Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Perdue names Republican to judgeship

Gov. Bev Perdue has appointed Eric Levinson to the Superior Court bench in Mecklenburg County. It's an interesting appointment because Perdue is a Democrat and Levinson is a Republican who has served before as a judge prior to going to Afghanistan two years ago for the Bush Administration Justice Department to help introduce a new civil justice system there and to consult on justice issues in Iraq.

N.C. judicial races, of course, are nonpartison now. Levinson was widely regarded as a highly capable, effective judge when he served on the N.C. Court of Appeals and as a district judge in Mecklenburg. He ran unsuccessfully for the N.C. Supreme Court in 2006. Here's Perdue's announcement:

RALEIGH - Gov. Bev Perdue today appointed Eric L. Levinson to the seat of Resident Superior Court judge for Mecklenburg County. Levinson will fill the vacancy created by Judge David S. Cayer’s resignation to serve as a U.S. Magistrate Judge for the Western District of North Carolina.

"Judge Levinson's broad judicial background will allow him to immediately step in and begin serving the community," Perdue said. "I appreciate his continued commitment to the law and his willingness to serve North Carolina."

Levinson recently spent time in Iraq as a Justice Attaché for the U.S. Department of Justice. He also has consulted with the Supreme Court of Afghanistan to help develop its civil court system. Prior to his judicial service overseas, Levinson spent five years on the North Carolina Court of Appeals. Before joining the court he served six years as a District Court Judge in Mecklenburg County and four years as an assistant district attorney for Cabarrus and Rowan counties.

He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Georgia and his law degree from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill School of Law.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Corruption hotline, anyone?

Former State Auditor Les Merritt may be out of office but he's not out of the corruption hotline business. Merritt, who lost his seat in the 2008 election, announced Monday that he and former FBI agent Frank Perry are setting up an ethics foundation to, among other things, hear complaints about ethics and public office.

Here's part of his announcment news release:

RALEIGH, NC – Former N.C. State Auditor Les Merritt has teamed up with Dr. Frank L. Perry, a veteran FBI agent who worked for both the N.C. Ethics Commission and the N.C. State Auditor’s office, to launch the Foundation for Ethics in Public Service and its Web site, www.ReportPublicCorruption.org. The Foundation is a non-profit, non-partisan organization which will educate citizens and public officials about the nature, causes and remedies of public corruption and spotlight significant occurrences of public corruption. Specifically, the Foundation will facilitate the investigation and reporting of public corruption by receiving tips about alleged acts of corruption, independently investigating those tips to ascertain their credibility, and passing the information along to investigative reporters or enforcement agencies as appropriate. The organization will also teach classes and conduct seminars and other programs to educate public officials on ethics issues.

Merritt will serve as Executive Director, Perry will serve as Director of Investigations and Public Affairs and Hayley Phillips Bushnell will serve as Director of Operations. Bushnell previously worked at the N.C. Ethics Commission, in the healthcare industry and as a summer intern for U.S. Congressman Mike McIntyre (D-NC).

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Hunt most popular gov; Easley the least

Comes word from Public Policy Polling's Tom Jensen that former Gov. Mike Easley, under fire for all sorts of things that happened on his watch, is the least popular of former N.C. governors in a new poll. Current Gov. Bev Perdue isn't far behind. http://publicpolicypolling.blogspot.com/2009/06/nc-voters-high-on-hunt-down-on-easley.html Jim Hunt, meanwhile, was found to be the most popular. Here's what Jensen said:

Last month PPP asked North Carolina voters who their favorites and least favorites were among the last five Presidents, and this month we took on Governors.
The winner of the least favorite nod, no surprise, is Mike Easley. 45% of respondents chose him, followed by Bev Perdue at 26%.

What is remarkable is the unanimity with which respondents picked Easley- he was the choice of literally every group PPP tracks by ideology, community type, gender, party, race, age, and region. In the Triangle, where his recent troubles have drawn the most media coverage, 60% said he was their least favorite.

Even with two former Republican Governors in the mix Easley finished first among Democrats at 40%, and Bev Perdue came in second with her own party at 20%, another indicator that she has ruffled some feathers with the base in the first months of her administration.

The overwhelming winner as the most popular of the last five Governors is Jim Hunt, who earned 41%, followed by Jim Martin at 21%. Hunt nearly does the opposite of Easley by being named the most popular in every individual group but Martin edged him out by a narrow margin among Republicans (35-34) and voters from metro Charlotte (33-26).

It's a testament to Hunt's across the board appeal that he came out as the most popular among conservatives, and had steady support in the 42-47% range in every region of the state with the exception of Charlotte.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The lady in red wants more revenue

The state Capitol was filled with folks wearing red shirts, red blouses and red jackets -- including the governor -- Wednesday morning at a rally to generate support for raising more state tax revenues. Gov. Bev Perdue -- a self-described "old teacher" -- spoke of her seventh grade teacher back in Grundy, Va. who told her she could become anything she wanted to be, and proved it by becoming governor. Perdue didn't outline specifics in her talk to folks jammed into the old State House chamber, but it's clear she wants more revenue than the $780 million-plus in the House budget.

The size of the budget shortfall is growing, she said -- $4.7 billion this morning, and getting worse the following year. "In North Carolina, we have to act boldly," she said. "I don't believe we can cripple education in this state."

Meanwhile, Rob Christensen and Mark Johnson report that Perdue also visited with state legislative leaders Wednesday morning and told them she wanted up to $1.5 billion in new revenue -- twice what the House would have raised. State Sen David Hoyle, D-Gaston, said he gulped at the size of the request, but it's not far off from a package of tax reforms that he, Sen. Dan Clodfelter, D-Mecklenburg, and Sen. Clark Jenkins, D-Edgecombe, have been working on for months that would provide more revenue as well as simplify state taxes and make it less susceptible to the vagaries of the state's economy.

Stanly County lawyers weigh back in

Stanly County has replied to Alcoa's filing last week that argued there's no reason to delay granting another permit to operate the Yadkin River hydroelectric generating units it operates.

Stanly County says Alcoa wasn't telling the full story, and asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to include the full transcript of a case before a state administrative law judge that blocked the issuance of a water quality certificate Alcoa needs for a license renewal. For those who want to read the whole filing, here's a link.

Parsing the N.C. Water Rights Committee

A longtime Observer reader recently asked me what I knew about the N.C. Water Rights Committee, which represents the views of citizens who oppose the request of Alcoa Power Generating Inc. for a renewal of its Federal Energy Regulatory Commission license to operate hydroelectric dams on the Yadkin River. Alcoa once employed a large workforce at its Badin aluminum smelter, but has a small workforce now. It wants to renew its license to generate power and keep selling it on the open market. Opponents regard it as an unregulated utility -- or at least not regulated like other utility companies in North Carolina -- and they hope to "recapture" the project license, as allowed but never exercised under federal law.

The reader may have been prompted by a recent news report that found the N.C. Water Rights Committee to be mysterious and tight-lipped. The committee apparently didn't want to answer questions about its operation, which, as anyone in public life can tell you, is a really dumb stance to take. In this age of transparency, the best course for institutions operating in the public eye is to be as forthcoming as possible. Anything less creates a lot of suspicion.

A week ago I began asking a few questions, and finally caught up yesterday with two members of the N.C. Water Rights Committee who were willing to talk about the group, which has a Web site at www.ncwaterrights.org. They were member Roger Dick, CEO of Uwharrie Capital, a holding company for several banks, and treasurer Chris Bramlett, a retired chemistry professor and businessman. They said N.C. Water Rights is an organization originally chartered by Bruce Thompson, a Raleigh lawyer who represents Stanly County. (Thompson said via e-mail Wednesday, “Our firm prepared the incorporation paperwork and I signed as the incorporator. After that, they ran their own organization and ultimately engaged Steve Levitas.) Dick and his companies are the primary financial supporters of the N.C. Water Rights Committee.

Dick said the group had more than 200 members and described them as "just a rag-tag group of home-spun, floppy-hat-wearing" citizens who are interested in environmental and economic issues along the river. Some of them contribute money to the committee, but Dick estimates he and his companies have provided 75 percent or more of the roughly $75,000 the N.C. Water Rights Committee has spent to communicate with the public over the last couple of years. The committee's primary purpose, he said, is education. He and Bramlett said that Stanly County, which has also opposed Alcoa Power Generating Inc.'s pursuit of another FERC license, is not a contributor to N.C. Water Rights Committee.

MNI Marketing, a Raleigh public relations firm, maintains the Web site for the N.C. Water Rights Committee at www.ncwaterrights.org. The Web site has a page where people can sign up to join the committee. The Web site says N.C. Water Rights Committee is a coalition of hundreds of people, but the committee has declined to release a list of his members or its income and expenditures on privacy grounds. The committee has a page where anyone can make contributions to the group, but donations are not tax deductible.

Bramlett said that when the group first began looking at this issue, it proposed some modest suggestions to Alcoa. "We wanted to partner in some way with the company" to improve economic development in the area. "We really didn't know if we owned the water or not," he added.

The committee's officers are President Nancy McFarlane, Raleigh City Council member, Secretary Nadine B. Bowers of New London, a retired investment consultant, and Treasurer Christopher L. (Chris) Bramlett of Albemarle, retired University of Alabama chemistry professor and former owner of Christopher's Jewelers in Concord. Its registered lobbyist is Steve Levitas, an attorney with Kilpatrick Stockton in Raleigh and former N.C. Deputy Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. The committee's immediate past president is Keith Crisco, an Asheboro businessman now serving as N.C. Secretary of Commerce.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Lottery: 'Where does the money go?'

One reader had a sharp reaction to my Sunday column asking "What were they thinking?" She wanted to know: "Where does the money go?"

The column was about former Gov. Mike Easley and his arranging a job for his wife at N.C. State University, a process that has led to the resignation or firing of four people, including Mary Easley. The column mentioned problems related to the adoption of the state lottery in 2005.

The reader wrote:

One of the paragraphs in your "What were they thinking?" article in today's Observer really jumped at me.

"(The remarkable thing is that the N.C. Education Lottery, created in such sleazy fashion, has evidently been well-run and without the corruption that has marked N.C. government in the 21st century.)"

"IF it's been so well, run why are our schools in such dreadful financial condition? The supposed purpose of the lottery was to benefit the schools. And from the millions of dollars they advertise are waiting to be given away, when and where are the schools benefiting???? Seems to me that folks at the Observer are in a good place to start finding some answers. There is NO EXCUSE for teachers and programs to be getting terminated for lack of funds when the lottery is so full of money.
"I, for one, and probably lots of teachers, principals, parents, and students would be VERY interested in some sensible answers. Please tell us WHERE IS THE MONEY GOING???????"

It's a good question, and there's an easy answer. The N.C. Education Lottery Web site posts an annual report on where the money goes. Here's a link. The report shows that since inception, $725 million has gone to education; in 2008, $350 million went to education.

The money, by law, is split among school construction, college scholarships, class size reduction and programs for at-risk children.

I wasn't a supporter of the lottery and the way the legislature adopted it wasn't pretty, but my point in the column was that it appears to be well-run and is producing revenue for schools.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Alcoa: No reason to delay Yadkin permit

Alcoa Power Generating Inc. has filed a statement with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on why there's no reason to delay granting another permit to operate the Yadkin River hydroelectric generating units it operates. Here's a link.

Alcoa says “The present effort to block the issuance of the license via the challenge to the Section 401 Certification is yet another attempt to end-run around the Commission’s long-established relicensing procedures.”

The 11-page filing also notes, “The Commission’s precedent is clear: its practice is to issue a license to the applicant when its record is complete and a 401 certification has been received, regardless of whether an appeal of a Section 401 water quality certification is pending before state administrative agencies or courts, even if the certification has been stayed.”

Alcoa's 50-year federal license to operate the dams expired in 2008 and the company came close to getting it renewed last year. Since then, Gov. Bev Perdue has taken a position that the company ought not get the license renewal because it no longer has a substantial workforce in this state. Alcoa once employed about 1,000 workers at its Badin aluminum smelter. The General Assembly appears to be moving toward passage of a bill creating a Yadkin River Trust that might one day buy and take over operation of the hydro plants.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Lawmakers once met six days a week, sort of

While the House contemplated an unusual Friday session this week to consider its version of the state budget and a $784 million package of tax hikes, it reminded me that earlier legislatures were routinely in session on Fridays, though those sessions often were short. The current schedule for the House and Senate usually calls for convening on Monday evenings at 7 p.m., then full days Tuesdays and Wednesdays as well as sessions on Thursdays -- sometimes long sessions, sometimes fairly short. That lets most legislators get home Thursday afternoon or night, though committee meetings and other duties can keep legislators in town all week long to work on bills, constituent problems and other issues. For a number of legislators, the General Assembly is a full-time job, but with formal sessions just four days a week.

It wasn't always that way. When I came to Raleigh in 1977 for the Greensboro Daily News, there were full sessions on Thursdays and formal, though often short, sessions on Fridays. I asked Gerry Cohen, head of the legislature's bill drafting operation and for my money one of the leading historians on the N.C. General Assembly, about work schedules. Here's what he said, via e-mail exchanges:

Friday sessions were held regularly in the House until about 2001, and regularly in the Senate until about 1997. I may be off a few years. They were like Thursday sessions are now. Through 1969 there were Saturday sessions but only non rollcall local bills were taken up.

I asked about the Saturday sessions, and Cohen replied:

My predecessor Clyde Ball who hung around 1955-1980 told me that until the constitution was revised in 1970 they could only adjourn ONE day without a joint resolution, so a Saturday session was required. Then it was changed to allow THREE days, so they dropped the Saturday session, but still had working Fridays. Eventually they dropped Friday, using up all three days of allowed break.

Cohen said the Saturday sessions were attended by only a few:

On Saturdays only Wake legislators would show up and have a pro forma session and vote on some local bills ocassionally, or so I am told. I started hanging around in 1971 so it was fresh in people mids back then. I will try to find an illustration.

He found several:

Went back to old journals, in 1969 and 1959 I checked three or four Saturdays, they were all pro forma, a member from Wake was designated by the Speaker to be Speaker Pro Tem for the day and called House to order, another member from Wake moved approval of the journal, and a third member from Wake moved to adjourn.
Went back to 1947, and Saturdays transacted lots of business every week, but it appeared to be morning only. Recorded votes, etc.

And there you have it. Legislators once spent at least parts of six days a week in Raleigh on formal sessions; Now it's four days a week. But, of course, with technology and staff and sophisticated ways to analyze problems, lawmakers have many more ways to be productive. And a lot of them work on legislative business seven days a week, no matter whether they're in Raleigh, Ramp Cove or Rodanthe.

But there aren't many Friday sessions, and I don't hear many folks lobbying for them, either.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Should businesses cut more roadside trees?

Alan White of Charlotte read Wednesday's editorial about a proposal by billboard companies and other businesses to allow more cutting of vegetation and trees in the public right of way, and was reminded of a scene he saw while driving down U.S. 74 near Rockingham about eight years ago -- but it was about highway construction, not billboards or businesses. He shot this photo with a 35 mm camera, he says, while rolling along, so it's not as sharp as he'd hoped. But it clearly illustrates a point. He wrote:

Great editorial this morning! Keep on those DOT people. They'll just pave over or clear the entire state if gone unchecked.
Attached is an ironic picture of a stretch of road that had some magnificent old growth trees that was cleared for yet another 74 bypass several years ago...

In a follow-up e-mail, he added:

I took it about 8 years ago when they were clearing the roadbed near Rockingham. This section is along the Pee Dee River where the forest is (was) very thick. It broke my heart to see how they bulldozed through that area. The DOT could've worked the bypass a little closer to town instead of plowing through the nice hillside along the river. It's the point where the new bypass splits from the old 74. Now that the bypass is open, undoubtedly bisecting private farms, Rockingham has begun marketing the area as industrial sites. I'm sure you've seen this section.
This is what can be expected when they build the new bypass around Monroe.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Sam Ervin, Watergate and the N.C. State upheaval

When N.C. State Chancellor Jim Oblinger resigned Monday following a series of revelations about his role in the hiring of former N.C. First Lady Mary Easley, one thing many people found difficult to believe was that he could not remember that role until he saw the e-mails he had sent during his discussions about her hiring back in 2005. Those emails were among materials N.C. State released to federal investigators who had requested them.

It stretches the imagination to believe that the former chancellor could not remember discussing with other State officials the hiring of the wife of a sitting N.C. governor.

But Oblinger is hardly the only public official to profess no memory of involvement in certain matters. Thirty-five years ago this summer, the Watergate affair was raging in Washington, and U.S. Sen. Sam Ervin of Morganton, D-N.C., had been at the center of congressional investigations into what happened after the Nixon White House had taken part in a coverup of the Watergate Hotel break-in at Democratic Party headquarters. Ervin's Senate Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities had grilled a number of Nixon's henchmen, many of whom testified that they could not recollect specific events during that shabby episode. The episode eventually led to the resignation of President Nixon after the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled that he had to release secret tape recordings of much that was said in the oval office.

That prompted Ervin, a colorful character with a host of good stories about the human condition and the frailties of man, to remark that it sometimes was better to have "a good forgettery than a good memory."

Monday, June 08, 2009

Bowles: N.C. State e-mails 'made me sick'

UNC President Erskine Bowles was not around when former First Lady Mary Easley was first hired to run a speakers program at N.C. State University. And when she was given new duties and a dandy compensation package of $170,000 a year, he didn't like the way it was handled and ordered a review of the deal before the UNC Board of Governors, and he, blessed it last year. But when former N.C. State Board of Trustees Chairman McQueen Campbell, who had flown the governor on unreported trips and helped the Easleys get a good deal on coastal property, mentioned in a conversation a few weeks ago that he had suggested Mary Easley’s hiring to N.C. State Chancellor James Oblinger, Bowles determined that Campbell had to go. Campbell resigned. Oblinger said he was embarrassed that he could not remember having that conversation with Campbell. He said he might have passed the idea of hiring the wife of the governor along to a colleague, but he simply couldn't remember.

But Oblinger's protestations didn't hold a lot of water among those who read a collection of Campbell's e-mails, including some from Oblinger, Monday when N.C. State released them. They show that Oblinger was aware that the governor was pushing his wife for a job at N.C. State, and that Campbell was pushing Easley's wife for a job at N.C. State, and Oblinger was aware that other campus officials knew about the deal. At one point, he wrote, “We're ready to move on this; next step is in the Mansion,” presumably a reference to the Governor’s Mansion in Raleigh.

In other words, Oblinger's words didn't look or sound credible.

Bowles got the emails on Friday, and when he read the account, he said, "The e-mails made me feel sick." He had believed Oblinger when the chancellor had said he couldn't recall any discussions about a job for Easley. And Bowles said there were probably a lot of conversations he had had that he could not remember -- but after reading copies of the emails, it was much more difficult to believe.

Amen. And it's sad. I always thought Jim Oblinger was a really good chancellor, a good fit at N.C. State. But it's tough to believe he'd forget helping out the governor and the governor's wife. The wife of a dean, maybe, and surely the wife of an associate professor. But the governor? Come on. If it's true that he no longer remembered his own involvement, and the governor's, in helping the governor's wife get a job, his memory surely did him a disservice.

Former UNCC Chancellor Woodward to fill in at N.C. State

Former UNC Charlotte Chancellor Jim Woodward of Charlotte has been tapped to serve as interim chancellor at N.C. State, where he once taught, while the university searches for a replacement for former N.C. State Chancellor Jim Oblinger. Oblinger resigned this morning.

UNC President Erskine Bowles said, "I am extremely grateful that UNC Charlotte Chancellor Emeritus Jim Woodward—an aeronautical and mechanical engineer who taught at NC State early in his career—has agreed on very short notice to serve as interim chancellor. I will of course be working closely with NC State Board of Trustees Chairman Bob Jordan to launch a search for a permanent chancellor and to ensure that the campus doesn’t lose momentum in the months ahead."

Here's a link to Bowles' letter to the UNC Board of Governors.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

S.C., N.C. out of unemployment funds

The investigative Web site Pro Publica (propublica.org) notes that South Carolina and North Carolina are among 14 states nationally whose unemployment funds have run out of money because they didn't put enough money aside to keep it going in a pinch or because they paid out too much in claims. Here's a link to the site.

In summary, Pro Publica says:

It used to be, unemployment insurance meant a sturdy back and a jalopy big enough to fit the whole family. That changed in 1935, when the government started offering unemployment insurance, and states began to save when times were good so there was money to spend to help workers and stimulate the economy when times were bad.
In all but a handful of states, it no longer works that way.

Fourteen states have already run out of funds to pay unemployment insurance claims and taken out a total of more than $8 billion in federal loans to cover the shortfalls. At least 18 more states are in danger of exhausting their unemployment insurance trust funds.

States with empty unemployment insurance trust funds have pointed to the severe recession as the cause for their plight, but a closer examination of their trust funds shows underfunding and poor planning as the main culprit. Instead of building up reserves during good years, legislatures in these states yielded to political pressure for high benefits and low taxes. The result: dangerously low trust fund balances.

Now, states with bankrupt trust funds will have to increase taxes or cut unemployment benefits at the worst possible time -- during a recession.
"This is not a very smart way to run a railroad, because you want benefits to be available quite freely when unemployment rates go up, and you don't want to raise taxes on employers during a recession," said Gary Burtless, an economics expert at the Brookings Institution. "There used to be rules most states abided by, but those standards kind of went the way of the dodo bird."

DOT board praises former member

When Kinston businessman and N.C. Board of Transportation member Cameron McRae resigned from the DOT board last month after disclosure that neither he nor former Gov. Mike Easley had disclosed flights he had provided Easley while still governor, some DOT officials evidently were unhappy with the treatment McRae got and the way he was squeezed out.

Secretary of Transportation Eugene Conti, Gov. Bev Perdue's appointee to run the department, fired off a letter to the editor of The News & Observer praising his service on the Board of Transportation and on the Global TransPark Authority, of which Conti is vice chairman. Conti said he wrote the letter to provide "additional perspective" to news coverage about McRae, and said McRae was "a dedicated and energetic contributor to the work" of both DOT and the TransPark. "I am grateful to Cam McRae for his service to the residents of North Carolina," Conti wrote.

At Thursday's Board of Transportation meeting, board chairman Doug Galyon of Guilford County read Conti's letter into the board record, and Judge Bob Collier, a board member, moved that the minutes show it reflected the sentiment of the entire board about McRae. The motion was approved unanimously.

McRae, whose term on the board actually ended in January but who stayed on until a replacement could be named, resigned his post in a letter to Gov. Perdue so she could move forward with a successor. The resignation came a few days after news stories appeared noting that McRae had acknowledged flying Easley twice. State law requires DOT board members to disclose their campaign activities related to the board seat; McRae also made contributions to Easley, and the story raised questions whether the value of the flights and the contributions exceeded legal limits.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

A lone voice for tax hike for schools

State schools CEO William Harrison is providing some leadership where other key state officials are remaining quiet. In an interview with reporter Lynn Bonner of the News & Observer, Harrison called on state legislators to raise taxes and keep schools and other state agencies from the worst of contemplated budget cuts. Harrison called for a temporary sales tax increase as well as hikes on cigarettes and alcohol.

But Gov. Bev Perdue's staff says she's not pushing that particular line of thinking. "At this time, it is not something that the governor is pushing," said spokeswoman Chrissy Pearson. Perdue's proposed budget -- which was unveiled long before it became apparent that the budget shortfall would be in the range of $4 billion -- did call for cigarette and alcohol tax increases, but not the sales tax.

Harrison's willingness to speak out now is interesting because of its sharp contrast to other state leaders, including legislative leaders who have been cautious about significant tax hikes. The Senate budget had a $500 revenue hold it -- which might be filled by a Senate Finance co chairs plan to revise the state's tax structure, cutting some tax rates and applying the sales tax to more services. The House, on the other hand, has tried to develop a budget proposal without revenue increases. Word is that House members are now talking a little more about ways to raise revenue.

Perdue appointed Harrison to the State Board of Education earlier this year to run the state schools and bring about more accountability. Harrison is trying to avoid some budget cuts in a potential cut of up to $1 billion for state school support, but even if the legislature were to boost some taxes, significant budget cuts are on their way for state agencies.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Hard to imagine Allred 'fading away'

D.G. Martin, the former Charlotte lawyer, political candidate and later lobbyist for the UNC sytem, has a few kind words for former state Rep. Cary Allred. He resigned effective Monday afternoon following complaints filed by fellow Republican legislators about a bad evening Allred had April 27. (Allred said he had one drink, a chelada, before leaving his home in Burlington, got stopped for driving 102 mph but not issued a ticket until days later, had a loud exchange with House Speaker Joe Hackney, and hugged and kissed a teenage House page, a neighbor whom he sponsored for the pageship in a way that some of his fellow GOP members thought was unseemly at best. The matter was referred to the Legislative Ethics Commission, but Allred's resignation ends whatever inquiry the commission might have made.

Here's part of what Martin had to say about Allred Monday in his weekly column:

I remember watching Allred in action two years ago. He had taken up the cause of an old time locksmith who had been fixing broken locks in his neighborhood for years. A new locksmith licensing law required him to register, take tests, pay fees and maintain his license by taking locksmith education classes.
Allred was trying to persuade a legislative committee to exempt older and experienced locksmiths from the education requirements since his locksmith friend “didn’t really need any more education” to do what he had been doing all his life.

Allred presented his arguments with a passion for the plight of an individual who was tragically being put out of business by insensitive government legislation.
He did not persuade the committee to overturn a system of regulation designed to deal with professionals who install and repair sophisticated electronic security systems.

But he persuaded me that he had a good heart that would go to bat for the “little guy.”

Apparently, he also persuaded a lot of voters in Alamance County that he would try to stand up for them, rather than just working to go along with other legislators.
Current Alamance County Republican chair Robert Simpson said, “Cary's a lone wolf. He usually doesn't follow the advice or consent of his fellow Republicans. He does generally what he wants to do.”

Being a “lone wolf” might be the right thing for a politician who wants to please voters who distrust government and all the compromises it involves.
But when a “lone wolf” gets in trouble, there is no one to shield him from the daggers.

Allred's resignation quoted the late Gen. Douglas MacArthur's observation about old soldiers never dying, they just fade away. Allred himself was not a soldier. He was a sailor, having served in the U.S. Navy and then in the Naval Reserve, according to his biography. Close enough, but it's hard to imagine Cary Allred fading away. We'll hear from him again.