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.

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