Thursday, August 30, 2007

Robin Hood: Trading Tax Cuts for Vacations

Recent fun site # 2
National Priorities Project

This is what they gave me when I asked for the trade-offs for North Carolinians for the tax cuts to the rich:

$56.5 billion in tax cuts for the wealthiest 1% this year could be spent on the people of North Carolina instead. If that money were used to support state and local programs, the residents of North Carolina could have $1.6 billion, which could provide:
324,849 People with Health Care

33,469 Elementary School Teachers

212,100 Head Start Places for Children

723,386 Children with Health Care

14,883 Affordable Housing Units

33,469 Elementary School Teachers

340,910 Scholarships for University Students

30,381 Music and Arts Teachers

41,371 Public Safety Officers

1,247,614 Homes with Renewable Electricity

22,920 Port Container Inspectors


give every person in the state a one week vacation in Brazil. First everyone would need passports of course.


We buy some small island and designate it as part of NC. Just a suggestion


my alternatives are about as meaningful to the poor as giving the rich -more- money.


BCBS NC, Moses Cone and Universal Health Care

The News-Record carries an appealing story from Dr. Weissman of Eagle Internal Medicine, explaining, in his humble opinion, why the problem between Moses Cone & Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina is a problem for everyone. I agree with Dr. Weissman, more than I usually agree with anyone that I don't know actually. Dr. Weissman ends his well written opinion piece with the following thought:
The U.S. health care financial situation is extremely complicated and will not be fixed by one or two changes. Indeed, the entire Western world is facing an increase in health care expense, regardless of what financial system is used. However, continuing to make health care a private good is blatantly unfair and violates what we as a country stand for. Imagine if we made the police a private good. Wealthy people would band together and be protected, leaving the remainder to disorder and anarchy. We can and should do better. During this upcoming election year, I suggest that you look carefully at the various proposals for changing health care finances.
Word, get em doc.

I'm not going to get into the wonders of the insurance world, I think the article does a pretty good job of summarising the key points. I will however add that NC, and the country, should re-align our views of health and the right to make money. Obviously increasing numbers of uninsured, working age/working individuals represents a real public health concern. I would suggest a massive strategy to promote the use of General Practioners combined with mandatory health insurance for all residents.

GPs need to be the gatekeepers of the healthcare system, steering people into the specialist fields on referrals, reducing the traffic into hospitals for non-threatening conditions. Additionally, insurance companies need to be 'forced' to provide insurance to people regardless of their pre-existing conditions, a basic insurance plan with set parameters for treatment - negotiated by all stakeholders. I also think if you don't claim, you should get your premium money back, atleast a portion of it, as a reward for not freaking out when you find a little bump on your eye-brow. It's a win-win combination.

We'll get into adverse selection and moral hazard later in lesson 2. Lesson 3 will develop our understanding of why a free market can't survive without government intervention. We think.


Intelligent Design in Raleigh - Sustainable Development in the State Capital

WRAL reports on how, in the middle of a dry spell, North Carolina's capital buildings are staying wet. The August 22nd story covers how the Legislative building in downtown Raleigh utilizes a capture and re-use water system to irrigate vegetation and other improvements by channeling rainwater into holding tanks for later use, saving millions of gallons of water and reducing the pressure on area water resources.
“We’re able to capture or use about 3 million gallons of water,”
And lawmakers aren't the only one's using the system:
At the new Heritage Middle School in Wake Forest, rain water is collected, then piped into the school's toilets for flushing. North Guilford Middle School, Millbrook Elementary in Raleigh and Montessori Community School in Chapel Hill are some other schools in the area that use the storm-water system.
Encouraging signs for Raleigh, and it should go further. As the city grows (and hopefully upwards and not outwards), there should be more urban landscape improvements such as GreenRoofs, GreenWalls, and integrated ecosystem architecture. Referring back to the ethos of urbanism instead of urbanisation.


Fraction of NC Universities Combatting Climate Change

Officially that is - I'm sure the others are doing what they can to help out as well.

Back in July it was announced that Duke University had joined the American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment, making it the 6th institution of higher education to sign it in the Old North State, behind Catawba College, Guilford College, Haywood Community College, UNC-Chapel Hill, and Warren Wilson College. Needless to say there's not red & white in that group.

While it's acknowledged that climate change will not be stopped with any one movement or action plan, even by the most extreme tree-hugging alarmists, the agreement sets forth the principle that universities, and indeed the entire academic community, need to be on the forefront of the fight to reduce wasteful use of the environment and develop innovative strategies to mitigate our impact on it. And rightfully so I would say. As the institutions charged with the education of today's and tomorrow's leaders and followers, universities should be the first to put their feet in the mud, if for no other reason than because of the extremely impressionable age of their clients.

The agreement binds signatories, at least in spirit, to the following commitments:

1. Initiate the development of a comprehensive plan to achieve climate neutrality as soon as possible.

a. Within two months of signing this document, create institutional structures to guide the development and implementation of the plan.

b. Within one year of signing this document, complete a comprehensive inventory of all greenhouse gas emissions (including emissions from electricity, heating, commuting, and air travel) and update the inventory every other year thereafter.

c. Within two years of signing this document, develop an institutional action plan for becoming climate neutral, which will include:

i. A target date for achieving climate neutrality as soon as possible.

ii. Interim targets for goals and actions that will lead to climate neutrality.

iii. Actions to make climate neutrality and sustainability a part of the curriculum and other educational experience for all students.

iv. Actions to expand research or other efforts necessary to achieve climate neutrality.

v. Mechanisms for tracking progress on goals and actions.

2. Initiate two or more of the following tangible actions to reduce greenhouse gases while the more comprehensive plan is being developed.

a. Establish a policy that all new campus construction will be built to at least the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED Silver standard or equivalent.

b. Adopt an energy-efficient appliance purchasing policy requiring purchase of ENERGY STAR certified products in all areas for which such ratings exist.

c. Establish a policy of offsetting all greenhouse gas emissions generated by air travel paid for by our institution.

d. Encourage use of and provide access to public transportation for all faculty, staff, students and visitors at our institution

e. Within one year of signing this document, begin purchasing or producing at least 15% of our institution’s electricity consumption from renewable sources.

f. Establish a policy or a committee that supports climate and sustainability shareholder proposals at companies where our institution's endowment is invested.

g. Participate in the Waste Minimization component of the national RecycleMania competition, and adopt 3 or more associated measures to reduce waste.

3. Make the action plan, inventory, and periodic progress reports publicly available by providing them to the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) for posting and dissemination.

For more information, visit the President's Climate Commitment website.


Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Dorothea Dix: A City's Fight To Keep NC Green

Dorothea Dix has been topping the agenda in Raleigh for some time now. I recall the first mentioning of the transformation of the famous property back in 2005, when the state faced a considerable fiscal crisis due to the budget crunch that year, leading to grave challenges faced by mental health professionals throughout the state.

The controversy remains on the table with one group of activists, Dix306, trying to preserve the entire estate for use by residents, and indeed all Tar Heels, as relaxing, public, recreational property. Meanwhile, developers, and even some lawmakers, want to turn the spoils into a built environment. The debate over the fate of Dix represents more than simply a movement by residents to secure a piece of their hometown; it also represents a challenge to the Green movement in North Carolina and the struggle to improve the urban landscape of Raleigh.

Developing the urban landscape has gained considerable ground in recent years, with innovative designs incorporating natural elements and fresh approaches to simple everyday problems. The aim is to lessen the impact humans have on their environments, including the wildlife and plants therein.

Wildlife and greenery have immeasurable values for societies. Not only do they help mitigate many of the environmental problems associated with urban living, but they also have a very substantial economic impact. Green space has more than aesthetic and property value advantage, it also has considerable medical benefits – i.e. reducing stress, anxiety and promoting exercise.

Additionally, as surrounding areas are encroached upon by higher density development, natural habitats are fragmented by physical structures and human activity. Wildlife which may have roamed freely across fields may soon find their routes severed by access roads or highways. Traversing these obstacles may prove to be fatal to species as conflicts with humans and accidents with vehicle traffic take their toll on populations. Reducing these migration corridors has severe and possibly permanent effects on wildlife. As wildlife adapts, natural systems will change in unpredictable and undesirable ways, leading to possibly disastrous changes in the local ecology and even flows of energy and nutrient cycles.

Implementing strategies of ‘creative control’ has become a mainstay of policy thinking in regards to controlling drivers of urban sprawl. That is, strategies which encourage both sustainable use of areas surrounding cities and within cities to not only conserve resources, but to increase the attractiveness of urban living. This implies rejuvenating social preferences to live and work in close spatial proximity by redesigning, or rather enriching, urban environments.

Over the years there have been considerable advances in this line of logic, most notably in countries such as the Netherlands, which have extremely dense populations and therefore have found more urgency to innovate their policies to fit their social environment. Many cities across Europe and the world have actively began to pursue measures to increase urban appeal (urbanism) and decrease inefficient, non-sustainable urban expansion/sprawl (urbanization). This has been accomplished, in conjunction with transportation innovations and other strategies, by incorporating city and ecological systems into a holistic structure. Urban environments are increasingly being seen not as separations of the natural environment, but as positive and sustainable pieces of it. Destroying green spaces, for whatever reason, seems hardly a suggestible course of action.

Such is the case with Dix, and we should be wary of those who might downplay the real importance of preserving all of the estate because regardless of their intentions. The debate over Dix is much more than just a debate over land-use in Raleigh, or even Wake county. This debate is about setting a precedent for North Carolina in a ‘new’ era of environmental awareness. Raleigh, and the state, should press their lawmakers and those charged with the design of our cities to set their goals higher – to move past a philosophy of urbanization with urbanism. Maintaining the entirety of Dorothea Dix should not be considered a reward for concerted community action, but a clear message to property developers and planners that NC has no intentions of depriving its citizens of a healthy, green environment for future generations.

I commend Mayor Meeker for showing his support for Dix and the hundreds of other Tar Heels who donate their energy and effort to securing a green future for the capital city.


EnvironmentNC - The Green Movement's Mischevious Little Step-child

What better gift for returning to the NC Blogosphere than to see that political mis & dis are alive and well in the triangle. Today's winner?????? EnvironmentNC

Now here is a group of guys whose stewardship of anything, especially the environment, should be praised with fields of roses! ...or maybe just blunt verbal abuses...

Here's my favorite thus far, and it's the first one I read:

"Not widely reported is this windmill “malfunction” in Oregon which killed one and injured a second person. I guess birds aren’t the only living beings in danger from these things. On a per BTU generated basis I am willing to bet that wind mills turn out to be more dangerous than coal mines."

Windmills are more dangerous than coalmines? Eh....ok. Why not? I mean seriously, remember all those stories about windmill farms collapsing on a team of poor workers in West Virginia? No? I wonder why not. Luckily, EnvironmentNC already has a renowned lobbyist on their side:

That was EnvironmentNC's Roy Cordato, also of the John Locke Foundation - a bastion of progressive social movement, or as Wikipedia cites:
"The John Locke Foundation is a free market think tank in North Carolina started in 1990. The organization advocates lowering taxes, decreasing spending on social support programs, and encouraging free markets. John Hood is its current president. The Foundation is concerned primarily with state and local issues. The greater part of its funding comes from North Carolina conservative grantmaking foundations, some led by Republican party activists."
Ah yes, Republicans....faithful stewarts of the environment and social cohesion. Now, I don't know about anyone else, but I feel safer knowing that the fate of the environment is being pursued by free-market nutjobs who think the way to help poverty is to reduce the help redistributed from the wealthier to the poorer, as taxation is intended, atleast in part, to do.

Now I know, this is a little unfair. Maybe they do have a valid points, asides from scaring the average schoolchild away from windmills in favor of -coalmines-....obviously well-meaning gentlemen. I have to say my hero is Michael Sanera, whom the Center for Media & Democracy (a non-profit, non-partisan organization devoted to supporting free and open media) describes as follows:

" His (Mr. Sanera's) task, clearly, is to punch holes in environmental education, by claiming that it frightens children with doomsday scenarios (He is author of the book, with Jane Shaw, "Facts not Fear"), that it is not scientific, that it does not take sufficient consideration of economics, and that it does not cover all competing viewpoints ..... industrial/economic views primarily. Such issues as forest management, and endangered species he contends would be better served by the private sector than government. "
See, their looking out for the children! These guys are great!

Now these folks are posting about 2-3 blogs per day and have an average readership of 38 visits per day (according to their own sitemeter), so someone out there is reading...and this sort of scares me....just a 'ittle bit.

To Mr. Sanera's credit, most of his posts are 1 part brief insinuation and 9 parts someone else's story. I look forward to becoming good friends.


And we're back!...............North Carolina that is...sort of

After a long enjoyed stint in my favorite place, and most beautiful place I've been to (before the fires of course), I am back in civilization and turning my focus back towards NC politics and happenings.

This should be fun, and hopefully a little rewarding.