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Morning News Report; Dec. 15, 2011

THE WAR IS OVER! THE WAR IS OVER!

As of this morning, the war in Iraq is officially over.

The costs to America: 4,500 dead, 32,000 wounded and $800 billion.

My take: Frankly, we should never have invaded a sovereign nation to begin with — but it’s a good thing this chapter is finally closed. At least a madman like Saddam Hussein is gone and there are no WMDs there.

How long before Iraq is taken back over by a Hussein-ish dictator? And what is our game-plan if that happens? Lots of questions remain.

KINSTON HAS SPENT $123K ON ANNEXATION LAWYERS

David Anderson reports this morning the City of Kinston has spent more than $123,000 fighting for involuntary annexation since December 2007.

My take: I understand both sides of this issue, so don’t insult my intelligence by emailing me or commenting about how Kinston needs to grow. I know it needs to grow. But it is patently un-American to force people who don’t want to be part of your city to BE part of your city.

You want Kinston to grow? There is no simple answer, but I know this much — as long as there is a shooting/murder/robbery EVERY SINGLE FREAKING DAY in town, we’re paying 35 percent more for electricity than every neighbor surrounding us and more than 50 percent of the populace is on public assistance, Kinston isn’t going to grow.

Take care of those problems and we’ll be on the road to recovery. And yes, I know there are hard-working people — including Mayor B.J. Murphy, city councilman Joe Tyson, state legislator Stephen LaRoque and businesspeople all over the city — trying to rectify this sorry situation. Their work is appreciated.

STERN JOINS ‘AMERICA’S GOT TALENT’

Shock-jock Howard Stern has been hired to join NBC’s reality TV competition show, “America’s Got Talent.”

My take: Never watched one second of this show in my life — and I’m not sure this will make me want to watch it, either. But you have to give Stern credit: pretty much everything he touches turns to gold. I’m sure NBC is betting on that, too.

CHRIS PAUL HEADED TO BLAKERS

Former Wake Forest star and NBA All-Star Chris Paul has been traded from the New Orleans Hornets to the L.A. Clippers, where he’ll join rising star Blake Griffin.

My take: Honestly, one of those few trades that makes both teams better — the Blakers get arguably the best PG in the game, while the Hornets get three possible starters AND a first-round draft pick that is likely to be a lottery pick (via Minnesota).

And as many of you know, I abhor the Lakers — which makes this trade (and the Clippers) even better. It is entirely possible the Clips might finish with a better record than the Lakers and Kobe. High-larious.

The iPod shuffle

Ultraviolet (Light My Way) — U2

Talkin’ 2 Myself — Eminem featuring Kobe

Express Yourself — Madonna

If Love Is A Red Dress — Maria McKee

Fantastic Voyage — Coolio

Forced annexation opponents are smiling a little bit today

Stephen LaRoque and the rest of the red-shirt wearing brigade in Lenoir County are probably happier today: The state House Finance Committee agreed to give people in areas facing annexation a chance to vote on the matter.

Here’s the story, courtesy of The Associated Press:

By EMERY P. DALESIO

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A legislative committee worked Thursday to reform state laws that allow cities and towns to annex nearby property owners against their will, weighing American demands for freedom of choice against municipal powers to expand.

North Carolina is one of a handful of states that allow communities to grow by forcing landowners into communities and taxes they don’t want.

Defenders of the 50-year-old law permitting involuntary annexation say it allows cities and towns to expand as suburban sprawl sees middle-class residents and their tax revenues grow outside municipal limits. But property owners opposing annexation, and the higher taxes and fees that come with it, have urged for at least a decade that lawmakers limit municipal expansion powers.

The House Finance Committee changed a wide-ranging annexation reform bill Thursday to allow affected residents a chance to trigger a vote on whether to carry out a municipal expansion sought by elected leaders. A referendum would be allowed if 15 percent of registered voters within the existing city limits and the area to be annexed signed a petition seeking a vote.

“We are a few days away from the Fourth of July. The Fourth of July implies democracy, which implies fairness,” said Rep. Earl Jones, D-Guilford. “American citizens have a right to some type of voting which determines whether they come into a city or not.”

The reform legislation passed the committee on a 19-9 vote and could be considered by the entire House as early as next week. But the referendum proposal pleased neither side in the debate.

Circulating petitions that collect 15 percent of voters in big cities like Charlotte or Raleigh would be so difficult that referenda would be rare, though the process may be viable in smaller cities, said Tony Tetterton, vice president of the Fair Annexation Coalition, a citizen’s group demanding reform.

“It’s a high hurdle,” he said.

The North Carolina League of Municipalities, which represents the interests of municipalities and their leaders, contends requiring referenda would block most annexations because few people would vote to take on additional municipal taxes needed to pay for police and fire departments, garbage collection and civic sewer systems.

“A referendum becomes a vote on taxes and becomes a veto, and annexation is so much more than that,” league spokeswoman Kelli Kukura said. Representative government means officials make many civic decisions without citizens voting directly on specific issues, she said.

Tetterton’s group said cities have not escaped urban decay despite being allowed to expand. And the price of urban expansion has been at the cost of individual rights and a growing feeling of alienation toward government. The proposed reforms still leave municipal leaders too much latitude to drive annexations that have been too often abused without oversight, Tetterton said.

Besides creating a chance for residents to vote on being annexed, the reform proposal would:

— tighten restrictions on areas considered ripe for annexation.

— make it easier for areas where many low-income families live to petition a local government to request annexation and city services.

— require a municipality to extend water and sewer lines within three years to the entire annexed area.

— block property tax collections and further expansion if city services aren’t delivered within three years to an annexed area.

— give new residents up to 20 years to pay assessments for water and sewer services to reach their property.

My take: It’s not a bill yet and I just got off the phone with our Freedom Raleigh Correspondent Barry L. Smith and he said he doesn’t think it will pass.

But at least it’s a start. Forced annexation is wrong and it’s good that there are some in Raleigh who are beginning to see it.

Anti-annexation video

Here is the anti-annexation video that former State House Representative Stephen LaRoque helped produce; it’s broken up into three parts due to YouTube’s bandwidth limits …

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

My take: Pretty powerful. Stephen and the crew did a good job putting this together.

Y’all know how I feel about annexation — it’s un-American and should be outlawed in North Carolina. Maybe this video will help that cause.

While the boss is away … Morning News Report; May 19, 2009

Welcome to day two of the Bryan Hanks’ blog takeover.

By now, Bryan is on a cruise ship somewhere near the Bermuda Triangle. Hopefully, he’s far away from an internet connection.

Morning News:

Kinston City Council votes 3-2 in favor of annexation. 

Gov. Perdue visits Kinston.

NBA scorecard.

For $5 Million, Woody Allen Agrees to Drop Lawsuit.

Not only do I have access to Bryan’s blog, but I also have the key to his office. As I sit here digging through his drawers….desk drawers, I’ve noticed some odd things under a stack of papers.

Apparently Bryan’s much touted disdain for UNC is a sham, for a I have a in my hands a 4-page handwritten letter, addressed to Roy Williams of the UNC Tarheels.

In the letter, Bryan mentions that he thinks “the Tarheels are the classiest program in the land, and that one day he hopes to work for their organization.”

Morning News Report; May 4, 2009

INVOLUNTARY ANNEXATION IS WRONG

Lots of response to my involuntary annexation column — even from the good folks at the Beaufort Observer.

And just got a call from this morning’s Lenoir County Commissioner’s meeting: they’ve passed a resolution asking the city of Kinston to give them time to review the annexation before it is passed.

My take: I’ll just say what I did in Sunday’s piece: It’s truly not American that a municipality can tell law-abiding citizens that they HAVE to be a part of their city or town. It blows my mind that it is still legal in 2009.

Additionally, kudos to the county commissioners for their resolution this morning.

EDWARDS IN HOT WATER … AGAIN

Former U.S. Sen. John Edwards, who also ran unsuccessfully twice for president, is now being investigated by the government for improper use of campaign funds to pay his former mistress who broke up his marriage.

My take: Whew. That was a mouthful.

Seriously — what a sad ending to a once-promising career. No, I didn’t agree with many (or hardly any) of his policies. But he did a lot of good with the kids in Greene County and — until his infidelity came out – I thought he was a good man. Guess I was wrong.

‘WOLVERINE’ NO. 1 WITH A BULLET

“X-Men Origins: Wolverine” was the overwhelming No. 1 this weekend, pulling in $87 million in box office receipts. It was followed by “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past” ($15.3 million), “Obsessed” ($12.2 million), “17 Again” ($6.4 million) and “Monsters vs. Aliens” ($5.8 million).

My take: I must be one of the few folks who’ve never seen any of the “X-Men” movies, and I have no desire to see them, either. Like Dr. Cox in “Scrubs”, I’m not a Hugh Jackman fan.

The iPod shuffle

Crumbs From Your Table — U2

The Seeker — The Who

Won’t Get Fooled Again — The Who

The Man Who Sold The World — Nirvana

Caught A Lite Sneeze — Tori Amos

My Sunday column on involuntary annexation

A sneak-peek at my Sunday column:

Let’s say you live beside a mansion. Once upon a time, that mansion was one of the best in the area, but it’s fallen on hard times — the paint is peeling, crabgrass is growing in the yard, the owner has lost his pool and other amenities and he pays significantly more for his power bill than he should be spending.

The guy who lives in the mansion looks at your small but lovely home and decides, “I’d like to bring that house and its land into my portfolio.” Without your approval — and against your will — he takes over your house and land.

Sounds ridiculous, right? Un-American?

Well, that’s a microcosm of involuntary annexation. And it’s something the City of Kinston is getting ready to do to some of our Lenoir County neighbors.

How is it possible that in the United States of America — in 2009, no less — a municipality can invade a community and tell those Americans that they have to be a part of it? Isn’t that what we’ve fought wars against foreign enemies to avoid?

If Canada attempted to involuntarily annex Vermont, there’d be a war. So what’s the difference with Kinston trying to force taxpaying citizens who chose to live outside the city limits into its fold?

To me, there’s not much of a difference. City leaders can attempt to spin this any way they want — better services for the involuntarily annexed, etc. — but if a homeowner and (more importantly) an American citizen doesn’t want to be a part of Kinston, then he or she shouldn’t be forced into it.

North Carolina and Nebraska are the only two remaining states in the U.S. that allow involuntary annexation. There are movements in Raleigh to knock the Tar Heel state off that list.

The Kinston City Council is holding a final public hearing Monday night at the council chambers to let those communities that will probably be involuntarily annexed into the city Crestview, Briarwood Terrace and Hickory Hills — speak their minds. That meeting begins at 7 p.m.

An hour earlier, though, there’s an inaugural public meeting of the Lenoir County Tea Party that will be taking place in front of City Hall. Speakers at the Tea Party will include organizer Jason Noble, former N.C. House Representative Stephen LaRoque and officials from Stop N.C. Annexation and Americans for Prosperity.

They’ll be firing up some of the citizens of the proposed annexed areas and reminding them of their rights as Americans.

Good for them. Perhaps the mayor and city council will also attend for a few moments and find out why this archaic measure shouldn’t be used again.

Bryan C. Hanks’ column appears in The Free Press every Sunday. He can be reached at (252) 559-1074 or at bhanks@freedomenc.com. Check out Bryan’s blog at http://bhanks.encblogs.com.