Category Archives: Elections – Issues Analysis

Leadership by Jindal

THIS Is What Leadership Prevarication Politics Looks Like

Great leadership? sadly no  Evil liar? also no  Political animal?  Evidently.

chaboard brought this to my attention:
Looks like there’s a new story until I hear a satisfactory explanation…


Bobby Jindal

Cary, NC – It’s 900+ miles from here to Baton Rouge, LA, three times further than to Washington, DC.  I’m used to looking North to DC for leadership in times of national distress but the man who promised us hope has instead decided to specialize in finger pointing.  The President of change has changed his tune from bashing Bush to nothing more than searching for an ass to kick.  President Obama is not responsible for the Gulf oil spill and it is clear that he’s also not responsible enough to do anything to actually help once the disaster occurred.  With a 10 second utterance or swipe of the pen, he could have easily and quickly cut through Washington’s red tape and OK’d the creation of off shore barrier walls to help keep the oil from reaching the Louisiana coast. Instead he played golf.  Fortunately, LA Governor Bobby Jindal, tired of waiting on BP and tired of waiting on DC bureaucrats, ordered the National Guard to start building the barrier walls.  That’s the difference between taking action and being a leader and simply being a narcissist waiting to make sure he points the finger away from himself and in the direction that gains the most – or hurts the least – politically.  Jindal may have trouble picking out a tie but at least he knows how to lead in an emergency.  That’s miles better than what we have now.

Robinson Clings to Lead – Updated

Hanging Ballots in District ‘A’

Write-ins could cant’ write-off Bush
After clarification from Don Wright, legal counsel for the NC BoE, it seems write-in votes don’t count except when they do.  Citing Chapter 163-293 of the NC Election code:
§ 163-293. Determination of election results in cities using the election and runoff election method.  (a)Except as otherwise provided in this section, nonpartisan municipal elections in cities using the election and runoff election method shall be determined by a majority of the votes cast. A majority within the meaning of this section shall be determined as follows…
Write-ins are to be counted in the total votes cast, regardless of their actual validity.  Oddly enough, a write-in of ‘Joe Merlot’ would not count as a vote for Joe Merlot if Joe Merlot was actually on the ballot.

Bottom line?  The write-ins don’t count except for keeping Robinson at 49.97%.

The race currently hangs on 17 provisional ballots.  16 in Wake Co & 1 in Chatham Co.  It’s possible we will know the Wake Co results sometime Friday.  Chatham Co BoE reports they have qualified their 1 ballot and will open it at 5pm on Tuesday.

Lets look at the current situation in District ‘A’:

Total ballots for Cary District ‘A’ cast in Wake County: 3564
Total ballots for Cary District ‘A’ cast in Chatham County: 200

Total ballots cast:  3764

Total provisional ballots 17

Current vote total for Jennifer Robinson 1881

The # of votes needed to avoid a runoff is dependent on the # of valid – or ‘qualified’ – provisional ballots.  If they are all valid (somewhat doubtful) then the total votes cast would rise 3781 with Jennifer Robinson needing 1891 votes to win.

If 17 valid provisionals – 10 required to win
if 15 valid provisionals – 9 required to win
13, 8
11, 7
9, 6

That’s the math and now we wait….

Cary Voter’s Guide


2009 Cary Voter Guide
2009 Cary Voter Guide
2009 Cary Election:
Early Voting: Sep. 17-Oct. 3 Election Day: Oct. 6
More election info: Wake County Board of Elections | Sample Ballot | Voter Registration
Cary Town Council (At Large)
Julie Robison no opponent
Cary Town Council (District A)
Lori Bush Jennifer Robinson Cynthia Sinkez Terry Thorne
Cary Town Council (District C)
Catherine Evangelista Jack Smith
Wake County Board of Education (District 2)
Carlene Lucas Horace Tart John Tedesco Cathy Truitt
Wake County Board of Education (District 7)
Deborah Prickett Karen Simon
Wake County Board of Education (District 9)
Debra Goldman Lois Nixon

Lessons Learned?

  • The major indicators of educational success are the socio-economic status (SES) of individual students’ families and the overall SES of the school, (hereafter called “healthy” schools). Healthy schools have a balanced population regarding SES and race. Healthy schools attract experienced, well trained teachers. The combined effect of teachers, parents and peers serves to increase the academic performance of all children regardless of race or economic status (see Kahlenberg).
  • Numerous studies have proven the converse, i.e. high concentrations of needy children (often, but not always, minorities) lead to failed schools, sub-par education for all students in those schools and low graduation rates. Such schools are deemed “unhealthy”. Common sense tells us that most teachers can not give individual attention to twenty-two needy kids. Most experienced teachers seek to avoid unhealthy schools.
  • Regardless of skin color, parents concerned about their children’s education, will not willingly enroll their children in unhealthy schools. In CMS, such schools are mostly in the inner city.
  • Given “parental choice”, parents whose neighborhood base school is unhealthy, will attempt to enroll their children in healthy schools. Such schools are typically in more middle class suburbs.
  • In Wake County, middle class neighborhoods are found mostly in Western Wake. Low income neighborhoods are mostly found in SE Raleigh and Eastern Wake. WCPSS attempts to balance SES by controlling assignment and busing. (Note that busing is used to relieve overcrowding resulting from insufficient permanent capacity and aging in and out of neighborhoods. Busing allows larger, less costly schools and makes greater use of existing capacity. See Salvesen et al))
  • Assignment by neighborhood rather than assignment by socio-economic status, is an “I win-you lose” policy.
  • The movement over several years of children and families from low income areas to high income areas is hereafter called “middle class flight”. (Called “white flight” by others.) In CMS, the bricks and mortar capacity limitations of healthy schools, along with first priority for the base nodes, led to “parental choice” being an ineffective illusion. Healthy schools became grossly overcrowded, and ultimately capped, while there were empty seats in low income areas just a few miles away. Busing mileage actually went up under “choice”. (Note: CMS continues to spend more on busing than WCPSS despite the fact that it is much smaller geographically…see School Data Direct). Lotteries were used to admit students into healthy schools and parents shuttled students through the system looking for a limited number of seats in healthy schools. (See Mikelson et al.) Some families moved to adjoining counties. In time, schools in the next ring of counties became overcrowded.
  • In CMS, middle class flight along with the limited availability of capacity in healthy schools, caused parents to move their children to private schools. Mecklenburg has over 19,500 students enrolled in private schools, roughly double the state average based on population, and one-third more than Wake. See (NCDPI data for Private Schools.)
  • CMS lost market share, particularly among white middle class and affluent families. As a result, low income minorities are highly over-represented in CMS and are concentrated in the inner city. (see the US Census and School Data Direct). Five high schools there, where poverty and race are highly concentrated, were accused of committing “academic genocide” in a landmark court decision. (See Wikipedia.)
  • In contrast, WCPSS has maintained market share over eight years. Although disaffected parents remove their children from the system, a like number return from private and charter schools. (per WCPSS data.) WCPSS is far more balanced than CMS along socio-economic and racial lines. (See Census and School Data Direct)
  • “Choice” tore Mecklenburg apart along racial and neighborhood lines. After a failed secession effort by suburban areas and a failed bond issue, business and African American leaders forged a compromise that established the present neighborhood based “Equity” system. “Choice” was officially abandoned in CMS in 2004. “Equity” gave substantial additional resources to unhealthy schools including:  more teaches for smaller classes, signing bonuses to attract quality teachers and principals ($3,000 to $15,000) and intensive pre-school education. Additional schools were built in suburban and inner city areas despite the availability of empty seats in the inner city. (See Mikelson et al.)
  • CMS has 40 magnet schools to serve 9,000 fewer students than Wake’s 35 magnets. Along the way the original intent of magnet schools to foster diversity has been abandoned in CMS. (CMS data).
  • Parents whose frustrations led to “Choice” remain unhappy with “Equity”. They resent the costly and unequal distribution of resources and claim that the system is ineffective.
  • The implications of “parental choice” and re-segregated neighborhood  schools are ominous for SE Raleigh and other low income areas in Eastern Wake County. Who would want to buy a home in a low income neighborhood whose local school was unhealthy? What would happen to economic development and housing values?
  • CMS has 172 schools for 130 K students. WCPSS, serving 9,000 more students has 156 schools, 16 less than CMS. For WCPSS to build that many additional schools would require additional debt of very roughly $500 million and a property tax increase of roughly 4.5 cents. Note that this increase would only cover the inefficiencies in the use of capacity resulting from a two-class school system. Additional growth + inflation for the entire system would add further tax increases.  
  • In 2007, CMS spent $63 million more on education than Wake, largely to facilitate “Equity”. A similar level of expenditures would require a 6 cent increase in property taxes for WCPSS…again, regardless of growth or inflation. Coupled with less efficient use of capacity, a 20% increase in the property tax rate is indicated.

The 2009 election for the BOE will be far more than a referendum on neighborhood schools. It will test the cohesiveness of the Wake Community. It will be a test of the leadership of all stakeholders, including the business community, the educational establishment and elected officials to sort through the issue of diversity vis-à-vis parental dissatisfaction with the current system. If re-segregated neighborhood schools are chosen by voters, the stage will be set for future tax increases to fund an inherently less efficient two class school system. It will determine the burden on our community of poorly trained, low-income children. It will determine how we prepare the coming generation for their working careers in an increasingly diversified and globalized workforce. It could set the stage for “middle class flight” out of public schools to private schools. That “flight” could in turn impact housing values and economic development in SE Raleigh and the Eastern half of the County.

Clearly there are challenges involving WCPSS, the State and the County (and most NC schools).

  • The academic bar needs to be raised for ALL children.
  • The curriculum must be upgraded to reflect the needs of a globalized world in the 21st Century
  • Graduation rates need to be steadily increased.
  • Greater choice of specialized programs is needed for both students not seeking higher education and academically advanced students.
  • Funding from both the State and the County for advancing classroom education and permanent seating capacity must be consistent, reflecting both growth and inflation and be less dependent on the year-to-year whim of politics. Relying solely on raising the county’s property tax or existing state revenue sources is unlikely to meet the above goals.
  • Per DPI statistics, combined state and county support in WCPSS for classroom education is only 85th (of 115 school districts) in the state. Per School Data Direct, NC’s total support for K-12 is 43rd in the nation. WCPSS total funding level is roughly $30,000 per classroom per year short of the national average. Lack of county support for school construction has resulted in over 26,000 temporary seats, the highest number in the state. In turn, this has lead to over crowding core facilities and over crowded campuses with as many as forty trailers. Underfunding-overcrowding leads to longer bus rides and year round schools.
  • An emphasis on supporting and upgrading teacher quality is of prime importance in raising academic performance for ALL students.
  • Less frequent reassignments and reducing the length of the longest bus rides are needed.
  • Growth and new school capacity must be tightly linked as is done elsewhere in NC and the nation, i.e. Adequate Public Facility Ordinances.
  • The BOE must maintain a balance between SES and community support. This is a narrow line to walk, but too rigid a system will fail.
  • Concerns of parents with children on more than one calendar need to be addressed by increasing the capacity of standard calendar schools.
  • The BOE needs to Improve communications with parents.

All these goals can be implemented in-time with additional funding used for ALL students. None require abandoning assignment by socio-economic status. None require adoption of a system that has proven to be a major step backwards for Mecklenburg County.

Special Note:

The above reflects my personal analysis and viewpoints. I am not speaking for the Wake Board of Commissioners or anyone on the Board of Education.

I am indebted to Dr. Stephanie Southworth of UNC–Charlotte for her review of my remarks and her encouragement.


What’s ahead for Cary in 2009?

With every New Year comes new challenges and though living in Cary, NC shields many of us from the darkest realities of a widespread economic downturn, we are far from immune.  Homes that used to sell in days are now taking weeks or months and may not sell at all.  Agressive plans for new developments have slowed and redevelopment of troubled properties like Waverly Place are stalled indefinitely.  Even after raising impact fees, the overall revenue to the town is expected to be far below the projections of the FY 2009 budget.  Lower revenue, unless offset by dramatic cuts in committed capital projects, could result in higher taxes. Cary is already on the hook for higher debt payments and when coupled with revenue hits in an election year, we are likely to see some very heated discussion at the annual planning retreat.

Fall elections are likely to be nastier than ever with the Davis & HighHouse crowd launching an all out assault on District ‘A’ Rep Jennifer Robinson.  One has to wonder if any minds will change when confronted with the reality of higher taxes due to slower growth, a connection Ms. Robinson clearly understands and has seen before.  District ‘C’ Councilman Jack Smith will certainly face a re-election challenge but should win handily again.  At-Large councilman Erv Portman will likely assist whatever Dem tries to unseat the moderate Smith but CP predicts Portman’s efforts to consolidate and increase his own power base will fail.  Portman has been trying to act as de facto Mayor in many instances and some of  his rhetoric and political posturing is beginning to wear thin, even amongst his friends and supporters.  At-Large councilwoman Julie Robison is expected to run again given her improved position as Mayor Pro Tem.  She dropped a few balls now and then but overall has performed much better in that role than her detractors anticipated.   Should she choose not to run, look for a free-for-all, much like the one in 2001 that led to her initial election.  One thing is certain, though the players changed in 2007, the politics have remained the same and in some ways are worse than ever with debate being driven by campaign donors instead of objectivity.
Finally, annexations loom large and CP expects some changes to the law from the NC General Assembly that may result in changes to the existing annexation plan. 

The Downside of One-Stop

Weeks Before One-Stop Precinct Data is Available

For those thinking about 2009 Cary Elections and what this Fall’s election results mean, I have some frustrating news.  The Wake County Board of Elections tells CP that precinct level results of One Stop Early Voting won’t be available for weeks, early January at best. The early voter turnout was huge and CP surmises it helped Democrat candidates throughout North Carolina, especially in light of the somewhat crummy weather on election day.  CP doubts you will find any early voter regrets but we have to wonder if late breaking news might have changed a few minds.  CP is also disturbed by the notion that most, if not all,  of our newly elected leaders will be sworn in before we have a complete picture of who voted for them.
For those looking ahead at possible runs for Cary Town Council, waiting until January or later to have reliable precinct data to project trends – especially in the District races – is just downright annoying.  CP is at a loss to explain why it should take so long to get the precinct level data from early voting.

Cary Election Day 2008 Results

Precinct results from votes cast on election day.  Does NOT include One Stop Early Voting results which will not be availalble until after January 1.  The purple indicates a statistical tie where fewer than 10 votes separated Obama & McCain.

Note:  In spite of the import of National elections, it seems total voter turnout nationwide was about the same as in 2004.  There was a bit of an increase in Democratic turnout and among the young though nowhere near the levels hyped prior to the election.  Republican turnout was down a bit nationwide.

America Eyes the Prize: Senator Obama or Senator McCain

As we wait the final day of expected record-breaking voter turnout, more passion and hope for change expands on the horizon. The Obama train races for the White House with unprecedented voter registration and One Stop Early Voting throughout America.
Internationally, huge numbers of journalists, editorial writers, and bloggers of all sorts hopped aboard the Obama Campaign for Change. Why? Everybody wants change for America–dramatic change and now. Electioneering hit new heights in this presidential race beginning two years ago, and worldwide many writers can’t figure out why. Not surprising, Americans can’t either.
While pundits shared comparisons of great past presidents on television, Parade Magazine published a survey (10/2008) of seven traits that two of the greatest presidents embraced. Obama ranked far above McCain in five of the seven, the highest with a 38 percent difference; one trait tied 50-50, and another with a two percentage point margin, Obama in front.
No doubt about it, this election may be close, but the American public has expressed loud and clear their disappointment about the absurd attacks hurled at Barack Obama by John McCain. You’d think a 26-year seasoned senator and former Prisoner of War would think a little closer about what exactly his words imply about our country, our government, our leaders and our citizens.
Additionally, McCain repeatedly tried to create a racial and religious divide in America, along with terror-mongering all attributed to Obama as evidenced at some of the McCain rallies.
Sadly, McCain has tried to persuade the American public that Obama maintains ties with terrorists and promotes socialism. He evidently forgot that presidential candidates go through rigorous security clearances at the Top Secret/Special Background Investigation (TS/SBI) level. All members of their family do as well.
In one of the TV ads, McCain says he’s been tested. Exactly what test did he receive to reside as our next president? Was he President Pro Tem when we weren’t looking? I don’t think so. And did running mate Sarah Palin get tested too? Sounds like years of entrenched politics, Bush supporter, maverick and age stand as qualifications. Maverick was never considered a positive quality, unless of course, your job was on Wall Street or in real estate.
Best of all, McCain must see Obama as a formidable opponent who displays all the characteristics of a charismatic leader. If not, then there would be no need for McCain to dream up ludicrous claims about Obama and questionable connections to the underworld. But wait, there’s more. Does McCain expect the American public to believe it all?
Think about it, if America wants different results, then we need to get on board the do something really different overhaul train. Let’s unload an antiquated infrastructure; try diplomacy and communication with our foes; reinvent health care for the masses; carve new standards for election campaigns; restore ethical values and respect to government; promote racial, religious, cultural and gender equality, and surrender major funds for education renovation, just to name a few.
America needs a president with lots of energy to mobilize an entire nation, and in the words of Colin Powell, a steady hand of leadership. A president must be fit for constant high stress, educated by the best in the world, seasoned in the trenches of America and harbor an acute awareness of world issues. Our president must be a bridge to both youth and maturity, personify cultural astuteness both at home and abroad, and exude a charisma unlike any before to stand up to the long road ahead.
Restore America to her rightful place. Vote for Change with Senator Barack Obama.

Mayor Pro Tem Vote Divides Council Early

Awkward Start for New Cary Town Council
Mayor Pro Tem Vote Makes Divisions Clear

In what was both a strained yet clearly pre-arranged vote, two term Councilor Julie Robison was elected 4-3 to serve as Cary’s Mayor Pro Tem, ending an eight year stint in that role for 18 yr Council veteran Jack Smith. Newly elected District ‘B’ Representavie Don Frantz opened the proceedings by nominating At-Large Rep Erv Portman, citing Councilman Portman’s solid record of prepartion and comprehensive knowledge of Cary’s issues. District ‘A’ Rep Jennifer Robinson provided the 2nd. In a bizarre twist, Mr. Portman then asked if he could reject being nominated based on his "work load". The reason for his rather weak excuse became immediately clear once the vote on his nomination was over. Newly elected District ‘D’ Rep Gale Adcock quickly nominated Ms. Robison with no explanation and after a quick 2nd by Mr. Portman, she was voted in 4-3. It should be noted that Mr, Portman’s nomination was an attempt at a compromise after citizen and business leaders had expressed concern over the appointment of Councilwoman Robison as Mayor Pro Tem, citing her off and on again preparation and difficulty in communicating concisely.

Re-assignment plan asks for trouble

Wake County School Board Learns Nothing from Cary Elections

You’d think that after this Fall’s shakeup in Cary, that the Wake County School Board would have learned that the folks in West Cary don’t like being screwed with.  They evidently missed the memo that residents in the Davis Drive & High House area like things the way they are and that they are perfectly ready, willing, and able to vote out any politician that wants to infringe on their quality of life.  They take pride in Davis Drive Elementary’s Blue Ribbon status and I suspect they aren’t going to take to kindly to jeopardizing it in the name of diversity. Busing kids from Penny Road out to Davis Drive just to balance the F&R Lunch #’s is the height of idiocy and my guess is that current school board members better count on this being their last term.

Judicial elections are becoming political prizefights

Leaving Party Politics at the Courthouse Steps
By Chris Heagarty

RALEIGH – Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor recently hosted a national symposium at Georgetown University to discuss problems in state judicial elections.

"In too many states, judicial elections are becoming political prizefights where partisans and special interests seek to install judges who will answer to them instead of the law and the Constitution," said former Justice O’Connor. "I hope that every state that elects judges in partisan elections will consider reforms."Courthouse

The good news is that North Carolina has taken important steps toward reform. The bad news is that the same political partisans and special interest groups that enjoy so much influence in other states still find ways to influence our elections.

North Carolina has made all state judicial elections nonpartisan, joining several other states that select their judges the same way. However, even though judges now run without party labels, both major political parties still promote "their candidates" to try to get a majority of "their people" on the high courts.

Republicans, who had long been shut out of judicial office in North Carolina and had strongly supported depoliticizing judicial elections, started winning judicial elections on the strength of their party label. Now that the political winds have shifted, some party leaders think partisan elections are just fine.

Meanwhile, Democrats who had long opposed depoliticizing judicial elections — so long as they kept winning them — had a change of heart once they found it harder and harder to win.

Once the elections were nonpartisan, many Democratic party leaders helped fund a secret campaign to boost a number of their candidates in the final days of the 2006 election. Under the name, their political organization engaged in some decidedly unfair tactics.

Voters expect candidates for governor or Congress to be partisans because those candidates run on public policy agendas pushed by one party or another. But judges are supposed to be fair and impartial, without political agendas, and guided only by the state and federal constitutions, not party platforms.

Even if you think politics shouldn’t be a part of judicial elections, you have to accept that under the First Amendment any judicial candidate that wants to run a partisan political campaign has that right. But the power to minimize politics in these elections rests not with the Constitution, but with the voters. Voters can either reward or punish judicial candidates if they think their campaigns are inappropriate or violate the spirit of judicial fairness and impartiality.

For the most part, voters in North Carolina and nationwide have rejected judicial candidates that have run on partisan political platforms. Sarah Parker and Mark Martin, North Carolina’s two most senior Supreme Court justices, received strong bipartisan support, even though she is a Democrat and he is a Republican, based on their experience and highly respected reputations for fairness.

Despite this nonpartisan system rankling those who want an all-Democratic or all-Republican court, a new national study suggests that North Carolina’s judicial elections are better than the partisan free-for-alls of other states.

The report is from the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania. The findings conclude that Americans who live in states that hold partisan judicial elections are more cynical toward the courts than Americans who live in states that do not hold partisan elections. Partisan judicial elections foster the belief that "judges are just politicians in robes."

The study also finds that partisan judicial elections also decrease public trust that state courts are operating in the best interest of the American people and that the courts are fair and impartial.

That should come as no surprise. For decades, we’ve seen so much nasty negative advertising from candidates for Senate, Congress and governor that most voters conclude that all politicians must be corrupt.

So long as we have judicial elections, politics will always find a way to seep into campaigns for the court. But by minimizing partisan political agendas, hopefully we can hold judges up to a higher standard than politicians, and help maintain the public confidence in our courts that is eroding in other states.

Chris Heagarty is the Robert Morgan Senior Research Fellow with the N.C. Center for Voter Education, a Raleigh-based nonprofit and nonpartisan organization dedicated to improving elections in North Carolina.