Tag Archives: North Carolina

County budget focuses on sustaining services

Source: Nicholas Elmes, Stokes News, June 5, 2015

Facing one of the most difficult budget years in recent history, County Manager Rick Morris said his proposed budget seeks to maintain key county services while limiting tax increases in coming years. ….Morris provided a department-by-department breakdown of other budget increases, and decreases, in the proposed budget. Highlights include:
…. A 57.68 percent decrease in the Economic Development budget as a result of having Planning Director David Sudderth also serve as an interim Economic Development Director for one year. Morris said they have also reduced the budget by bringing in-house a majority of the advertising and marketing work that had been contracted out in previous years. He noted that the department would continue its advertising and marketing efforts at the same level as last year….. A 7.98 percent increase in the Social Services Administration budget which will help purchase three new vehicles and convert five contract positions to salaried positions. “We are paying a lot more for contract people than for government people,” said Morris. “We also have a lot less flexibility with contract people.”….

Auditor: N.C. health agency wasted $1.7M on Medicaid payroll

Source: Richard Craver, Winston-Salem Journal, May 13, 2015

A State Auditor’s Office report released today found evidence of at least $1.67 million in “wasted” wages and compensation involving the use of temporary employees by the state’s Medicaid information technology unit. The audit covers the Office of Medicaid Management Information Systems Services, which handled the July 2013 launch of the controversial NCTracks claims-processing system that serves 97,000 enrolled providers. Auditors said the unit’s director “abused her authority through the hiring process,” including citing examples of nepotism involving her daughter and ex-husband and his wife. …. A January 2013 audit listed among its concerns “insufficient monitoring of administrative services” contracted by the N.C. Division of Medical Assistance that represented at that time $120 million of the division’s $257 million in administrative expenditures for fiscal 2011-12. Much of DHHS’ current Medicaid work has been outsourced to Alvarez & Marsal, an out-of-state vendor operating with a controversial no-bid contract that recently doubled to $6.8 million. DHHS spent $118 million on contracted personal services in fiscal 2013-14, compared with $160.9 million in fiscal 2012-13.

Vouchers on the Move: Return to School Segregation?

Source: Jonas Persson, PR Watch, April 28, 2015

Twenty-five years ago, Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson signed the nation’s first school voucher bill into law. Pitched as social mobility tickets for minority students, Wisconsin vouchers allow children to attend private, and sometimes religious, schools on the taxpayers’ dime. But as shown by the murky history of the voucher movement, and by the way voucher programs have developed in Wisconsin and other states, racial equity had nothing to do with it. It was a scheme cooked up out of an ideological disdain for public schools and teachers’ unions, and first used to actually preserve school segregation in the South. Today, vouchers bills are on the move in multiple states and on Capitol Hill. GOP presidential hopefuls, who want to boost their free market bona fides for a 2016 run, have been outbidding themselves in touting vouchers as educational panaceas that will not only help minority children close education gaps, but cut corporate and property taxes in the process…..

….Viewing the result of the 1978 ballot proposal as a partial success, ALEC would go on to inundate lawmakers with a massive nationwide push toward private school vouchers in 1981. A voucher bill was sent to “16,000 state and federal officials, including every state legislator in the country,” ALEC boasted in the November 1981 issue of the internal newsletter The State Factor. In a lengthy analysis of what the implications of school vouchers might be, ALEC admitted to a few disadvantages, such as ”flight of the middle-class from inner-cities to private schools, thereby causing segregation and racial tension.” But this, ALEC went on to argue, is more than made up for by the fact that vouchers are true to the principles of federalism by empowering individuals at the expense of government…..

If the Government Competes Against the Private Sector, Everybody Wins

Source: Eric Schnurer, The Atlantic, March 11, 2015

When civil servants are pitted against businesses, they actually secure most of the contracts put out for bid. … Chicago is not alone in pursuing managed competition. It is ubiquitous in the United Kingdom, which has had at least 3,500 such competitions. In this country, cities including Phoenix, Charlotte, Indianapolis and Philadelphia have pursued managed competition as a strategy for cutting cost and improving service. ….

…Construction workers repairing sidewalks were working the standard eight-hour shifts, five days per week. Pouring a load of cement, though, takes about five hours to complete, meaning they could only pour one load per day, or five per week. If the city went to a 10-hour, four-days-per-week schedule, however, as the unions suggested, the crews could pour two loads per day, eight per week—a 60 percent increase in productivity at no additional cost and with savings on fuel and equipment rental. … The Phoenix trash-hauling operations have become legendary as the fountainhead of managed competition…. In 1992, Goldsmith targeted roughly 80 city services for privatization. Again, as public employees began to realize that their futures lay in competing, they began to win more and more of the contracts. Indianapolis’ fleet services department got so good at what it did, in fact, that it started expanding its “business” to service other quasi-governmental entities….

…..It may surprise some people to know that, in most instances where such “managed competition” has been tried, the in-house government workers have almost always beaten out the private sector. …In sum, there’s no good reason why the private sector shouldn’t be allowed to compete to provide many, if not most, government services—but there’s no good reason why government shouldn’t, and can’t successfully, compete back….

City-run Internet services still in limbo after FCC vote

Source: Allan Holmes, Center for Public Integrity, March 3, 2015

Cities must wait for FCC ruling and likely court fight before knowing if they can expand public Internet service.

Behind the municipal broadband battle
Source: Allan Holmes, Jared Bennett, Center for Public Integrity, February 14, 2015

A conversation with Center reporter Allan Holmes about the people, politics and money behind city-run broadband laws.

What do you really know about the way the Internet works?
How did it get to you?
Who built the infrastructure behind it?
Who makes decisions about its future?

These are some of the questions Center for Public Integrity reporter Allan Holmes wanted to answer recently when he traveled to Tullahoma, Tennessee, and Fayetteville, North Carolina, for Reveal radio.

These two cities are battlegrounds, pitting big telecommunications companies against cities that want to build their own high speed Internet service in a fight playing out in State houses, ballot boxes and, ultimately, desktops across the country.

City Wifi: Fast, Cheap, and No You Can’t Have It

Source: Josh Harkinson, Mother Jones, January 22, 2015

…At least 19 states have passed laws limiting municipal and community broadband projects, typically at the behest of big internet service providers and their trade groups. The legislation ranges from outright bans to laws that limit public broadband to small towns or places where there’s no other high-speed service available. The Federal Communications Commission may soon invalidate these laws, but not if Republicans in Congress can stop it. In July, GOP Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee inserted into an appropriations bill an amendment that would strip the FCC of its authority over state municipal broadband regulations. Some Republicans have branded municipal broadband as a form of socialism, because it uses public funds to compete with the private sector. They also say that local governments aren’t tech-savvy enough to build and maintain their own networks. …

….Although Blackburn doesn’t talk much about it, the Tennessee town of Chattanooga just so happens to host the nation’s largest and most successful municipal broadband network. Chattanooga’s power utility (and now internet provider) offers internet service to 160,000 households at speeds up to 1 gigabit per second—10 to 100 times faster than what’s available in most of the country—at a mere $70 a month…..

Consolidation brings efficiencies to N.C. emergency agencies

Source: Government Product News, January 21, 2015

Four government bodies in Burke County, N.C., have joined together to improve emergency communications. The Burke County Sheriff’s Office, Burke County Emergency Medical Services (EMS), and the cities of Morganton and Valdese have consolidated their public safety answering points (PSAPs). Burke County officials were concerned about pending state legislation that would require a minimum number of positions in PSAPs. When this requirement took effect, it would have dramatically increased the number of positions and the financial expense of operating the four PSAPs in the county…. So, Burke County hired Mission Critical Partners, Inc. (MCP), a public-safety communications consulting firm headquartered in Port Matilda, Pa., to conduct a feasibility study. When the firm concluded that consolidation indeed was feasible, Morganton’s public safety department applied for a state grant. The result was a $7.4 million award that led to the construction of the county’s new 9-1-1 center, which replaced the four aforementioned PSAPs…..

State releases salary data from Charter Day School Inc.

Source: Gareth McGrath ∙ StarNewsOnline.com ∙ November 17, 2014

The N.C. Department of Public Instruction (DPI) late Monday afternoon released salary information from Charter Day School Inc. that the school group had marked as “trade secrets” and asked not to be made public. Monday’s action brings to an end the more than monthlong back-and-forth between Charter Day and state regulators over whether the salaries of Roger Bacon Academy employees, including school headmasters and assistant headmasters, should be considered public or private information. Charter Day contracts with the for-profit Roger Bacon Academy to manage and run its schools and had repeatedly stated it didn’t have the salary information for those employees….

NC’s new economic development agency begins work

Source: Patrick Gannon, News & Observer, October 6, 2014

North Carolina’s new private economic development and marketing agency opened its doors Monday at 15000 Weston Parkway in Cary, taking over roles historically performed by the state Commerce Department. A public-private partnership for job recruitment and retention was one of the first changes Gov. Pat McCrory envisioned after his election in late 2012. Nearly two years later, email addresses and phone numbers were being assigned Monday to the first employees of the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina…. Through a contract with the Commerce Department signed late last week, the partnership will oversee the state’s efforts in economic development and international trade, as well as tourism, film and sports development. Partnership officials say they will foster collaboration between businesses and government, local and regional development organizations, community leaders and state universities and community colleges. The partnership begins with 34 employees, most of whom previously promoted economic development at the Commerce Department. It is expected to grow as necessary in response to specific needs. A partnership official has said it could have as many as 60 employees by year’s end. Through the process of moving the Commerce Department functions to the new agency, about 22 former state employees lost their jobs without being offered jobs with the partnership, state officials have said…..

With McCrory’s signature, state economic development privatized
Source: Catherine Carlock, Triad Business Journal, June 24, 2014

Gov. Pat McCrory on Tuesday signed into law House Bill 1031, which privatizes much of the state’s economic development, business and industry recruitment, marketing and travel and tourism efforts. The bill effectively splits off those functions from the existing N.C. Department of Commerce into a newly created private nonprofit, the Economic Development Partnership of N.C. Inc. CEO Dick Lindenmuth will lead that organization.

N.C. eco-devo privatization bill heads to Gov. McCrory for signature
Source: Amanda Jones Hoyle, Triangle Business Journal, June 19, 2014

A House bill that will split many of the economic development functions of the North Carolina Department of Commerce into a private partnership is headed to the Governor’s desk for signature. The Senate approved the proposed legislation under House Bill 1031 on Wednesday with a unanimous 49-0 vote. The House vote last week was 81-36 in favor of the bill….

Privatized N.C. Commerce takes first step during legislature’s short session
Source: Ken Elkins, Charlotte Business Journal, May 14, 2014

A bill to take the privatization of the N.C. Department of Commerce from an idea to reality was introduced this morning on the opening day of the General Assembly’s short session. The legislation, titled N.C. Economic Development Modifications, is far from a finished product. It appears to be a rewrite of Senate Bill 127, legislation introduced last year that would have paved the way for changes in the department, had it become law.

McCrory: NC Commerce privatization may be getting resistance
Source: Ken Elkins Charlotte Business Journal, April 10, 2014

Gov. Pat McCrory’s efforts to privatize some functions of the N.C. Department of Commerce may be getting some resistance. Speaking at the British Consul General Awards dinner at The Ritz-Carlton, Charlotte last night, McCrory hinted that not all are pleased with the changes his administration has proposed for the department. “We’re stepping on some toes … some well-established institutions here in North Carolina in looking at how we can reform the Commerce Department and make it more customer-service oriented,” he says.

NC Commerce Privatization Tries To Take Shape
Source: Michael Tomsic, WFAE, February 19, 2014

The private board that Governor Pat McCrory wants to take control of recruiting and retaining businesses in North Carolina met for the first time Wednesday. But there’s not too much that board can do until the state legislature gives it more authority. The board is called the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina, and it’s the private side of the public-private partnership Governor McCrory wants to recruit and retain businesses. … But Lassiter said the private board can start working on personnel issues, and it went into closed session to do that. The plan is to switch Commerce employees who handle selling and marketing the state to the private side of the house, or lay them off. That plan is based off legislation that didn’t pass last year. But Lassiter and Commerce Department officials are confident it will pass when the legislature reconvenes in May. …

New head of NC’s privatized business recruiting says tax breaks marginal in attracting jobs
Source: Emery P. Dalesio, Associated Press, January 7, 2014

The new head of the North Carolina organization expected to run the state’s privatized job recruitment efforts said Tuesday that he knows as a former CEO that tax breaks and other corporate incentives have only a marginal impact in attracting businesses. …. Lindenmuth said that after advising and working as a corporate chief executive officer, he’s observed that tax breaks dangled to attract companies have less impact on increasing employment than broader factors like good schools, low living costs and a cooperative business environment. … An exception might be using big incentive packages to lure major manufacturers like South Carolina did in attracting auto-maker BMW and jet-builder Boeing to open factories that state, Lindenmuth said. For such big employers, tax breaks and other incentives are expected, he said. Critics contend adoption of similar public-private partnerships in other states created a growing appearance of insider dealing and conflicts of interest. North Carolina’s planning for the privatized marketing effort has considered missteps by similar organizations in other states, Decker said last month…

NC Commerce Talks Privatization
Source: Leoneda Inge, WUNC, December 11, 2013

North Carolina’s Economic Development Board is reviewing strategies and making suggestions on how to help re-vamp the state Commerce Department. Commerce Secretary Sharon Decker says she’s pretty positive the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina will be a reality. … The proposed partnership would privatize many of the agency’s functions and reportedly eliminate dozens of positions, including the directors of the film industry and tourism. Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst is Vice-Chair of the newly formed economic development board reviewing the proposal. …

Public, Private Funding for University-Led Manufacturing Innovation Partnerships

Source: State Science & Technology Institute (SSTI) blog, August 21, 2014

To revitalize the U.S. manufacturing base, states and private organizations are turning their attention to support university-led, manufacturing Research and Development (R&D) partnerships that reduce the cost of manufacturing domestically and equip U.S. manufacturers with cutting-edge technologies. Responsive to the needs of industry, these partnerships are intended to not only spur innovation, but also support economic prosperity in regions across the country. The Walmart Foundation and Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett announced new funding for university-led manufacturing partnerships. In Arizona, the Arizona Commerce Authority (ACA) recently ended its 2014 application period for a program that provides small grants to fund university-industry partnerships that develop innovative manufacturing-related, tools and technologies for use aerospace and defense manufacturing industries….