Editor’s Desk

Column: A little bit of this, a little bit of that

July 18, 2014 

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Johnny Whitfield, columnist The Eastern Wake News and The Clayton News Star.

TAKAAKI IWABU — tiwabu@newsobserver.com Buy Photo

This has been a remarkably busy summer, by most standards. Events conjure up all sorts of thoughts. Here are a few.

Is it just me, or does the Wake County school system seem to be scattered in its focus on issues?

Granted Superintendent Jim Merrill has been on the job for just a single school year and instituting change in a large organization is not always clean nor quick.

But it seems like Wake’s school board is pointing in a thousand different directions all at once. One week we hear discussions about programs that will need to be cut because of budget shortfalls, the next week there’s news that school board members want to find a way to raise teacher pay locally, then there’s a discussion about the future of magnet schools. There’s been very little movement of late regarding hot button issues like student assignment and school/county relations, which haven’t been all that great for some time.

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Republicans don’t seem to be able to get out of their own way in the General Assembly these days. If it weren’t for the fact that Democrats seem to have no idea about how to capitalize on disagreements between Republicans, one might begin to wonder just how long the GOP could remain in control on Jones Street. Republicans – of both the conservative and Tea Party stripes – seem hell-bent on fighting amongst themselves to get what they want. It’s been fascinating over the past decade or so to see the word liberal demonized and the word conservative praised as admirable.

It seems, though, that conservatism, in North Carolina at least, can best be described as bailing out on the government’s responsibility to advocate for citizens who need help the most. To be clear, there are folks who will milk the government dry if given the chance. We all shake our heads at the so-called welfare moms who wait by the mailbox for the next government check with nary a thought toward taking some responsibility for themselves. But welfare these days seems to be moving in the other direction. Corporate welfare is the favored target for government spending. If you want to make a movie in North Carolina, well there’s money here for you.

If you want a tax credit, just move your business here and the state will roll out the red carpet. It’s no matter that your company is deeply in the black and that your seven-figure CEO got a 12 percent raise last year. In today’s world, that’s where the welfare money goes. The cliche about the rich getting richer comes to mind.

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Derek Jeter has his faults. He’s been linked to all manner of women and his taste in gifts has been questioned, but he’s an anomaly in today’s sports world. He has stayed with the same team throughout his professional career, something that just doesn’t happen all that often. He’s set to retire at the end of this season and he will remain a lifelong Yankee. In what has become the de rigueur thing to do, he announced his plans to retire early and he’s been on a national retirement tour all this season. The latest stop was in Minneapolis, at Tuesday night’s all-star game where he showed everyone he’s still got game. He went 2-2 at the plate and left the game to the wild cheers of not only his fans, but all baseball fans.

Sports fans, despite their fickle nature, have great respect for prolonged excellence.

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In Wendell on Monday night, people were rightfully praising the efforts of the Wendell Historical Society for their efforts at putting on a Fourth of July celebration. This year’s event was decidedly larger and more festive than any of the previous events. Historical Society members decided to include a salute to veterans in the celebration and doing that brought out many more people. Historical Society president Carol Hinnant praised the work of Mary Jo Cashion who put together a display of veterans’ pictures. Cashion had help, as I’m sure she would be the first to admit, but to see the final product of the project she led would just take your breath away. The Historical Society is looking now for a place to make the display available to the public on a more permanent basis. If you didn’t see it on July 4th, you’ll want to stay tuned for news about your next opportunity.

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In Zebulon, there’s been a lot of interesting conversation about a proposal to bring a hotel to Zebulon. On Monday night, the planning board recommended denial of the plan. Town commissioners will have the final say. Developers want to put the hotel on Pearces Road, which, admittedly, is a congested traffic hell-hole, but some folks are questioning the wisdom of turning away any business as the town tries to rebound from the recession. I’m left to wonder why anyone would see a hotel on Pearces Road as a viable opportunity. I haven’t seen the developer’s business plan, so perhaps there’s some money to be made. But it seems to me, if I were going to build a hotel in Zebulon, it would be somewhere near Five County Stadium. Stay tuned for more on this in the coming weeks as commissioners take up the issue.

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As this is being written, members of a Garner panel are finalizing the town’s Growth Strategies Report. That document is likely to include recommendations that will make it easier for developers to do their work and it will be interesting to see if council members accept the final report and put it in to action, or if it simply becomes a nice shelf decoration. Garner’s working hard to grow, so that seems unlikely, but it’s also an uncommon occurrence to see municipal elected leaders willing to give up control, even if it means dollars and cents to the bottom line.

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