We were all surprised when Gov. Bev Perdue decided not to file for re-election. Gov. Perdue has been a courageous fighter for education, the environment and the rights of all people in our state. Her vetoes and work for an adequate budget for all levels of education made a difference in the lives of all in North Carolina.
As the rising cost of energy, continued reliance on fossil fuels and the possible merger of the two investor-owned utilities gains attention, I want to feature our electric cooperatives. Orange County is the home of Piedmont EMC (Electric Cooperative) that is celebrating its 75th Anniversary next year as a Cooperative. If you go to http://gocoop.com/gocoop-news/united-nations-declares-2012-year-co-operatives you can find out about the "year of the Cooperative" and the many cooperatives in North Carolina and in the U.S.
Electric cooperatives were begun to extend electricity to rural areas in the 1930's when the big companies would not lay lines where there wasn’t enough density to pay for the cost. The same problem exists now with the extension of Broadband where the big players will not lay lines because there are not enough homes to make it cost effective. Several towns decided on their own to set up broadband companies to serve their customers. But the Republican leadership saw this as competition for for-profit companies and prohibited any more cities from extending broadband to their service area. They allowed those communities that had already issued bonds to continue, but no more cities can get into the broadband business.
Last week I attended the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting. The chamber has grown to more than 1,000 members. They have special awards, one of which was for sustainable growth. It was won by Strata Solar, which has grown to a business that not only sells solar products but installs throughout the state.
Tourism continues to be an economic engine for Orange County. Hotel use was up 12.2 percent in December over 2010. Our hotels and restaurants benefit when sports events bring thousands to our towns, and Hillsborough benefits from its nurturing and preservation of its historic past.
Last session, the legislature allowed greatly expanded clear cutting of trees around billboards. The billboard industry had been working for years to increase the clear-cut areas but had been unable to get their bills passed (except a bill that would have banned billboards on Interstate 40 from Chapel Hill to Wilmington).
Those of us who opposed the bill tried to get a requirement in the bill that the billboard companies must replant with small trees such as dogwoods and crepe myrtles in clear-cut areas. But this week, when the Rules Review Commission looked at the rules for requiring replanting in clear-cut areas, they decided the bill did not give authority to require the companies to replant. Therefore, any replanting the billboard companies do will be only voluntary. We have such a beautiful state, and to mar it by clear cutting around billboards is bad for tourism as well as our own enjoyment as we travel throughout the state.
Occupy and the 99% movement seems to have affected the Republican primaries. Regardless of the motives, the fact that the Republicans are discussing this topic shows that grassroots action can have an impact.
“If people don’t say what they think, I don’t see how you expect the democratic system of government to work at all.”—Harry Truman