question of the veracity of the funny math used in such equations aside; how does general fund taxpayer dollars spent in an elite circle of political allies ease any burden on the taxpayer himself? We have no reason to believe that Wilmington would not have been chosen anyway, even if the local taxpayer was spared from footing the bill. The United States Navy probably spends $50,000 on toilet paper every 4 minutes - certainly they could have easily paid for this event.

The truth is that we didn't give them the chance. McColl and her army of expensive self-assigned do-gooders were there from the get-go promising goodies and perks all under the thinly veiled guise of "economic development". A portion of the money spent by visitors during this event will find its way into local shops and businesses, no doubt. But the tax rates and burden to the taxpayer will remain the same - if not increase given recent history. The money generated will have to be used to pay down a looming tax bill. This money winds up in the same hands - politicians - no matter how you cut it. More money to spend on boondoggles, unnecessary projects, and soirées thrown by political insiders. The taxpayer's burden is in no danger of lessening in any way, and will surely ultimately increase as more and more of the public treasury is wasted on frivolous items. Politicians often use terms like "return on investment" to ease the public's concern - when they really mean a political investment, where the spoils return to from whence they came. Taxpayers will always be on the short end of that stick.

When questioned about the public's support of the funding on The Big Talker 93.7FM's Morning Beat with Chad Adams, Chairman Jason Thompson self-assuredly stated that the people elected him, so by extension, that equates to public support of this and every decision that he renders. Thompson apparently believes that his elected position insulates him from any accusations of bad decision-making or poor leadership while serving on the board.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Wilm. City Council Uses Taxpayer Money to Prop Up NAACP; Assume Expenses for Building


The final city council meeting in September was certainly an eventful one. As reported earlier by The Wilmington Watcher, Louise McColl was able to score a chunk of taxpayer dollars for her coffers, but council wasn't through being generous, or doling out the goodies.

The Cape Fear Area Resource Center (CFARC) has been in a financial mess for some time now. Finally, when they couldn't hack it anymore, they came to the taxpayers of Wilmington for help. Since they were leasing a building from the City of Wilmington, they respectfully requested to have the lease terminated and all responsibilities thereof be terminated as well. Also requested, was that the city kick in $20,000 to assume the payments on their installed phone system. The ordinance passed unanimously; however, that's not the end of the story.

The local chapter of the NAACP, a well known political organization who holds political rallies, voter registration drives, etc.; holds space at the location as well. City Manager Sterling Cheatham seems to wrestle with the ethics of the agreement, and then rationalizes it in his proposal letter to the city council here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/38780224/CFARC-Proposal

On page 5 of the document, CFARC lists its revolving monthly expenses and other liabilities. Note how the monthly payment for the phone system is $572.00. If the $20,000 that the city is supposedly paying for the phone system is only really being used for such, that would cover the phones for 35 months. It seems unlikely that they would continue such an expensive phone system in a building that is being vacated; however, the NAACP is still there. Are these funds covering phone expenses for them as well?

City Manager Cheatham mentions in his proposal letter that the city is putting the building on their insurance, meaning of course that city taxpayers are liable. Since the NAACP occupies the building, it would stand to reason that the insurance covers their space as well.

Page 8 of the document is quite interesting. CFARC's list of conditions for the city vary quite far from the truncated version that Cheatham mentions in his letter to council. Among the conditions are that the city will continue to provide insurance coverage; protect CFARC, its board, and its members from any legal responsibility; pay CFARC $670.00 a month; and honor the lease agreement with the NAACP.

Based on everything provided, it seems that city taxpayers are being forced to fund operations for a left-wing political organization without such being disclosed in the final ordinance passed by the city council.  The ordinance merely says that the city will pay $20,000 for a phone system. Certainly there are more questions than answers; but using taxpayer money to fund political operations and organizations, either directly or indirectly is a crime.

Either way, CFARC is a publicly-funded organization, who is too close for comfort to the NAACP. CFARC's mission is to "build and operate a neighborhood based, one-stop campus with facilities to provide programs and services and access to services needed by the underserved population in Wilmington’s inner city"; does this also include political indoctrination, and activism?

Perhaps Mayor Saffo was so appreciative of being chosen as "Citizen of the Year" by CFARC, that he felt like using our money to show his thanks: http://www.greaterdiversity.com/index.php/gdn-news-resources-weekly-headlines/52-weekly-headlines/204-saffo-to-be-honored-as-citizen-of-the-year.html

Final ordinance passed by council: http://www.scribd.com/doc/38781529/CFARC-Ordinance

Monday, October 4, 2010

USS Gravely Exploited for Slush Fund; Political Payoff


It's a noble event. The USS Gravely, a Naval Guided Missile Destroyer named after the first African-American officer in the US Navy, is going to be commissioned in the Port City. However, as is typical with our quiet little town, no event involving our local elected officials is complete without ethics being challenged.

The Chair of the USS Gravely Commissioning Board is none other than Mayor Bill Saffo's own campaign manager, Louise McColl, who is also Councilwoman Kristi Tomey's campaign manager as well. McColl is also very active in local politics and sits on many so-called public boards and commissions. In order to properly "entertain" the crew and illuminaries that will be in town during the event, McColl figures she needs $50,000 to do it right - $25,000 from both the city and the county.

Being the campaign manager for the mayor certainly has its perks. McColl did not even have to submit paperwork on her own behalf for the request, as the mayor was more than happy to do it for her, as evident in the proposal here, where it begins, "This Resolution is being brought to you at the request of Mayor Saffo": http://www.scribd.com/doc/38704030/McColl-Proposal

Yes folks, it's good to be a political operative in the good graces of those who have the power to reach into the taxpayer's cookie jar and dole out whatever political favors they deem necessary at the moment. It's especially important to wrap such actions in phrases like "economic development", "tourism", and other feel-good terms that attempt to justify the expense.

The real crime here is that the citizens of Wilmington choose to not be engaged, and not hold their elected officials accountable for their actions. This sort of dealing is done everyday in downtown Wilmington, and the people who are affected by this, ignore it, and then later wonder why their taxes go up, their basic services are not provided for, and their local government is a joke. Worse yet, often they head to the polls on election day to re-elect the very ones who make political corruption a way of life for us all.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

EXCLUSIVE: Sid Causey Campaign Finance Law Violations


According to Sid Causey's second quarter campaign finance report posted to the New Hanover County Board of Elections website, two contributors - husband and wife Ronald Beasley and Lynn Beasley; both retired, have each contributed over the $4,000 election cycle threshold to Causey's campaign. Both husband and wife made donations in the amount of $50.00, and then each wrote a check for $4,000. Click here for the report.

This is explicitly prohibited by North Carolina law, which states that an individual can only contribute a maximum total of $4,000 in any election cycle.

According to North Carolina General Statute 163-278.13:


(a) No individual, political committee, or other entity shall contribute to any candidate or other political committee any money or make any other contribution in any election in excess of four thousand dollars ($4,000) for that election.


(b) No candidate or political committee shall accept or solicit any contribution from any individual, other political committee, or other entity of any money or any other contribution in any election in excess of four thousand dollars ($4,000) for that election.


(c) Notwithstanding the provisions of subsections (a) and (b) of this section, it shall be lawful for a candidate or a candidate's spouse, parents, brothers and sisters to make a contribution to the candidate or to the candidate's treasurer of any amount of money or to make any other contribution in any election in excess of four thousand dollars ($4,000) for that election.


(d) For the purposes of this section, the term "an election" means any primary, second primary, or general election in which the candidate or political committee may be involved, without regard to whether the candidate is opposed or unopposed in the election, except that where a candidate is not on the ballot in a second primary, that second primary is not "an election" with respect to that candidate.






Causey's former career as Sheriff of New Hanover County demanded that he know and enforce the law. Abiding by it may prove an entirely different task altogether.

This incident certainly calls into question the motives of a retired couple, perhaps on a fixed income, that would want someone elected to local political office so desperately, that they would sacrifice over $8,000 toward the cause. As pure conjecture, your blogger can't comprehend such a generous contribution out of mere philanthropy and benevolence. Perhaps the bigger impending story is what kind of bang they expect to get for their enormous buck.

Friday, August 20, 2010

McIntyre Breaks Pledge to District 7


Way back in 1996, when NC District 7 Representative Mike McIntyre was making his debut as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, he put ink to paper, signing a document and making a pledge to only serve six terms, or 12 years, as a representative in the U.S. House.

Mcintyre 6 Term Limit Pledge - 1996

Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of Law defines "pledge" as: "a binding promise to do or forbear". 14 years later, we still have Mike McIntyre as a representative, and he's campaigning for another run for the same seat. With his soft smile, "favorite uncle" wrinkled brow; and tendency to shower the region with federal taxpayer money carefully donated to specific friendly causes, McIntyre is quite beloved in this district. However, one should not be quick to dismiss the intentional, wanton ignoring of this pledge. What else is McIntyre dishonest about? This pledge was not merely a political game or a photo-op moment; but a commitment to the constituents that he serves right here in District 7.

Recently, McIntyre has been feeling the pressure from the Tea Party movement, and has been airing television ads openly attempting to distance himself ideologically from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid - it doesn't go unnoticed however, that McIntyre voted for Pelosi to become Speaker - twice; the latest just last year.

So who is the real Mike McIntyre? As demonstrated here, I think it's fair to say that he's dishonest to say the least; if not an outright liar. How can one pledge themselves to their electorate; sign their name to a binding document promising to do a thing; and then turn around and ignore it; all while asking that same electorate to cast their vote for him yet again? It is quite mind-boggling.

The Founders envisioned citizens SERVING their communities and their states in Congress temporarily, and then returning home to private life to live, work, and take care of their families. Not suddenly obtaining a political career, and a lifelong free ride on the backs of taxpayers simply by virtue on being elected to office.

McIntyre is a career politician who will say whatever to whoever to get elected, and will even sign his name - which has been symbolic of assigning personal honor to something for centuries - and not think twice about ignoring and violating that which he pledged to do. It's time to dismiss the career politicians in Washington; and begin to elect true citizen-representatives.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Meet NHC's New Highly Paid Community Affairs Specialist - Carl Anthony Byrd


 NOTE: At the time of this post, your blogger had forgotten that DWI charges go from Level 5 being the least, to Level 1 being the worst. Byrd's Level 2 conviction was the worst of the two.

When New Hanover County decided to close its five member Human Relations Department as a budgetary decision, four workers were out of a job. One member, former director Carl Byrd, was retained and repositioned with the county in one of the two newly created community affairs specialist roles, which pays significantly less, at anywhere between $41 - $63K/year . As director of the Human Relations Department, Byrd earned about $89,000 a year. As a community affairs specialist, Byrd earns about... $89,000 a year; minus what is withheld due to mandatory furlough days. In addition, his Rotary Club dues are picked up by the taxpayer as well for good measure. The other community affairs specialist earns within the salary window for the position.

Why the discrepancy? Part of the reason is that the county has a rule that says if someone is given a lesser job title, then as long as it's not for disciplinary action, they are entitled to keep their salary intact. Plus, it's probably a good idea to have some friends in high places - especially if you're the same Carl Anthony Byrd with a rap sheet.

That's right folks - meet the guy in charge of dealing with the affairs of the community. Byrd was convicted of a Level 2 DWI; but somehow skated away from doing time by being found "not medically able to serve a sentence". Next, "carrying a concealed gun". This time, the charges are dropped by the D.A. Remember how important I mentioned it is to have friends in high places? Last, but certainly not least, Byrd graduates to a Level 5 DWI; is found GUILTY - but manages to get out of that as well with a small fine.

Who is Carl Byrd? Well besides being a convicted criminal, he's apparently really good friends with some prominent political figures, and pretty cozy in the judicial system here in NHC. Oh yeah - he's also your new highly overpaid community affairs specialist.

Byrd's criminal record:

Byrd Criminal Record

Monday, August 9, 2010

Wilm and NHC Weight Loss Spectacle: Taxpayer Expense


Most readers are probably aware that leaders in both the City of Wilmington and New Hanover County have engaged in an pointless effort to boost their already over-inflated egos - a local contest framed after NBC's "The Biggest Loser" between Mayor Bill Saffo and Chairman Jason Thompson. (Please Visit: http://wilmingtonrants.ning.com/forum/topics/government-finally-trimming) Politicians losing weight has now become an official function of government, as evident by the costs incurred as a result of this exercise. Some say this is a vicious slap in the face after taxes have been raised across the board in both the city and the county this year - on a citizenry struggling to make ends meet in these currently poor economic conditions.

Cutting the Fat Out of Government Web Site - Invoice

That's right - taxpayers have footed the bill for a county-owned dedicated website to track and monitor this nonsense. www.CutTheFatNHC.com was purchased by the County from GoDaddy.com for $22.13. It's not the monetary amount that is the cause for concern. At the heart of this issue is the question of 'what is the proper role of government?' Should government be able to launch and fund entertainment enterprises at its own arbitrary will with the taxpayer's resources and money? Conducting this little initiative costs us more than the 22 bucks because a team in the county's IT Department, on taxpayer-funded salaries had to design and execute the website; not to mention the other administrative and functional costs in other departments in both the city and the county to conduct this little game.

It would be best for politicians to lose weight in the privacy of their own lives - like the rest of us. To make this a spectacle by calling it an official function of government is a disgrace and a bitter insult to struggling taxpayers. How much better it would be if cutting the fat out of government for REAL - i.e. saving the taxpayer's money - was an official function of government, as it used to be.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Letter from LaNasa to New Hanover County


North Carolina statute 163-182.14 says: "A copy of the final decision of the State Board of Elections on an election protest shall be served on the parties personally or through delivery by U.S. mail or a designated delivery service authorized under 26 U.S.C. § 7502(f)(2) if that delivery provides a record of the date and time of delivery to the address provided by the party." (emphasis mine)

The latter part of that statute is where the controversy exists. Justin LaNasa, a successful businessman and former county commission hopeful, has been embattled with the county and state Boards of Election for some time now, challenging the legitimacy of  New Hanover County's sales tax referendum that appeared on the ballot May 4th of this year; barely passing voter approval. LaNasa's argument has consistently been that county officials were aggressively advocating versus educating the public regarding the facts behind the referendum.

The latest chapter in this sordid tale is the fact that in order to comply with state law, the Board of Elections had to serve LaNasa with official election results  in accordance with the statute spelled out above. The delivery of such a letter must provide "a record of the date and time of delivery", which would indicate that one must send such a notice via registered and/or certified mail. However, LaNasa's letter arrived to him via regular First Class mail, sans the recorded date and time delivered stamp. Whoops!

Here is a copy of the letter sent from LaNasa to county officials regarding this matter:

Justin LaNasa Order

Friday, June 18, 2010

Lies & Deceit from the Caster Campaign


WWAY has uncovered deceitful tactics being employed by the Bill Caster campaign. David Benford, a Caster campaign worker, crafted a letter to the editor blasting opponent Brian Berger, and echoing messages in Caster's radio ads almost verbatime. Caster and Benford crafted a plan via email to have a regular citizen to sign the letter as if they had submitted it of their own accord.

Enter Phyllis S. Smith, the lackey for their plan. She signs the letter and it gets published in the Star News. WWAY did a inquiry into the county's email system and uncovered the whole thing. When they called Benford, he said he knew nothing about it and had nothing to do with any of it. Caster denied everything as well. When WWAY divulged that they had the emails to prove their involvement, both men got real quiet, and then changed their whole story.

Watch this video and read the report on this incredible story: http://www.wwaytv3.com/video/only_3_we_uncover_email_proves_caster_campaign_not_truthful_about_letter_editor/06

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Wilmington City Council tries to Play God


Several heated discussions took place on Tuesday night's City Council meeting; one which we will discuss in detail here. For starters, the ridiculous proposed budget passed 5-2; which you can read about here: http://wilmingtonrants.ning.com/forum/topics/unbelievable-breakdown-of
and here: http://wilmingtonrants.ning.com/forum/topics/cow-finalizes-tax-increase

Another interesting subject of discussion was that of the proliferation of internet sweepstakes gaming parlors. You would think that these places are nothing more than some horrible den of debauchery and fornication due to the way they are presented and vilified by Kevin O'Grady. The freshman councilman made numerous remarks on these establishment's profitability and how that was a reason to seriously regulate them. As if lawyers (of which is his profession) do not make serious profits as well. He would go back constantly to an argument concerning simply that of land use and zoning, but then back it up with the profitability and the preferential arguments that these places just don't match his vision of what Wilmington should look like.

The supporting documents that accompany the resolution are very evident of a government trying to step outside of its role and play God with the business sector; picking winners and losers based on their personal taste and preference.

Please see this document to see what I'm talking about: http://wilmington.granicus.com/MetaViewer.php?view_id=20&clip_id=2263&meta_id=73397

Councilman Sparks exhibited about as much disdain for such businesses; but for different reason. They prey on the poor and weak, and only "godless heathens" would support their existence. Never mind the common sense approach that people only walk into one of these places and spend money if they so choose of their own accord, and are not coerced in any way. Never mind that the NC State Lottery could essentially be subject to the same argument - although nothing was ever mentioned of this.

The hearing and vote on the resolutions were postponed until the next City Council meeting. Whether or not you frequent these establishments, or even care about their existence is beside the point. If you care about your own liberty and prosperity, and the right you have to be safe from government interference into your personal economic decisions, this issue should scare you. We cannot allow this city government to proceed forward with their plan to order businesses to operate within a severely limited framework, and one that limits their profits. That is not economic freedom, and no government has this right. We are seeing the same thing trying to take place in Washington today, and the same arguments apply.

If councilman O'Grady has his way, he will order these business owners to come before the mighty Wilmington City Council, present their tax forms, balance sheets, and profitability figures; and he will render a decision that impacts whether or not they continue to be in business or not. These are people who play by the rules, make their investments in business, hire a workforce, and feed their families based on what they make from their business. We cannot allow government to rule tyrannically in this manner. This affects each and every one of us.

Friday, June 11, 2010

New Hanover ABC Board pays Attorney Rountree $102,000+


A document obtained by the New Hanover County ABC Board shows that from 2008-present, the Board compensated attorney George Rountree III a total of $102,221.72 for services rendered.

Late last year and into the beginning of this year, the former members of the county board were under heavy fire for openly disobeying state open meetings law, competitive bidding laws, and a whole host of other questionable activities due to little or no oversight by the county. During those proceedings, it was reported in the Star News that attorney Rountree was retained by the Board to represent the members, although they were never officially charged with any crime or wrongdoing whatsoever. The entire issue cleanly disappeared when the three members of the ABC Board promptly resigned just as their house of cards was beginning to topple.

However, there is absolutely no answer as to why the ABC Board has had Rountree retained permanently, and has compensated him so much over the past two years. In the State of North Carolina, ABC Boards are public boards, and by law are to operate in the view of the public, and even are supposed to be comprised of members of the public. On the surface, there appears no need or reason for a public ABC Board to retain an attorney for an extended period of time; and even their deferral to Rountree in the wake of the public scrutiny surrounding their activities remains questionable.

More to come - stay tuned.

Document revealing compensation for Rountree:
ABC Board Rountree

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Invoice from Capitol Communications to NHC Taxpayers


Remember that little poll that our county commission had done to see how well liked they were, to find out if you were a liberal or a conservative, to see their re-electability chances, and to find out if you would support paying more taxes?

Turns out, despite being in the so-called budget "crisis" that we're in, that piece of business cost you and I $13,200. See the actual invoice and check stub that paid for it below:

NHC Capitol Invoice

Why would anyone re-elect any of these clowns?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Pay to Play Chronicles: Chapter One


When the term "pay to play" comes up, certain venerable established local politicians may come to mind for some. Bill Caster, no doubt, rightfully earns a spot in this distinctive class.

The latest example, among many, is revealed in his latest campaign finance report. Caster, one of the leading proponents of buying off Airlie Gardens from the Corbett family in the late 1990's; and subsequently adding its expense to the burden of county taxpayers,  is still reaping the rewards of his efforts. From Caster's own website:
I was the Chairman of the New Hanover County Board of Commissioner when the County purchased the Gardens in 1999. I, along with Commissioner Greer and Camilia Herievich, of the Coastal Land Trust, were committed to save Airlie Gardens from development of 47 home sites. I took the lead in the negotiations with the Corbett family and sealed the deal.
http://www.billcaster.com/issues.php
I wonder what all of terms of this so-called "deal" included? It's been more than a decade since the Corbett's received an attractive taxpayer subsidy for their land thanks to Caster, and even now, they are extending their thanks through their checkbook. On page 10 of Caster's 1st Quarter Campaign Finance Report filed with the New Hanover County Board of Elections, a contribution in the amount of $500 was made to Caster courtesy of Diane Corbett of Corbett Management Corp.

Caster 1Q Campaign Finance - Page 10

$500 may not be a whole lot of money, but if you were to go back and calculate the total amount that Caster has raked in from the Corbett family, I'm sure that would raise some eyebrows.

While none of these actions are illegal, they are interesting pieces of the puzzle that form a total picture of an incestuous relationship certain elitist families in the business community enjoy with our elected leaders. This is only the very point on the tip of an enormous iceberg. As we discover more of these cozy relationships, and the money trail that accompanies them, we will bring that information to you.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Ruse of the Creative Class


It's a great title - but I can't take credit for it. "The Ruse of the Creative Class" was the title of an article that appeared in the left-wing liberal magazine The American Prospect, January 4, 2010. The importance of this, is that "The Rise of the Creative Class" was a book written by Dr. Richard Florida, who is a proponent of the idea that a pro-gay city is a city of great economic health. According to Wikipedia:
Prof. Florida's theory asserts that metropolitan regions with high concentrations of high-tech workers, artists, musicians, lesbians and gay men, and a group he describes as "high bohemians", correlate with a higher level of economic development. Florida posits the theory that the creative class fosters an open, dynamic, personal and professional environment. This environment, in turn, attracts more creative people, as well as businesses and capital. He suggests that attracting and retaining high-quality talent, versus a singular focus on infrastructure projects such as sports stadiums, iconic buildings, and shopping centers, would be a better primary use of a city's regeneration resources for long-term prosperity.
What does any of this have to do with anything? In the aforementioned article in The American Prospect, Wilmington, NC is one of the cities mentioned that has been hoodwinked by Dr. Florida. At the cost of $250,000, Wilmington taxpayers found out such pertinent information such as, "how to be more gay-friendly"; and:
 "Wilmington, North Carolina, recently received some of the first recommendations from its $250,000 Catalytix investment, including such tips as "Consider hiring a blogger to create, stimulate and participate in virtual conservations [sic] about the Cape Fear Region."
Another one of Florida's recommendations, was to form an agency, funded by taxpayers, dedicated to discovering ways and recruting creative talent for the economy of tomorrow. That group, is called Cape Fear Future. According to CFF's website: "Cape Fear Future was initiated by the Greater Wilmington Chamber of Commerce and was facilitated by the Dr. Richard Florida Creativity Action Team, Catalytix Inc."

One of the most telling things of all is, that if a liberal, leftist, pro-statist publication like The American Prospect is willing to throw fellow leftist Dr. Richard Florida under the bus, then just how much of a ruse is all of this? 

In the economic condition that our city and its taxpayers are in, was a quarter of a million dollars an appropriate expense to lern about enhancing our "gayness" and blogging? This non-taxpayer funded blogger thinks not.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Wilmington: Another "Economic Development" Board? Guess Who...


The City of Wilmington's proposed budget for fiscal 2010-11 is available on the city's website here. There are some interesting items in the budget, some of which cannot go ignored. A new unaccountable and mysterious so-called "economic development" agency has been formed called Cape Fear Future. The 47 member list reads like a roster of the city's elitist power brokers.

Among those members include Mayor Bill Saffo's campaign manager, Louise McColl, who is conspicuously featured at the head of the table in a position of power, in the photo above, which is from Cape Fear Future's website. The Mayor himself, is a member, and is featured in the photo to her right. McColl does not appear on any list as a leader in the organization, although the only picture of the group meeting clearly shows her to be in a position of influence and power.

Why does all of this matter? And what does this have to do with the city's proposed budget? The taxpayers of Wilmington are paying the way of this group, with an inaugural contribution of $20,000 in this year's proposed budget. An amount like that will slip through without a whimper, but one must acknowledge the convenience of having the Mayor's campaign manager in a position of power with the organization, and the group receiving taxpayer funding. A portion of the city's proposed budget reveals the funding on page 24:

City of Wilmington - Proposed Budget 2010-11 - General Gov. FUnds

Also noted in this budget are the other handouts given to agencies such as Wilmington Industrial Development, Wilmington Downtown Inc., and the Wilmington Film Commission. With unemployment in the city hovering around 11%, and the film industry a mere memory in the mind's of long-time Wilmingtonians, what in the world are the taxpayers receiving for their money?

We continue to fund these organizations, who conduct their business behind closed doors, completely unaccountable to the public, and who wield extraordinary power to influence decisions by our elected officials - and we see absolutely no benefit from this. We the taxpayer should have every right to audit the financials of these organizations that receive our money. It is time for fiscal responsibility, accountability, and transparency in this city.

Other articles on Cape Fear Future:
Cape Fear Future about attracting and keeping good workers
New chamber initiative gets creative
Local business leaders want input on New Hanover Co. Superintendent search
Cape Fear Future's visionary
Wilmingon 2.0 - An Update

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Caster Sports, Inc. Under Penalty by Secretary of State


A corporation by the name of "Caster Sports, Inc.", which lists New Hanover County Commissioner Bill Caster's wife Diane as the principle, has received a letter of "Administrative Dissolution" by the North Carolina Secretary of State for failure to comply with the North Carolina Business Corporation Act by being delinquent in filing 5 annual reports. Caster Sports-Bill Caster-Letter of Administrative Dissolution





That's not all. Back in December of 2003, the same corporation, listing the name Diane Caster, received a notice of Revenue Suspension from the Secretary of State.


Caster Sports-Bill Caster-Revenue Suspension

There is absolutely no financial records for this company for what seems to be the last 7 years or so. Are they trying to hide something - or is this merely a 7 year oversight, or fault on the part of the NC SOS?

Perhaps some questions should be asked of Mr. Caster, seeing that he is asking for our votes, again, for yet another term as county commissioner. Why isn't his corporation adhering to the law and filing their financials like every other company has to do?