Brains, anyone?

It was a good weekend for zombies and the GOP.

The non-stop spate of movies about the living dead, slashers, predators and merciless aliens broadcast over the Halloween weekend certainly captured the seeming philosophy of the Grand Obstructionist Party as we head into the Nov. 2 election.

The only thing that differs from the current GOP and Tea Party and the horror movies is that at least the zombies want brains – the Republicans and Sarah Palin and her ilk don’t seem to be interested in brains at all, from what I’ve heard of their positions on issues. Looking forward and connecting the dots just are not activities they have time for.

They don’t like the health care bill. Does that mean they do like having 30 million Americans unable to obtain health services because the insurance companies won’t even give them the time of day? The GOP has always been less concerned with the well-being of society and more concerned about holding onto wealth and power, but that seems a bit callous even for them.
Tea Partiers don’t like the direction in which the country is headed and yet they are likely to turn the bus over to the party that started us down this road? I can hear Carl Rove and Dubya cackling in the background at the knowledge that they have yet again jerked around American voters.

Recent polls indicate that GOP lawmakers get about a 27 percent approval rating among Americans. And yet voters are ready to turn the government over to the feckless Republicans because they are angry at Obama. Much of the anger that has infused this election season is grossly misplaced. The stagnant economy isn’t Obama’s fault – he’s just in office to try to clean up the mess left him by eight years of Republican mismanagement and social myopia. How is continuing tax breaks to those who make less than $250,000 a year an outrageous idea? And they think the GOP will reduce the size of the federal government? Pul-leeze!

I fully expect to wake up on Wednesday morning to a re-zombiefied America, one that will continue to stumble blindly toward a food source that includes brains. Too bad they can’t take a minute to use those brains to find a better course.

–Don Evans

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  1. Steve Brown

     /  November 1, 2010

    I for one am VERY hopeful that the incumbents, republican and democrat alike, are defeated in large numbers tomorrow.

    And I hope that the Republicans regain control of the House and Senate to moderate the Obama administration’s agenda.

  2. Don Evans

     /  November 1, 2010

    I’m just as frustrated with the incumbents, too, but I’m convinced that letting the Repubs back into the store would just prolong the current economic disaster. What’s needed is some leadership, not partisanship, and ideas that will get this country moving forward for the common weal, not backward. I don’t think the morally bankrupt GOP has any of that to offer and is instead preying on the voters’ fears and frustrations.

    And the Democrats seem to be just plain incompetent and almost as morally suspect.

    It’s a very sad situation and definitely does not bode well for our nation.

  3. Steve Brown

     /  November 1, 2010

    On a local level, the liberals are as corrupt as anywhere. In today’s news, the purchase of land in Carrboro for a new Orange County library is announced. In the announcement the town staff is quoted as planning to use the new 1/4 cent tax revenues to pay for the library design. Where was that listed as one of the uses for the tax? Nowhere. They LIED!

    And even more ironic is they are closing a dental clinic because it cost $60 a year and shelling out $600k for land only for the library. Lord only knows what the operating costs will be, Chapel Hill library is $2m per year.

    This county is bound to wind up taxed and spent to death. All the poor folk will wind up in neighboring counties. It is already 2/3 of the way there.

  4. Don Evans

     /  November 1, 2010

    That’s pretty brazen. The story is on the Chapel Hill News Web site. Here’s a quote from the county manager, Frank Clifton: “[The] quarter cent sales tax might fund the design of the property. Once the referendum is over, we’ll know what revenue streams we have.”

    I thought the quarter-cent sales tax hike was to go for business and education. That’s how the county has characterized it in trying to sell it to the voters. There’s no way I vote for the tax hike!

    And of I’m a Chapel Hill Town Council member who has had to listen the county commissioners plead poverty when asked to ante up for our town library, I’d be pretty steamed right now.

  5. Steve, the 1/4 cent sales tax said 7.5% will be used for libraries ( The BoCC has said for years that they want to increase access in the southern part of the county. How exactly is it lying to put those 2 together?

    As far as operating costs, while I’m sure there will be some increase, there will also be savings from closing the McDougal branch and the Carrboro Cybrary.

  6. Steve brown

     /  November 1, 2010

    That is the first time I have read that. And if 15 percent of 2mil or 300k is going to libraries and ems I can tell you that the high falutin architects they use around here will leave enough money for the ems to buy some air for their ambulance and no more. How did a new library become a priority anyway?

    And I will bet there is no way they will stick to their claimed percentage contribution. This whole thing smells of an attempt to stick it to chapel hill and pull their funding (which should be done).

    It really does not matter to me because I buy

  7. Steve brown

     /  November 1, 2010

    Oops – everything except some of my groceries in Durham since there is nowhere to shop in my kind of stores in Orange County. So tax away, commissioners, it ain’t coming from me.

  8. That’s %7.5 of a possible $2.3M or $172K split amongst multiple library projects (including, I would expect, the Chapel Hill subsidy – promised to rise to some extent).

    The sales tax sales job has been quite disappointing – the rhetoric cynical given the reality. While the Chamber led the way with their sponsored effort, the money funding highlights who stands to gain: $5000 from the NC Realtors, $1000 from the Chamber and $250 from Frank Clifton (I’ll credit him for putting his money where his mouth is).

    The $5000 from the NC Realtors surely wants the thrust on schools – it’s the main calling card for this community. The money raised is a pittance against the already incredible funding the community provides (not to even start with more money equals better results). The money is supposed to go to fixing the schools – not a lot of talk about where the lottery proceeds earmarked for that purpose went.

    Jobs is equally a cynical sales job. Instead of committing the bulk funds to projects with measurable goals – like existing infrastructure needs – the money is to be split across the “same old, same old” that hasn’t done much to decrease the ratio of commercial vs. residential tax revenues let alone foster real jobs growth (if it wasn’t for UNC and UNC healthcare our jobs picture, even before the downturn, was absolutely miserable). Orange Justice United was suckered into supporting the Jobs provision under the mistaken assumption the folks in Efland, who really do need a way out of their sewer nightmare, would get assistance in the form of a sewer extension to Mebane. As Bernadette Pelissier clearly said

    “none of the money from the tax, if passed, would directly go to the sewer system in Efland.” She said if the sales tax is passed, the Board of Orange County Commissioners might install a commercial sewage system along the Interstates 40 and 85 corridor, which would connect businesses as well as the Efland community to Mebane’s sewer system.

    The EMS portion is needed no doubt but it is troubling that this core need is only to be addressed if the sales tax goes through. What the heck happen to priorities? I’ve heard the EMS folks make excellent presentations calling for funding these needs for years and years – to hold out the sales tax as the only way to address them shows some serious lack of leadership.

    Finally, beyond the recent funding priority surprises – dropping the dental program (among others) without finding another southern home, purchasing land for a new library instead of looking at using existing resources – like the Jobs Link center on Franklin – we only have to look at how the County uses unanticipated funds in this economic climate to get a sense of the true priorities. The County recently refinanced some of its debt freeing up $4.6M ( Will any of that money go to the incredible backlog of human services requests or to finding a southern home for the dental program/guardian program/etc.? No.

    I appreciate the BOCC telling how the money will be spent. Thank you! But, I also was hoping they would put the lions share into addressing the needs of folks who are struggling the most – that near 1 in 5 of our Orange County residents in poverty. The BOCC, instead, sugar-coated the referendum with promises of jobs and better education – spending that will be diluted and not have the laser-like focus to make true change happen.

    Given that, tomorrow, I’m voting NO for the sales tax in hopes that we will get another chance to set the priorities for that spending, that the new priority will be waited heavily towards addressing human service needs and that core needs – like EMS – be paid out of core monies in the budget.

  9. Fred Black

     /  November 1, 2010

    I favor the tax increase over the other alternative. The State allowed each County to pass a quarter cent sales and use tax or a transfer tax, but not both. Only property owners pay the transfer tax; our visitors will kick in on the sales tax, as they consume our services.

  10. Fred, another reason I suspect the NC Realtors sponsored the 1/4 cent sales tax – to take the land transfer tax off the table. A heck of a lot cheaper than running the kind of campaign they did when the transfer tax came up (much easier to wrap up in feel good propaganda that it’s “for the kids”).

    We’ll have to see if this really forestalls a property tax increase.

  11. Steve brown

     /  November 1, 2010

    Of course to an orange progressive, the “neither tax” option is unimaginable.

  12. Fred Black

     /  November 1, 2010

    Will – I have no idea what it will do with respect to a property tax, only that if it passes the County can’t do a transfer tax.

    Mr. Steve brown – You love to label people and from what I have observed you have no idea about who you are labeling and little about them.

  13. Steve Brown

     /  November 1, 2010

    And you love to make the personal attack, Mr. Black.

  14. Fred Black

     /  November 1, 2010

    Please show me a person attack in what I wrote.

  15. Fred, unfortunately one of the selling points has been that passing this sales tax will help hold the line on property taxes. That has seemed to be the case elsewhere though those counties present a distinct blueberry to pineapple type comparison.

    As you know, raising revenues is just part of the process. Picking priorities is more important – a strong indicator of the direction we’re traveling in. What I’ve seen is a bias towards projects with uncertain returns at the cost of leaving core and vitally needed County functions unfunded. Whether it is $2.3 million from the sales tax or a one-time $4.6 million windfall from refinancing existing debt – how the money is spent says way more than how we got it.

    The proposed economic development spending is generally for vague purposes with uncertain return or for purposes that haven’t generated the outcomes we desire. I did find some of the planned infrastructure improvements attractive – supported them on economic and social justice grounds – but that, as Bernadette highlighted, isn’t a given.

    The money allocated for schools is targeted to some of the same areas that the lottery was supposed to address. Where did the lottery funds go then? An interesting nuance to the school spending is an added level of oversight by the BOCC is dispensing the funds. First, the BOCC will determine if a project qualifies. Second, the disbursement is based on the BOCC’s discretion and won’t necessarily align with per capita enrollment or even by district (the county schools could get all %47.5, etc.).

    Until we take a laser like focus on economic development, funding projects with known outcomes and reasonable risks, the money allocated from the sales tax will not have the desired effect.

    The $1,100,000 allocated to two school districts that are already funded at $85+ M ($25M for the county/$60+ million CHCS), that already get lottery monies ($1.3M to $1.7M for CHCS) targeted to some of the same overlapping needs, will not have as a dramatic impact than if it was spent on human services.

    Poverty is on a steep uptick in Orange County. Demand for health and welfare services is at an all time high. Long needed structural shifts – from fully staffing our community health system to stepping up shifting the emergency homeless shelter burden off the IFC – are not occurring supposedly due to fiscal difficulties at the County level. Yet, when presented with $2.3M from a sales tax or $4.6M from refinancing, the BOCC chose areas outside that need.

    I appreciate the BOCC making a somewhat firm commitment to spending priorities – I just don’t support the same set of priorities. The BOCC has been clear, as they should be, that this firm commitment is for 5 years and will not change – period. The BOCC has also reaffirmed their stance that this new revenue will not replace existing revenue or cover existing expenses – it is new money for a new purpose – meaning that funds will not be freed up elsewhere that could be redirected to human services.

    The only mechanism to rebalance the spending priorities, then, is not to pass the sales tax now and rework the allocations next round. The risk is if the sales tax fails this round then it will fail next time.

    I imagine that most folks aren’t as sensitive as I am to the spending priorities and will probably fall for the cursory and incorrect assertion that the sales tax will really do something for jobs and education. From what I can tell, most don’t realize that the BOCC could reflect on the growing, looming demand on services and come back with a better solution.

    Of course, this is a lousy year to raise any kind of tax – no matter how small the bite. Maybe it will fail for that reason alone.

  16. Terri Buckner

     /  November 1, 2010

    On the other hand Will, if we don’t pass this tax this year, we continue on with aging school buildings full of mold, leaking energy, and wasting water. I appreciate and value all the time you spend reviewing the documentation and I’m very sorry to hear that the promise to use this tax on school maintenance and economic development is false. But perhaps a better approach is to pass the tax and then hold the BOCC responsible for adhering to their promises.

  17. Terri, of course we need to fix those issues, why did we wait until the sales tax came around? If that’s the priority surely the BOCC can make a case for using the $4.6M refinancing savings for that purpose (this, of course, begs the question of why these issues grew over time). Dealing with these facility issues should not have had to wait for a 1/4 cent sales tax – why has it?

    Finally, I never said that the claims are false, just that the proposals are fairly squishy – some concentrate on failed efforts – and that the need to fund human services – where the money could have so much greater impact – is of paramount importance for at least the next few years.

    Fred, as you can read from the CHN guest editorial, there are a lot of mights and maybes.

    For instance, when they argue “This is why Orange County must begin investing in water, sewer and other utility infrastructure in the Buckhorn and Eno Economic Development Districts (EDDs) now, and why we need to adopt a Unified Development Ordinance that streamlines project permitting. The proposed sales tax increase will allow Orange County to get our EDDs market-ready by making infrastructure investments.” they are on target. The cost of those infrastructure improvements are fairly well understood, the upgrades needed to spur economic interest (where were these folks when it was suggested that building the trash transfer station on the Eno Economic Development zone would also spur these infrastructure improvements?).

    The problem? The referendum we are voting makes no such guarantee. Bernadette said as much on Saturday.

    The revolving loan program – targeted towards local business, not emulating the State’s big corporate giveaways (incentives) – is another tool that could be useful. Problem? The dimensions of the program, the qualifications for getting the money, etc. haven’t been worked out. It’s difficult to support a program that only exists as a concept.

    Fred, I want to see a set of spending priorities that maximizes the impact of the (eventual) $2.3M. Of the spending priorities associated with the referendum, I would classify bringing the EMS service times down and dealing with the Efland sewer issues as falling within the human services category. I want to see a different tack on economic development – the revolving loan and EDD prep work fits that bill – but $1.1M is not a big impetus.

    On the other hand, a good chunk of that $2.3M would address some key problems in our county. The needs are understood. The service mechanisms are in-place but underfunded. Increasing the outlay would have immediate and direct impact on folks that are really struggling.

  18. Steve Brown

     /  November 2, 2010

    Mr. Black: Telling me I have no idea about something I am talking about is insulting. You have insulted me. It is appalling to me that you do not recognize this.

  19. Terri Buckner

     /  November 2, 2010

    Will–have you ever seen a line item for lifetime maintenance included in a new construction budget? We build first and assume that maintenance will follow. Orange County is not alone is that failure to plan for the future.

  20. WJ

     /  November 5, 2010

    “the Republicans and Sarah Palin and her ilk don’t seem to be interested in brains at all”

    It is your take that all Republicans are stupid? People who disagree with your proposed solutions have no brains? And you used to be a journalist ?? All I can say is wow, how close-minded and intolerant.

  21. Don Evans

     /  November 5, 2010


    I’d say “close-minded and intolerant” and in need of a brain applies to the party whose leadership refused to meet with Obama even after he extended an invitation to talk over issues at the beginning of his term.

    I would never call all Republicans stupid, as you mistakenly allege, or brainless. Just wish they’d use what brains they have to think beyond their obstructionist philosophy and reflect on the consequences of their actions — or inactions.

    It will be very interesting to see whether the post-election GOP is ready to work on the nation’s problems or just keep to the script of seeing to it that Obama is a one-term president, regardless of what problems need to be addressed.