Archive for March, 2008

April Fools Day

Just curious as to what you might have planned for April Fools Day. Is the joy in getting fooled, or in fooling someone else? What’s the best April Fools Day gag you’ve participated in?

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Long before it drew national attention as the site of a tragic plane crash in February, the Mount Airy/Surry County airport was tagged as in need of an expansion for economic development purposes. The process is still stalled in trying to generate $11 million in state, local and federal funds needed for land acquisition and runway expansion. The roadblocks come in the form of many questions: should the city or county take the lead in local funding? Should state and congressional representatives try to earmark funds in the budget, even though such practices are derided as pork barrel spending? Should the advantage of having an extra asset to tout to prospective industry (along with the potential tax base of more jets) outweigh the concerns of Holly Springs residents not wanting their community disturbed by any more potentially dangerous aerial activities?I live about a half mile from the airport myself. It’s hard not to ponder its future when the sound of jet engines serve as a reminder several times a day.

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Around this time each year, the U.S. Census Bureau releases new population estimates for 2007, and the results continue the trend of North Carolina being one of the fastest growing states in the nation. But it’s not universal growth, while urban counties such as Wake or Mecklenburg and Union are among the fastest growing in the nation, rural counties are much more sluggish. Counties in the Northwest Piedmont for the most part had very little growth, with Surry increasing at a paltry 0.3 percent from last year, the smallest in the area. Officials in urban counties complain about how all this growth is making for residential sprawl and strapping the education and infrastructures. Meanwhile rural counties struggle to thrive when they can’t hold onto their best and brightest residents or attract new talent. I’m not sure which is the tougher predicament — too much growth or too little.

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And so it begins. Today Barack Obama kicked off what is sure to be a firestorm of presidential campaign action in North Carolina with a speech in Fayetteville. and another in Charlotte. Campaign events across the state are springing up to help the Illinois Senator win a Democratic primary that for the first time in a good while will have an impact on deciding the nomination. Hillary Clinton has yet to touch down in the Tarheel state yet, but has hired a North Carolina coordinator and will doubt soon descend as the May 6 primary date draws near.It’s rare that voters in this state can wield such political influence, and I for one am excited about the prospect of the blitz we’re going to get in terms of campaign events and media coverage. Then again, those who dislike politics are going to have to stomach far too many ads for comfort. Then there are those who simply can’t stand either candidate. Count Congressional Rep. Virginia Foxx, who recently called both candidates socialist, as a member of that group.The only thing for sure is that by the time we get through April, everyone’s going to develop some kind of opinion on Obama and Clinton. For Democracy’s sake, that’s a good thing. Here’s hoping that facts and reasoned arguments prevail in forming those views.

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Time to make your picks

Who’s your choice in the NCAA Basketball Tournament? Are you going with the “home” team, Carolina? Or are you going more with your head than your heart? Be sure to enter our pool for the community by going back to our homepage and clicking on the graphic at the top of the page. You could share in the $1,000 we’re giving away.

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Given the depth and breadth of Judge Mark Badgett’s official misconduct, the astounding thing is not that the N.C. Supreme Court suspended him for two months, but that it didn’t choose to remove him entirely.

This is a man who violated the absolute most basic trust the people must have in their judges.

He lied.

Under oath.

To the Judicial Standards Commission of the state of North Carolina.

The list of Badgett’s transgressions is far longer than that alone, including several equally as serious. The commission and then the Supreme Court found overwhelming evidence of a pattern of judicial misconduct and lack of judicial temperament that any rational person would conclude make him unfit to serve. That he is continuing to campaign for re-election, or that anyone would seriously consider voting for him, beggars the imagination.

Consider these words the Supreme Court chose to use to refer to Badgett in its ruling: “willful misconduct and persistent failure to perform his duties,” adding that “willful misconduct in office denotes ‘improper and wrong conduct of a judge acting in his official capacity done intentionally, knowingly and, generally, in bad faith. It is more than a mere error or an act of negligence.'”

The Judicial Standards Commission determined that Badgett’s testimony in its hearings “was not credible.” The Supreme Court found this “especially troubling because [Badgett] was under oath and sworn to tell the truth.”

It also was highly critical of Badgett’s actions in his courtroom, finding that in one event, “the tenor of his demands carried an air of menace.” The threats Badgett made, from the bench, directed at Surry District Attorney Ricky Bowman, were meant to get Badgett a personal favor, and arose from an inappropriate business relationship the judge had with an attorney who would appear before him.

We invite you to read the complete ruling online at http://www.aoc.state.nc.us/www/public/sc/opinions/2008/173-07-1.htm

We have to wonder why the Supreme Court’s suspension is the only legal action taken against Badgett. Lying under oath to the Judicial Standards Commission ought to bring the interest of the state attorney general’s office. It sounds like a textbook definition of felonious perjury. The N.C. State Bar also ought to be yanking Badgett’s license to practice law, which would make him ineligible to continue serving as a judge.

By far too many accounts Badgett has been a judge more concerned with maintaining his conviction rate than dispensing impartial justice. He has poisoned his relationship with the district attorney’s office, calling into question the fairness of any criminal trial before him.

He should have the decency to resign immediately, but given his megalomania that’s unlikely. If the Judicial Standards Commission, the state Supreme Court, the state attorney general or the N.C. State Bar won’t rid us of him, it will be left to the voters this November to do the right and just thing.





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This semester each school in the Mount Airy system is deciding whether or not to adopt a character education program offered by the state. From the looks of it this seems like a good system for what it does — establishing a comprehensive and consistent code for enforcement and punishment of disciplinary programs tailored around the culture of each school. But the interesting thing about the program is that it views character education much the way we view academic lessons, implementing a system where students are taught good behavior and rewarded for demonstrating it. So the role of schools isn’t just to teach reading and writing (or math, social studies, etc.). For many, character education is part of a mission that keeps getting broader.

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With mixed drink sales on the May primary ballots in Dobson and Pilot Mountain, the issue of alcohol sales is sure to soon become a heated one. That’s good, as it’s something that needs to be discussed, provided the discourse is grounded in facts. Here’s a great site for data on alcohol as a factor in car accidents, a chief point in this discussion. You can create a statistical table to look at total accidents and alcohol-related accidents by state or by county. You can also break it down by year and/or severity of the injuries.As with any analysis, both sides can find some numbers to support their claim. For instance, 25 percent of the state’s fatal accidents over the last five years involved alcohol (versus 5 percent for all accidents), and that figure is lower in the more alcohol-restricted Surry County. On the other hand, the number of alcohol-related accidents in Surry hasn’t really jumped since mixed drinks were legalized in Mount Airy in 2003. It’s also worth noting where ABC stores now operate (try analyzing the stats of the few remaining dry counties) and how their revenue is distributed. You could spend hours processing all of this data, but it’s worth a logical look given the emotion-based  arguments that often surround this issue.

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