Chris Fitzsimon asks the $64 million question

Is there a business veto over key appointments?

The discussion in the mainstream media and on political blogs about who will run the Department of Environment and Natural Resources has included a long list of names from current Secretary Bill Ross to former Secretary Bill Holman to Robeson County businesswoman Freda Porter-Locklear.

It has also been a reminder of the power dynamics in Raleigh. Reportedly, one reason so many names have been mentioned for Secretary of DENR is that the business community has reservations about most of the candidates suggested by the environmental community to head the state's environmental agency.

The Cratchits

I'm safely returned from a whirlwind trip to Asheboro and Stenchville. In the former I learned that the Goodyear plant bid their employees adieu until next year. In the latter I spoke with a father of two little ones who has been on half-time since June and was laid off today until the new year. He's getting by cleaning cars and doing odd jobs.

Being on the clock with no children to feed, I had no complaint.

Miles to go before I ... pay?

According to today's edition of O-No!, the Powers that Be are increasingly looking at the so-called VMT (Vehicle Miles Traveled) tax as a way to offset declining gas tax revenues.

Talk of a Vehicle Miles Traveled tax has long been discussed as a necessity in a decade or so, because cars are becoming more fuel efficient, and states and the federal government are losing gas-tax revenue.

But there is now a sense of urgency about the new VMT tax. When gas hit $4 a gallon this summer, Americans sharply curtailed their driving. And when the economy cratered this fall, the driving rollback continued, even when gas prices plummeted.

Electoral College Meets Today

The time has finally come today, ladies and gentlemen.

Today at noon, at the historic Capitol in Raleigh, North Carolina's 15 Democratic electors will meet to formally cast our state's votes for president and vice president. I encourage everyone to come, either in person or virtually. If you can't make it to the Capitol, there will be televised proceedings at the Museum of Natural Science. For those who aren't near the area at noon, you can view the proceedings on the Secretary of State's website. I believe there is also a reception at 2pm at the Party HQ.

Empty Parking Lots, Empty Toy Bins

This is the time of year when many people find themselves picking paper angels off of trees and striking out to buy for a child who will otherwise go without holiday presents. It is a time when we pack shoe boxes with toys, drop new toys in collection bins, send money to local charities and deliver non-perishable food to the food bank. This is supposed to be a big time of year for non-profits.

Sadly, the toy collection bins I saw while out this morning were empty. They were empty when we entered the store and empty when we left. I've heard and read reports of local food banks with empty shelves. Last week when our family made a delivery to the local Christmas Bureau we saw a sign posted outside saying they were not taking anymore applications. There simply aren't enough donations to help everyone in need.


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