Friday, November 30, 2007

Electronic voting not to be common anytime soon...

Gary Bartlett said today that he doesn't expect touch screen voting to go statewide for at least another decade.

Roughly 20 counties use the paperless technology now but that means 80 counties do not. Recent controversies and cost have kept counties from making the change, according to Bartlett.

On another note check out Political Connections tonight at 6 and Sunday morning at 11.

We take a look at the future of counties and pitching in to pay for roads.

Have a great weekend everyone! I plan to update the blog much more next week when I get back into my typical daily routine!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

I'm still "off the street" working on a story so here's some reading material sent by the Bev Perdue campaign about her plan to clean up the state budget process...

Raleigh, NC – Bev Perdue today added her BRAC Budget Reform proposal as the next installment of the Building a New North Carolina series. Modeled after the federal BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure) process, this initiative will significantly reform the budget process in North Carolina.

As Governor, Bev will create an independent and bipartisan body to present up to ten government efficiency proposals each budget biennium. Unlike previous budget reform proposals that have not included a method to enact the recommendations, the BRAC budget initiative will require the General Assembly cast a Yes or No vote on each proposal.

No amendments would be permitted, thereby limiting the influence of special interests. Bev’s goal will be to identify a minimum $250 million per legislative session.

“This will change the way decisions are made in Raleigh,” said Perdue. “It will have a major impact on the budget, eliminating unnecessary spending and enabling us to focus on what’s important and what works.”

Added Senate Majority Leader Tony Rand, “Fiscal responsibility has long been a tradition in North Carolina, and ideas like this will ensure that this tradition continues.”

The first $170 million in savings will be dedicated to eliminating the highway trust fund transfer, while future savings will enable the budget to be better focused on areas of need such as school construction and making health care more affordable to North Carolina’s families.

The proposal is the second part in Bev’s Building a New North Carolina series; details can be downloaded here.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

I'm "off the street" working on anothe story but I just got this in my email box and thought it was an interesting press release from the Duke News office.

Oprah and Obama and coverage of it all has been a debate within industry insiders. It's also a huge debate in my household whether or not Oprah will have much of an impact on the race. Here's the release for your reading..

DURHAM, N.C. -- Because of her crossover appeal with white females, Oprah Winfrey’s support for Barack Obama has the potential to affect the outcome of the Jan. 3 Iowa caucus and other primaries, says a Duke University political science professor who studies racial minority group politics.

“Her audience base is far more white female than black female and her campaigning for Obama will at least make some white women, who might not have been inclined to vote for a black candidate, look closer at Obama,” says Paula D. McClain, a professor of political science, public policy and African and African American studies. “She may be the opening that allows them to think about a candidate in a way they had not before.” A

ccording to Obama’s camp, Winfrey will join him during campaign stops in the early-voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. McClain says women are crucial for all three Democratic frontrunners in Iowa -– Obama, Hillary Clinton and John Edwards.

According to a Washington Post/ABC News poll, the candidates are closely bunched six weeks before the Iowa vote.

“Oprah does not have to move a lot of women, just enough to pull the margin of victory away from Clinton,” McClain says. “For those who are wavering, Oprah could make the difference.”

McClain also notes that this is the first time that Winfrey has endorsed a candidate. “

While her political power is untested, one should not underestimate her potential effect,” McClain says. “It actually may put the other candidates on notice. The dynamic has shifted. If Clinton does not take the Iowa caucus, then it’s really a competitive race going into the other primaries.”

Monday, November 26, 2007

Hope you all made it through turkey weekend and had a great time with family and friends!

Oh how fun to be back at work right? No time wasted getting back at the General Assembly today. The 21st Century Blue Ribbon Transportation group met again Monday afternoon.

They heard from metro and county folks as well as the Turnpike Authority.

My story today focuses on possibility of counties paying for roads. Last session lawmakers gave counties the authority to help fund roads. It gives counties the possibility of getting roads done quicker. Before 1931 counties in this state built roads but after the depression era the state took over when counties and cities couldn't afford it. Cities have done it again in recent years but this is the first time since the 30's that counties can take part.

Some believe this is a step toward forcing counties to help pay for roads. Keep in mind the state is supposedly $65 billion short in the next 25 years to keep up with growth and maintaining roads.

Check out to see more from state lawmakers and county folks.

More tomorrow but I'm having to catch up on emails myself and the turkey still has me tired!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Funding for school buses...

So, I covered the U.S. Transportation Secretaries announcement Monday in Morrisville. She basically proposed to require seat belts on the short buses and offered up money for the first time to put seat belts on big buses.

Two problems. The federal funding is not new and would have to be diverted from other safety programs (i.e. booze it or loose it and click it or ticket). The other problem is convicing people that spending the money is necessary. Statistics show school buses are already the safest way for children to get to and from school.

Seat belts add $10,000 to the sticker price for each new bus.

Lawmakers would essentially have to approve the idea here in North Carolina. The rules proposed on the federal level still need the go ahead from transportation panels in DC.

Either way it's an interesting debate. The announcement was made here in NC because 14 buses are being studied safety with belts already.

Friday, November 16, 2007

I had a chance to sit down with Howard Putnam at the Hugh Shelton Leadership Forum today. Putnam is a former CEO of Southwest Airlines and was a VP at United Airlines for more than 20 years.

He expects more consolidation among the large airlines and says (no surprise) that prices will continue to rise.

I asked a number of questions about U.S. Airways because of the huge hub in Charlotte. He said that the airline needs to do much more to integrate America West because two years after the merger he thinks they are still operating more like two separate airlines. He says management needs to refocus on employees and service.

What was interesting was he admitted he never said the customer was number one. He said employees are number one and if treat them with respect and family then customer service will take care of itself because you have happy employees.

It sounds like a simple theory but how often is that not followed when you think about it.

Putnam also believes regional carriers will have a major role and success in the future to help provide reasonable rates.

Ironically, his flight on U.S. Airways from Reno (his home) to Raleigh was cancelled and he could only get a flight on Southwest!

Have a great weekend! I'm visiting with the U.S. Secretary of Transportation Monday who's in town to talk school bus safety, but I obviously have a few other questions for her too!!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Giuliani's NC campaign chair doesn't think his social beliefs will hurt his candidacy in the South. So far, that seems to be true.

An Elon University poll released this morning has Giuliani leading in five Southern states (NC, FL, VA, SC, GA) by six percent over Fred Thompson. Hillary Clinton has a huge lead on the other side with 42-percent. Obama and Edwards are both in the teens.

Jim Culbertson, who runs Giuliani's campaign here in NC out of his Winston-Salem home told me today he thinks Southerners care about leadership and that's what is driving the race.

Some consider Rudy's beliefs on abortion and gun rights more left than right, but Culbertson believes Rudy's leadership will override any differences in beliefs.

He also believes voters think Giuliani has the best chance to counter Clinton and could pick up some Dem voters because of it.

Watch my story at for more.

I'm off to emcee the NCTA awards tonight so more tomorrow!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

More charter schools? Supporters of the alternative public schools scored a pretty huge victory Monday. A State Board of Education blue ribbon committee on charter schools voted to increase the number of schools by roughly six per year.

It's really the first state appointed group to approve the idea. Currently state law caps the number of schools to 100.

Charter schools are run like non-profit and can essentially set their own curriculum. They get per pupil funding but get no lottery or construction cash. Students do take end of grade tests. The first one opened up in 1997 and this committee is sort of a ten year later where are we now type of thing.

The cap idea must still pass the State Board of Education and the General Assembly. That's likely impossible. Democrats have ignored several bills to raise or get rid of the cap.

The blue ribbon committee also voted to basically give schools that fall into low performing and low growth categories two years to shape up or they will lose their charters.

Charter school supporters argue that's not fair because traditional public schools with similar problems remain open.

Should be interesting to follow but a pretty good day for supporters of charter schools.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

A joint legislative committee (study group) on the high school dropout rate began meeting today and I spent most of my morning attending the meeting.

Essentially the state's graduation rate is less than 70-percent and the dropout rate is over 5-percent and the state is looking for ways to fix the problem. This meeting comes after a dozen public hearings across the state.

While the problem is now, the chair of the committee essentially said solutions will take time.

"So we don't want to be rushed into maybe next session because we're going to have to look at programs that are just starting that just getting off the ground," Rep. Earline Parmon (D-Forsyth) said.

I take that to mean they don't expect to recommend any major legislation next May for the short session which means little if nothing will be done on the dropout issue next year (at least from a legislative perspective). I'm told to expect continued growth of Learn and Earn schools and other initiatives already in the pipeline.

Rep. Parmon added that after the 12 hearings (actually 11 because the last one is this Thursday) she's seen a pattern that it's a community issue. Basically, each community has its own problem feeding the dropout issue and that means there will need to be different solutions to fit the different problems.

The committee will meet several times over the next several months.

Friday, November 09, 2007

I've been filling in on the anchor desk today, so I don't have a lot to report. Well, I have a lot to report as in I anchored a ton of stories today, but as in government/political whatnot it's been a quiet day for me.

However, I want to take the opportunity to remind everyone that we are airing the Democratic debate between Perdue and Moore from this past Tuesday. We will air the entire debate Sunday morning at 11am.

If you don't have cable you can begin viewing it on our website at starting Sunday at 11am as well.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Thursday, November 08, 2007

I spent the morning at DOT's employee meeting. Secretary Lyndo Tippett stood up with his fellow big wigs in front of an audience of about 300 and took questions.

This comes after that report which included a survey of 9000 DOT employees that slammed the department. It's all part of a multi million dollar project to transform DOT. According to the report and employees there are clearly inefficiencies, a lack of direction and priorities, and there needs to be change.

This is on top of the fact another blue ribbon committee is looking at ways to help the department spend and build more efficiently and find money to pay for an enormous price tag to build and fix roads in the next 25 years.

This morning was an effort for the department to beef up communication and be more transparent. It was a Q and A session.

At first, as you might expect, the employees were apprehensive to speak up and ask questions. But eventually people did and they raised many of the same concerns that were in the survey.

It ranged from complaints about an outdated email system and computer operating systems to a lack of priorities on projects. As you might imagine, salaries also came up.

As I sat there and listened to all of this one thought came to mind. If your company handed out an anonymous survey are you so sure you wouldn't have the same responses? And keep in mind this is a government agency with 14,000 employees.

I'm not judging either side and I'm sure there are plenty of areas in that department in particular that need help.

It just got me thinking that point. What would you say about your workplace and what might change if your company had meetings like this to listen?

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

So it's the day in day after elections and debate. I'll have more on those later. In the meantime, the 21st Century transportation committee will meet for the first time this afternoon, right now in fact. In light of that, the top two GOP's at the legislature released the following proposals.

From Sen. Berger and Rep. Stam
"It is time to end this neglect. Here’s a proposal for the 21st Century Transportation Committee:

1. Propose issuance of at least $2.0 billion in road bonds, the bonds to be paid with money retained in the Highway Trust Fund by discontinuing the $172 million annual transfer from the Highway Trust Fund to the General Fund; the money from the bonds to be dedicated to congestion relief and bridge safety;

2. Propose modification of the equity formula to take congestion and road miles traveled into account; doing so will target additional dollars to critically needed roads and bridges. In addition require projects to be prioritized and constructed on a statewide basis accounting for congestion and safety;

3. The Governor has demonstrated that savings can be realized in the General Fund Budget of 1 percent, 2 percent, 3 percent and even more. Set a 1.5 percent target for savings in the recently passed General Fund budget. Savings at that level would actually only reduce the rate of the increase in spending from 9.5 percent to 8.0 percent - which is still double the rate of population and inflation growth combined (4 percent) and will free up $300+ million to be appropriated to transportation priorities immediately. The savings could actually be recurring and provide ongoing funds for bonds or other transportation needs;

4. Propose that a substantial portion of the more than $200 million being carried forward in the General Fund Budget be used to provide money to address gap funding needs in urban areas;

5. Implement the recommendations from the McKinsey study and provide regular public progress reports with opportunities for questions and suggestions from the public and press.

All of the above can be accomplished without any tax or fee increases. This will not instantly solve the mess we have in transportation, but it will start us on the process and will provide a needed immediate shot in the arm for our crumbling transportation infrastructure. With this start we can begin to rebuild our road system and help protect and grow our state's economy. The recently released McKinsey report confirms inefficiencies within our transportation system and demonstrates the dire need North Carolina has for serious change. If these steps are taken immediately, this will be a strong signal that the Committee is engaged in serious work. "

Monday, November 05, 2007

An interesting release from the Richard Moore campaign for Gov. this morning. It's especially interesting considering his opponent Bev. Perdue is hoping to become the first female governor ever in this state. Here's the release..

Women legislators endorse Moore for governor

Raleigh – Current and former women legislators today endorsed Richard Moore for governor, citing his record of advocating for North Carolina’s families.

“Our communities, families, and women need and deserve Richard Moore as their next governor,” the group wrote. “The steady leadership and fresh approach that he offers to fix North Carolina’s problems are exactly what we need.”

State Senator Ellie Kinnaird and state Representatives Marie Watters Colton, Ruth Cook, Pricey Harrison, Bertha “B.” Merrill Holt, and Maggie Jeffus sent a letter to Democratic activists announcing their support of Moore.

“I am honored that such an outstanding group of women leaders support my candidacy,” said Richard Moore. “Women across the state recognize that my experience as a federal prosecutor, legislator, and the head of two state agencies makes me uniquely qualified to lead North Carolina as governor.”

In addition, the Moore campaign announced that women donors have contributed over $1.3 million to Moore’s campaign for governor thus far.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Transportation committee to meet...

I meant to put this in my earlier post. Reps for Brad Wilson say the blue ribbon 21 century transportation committee appointed by the Gov., Speaker Hackney, and Sen. President Pro Tem Marc Basnight will meet next Wednesday 11/7 for the first time at 1pm.

Should be interesting but most expect the real work to get started after the first of the year with the holidays and everything.

I've got Mr. Wilson scheduled to come in for an in-depth interview that day for Political Connections as well.
So, I spent most of the day covering Nancy Pelosi's visit to Meredith College in Raleigh. She's the highest ranking woman in U.S. history and Meredith is an all female college so that was an interesting perspective by itself.

Secretary of State here in NC Elaine Marshall was there as well. Check out the story on for details on her appearance. I'll write more about the behind the scenes event here later.

Interestingly enough, I was bombarded by emails from a group called NC Peace Action. They are anti war folks. They were ticked because Pelosi was taking questions from the audience but it was all pre picked and pre screened. The group wanted to question her why she can't get troops out of Iraq. I also got an email that NC State college Republicans were going to protest as well.

In the end we saw one man and he didn't cause much of a fuss.

More on the event hopefully a little later.

One last plug---Judge Manning on Political Connections tonight at 6 and Sunday at 11am and on our website in an hour and ondemand Ch. 1234 starting Tuesday.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, November 01, 2007

It's quite a couple days politically for North Carolina. Democrat and presidential hopeful Barack Obama is in Durham raising money and shaking hands at NC Central.

Tomorrow, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelossi will be in Raleigh at Meredith College. She's now the highest ranking female in U.S. history.

It should be interesting to cover that story for sure!

While I'm at it, another plug for Political Connections tomorrow night at 6 and Sunday morning at 11. Our guest this week for the entire show is Judge Howard Manning.

We have a preview story running on News 14 Carolina and