It doesn’t happen often, so relish the chance to say the following: Rick Martinez, the arch-conservative columnist for Raleigh’s News & Observer is right — or, at least , mostly.  

Martinez’ column this morning rightfully takes the General Assembly to task for its absurd meddling in the business of local governments — most notably the ridiculous plans to rig the elections for the Wake County School Board and cancel the Dix Park deal.  

While the column is far from perfect — Martinez slices the baloney too thin and attempts to distiguish between the election rigging plan and the equally absurd effort to give Wake Commissioners control over school facilities and also includes inaccurate digs at the current school board’s policies and the substance of the Dix deal — it’s on the money on the basic premise.

Let’s hope his friends on the far right aren’t too drunk with power to pay attention.


It was one of the many great ironies associated with controversy surrounding the issue of fracking in North Carolina that so-called conservatives opposed efforts during the 2012 legislative session to include stronger protections for landowners.

As you may recall, it was mostly conservative supporters of the fracking industry who opposed efforts to include language in fracking legislation that would have made it easier for private landowners to avoid the phenomenon known as “forced pooling” (i.e. the notion that landowners can be forced to enter into leases to sell their gas rights). Mind you, many of these same people are some of the most ardent supporters of “property rights” when it comes to things like municipal annexation.

Now comes word from Pennsylvania of a battle in which the fracking industry is butting up against another traditionally conservative ideal: local control. Read More


The tide of anti-tax sentiment may finally be ebbing here in North Carolina.

Voters in six North Carolina counties went to the polls this year to vote on increasing the local sales tax rate to support public investments in education, economic development, and transit.  In all six cases, voters approved adding a quarter-cent or more to the local sales tax rate.

Last night, voters in four North Carolina counties — Buncombe, Durham, Montgomery, and Orange — approved raising the local sales tax rate.  Those approvals come on the heels of two successful sales tax referenda in Cabarrus and Halifax counties earlier this year.

These results contrast sharply with similar referenda in recent years.  Last year, amidst the rise of the anti-tax Tea Party, voters in 16 North Carolina counties rejected increasing the local sales tax to fund public investments.  Only in seven counties did voters approve adding a quarter-cent to the local sales tax, and none of those approvals came during the November election. Read More


Last night, the Greenville City Council voted to ask the North Carolina General Assembly for the right to explore voter-owned elections at the local level. The city joins Wilmington (February) and Raleigh (January) in adopting such a measure.

Voter-owned elections are a proven method of dislodging special interest money from the political process, and empowering citizen participation in democracy. The idea is that candidates should get their campaign money from small donors in their constituency, as well as a public fund, rather than soliciting big money contributions that often come with strings attached.

In 2009, the Town of Chapel Hill became the first community east of the Mississippi to conduct a voter-owned election; the top 2 vote-getters were both voter-owned.

Currently, cities must ask the state for special permission even to consider campaign reform. But with more and more communities joining the chorus for change, the legislature has every reason to grant them reform authority in the upcoming short session.