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Archive for the ‘state government’ Category

Regardless of statewide voting that saw Democrat Kay Hagan win comfortably and Barack Obama win very marginally, Surry County still gave a resounding nod to the GOP. 

Take a look at the breakdown of votes by county and it’s clear that the northwest Piedmont was very much McCain country. Here in Surry, every Republican running for state or federal office did better here when compared to the district or state as a whole.

Democrats have gained pockets of support in the municipalities — which can be seen in the breakdowns of straight ticket voting or the Dole/Hagan race — and the number voting Democrat in the presidential race is up slightly from 2004. But there’s no spinning the fact that Republicans are still strong across the board, even though they aren’t in the majority in terms of voter registration. They even managed to elect one of their own, Sarah Stevens, to a House seat held by a three-term incumbent in Jim Harrell whose district leans Democratic.

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“Project X” is fast going to turn into Project U.

Dean Brown may have given his pursuit of a state prison a mysterious sounding title. But now that’s it’s out in the open, it really comes down to what You think. This has all the ingredients of a classic economic recruitment project (search for a site, offering incentives, competing with other counties, determining the worth of the new jobs) but with a huge new twist — public support is critical. Unlike recruitment of private industry, pursuit of a prison will be out in the open, and the state politicians that will have to sign off on the final site don’t want to deal with backlash from picking an unpopular location. They don’t have to, as there’s plenty of locations to choose from.

This came up repeatedly in a presentation Thursday Department of Corrections officials gave to representatives from local government. Without public backing, the project is a no go. So the first question on everyone’s mind is, “what’s a fair and comprehensive way of determining public support, or lack thereof?”

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We’re hitting crunch time when it comes to voter registration, with the deadline on Friday. Since the Democratic primary in May, 1,666 new voters have registered in Surry, almost evenly split among Democrats, Republicans and those unaffiliated. Take a look at county registration stats over the past year and it’s evident that the latter group, independents, is experiencing the largest growth. Compared to 2004, that demographic is up almost 25 percent in Surry, perhaps reflecting North Carolina’s recent battleground state status.

With the number of Democratic and Republican registrations almost even in Surry, those independents will go a long way in deciding who the county supports for state and national races.

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Jon Cawley doesn’t fancy himself a businessman, and his background doesn’t include lengthy experience in financial matters.

But the pastor and Mount Airy commissioner does have a lengthy and dedicated history helping sports and recreation programs. So he reacted to the news of the most recent loss of manufacturing jobs to Virginia thinking like a coach. Here’s his comments from last week’s city council meeting:

“Some of the reasons jobs have gone other places are not any one person’s fault. It’s a system I don’t like. A system where our neighbor has an advantage … “The sportsman in me asks ‘what does it take to win?’ We have to turn that negative 30 into a positive 30. We’ve got to attack that problem. We have to take the attitude of refuse to lose when it comes to putting people to work.”

Mount Airy football coach Kelly Holder would be proud.

It’s this competitive spirit that’s the backdrop of a forum later this month on the incentives issue that will feature those vying for elected office. Organizers say the focus is on how to win back jobs from Virginia by offering more incentives. But what are the rules in this game? When does cash for companies go against free market capitalism? If manufacturing industries get money up front, what about the insurance agency wanting to expand and hire 5 new people? Or the hotel thinking about arriving and wanting to hire 20? What about the industry thinking of leaving? Do they get incentives just to keep jobs here?

The Messenger has been invited to submit questions for the forum. Send us your suggestions.

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Campaign finance reports are rolling out for the second quarter, and most of the coverage on these centers around A. how much money each candidate has raised or B. who’s giving them money.

Both are important points, and we’ll look into them as more totals roll in. But for now I’m intrigued by who our elected representatives are giving to — which can be almost as telling as who they’re receiving money from. Take Rep. Jim Harrell, the Democrat representing Surry and Alleghany counties. His second quarter disclosure report lists a $6,000 contribution to the NC House Democratic Committee, $1,500 to the NC Democratic Party and $1,500 to the campaign to re-elect William Wainwright.

The second-quarter report for Sen. Don East, a Republican representing Surry, Stokes, Alleghany and Yadkin counties, lists a $250 contribution to the Committee to Elect Republican Women and $500 to the committee to elect Hugh Webster to Congress.

Rep. George Holmes, a Republican whose district includes eastern Surry County, isn’t running for re-election, yet his report still lists more than $6,000 cash on hand. He can’t keep that money for personal use, so it will be interesting to see where it goes.

Congressional Rep. Virginia Foxx hasn’t released her second quarter totals yet, but I’ll look for them. In 2006 she gave quite a bit to various other congressional campaigns.

You can really get lost in the world of campaign finance filings. If anyone finds something intriguing in these documents let me know.

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The sudden storms may have arrived on our forecasts. But steady rain has not. Thus serious drought conditions are creeping back through North Carolina, as shown by the monitoring map of the NC Drought Management Advisory Council.

Almost on cue, new legislation outlining water conservation cleared a major hurdle by being approved in committee Tuesday, the News & Observer reported. This summer we could very well see the approval of, or at least debate on, new restrictions designed to combat future droughts. As it stands, the bill would give the state more power in forcing municipalities to implement conservation plans or to provide emergency assistance to other communities in times of drought.

It also includes a provision under improving “water system efficiency” that’s of interest to anyone upset about local water rates. To be eligible for any state grants for water and sewer projects, a municipality would have to demonstrate that its system:

(1)      Has established a water rate structure that is adequate to pay the cost of maintaining, repairing, and operating the system, including reserves for payment of principal and interest on indebtedness incurred for maintenance or improvement of the water system during periods of normal use and periods of reduced water use due to implementation of water conservation measures. The funding agency shall apply guidelines developed by the State Water Infrastructure Commission in determining the adequacy of the water rate structure to support operation and maintenance of the system.

(2)       Implemented a leak detection and repair program.

(3)       Has an approved water supply plan pursuant to G.S. 143‑355.

 

In other words, no cutting rates by subsidizing out of the general fund or skimping on maintenance costs.

For more background on this issue, see our May 23 cover story.

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Mount Airy’s cultural icon just keeps popping up in state political discussions. First came Andy Griffith’s ad touting Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bev Perdue. Then Perdue’s opponent Pat McCrory used Griffith’s most famous character, Sheriff Andy Taylor, to drive home points about the state of the NC criminal justice system during a debate last month.

Now a Raleigh-based polling organization, Public Policy Polling, has released the results of its latest survey: who would Sheriff Taylor vote for in the presidential and governor’s race? Check out the results here.

I’m not sure which is more interesting, that Sheriff Taylor would split his ticket (McCain for president, Perdue for governor) or that 11 percent of all Republicans surveyed have an unfavorable opinion of Griffith as a person. Only 5 percent of Democrats feel that way, probably because he often endorses that party’s candidates.

Among the most interesting results to the poll’s coordinator, Tom Jensen, is that 6 percent think Sheriff Taylor would vote Libertarian.

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