Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Wilmington Council Declares War on Citizens

UPDATE: Wednesday evening, WWAY featured an interview with City Clerk Penny Spicer-Sidbury in which she stated that if only petition organizers had approached her for help in the beginning, the nullifying issues could have been addressed. This is patently false, as petition co-organizer Josh Fulton inquired of her help in the beginning, and was subsequently turned down, by both her office, and that of the City Attorney.

In a move saddled with unprecedented hubris, the pomposity and arrogance of the Wilmington City Council was on full display Tuesday night, as members declared the petition against a taxpayer-funded stadium "invalid"; and also voted in favor of moving forward with a bond referendum for the stadium, that would equate to the giving away of tax dollars wholesale to private interests.

Several citizens addressed the council with well-spoken honesty and truth pleading with them to simply represent those whom they were elected to serve. The only scientific poll conducted to date reveals that over 80% of Wilmington citizens do not want to be taxed to pay for a baseball stadium for private interest.

Mandalay Baseball recently insulted the City of Wilmington and its citizens with a proposal that included the levying of $50,000/day fines against city taxpayers if the stadium wasn't built for them by a certain date. Instead of defending the citizens and the city they were elected to serve, the council shrugged off the proposal, and kept chugging forward with the attempt to strike a deal with Mandalay, despite the increasing numbers of citizens rising up and standing against any continued negotiations with the group.

The petition against a taxpayer-funded stadium contained almost 4,000 signatures of Wilmington voters who stand in solidarity against a tax-funded stadium. On Tuesday night, Penny Spicer-Sidbury, Clerk for the city, declared the petition "invalid" and with the wave of their collective hand, council adopted this opinion without discussion.

The wave of the hand represents a perfect metaphor for how the council views those that they serve and their opinions. With one dismissing gesture, the council has told an enormous majority of voters that their opinions and wishes mean nothing, and that the seven members of council know better, are more important, and will pursue their own ends no matter what the wishes of the public happen to be.

Section 3 of the Constitution of the State of North Carolina clearly tells us how our form of government is to operate:

The people of this State  have the inherent, sole, and exclusive right of regulating the
internal government...
However, that is not the case here. The wishes of the people are duly noted, and the city council is knowingly and arrogantly ignoring them.

One would have to wonder at some point why exactly are the members of council dogmatically pursuing such a horrible plan that the people want no part of? The actions of this city council are tantamount to an open declaration of war on the very citizens that elected them, and who they are sworn to serve.

A taxpayer-funded stadium, and the 30 years of debt that accompanies it is clearly something taxpayers of all stripes do not desire, and is not in their best interest. However, such an ill-conceived plan is certainly in the best interest of Mandalay Baseball and the Atlanta Braves, as they will receive a facility for a minimal investment, saddled with others' investment, of which they will receive no return.

So why is our elected city council loyally answering and obeying the wishes of outsiders; private conglomerates who have no interests here, who pay no local taxes, and who have done nothing for this city - save dictating the terms of this deal to an obedient city council hellbent on satisfying their every whim? What is in it on a personal level for each and every council member to neglect their offices and pursue that which they are being warned by voters not to pursue?

This council is an embarrassment to this community, and has willingly abandoned their sworn duty in order to appease wealthy private interests who are here for the sole reason of soaking our taxpayers dry to seed an investment that they themselves realize is too risky for the private sector. Any honest community leader would have told them to take a hike months ago. A council member that possesses a shred of integrity would have declared any further negotiations an insult to those they serve. But unfortunately for the people of Wilmington, they have no such member of their city council.

DISCLAIMER FOR THE FOLLOWING: Recently, talks have centered around the idea that Wilmington would own the stadium from the outset, instead of the initial proposal that had Mandalay and the Braves owning it for 30 years. The rest of this article pertains to the original scenario, which could still be in play. If the city owns the stadium from the beginning, the following would not apply.

As if this wasn't enough, council decided to continue the pursuit of a bond referendum to pay for the stadium, which will not be owned by the city. In this unprecedented move, the bond, if approved by voters, would equate to the transfer of public tax dollars to a private organization, an action that is most certainly illegal. defines municipal bonds as
...debt instruments that are issued by public entities, such as municipalities, cities, states or counties, to fund their capital expenditures. The capital expenditure of public entities includes costs associated with the construction of schools, bridges, highways and other public interest projects.
How is a private stadium a public capital expenditure? In short, it isn't.

Again, the State Constitution has this to say in Article V Sec. 14:

Notwithstanding Section 4 of this Article, the General Assembly may enact general laws authorizing any county, city, or town to define territorial areas in the county, city, or town and borrow money to be used to finance public improvements associated with private development projects within the territorial areas, as provided in this section.
It doesn't say that the city can borrow money to give away to private interests - only to provide public improvements associated with such ventures.

Section 4 of the same Article states:
Authorized purposes; two-thirds limitation. The General Assembly shall have no power to authorize any county, city or town, special district, or other unit of local government to contract debts secured by a pledge of its faith and credit unless approved by a majority of the qualified voters of the unit who vote thereon, except for the following purposes:
(a) to fund or refund a valid existing debt;
(b) to supply an unforseen deficiency in the revenue;
(c) to borrow in anticipation of the collection of taxes due and payable within the current fiscal year to an amount not exceeding 50 per cent of such taxes;
(d) to suppress riots or insurrections;
(e) to meet emergencies immediately threatening the public health or safety, as conclusively determined in writing by the Governor;
(f) for purposes authorized by general laws uniformly applicable throughout the State, to the extent of two-thirds of the amount by which the unit's outstanding indebtedness shall have been reduced during the next preceding fiscal year.
Since a private baseball stadium doesn't fall under one of the listed contingencies; and since sections of the State Constitution cannot conflict with one another, it would appear that this pursuit is unconstitutional.

The question that remains, is what are we as voters and citizens going to do about it?

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Petitions Submitted; PR Battle Begins - O'Grady Swings and Misses

The group leading the effort in opposing a taxpayer-funded baseball stadium in Wilmington, led by co-organizers Josh Fulton and Ben McCoy, turned in around 4,000 completed petition signatures to the City Clerk on Thursday, marking the end of a long process of gathering support against the effort to secure tax dollars for a stadium led by Mandalay,  the Atlanta Braves, and the Flywheel/Trask (FT) conglomerate.

Within hours, the effort to discredit and skew the facts about the petition effort began, led by Wilmington City Councilman Kevin O'Grady.

Click here to watch O'Grady's comments

O' Grady's comments were a tacit declaration of war on Wilmington citizens, who are clearly against the idea of handing over their tax dollars to private enterprise to build a baseball stadium. 8 out of 10 citizens approached with the petition enthusiastically signed it, and wanted their voice to be heard on the issue. Many just believed that they should have a say in the matter, and that it should go to a voter referendum, instead of city council shoving it down their throats.

But that's not how Councilman Kevin O'Grady sees it. If he decides he wants to spend tens of millions of tax dollars on a bad project, then how dare any citizen speak up and say otherwise.

O'Grady also tells us that those in favor of the petition are forcing the city to spend money to verify it. County Board of Elections estimates that the entire process would cost no more than $50K, including an election. This is far less than $60-$80 million for a stadium, and is unfortunately the only way to stop it, since those elected on council are not representing the will of the people. City Council has had ample opportunity to assure the public a voice in this matter, and to put the issue to a public vote. They have chosen not to however, because they do not agree with the sentiments of the public, and want to have their way, rather than those they are elected to represent. Any costs associated could have been easily avoided by a city willing to serve the public - as they are chartered to do.

There is also a fear campaign being waged. O'Grady and Mayor Saffo are out there telling the public that the language of the petition affects much more than just the proposed stadium. They have said that if this petition passes, that funding will have to be cut from Legion Stadium, since it is a stadium for the "purposes of professional sports and other events", which is the language from the petition ordinance.

There are several problems with this however.

Besides the fact that it was never the intention of the petition to target anything other than the construction of a new stadium with tax dollars; and the fact that the city chose to ignore multiple attempts to work amicably together on drafting language mutually agreeable, several technical and legal issues still stand in the way of the idea that Legion would have to be defunded.

ISSUE #1: According to city documents, the city is under contractual obligation through an interlocal agreement with New Hanover County to fund the operations and debt cost of Legion Stadium. The petition ordinance says nothing about breaching any existing contracts or interlocal agreements - in fact, doing such would probably be a violation of the law.

Interlocal Agreement: Click Here

ISSUE #2: The City of Wilmington is obligated to pay debt on Legion Stadium. City documents reveal that the city still has several years of debt to pay along with the county on the stadium. It would be impossible for an ordinance of any kind - petition-generated or not - to nullify that debt obligation. This debt is held by the banks, who have every legal ground to hold the city financially responsible for that existing debt. Furthermore, the city has a fiduciary duty to pay its agreed debts.

If cities could simply nullify debt obligations through ordinances, then there would be debt-free cities all over the US! Simply put, the city is on the hook for the money it borrowed and agreed to pay back for Legion Stadium. Cancelling this debt through an ordinance would be impossible.

Legion Debt Agreement: Click Here

ISSUE #3: One prime consideration, that has played a vital role in many court case verdicts, and even interpretation of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, is the idea of the spirit vs. the letter of the law. There is no doubt that the spirit of the law in this regard is to target a yet to be built, minor league baseball stadium for private enterprise with tax dollars. This would invariably be considered should the law ever be interpreted by a judge.

Again, it is imperative to state that although concerns about the impact this ordinance would have to functions such as Legion Stadium have been overblown and completely misrepresented, it is important to consider the facts as they are surrounding the issue and the reality of the fact that ordinances cannot nullify prior fiduciary obligations. It is believed however, that these views expressed by certain members of the City Council are not true concerns, but cheap scare tactics employed out of the desperation they feel to rule unhindered; the entitlement they ascribe themselves; and the will to spend tax dollars frivolously without incurring any resistance from the public.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Encouraging, and Discouraging Numbers on Unemployment

The good news is that unemployment in New Hanover County is down .9% over the last year.

The bad news is that unemployment in Wilmington is about 1.5% higher than in the unincorporated area and beach towns combined.

How is this possible?  Let's take a look.

Unemployment in Wimington is 9.2%; and 8.5% in the county as a whole.

The Wilmington population is about 106k; the population for the county is 203k, meaning that Wilmington is 52% of the total population of the county.

So, let's get out our thinking hats to figure out how much higher unemployment is in Wilmington than in the unincorporated area and beach towns.

The equation would be:  .52 (Wilmington pop. as % of NHC) * 9.2 (Wilmington unemployment rate) + .48 (nonWilmington population as % of NHC) * x (unknown unemployment rate in nonWilmington NHC area) = 8.5 (total county unemployment)

Solving for x gives us about 7.7%, meaning that the unemployment rate inside NHC but outside Wilmington is a full 1.5% lower than inside the city of Wilmington.


Oh, wait a second.  I know.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

"Private" Stadium Plan Completely Hoses Taxpayers

Haven't signed the petition against tax dollars being used for the stadium? Need to turn in your petitions? Click here:

As is typical with large, high profile public projects, last night's presentation to the Wilmington City Council clearly demonstrated that the highest priority concerning the baseball stadium project is exactly how many palms get greased in the process.

The presentation, which was conducted by the ever-growing development team under the watchful eye of local land developer Raiford Trask III, was entitled, "Private Development Proposal Overview", giving the impression that perhaps a truly privately-funded stadium is within reach. However, nothing could be further from the truth.

One of the key players involved with Trask is Clay Boardman of Augusta, GA, who owns Flywheel, LLC. The "private" stadium investment team was referred to in the presentation as "Flywheel/Trask" or "FT". The Greater Wilmington Business Journal (GWBJ) recently wrote a piece on Clay Boardman, in which they said this:
An Augusta, Ga. native of dapper style, Boardman, 53, announced his firm — Flywheel Projects — would finance and construct the stadium at its own risk to bring an Atlanta Braves franchise to the Port City.

Leading up to last night's presentation, one may have had the impression that Boardman was planning on financing the stadium completely on his own, without the use of tax dollars, which is what over 80% of Wilmingtonians said was the only way they would support a stadium. However, Tuesday night's presentation not only revealed the use of tax dollars in the project, but a strong reliance on the public's money for the project.

GWBJ went on to quote Boardman who said:
“I want to be transparent about all this,” Boardman said of current stadium negotiations. “I want to do the right thing because we’re spending money on this and so are the taxpayers . . . there will be no deal done if the taxpayer gets screwed, because I’m not going to be a part of it.” 
Boardman gave an interesting personal story at the council meeting, where he talked about how his hometown of Augusta was trying to do basically the same deal as far as obtain a minor league baseball stadium. Boardman stated that he did not support the project there, and said it wasn't a good deal. However, a few hours up the road, in a town where he has no tax burden, and a tasty piece of the action; we're told a stadium is somehow perfect for us.

Proposal Details Revealed

The devil was definitely in the details of the Flywheel/Trask presentation, and answered the specific questions about exactly how much "investment" taxpayers would be in for.

The most fascinating element of the presentation was the fact that a private group of investors are clearly running the show, and dictating to the city exactly how much money is required from we the taxpayer. FT's presentation contained a graphic which identified the funding model of the stadium, which conveniently has FT sandwiched in the middle between the city and the stadium, getting a piece of the action both ways. Mandalay and the Braves pay a very nominal lease payment not to the city, but to FT; FT pays sales and use taxes to the city; the city turns around and makes all of its large payments not to Mandalay or to a bank, but to Trask and Co.; and in turn, FT makes the payment to the bank, after "administrative" costs are accounted for of course.

The basic premise was this:
According to FT, the proposed cost of just the construction of the stadium is between $32 and $38 million, and does not include the cost of land, remediation, etc. FT will have a total investment of only $10.5 million, payable over 30 years in $350,000 installments. The city will pick up every dime of the rest, including land and interest. Taxpayers could end up with a burden of around $50 million or more over the 30 year period. 

This is the much anticipated and wonderful "private" funding mechanism that we have heard is coming after the much-ballyhooed announcement and press conference held at the Wilmington Chamber headquarters last month, that revealed a "private" investment team.

As far as economic impact, FT and Co. state that as a result of all of this, 139 permanent jobs will be created, at an average pay of less than $28,000/yr. FT referred to these jobs in the presentation as "high paying".

The much-anticipated details of the "private" funding plan have been unveiled, and leave much to be desired, as well as leave the taxpayer on the hook for as much as 85%+ the total 30 year cost of the entire project. The private investment part has their bases covered, situating themselves in a position to recoup their investment from both directions. 

Now is the time to solidify our opposition more than ever against this ridiculous waste of taxpayer dollars and the public trust in general. The Wilmington City Council has shown itself a willing party in being manhandled, ordered around, and dictated to by Mandalay and Trask; from the choosing of a sports analysis firm, to exactly how much money they will bilk future generations of taxpayers out of. 

One thing is crystal clear about the proposal at hand: Flywheel/Trask and Co. are going to get paid; and taxpayers are going to be on the hook for decades to come.

Friday, May 11, 2012

How Do Film "Incentives" Affect NC?

An interesting article about whether or not NC's film incentives actually work. American Spectator:
The state offers one of the nation’s most enticing tax-incentive programs to production companies. Last year, Tar Heel taxpayers forked over $5,071,322 in tax credits to Journey 2: The Mysterious Island. In its three-season run, the HBO series Eastbound and Down has siphoned $3,740,884 from North Carolina. The CW Network’s One Tree Hill has drained a whopping $27 million from the state’s coffers over the last five years.
Even Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Entertainment body-slammed the state for $135,401. That was its reward for shooting Raw and Smackdown at arenas in Charlotte and Raleigh in 2010.
Hollywood welfare, like actual welfare, overflows with abuse. Last month, a Massachusetts court found filmmaker Daniel Adams guilty of defrauding the Bay State out of more than $4 million in tax credits by inflating his costs on The Lightkeepers and The Golden Boys. The offenses included a claim by Adams that he had paid Richard Dreyfuss six times his actual salary of $400,000. If you haven’t seen, let alone heard of, The Golden Boys or The Lightkeepers, you’re not alone. They appear to have been made as much for tax subsidies as for box-office receipts.
“In fiscal year 2010, the forty-three states that offer film subsidies spent $1.5 billion of your tax dollars subsidizing film and TV production,” Jason Mattera writes in Hollywood Hypocrites. “Let’s put that in real terms. Hollywood’s 2009 welfare payments would have been enough to pay the salaries of 23,500 middle school teachers, 26,600 firefighters, and 22,800 police patrol officers.”

Monday, April 30, 2012

How Do Regulations Affect Wilmington?

A few months ago or so, the Wilmington City Council hired a consultant, yet again. This time it was to tell them how to improve the "development process", meaning they paid someone $23k to tell them just how much the planning and zoning department is a tyrannical bureaucracy.

Of course, it would have benefited members of City Council to actually look into this themselves, but instead someone looked into it for them, and now we have this report.

What does it say? 

Recommendation #1: Hire a new person. Not fire anyone. Not give deadlines where if no action is taken on something it's automatically approved. Hire a new person.

They say this is necessary to essentially "change the culture" within the department.

The department already has a head. Should this kind of responsibility not go to the department head?

Additionally, from what I've heard, the city planning and code enforcement staff are real ballbusters, especially downtown.  Of course, the people who create this kind of atmosphere are never addressed.  The "solution" is to simply add another layer of bureaucracy that could be just as hostile as what's already there.

What about how quickly the city approves projects?
"There is certainly an issue with timeliness and timeliness is a two way street," Michelle Ferguson, associate of The Novak Consulting Group, said during a presentation of the findings to council at an agenda briefing Monday. Some of the lag has to do with insufficient submittal of site plans, the study found. 
Mayor Bill Saffo said several projects are taking six to eight months to get through the review process.
Ahhh, you have to love the understatement of Bill Saffo, especially when it benefits him.  Does it really take just six to eight months?

Let's take a look at part of an article that describes how long it took for The View to get approval downtown. For those of you who don't know, The View would have been where we now have our "wall of keys", the city's most appalling eyesore.
A lot has changed since 2006 when architects started drawing plans for The View. Terry Espy, managing partner and project developer, said it took three years to get the needed permits. The land, which has all the needed permits and has been released for construction from the city, now sits vacant as the economic tornado hit that project too.
Three years, folks. That's a lot more than six months, which is still too much. With some projects, like the Gateway project, they simply stifle it for years until the developers go bankrupt.

Additionally, what Saffo is saying is that he knows about this but he's doing nothing.  He's presenting himself as if he's helpless, when in reality he could actually be the most important figure in city government (no offense, Sterling.)

Finally, at the end of the story, we get actual figures about how terrible our city is in terms of facilitating development:
In the study, which included a survey of more than 57 stakeholders, 67 percent of those in the community who responded said the process doesn't result in higher quality development, 62 percent say it doesn't compare favorably with other communities and 85 percent said the current regulations hinder development.
Upset you don't have a job? Your kid or your friend doesn't have a job? Upset you don't have a nice place to shop or relax?  Talk to the Wilmington planning and development department.

Of course, don't talk to the Wilmington City Council, because we all know it's not them who's actually in charge of the city government.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Government Lobbying Government?

Yes, folks, that is the next great "economic development" idea out of our brilliant Mayor Bill Saffo.

In other news to come out of the agenda brief, Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo said he'd like council to consider hiring a lobbyist for both Raleigh and Washington, D.C. Saffo says the need has increased in recent years.
Yes, folks, government lobbying government. Does merely reading it not make you feel disgusting? What ever happened to lean, efficient government? Now it's pigs feeding at the troph. Never forget that all federal and state dollars still come ultimately from the taxpayers.

But what's the truly amazing thing about this?

Wilmington already has a lobbyist. It is Ms. Lawless Bean, whose real first name apparently is Mary. I don't know why she goes by "Lawless." Maybe because she's employed by the Wilmington government.

I've also heard that we're the only city of our size to have a lobbyist up in Raleigh. And now Bill Saffo wants to send another one to D.C.? You've got to be kidding.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

$1.1M for Recycling Bins That Tell on You?

Were you aware that Wilmington authorized $1.1M for new recycling bins? If you're a close reader of the local news, chances are you were.

Were you aware that these recycling bins will be outfitted with rfid chips? Chances are you weren't. Only the StarNews mentioned it and they mentioned it very briefly.

However, it's true and clearly stated in the supplemental documents for the last City Council meeting:

Each of the roll-out carts will have a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chip which will allow us to collect and maintain data regarding the carts’ use, location, and to target outreach efforts in specific sections of the City.
Additionally, City dump trucks are going to be outfitted with readers for these rfid chips. The cost will be about $81k.

What are these going to be used for? Well, if you're familiar with the City of Wilmington you're aware that the answer is probably: "no good".

Let's take a look at how they've been used in other places.

Cleveland Plain Dealer:

It would be a stretch to say that Big Brother will hang out in Clevelanders' trash cans, but the city plans to sort through curbside trash to make sure residents are recycling -- and fine them $100 if they don't. The move is part of a high-tech collection system the city will roll out next year with new trash and recycling carts embedded with radio frequency identification chips and bar codes.

The chips will allow city workers to monitor how often residents roll carts to the curb for collection. If a chip show a recyclable cart hasn't been brought to the curb in weeks, a trash supervisor will sort through the trash for recyclables.

Trash carts containing more than 10 percent recyclable material could lead to a $100 fine, according to Waste Collection Commissioner Ronnie Owens. Recyclables include glass, metal cans, plastic bottles, paper and cardboard.

[S]ome cities are using RFID tags to penalize those who don’t recycle. Earlier this summer, Laurel, Md. began using RFID bins to enforce $25-100 fines for houses not using their bins. All bins are linked to an address, and the city requires recycling participation.

It's my guess that this is exactly the kind of thing that Wilmington has in mind.

Is this a good idea? Is recycling even "environmental friendly"? Of course not. Take a closer look at the facts:

"Recycling may be the most wasteful activity in modern America." (Originally NY Times)

It's another scam. And it's going to wind up costing you more and more.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Dreaming of Electric Sheeple

The resistance is in full swing. Download petitions and get updates at and

So, Wilmington is "going green", again. And yet again it's in a totally minor and mostly symbolic way. Yet even so, it's still going to cost you.

City Council may allow Progress Energy to install and maintain two electric vehicle charging stations in the Market St. parking deck. Progress Energy will cover installation and maintenance costs for two years, at which time responsibility could, and probably would, switch over to Wilmington.

Wilmington will only supposedly pay for the electricity for people to charge their cars, an estimated $10 a year. This, of course, could be totally off the mark, and subsidizing this type of thing, which is already heavily subsidized, is not the role of government. Additionally, Wilmington will have to take out liability insurance with a cap of about $4M.

But that's not the real kicker. The kicker is that the money for installation and maintenance isn't really coming from Progress Energy. They apparently have gotten a Federal grant for this.

From the contract:
With respect to any marketing efforts including but not limited to logos, stickers, decals or signage made a part of equipment purchased or infrastructure established; or any printed materials or other marketing and/or outreach materials, activities, or web sites created under this Agreement, Host agrees: i) to consider erecting qualifying signage identifying the EVSE as “being funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act;”
You're paying coming and going. Don't you love the new definition of "capitalism"?

Thursday, March 8, 2012


Up is down, left is right, and now a government handout is "entrepreneurship."

And the saddest part? Local officials seem to have no problem with it.


A spin off of the University of North Carolina Wilmington's entrepreneurship center could cost taxpayers some money.

The center's director, Jonathan Rowe, approached the city council Monday with the idea of the city helping to fund the start of the new center. He is seeking about $100,000 for the first year to rent a building, pay for water and electricity and some grant money for start-up businesses.

City council members were open to the idea but said Rowe needed to also ask the New Hanover County Commissioners to chip in. The center, which was created in 2010, helps connect start-up companies and small businesses to sources of expertise and funding. The center, now located on campus, has reorganized as UNCW Entrepreneurship Center LLC and will also seek private donations.

Rowe said Monday he can get businesses to donate computers, Internet and phone service but he needs help getting the center up and running. He added, the goal would be to make the center self-sufficient in two years by leasing part of the space to existing businesses.

Mayor Bill Saffo said if the city does donate money to the center, he would want to establish benchmarks.

The biggest question, in a time when the city faces a nearly $13 million budget shortfall in the coming fiscal year, was where the money would come from.

"We're looking at budget shortfalls. We've got to county every penny," Councilwoman Margaret Haynes said. "The concept, I'm OK with. It's just the money. How are we going to pay for it?"

Rowe has been in talks with City Manager Sterling Cheatham who suggested locating the center downtown. Cheatham said this could be the city's way of investing in small business incentives, a priority the mayor laid out in his state of the city speech earlier this year.

[...]Councilman Neil Anderson suggested the city reevaluate the money it gives to existing economic development organizations to see if the resources are being spread out as they should. (Which is not the same, far from it, from questioning in principle.)

Councilman Charlie Rivenbark said the city spends less on economic development than other cities its size or smaller.

"It's pitiful what we spent on it," he said. (Aww, boohoo, Charlie)

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Wilmington Taxes Man $400k Because They Don't Like His Business

Yup. It's true. Don't you love that you live in the day where government thinks they can do whatever they want to you?

The manager of a sweepstakes parlor plans to sue the city of Wilmington over his tax bill.

Leo Daniels, of 777 Sweepstakes, says he received a letter from the city earlier this week saying that he owes more than $400,000 taxes.

A city spokesman says an ordinance says parlors are taxed every six months per machine.

Daniels says this is his first tax bill, which amounts to more in taxes than he makes in a year.

The city spokesman says six sweepstakes parlors received the same letter this week regarding their back taxes owed to the city.

Also, this guy Leo Daniels isn't some sort of bum. He's involved in other businesses and owns the agency that is doing the extra casting for Iron Man 3.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Winston-Salem's Stadium Experience

Looks like they were right where we are (but with a less expensive stadium) four years ago.


In 2007, Winston-Salem City Council meetings sounded similar to recent ones held here.

Residents attended a meeting in January of that year to speak for and against building a minor league baseball stadium, some disapproving of the city using taxpayer dollars for the project, according to the meeting’s minutes.

The city initially contributed about $12 million to Brookstown Development Partners LLC and Sports Menagerie LLC to build the stadium, where the Winston-Salem Dash now plays.

But later, when the developer had trouble securing financing because of the economic downfall in the middle of 2008, the city council voted unanimously to give an additional $15.7 million to finish the stadium’s construction.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

One Reason Why NC Is Out of Work

The resistance is in full swing. Download petitions and get updates at and

What does it take to become a private investigator in NC?
Three (3) years experience within the past five (5) years in private investigative work, OR three (3) years within the past five (5) years in an investigative capacity as a member if a law enforcement agency.
That's right. To become a private investigator, you pretty much already have to be one. What about if you want to be a land surveyor?
College Graduate, with Bachelor of Science (BS) in Surveying.

[This degree must contain a minimum of 45 semester hours (or quarter hour equivalent) of surveying subjects.]

[...]After successful completion of the Fundamentals Examination, and upon completion of a minimum total of two (2) year of progressive practical land surveying experience, one year of which shall have been under a practicing Professional Land Surveyor (PLS), applicants are eligible to apply for the Land Surveying Principles and Practice Examination (Exam II).
There are different routes for people, but this is if you already have a four year degree in land surveying. Can you say racket?

NC licenses 176 occupations, including pest exterminators, telecommunicators and milk testers.

While that might "Mmmm good!" for the people who already have the licenses, it's not good for the overall economy.

Licensing is a form of government-granted cartel. It keeps people out of the market, thereby raising prices and potentially lowering quality.

What does the actual research say on licensing?
The most recent study, from 2008, found 23% of U.S. workers were required to obtain state licenses, up from just 5% in 1950, according to data from Mr. Kleiner. In the mid-1980s, about 800 professions were licensed in at least one state. Today, at least 1,100 are, according to the Council on Licensure, Enforcement and Regulation, a trade group for regulatory bodies. Among the professions licensed by one or more states: florists, interior designers, private detectives, hearing-aid fitters, conveyor-belt operators and retailers of frozen desserts.

[...]Mr. Kleiner, of the University of Minnesota, looked at census data covering several occupations that are regulated in some states but not others, including librarians, nutritionists and respiratory therapists. He found that employment growth in those professions was about 20% greater, on average, in the unregulated states between 1990 and 2000.

Licensing can also drive up costs to consumers. Licensed workers earn, on average, 15% more than their unlicensed counterparts in other states—a premium that may be reflected in their prices
, according to a study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research and conducted by Mr. Kleiner and Alan Krueger, an economist at Princeton University.

[...]But whether licensing guarantees better-quality work is an open question. Several academic studies in the 1970s and '80s found that licensure boosted quality in professions such as dentistry, optometry, plumbing and real-estate sales. More recent studies have found no evidence that licensing improves the quality of teachers or mortgage brokers.

It's harder to measure quality in more subjective fields such as interior design or hair styling. But a look at consumer complaints about manicurists suggests licensing doesn't necessarily correlate with quality.
Eliminating licensing can increase employment in those fields by up to 20%, lower price by approximately 15%, all without a necessary loss in quality.

Why are we standing for this anymore?

Monday, February 20, 2012

More Facts and Figures Against the Taxpayer-Funded Stadium

The resistance movement is in full swing. Join us, get updates and details at


The Atlanta Braves ranked 27th out of 30 clubs in their (farm) system for winning percentage in 2011; 15th out of 30 clubs for fan attendance.

They are second-worst in the National League in several categories and second worst in Major League baseball in others.

StarNews (Chad Adams):

The old Meadowlands stadium was demolished even though taxpayers are still on the hook for part of the $110 million cost of construction. The new world champion Giants needed a new place to play.

Folks in Seattle, Philadelphia and Indianapolis are still paying for their stadiums that have also been torn down, according to The New York Times. The Times also documented that Houston, Memphis, Pittsburgh and Kansas City, Mo., are paying for stadiums/arenas that have been abandoned by the teams for whom they were built.

Even the Florida Marlins bilked taxpayers to the tune of $2.4 billion after telling local folks that they didn’t have the money to build a stadium and would leave without it. Turns out the Marlins had plenty of money to cover a significant chunk of the stadium but didn’t want to.

But those are big cities with big names, one might say. True, but even here in North Carolina we have our share of taxpayer sport bilking. Winston-Salem and Forsyth County funded a stadium they were told would cost $22.6 million, but cost overruns have pushed that figure to almost $50 million now. Leaders claimed the ball stadium a success in their first year, but that became laughable when the Winston-Salem Dash would not reveal their expenses, citing “trade secrets” when asked.

In spite of promises to the contrary, a new team signing a lease doesn’t bind them to the taxpayer obligation. The lease could be broken, but the taxpayer obligation would remain.

Stadium petition:

Limiting city spending petition:

Increased transparency petition: More

Friday, February 17, 2012

Reading Assignment: Publicly-Funded Stadiums Create Economic Liability

The resistance movement is in full swing. Join us, get updates and details at 

In light of our city's wishes to be the next big losers on that long gray line of failed taxpayer-funded stadiums, here are some very real and very serious stories and research about real-life scenarios out there concerning taxpayers who wish they didn't have the enormous responsibility and liability of buying failed stadiums.

Please read and pass this on to your neighbors in and around Wilmington:

Even a very leftist magazine appropriately entitled The Progressive comes down hard on this issue:

Previously posted, but needs a second read:

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Wilmington Watcher ALERT: Stadium Petition Finally Ready to Go

UPDATE: The resistance movement is in full swing. Join us, get updates and details at
Our petition to stop taxpayer funding of the baseball stadium is finally ready to be downloaded and distributed for signatures. Please join us this Saturday, Feb. 18 from 12-2 behind the Convention Center downtown for our rally and signature drive. We have a slate of speakers lined up including:

Commissioner Rick Catlin
Curtis Wright
Tyler Cralle
Tony McGhee
Chris Farr
Frank Meares
Ben McCoy
and State Rep. Carolyn Justice via written statement

Download and distribute the official petition here:

Signatures must ONLY be from registered voters who live in the city limits of Wilmington. No other signatures will be deemed valid.

We are already underway with two other initiatives - more on those soon.

See you Saturday!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

How Much Is the Stadium Going to Cost Each Taxpayer?

UPDATE: The resistance movement is in full swing. Join us, get updates and details at

With all the talk of the publicly-funded baseball stadium, there's typically not much attention paid to how much it's going to cost each Wilmingtonian.

Bill Saffo has been quoted as saying it will be $35 - 40M. I think that's a low ball, no pun intended. NHC County manager Bruce Shell has said it is estimated at $42M. Let's use that.

There are costs in addition to construction.

There's interest on the debt. The total cost of the convention center was about $60M, and total interest on the debt will be over $50M. Just this year, we paid $2.5M in interest on the convention center debt.

Let's be generous and give the stadium a lower interest rate than the convention center, and say it will accumulate $30M in interest on its debt.

There are also operational costs. It costs us $3M per year just to run the convention center. How much will it cost to run a baseball stadium? Again, let's be very generous and assume $1M.

Of course, these operational costs go on forever, but let's just assume they go on for only 30 years.

How much will everything cost the people of Wilmington?:

$42M in construction + $30M in interest + $30M in operational costs = $102M.

Total number of people in Wilmington? About 107,000.

This means a cost of $953 to every person living in Wilmington when everything is said and done.

Of course, not every person in Wilmington is a property tax payer, which is where the city gets its overwhelming majority of revenue. So, people paying property tax are going to get slammed. Of course, even if you're renting you indirectly pay property tax because the cost to the owner will go up.

Now, let's see what the bare minimum cost just for construction would be:

$42M/107k = $393/person.

Again, that isn't even including necessary costs such as interest or operational costs.

Is that the kind of money you want to pay? For some people that's nearly a rent check.

Everybody needs to go to and go to the protest Saturday, Feb. 18th at noon behind the convention center to sign this petition that can actually change the law in Wilmington.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Bobby Cox in Wilmington; Takes in a Performance at Thalian

UPDATE: The resistance movement is in full swing. Join us, get updates and details at

The stage was set. The actors took their places. Scripts were polished; hair and makeup perfect. Ex-Atlanta Braves GM Bobby Cox was situated in the audience expecting a well-executed production. The cast was the Wilmington City Council, and the play was entitled, "Building a Baseball Stadium with Other People's Money - Even though We Can't Afford it". The location was the city council chambers; ironically a floor directly above the historical Thalian Hall main stage in downtown Wilmington.

On Tuesday night, the Wilmington City Council met to act out the pre-planned script of unanimously approving the Memorandum of Understanding with Mandalay Entertainment and the Atlanta Braves to explore the idea of Wilmington taxpayers fully funding a baseball stadium, while the aforementioned entities collect the proceeds. Sounds like a real win-win... if you're not a Wilmington taxpayer.

Developer Chuck Schoninger, who owns the land where the proposed stadium is expected to be constructed, is quite cozy with local political leaders, as this marketing video demonstrates. The developer operates several outfits with the same purpose have made his intentions clear that he wants lots of public money for the project, in order for "it to work".
Schoninger created an international website promoting the EB-5 program as a way to try and attract Chinese investment into their expansive project as well; in addition to another website promoting his downtown development plans, including the baseball stadium, from a downtown perspective.

If this plan goes through, it will be a handsome payday for Schoninger, who has plans for a marina, hotel, and multi-use development complex; of which the stadium would be a center feature. Not a bad public-private partnership from Schoninger's perspective, who will benefit from the taxpayers investment in the stadium, the purchase of his land to build it, all without any investment of his own in the stadium project.

The combined efforts of the private developer, as well as the undying promised support of Mayor Bill Saffo and other local leaders have resulted in real paydirt from their perspective. The Atlanta Braves, Mandalay, and Bobby Cox are all interested in planting a Braves farm team here, with the Wilmington taxpayer being forced to absorb the costs, and take all the risk for their "investment". Schoninger will be rewarded for his persistence, since it appears the Wilmington City Council will be paying him a premium for their land with taxpayer dollars.
Schoninger said Mandalay officials expressed “serious” interest in bringing a minor league baseball team affiliated with the Atlanta Braves to Wilmington — a nearly $12 to $15 million investment for staff and players alone. He said he would sell the parcel of land needed for the stadium to the city and county for an undisclosed price, but none of the money currently being raised would be allocated for the stadium’s construction. LINK
Local leaders have willingly ignored study after study that clearly demonstrates that publicly funded stadiums are an economic liability for communities - not a boon.

Also, just as recently as late 2011, Mayor Bill Saffo stated in his campaign for re-election, a promise to voters that he would not support a property tax increase to pay for the baseball stadium. However, every discussion as of late involves Saffo talking about the distinct possibility of such an increase, given that the math doesn't work any other way, and the city is already tens of millions of dollars in debt, due to a plethora of other failed economic projects, such as the convention center.
It’s unclear how the city plans to pay for the stadium’s development; however, Saffo hinted at increased property taxes for Wilmington residents and businesses — reneging on a 2011 campaign promise where he told supporters he would not support a property tax increase to finance the stadium’s construction.
“We’re going to take a look at all of our options,” Saffo said during an afternoon press conference. “I’m candy-coating it, there might be a property tax increase.” LINK
Tuesday night's meeting ran more like a well-rehearsed performance, than an official meeting of city business. Council sat in their distinguished perches given the management from the Braves and Mandalay what they came to see. For good measure, Councilwoman Laura Padgett even ad-libbed a line about how she was "concerned" about taxpayers footing the entire bill for Mandaly's benefit, but then of course, voted for the measure anyway - the pre-determined and collectively agreed upon outcome of the meeting.
But a lot has to be decided, particularly how the city would pay for a potentially $35-40 million, 6,000-seat stadium and where it would be located. There's been a lot of talk about the riverfront but no commitment.
Councilwoman Laura Padgett had concerns about taxpayers footing the bill for the stadium.
"I'm going to vote for this to move forward because I think we'd be foolish to have an opportunity to like this and not look into it," she said, but added: "I think it's wrong for city taxpayers to pay an increased tax rate on their own to pay for this facility." LINK
The lone Republican, Neil Anderson, who also campaigned on the idea that he would be cautious and wary of such a raw deal for taxpayers, was obedient to the cause, and went along with the majority, as he was expected to do.

As part of the charade that this agreement is somehow going to be good for taxpayers and citizens, the local media and the city point to a study that was obviously paid for by the city, that states
An economic impact study done by Brailsford & Dunlavey found a baseball team and stadium in Wilmington could bring $62 million in initial impact in the first year and $9.8 million annually. LINK
Based on those numbers, it would seem that by the term "initial impact", they mean "taxpayer investment" - or "additional city debt obligations"; which would most certainly result in massive tax increases being levied at many different levels within the city in order to finance this initiative. As has always been a time-honored tradition in Wilmington government, is the city doesn't contract a study, or hire a firm to do an analysis, without a pre-determined outcome that echoes their position, or that supposedly supports their theory or analysis; given that many other real-world studies that analyze existing stadiums, paint a very negative economic picture, and demonstrate dire economic consequences on the community that is forced to pay for them.

Wilmington Downtown Inc. leader John Hinnant, referred to the Durham Bulls in his assessment of the popularity and success of minor league baseball teams. One must take note however, that the Bulls are the most (only?) well-known minor league baseball team in the nation, given the prominence of the box-office hit told on the silver screen starring Kevin Costner, entitled Bull Durham.

Perhaps if Hollywood takes note of Wilmington's team, draws up a script, dusts off Kevin Costner, and shoots a movie highlighting our little venture into minor league baseball, we'll have a chance at economic success. It would be a fitting addition to this saga, given all of the acting and dramatic performances already in play.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Broke WAVE Transit Puts Four Video Cameras in Every Bus

WAVE's annual budget is about $7M and they only take in about $1M through fares. The rest comes from intergovernmental transfers.

There's no mention of this being funded by grant money.


Four cameras on each of WAVE Transit's 45 buses constantly monitor the comings and goings of passengers with video and audio recordings. Signs on the buses alert passengers of the equipment.

"All passengers of this vehicle are subject to having their image and voice recorded," the signs read.

The cameras, purchased and installed in 2010, cost Wave about $100,000, said Albert Eby, Wave executive director. They replaced older cameras and offer a much more detailed look inside and outside the buses.

I just realized that it doesn't say if outfitting each bus costs $100k or if outfitting the entire fleet costs that, but I'd find it hard to believe they outfitted the entire fleet for $100k.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Wilmington Signs Up for Baseball Debt

Despite every indicator that it's a bad idea, the Wilmington City Council has shown that they will belligerently ignore economic reality and move forward with plans to raise taxes on the people of Wilmington to buy a baseball stadium for outside investors to profit from.

In typical ego-stroking form, Mayor Saffo gave the annual State of the City speech this past week, and referenced his plans to go forward with pursuing the baseball stadium in downtown Wilmington.

The agreement, Saffo said, would likely include the city buying property and building a stadium that could cost between $35 and $40 million. Mandalay would operate the stadium.
"It might be a tax increase to pay for it," Saffo said.
Within hours of this statement, the Star News released the new figures on area unemployment.
The Wilmington area's jobless rate jumped to 10.6 percent in December from 9.8 percent in December 2010, according to figures released Wednesday by the N.C. Commerce Department's Labor and Economic Analysis Division.
However, the stadium, although it will require more money being forcefully taken out of the struggling local economy, will provide the much-needed economic relief that we all so desperately need... right?
Independent analyses of the economic and employment impacts of sports stadiums have consistently found that there is no statistically significant economic benefit to building a stadium. An analysis by Robert Baade of Lake Forest College studied thirty cities over thirty years and found that twenty-seven experienced no significant impact from new stadiums, while only three cities experienced a negative economic impact.
But jobs will be created, according to Saffo and friends.
A common argument heard from stadium proponents is that the construction of a new sports stadium or arena will generate thousands of new jobs for the local community. Robert Baade found that "sports tend to produce low-skilled, low-paid employment such as: food and souvenir vendors, security personnel, hotel and restaurant employees."(14) If a city encourages a movement toward this kind of employment by subsidizing sports, the city will find its economic development lagging behind development in the rest of the region. In other words, jobs created by stadium and arena construction and/or operation do not, on their own, generate significant tax revenues for a city. Taxes generated by the operation of a factory or similar industry would likely be greater than that of a stadium or arena, and therefore are more valuable to a city from a revenue standpoint.

Often one will hear Mayor Saffo and other proponents talking of the "wonder" it will be to hear the sound of wooden bats cracking on the river. However, the only cracking sound we will hear, if this ill-conceived operation goes forward, is the sound of the local economy completely falling apart.

Often times, taxes must be raised to accommodate the funding for additional police officers or firemen, or other critical needs in the community that must be funded with public dollars. Even those issues are met with some resistance from the community, when attrition seems like the better and more feasible scenario. However, this issue is that of a private stadium, that an outside conglomerate will operate and profit from, and can only do it if our taxes are raised to pay for it? This is absolutely ludicrous, and really demonstrates just how out of touch Saffo and the rest of the city council really is.

When the downtown convention center was being forced on us, we were given the same platitudes and speeches about economic viability and job creation. Saffo would kindly like you to now forget about that, as it has been demonstrated that the convention center will now operate in the red indefinitely. The Wilmington Watcher has proven that your tax dollars pay for the convention center in addition to ROT funds; even though city leaders continually deny this is the case.

The issue of not only using, but RAISING taxes in this economy for the purposes of a few developers and investors getting richer off of the backs of taxpayers, is not a conservative vs. liberal issue in any way. This is an issue of an overreaching, arrogant government against the people is supposedly serves. Property taxes are already high due to the reckless and excessive spending by city government on unneeded and wasteful projects. This would add over $40 million to that tab.

It's time to finally say enough is enough. Please Like our Facebook page here, and show your objection to this idiocy. Also, make sure you sign the petition against it that will be presented to the city:

More info on the stadium and why it's a bad idea here:

Saturday, January 28, 2012

A Park or Economic Freedom?

Well, the city continues in its never-ending blood-lust for a park downtown.

Don't get me wrong. It'd be nice to have a park downtown. But that doesn't mean you can trample property rights. It also doesn't mean that what would go up wouldn't be better and more beneficial for the community than a park.

Think of the potential negatives of a park:
  1. What can you do on a piece of grass that you can't already do downtown? Does the city actually think there's going to be Ultimate Frisbee competitions on this small patch of land?

  2. There's a possibility it becomes a haven for homeless people, or who knows what (possibly even "Occupiers." *shiver*)
  3. When its city property it no longer pays property tax.
Again, this doesn't even mention that the new development could be much better than a park, or the potential chilling effect this could have on downtown development, or even development in Greater Wilmington.

The city held up a development called "The View" with these same principals for years and now we have a "wall of keys" on Front St. downtown, which Bill Saffo called "art," instead of a building with apartments and shops.

Does anyone remember the Gateway project? The city did the same thing to those developers and nearly bankrupted them in the process.

Oh well. Who's going to want to build here after a while? Who's going to want to come here? I can tell you that many in the development community are already fed up with the city government and have been for a long time. Is it any surprise that 9 out of 10 downtown business owners say that it's easier to do business with other city governments that it is with Wilmington?

The city of Wilmington has considered shelling out more than $2 million to buy the half of the Water Street deck as the decades-old structure that was planned for redevelopment sits unchanged.

For about a year, the city and PB&G Partners LLC have locked horns over what to do with the deck that both entities co-own. The original plan was for PB&G to demolish the deck and transform it into condos and shops. But the contract between the city and PB&G, which gave the company three years to start development, ended in 2010. Now the city has an option to buy back the company's half at $3 million or market value, whichever is less.

In February, City Manager Sterling Cheatham, on direction from city council, sent a letter to PB&G Partners LLC stating the city would like to enter into discussions about buying the deck for its appraised value, $2.4 million, minus the approximately $350,000 the city claims the developers still owe for parking receipts. [This is another whole issue that I'm surprised the developers don't slam the city on.]

[...]PB&G balked at the city's offer to buy the deck and presented its plans for a new development to council in April.

[...]"The city has fundamentally ignored all of our development plans," [developer Bud Dealey] said.

Dealey said the group has since lost its U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development funding to transform the property into upscale apartments for people over 55 years old with shops below as well as space for parking and a city park. [No doubt because they were held up for so long]

"I doubt that we're ever going to be permitted to build anything," he said.

[...]The city's goal with Water Street deck was to turn part of it into a city park.

Note to anyone else who may have land that the city wants for a park: you have no rights.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

What Really Happened in the County Commission Meeting?

I typically don't read the supplemental material for the County Commission meetings. I just rely on the "news" to give me the bullet points of what happened. Of course, I regularly find things that interest me in the City Council supplemental material that aren't reported in the news, so with the primaries coming up, I took a look to get a better idea of what's going on in the County.

It should be pointed out that all these items passed unanimously, so if you have a favorite County Commissioner ("I like the shy one!"), you're plum out of luck.

The first thing that interested me was submittal of a grant application to the Institute for Museum and Library Services, a public agency, for a 2012 "National Leadership Planning Grant."

This grant was for $50k and requires at least a 1/3 match. New Hanover County, however, went above and beyond and volunteered to pay $59k they got the grant.

What will the grant help us do?

It will help "encourage development of collaborative models and projects that can strengthen the position of museums and libraries as community anchors."

Get that? It's about strengthening the position of museums and libraries.

Now, I consider myself a free-marketer. I'm familiar with the history of private museums and private libraries before the government-forced take-over. In today's environment, however, which is extremely far from a free market, I'm ok with some public money going to things like libraries. A competitive private market for libraries has been destroyed and I don't see one cropping up at this point.

That said, what will this money be going toward?
The planning project defines three outcomes:
Did everyone get that? This is a "planning project." Yet again, they're simply planning for things. They're not putting anything into action.

For $109k, this better be a pretty good plan.

It continues:
1) Completion of a needs assessment regarding the availability, distribution, and nature of
STEM learning opportunities available in the community that will permit identification of
strengths, gaps, opportunities, and priorities for development;
2) Development and implementation of manageable assessment tools that can be used to
establish standards for quality STEM learning experiences and contribute to continued
improvement; and
3) Establishing a framework and understanding for a community -wide collaborative to
coordinate, develop, and expand high quality informal and formal STEM learning.
Ok, so for $109k they'll be "assessing needs"; they'll be developing "assessment tools"; and ...I don't even know how to translate that last piece of gibberish into English.

Anyway, that's what the money is going to. The overwhelming majority goes to personnel, including $24k to hire a graduate assistant, and $11k in benefits.

Nice, huh?

Next item

Civil process fees went up in August. That means people will have to pay more to get served papers and that the government will take in more.

Is this new revenue used to lessen the tax burden on everyone else? Of course not. It's used for more spending.

The new revenue is about $289k and it's going to be used on a bunch of things. $43k on two new cars; $15k on radios; and $150k is going to be used to move the Civil Division, apparently into a new building or something.

Thank goodness we got that $289k in new revenue because it turned out we needed every bit of it!!


We submitted a request for a $400k/per year "Community Transformation Grant" to the NC Division of Public Health. The grant would last for a total of 5 years, so the total would be $2M.

Now, I don't have a problem with us making a grant request if it's for something that we actually do ourselves. If it's simply superfluous, some additional thing we don't need and shouldn't be doing, I don't want it.

Plus, this is state money and not federal money, so it's even closer to home.

What would this $400k per year be going toward? It's primarily to fund the salaries and benefits of four full-time "Health Educators," one "Administrative Support Technician," and a half-time "Policy Intervention Specialist."

What are the goals of this group?

Basically eliminate smoking wherever they can. For those of you familiar with Wilmington's history, this can include private establishments like bars. 7 of the group's 11 goals mention tobacco or smoking. So, if we get this grant, it looks like we'll have five years of a couple of busy bodies bothering us to stop smoking.

I might take up smoking just so I can blow some in their faces.

Other goals include: "increase the number of convenience stores that increase the availability of fresh produce and decrease the availability of sugar-sweetened beverages"; and "increase the number of communities that implement comprehensive plans for land use and transportation." Yup, more zoning and public transportation. That's what's good for you.

Make no mistake, this is all fueled by Obamacare. It even mentions that it should try to achieve goals as laid out in the Affordable Care Act.


Apparently, NHC's code violations are too expensive to go before a Small Claims judge. So what did NHC do this week? Made it easier to take violators to court.

We changed the fines from $200 to a $100/day fine for a first offenses. For a third offense, it's now $300/day down from $500.

Again, it's explicitly mentioned that this isn't to go easier on people; it's to be able to take them to court more easily.

We also added the section: "The zoning official may withhold or deny any permit, certificate, occupancy, or other form of authorization on any land, building sign, structure, or use in which there is an uncorrected violation."

Yup, a zoning official can now kick you out of ...wherever if there's some code violation, including if there's something wrong with your building sign.

Welcome to the Fascist States of United America.


Apparently, the county licenses electricians, plumbers and mechanics. They probably license more occupations, but those were the only ones mentioned.

Here is a description of the general powers of these licensing boards:
Brief on Functions: To issue certificates to all persons who (1) provide satisfactory evidence to the Board regarding their training and education; (2) pass an examination administered by the Board, and (3) provide evidence of two years of experience in their perspective fields. To administer written or oral examination quarterly on the first Tuesday in January, April, July and October. The Board may revoke certificates and reinstate certificates in accordance with the County Code.
In case you don't know, licensing is a joke.

Why should the government be able to tell me who can work on my toilet? Frankly, I think I can make that decision myself.

The licensing board is also comprised of people who have an interest in the industry, so they're not exactly neutral. Not to impugn the integrity of the county's boards, but it's very possible a board could use its power to revoke a competitor's license.

I'm not sure if this licensing board was set up on the initiative of the state or county. My guess would be the state. But I certainly hope we use our authority to effectively deregulate these professions.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Wilmington Baseball Stadium: THE FACTS

In response to the local media scrambling to give wall-to-wall above-the-fold coverage to the creation of the website; a mediocre little short stop (pun?) on the web openly and shamelessly begging for our local governments to pour out taxpayer dollars for the benefit of a few folks in the baseball biz. Local government doesn't spend a dime without such propaganda mills as the Star News cheer leading the effort, and doing what they can to handle the PR and advertising of such ventures for the benefit of the city council.

With that said, consider some truth and research from a website with probably over a thousand times the popularity and return visits than the aforementioned one, but as usual, sure to be ignored by the press - even though we know they read the Wilmington Watcher on a regular basis.

Taxpayer-funded stadiums are nothing new. They have been done over and over again; every new guy to come on the scene with a new plan thinks he is going to build the better mousetrap, and inevitably failing in the end; the taxpayers left holding the bag, as usual.

Here is some data for those interested in holding an educated debate and position on the subject. For those who simply keep muttering the mantra about baseball on the river, and constantly closing their eyes dreaming of the publicly-funded smell of roasted peanuts, carry on.

Thanks to Tom Looney for sharing:

"Taxpayer-subsidized Sports Facilities: Who Pays, Who Wins?" While the beginning of this article provides an argument against sports stadiums, the bulk of this document consists of an extensive bibliography of articles and books that deal with this issue.

• Joanna Cagan and Neil Demause, "Field of Schemes" This web site contains information on the current status of sports stadiums that are being built or rebuilt using public subsidies. As the title of this website suggests, the authors are opposed to the use of public subsidies for these projects. Of particular interest is their page entitled: "The Sports Swindle Ticker."

• Daniel Sutter, "Public Subsidies for Sports Stadiums Don't Spur Economic Growth" In this Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs article, Daniel Sutter provides a critical examination of the use of subsidies for the construction of new stadiums. He argues that the construction of new stadiums diverts consumer spending from other forms of entertainment without increasing the total level of consumer spending.

• Ronald D. Utt, "Cities in Denial: The False Promise of Subsidized Tourist and Entertainment Complexes" In this October 2, 1998 Heritage Foundation Backgrounder, Ronald Utt argues that subsidized public investment in stadiums and similar tourist and entertainment facilities has not been a profitable strategy

• Heartland Institute, "Sports Stadium Madness" This website contains links to an extensive collection of studies that indicate that public investment in sports stadiums provide few benefits for municipalities.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Plans for a Baseball Stadium Move Forward

With the taxpayer stuck in the gears.

Construction work is beginning on the site that could be the home of a baseball stadium in downtown Wilmington.

Crews are tearing down an abandoned building at the corner of Front and Brunswick streets.

The developer, Chuck Schoninger, who owns the property, is paying for the demolition.

Hotels and restaurants are to be built at the location, even if plans for a baseball stadium don't move forward.

Even if they don't move forward? How long has Schoninger had this property? Why is he moving forward with it now? Are we really supposed to believe it has nothing to do with the baseball stadium?

Thursday, January 5, 2012

An Open Letter to the Wilmington City Council

Dear Members of the Wilmington City Council:

Your continued pursuit of objectives detrimental to our city's financial health; as well as your unyielding efforts to indebt taxpayers beyond solvency are duly noted. Your message of indifference to those whom you fear no reprisal that live only a doorstep away from the new city limits, and your sheer contempt for their rational concerns is understood as well. Your stubborn quest to engage in a massive spending plan in order to benefit a few who share baseball as a personal hobby is registered. And your collective failures to consider the best interest of the citizens who fund your self-absorbed gravy train is completely recognized.

Now, a response from one of the 15% who vote in the city; and one of the 5% of that, who are not already loyally tied to one or more of your campaigns at election time.

You are not leaders. You are not visionaries. You are not statesmen. You are puppets and hacks who use your office for personal gain. You embarrassingly whore yourselves out to special interest, and to any entrepreneur or investor that catches your eye with a flash of quick cash. You are easily bought and swayed by the allure of money and power. You have absolutely no integrity, and no honorable intentions. Our city hangs its head in shame that we have such simple children empowered to take and spend our money at will. The common thread across everything that you stand for and commit to, is that it must be a great opportunity, simply because it isn't your money.

True leaders would tell anyone interested in building a baseball stadium here in Wilmington that we have a great city we are proud of, and to feel free to come here and spend 100% of your own money to purchase the land, and build and operate the park. But instead, you drool and roll over, anxiously willing to shovel mountains of other people's money to anyone who charms you with simple, empty rhetoric. Like handing a child's kaleidoscope to a tribe of island natives who have never been exposed to any element of modern civilization, your eyes gleam in wide-eyed fascination.

True leaders would tell a developer asking to be annexed in order to fulfill his plans of development that it could be considered, but the best interest of the citizens in the affected area is the foremost priority. But instead, you drool and roll over, only thinking of more revenue to hurry up and waste on the next fruitless endeavor.

True leaders would never willingly and arrogantly suffer the citizens animosity between their local governments who they need working together for their best interest. But instead, you drool and roll over, selling our city piecemeal to an out of state developer charming your simple minds with a small amount of cash, in spite of the damaging implications to local government diplomacy.

Your convention center is a laughable insolvent failure that will forever mark your legacy. Our downtown area does not have the infrastructure to support more of this nonsense. We are in debt to the tune of tens of millions of dollars, and cannot afford more. But you will doggedly and capriciously pursue your selfish wishes with sheer antipathy toward reality and restraint.

You have no clue how an economy works. None of your spending of our money creates economic opportunity. Your arrogance precedes your every intention by believing that you can spend my money better than I can. Your spending first requires the confiscation of money out of citizens' pockets - money otherwise used to stimulate the local economy in an organic manner. Taxpayer money that you spend is absorbed - it doesn't multiply; and worse, it has to be paid back with interest, further creating an economic vacuum. I am amazed at your lack of intelligence and understanding of this matter. If government spending creates prosperity, then why not confiscate 100% of citizens' wealth; build 100 baseball stadiums, 100 extra parks, 100 extra bike paths, and 100 new convention centers? Think of all the wonderful prosperity then!

Mr. Anderson, a few short weeks ago, you didn't support taxpayer dollars going to a baseball stadium. You are obviously a quick study in the ways of the collective mentality of the city council, and have no doubt made your comrades proud. Please change your party affiliation immediately, and make it official that you are a defiant and progressive statist like your counterparts. Your personal legacy is shaping up to be one who is an utterly disingenuous hack.

Ms. Haynes, for someone who constantly believes that she is the most educated and intellectual person in any room she walks into, you seriously lack an understanding of basic economics and representative government. You arrogantly refer to those such as myself, who prefer government to be run like a business when you distort such an idea when it matches your wishes; yet you would never opt for running our government like a true business, which would entail constantly thinking of fiscal efficiencies, cuts in spending, and true innovation. A well-run business would never make the failed investments that this council is known for, that accomplish nothing except magically make mountains of "free" money disappear forever.

Mr. O'Grady, you feign offense at anything that implicates you in any behavior or thinking less than stellar excellency, yet you lead the pack in promoting the message that our city is, in fact, for sale. You have stated that the baseball stadium can only work with taxpayer dollars being sunk into it - I would challenge that in saying why don't you invest your money into it instead, since it is such a winning proposition? I won't wait for that to happen however.

Mr. Rivenbark, Ms. Padgett, and Mr. Saffo, if the baseball stadium, or any other big ticket hobby item is such a wonderful investment, why aren't you the first one in line to pony up your own cash? Every one of the "great opportunities" that you support find you mysteriously missing from putting up your own money to cash in on the great investment you promise they will bring. Why is that? Because I know it's not because you are full of it. You have told us that the convention center was one of those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities and investments that will reap dividends for generations to come - and yet, only in its infancy, it stands as an utter failure of government, rife with debt, seeded with malfeasance, and completely insolvent for decades to come. Simple math indicates that the ROT funds do not come anywhere close to paying the total annual costs associated with it operation, and that general fund dollars are quietly filtered into it - but you evade and conceal this fact from the public, one of the few things that you do well.

Mr. Sheridan, before you is always the opportunity to stand out from the go-along crowd and speak up for the best interest of those you are supposed to serve. Time and time again, you fail that challenge, opting instead to appease those you serve with, rather than think outside of the prevailing mentality.

As a council, your collective legacy is nothing more than an abject dereliction of duty. As usual, I expect no response, and nothing to change. Citizens expressing disdain for your decisions has never had an impact on you, and that surely isn't going to change anytime soon. But know that not all of us are simply hypnotized, and thereby disengaged, by celebrities on TV pretending to dance, or morons trying to sing, or next month's issue of US Weekly. Some of us are paying attention to true matters of importance, and will do all we can to remove you from office for your contemptible failure to truly represent the citizen, and be humble stewards of their money.

We have a wonderful city in spite of you - not because of you. As a proud Wilmingtonian, I will do all I can to restore honor, dignity, and restraint to our local government, before you run it into the ground, and completely bankrupt us all.