Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Business School

Gov. Beverly Perdue created a new post this week - "Chief Executive Officer" of the North Carolina state school system. Dr. William Harrison will serve as both CEO and Chairman of the State Board of Education.

Problem is, we just re-elected someone to run the school system - Superintentendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson.

Apparently the position was created to eliminated the logjam between the Board and Superintendent. Atkinson dealt with the conflict in her previous term by just abdicating her responsibilities, and appointing a Deputy Superintendent to handle day-to-day operations.

Although Perdue is being praised by the usual suspects for her decision, no one seems to be concerned about pesky details like democracy. The only position established by law is the Superintendent - not a Deputy and not a CEO - and that position is supposed to be determined by the vote of the people, not a political favor from a sitting governor.

Also, having the same person serve as Chairman of the Board and the Executive violates all sorts of corporate law principles and separation-of-powers concerns. Logjams in government are healthy things - they show that people in decision-making positions are looking over each other's shoulders, preventing corruption, all to benefit the electorate (or are we "shareholders" now?).

Sen. Martin Nesbitt (D-Asheville) says this is a blatant power grab by the governor to take over the school system and stifle any opposition:

What the governor says, goes, Nesbitt said, and no one within the state Department of Public Instruction is allowed to offer different opinions. "We've muzzled other voices that might tell us what we need to know," he said.
Equally troubling is that Harrison has been instrumental in imposing federal standards and federal regulations over the state education system, through evil tools such as No Child Left Behind.

North Carolina has the obligation to run its own schools -- even the federal statutes admit they have no authority to impose educational mandates on the states. But with no representative of the people in the process, Harrison and Perdue can completely hand control of the state educational system over to the federal government.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Corporate Handouts

The UNC Center for Competitive Economies reports that North Carolina should end its system of providing tax credits to recruit businesses to the state, according to Forbes:

"The incentives that worked well 10 years ago are not performing as well today and suggests that the portfolio should be reallocated to capture higher returns and changing (to) the types of incentives that we use," center director Brent Lane told the Joint Select Committee on Economic Development Incentives.

If that means ending corporate welfare for select industries with large lobbying budgets, then all is well. Unfortunately, the devil is in the details. The Fayetteville Observer reports that the "incentives" favored by the Center are just a more direct mechanism for funneling money to corporations:

The report said incentives expanded by then-Gov. Mike Easley are more useful. They include paying cash to companies for creating jobs.

Here's an alternative idea: Reduce state spending. End all programs that favor redistribution from one group (or one industry) to another. Reduce taxes across the board to reflect the fact that we no longer have so many welfare programs to administer. That favorable tax climate, and the hardworking population of North Carolina, are the only "incentives" industry should need.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Unconstitutional Judges?

Former N.C. Supreme Court justice Bob Orr is no longer on the bench, but still working to preserve the North Carolina Constitution. According to the News & Observer:
The North Carolina Constitution says the terms of the governor and lieutenant governor "shall commence on the first day of January next after their election and continue until their successors are elected and qualified."

That means Mike Easley was no longer N.C. governor as of 1 January. But instead of retiring and leaving the business of state government to his successor, Easley used the interim between 31 December and 10 January (when Beverly Perdue was inaugurated) to make midnight political appointments of his cronies:

On Jan. 9, he appointed the daughter-in-law of a close ally to a judgeship, and he appointed an administration official to a seat on the state industrial commission.

Easley's supporters would say Perdue could not have been governor because she had not been inaugurated. No argument there. But neither could Easley have been governor, according to the letter of the law. UNC law professor John Orth says Easley must have been governor because "somebody's got to be in charge."

As North Carolinians, it's time to demand that our elected officers begin to act based on legal ethics rather than political expediency. And the place to start is with the text of the Constitution.