Category Archives: — CHOWAN COUNTY
RALEIGH – Many North Carolinians applauded Gov. Pat McCrory this week for asking President Obama and the federal government to stop sending Syrian refugees to North Carolina.
“The brutal murder of people in Paris reminds us that, sadly, terrorists can hide among the innocent,” said Francis De Luca, president of the Raleigh-based Civitas Institute, a nonprofit that espouses a variety of policy solutions from the conservative perspective. “It is vital to halt the influx of Syrians and others from the Middle East until we can ensure none are threats to the people of North Carolina.”
At a Monday press conference, McCrory asked President Obama to “take a deep breath and ask, ‘Are all of the people coming from Syria safe?’ We cannot know that they are. Therefore, our top priority must be to protect the people of North Carolina.”
“As the governor noted, North Carolina has long welcomed refugees,” De Luca said. “This includes the Hmong of Southeast Asia and the Karen people of Burma. But under these special circumstances, it is imperative that we accept no more Middle Eastern refugees until we have better information about all the refugees and until the nation institutes security measures to prevent terrorists from hiding among immigrants and refugees.”
At least nine other governors by midday Monday had said they would take steps to prevent new Syrian refugees from entering their states, as a precaution against terrorists among them gaining entry to the country.
EDENTON — State Representative Bob Steinburg (R-Edenton) today announced his committee assignments for his second term in office. Steinburg earned the Chairman’s gavel for the Agriculture Committee after serving as Vice-Chairman during his inaugural term. Steinburg also was named to the following committees: Commerce and Job Development, Environment, Finance, Judiciary 1, Transportation, and Wildlife Resources.
“These committee assignments mean I will be working closely on the issues most important to our area,” said Steinburg.“Agriculture is the most important industry in our state, and I am committed to serve as a friend of the farmer. From fighting to restore the Historic Preservation Tax Credit on the Finance Committee to implementing policies that will attract new jobs on the Commerce and Job Development Committee, few committees are as important to the job growth our area needs as these.
“I am especially glad to join the Transportation Committee this year to ensure our roads, ferries, and bridges are funded and to work even more closely with Governor McCrory and the Department of Transportation,” continued Steinburg. “Our area’s natural resources and unique beauty is why many chose to live here. They are vital to our economy. Serving on the Environment Committee and the Wildlife Resources Committee will strengthen my influence for our way of life, and I remain a steadfast advocate for the rule of law and traditional values while serving again on the Judiciary Committee.”
Rep. Bob Steinburg concluded, “As you can tell, I am excited about the opportunity to make a difference for our area. That’s my mission in the State House, and my door is always open to help anyone.”
A retired businessman and lifelong conservative Republican, Rep. Bob Steinburg currently serves Camden, Chowan, Currituck, Pasquotank, Perquimans, and Tyrrell Counties in his second term in the State House.
Editor’s note: This is the second article in a series, gleaned from a recent interview with state House Rep. Bob Steinburg. Here, we examine the ways in which counties can reduce costs.
CHOWAN COUNTY – The most common default mechanism to increase a county’s revenues is to raise taxes, which requires no creative thinking.
Elected officials and department heads, at all levels, should look at every item requiring expenditure and perform a cost/benefit analysis, judging the request on its own merits. Doing so will chop a lot of significant money out of a budget.
However, officials must have a long-range plan of five to six years. This requires both political will and the ability and willingness to make hard choices at each step along the way.
It is the responsibility of all elected officials to make the difficult choices on behalf of the taxpayers that they are sworn to serve. If those elected officials judge a situation on the basis of constituent interest — rather than taxpayer interest — they are not doing what is right for the taxpayers and, ultimately, attempts to reduce a government’s budget will fail.
Rep. Steinburg believes the difference between the Conservative roadmap, and the ones that the Liberals were following, may have ultimately led to the same destination, but the specific path between the two was vastly different.
He believes governments followed the liberal playbook for several years but now the electoral tide has changed, with the Republicans in charge. This is not to say that the liberal methods never worked! But now we are in a completely different environment, and the electorate has spoken with respect to how they want our state to be governed.
The conservative approach has been to expand our economy while creating jobs and reducing taxes. Rep. Steinburg believes department heads who reduce their cost of operation with the resulting savings to the taxpayers, should share in the revenue saved. But the commissioners need to take the lead and let the department heads know how much needs to be cut, sending them back for more reductions if necessary.
Doing what is right in the interest of the taxpayer should be in the DNA of all department heads and elected officials should not be forced to demand the savings. However, reality is that personnel matters and other influences, weigh heavily in these matters.
Likewise, elected officials cannot judge the appropriateness of cost considerations in the light of getting reelected. If these cost matters are considered in the context of the constituents wish lists, and the reelection efforts of local officials, this does a disservice to the taxpayers, says Rep. Steinburg.
In this context, Steinburg related the circumstances in which Chowan County found itself several years ago. The State of North Carolina had served notice on the County that they were going to take over the County finances, which was reported at the time and was the subject of another recent article by this newspaper.
At the time, Ed Goodwin was the Chairman of the Chowan County Board of Commissioners. Based on this condition, Goodwin went through the entire budget for the County and worked with the department heads, and the other County Commissioners, and they turned around the finances in such a way that it negated any need by the State to take the County over.
This avoided a meat cleaver approach to cost reductions.
In the end, the reductions were achieved, the taxpayers were served, and the County was no longer under threat by the state. Steinburg believes that if Chowan County could achieve the needed savings, without raising taxes and without massive layoffs, then any County can do the same thing if they have the political will to do so. He realizes that there are numerous financial challenges from constituent groups and individuals of all types. But in his fiduciary role, he applies the same thought process used in Chowan County scenario.
In that regard, he cannot go wrong.
Reporter’s note: In February 2014, Ed Goodwin was the Regional Representative on the staff of Gov. McCrory and among his various responsibilities, he went to the Pasquotank County Commissioners meeting to introduce himself, offering to assist with any need from the Governor’s office. During the discussion, one of the county commissioners made reference to
Goodwin’s prior achievements in Chowan County, and asked him if he could explain the things he did to eliminate the need for a state takeover.
Goodwin described the various challenges and what actions he and other officials took. At the conclusion, he offered to come back and meet with the Pasquotank Commissioners to discuss these matters in more detail so that they could evaluate what he had done and whether any of it would work for them. The Commissioners seemed to listen intently, and politely, but to this day, no one has inquired further.
Legislator says expansion of program fiscally irresponsible
CHOWAN COUNTY – Editor’s note: The following begins a multipart series, pertaining to an interview with state House Rep. Bob Steinburg, a Republican from Chowan County. The two-hour interview was recently conducted at Steinburg’s home in Edenton. The first segment deals with the expansion of Medicaid.
When Rep. Steinburg entered the legislature in 2012, he — like all newly elected legislators — felt that the Medicaid question was such a complex issue that it would take a vertical learning curve in order to ingest the various facts and details, which would lead to a meaningful solution.
Medicaid has always been treated like a patchwork / catch-as-catch can plan, instead of a long-term vision on how to proceed and achieve positive results.
In this context, Rep Steinburg related one of the great pitfalls that the legislators encountered as they sought to balance the competing concerns between the various programs under consideration at the time.
In 2012, our state legislators thought they would be able to provide a pay raise of 2 percent to teachers and state employees who had worked for five years without any increase in pay, except for a minor upward adjustment in 2011.
The legislators were feeling pretty good in May 2013. Gov. McCrory had just been elected and the legislators were working on a budget for the next two years that was expected to have a $500 million surplus upon which to provide this raise. Everyone had great expectations that they were finally going to be able to achieve this goal!
The legislators had worked hard to create the reserves that would be necessary. In the preceding years, there had been no rainy day fund in addition to the merit pay issue being considered. Then, suddenly, it was reported that the state finances had gone from a $500 million surplus to a $480 million deficit due to cost overruns in the Medicaid program. The legislators had no choice but to rescind the proposed pay increases. Everyone felt terrible, especially the employees and teachers, something that Rep. Steinburg never forgot.
Medicaid overruns had been an ongoing problem for six to eight years prior to the 2012 elections, which gave Republicans control of state government. They all knew that overruns were to be expected due to the history of the program through numerous budget cycles.
As Rep. Steinburg said, “Medicaid is the elephant in the room.”
Now, new pressures to expand the Medicaid program have been discussed. The program is leaking and the legislature is trying to find out where the problems are and how to plug the holes.
This year, reserves have been set aside specifically for Medicaid cost overruns, estimated at $120 million. The expected shortfall is projected to be less than $100 million, which puts our state in a better position than ever before and moving in the right direction.
There has been criticism of the legislature because other states have accepted the expansion of the Medicaid program with funds from the federal government. The federal government has stated its plan to cover the Medicaid program 100 percent until 2016, then pay approximately 90 percent after that, leaving the remaining 10 percent to be paid by the states.
As Rep. Steinburg stated, there is no free money. The Federal Government has no money that it first does not take from taxpaying citizens, or borrow from other nations that adds to the National debt — which currently stands at $18 trillion and counting. Many people have claimed that other states have expanded their Medicaid programs, so why should North Carolina not do the same thing?
In response, Rep. Steinburg relates the old comparison that your parents gave you under the similar circumstances: If the parents of a friend decide to let their child jump off the bridge, should your parents allow you to do the same thing?
Rep. Steinburg believes his job is to be fiscally responsible. Many people have stated that Medicaid represents economic development, which is badly needed in this area as well as being a job creator. But, if the economic cost is greater than what our state can afford, it would be fiscally irresponsible for Steinburg to support this program — without raising taxes — and that will not happen!
The highest duty of his job, as he sees it, is to be a good fiduciary/ guardian of the taxpayer’s money, which is a responsibility that he takes very seriously.
Reporters Comment: Recent media reports suggest that Gov. McCrory is reconsidering the expansion of the Medicaid program. He will need to convince the legislators that the state is in the position to afford this expenditure.
By John Woodard and John Droz | Special to the County Compass
EDENTON – This community hosted a free educational event Saturday, Nov. 22, organized by local residents to explore the consequences of Industrial Wind Turbines, which have been proposed for the northeast corner of North Carolina.
The meeting included an award-winning movie (Windfall), and the co-author of this article, John Droz, served as the morning’s moderator. Droz is a retired physicist and long-time environmentalist, who contends that wind energy – as currently developed in this country – is a net economic loss to the nation as a whole.
In North Carolina, the driving force behind such projects is the 2007 law called “Senate Bill 3,” passed during Gov. Perdue’s administration when Democrats were in control of the state House and state Senate.
After the General Assembly shifted to Republican control, House Bill 298 was introduced to correct the mistakes of existing law. Last year, that bill died without being adopted, but it is certain to be bought up again in the coming Legislative session. In the meantime, advocates such as Mr. Droz have been speaking out and as more is known, the adoption of the House bill seems to have a much better chance of passage.
Presently there are wind projects proposed in Chowan, Perquimans, Pasquotank, Tyrrell and Beaufort Counties. The elected Commissioners in each county are becoming more familiar with the various elements, pro and con.
In Edenton at the Nov. 22 gathering, Chowan County citizens attending were proactive in their consideration of information presented. The meeting had a large turnout, including Commissioners from Perquimans and Tyrrell Counties. The overall sentiment of those in the audience appeared to be that communities should pass a protection-oriented wind ordinance.
Some citizens said they wanted to study the issue in detail while one questioned why some European Countries seem to be more favorable — which was disputed by others in the audience.
The movie was a real-life documentary about citizens in a rural upstate New York community who dealt with a proposed Wind Energy project. The project was initially supported by most citizens as a good thing. However, as people began to understand the implications, differences began to develop that pitted neighbor against neighbor, as well as citizens against some of their elected leaders.
After a period of a year or so of disagreement, the local officials who were supporting the wind project were all voted out of office.
In his remarks, Droz urged county residents to make their decisions based upon “the science and facts” — not the rosy projects of marketers, who have come to these counties to sell their projects. Their motivations are based on favorable wind energy treatment that their very effective lobbyists have arranged. A good example is the generous federal subsidies that (per unit of electricity) — are almost a hundred times higher than what conventional electricity sources get.
The citizens in the video were critical of the Wind Energy salespeople who seemed to prey upon poor counties where the community leaders could be easily swayed by the financial considerations in their area (“found money”) — and not take the time to study the serious adverse effects (like extensive wildlife killings, significant environmental destruction, human health concerns, real estate value loss, etc.).
Mr. Droz showed slides indicating that there is no-Net benefit to the community from these projects. For example the agricultural loss to each of these counties due to their proposed wind projects could be several million dollars per year.
At present, there are over 20 states (including NC) with laws that are friendly to these developers. However, the turbines can be as tall as 600 feet — which is 50 feet taller than the highest building in Raleigh, or roughly the same height as the Washington Monument. As people learn more about all the details, opposition appears to be growing.
The Windfall film suggested that wind turbines have serious health and financial implications — so local citizens need to understand all the details, before their elected leaders make a 20-year commitment to proceed. To research this important community matter further, please go to the WiseEnergy.org.
Once there click on “NC” at the top menu bar. It will be worth your time.