Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Gov. Easley says Sen. Kay Hagan is one of the best U.S. Senate candidates in the entire country. He made the comment after a drought briefing in Raleigh.

He says she's been a champion of education, law enforcement, and the economy.

When asked about the other announced Democrat Jim Neal, Gov. Easley said he knows nothing about him.

Sen. Hagan announced Tuesday that she's changed her mind and will run.

Both Neal and Hagan say they are running against Elizabeth Dole.

At some point they will have to start campaigning against each other one would think?
Hagan's in! Here's the release from her campaign..

"I want this campaign to be about giving North Carolina a voice."
Citing the need to change the country and demand accountability in Washington, North Carolina State Senator Kay Hagan today announced her candidacy for the United States Senate. Hagan, who is currently serving her fifth term in the North Carolina Senate, officially launched her bid against Elizabeth Dole through a video on her new campaign website.
"To make a difference in North Carolina, we need change in Washington," Hagan said. "We need a Senator to make our voice heard. We need a Senator who will stand up, lead and make a difference. That's what I've done, and it's what I'm going to keep doing in Washington."
Hagan said the issues that are most important to voters are what will set her apart.
"We need accountability to end the war in Iraq so we can re-invest those resources here at home. How can Washington reject health care for 123,000 North Carolina children, while continuing to spend hundreds of billions of dollars on this mismanaged war?" Hagan said. "Making those kinds of decisions is hard, but I know it can be done - because those are the kinds of fights I've led in the State Senate."
Throughout her career as a state legislator, Kay has proven to her colleagues and constituents that she is a tireless advocate for the people of North Carolina. Distinguished as one of the "Top Ten Effective Senators" in the state, Kay has been commended for being a diligent and successful voice for her constituency.
"Kay Hagan is one of the strongest and most effective leaders in North Carolina," former Governor Jim Hunt said. "She has been a champion of improving education and creating jobs for our entire state. She has exactly the kind of good ideas, energy and drive North Carolina needs in Washington."
"I'm proud of doing things the right way here - it's something Washington could use a lot more of," Hagan said. "I want this campaign to be about giving North Carolina a voice."
Hagan, a lifelong North Carolinian, has raised three children in Greensboro, a community she has represented for nine years in the state Senate. She will launch her campaign with a tour of the state in the coming weeks. To view Hagan's announcement video, visit www.kayhagan.com.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Transportation committee named..

Hot off the press..well okay..right from my email box. Here's the release sent from Speaker Hackney's office.

"Raleigh – Governor Mike Easley, Senate President Pro Tempore Marc Basnight and House Speaker Joe Hackney today announced the members of a blue-ribbon committee to examine the condition and needs of North Carolina’s transportation system and make recommendations to the General Assembly.
The 21st Century Transportation Committee is a cross-section of 24 elected officials, transportation and engineering experts, business leaders and citizens who will make a preliminary report to the General Assembly by May 1, 2008, and a final report by the end of next year.
"I appreciate the willingness of these North Carolinians to serve on this important committee,” said Easley. “Their combined knowledge, talent and commitment to North Carolina will ensure that the transportation system is examined thoroughly and that thoughtful, creative solutions to the challenges our growing state faces are found"
Senator Basnight said: “North Carolina’s strong economy has resulted in rapid growth that has strained our transportation system. It is my hope that this committee will thoroughly examine our needs both in rural and urban areas and propose innovative solutions. An objective study with input from many points of view is the best way to build a consensus and address our needs so that our great state continues to prosper.”
Speaker Hackney said: "There is no doubt this state has transportation needs, but before we can approach those needs in a comprehensive way we need to better understand what they are. A careful, independent analysis will allow us to make sure we are moving ahead efficiently and spending taxpayer money in the best way possible. This committee will provide that important independent voice and help this state prepare its infrastructure for the years ahead."

The 21st Century Transportation Committee will study:
Ways to improve the transportation systems of the State in order to promote economic growth and ensure that the State can compete and participate in the global economy.
Innovative methods to fund the transportation needs of the State, including an examination of traditional and nontraditional methods of financing transportation infrastructure.
Priorities of the Department of Transportation, including methods to ensure adequate funding for corridors and projects of statewide significance.
Methods to use new and innovative technology to improve the transportation system.
Options for local transportation funding.
Ways to adequately fund road construction to address urban congestion and to improve mobility.
Methods to spend transportation funds in the most effective and cost efficient manner, including ways to use recycled materials, and reuse and recycle road materials.
Ways to ensure the continued safety of the current transportation system, including an analysis of the safety and reliability of bridges in the State.
The appropriate division of responsibility for transportation infrastructure between State and local government and any federal role in providing transportation infrastructure needs.
The role of ports, airports, mass transit, rail, and pedestrian and cycling access in providing the transportation needs of the State.
Public transportation needs in urban areas.
Methods to encourage fuel conservation and energy conservation in North Carolina.

The following individuals were appointed to the Committee:

Appointees Recommended by the Governor:
Chair: Mr. Brad Wilson, Chief Operating Officer of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of NC and member (past Chair) of UNC Board of Governors, Chair, Wake County
The Honorable Terry Bellamy, Mayor of Asheville, Buncombe County The Honorable Sam Hunt, former NC Transportation Secretary, Alamance County The Honorable Allen Joines, Mayor of Winston-Salem, Forsyth County Mr. Gregory Plemmons, Vice President of Old Dominion Global, Guilford County Mr. Charles F. Bowman, Principal Compliance Executive for Bank of America, Mecklenburg County The Honorable Chuck McGrady, County Commissioner, Henderson County Mr. D. Jordan "Jordy" Whichard, III, Publisher of Cox NC Publications and Chair of NC Economic Development Board, Pitt County

President Pro Tempore Appointments
Senator David Hoyle, Gaston County Senator Clark Jenkins, Edgecombe County Senator Richard Stevens, Wake County Dr. Joseph Monroe, Dean of the College of Engineering, NC A&T State University, Guilford County Mr. Lanny Wilson, North Carolina Board of Transportation Member, New Hanover County Mr. Billy Sewell, President of Platinum Corral, Onslow County Mr. Stephen Zelnak, Jr., CEO of Martin Marietta, Wake County The Honorable Richard Blackburn, County Commissioner, Ashe County

Speaker of the House Appointments
Representative Nelson Cole, Rockingham County Representative Becky Carney, Mecklenburg County Representative Lorene Coates, Rowan County Representative Phillip Frye, Mitchell County Representative William C. "Bill" McGee, Forsyth County Representative William L. Wainwright, Craven County The Honorable George W. Miller, Jr., former Representative, Durham County Ms. Nina Szlosberg, Owner of Napro Communications, North Carolina Board of Transportation Member, Wake County

Friday, October 26, 2007

Just got done taping an exciting show for next week's Political Connections.

Judge Howard Manning came in our studios this afternoon to tape an entire show for next Friday (11/2).

In case you don't know, Judge Manning is the judge at the center of the Leandro case that focuses on making sure every child in North Carolina gets a basic sound education.

The first part of the show focuses on educating everyone about the law and the lawsuit and Judge Manning's role. We then moved on to the issues in high schools and how close he was to shutting some of them down. And believe it or not, he praised a Charlotte high school! He was extremely harsh on those schools in the past. He also had some interesting responses when I asked him if he thought people were listening to him.

Manning was also very complimentary about the General Assembly and says they have stepped up to the plate when it comes to funding low wealth counties. For those of you who have followed this issue, that's a big reverse from a few years ago.

Anywho, the show will air next Friday at 6pm (11/2) and replay Sunday at 11am (11/4)

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Happy Thursday! Anyone else wish they were laying on the couch or in bed watching movies all day? Wow, we need the rain bad but holy cow these days make me groggy.

Speaking of rain, on a day it actually did rain, Governor Easley made a plea to lawmakers (Congress) for relief for our farmers. He pointed out loans won't work because the crops are dead and farmers can't pay back those loans. It's all part of a federal discussion whether or not to leave cash in a fund for declared emergencies or disasters instead of offering low interest loans like they often do now.

I've been a little AWOL on this blog in the last couple days but I'm hoping it will pay off. I'm working on a couple really exciting projects and could tell you more on one as soon as tomorrow. I'm hoping to have a very interesting interview for Political Connections very soon.

Rumors are flying about other Democrats who are being pushed, want to, or are trying to run from running against Jim Neal and eventually Elizabeth Dole. Trying to hash them out and put something on here soon. Let you know as soon as I do!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

I interviewed U.S. Senate candidate Jim Neal today. The Democrat hopes to unseat Republican Elizabeth Dole next fall. At this point he does not have a primary opponent.

Anywho, we are posting the entire interview on our website at http://www.news14.com/ so check that out and I'll link to it here this afternoon as well.

UPDATE: here's the direct link to the interview


Monday, October 22, 2007

High speed rail...

I spent the day at a high speed rail summit in downtown Raleigh today. Experts from around the nation converged to talk about the future of that type of rail in the nation and here in North Carolina in particular.

An interesting note is rail moves around 80mph now and high speed is technically 90mph or higher.

Transportation leaders are pushing the issue to ease traffic and air congestion. For instance, from Raleigh to Charlotte a high speed trip would take 2 1/2 hours or less compared to more than 3 hours now. High speed would allow stops in the Triad and would create twice as many trips as there are now.

Keep in mind high speed concentrates on trips between cities and light rail is more of a city or community transportation option.

The problem with both is $$$$. High speed means money for new tracks that can handle high speed and the trains themselves.

We taped an entire show there for Political Connections so keep an eye out for that this weekend.

Bottom line, DOT leaders said today planning will take until 2010 and then once funding is secured it will take 3-5 years to build. That means best case scenario, 2013 for the first high speed rail in NC.

Friday, October 19, 2007

VIPER---sounds like a snake or perhaps an alarm protection system for your car?

Nope, it's the state's effort to get all emergency personnel on the same page when it comes to radios (walkie talkie not the type blasting Justin Timberlake!).

Three years ago the state began efforts to create the statewide system and three years later less than half the state has access. The numbers are even lower for local agencies who have bought the radios ($1500-$5000 a piece).

Today at the Emergency Response Commission meeting state leaders said they jus got $22.1 million in funding that will push the range from roughly 45% of the state to 60%. Local governments are getting more grants as well to buy radios.

The 60% will come by 2010 or earlier.

It's a big help, but the state still needs at least 5 years to get the full system up and running and needs millions more.

Essentially if you think of it this way, local agencies can't talk to other local agencies easily on traditional radios. That causes problems when multiple agencies respond to the same incident or disaster.

Sec. Bryan Beatty used this example for me. Imagine a National Guard helicopter spotting someone on a roof stranded but they couldn't use the radio to call people on the ground.

This issue came to the forefront after 9/11 and again after Katrina.

Beatty claims NC is the only state to offer VIPER to all state and local agencies for free.

Before I'm off for the weekend, make sure to check out Political Connections tonight at 6 or online or ondemand (CH. 1234) when we take on new elections laws. Wake Co. Elections guru Cherie Poucher and Democracy NC's Bob Hall join us.

Sunday in place of our regular program from 11-12 we'll air highlights from this weekend's GOP gubernatorial debate in High Point.

Have a good one!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

I'm baaaack...

Sorry for no posts in days, but I've been on a short vacation to the Pennsylvania mountains. Ahhh refreshing mountain air and wow can you see a million stars at night!

Anywho, back to work.

I went to a blue ribbon charter school committee meeting this morning. State Board of Ed Chair Howard Lee essentially set up the committee to study charters ten years after the state began the alternative public school.

The group will present final recommendations next month, but surprisingly (to some) the group appears to be ready to recommend raising the cap. Currently state law allows only 100 charter schools.

State leaders have been very reluctant to discuss the idea and lawmakers have essentially ignored proposals to raise the cap.

It would mark the first time a state committee of any kind recommended raising the cap. Opponents of the idea worry there are too many low performing charters that need to be dealt with before the cap is raised.

The blue ribbon group will vote on final recommendations on Nov. 14.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

More from Gerlach...

Here's a sampling of quotes from his talk at the NC Policy Watch transportation forum.

"The words $64 billion are not allowed in the administration to be spoken by any official of DOT because we're tired of hearing about it. Because what happens when you start talking about such an enormous number which would require us to double the gas tax which we're not proposing it but require you to increase it perhaps to 75 cents a gallon."

"I think what you'll see in the next two weeks is a commission of probably 20-30 people appointed by the governor and General Assembly."

"But what happened I think for probably the first time since 1989, there has never been another time where transportation has never been so high on the agenda."

"But it is to say that the attention has to focus on these major things (referring to interstates) that only the state can deal with and we're going to have to work with local governments to see how that balances out as we did with Medicaid."
Transportation commission coming soon...

Dan Gerlach, one of Gov. Easley's right hand men, said today he expects a transportation commission to be announced in the next two weeks.

You'll recall there was talk of a special session to find new ways to fund transportation but that never happened. Gov. Easley then said he and legislative leaders were working on a commission.

Gerlach made the comments at an NC Policy Watch forum this afternoon.

Gerlach also made some interesting comments about transportation in general. He talked about the need to fund maintenance as much if not more than building new roads. He also discussed the highway trust fund and said there are discussions about transferring less but finding a way to fund other projects that count on that money (i.e. education) remains a challenge.

There was also a tone of local governments getting more responsibility when it comes to funding roads. The question is does that mean counties will get stuck with more funding, particularly because the counties won the Medicaid funding debate recently?

More on this when I get a chance to listen to the tape a little closer..

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Breaking news...

It's deep fried peanut butter and jelly sandwich.


What's the new deep fried food you will find at the 2007 North Carolina State Fair.


Why in the world is political reporter Tim Boyum reporting this on election day?

Good question.

Okay, so News 14 Carolina is sort of a network in this state. We have stations in the Triangle, Triad, and Charlotte. I am designated as someone who's story needs to air in all three markets every single day.

That means I'm not really eligible to cover local elections. Soooo, that left me with covering the media preview for the state fair.

The worst part is I didn't taste it, but everyone said this new deep fried food is to die for. They are also making Oreo and Smores funnel cakes this year.

And the drought is affecting the fairgrounds as well. The ponds look like any other lake and vendors are being told to cut back on washing tents and exhibits and animal folks are asked to use nozzles on hoses to prevent constant running of the hose.

Pretty good gig today huh?

I am hearing the turnout is dismal. I'll be curious to see what it's like for the mayor race in Cary.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Hagan's not running...

Here's the release..


NC Senator Kay R. Hagan announced today that she would not be a candidate for the U.S. Senate in 2008. This announcement came after two months of meetings with local, regional, state, and federal policy makers at which Hagan explored the opportunities to represent the citizens of North Carolina that service in the U.S. Senate might provide.

"When all is said and done," Hagan reflected, "I genuinely believe that I can serve the citizens of Guilford County and all of North Carolina better and more effectively from my Senate seat in Raleigh than from Washington, D.C. While I was excited about the challenges of a statewide campaign and undaunted by the fund raising component of such a campaign, my impact as Co-Chair of the Appropriations Committee and the chance to speak out on major North Carolina issues is greater, right now, as a Senator in Raleigh."

Hagan was first elected to the NC Senate from District #27 in 1998 and is currently in her fifth term. She had been ranked as one of the "Top Ten Effective Senators" in North Carolina and is the recipient of many state and local awards including the Triad Citizen of the Year, NC Library Association's Honorary Membership Award, Luther Jeralds Advocacy Award – Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Coalition of NC and others.

"This is good news for Guilford County and our region," said Tim Rice, Chair of the Greensboro Area Chamber of Commerce Operating Board. "The local impact of Kay's leadership in Raleigh is tangible not only in the millions of dollars she has helped our area secure but also her leadership on so many different issues. While we may have wanted her to serve on the national level, we value the fact that she is a key voice for us in Raleigh."

"The U.S. Senate's loss is the North Carolina Senate's gain," said Senate President Pro Tempore Marc Basnight. "Kay is such a wonderful and effective advocate for her constituents and for all the people of our great state. We are so fortunate that she has decided to run for
Republican Gubernatorial candidate Bob Orr held a newser this morning and released an economic plan. Here's the release from his campaign...

"Monday, October 8, Justice Robert F. Orr, Republican candidate for Governor, released his proposal to reform North Carolina’s economic development structure.

Justice Orr expressed his desire to bring openness, accountability and fairness to the system. What he described as “just principles of a democratic society and a sound foundation in public policy.”

“Our current system for economic development in North Carolina is fundamentally flawed,” said Justice Orr. “My proposal will restructure the way we do business in North Carolina. We must stop the practice of handing out incentives based on the influence of corporate lobbyists, eliminate state discretionary incentive awards and end the competition to attract businesses among our counties.”

Key points of the proposal include the elimination of discretionary incentives programs like the Governor's One North Carolina Fund and the Job Development Investment Grant in favor of a new initiative to provide additional support for workforce training.

Orr also addressed change at the local level through his advocating additional reforms requiring local governments to develop structured incentive policies, eliminate targeted incentives to business considering relocation within the state, and increasing local disclosure through the mandatory publication of economic development agreements and by instituting a 45 day hold on any incentive vote following a public hearing.

On a further note, Orr recommended the adoption of a unified development budget as a means to hold public officials accountable and provide policy makers with essential data regarding all statewide economic development activities.

Orr stated his intention to bring the focus of North Carolina’s economic development programs “back to their intended goals.”
“It is my intention to encourage job creation throughout North Carolina – while still preserving our constitutional and policy interests in providing a transparent government, a fair tax system, and accountability to our citizens for tax dollars expended.”

Friday, October 05, 2007

Neal for Senate...

I talked to Jim Neal for about 45 minutes today. The Democrat has filed to run for the U.S. Senate. He's a Chapel Hill investment banker with no experience running as a candidate.

BUT, he does have extensive experience raising money for John Kerry and Gen. Wesley Clark. He told me he knows them both personally so that could be interesting.

It's clear after talking with him that he's not just some guy with money getting into this race. He gets the political game and has a vast number of resources he's used before making the decision to run.

He knows politics, now the question is does he know policy? His platform is still in the works as well as specific policy beliefs and plans.

I'll write more but just wanted to give you a little bit to chew on since I talked with him today.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Easley on worsening drought...from his office this afternoon.

" Gov. Mike Easley today directed the state divisions of Pollution Prevention and Environmental Assistance, Water Resources and Environmental Health to partner with the N.C. League of Municipalities to organize regional meetings in communities hardest hit by the drought to discuss water conservation and strategies for identifying supplemental water sources. The collaborative effort was announced as exceptional drought, the worst level in the four-category system, spread to more than half of North Carolina’s 100 counties.
“Many communities are suffering the effects of one of the worst droughts we have ever seen,” Easley said. “At least one community is already hauling water by truck from other sources and several other towns may need to seek supplemental water sources soon. With no end to this drought in sight, regional cooperation is needed to make sure all North Carolinians will have ample water for everyday needs such as drinking, public health and safety.”
Thursday’s federal drought map shows that exceptional drought has spread from the eight westernmost counties to 55 counties in the mountains and Piedmont and now stretches from the foothills and Charlotte to parts of the Triad, the Triangle and the Sandhills. North Carolina’s other 45 counties are experiencing the next three levels of drought – extreme, severe and moderate. An extreme lack of rainfall has left many stream flows faced with all-time record lows and reservoirs far below average for this time of year.
The governor has called on all North Carolina residents to conserve water and for operators of public water supplies to implement water use restrictions. Many communities are reporting significant declines in water usage, thanks to the governor’s directive. Currently, 83 public water systems have enacted mandatory water use restrictions and another 80 have enacted voluntary restrictions. That means that 4.76 million people, or about 70 percent of the state’s population in the systems tracked by the state, are under some form of water conservation."

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Ellis honored...I did an interesting story on Tom Ellis today. He was Jesse Helms' chief strategist and is widely regarded as the savior of Ronald Reagon's political career.

In 76', Reagon lost five straight primaries to President Gerald Ford. As he was about to pack up and head home for California and go back to acting perhaps, Ellis believed Reagan could win in North Carolina.

He asked the campaign to air a 30 minute speech of Reagan's on tv in North Carolina to lure in voters.

"Reagan's campaign that was run out of Washington did not want us to use it and Jesse Helms, I told him we couldn't get the film and he said I'll get you a film and he called Nancy Reagan and Nancy Reagan sent us that film and we ran it the last three weeks of that campaign," Ellis said.

Reagan won the North Carolina primary. He lost the overall primary election to Ford but it revived him and his supporters to help win the 1980 election.

As for today's conservative movement?

"I'm a little disappointed. I feel like we've lost the wind in our sail. We've tried to go over and get some of the Democratic issues. That never works," Ellis said.

Hillsdale College in Michigan is awarding Ellis tonight with the Freedom Leadership Award. He's getting the award right here in Raleigh.

Past recipients include Margaret Thatcher, Charlton Heston, and Clarence Thomas.
An interesting observation from the Council of State meeting yesterday. Perhaps nothing to it, but still interesting.

As you may know, the Council of State met to either take up or ignore an administrative judge's ruling that they retake a look at their approval of the DOC's protocol for executions.

Before the hearing, I could see Gov. Easley talking at length with Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler.

After a brief discussion, Troxler spoke up and made the motion to essentially uphold the Council's original approval in February. The motion was seconded by Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry.

They are both Republicans. Perhaps there's nothing to it, but still interesting to notice since a large majority including the Governor and two candidates for Governor on the council are Democrats. Why wouldn't one of them give the motion or even second it?

Again perhaps nothing ot it but just an observation.