by YES! Staff

Publicly financed elections bill introduced

Sen. Katie Dorsett (D-Guilford) is among the co-sponsors of a bill introduced by Sen. Martin L. Nesbitt Jr. (D-Buncombe) on Thursday that would extend public financing to candidates for the Council of State offices of secretary of state, attorney general, treasurer, commissioner of agriculture and commissioner of labor, starting in 2012. The stated purpose of the legislation is “to ensure the vitality and fairness of democratic elections in North Carolina to the end that any eligible citizen of this state can realistically choose to seek and run for public office. It is also the purpose of this article to protect the constitutional rights of voters and candidates from the detrimental effects of increasingly large amounts of money being raised and spent in North Carolina to influence the outcome of elections.”

Sen. Don Vaughan (D- Guilford) indicated he was reluctant to support the bill, writing in an e-mail to YES! Weekly: “I worry about putting any state tax dollars into any new programs because of the erosion of the economy and the dire financial condition of the state.” Public financing is already available for candidates for three council of state offices: auditor, superintendent of public instruction and commissioner of insurance. The election advocacy organization Democracy North Carolina contends that the program was successful last year, with average contributions dropping from $500 in 2004 to $70 in 2008 in the commissioner of insurance race and the dollar amounts contributed by regulated industries dropping from 66 percent of total contributions in 2004 to just 5 percent in 2008. The expanded voter-owned elections bill would require candidates interested in participating to certify that they have spent no more than $20,000 in campaign-related expenses, raise hundreds of small donations from $10 to $200, stop all fundraising 10 days after the primary, accept a spending limit, and return unused public financing to a state fund. In return, participating candidates receive matching funds if their opponent exceeds spending limits. According to Democracy North Carolina, the benefits of public financing are that it “eliminates the reliance on donors who do business with the agency” and “allows candidates to spend more time with the voters.” — JG

Federal money distributed for airports, conservation

The federal government announced billions of dollars in grants for transportation and conservation projects last week, including $1.1 billion steered through the Federal Aviation Administration to 3,400 airports and $3.2 billion in funds allocated to the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Program, both from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The federal windfall includes $6 million to Piedmont Triad International Airport to build an aircraft rescue and firefighting building and to acquire vehicles for the new facility. The cities of Greensboro, Winston-Salem and High Point will receive funds to provide energy audits and energy efficiency retrofits, to develop financial incentive programs for energy efficiency and to capture methane and other greenhouse gas emissions from landfills. From a total of $58.1 million in funds reserved for North Carolina, Greensboro’s share is $2.6 million, Winston-Salem’s is $2.3 million and High Point’s is $998,600. — JG

Greensboro revises federal stimulus wish list

The city of Greensboro has submitted a revised list of prospective projects for economic stimulus funding to the newly formed NC Select Senate Committee for Economic Recovery, of which former councilman Don Vaughan (D-Guilford) is member. The wish list includes

• $112 million to complete the urban loop;

• $35 million for War Memorial Auditorium;

• $27.4 million to upgrade an incinerator;

• $20 million to install a new feeder main to bring water from the new Randleman Reservoir;

• $20 million to replace water and sewer lines;

• $18.4 million for the police department for costs associated with annexation in District 5, including personnel and equipment;

• $2.8-$7.9 million to cover costs associated with allowing officers to take their police vehicles home;

• $8.2 million to renovate War Memorial Stadium;

• $8 million for the NC A&T Hayes Taylor Project;

• $7 million for two new fire stations in south Greensboro;

• $6 million for a new recreation center;

• $6 million to resurface Lake Jeanette Road;

• $5.4 million for a new bus maintenance and operations facility;

• $2.3 million to resurface South Elm-Eugene Street;

• $2.1-$2.3 million for a police firing range;

• $210,840 to allow the police department to form a domestic violence squad; and

• $60,000 for 10 new bus shelters. — JG

Lawmen to discuss 287(g)

Guilford County Sheriff BJ Barnes and Greensboro Police Chief Tim Bellamy will participate in a public forum about 287(g), the federal program that authorizes local law enforcement agencies to process arrest subjects for deportation, at Iglesia Cristiana Internacional at 6 p.m. on Wednesday. The UNCG Center for New North Carolinians and the Congressional Nurse Program, along with the church, are sponsoring the forum. Call 336.508.1889 or 336.686.4952 for more information. — JG

Budget meeting scheduled

A meeting for residents of District 5 to give input on the Greensboro municipal budget will be held by City Councilwoman Trudy Wade at 6 p.m. on Thursday at Trotter Recreation Center, at 3906 Betula St. —JG