A new robo-call by Republican candidate for N.C. House District 35 Chris Malone tells constituents that he wants to "get good kids out of failing schools."
Malone currently serves as a Wake County school board member and has recently been mired in scandal over allegations of an affair with fellow board member Debra Goldman, who is running for state auditor. Goldman also named Malone as a suspect in the reported theft of $130,000 worth of jewelry, coins and cash from her Cary residence. Malone was later cleared by Cary police.
The latest robo-call pulls the curtain back on the conservative approach to schools. Malone's message says, "I want to get good kids out of failing schools, so every single kid can have a great education."
Such logic seems flawed. If Malone pulls the "good kids"—Does this mean white kids? Rich kids? Smart kids?—out of "failing schools," it’s unclear how the failing school will then be more likely to provide a “great education.”
Presumably, Malone's statement is a representation of his belief in neighborhood schools. It could also be a nod to school vouchers or school choice.
I've called both Malone and Millberg for comment and will update this post when I hear back.
Here's the full text of Malone's robo-call.
This is Chris Malone calling. I’m running for North Carolina House 35 to do three things.
First, I want to help create jobs in Wake County.
Second, I want to get good kids out of failing schools, so every single kid can have a great education.
Third, I want to stop the politicians from wasting your tax dollars and mine.
How do I know I can accomplish these things? Because I have in the past. Because I’ve been a voice of reason on the Wake Forest planning board, the Wake Forest town board and now the Wake County school board. I know how to get things done, I have and I will continue to do so. And I will not be stopped from fighting for you and your family’s quality of life.
I’m Chris Malone and I’m asking you for your vote in the North Carolina House.
My personal cell phone number is 919-395-4903. Again, 919-395-4903. Call me anytime you have a question. I am a public servant and I work for you.
This call was paid for by Malone for NC House and thank you folks.
Over the next two months, watch for a run on moving boxes in Raleigh. Elections signal a transitional time in state government, as staffers leave their jobs and look for new places to land.
Philanthropy Journal has scooped up Jill Lucas, the soon-to-be former communications director for the N.C. Department of Administration. She has been named the new managing editor of Philanthropy Journal. Lucas starts her new job next week.
A journalist by trade, Lucas also served as the governor's deputy press secretary and the public information officer for the Governor's Highway Safety Program of the N.C. Department of Transportation.
N.C. State University's Institute for Nonprofit Research, Education and Engagement (INPREE), publishes Philanthropy Journal. Founding editor Todd Cohen and several staffers left the publication earlier this year.
It’s typical for two affable Jehovah’s Witnesses in oversized business suits to make the neighborhood rounds, knocking on doors. But what about when the whole organization comes knocking at City Hall?
Earlier this month, the Raleigh City Council voted behind closed to doors to give the Jehovah’s Witnesses $150,000 to hold their annual convention in the PNC arena next year. It shouldn’t be a surprise. Since 2008, Raleigh has given $875,000 to the religious group for that gathering.
The City Council subsidizes the event—the money actually goes to PNC arena—because it brings millions of dollars to hotels and restaurants and hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax revenue to the city.
But giving money to a religious group behind closed doors also calls into question two of the most fundamental concepts in the United States’ Constitution: the separation of church and state and that government should not conduct its business in secret.
“It’s no different than any other group that asks,” argues Mayor Nancy McFarlane. “We have groups all the time that bring large multi-day conventions that are going to spend millions of dollars in the community. Would I discriminate against them by saying I’m not even going to consider it because you’re a religious group?”
Many think yes.
“This seems like a plain violation of the separation of church and state and the Constitution,” says Alex Luchenitser of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, based in Washington, D.C.. “Government can’t fund religious meetings.”
The establishment clause is the section of the Constitution, which guarantees the separation of church and state. Luchenitser says, “It has always been interpreted as preventing government funds from supporting religious activities or events.”
But funding religion for economic impact reasons is not uncommon. In Kentucky, for instance, owners of a creationist museum are set to receive millions in subsidies from state government to build a Christian-based theme park.
The economics of the decision for Raleigh to subsidize the Jehovah’s Witnesses convention are sound. In 2011, the city invested $150,000 and reaped $300,000 in tax revenue from hotel and food and beverage tax, according to Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau (GRCVB) records. That’s not accounting for the millions raked in by Raleigh hotels and restaurants.
But Luchenitser says the fact that a convention makes money simply shouldn’t enter into it. “You can’t ask the taxpayer to support a religious belief they don’t hold,” he says.
While it’s uncommon for the city to subsidize any convention—it has never allocated money to another religious event—the practice of city tax dollars going toward religious groups extends far beyond City Hall.
The convention bureau frequently allocates tax dollars levied by Raleigh and Wake County to groups of all kinds who wish to rent out the Raleigh Convention Center. To date that has included a Catholic group, Baptists, AME Zion, the United Methodist Church and Lutherans, just to name a few, according to one official with the bureau.
Since the Jehovah’s Witnesses convention brings in roughly 22,000 people over two weekends, it’s too big to fit in the convention center. That’s why the City Council handled the economic incentive, instead of GRCVB.
“The bottom line, if the group meets the strict funding criteria and contracts hotels rooms with our hotel partners while generating direct economic impact … we are open to possibly assisting regardless of the group type,” says Loren Gold of the convention bureau.
We may not be in binders, but we are in ballot boxes: If trends in 2008 and 2010 elections hold, more women than men will vote in North Carolina this fall.
According to a report, "The Status of Women in North Carolina," released by the N.C. Department of Administration, in 2010 47 percent of women who were U.S. citizens, age 18 and older and reported voting in the state cast ballots. That's equivalent to 1.6 million women. In 2008, the last presidential election, 69 percent of eligible women voters—or 2.3 million—did so.
We showed the full numbers in a graph in this week's Indy. INDY-101712-5.pdf
Women currently hold a higher proportion of elected positions in the executive branch—50 percent of the 10: superintendent of public instruction, treasurer, secretary of state, labor commissioner and auditor, plus the governor.
That's the good news. The bad news is that there are fewer women being elected to the legislature. Women hold just five of 50 Senate seats and 33 of 120 House seats, ranking North Carolina in 29th place for its proportion of women in the legislature, the report states.
As expected, the Durham City Council last night unanimously approved a long-gestating revision to outdoor seating regulations that will allow for the consumption of beer and booze on city sidewalks.
The council's approval comes despite opposition from Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez, who'd expressed concern about the inclusion of private clubs (also read: bars) in the revised ordinance. A previous version of the ordinance that excluded nightclubs and bars was introduced to the public in May, prompting complaints from a cadre of interests—Durham Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Durham Inc. and a handful of local bar owners—that the rule would inhibit business growth in the heart of downtown.
Council members opted to side with the bar owners. Of course, eateries, restaurants and nightclub owners have actually been allowing patrons to consume alcoholic beverages on their patios for months. Only now, those who successfully apply for the new version of the outdoor dining permit can facilitate patio drinking with the city's full blessing.
One other interesting note from last night's agenda: Chapel Hill will pay the city of Durham $30,000 for law enforcement assistance on Halloween night.
The Town of Chapel Hill has, in recent years, clamped down, citing the ballooning number of costumed revelers that head to Franklin Street on Halloween night each year. Some 80,000 people attended the event in 2007, according to official estimates. Annual attendance has since dropped significantly as the city began limiting access into Franklin Street and to park-and-ride service.
Raleigh is set to consider another milestone in its slow crawl toward a more accepting food truck culture downtown. City councilors will hold a public hearing Tuesday on whether or not to allow more food trucks per lot and to allow the mobile businesses to come closer into downtown.
The hearing comes after a six-month review of the initial food truck law, which opened the door for food trucks, but placed strict limitations on where they could operate. City officials claim they've received no complaints about the law so far.
After a year of debate, with many restaurateurs lobbying against food trucks, Raleigh passed a law that allowed the trucks near downtown, but only on private property. They were also hampered by only being able to park 100 feet or more beyond a restaurant.
The new provision would increase the number of food trucks allowed to operate on a half-acre lot from one to two, with the number progressively increasing for larger plot sizes as well.
It would also allow food trucks to enter what's called the Downtown Overlay District, an area that comprises the heart of downtown. Still, don't expect a food truck smorgasbord if the changes go into effect.
Raleigh's rules are stringent compared to those in other cities, like Durham. Food trucks are allowed to use any public parking in Durham and the number allowed on any lot is not restricted. Portland, Ore., and Austin, Texas, are among cities with similar laws.
The public hearing begins at 6:30 p.m. at city hall.
Two interesting items on the agenda at today’s Wake County Board of Commissioners' meeting (2 pm, Wake County Courthouse). One: the commissioners are asking the school board to promise stability on a career and technical education high school that’s still in the planning process. Two: approving a contract for roughly $800,000 to put a new roof on a county gun range.
The firing of former superintendent Tony Tata in late September has put renewed strain on the relationship between the GOP-controlled commission and the Democratic-led school board. Commission chair Paul Coble publicly denounced the firing and cancelled all forthcoming meetings between the two boards until the school board promised stability on several key initiatives.
One of those is the CTE high school, an initiative started under Tata. CTE is a concept used in middle and high schools that seeks to teach skills with "practical life application," according to the school system's website. Agriculture, marketing, and health occupations are listed among the core subjects.
The school board already unanimously voted to move forward with converting a former Coca-Cola bottling plant on South Wilmington Street into the new CTE high school. However, according to today's agenda, commissioners are looking to require the school board to pass a resolution affirming at least seven years of support for the project, before they will allow it to move forward.
Re: the Wake County Firearms Education and Training Center and its new roof, I decided to check in because the building was only built in 1999. 13 years seems like a very short lifespan for a roof and $800,000 like an awfully large sum of money when many county services are experiencing budget constraints.
I'm told by a county project manager that ten-year roofs were the industry standard in the nineties and that the county is replacing roofs on several similar buildings. In today's construction world, roofs typically have a lifespan of 20 to 30 years.
The firearms center, which includes an indoor gun range, is open to the public and also used to train Wake County law enforcement personnel. The county pays Range Safety Management, LLC to manage the building for public use.
The project manager said that some "misfires" have hit the ceiling of the building, but because of a concrete barrier, the stray shots didn't actually penetrate the roof.
Since former superintendent Tony Tata's firing, Wake County school board members continue to pump the brakes on key initiatives regarding the future of the school system.
Last week, the board decided not to go through with a revamp of student assignment, but instead use 2011-12 student assignment maps to decide where children will attend school next year. And Wednesday board members tentatively agreed it would be best to let voters take up a bond referendum next fall rather than next spring.
The school construction bond could range anywhere from $400 million to $1 billion to pay for new schools in the county.
Here's a partial account of yesterday's facilities committee meeting from the Wake Ed Blog.
“There’s been a lot that’s gone poorly in the last few months,” Evans said. “The extra time will help us re-earn the public’s trust.”
While Evans is focusing more on the loss of trust from problems such as the bus problems and choice plan complaints, Malone said the public has lost trust over the firing of Superintendent Tony Tata.
"Considering what they did with Tony Tata and the public anger over it, moving it to November makes sense," Malone said.
Malone also said that a fall 2013 referendum, when there's already going to be elections, will save money. A May 2013 referendum would mean having to pay for a special election.
The school capacity picture isn't pretty either. Core capacity (which accounts for the amount of students that can use a schools' central facilities, such as its gym and cafeteria) is already very near 100 percent. The measure for capacity that takes into account mobile classrooms is closer to 90 percent.
The bond referendum previous to 2006 was defeated in 1999, and another defeated bond would almost inevitably mean bad news for already crowded schools.
You can read an excellent piece by Bob Geary about Wake County's "growth wars" from 2007.
This is the story of Lincoln Apartments as Southern Real Estate Management & Consultants tells it: The majority of the 50-plus households at the low-income housing community don't pay rent, or if they do, it's late. And without rent collections, the real estate company can't pay its bills and must evict all the residents, effective Oct. 31.
But residents of Lincoln Apartments told Durham County Commissioners a much different version of events Monday night. And the residents' comments raise questions about the company's financial practices and overall management of the property.
"We are not here to hand over our community," said Bernadette Toomer. "We're here to fight."
The property manager, Leila James, has accepted rents in cash, but not provided receipts, residents say. James also allegedly wrote—and then rewrote—leases that drastically changed the terms. And at the very least, Southern Real Estate Management & Consultants failed to hold up their end of the deal in providing a safe, clean living environment.
Now residents want Lincoln Apartments to stay open while city and county officials investigate the financial records and other aspects of the management company.
Southern Real Estate Management & Consultants, which oversees the property for the now-defunct Lincoln Hospital Foundation, sent eviction notices to residents on Sept. 28, telling them they had a little more than a month to leave their homes. Some residents have lived at Lincoln Apartments as long as 30 years. At least 50 households, as many as 200 tenants, received notices.
Lincoln Apartments on Durham's East Side serves low-income residents. Rents range from $350 to $500 a month. The apartments are privately owned and are not subsidized, operating solely on rent collections, Howard Williams of Southern Real Estate told the Indy last week.
Although the nonprofit foundation dissolved in 2010, according to Secretary of State records, it still ostensibly operates the apartment complex. And as a nonprofit, it is exempt from paying property taxes.
But even with that financial break, Williams told the Indy and residents the complex has to close because rent collections are insufficient to cover the water and electric bills. Williams alleged that in some months as few as 25 percent of residents pay rent.
However, without a proper accounting of the payments—and confirmation of where the money went—it is difficult to determine the extent and truth of the management company's financial problems.
James could not be reached by the Indy for comment last week. A sign on the property manager's door stated the office was closed due to illness.
Shirekia Shackleford said she was allowed to move in on Sept. 17, only to receive the eviction notice on Sept. 28. "We don't have the money laying round to move every 30 days," she said, adding that she received broken appliances in her apartment. "I'm unemployed and trying to leave within my means."
There are also inconsistencies in leases, residents said. Bernadette Toomer, who has lived at Lincoln Apartment for four months, showed the Indy a copy of her original lease, signed this August. It ran from Aug. 31 to Nov. 30, 2012, and showed that Toomer paid a $450 security deposit.
Yet Toomer said that just weeks ago James asked her to sign a new lease; this one was backdated to be effective from Aug. 1 to 31, 2012. It also indicated Toomer paid no security deposit.
Look for additional coverage in the Oct. 10 edition of the Indy.