Another day, another story about a fat cat McCrory contributor getting special treatment

Pat McCrory 4Got a traffic problem in your neighborhood? No problem, just call Gov. McCrory!

In case you missed it over the weekend, Raleigh’s News & Observer has yet another story about a campaign contributor to Pat McCrory getting special treatment. In this case, it appears a new Highway Patrol campaign to crack down on sleeping truckers was spurred by complaints from the owner of a winery (and McCrory campaign contributor) who kept seeing sleeping truckers parked along the highway exit he uses in Surry County. This is from “McCrory donor sparked Highway Patrol campaign against napping truckers”:

“[Charlie] Shelton says he met with McCrory in February or early March to express concern about truckers who park along the ramps up and down I-77.

‘It’s unsightly,’ Shelton, 80, said in an interview. “It’s against the law to park a tractor-trailer and go to sleep there and throw your trash out on the road. …

‘I asked to talk with him about it, and I spent a little time explaining it to him. And that’s when he got the troopers involved and the DOT involved.’

Of course, none of this is at all surprising. North Carolinians have long known that fat cat political contributors get special access to a lot of politicians and McCrory is clearly no exception. Still, the stories coming out of the Guv’s office of late are so blatant and, well, small-time (can’t the man at least save his interventions for something a little more weighty than a penny ante prison contract and traffic on a highway exit ramp?) as to be almost pathetic.

The bottom line: North Carolina must get back on the road to public campaign financing that it was traveling before Republicans took power five years ago. The only way to break the stranglehold that big money has on our political and lawmaking processes and to put an end to the kind of embarrassing corruption stories that keep emanating from the McCrory administration is to have voter owned elections. Let’s hope it doesn’t require criminal justice system involvement of the kind that sent former Speaker Jim Black to jail to make such change a reality.

Click here to read the entire N&O story.


Was Tata’s past the reason for his swift departure?

Anthony TataSunday’s big story in Raleigh’s News & Observer about former state Transportation Secretary Tony Tata and his personal troubles while serving in the military — which included being found to have committed adultery more than once in violation of military law and the discovery of a phony/forged court document filed on his behalf that was never explained  — came to public light less than two months after the former general’s sudden departure from state government.

What was unclear from the story was whether the uncovering of Tata’s troubled past had anything to do with his sudden departure. Usually, when a cabinet-level secretary departs his or her job, there’s more than one day’s notice. As noted here back in July, however:

“Yesterday’s sudden resignation was par for the course with Tata. Rather than announcing a plan for resignation and transition to new leadership of the massive department, he made the event all about himself by simply up and quitting in one day without, apparently, even saying good bye.”
Now, knowing what we know, it seems just as likely that Tata’s sudden resignation was brought about by either his (or the McCrory administration’s) dawning awareness that the story of his past was about to blow. The Governor ought to come completely clean with the public and let us know what was really going on and when.

Who says the Pope-Civitas Institute is always wrong?

Tony Tata 2We’ve devoted a fair amount of space over the years to giving Francis DeLuca, the head of the Pope-Civitas Institute, heck for the many zany positions espouses.  Click here for a typical example from 2013.

That said, one has to admit that DeLuca made several solid points in a post last Friday in which he criticized former state Transportation Secretary Tony Tata. In a post which was entitled “Did Tony Tata Use His Office to Explore Running for Congress?” DeLuca launches several barbs.

In addition to blasting Tata’s swift departure from office as not comporting “with a position at this level nor how a career military person would handle himself,” DeLuca takes Tata to task for, effectively, assembling a campaign team in office and spending $140,000 of NCDOT dollars on a political consultant who would be a likely candidate to help him later in a run for congress.

All in all, it’s a rare departure from script for the hard right DeLuca and a welcome one. Click here to read the entire piece.



The nonsense surrounding Tata and his departure

Tony Tata 2If you’re looking for a powerful testimonial to the sorry state of both the policy and media worlds in modern North Carolina, you need look no further than the ridiculous hubbub surrounding yesterday’s sudden resignation of state Department of Transportation Secretary, Tony Tata.

The story begins with the bizarre fact that Tata was ever in the job in the first place. Not only did he come to it with almost zero experience in the field (and, indeed, hardly any experience of having lived in North Carolina), he was allowed to continue in the job and collect a full salary long after it became obvious that he was a part-time employee who devoted large blocks of his time to churning out schlocky pulp fiction and dispensing right-wing foreign policy bromides on Fox News. It’s also worth noting that this should have come as no surprise given that Tata’s term as Wake County schools superintendent followed the same pattern.

Yesterday’s sudden resignation was par for the course with Tata. Rather than announcing a plan for resignation and transition to new leadership of the massive department, he made the event all about himself by simply up and quitting in one day without, apparently, even saying good bye. Then, in his inimitable, self-promoting media hog style, Tata went on TV with multiple news hosts before the ink was dry on his resignation to talk about his novels and to contradict his statements from just last month that he had no interest in running for Congress. To make even matters even more absurd, speculation (which he hasn’t denied) has it that he’s considering a run against Republican incumbent Walter Jones, Jr. of eastern North Carolina — this despite the fact that Tata (who’s registered as unaffiliated) does not and has not ever lived in Jones’ district.

But what really served as icing on the cake of yesterday’s nonsense was the fawning behavior of the Raleigh media which was more than happy to abet Tata’s self-promotion. First, WRAL’s lead news anchor David Crabtree went to the trouble of conducting a lengthy interview with the guy — when has this ever happened before with a departing state cabinet secretary (even one who accomplished something and was truly dedicated to his or her job)? As an aside, at least Crabtree pushed Tata on the suddenness of his departure — a question Tata never really answered.

Then, this morning, Raleigh’s News & Observer devoted a large, top-of-the fold, front page story (featuring a large, flattering photo) to his resignation as well as a one-page “Focus” section detailing much of his life story!

The bottom line: It’s more than apparent that the reason Tata gets this attention has little to do with his capabilities as a public administrator or policymaker; it is a result of the perception in some circles — a perception that he is all too happy to promote — that he is a celebrity (someone who is “famous” — at least by North Carolina standards —  for being “famous”). And sadly, as Donald Trump is doing such a good job of demonstrating of late, many Americans continue to find this brand of “leadership” irresistible. We have undoubtedly not seen the last of Tata or his shameless self-promotion.


NCDOT reaches agreement with environmental groups over fate of the Bonner Bridge

The state Department of Transportation announced this afternoon that it had reached an agreement with environmental groups allowing the agency to replace the aging Herbert C. Bonner Bridge over the Oregon Inlet on the Outer Banks with a new parallel bridge. Under the agreement, NCDOT will also consider options that would move vulnerable portions of N.C. Highway 12 out of the southern half of Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge and into Pamlico Sound.

“We appreciate the efforts of all parties to agree on a viable solution that best serves the people and interests of North Carolina,” NCDOT Secretary Tony Tata said in a statement. “The settlement agreement will allow NCDOT to provide a safe and reliable bridge for thousands of residents who rely on this lifeline to get to work, school, and healthcare and for millions of visitors who travel to the Outer Banks every year.”

“We are pleased that NCDOT and its partner agencies will consider additional options for N.C. 12 that will provide safe, reliable transportation by avoiding the areas where erosion and washouts shut down the road in its current location.  This is a win-win for the Refuge and everyone who relies on N.C. 12,” Julie Youngman, a senior attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center who represented the conservation groups added.

Here’s more from the DOT:

Under the settlement agreement, after certain tasks are complete including ceasing work on a 2.4-mile bridge within the Refuge, the conservation groups will dismiss both federal and State Bonner Bridge-related lawsuits.  NCDOT will move forward with construction of a new bridge parallel to the existing Bonner Bridge and will study options for Pamlico Sound structures to address the Mirlo Beach area and the Pea Island inlet created by Hurricane Irene.  NCDOT will complete this entire process collaboratively with the Merger Team, composed of state and federal resource and regulatory agencies. During the study period, NCDOT will implement interim measures on Pea Island to provide safe and reliable transportation through this area. In September 2014, NCDOT suspended construction on a permanent Pea Island Bridge as part of the settlement process.

The groups and the DOT had long been battling in court over the fate of the bridge.  Most recently the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond sent the lawsuit back to the district court for further review, finding that that lower court had failed to consider requirements relating to the protection of wildlife refuge land — here, the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge on Hatteras Island, through which the battered NC-12 runs – when determining if the project complied federal law.

Read the full settlement agreement here.