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What real conservatism in Chatham County means

By Tom Glendinning
Posted Friday, June 17, 2011

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Pittsboro, NC - Now, the debate is defined. The nature of conservative and liberal politics has been opened.

Unfortunately, the definitions are still unclear. Studying the terms yields little clarity, since they have changed since the days of Whigs and Tories, Progressives and Conservatives, old line Democrats and Republicans, McGovern vs. Pepper.

The assumption that conservation of natural resources is a conservative value is not born out by the parties associated with laws and regulations. Saying that Nixon was an environmental president because he signed legislation from a Democratic Congress does not make him one. Maybe we should attribute Clinton with the destruction of American industry by his signature on NAFTA. Or likewise, we should blame Bush II for the banking disaster because he signed the last piece of legislation which enabled poor banking practices. (Actually, it was Clinton who signed the legislation forcing banks to make bad loans in 1996.)

Maybe the argument on conservatives is a means to avoid the major problem with the Democratic Party. It was the KKK from 1880 to 1960. How did the blacks become convinced that it was, all of a sudden, the party of compassion, of equality, of the black people? Which party freed the slaves? Which party got women the vote? Step into that tar pit, I beg you.

Conservative, to the general public, means fighting government spending or expansion of government roles, personnel, regulations. Certainly, a growth of Chatham County spending from $44 million in 2001 to $80 million in 2010 (before the elections) would be considered too much. The expenditures increased only 1% by 2005. But they increased by 36% the next fiscal year, by 66% in 2007 and by 70% in 2008 over 2001 levels.. That period describes the rule of the board hallowed by Starkweather. These figures are for the pro rata portion of tax spending, not the total amount including federal and state pass throughs. In fact, our total spending exceeds $100 million with those included. And, it’s all out tax money. It’s not free.

Compare the county spending totals. $44 million in 2001. $80 million 2011. That’s an 82% increase over 11 years

As far as the budget statement that the “Bock administration” has reduced support for schools, compare the attention that our schools received compared to other departments. Their budget was increased over last year, not decreased. And the total budget remained the same for the pro rata portion.

Now, compare the spending totals. $44 million in 2001. $80 million 2011. That’s an 82% increase over eleven years, or 7.5% per year increase. If the budget holds for three years, the lack of increase will cover the 7.5% per year promised. This logic follows budget explanations offered by a Democratic Congress for its actions. So, it should suffice here, unless we are in another political system or country and I do not know it yet.

the impotent performance of the EDC has yielded nothing for Chatham employment for the 33 years of its existence. Mr. Starkweather sits on that board, as did Mr. Hammond, so I will ask where are the jobs?

I expect further cuts when the dust settles from reorganizing county priorities. Unfortunately, we do not have any economic growth with which to balance any taxes. But the impotent performance of the EDC has yielded nothing for Chatham employment for the 33 years of its existence. Mr. Starkweather sits on that board, as did Mr. Hammond, so I will ask where are the jobs? And please do not answer that there are problems with infrastructure or schools. We have new water lines (thanks to Bunkey et al) and our schools have performed at or above any state average for years. No, we are not Monterey, CA, Miami, FL, Atlanta, GA. An honest and persistent search for employers would have yielded some jobs in 33 years.

Conservatives in your definition will spend monies for environmental protection. That strategy has already been exploited. We are now spending enough to take care of problems and are not offering a carte blanche. The Haw River is cleaner than when I started with Haw River Assembly in 1982. Jordan Lake is clean as are other waterways in North Carolina. Air quality is better. Sediment run off in the Haw is negligible.

By the way, the arguments defending an ERB which stalls approval of developments in the planning process actually produces no results in water quality. Pollution of the Haw River (Jordan Lake), the major supplier of water for Chatham, comes from outside the county, not inside it. Please name major polluters degrading the Haw inside Chatham to bolster the arguments for retaining the ERB or actions the ERB has taken against outside polluters. You have none. Erosion and sediment are dirt and no more. Dirt is as clean as the trees, insects, rocks that fall in the river. They are cleaner, in fact, than the highway run off automobile pollutants left by the people who drive to the BOC meetings to protest decisions. It is cleaner than the water flushed down the toilet by those same people. Cleaner than the garbage created by those people. So, if you want a cleaner environment, clean up your act before criticizing someone who adds no more than you do to the problem.

The Starkweather post presents a scattered argument, to which a cogent response is difficult at best. Whether someone is perceived as a conservative or a liberal may depend on which way the wind is blowing that day. But for regular, run-of-the-mill conservatives, there is no doubt in their minds. Philosophical debates in what the term means are useless when an election provides new leadership and the issues debated become actions of the board. Maybe a lesson can be learned from the silent majority which finally spoke last November. “Speak when it matters. Don’t waste breath when it does not.” I expect that this lesson may fall on deaf ears for the moment.

Spending less while preserving county employee loyalty is an important strategy. We’ll see if the cuts promised are forthcoming yet. Six months is a short time to measure performance of a new board. It is tackling the difficult problems first, which is admirable.

What real conservatism in Chatham County means

Related info:
Liberal Chatham Democrat tries to define conservatives

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