Pair of Birdies - And One Bogey
Birdie: By U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers, for taking time to pay a visit to Robbins Thursday to learn about its problems and its promise.
Ellmers was criticized last year, and justifiably so, for seeming woefully ignorant about Moore County during the campaign when she ran successfully for her second term representing North Carolina's Second District. But her making a point of coming here to listen and learn was a welcome sign.
There was no talk of party, which was as it should be. There's already posturing aplenty in Washington. Whether the town gets a chance at a HubZone designation is not a matter of Republican or Democratic policy. The program is a way to help make sure federal dollars go where they create and keep badly needed jobs. If there is a place anywhere in this country that is more deserving than Robbins, we don't know where it is.
Ellmers listened more than she spoke. She seemed to pay attention, and she got an earful. Let's hope she took the pleas by Mayor Lonnie English and Police Chief/Town Manager Jeff Sheffield to heart and shows it by her actions in the House. That's the kind of representation the people deserve but too seldom get these days.
Birdie: By the nine-member team of Moore County students who recently won the first Lego League state championship in robotics competition, held in Greensboro.
After working many long hours to develop a robot named "Robi," the team - with connections to St. Anthony's Church and Pope John Paul II Catholic School - came up with the idea of installing kiosks at locations where "senior citizens can have their eyes checked with state-of-the-art technological equipment."
Kudos to these diligent young geniuses.
Bogey: By those North Carolina General Assembly members who have fallen into the habit of charging tens of thousands of dollars in personal expenses up to their campaigns.
Or so says The N.C. Insider, a political newsletter that went over a pile of campaign reports and said it had found numerous such abuses. It seems to have become routine for too many state senators and representatives to charge their campaigns for numerous personal expenses - meals at nice restaurants air travel, apartment rent and even parking tickets - that clearly had nothing to do with their long-ended election runs.
Some of these lawmakers apparently felt driven to such action by earlier reforms, sparked by former House Speaker Jim Black's federal conviction and imprisonment. Those reforms were designed to tighten ethics laws that earlier had allowed legislators' tabs at country clubs, restaurants, fancy beach hotels and theaters to be picked up by lobbyists.
Now that they're on their own, some elected officials seem to have cast around for other ways to cover their bills. The most extreme example may be Sen. Fletcher Hartsell, R-Cabarrus, whose campaign finance reports are being audited after it was alleged that he used campaign funds to pay off $100,000 in credit card debt.
If it costs too much to live in Raleigh, the House and Senate members should consider raising their paltry $14,000 annual salaries. That might produce a negative public backlash of its own, but at least it wouldn't seem as bad as the current loophole, which looks big enough to drive a limousine through.
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