September 29, 2007

Report of NC DOT incompetence hidden from public

An alarming new report provides more evidence that NC's DOT organization is poorly suited to meet transportation needs of the state and reveals the organization is withholding a major consultant review of the DOT paid for by taxpayer dollars. The DOT continues to reflect the incompetence of director Lindo Tippett, appointed by Governor Easley, and the inability of DOT staff in managing thousands of state employees responsible for maintaining NC's road infrastructure and planning what is needed to handle the unprecedented growth in state traffic.

It is clear that the time has come to demand that the DOT director step down and a replacement be appointed that has the knowledge and ability to manage the organization and facilitate planning and funding of what is needed to build and maintain an adequate transportation infrastructure that will allow the state to be competitive.

Results from a comprehensive survey of some 13,000 thousand DOT workers and interviews with at least two dozen key legislators, state officials, business executives and local transportation officials, along with information from follow up discussions, strongly suggests a lack of understanding within the organization about the mission of the DOT and tells of poor use of funds and inadequate project plans and schedules. Mark L. Foster, the department's chief financial officer, confirmed that "DOT employees complained that they lack a shared understanding of their mission." He briefly described other criticisms: "Road projects cost too much time and money. It's hard to figure out who is responsible for any DOT project."

Read the report and learn more about the lack of a "unified vision", deception and confusion in the state's DOT organization...
News and Observer
September 29, 2007
Bruce Siceloff, Staff Writer

Consultants review of DOT under wraps
McKinsey & Co. was asked to prepare a sweeping evaluation of the transportation agency, but DOT and the company are keeping a tight rein on the information

State Department of Transportation officials are paying a consultant $2.5 million to help make the agency more responsive, accountable and transparent.

They are keeping much of the work secret.

Attorneys for DOT and McKinsey & Co., an international management consultant hired in April to evaluate DOT, blacked out several pages of contract details and stamped other pages "CONFIDENTIAL" before DOT released them to The News & Observer.

Other contract documents indicate that McKinsey initially was asked for a candid, sweeping assessment of DOT's "strategic direction and organizational structure." It was expected to file reports in May and June.

DOT has declined to release a word of its consultant's findings. The April 11 contract includes an unusual pledge that DOT will seek McKinsey's permission before making public references to McKinsey or releasing any "reports, analyses or other such materials" it receives from McKinsey.

DOT officials now say they did not request or receive any written reports from McKinsey, whose contract ends in mid-October. Read more...

September 11, 2007

Easley and legislators reach compromise on latest job incentives

Governor Easley and Legislators reach a compromise on an incentive plan to save jobs in NC. The plan replaces one the Governor vetoed recently that legislators had crafted to keep a factory in Cumberland county from closing down.

The goal of the new legislation is to encourage Goodyear Tire & Rubber to upgrade a plant in Fayetteville and Bridgestone Firestone to modernize one in Wilson and save jobs in those communities. Lawmakers worried that without state assistance for factory upgrades, the companies could shut down and move operations overseas as many have done in recent years.

House Speaker Joe Hackney said "What triggered this is the absolute devastation that would occur in Cumberland County if Goodyear was to leave," he said, adding that the same would happen in Wilson if Bridgestone Firestone were to pull out. "We're focused on the community."

News & Observer
September 11, 2007
Ryan Teague Beckwith, Jonathan B. Cox and Lynn Bonner, Staff Writers

Easley signs compromise incentives bill

RALEIGH — Gov. Mike Easley this afternoon signed into law a compromise bill that gives two tire companies incentives to improve their North Carolina plants.

The bill was drafted Monday as an alternative to one vetoed by Gov. Mike Easley. It would give Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. and Bridgestone Firestone cash incentives to stay in North Carolina.

The bill passed the House 61-44 about 2:30 p.m. and the Senate 25-16 an hour later. Easley signed it soon after.

"This tool is a fantastic statement by the General Assembly that North Carolina is focused on the future and determined that our citizens will compete and win in the new world economy," Easley said in a statement. "This legislation will create cutting edge economic competitiveness in North Carolina, unlike any state in America." Read more...

September 10, 2007

Incentive for jobs in western NC

Another taxpayer funded incentive deal has been made to draw jobs to North Carolina. BAE Systems Tensylon will receive $127,000 to expand it's manufacturing operation near Monroe. North Carolina will contribute $40,000 taxpayer dollars and the county will chip in nearly $87,000 to try to boost the local economy.

Charlotte Observer
September 9, 2007
Mike Torralba

Manufacturer gets incentive package
BAE Systems Tensylon to receive $127,000

A manufacturer of antiballistic vehicle and body armor will expand its plant outside Monroe in exchange for $127,000 in state and local economic-development incentives.

The company, BAE Systems Tensylon High Performance Materials, is expected to create 42 new jobs and invest $8.7 million over three years, including an 18,000-square-foot expansion of its Piedmont Drive building, according to the Partnership for Progress, Union County's economic development arm.

The average weekly pay for the new jobs will be $714, not including benefits -- higher than the county average of $643, according to Gov. Mike Easley's office.

The state will contribute $40,000 from the One North Carolina Fund to the incentive package. The fund is intended to encourage out-of-state businesses to come to North Carolina and existing companies to expand, creating new jobs.

The county will contribute a grant of nearly $87,000. Original article...

September 9, 2007

One-stop voting help's NC turnout

Voting in North Carolina has gotten a little easier, thanks to implementation of One-Stop Voting. One of the traditional reasons for low voter turnout is that many voters don't or can't take time out from work or other commitments to vote in most elections. Now it will be a little easier to vote and make a difference!

Another reason often cited for non-participation is waiting too late, then not having time to stand in long lines. According to Bob Hall of Democracy North Carolina “Young people and busy blue-collar workers don’t pay attention to the election until the final week or so, and by then it’s too late.’’

Another change that will boost turnout is a provision to let new voters register and vote on the same day. Voters will be able to go to a One-Stop Site, present proper identification, register and vote at the same time shortly before an election (but not on Election Day itself).

Read more about how this change should boost NC's voter participation...

Asheville Citizen-Times
August 24, 2007
Citizens-Times editorial

NC's One-Stop voting is a blessing for busy people

In our democracy, there is no greater privilege, right and responsibility than casting a ballot.

We’re pleased to note that process just got easier. Hopefully, the passage of HB-91, “Registration and Voting at One-Stop Sites,” by the General Assembly, and the formal approval of the plan by the U.S. Department of Justice, will give a boost to voter participation locally and across North Carolina.

It should be a particular godsend for new voters and prognosticators.

Government affects virtually everything we do in our lives, from the condition of the road we drive on during our morning commute, to the safety of the workplace we arrive at, to the state of the schools our children attend, the air we breathe and the water we drink.

The vote is where the average citizen gets his or her say on those matters by electing the officials with our best interests in mind.

However, that powerful tool is cast aside by many. In North Carolina, the “Civic Participation Index’’ released earlier this year showed only two of five adults in the state vote in a typical election.

One million citizens aren’t even registered to vote, and even of those who did register for the 2006 election, only 37 percent cast a ballot.

Harried for time

That doesn’t mean North Carolinians are bad people or poor citizens. A comment from Bob Hall of Democracy North Carolina framed the issue succinctly: “Young people and busy blue-collar workers don’t pay attention to the election until the final week or so, and by then it’s too late.’’

Under the old law, when you had to register to vote 25 days before an election, that may well have been true.

Now, voters will be able to go to a One-Stop Site, and after presenting proper identification, can register and vote at the same time shortly before an election (but not on Election Day itself).

The main objection to One-Stop voting was the risk of voter fraud. The new law seems to make that possibility rather remote. Identification will be carefully checked, and the penalty for attempting to perpetrate fraud is steep — a felony.

The voters same-day registration should help the most are young voters attempting to navigate the system for the first time and new residents who need to familiarize themselves with their new state’s voting laws.

North Carolina is breaking ground with this move, becoming just the eighth state in the nation — and the first in the South — to allow citizens to register and vote shortly before an election.

There may be bumps as election officials and voters adjust to the new system, but the potential payoff is huge. Democracy North Carolina reported that a study last month by two political scientists estimated voter participation could rise nearly 11 percent for young voters, 9 percent for new residents and 6 percent for African-Americans.

Democracy North Carolina’s Hall said, “The vote is each person’s voice in shaping policies that will hurt or help their future. North Carolina is among the bottom 15 states for voter participation, and our low rankings for health care, education, pay equity and other indicators mirror that low level of involvement by ordinary citizens.’’

Same-day registration holds the promise of making civic participation less of a chore. Mainly, it holds the promise of making our government — and thus our lives — better.


The Same-Day Registration law (H-91/Session Law 2007-253) allows a citizen to go to a One-Stop Early Voting site in the county, show proper identification to an election official, fill out the registration form, swear under penalty of a felony that the information is accurate, and then cast a ballot — all on the same day.

Forms of acceptable identification include these documents with the person’s current address:

• a N.C. drivers license

• a telephone, electric, gas or other utility bill

• a bank statement

• a payroll check

• a document from a local, state, or federal government agency

The registration form is processed immediately, through computerized and staff data matching and an address correction card sent via mail; if a problem arises, the ballot (which is coded to the person) can be pulled before the canvass date for the election.

Election officials must now provide a provisional ballot to anyone who wants to vote and then research the person’s eligibility. Many election officials favor SDR because it will drastically reduce the need for provisional ballots.