NC General Statutes

Gaston: No ICE detention facility

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No Doubt!

Both the papers are now reporting that a 1,500 bed federal detention center most likely will not be built in Gaston County.

We kinda wonder why our county officials had to travel to Washington “for discussions” about this project? Wouldn’t have been a bit cheaper for Sue Myrick and former Mecklenburg Sheriff, Jim Pendergraff to have visited Gaston?

 The Gazette, ever hopeful for downtown revitalization, expressed an interest for an “ala carte” project that would be less expensive.

Seems to us that the project tab of $150 million fits into “Big Plan” Palenick’s vision for Gaston — right along with the laundry list of a “conference center/hotel”, restaurants, a hidden homeless shelter, and an $18 million baseball field.

This is leaving us wondering what sort of earmarks that Ms. Myrick is planning to dangle for us as her re-election campaign gears up. Our schools who qualify for Title I funding are shrinking even when the number of poor students grows. The estimated $1.6 Billion (yes, billion) “Garden Parkway” is still an apple of David Hoyle’s eye, but without federal funding and passage of a Toll Authority from the state, that will be out of his lifetime. Maybe he and Ms. Myrick could talk – surely there is still a bit of money at the bottom of the pork barrel for good ‘ol Gaston.

   

Downtown stakeholders get the skinny on Gastonia’s big plan

At this morning’s First Friday Focus, a Gaston Regional Chamber, regular event, “Big Plan” Palenick, Gastonia’s city manager/chief litigator, presented HIS big plan for Gastonia.

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Speaking before a good sized crowd of chamber members and interested others, “BP” noted that many downtown business owners supported the plan “enthusiastically”.

We already know that the city council has swallowed the kool-aid in its desperate attempt to revive a city that lost its relevance when I-85 was completed, and then again when Wal-Mart took over at both ends of town.

It now appears that the libertarian mouthpiece, the Gaston Gazette, is certainly looking more favorably on these plans as well. Their tone and style of writing is disappointing considering their distain for the TIF laws as passed in 2004.

Good luck Gastonia.

Really, we mean it…

  

TIF Turns Gaston Into River City

Tax Increment Financing has turned Gaston County cities and towns into the real life example of the movie version, “The Music Man”:

A con artist, “Professor” Harold Hill, comes to a small Iowa town in the early 1900s. He convinces the town that it needs a marching band, taking orders for the necessary instruments and uniforms. He also sells music lessons in advance, concealing the fact that he cannot read or play a note of music. In the process Professor Hill galvanizes the town out of its torpor and falls in love with the local librarian/music teacher. The movie is the original setting for “Seventy-Six Trombones” and “Till There Was You.”

We’ve got Trouble… Right here in River City…

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An article in the Charlotte Oberserver reports that County manager, Jan Winters has bought into “Big Plan” Jim Palenick’s endorsement of the Big League Dreams program. Where did $23,000 to “study” the project come from? Another tap into the Tourism funds from the hotel/motel tax?  

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Another trip down the route of issuing municipal bonds without voter approval.

Isn’t “Big Plan” the same guy who questioned the Whitewater Park investment by Gaston area communities? Didn’t Mr. Winters have a dickens of a time dealing with the fallout of the failed Equestrian Center and county finances.

So, what are the differences?

Big League Dreams is a for-profit development firm that primarily builds baseball fields with the target area’s local money, and takes 50% of the profits (if there are any). The project is being sold throughout the United States as a way for cash-strapped communities to have “world class” athletic facilities.  

The “target communities” are generally areas that have small parks and recreation budgets — if any at all –, are in areas of unrealized potential — along major highways/transportation corridors, and have attention starved local politicos. Several communities that bought into this project have already had to raise entrance fees — yes, parking/viewing — to meet the for-profit operating budget. Captured events, such as Legion Baseball, the Grizzlies, and any planned event, will have to charge an arm-and-a-leg to meet breakeven points. What guarantees are made by Big League Dreams if the community couldn’t attract major regional or national events?

NONE —

This particular group is asking — demanding, actually (by the business model) — that the target community do the local site research, commit to the fund the construction, and guarantee the construction loan. Then they operate the facilities, and “split” the profits of the facility. The big kicker is that they MUST be able to sell alcohol in their parks. So in essence, the City (and County) in this scheme, want to get a piece of the alcohol sales and profit off of youth sports.

The passage of the Tax Increment Finance law in 2004, has allowed the traveling saleman to flood North Carolina communities with big visions and bigger ideas.  Jim “Big Plan” Palenick and Big League Dreams blew in with this passage.

The US National Whitewater Center is a one-of-a-kind, locally volunteer-driven, non-profit organization. It is a planned out, unique destination place that has not yet been duplicated. Significant private investment was pledged and committed PRIOR to public investment.

The community investment in the USNWC is guaranteed by the public investment of tax dollars, which will be tapped this fiscal year, and probably for the next two consecutive years. Is it a lot of money?

In our opinion, sure, but at the same time it is less than the $18 million proposed for the Baseball fields. It is less than the proposed $12.5 million for downtown Gastonia’s “renovation”.  For the USNWC, a total of $2.5 million was invested by the Gaston communities (Gastonia, Belmont, Mt. Holly) in the $35 million project.

Was there, or is there, a payback from the Whitewater Center? This past summer, the first year of operation, over 50% of the staff were from Gaston County. Primarly college students and young adults. Several events attracted a world-wide audience and visitors, many of whom stayed in the Holiday Inn Express at exit #27. The center attracted over 400,000 visitors — yes, free, mostly curiousity visitors, many more than the 300,000 anticipated.  

So far, the “Big Plan” Jim Palenick  public endorsement tally is over $30 million. We have to ask, what is next ?

This traveling salesman scores bigtime in Gaston County. “Big Plan” also scored in Bay City, Michigan and Rio Rancho, New Mexico prior to blowing into Gastonia.  

Belmont Not Meeting Water Restriction Guidelines

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With Stage 3 water restrictions in place, Belmont must just be ignoring the severity of the drought.

In October, Governor Easley called on the municipalities throughout the state to cut water useage by 50%. According to the NC Drought Monitor, Belmont just isn’t meeting that goal.

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Belmont’s average daily useage as of August 2007 was 2.4 million gallons per day.  

  12/10          12/3         11/26         11/19          11/12           11/5          10/29          10/22

-34.76% -29.97% -30.18% -29.48% -17.64% -19.66% -29.31% -33.75%

So, what’s up with that?

It is not as if the state hadn’t given communities guidelines or unreasonable expectations. Back in 2002, during the last drought,  the State passed HB 1215. Section 5 of House Bill 1215 required the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to evaluate water conservation measures being implemented in North Carolina and to identify incentive programs and other voluntary programs that can help foster water conservation, water reuse, and water use efficiency.

water-use-during-droughts-and-water-supply-emergencies.pdf

At the last city council meeting, City Manager Barry Webb, spoke about the possible actions to “encourage” further water conservation, including a “temporary” water rate increase.

We all know that several businesses will be heavily impacted, and that those on “fixed incomes” will want exemptions right off the bat, if council seriously considers this added taxation.

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Isn’t this Special ?

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A suburban town just outside of New York City is offering an “opportunity” for its senior citizens to work off their property taxes.

Wow, a novel way to counteract spiralling need to reach into a homeowner’s wallet. Since we taxed your property that a lot of people want, and you can’t afford the taxes now, we can let you work for us!

We wonder – does that mean the county government payroll goes up, or are the newly minted serfs considered “contract workers”? If the community has a public bidding process, does that mean the senior citizens in the community have to publically bid for the job “opportunity”? Do the wages earned get taxed?

“There are lots of things people can do for the town and it wouldn’t cost us that much to pay them”, said Town Supervisor Paul Feiner.

laughing.jpg    No Doubt…

Minnesota “allows” its senior citizens to defer their property taxes, but not forgives them of the obligation — “This is not a tax forgiveness program – it is a low interest loan from the state. The deferred tax is paid by the state to your county. Interest will be charged on this loan. The interest rate will be adjusted annually, but will never exceed five percent. A lien will attach to your property.” — from the state web page.

OK, so now we owe interest on top of the tax, and our children pay the estate off when we pass away. Sounds like a windfall for the county — even better than the accomodations tax used to fund our community festivals and chambers of commerce.

“They’re heart-committed volunteers,” said Council on Aging Director Patricia McCarthy, to a Whitman, MA, town council. Town Administrator Frank Lynam said there could be work for seniors who want to take on light custodial work at the Town Hall.

Shur’nuf, 111 hours of peasant labor…

Gaston County offers a Homestead Exclusion, but no overtly special way to pay off the tax liability.

The qualifications for this exclusion also require the owner to make a timely application. The deadline for the application is June 1.  The major qualifications for a Gaston County resident include a minimum age or disability as of January 1 — 65 years or older or totally and permanently disabled.   In addition, the owner’s adjusted gross income (individual or husband and wife) can not exceed $19,200 for the calendar year preceding the year in which the exclusion is claimed.  Those who qualify for the exclusion can receive the greater of $20,000 or 50% of the value of their residence reduced from their tax bill.

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Since the Gazette didn’t pick up the story yet, maybe our illustrious county commissioners won’t get big ideas just yet. Oops — too late — it appears that there at least a couple county commissioners that read this blog.

40-plus N.C. laws take effect

One new law bans devices known as “alcohol inhalers,” which convert liquor into a mist that can be inhaled by the user. Lawmakers were concerned that the devices, which were assembled and distributed by a Greensboro company, were being marketed to underage drinkers. Another law establishes rules for alcohol-detecting technology, which is used in ankle bracelets worn by some defendants convicted of drunken driving. Also, people can lose their driver’s licenses for providing alcohol to anyone younger than 21. The penalty is important because many underage drinkers get alcohol from friends or family members, said Craig Lloyd, the executive director of the N.C. chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

Animals

Penalties have increased for anyone who kills an animal through intentional starvation, and for anyone who kills a police animal or an assistance animal such as a seeing-eye dog.

Animal rights activists supported those two laws, although an official with the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals said she objects to the idea that certain animals, such as police dogs, should be elevated above ordinary companion animals.

A third law dealing with animals legalizes a practice known as “earth-dog trials.” The practice involves placing a caged rat at the end of an underground tunnel. A dog such as a dachshund or terrier is encouraged to follow the scent of the rat through the tunnel and then bark, scratch or paw at the rat’s cage. The “trial” is said to be a simulated hunting situation and is sometimes used for entertainment.

Miscellaneous

Desecrating a gravestone or other cemetery monument is now considered a low-level felony, and the punishment has increased for people who carry a weapon while violating a domestic violence order.

There are also tougher penalties for people who steal high-priced metals, such as copper and aluminum, or who engage in the organized theft of retail merchandise with the intent to resell it.

It will be harder to get out of a speeding ticket if the speed is more than 25 mph over the speed limit. People caught speeding at that level can no longer get a “prayer for judgment continued” from a judge or plead guilty to the lesser offense of having a broken speedometer.

NC Policy Watch has a few more summaries and we have attached the entire PDF of enacted laws (all 419 pages) through November.

summaries-of-substantive-ratified-legislation-for-2007.pdf