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Richard LindenmuthRemember when racing legend Richard Petty ran for North Carolina Secretary of State back in 1996? There were a lot of reasons that Petty got thrashed by Elaine Marshall, but one of the most important was Petty’s stated intention to keep running his NASCAR team while serving. It seems almost comical now, but that was actually King Richard’s absurdly tone-deaf plan.

You’d think that little incident might have taught wannabe North Carolina public officials a lesson, but apparently some folks missed the memo. Take Dick Lindenmuth (pictured above), the Raleigh businessman recently hired by State Commerce Secretary Sharon Decker to run the state’s new, soon-to-be privatized corporate recruiting efforts.

According to Mr. Lindenmuth, he intends to retain his position as a managing partner of Verto Partners even as he serves in his new full-time, publicly-funded job. This is, in a word, ridiculous.

This morning, Raleigh’s News & Observer put it this way:

“That is not acceptable. This is a new, complex job, and despite Lindenmuth’s assurances that he’ll be on top of it and not involved in the day-to-day operations of his company, there must not be any chance for a distraction or a conflict. Taxpayers need to have those who work for them accountable only to them.”

As the editorial notes, there are lots of other reasons to be very concerned about the mad rush to privatize corporate recruiting, but this one, quite fixable problem can and should be addressed ASAP.

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12-3In case you missed it, the McCrory administration took yet another step in recent days to assure that the always opaque and ripe-for-corruption business of bestowing economic “incentives” (i.e. giveaways to corporations) becomes just a little bit more opaque and even more vulnerable to corrupt practices.

As many folks are already aware, McCrory and his Commerce Department Secretary, Sharon Decker, have been moving to privatize the Department’s business recruiting/incentives work for some time. The plan — not yet fully fleshed out because the General Assembly has yet to formally  sign off on the deal — is to fire a bunch of Commerce Department employees and then recreate and re-establish their functions in a publicly-funded, private nonprofit.  To make matters worse, the whole thing appears to be thoroughly infused with partisan politics as one of McCrory’s top fundraisers has been designated to serve on the board of the new nonprofit (the fundraiser, John Lassiter, finally resigned last week from his position on the renew North Carolina Foundation — a group that exists to generate pro-McCrory propaganda — after months of drum-banging Chris Fitzsimon).

The latest outrage, however, involves the hiring of the new nonprofit’s first executive director. Read More

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Sharon DeckerYou gotta’ hand it to state Commerce Secretary Sharon Decker for one thing: she continues to be the one McCrory administration official who will occasionally admit a problem and not directly blame the Perdue administration for its existence. She also frequently doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but at least she occasionally seems sincere.

This past summer, she  said that the controversial legislative session and the protests it spawned was making it tough to sell the state to potentially relocating businesses. Now, this week, as several news outlets have reported, she’s admitted that North Carolina’s “skills gap” is a problem when wooing businesses looking for highly-educated workers.

Funny, that sounds an awful lot like what progressives and McCrory administration critics have been saying all along — namely that the key to solving our economic problems lies not in slashing taxes but in investing in our kids and workersRead More

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There’s yet another disturbing fracking story worth reading — this one from the good people at Pro Publica:

“A recently published studyby researchers at the University of Texas at Arlington found elevated levels of arsenic and other heavy metals in groundwater near natural gas fracking sites in Texas’ Barnett Shale.

While the findings are far from conclusive, the study provides further evidence tying fracking to arsenic contamination. An internal Environmental Protection Agency PowerPoint presentation recently obtained by the Los Angeles Times warned that wells near Dimock, Pa., showed elevated levels of arsenic in the groundwater. The EPA also found arsenic in groundwater near fracking sites in Pavillion, Wyo., in 2009 — a study the agency later abandoned.”

Click here to read the entire story. Let’s hope Gov. McCrory and his Commerce Secretary check it out as well.

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Note: The Commerce Department has taken issue with my characterization of Decker’s comments,  please see a note about their objections below.

N.C. Commerce Secretary Sharon Decker told a group of reporters in Raleigh Monday that turmoil and conflict surrounding this year’s state legislative session has made it difficult to sell North Carolina on the national stage.

“I’m fielding calls every day , ‘what the heck’s going on (over) there?,’” Decker said, in response to a question about the turmoil surrounding this year’s legislative session. She added, “The current environment makes it very challenging to market North Carolina.”

Decker’s comments were made Monday while speaking to a group of reporters in Raleigh and were in response to a question about how receptive businesses were to the state given the national attention that the ambitious, conservative agenda, including an extensive proposal to change the state’s tax system, at the N.C. General Assembly have earned. The weekly arrests of protestors upset at what they see is an agenda that hurts the poor and middle-class at “Moral Mondays” events have also brought a considerable amount of national attention to the state.

N.C. Commerce Sec. Sharon Decker

N.C. Commerce Sec. Sharon Decker

She also said that the state’s current corporate income tax is too high in order to be competitive, and that she plans on continuing to use incentives as a way to lure employers to the state.

Decker added to her comments, saying that she doesn’t believe the state has lost any jobs as a result of the controversy surrounding Jones Street but has heard from company’s concerned about what will happen to the state’s corporate tax rates.

North Carolina has the fifth highest unemployment rate in the nation, and Decker said she’s been concentrating much of her effort on addressing job shortfalls.

This year has seen weekly arrests of protests at Moral Monday’s events and messages coming from Republican leaders in the legislature has been about a state left with broken systems after decades of Democratic leadership.

Click here to read the latest Associated Press article that raises questions about whether the criminal charges filed against the nearly 700 protesters are appropriate. Read More