Monday, December 31, 2007

2007 and 2008...

Wow, well I'm down to my last minutes of work here in 2007. Yes, it's New Year's Eve and I'm in the office sniffling after a full weekend of a nasty cold, opening presents with the in-laws, seeing a Tar Heels game, and lacking sleep! Ahhhh...the holidays! They are a blast but sometimes we really take those quiet nights for granted don't we?

Anywho, it has me thinking back and looking forward. This year was slated to be a pretty quietyear. Well, on the last day of the year I covered Rep. Thomas Wright's court appearance as former House Speaker Jim Black sits in prison.

It was quite a year for your reporter. I spent my first full year in my new house, got married in the Outer Banks, and really pushed myself to get more connected with people associated to my political beat here at News 14 Carolina.

I think in a year we've really changed how we cover politics at News 14 Carolina. I sincerely believe we are the tv station that best covers it in the entire state. Don't get me wrong, we cannot compete with the multiple reporters of newspapers staffs but we do the best with what we have covering the legislature and state government which is me!

I have to thank my bosses for that. They allow me to dictate what I cover and how we cover it a large part of the time (with guidance of course). But we have grown to gain the respect of candidates and public officials, to be taken seriously and understand that every story and show I produce airs in the 3 largest television markets in North Carolina.

More importantly, we take on the stories on a daily basis that other tv stations often won't cover. We have a long long long ways to go but I think 2007 was a great step forward.

That step leads us to 2008. What will be the big story in North Carolina? Will we see upsets in the primary races for Goveror or Senate? Will Republicans mount a challenge to Democrat control in the General Assembly? Will state leaders push through changes in the way we build and pay for roads and public transportation?

As far as our job as political reporters goes, this is the most important time for us. There is so much out there in the form of tv, radio, newspaper, web, blogs, etc. that we have to make sure we are helping and informing viewers instead of shaping opinions. We must focus more than ever with all the noise out there to make sure we are tackling the issues that are most important to citizens and voters.

This next year is vital to the future of North Carolina and the leaders you elect will play a massive role in shaping that future. It is my hope (and News 14 Carolina) to play a big role in helping you make your decisions by providing the information for both sides and letting you decide. It sounds cliche to say that but are all news organizations really committed to that? It doesn't hurt to sit back and check ourselves as we look back at a year plagued by public corruption and look ahead to a year where voters will have a hand in leadership.

It is my hope through my stories, my show Political Connections, and this blog to keep you informed and hopefully from time to time enlightened! This blog will be an outlet to get you more information I couldn't on tv or to give a behind the scenes perspective to the chaos known as election year.

Thank you for your trust in me and News 14 Carolina. We will do everything we can to be the best we can for you as a viewer and if we can do anything better please let us know!

With that...goodbye 2007 and hello 2008.

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

If that tiger mauling in California has caught your attention perhaps my story from today might interest you as well...

PITTSBORO -- The tiger mauling in California happened in a zoo but North Carolina doesn't even have a law preventing private ownership of tigers.

Some sanctuaries and zoos time say it's time to make it law. Pam Fulk helps care for nearly a dozen tigers at Carnivore Preservation Trust. She hopes the California mauling helps zoos and sanctuaries become even safer.

"It always reminds us to look at things and say is there any way to make it safer, so for example one of the things we've been talking about for months is putting an inverted fence along the top of the tiger enclosure so it hangs inward," Fulk said.

Some counties have ordinances preventing private ownership of tigers but there is no state law.

Two years ago two tigers grabbed headlines when they were found wandering along a highway in Gaston County evidentaly left behind by private owners who couldn't handle the large cats.

A study committee initiated by the General Assembly has recommended banning someone from owning a long list of animals including tigers, elephants, and monkeys.

Opponents of the bill swamped the committee meeting to voice their concerns it might shut down some private zoos.

"You're dealing with people and their animals which they care about very much and your dealing with their business which they have worked hard for," Wendy Wilson from Lazy Five Ranch said in July at the meeting.

But supporters of the proposed law say it's about banning tigers in backyards and making sure facilities are legitimately keeping these animals.

"CPT has long felt that these animals should not be in possession of private individual owners for a variety of reasons but chief among them is that they are dangerous animals," Fulk added. "Few people have the resources or knowledge to contain them safely from their neighbors."

Fulk says no matter how personable and cute these tigers are behind their cages, they are wild and dangerous and do not belong in neighborhoods.

The state House and Senate have their own versions of the bill that define and ban dangerous animals. Both are stuck in committees but could be taken up when the legislature gets back to work in May.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Happy Holidays!

Well, in an hour I'm on vacation until next Wednesday. I'm actually headed home to my home state of Minnesota. I'm from the Twin Cities and it's the first time I'll be spending Christmas back home in several years and my first Christmas with the wife so that's pretty exciting (minus the headache I'm expecting at the airports!).

Just a couple notes before I head home to pack (which will take me five minutes and my wife 2 hours).

Political Connections this weekend should be pretty interesting. We're tackling the illegal immigration and community college admission debate. William Gheen from ALIPAC joins us as well as Graig Meyer. Meyer runs a program in Chapel Hill schools that helps minorities, including illegal immigrants, get into college.

Next week we're focusing on the 2007 year in review and 2008 year ahead.

What's interesing is looking back at last year's show, it wasn't super clear what the issues of 2007 would be necessarily. I think the upcoming year is clear. Water issues, transportation, and I guess there's some kind of election next year?

I can't wait and I hope you can't either! Thank you so much for supporting state government reporting and I hope I can provide some great information and insight in the year ahead as well.

Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Gangs, gangs, gangs...

So, I spent my morning down at the General Assembly attending the House Select Committee on Street Gangs.

It was their first meeting. The House has already passed a bill related to street gang prevention but they chose to study it in the "offseason" anyway because the Senate has sat on the bill.

Anyway, in 1999 the Governor's Crime Commission reported roughly 5000 gang members in NC. By 2004, that number jumped to 8500.

Today, researchers from the Governor's Crime Commission told me that number will easily surpass 10,000, That's shocking on the face of it, but that it may not be in the end.

The researchers believe many police departments and community members did not want to admit there was a gang problem in their community. So, the numbers may reflect a growing trend toward admitting there's a problem. Still, the numbers are likely going to shock many people.

The committee wants the Commission's updated numbers by March.

In the meantime, North Carolina law does not define or make gangs illegal yet. That's what the House proposal aims to fix. It defines a street gang and targets the ring leaders and other crimes that would be defined as gang related.

There are some opponents because some feel it targets young teenagers and minorities.

It will be interesting to see if anything gets done in the short session!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Happy Monday!

It appears the GA is wasting no time on its investigation of Rep. Wright. I found this on the front page of the General Assembly website a little bit ago. I haven't had a chance to call on it but it's right there.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007
10:00 AM House Select Committee on Street Gang Prevention 544 LOB
4:00 PM House Select Com. To Investigate Alleged Misconduct and Other Matters Included in Indictments Against Rep. Thomas Wright 544 LOB

The Gang group should be interesting as well but somehow I think that won't get as much attention!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

What a beautiful September morning huh? Wait, what? It's December? Wow, this warmth is crazy huh?

I'm headed down to the Governor's crib (Mansion) to do a little year end interview. I'm hoping he has some good stuff to say.

We will post the entire interview once I get it put together (it's a 2 camera shoot that has to be edited as one). I plan to do a couple stories on it today and tomorrow and then we'll use the interview as a bulk of Political Connections this weekend.

I'll try to get it all posted here later tonight!

Update: Watch the full interview with Governor Mike Easley

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Hackney's presser...

I'm back from a long weekend in Pittsburgh filled with a few inches of snow, a ton of great food, and a sad group of Steeler fans!

Anywho, I'm "off the street" until Thursday for medical reasons (no big deal), but thanks to technology I'm sitting at my desk listening to the audio from the General Assembly Press room waiting for House Speaker Joe Hackney to discuss the indictment of Rep. Thomas Wright.

He's now talking so here's the highlights...

-House will move ahead to resolve the matter. He spent the day talking to various parties (Gov's office, Senate, Wake County DA, etc.) about the topic.

-Joint Ethics Committee had taken up issue but stopped at the request of DA to investigate himself first.

-The subject of indictments are very serious matters and require the House to act on those allegations.

-No reason for House to further delay any more investigation or action on Mr. Wright.

-What's next? Joint Ethics Committee to promptly wrap up their work and he anticipates there will be a special session to consider the recommendations of the committee.

-He does not want this to linger into May when the General Assembly reconvenes.

-He wants the process open and would go a long way to making the public feel better about the situation.

-Hackney says there are measures set forth to allow the House to remove Wright from office.

-He has not talked to Wright and he stands by his past comments (he asked him to resign)

-The House will not and does not need to wait for the court process to wrap up before taking action.

-The House would only vote in the special session. The Senate may need to show up for procedure reasons but they would not vote.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

TGIF..sort of..

I'm headed out of town for a long weekend and early Christmas with some of the in-laws! Headed up to Pittsburgh. I'll be there Sunday when the Steelers play the Patriots so my Sunday evening could be really fun or depressing! My wife is a major major Steelers fan (which is great because we watch football together every Sunday!).

Anywho, make sure to check out Political Connections this weekend. We take a look at charter schools this week and whether or not there should be more or less and what impact they have on North Carolina after 10 years. It airs on News 14 Carolina at 6pm Friday and Sunday at 11am.

We're working on a pretty exciting interview for Political Connections as well over the next week.

I'm also beginning a plan to cover the South Carolina Primaries in January.

Should be fun! Have a great weekend and I'll be back at it on Tuesday!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Hello everyone! As you can see we are making a few changes to the blog. First, the look. It looks more like the show and the graphics scheme we use here at News 14 Carolina for the blog.

But even more exciting (try to keep calm, I know!) is that we are just about ready to get our video section done. If you scroll down to the entry below this you can see a picture with a play button on it. You can simply click on that and a video player pops up with the story.

In the future, I will use this to hopefully add stories but even more important extra video that you won't see on tv.

This is important next year because I hope to give behind the scene tours on the campaign trail, full length interviews, blog exclusives, etc.

I believe we'll be one of the few blogs to have original video content in the state.

With that said I am not a tech guy! I can learn fast and will do my best but it I will be hanging out with our web folks who do know what their doing to teach me!

The video portion will become more prominent in time, but just wanted to give an update!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Undecideds rule!

As much as we report on the state elections and would like to believe it's a hot topic, a poll today really tells otherwise.

The PPP poll shows Lt. Gov. Bev Perdue with a 41-32% lead and Kay Hagan with a 22-13% lead over Jim Neal in the U.S. Senate race. For Lt. Gov., that race is a 12-10-8-6% deadheat.

What those numbers show much more than a leader is the massive amount of people who either just don't care or are really confused about who they support.

In the Gov. race there is 27% undecided. In the U.S. Senate race there is a whopping 58% undecided, but the biggest news to me was the Lt. Gov. race. There are four candidates yet 65% of those polled were undecided.

Um...I would seriously wonder whether they are undecided or just don't care. Don't get mad at me for that comment. I care about those races and try to learn as much as possible about the candidates but I think it is clear at this point from those poll results that our state races are not important to average voters right now.

I'm not saying this is unusual with the primary still several months away. I'm just saying enjoy the holidays a little because it appears everyone else is without any worry of who their next leader will be in North Carolina!

Monday, December 03, 2007

So, Rob Christenson's column this Sunday got the best of my curiosity. It was about a civics test given to college students and they didn't do so great. In fact, even some of the "top" schools got D's at best on this test.

Rob's story on the web had a link to the actual quiz and I took it. Now, I consider myself about average when it comes to history and still a pretty young buck so I didn't know how I would fare. In full disclosure, I ended up in the high 70's. Rob was in the high 80's and my friend Laura Leslie from WUNC was in the 80's as well.

I have to admit some of the questions were easy and others I found extremely difficult. It got me thinking though.

From kindergarten through college, my classes focused on the civil and revolutionary war. We went in-depth beyond belief. However, we barely covered anything past 1900 and it was done in about a week.

After college and a few years in the "real world", I began wanting to learn again instead of having to learn. So, I began to try and devour as much info beginning with FDR to get caught up. This year's Christmas list is full of history and political books specifically on NC, so I'm excited about that as well.

My point is we never really learned enough about things that have had a major impact on my life. Granted the beginning of this country is vital to me being here in this capacity, but it got me thinking about why I didn't know many of the questions asked on the civics test.

It also got me wondering did others have the same experience in school that I did?

If you're interested, here's the link to the quiz.