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Entries for 2010

03
In the next few weeks, Governor Perdue will make a decision that could determine whether she is reelected in two years.
 
She can go either of two ways in handling the budget and the new Republican legislature.
 
She could work with the Republicans to cut nearly $4 billion. The political goal there would be to show that she can get things done with the other party.
 
Or she could draw a line in the sand and fight. She could say that cutting $4 billion would cause too much damage to education and human services. She could propose extending the temporary sales tax – or even other tax increases – to make up part of the gap.
 
The latter may never pass, of course. That’s not the point. The question is whether fighting on principle is better for her – and for the state – than going along with cuts she believes are too damaging.
 
What she can’t do is have it both ways. According to WCNC News in Charlotte, she said this week that “business leaders are looking to invest in states that invest in their own education, and that for North Carolina to stay competitive, it cannot continue to slash funding for education.”
 
She can’t say that this week and go along with deep cuts next year.
 
She’s already in a hole. The contingency cuts that she asked state agencies to make are already being seen as “the Governor’s budget cuts.”
 
A big part of her political problem is that voters – whatever their party and ideology – don’t have a clear picture of her and what she stands for.
 
This could be her last chance to change that image – or cement it.
 

 

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02
The other day Governor Perdue climbed on a jet airliner and flew to New York and drove straight to billionaire Ron Perelman’s Manhattan office and held a campaign fundraiser. 
 
Now why is a Wall Street tycoon raising money in Manhattan for the Governor?  Well, the News and Observer points out Mr. Perelman sits on the Board of Scientific Games, the lottery vender that tried to get Jim Black to appoint one of its consultants to the board that grants State Lottery contracts.
 
In fact, they almost pulled it off:  Black did appoint Kevin Geddings (who hid his ties to Scientific Games) which would have given Scientific Games the inside track on contracts – until the News and Observer blew the whistle and the cabal unraveled.
 
Now the Governor is raising money from these same folks, saying, Well, they aren’t after any North Carolina contracts right now.
 
The Governor appoints five of the nine lottery commissioners and she’s sent Republicans a clear message with her latest fundraiser:  Pay to play politics is alive and well in North Carolina.
 
Republican legislators ought to send her a message back: By banning ‘gaming’ corporations whose directors contribute to North Carolina politicians (like candidates for governor) from bidding on state lottery contracts.
 

 

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02
Transitions are when winners strive to show they’re ready to take over.
 
As Senator Richard Stevens of Cary, co-chairman of the Senate transition team, told the N&O, "The goal is to be ready day one."
 
Rob Christensen reported that “Republicans are hiring staff, choosing committees and committee chairmen.”
 
They set up eight policy committees. They plan meetings this month with legislative staff, state agencies and interest groups. They may hold town hall meetings across the state. They’ll even meet with Democrats!
 
The activity – and the publicity about it – reflects the importance of what the Republicans are about to undertake.
 
If they can successfully navigate this $4 billion budget-cutting storm and bring both the ship of state and their political vessel safely to shore, they could be in power for years to come.
 
But it’s not easy sailing. Dangerous currents, underwater hazards and determined foes await them.
 
If they fail, their voyage in power could be cut short.
 

 

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01
Governor Hunt and I were in Wilmington last night for a book signing, which one TV station used to pursue a feud they apparently have with Governor Perdue over her accessibility to the media, or lack thereof.
 
The same day, I got a call from a veteran Raleigh reporter complaining about the Governor: “I could see Mike Easley easier than I can see her!”
 
Accessibility is an issue every Governor and his or her communications staff wrestles with.
 
The Raleigh reporter said: “They talk to us only when she has something to say, not when I want to ask her questions.”
 
When I was Governor Hunt’s press secretary, from 196 to 1984, we had a policy of total accessibility. He would talk to reporters pretty much whenever they asked. In turn, we never hesitated to call them when he wanted to say something.
 
In his last two terms, during the ‘90s, his staff wanted a more controlled approach. I went along.
 
In retrospect, I think I was right the first time around.
 
There’s a value in answering tough questions. You learn a lot. You get sharper and better. You stay on your toes.
 
Of course, that opinion may also come from getting older and, I hope, wiser. I get less upset about one bad story than I used to. There’s always going to be another day, another story, another issue of the paper and another broadcast.

 

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30
Some folks are wondering if North Korea’s ship sinking and cannon firing (into South Korea) is their idea of extortion – that this is the latest episode of North Korea growling and snapping like a pit bull, which will be followed by the Chinese brokering a deal and extracting another pound of flesh out of our economic hide where we buy North Korea off and give them a bribe to behave for awhile. 
 
On the other hand killing South Korean sailors and blowing up civilians with artillery bombardments isn’t normal behavior even for North Koreans. Both were acts of war. So it’s possible instead of being blackmailers the North Koreans are just plain crazy.
 
The President – sending North Korea a message of his own – has sent the nuclear aircraft carrier George Washington sailing straight up to North Korea’s door step. And Hillary has gone to the Chinese, again, asking them to rein in their pit bull, but this time instead of accommodating us the Chinese have announced they don’t want our aircraft carrier in the Yellow Sea either.
 
So, now, we’ve got an unreliable ally – the Chinese – on one side and a pit bull (who’s either belligerent or crazy or both) on the other and the George Washington sailing straight at both of them and let’s hope the North Koreans are blackmailers because we may find ourselves fighting a war in the Yellow Sea if they’re crazy.

 

 

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29
Last week in Washington Republicans voted to ban ‘earmarks.’ Then a few days later the press asked Minnesota Congressman Michelle Bachman (a heroine of the Tea party) about the new transportation bill – a traditional source of earmarks for Congressmen – and Representative Bachman said she could see allowing some local transportation projects to ‘get through.’
 
Of course the press pounced. Because Republicans didn’t run against ‘bad earmarks’ and for ‘good earmarks’ – they ran against earmarks period.
 
Beyond that the problem with earmarks is they’re the currency of Congressional vote buying:  Congressman Jones wants to pass a budget busting transportation bill so he says to Congressman Smith, I’ll put an ‘earmark’ for you in it – in exchange for your vote. Then he says the same thing to 433 other Congressmen and in the blink of an eye ‘earmarks’ turn into a form of fiscal hari-kari.

 

 

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29
Want to know what North Carolina’s electorate will look like in another, say, 10 years?
 
Look at what the public-school population looks like.
 
The N&O reported recently that, for the first time, minorities make up a majority of the WakeCounty school population.
 
And note: Hispanic students, now 14.6 percent of the enrollment are “the fastest-growing group in the school system.”
 
Wait ‘til they start voting. The Republican Party will pay a price for years of immigrant-bashing.
 

 

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25
Ten years ago this month, Mike Easley was elected Governor of North Carolina. Today … well, you know.
 
I’ve been reminding people this week that I was a Dennis Wicker man in the 2000 Democratic primary.
 
Despite that, I never disliked Easley. But I recall one thing from the campaign that may have been a warning sign.
 
From the start, Easley had a big lead over Wicker in the polls. One reason was that he had appeared in a series of public-service ads on TV – paid through the Attorney General’s Office, not campaign funds.
 
We thought that was a bit questionable. But we never got much traction on the issue in the media.
 
Some of Easley’s harsher critics thought his luck, wit and charm helped him get away with it.
 
Maybe it would have been better if he hadn’t.

 

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25
A reader passed along my post on taxes – “A Whiff of a Waffle” (see below) – to Senator Phil Berger.
 
The reader received this response from the incoming Senate leader: “No waffle.  No extension of temporary taxes. Phil.”
 
All righty, then.
 

 

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24
The Mike Easley affair had so much foreplay and so little climax that everybody was left frustrated.
 
His enemies gripe that he got a slap on the wrist. His lawyer says he was “trashed” by The News & Observer. The N&O’s editor fervently defends the coverage.
 
After nearly two years of big investigations, blaring headlines and breathless anticipation, it all came down to Easley’s campaign failing to properly report one helicopter flight.
 
Yes, the former Governor did a lot of things that don’t look good and that his friends regret. But the crime, in the end, was a campaign reporting violation.
 
Speaker-to-be Thom Tillis said “this is a sad day,” but got in a partisan dig: “I have been here [in the capital] for four years, and I have seen four high-ranking Democrats go to jail or receive convictions….”
 
Hold the mayo, Mr. Speaker – and all the powers-to-be. Think about this.
 
You are now assuming positions of power and prominence. Moving into a world where a hyper-vigilant media – not to mention hostile Democrats, campaign-reform zealots and various freelance bloggers and watchdogs – will scrutinize your every move.
 
A world where the campaign-reporting laws are strict, fast-changing and apparently confusing. And where, by the way, making a mistake is a felony.
 
The old saying is that a DA can indict a ham sandwich if he wants. He apparently can indict you for not reporting a ham sandwich, too.
 
Welcome to Raleigh. Hope you all know a good lawyer.
 

 

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