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 In the News, August 12, 2010 

ENVIRONMENTAL

Opinion: Why Charlotte’s recycling initiatives work. I am loving Charlotte's recycling program these days. My heart skipped a beat when I learned that our 18-gallon red recycling crates were being supersized to 96-gallon green bins that could hold a lot more. And I appreciate the city making a greater effort to make recycling easier and giving us the resources to maximize every possible opportunity to recycle. Officials have even installed recycling containers on Tryon Street between 1st and 8th streets in Uptown. On top of all that, during the next three months, a "Prize Patrol" will give recyclers free Harris Teeter gift cards, free food and more. Creating incentives to recycle is great and helps to get people excited about the program, which was funded by a $6.4 million Energy Block Grant received under the stimulus program. What I love most about the program is that everyone can do it and benefit from it in some way.

 

ANNEXATION

Mount Airy can’t pave annexed streets until 2011. Mount Airy officials have voted unanimously to pave streets in a recently annexed neighborhood in the fall of 2011, although some residents — as well as city commissioners — want relief sooner. “We expected the paving to be done sometime this year,” Shirley Brinkley of the Hollyview Forest community told the board of commissioners during a meeting at the Municipal Building Tuesday afternoon when the project was approved. “We’d love to have the paving right now,” added Brinkley, who previously addressed the board last month and was told that funding information needed to be explored before a timetable for the work was established.

 

Gastonia pushes through annexation of Paysour Mountain land. An annexation that seemed inevitable finally became official this week when Gastonia assumed full control of 685 acres near Paysour Mountain. Now, surrounding residents of the land can only hope the city’s future plans don’t include redeveloping a portion of it as a firing range or weapons testing site. City Council members on Tuesday voted 4-2 to annex the non-contiguous property it has owned for many years north of Bessemer City, several miles from the Gastonia city limits. The change took effect Wednesday and means Gastonia will largely be able to develop the land however it wants, rather than needing a Gaston County land-use board’s approval.

 

STATE BUDGET

Report: N.C. budget hole worst in Southeast. Next year could be a perfect storm for North Carolina budget writers, according to an analysis by the bi-partisan National Conference of State Legislatures that ranks the Tar Heel State’s budget gap as the fifth worst in the nation and worst in the Southeast. The report comes on the heels of legislators’ finalizing of a $20.6 billion budget for the new fiscal year, passed June 30, that kicks the ball down field on a number of key fiscal issues. Congress is poised to pass a rescue package that would cover $343 million of North Carolina’s $519 million liability for Medicaid. The remaining $176 million will be filled by diverting funds from six other budget line items, including disaster relief dollars and unclaimed lottery prize money.

Editorial: Federal rescue. Congress may have arrived just in time to save the North Carolina budget from some draconian midyear cuts. The U.S. House yesterday followed the Senate's lead and voted to provide badly needed help to states. North Carolina will receive almost $300 million for schools and $343 million for Medicaid. The two appropriations would eliminate most of the need to implement a series of contingency plans that could have led to the loss of 4,500 education jobs and cuts throughout already depleted state agencies.

 

OPEN GOVERNMENT

Employee records not so private anymore. New laws that take effect Oct.1 will make some information once kept confidential about state and county employees’ suspensions, demotions and firings public. The Government Ethics and Campaign Reform Act, recently signed into law by the governor not only makes certain personnel information public but changes a number of laws related to campaign finance and lobbying by former state employees and officials. “We have not yet discussed this,” Columbus County Attorney Mike Stephens said Friday, pointing out a meeting would likely take place with County Manager Bill Clark and Personnel Director Virginia Taylor to discusses the new requirements. While the N.C. League of Municipalities appears to have accepted that the law change applies to “current and past employees,” as is noted in their most recent Legislative Bulletin, Stephens’ and others question the laws applicability to past records.