Guest Columnist

May 292013
 

By Dan Kennedy

The IRS targeting conservative groups for extensive review of their nonprofit applications, while allowing those of liberal groups to sail through:  tyranny.

The former acting director of the IRS telling Congress that this is not illegal: tyranny.

Not only the IRS, but the FBI, OSHA, and the ATF targeting a family business after one of the owners formed tea party and voter’s rights groups:  tyranny.

Leaking confidential tax information of conservative groups and donors to the press: tyranny.

We have congressional hearings, IRS executives taking the Fifth Amendment, calls for special prosecutors.  All this, plus promises to reform the IRS and make it harder, if not impossible, for these things ever happen again.

We’ve heard this before, about other agencies after other scandals.  The reforms never really work as intended.  And with the IRS, no reform will ever work.

Because the IRS is tyranny.  And you can’t reform tyranny.  You have to eliminate it.

Don’t misunderstand me.  I’m not advocating violence taken up arms against your nearest IRS office.  The framers gave us tools to make needed changes peacefully.

You see, we had to amend the Constitution to make a direct federal tax on income legal.  The 16th amendment, passed in 1913, gave Congress this power.  And if we had to ratify an amendment to allow an income tax, we can ratify one to repeal the same amendment.

I know what you’re thinking: “Kennedy, there’s no way in hell Congress will ever send that amendment to the states.  They will never cut off that river of money!”  You’re right.  That’ll never happen.  So we’re screwed, right?

Wrong!  The framers provided a way for the states to “go around” Congress and propose amendments on their own.  Article 5 states “… On application of the legislatures of two thirds of the several states, Congress shall call a convention for the purpose of proposing amendments.”  Note the phrase “Congress shall…”.  No discretion is left to Congress; they must call a convention once two thirds of the states apply.  To do otherwise would violate their oaths of office.

I don’t intend to go into all the details and arguments about the use and operation of an Article 5 amendment convention.  (I wrote about it here, here, and here; Friends of the Article V Convention has done yeoman’s work in the area as well.)  I want to point out that 35 states have applied for a convention to repeal the 16th Amendment.  That’s one more than the2/3 needed to call the convention.

My question is why our state legislators haven’t stepped up and demanded that Congress call the convention.  North Carolina has applications before Congress that have not been rescinded.  Our Congressional delegation is duty bound to move for a convention.  How about it, Messrs. Arp, Horn and Tucker?  What will you do to ensure our state’s rights, under Article V of the Constitution, is not “micturated on”?  The alleged “party of the Constitution” holds both houses of the Legislature.  Will you introduce a resolution calling on our Representatives and Senators to do their sworn duty?  Or will you just let this tyranny stand?  (I know how I’d bet.)

 

Mar 092013
 

Is Incumbent Gerrymandering Alive And Well in Stallings, NC?

On Feb. 11th and 25th the subject of “voting districts” was on the agenda for Stallings council meetings. For those who aren’t familiar with the serious nature of the subject it would be worthwhile to listen to the audio of the meetings by going to the Town of Stallings website and referring to the archived minutes and agendas for the Feb. 11th and 25th meetings.

Harry Stokes, Shawna Steele, Fred Weber and Reed Esarove are adamantly opposed to rebalancing the six voting districts, (actually residency districts) before the November 2013 elections. Stallings has not balanced voting districts since 2001, even though tremendous growth from annexations, new developments and population increases has changed to the point where our voting districts are seriously out of balance by 129%.

It was amazing to hear Steele and Esarove’s comments, which included words such as “inappropriate”, “gerrymandering”, “Chicago style politics”, and fear of the perception that council would be accused of trying to influence who is elected.

There is a term for what the majority on Stallings town council is trying to cram down Stallings citizen’s throats. It is called “incumbent gerrymandering.” Incumbent gerrymandering is most evident in districts 1 and 2, because reduced electoral competition produces “safe” seats for pre-selected individuals. It also reduces voter turnout by diminishing the chance that an individual solitary vote can change the outcome of an election. Gerrymandering in districts I and 2 reduces the chances for a newcomer in either of those districts to be elected because it increases campaign costs by making it harder to build name recognition across districts that wander far and wide over an area seven miles long. This gives incumbents Stokes and Esarove an even bigger advantage, and restricts opportunities for other citizens to become involved in the electoral process.

To ensure that no further action on changes in district boundaries would take place this year Fred Weber succeeded in getting his motion passed to table discussions on district rebalancing until after the November elections. Weber brags about being “independent” and not influenced by others on how he votes. It is interesting to note that neither Weber nor Steele, to my knowledge, ever voted on any motion in opposition to Stokes and Esarove. The outcome is always 4 to 2, with Dunn and Frost in the minority.

Harry Stoke and Reed Esarove helped Steele and Weber get elected. It appears those favors are now being returned. Surprisingly Stokes offered financial assistance to both Weber, (my opponent) and me, suggesting an attempt to buy influence no matter who won. I refused his offer to avoid any future obligation. Since Weber and Steele were seated on council many controversial and expensive changes have been made, such as the generous contract extension for the town manager, firing and replacing the police chief, and use of patrol cars for long commutes by town policemen living outside the area. All these items involve increased expense to taxpayers.

It is an insult to the intelligence of the Stallings electorate to ignore obvious malapportionment in residency districts, which is clearly spelled out in the town charter, as well as NC General Statutes. The brazen attempt to ignore discrepancies in district population balance makes one wonder who or what is behind such an agenda.

I firmly believe it is time for a referendum to allow Stallings residents to have input in the manner for structuring voting districts, and whether or not we have at-large seats on council. Since Stallings has an unusual geographic makeup it may be a good idea to consider dividing the town into 4 voting districts, with two at- large seats to compose the six member council. A hybrid system such as this would legally require rebalancing after every US Census, while our present residency districts legally do not have to meet state and federal statutes.

Stallings citizens need to get actively involved, demand objective, precise criteria to which any district map must comply in order to eliminate “incumbent gerrymandering now, as well as in future elections.

Stallings will be electing a mayor and four council members in November, 2013. Candidates will begin filing for office from July 5th to July 13th, 2013. If we are going to do anything to get more effective, honest, transparent representation time is running short.

Sincerely,

Ira Bostic
Concerned Stallings resident and voter

 

 

 

 

Feb 082013
 

Anthony Burman
Mayor Pro Tem

An Open Letter to the Citizens of Marvin from Mayor Pro Tem Anthony Burman

As Mayor Pro Tem for the Village of Marvin I believe that you as residents should be kept informed and deserve to know the truth about projects currently underway or being considered. This is my response to the politically motivated and inaccurate flyer you received in your newspaper boxes this past week by a small, vocal minority of residents and non-residents.

It is disappointing that there is a segment in our community that continues to spread half-truths, hyperbole, and scare-tactics for personal benefit. The ironic part of the letter is that the author is not saying the Village shouldn’t build a community center or Village Hall, but that the Village shouldn’t build it at Marvin-Efird Park. The letter even states “Yes, it would be nice to have a Center for the Village…” The author wants a new building, but it has to be where they want it located.

In the summer of 2010, when the Village of Marvin made the first offer to purchase the 27.67 acres of land on New Town Road, there was always the intention that this land would fulfill the number one desire of all previous Village surveys, which was a passive park (meaning no athletic fields or structured recreation, other than a playground). Part of the draw to this property was the idea that the old Efird family home could be renovated into a community center and/or Village Hall. Engineering and architectural studies show that it would be more cost-effective to build anew than to renovate the existing house and bring it up to commercial code.

The concept of a community center at Marvin-Efird Park has been discussed for a period of years. There are many examples – here are just three:

1. At the September 14, 2010 Council meeting, the Council held a Public Hearing and later adopted Resolution RS-2010-09-01, which included a community center as an intended use at Marvin-Efird Park.

2. An article in the October 1, 2010 issue of the Union County Weekly titled “A park that makes cents” quoted Councilman Ron Salimao stating that he envisioned a community center in the park.

3. The Village’s PARTF Grant Application, approved at the January 13, 2011 Council meeting, has discussion about a community center.

When Councilman Salimao and I ran for office in 2009, we literally spoke to more than one thousand people about our platform and issues facing the Village. People couldn’t believe there was no park, no community center, and that the Village Hall was still being rented.

Some other issues I would like to address are:

1. What are presented in the letter as facts are either incorrect or taken out of context. For example, the letter quotes a figure for our rent, but does not take into account other costs of the rental. The fact the author chose to only represent one figure, when the actual cost-benefit was readily available, begs the question: Did the author do their homework, or did they cherry-pick what figures they wanted to include to manipulate you? Either way, the heart of the issue is their credibility.

2. In addition, the letter states, “At this rate the payback on spending just the $400,000 is more than 30 years.” Using the author’s logic, it would be much cheaper for everyone if they stayed in their first apartment and not purchase a house, as it will take 30 years to pay your house off. If our analysis leads us to do this project, it will be paid off in 2.5 to 6 years – NO borrowing costs and NO tax increase necessary.

3. The letter states this can “cost you a lot more than $400,000, maybe as much as $700,000.” I’m not sure where the $700,000 figure came from, as there’s been no discussion of spending anywhere near that amount. By contrast, every other municipality in the county that has built or is building a new town hall has spent over $1 million, with the exception of Mineral Springs, who still spent more than Marvin plans.

4. The letter states this will be “a community center you can rent. Yep a taxpayer subsidized service you can ‘rent’ for more of your dollars.” There are only four out of more than 20 subdivisions in Marvin that have clubhouses, and those residents who already pay for the clubhouse with their HOA dues have to pay to “rent” their facility, including a number of people known to be distributing the letter in question. This community center will provide an amenity that more than 80% of the subdivisions do not have, in addition to providing revenue (not factored into the letter) for the Village, similar to the barn at the park.

5. The letter makes alternative suggestions for allocating money in addition to supporting a new community center at a different location. While these are all noble ideas, they are nothing but red herrings used to divert attention away from the discussion at hand – which is really not about a building at all. You already pay for these ideas through the appropriate taxing authorities, the county, and your separate fire tax.

6. Finally, the letter states “One Councilman suggested a public private partnership in an open and accessible parcel of land elsewhere to defray the cost. The rest of the Council ignored this suggestion.” I believe all members of the Council would embrace a concept such as this, but the Councilman put no proposal on the table.

You elected me because I look at all the facts, am detail-oriented, ask the tough questions, and know my commitment to open and transparent government. Those who know me know that I base my decisions and votes on those reasons; not political pressure, emotion, or pressure from “special-interest groups”, including those masquerading themselves as “concerned citizens” hiding behind anonymity.

I encourage you to contact your elected officials, attend meetings, and stay involved. An informed and engaged public is what makes a good community a great community. Once informed, I ask that you base your opinions on fact, not fiction.

{Signed}

Anthony J. Burman
Mayor Pro Tem
Village of Marvin
February 7, 2013

Jun 042012
 

Fake Craigslist post lists Porter Ridge High School as for sale

By Kathryn Burcham
INDIAN TRAIL, N.C. — A fake sales listing on Craigslist shows new concerns about funding issues at Union County Public Schools.

The anonymous poster first listed the ad on Saturday in the “For Sale by Owner,” listing Porter Ridge High School in Indian Trail as a property for sale.
The poster described the school as a “treasure” with a price tag of $30 million, and made several tongue-in-cheek references to things that were wrong with the school, including out-of-date equipment, a sewage smell and broken air conditioning.

The person behind the advertisement also poked fun at school administrators, and chastised Union County commissioners for failing to provide the district with the funding it requested to save 350 teachers and teachers assistants jobs for the 2012-13 school year.

The listing comes just days before the teaching assistants final day on the job on June 8.

“I think parents are just frustrated and don’t know how to get the message out,” said parent Valerie Secker.

Secker is a PTA president of a Union County school and has been advocating with other parents in the funding battle for the past few months.

She said the posting seems funny at first but points to deeper issues.

“There is overcrowding. We’re reaching the point where I just can’t see how we’re going to fit another desk in the classroom,” Secker said.

District officials did not address specific questions about the listing, but sent a statement to Eyewitness News that said, “There is no truth to this Craigslist posting and is obviously some sort of prank. We have reported it to Craigslist for removal.”

Fake Craigslist post lists Porter Ridge High School as for sale | www.wsoctv.com.


May 252012
 

Great schools are key to economic future

Union County has no professional sports arena, research triangle, or major university. We are not known as a financial center, a tourist destination, or technology hub.

Yet, even in the absence of attractions like these, we have been one of the fastest growing counties in the United States. Some will tell you it is because the taxes are lower; some will claim it is the small-town rural feel; but MOST will tell you it is because of the reputation and performance of the school system.

Our schools have become a very high-profile draw for residential growth which, in turn, leads to retail growth and creates the labor market for industrial growth. This ultimately translates to new business and jobs, a more vibrant economy, lower unemployment, and a better quality of life — all of which were direct promises made in the last election.

Because we don’t have the other typical inducements, the quality of education drives the entire economic health of this County. That, in turn, determines the revenues, the tax base, and ultimately, the tax rate. The issue of school funding has been discussed, spiritedly debated, and is very emotional for a lot of people. It affects not only those that have school-aged children, but every citizen in this county in terms of property values and the desirability of this County to others, today and in the future.

It strikes me that every time there is a disagreement on an issue, Commissioner Rogers and I are accused of “playing politics.” Well look around. This is the government and this is a political board—everything we do is politics. However, I did find my flyer from when I ran four years ago, and it states very clearly that I stand for “funded schools” and “continued emphasis on education.” I am not “playing”.  I am standing up for what I said I would and for what the people are continuing to tell us they want from their elected officials. The current proposal of one-time funding of teacher assistants, while not the most desirable solution, is quite simple. We have the means to help stop, or at least delay, this damage to our children’s education and the overall quality of life to the citizens of this county.

We can pass the buck and the blame, get hung up on semantics and control, or we can decide to preserve and protect the number one economic driver in this county and take care of our kids and our future! It has been said that the monies from the hospital belong to the taxpayers — to the people.

So far, the only request that I have heard via email or public comment is to preserve the integrity of the school system — especially for our youngest children. The voices of the people have been very clear, very consistent, and very specific. I believe we have two more meetings before we must adopt the budget and I urge every Commissioner to put personalities and blame aside, revisit the promises they have made and priorities they claim to have and do the right thing in the name of our children.

Tracy Kuehler
Commissioner
Union County

May 242012
 

Draft Kuehler effort begins

by Heather Smith
Enquirer Journal – May 24, 2012

A petition to put Commissioner Tracy Kuehler on the November ballot is circulating among western Union County residents.
The terms of Kuehler and fellow commissioner Kim Rogers end this fall. Neither filed for reelection. Richard Helms and Frank Aikmus were the only people to file. Since there was no competition, it appeared both were presumed to be the future commissioners.

But a number of residents on the county’s western side want to see Kuehler on the ballot. John Whitley, Union County Board of Elections director, confirmed that Weddington Mayor Walker Davidson filed the paperwork to begin a petition. The group must collect 5,097 signatures by the deadline of June 29 at noon, Whitley said.

Davidson said he would like a different point of view on the commission. When he saw that only two people filed for two seats, he anticipated the need for a third option.

“The number one reason is that I’d like to have an election in November,” Davidson said. “Voters deserve to have a choice.”

Residents had some interest in the petition earlier, but the recent debate about increased funding Union County Public Schools prompted more people to sign.

“They feel like there are only two people, Kim and Tracy, who are speaking up for our schools,” Davidson said.

A YouTube user called “TheVillageSpine” created a video critical of commissioners Jonathan Thomas and Todd Johnson, as well as Aikmus. Links were posted to several Facebook profiles Tuesday. The video focused on requested funding for teacher assistants made by the school board to the county. The video suggests that Aikmus, like Thomas and Johnson, would not financially support county schools.

The video ends with the words, “Let’s have an election in November, not an appointment.”

Kuehler reposted a link to the video Tuesday, with a message about the petition and her original decision not to run for reelection.

“Since my decision not to run, a huge issue has emerged that I am very passionate about, and the support shown by citizens all over the county for my stance has been overwhelming to say the least,” Kuehler wrote on her Facebook page. “Based on that support and passion, I respectfully agreed to run if the required signatures were obtained.”

While she does not know Aikmus or Helms personally, Kuehler said their political views are likely not different from the current board majority.

“I won’t be able to do much with one vote, but you need someone on the other side asking questions,” Kuehler said.

So far, the group has collected about 1,000 names, Davidson said. That leaves less than a month to collect about 4,000 more. But many of the petitions are still circulating, he said, and even more have recently gone out as anxiety over school budgets rise.

“Based on the recent interest and how much interest it’s gotten in the past few weeks, I think it’s possible,” Davidson said.

The Enquirer Journal – Draft Kuehler effort begins.


The following link is for the Petition Form. Download and print it. It is acceptable with just your own signature, but you can always ask your neighbors to sign as well.

[Click Here] for PETITION

For information as where to send your signed petition – please email the VillageScribe.

NOTE: In the EJ story above, there is a reference to a video from a YouTube user named VillageSpine. Do not be mislead by the similarity in names, the Village Scribe DID NOT produce or distribute this video.