Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Dare Commissioners Mum on Re-election Bids

With the filing period two weeks away, only one of four Dare County commissioners whose terms end in 2016 has made any official announcement as to whether they will run again. Warren Judge (D) says he will be leaving the board to seek a state office.

The date of the 2016 Statewide Primary, including the Presidential Preference Primary, will be Tuesday, March 15, 2016. The candidate filing period for the 2016 Primary will be from noon on Tuesday, December 1, 2015 to noon on Monday, December 21, 2015.

Bob Woodard (R) is completing his first four year term on the board.

Wally Overman (R)  has been on the board for three years, and was appointed, and later elected to serve out the term of the late Richard Johnson (R).

Warren Judge (D) has served on the board since the year 2000 elections. He recently announced he will not run for re-election to the county board, and instead will run on the Democratic ticket for the State House of Representatives for District 6, which covers the counties of Dare, Washington, Hyde and part of Beaufort.

Allen Burrus (D) has served on the board for the past ten years and was originaly appointed in 2006 to fill the unexpired term of the late Joseph "Mac" Midgett (D). He has been re-elected on two occasions since that time.

Monday, November 16, 2015

State Auditor Eyes Visitors Bureau

This oceanfront cottage was the site of the October 2015 monthly meeting
of the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau's board of directors
The Outer Banks Visitors Bureau is currently under audit by the North Carolina State Auditors Office and its own yearly contracted auditor, Johnson, Burgess, Mizelle & Straub. The state audit may be the first of its kind in the 23 year history of that organization.  However, the bureau and Dare County is not standing in the shadows all alone.  Following a WTSB (radio station) investigation into questionable spending practices at the Johnston County North Carolina Visitors Bureau (JCVB), Representative Leo Daughtry of Smithfield, NC has asked the NC State Auditor’s Office to conduct an audit of the Smithfield-based agency. The state audit requested by Rep. Daughtry is separate from the bureau's regular annual county audit.

The Johnston County state audit comes on the trail of questionable spending practices which are detailed to some extent in this news article.  http://www.jocoreport.com/county-audit-finds-problems-at-visitors-bureau/

The Outer Banks Visitors Bureau has been the object of criticism for many years by local citizens who think the agency has grown too rich, too political and spends way too much money on questionable grants to special interest organizations, mostly to augment or increase tourism, when in fact, 25% of its tax revenues are, by law, required to be spent to help offset the impact of tourism on the county. From the simple aspect of helping pay for life guard protection, to assisting with increase costs of police protection and garbage collection caused by more tourism, valid arugments have been made that the bureau needs to help more, or forfeit some of its $6/$7 million in annual revenues back to the county budget.

Along the same lines of the Johnston County Tourist Bureau matter, for example, this summer the Outer Banks bureau held one of its monthly meetings at the posh and expensive Ocean Boulevard Restaurant which is owned by one of its own board of director members, who donated the cost of the meals and is on the board of the restaurant association, which receives grant money from the bureau. And, last month the monthly meeting was held in a new oceanfront cottage, managed by Surf & Sound Realty of Avon. A tourism official told EyeonDare that the bureau paid for that meal and had it catered.

In recent blog posts, referenced below, EyeonDare, in calling for a state audit of the visitors bureau has expressed concern over huge amounts of grant monies given annually to some organizations who, (1) are not in financial need of help, (2) have conflicts of interest between its own membership and
bureau's own board, and (3) appear to be only conduits for funds that flow from the bureau into the bank accounts of groups such as the Outer Banks Sporting Events group, and end up in the pockets it its favorite local charities.   In the past five years that nonprofit has gobbled up $442,000 in visitors bureau money, and a received a grand total of  $757,000 since it began about ten years ago, despite the fact that it is highly solvent.

More detailed reports of EyeonDare concerns can be read here:

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Explosive County Emails

Two distinctly different emails have been obtained by EyeonDare that contain information every citizen in Dare County should know. Both emails come from highly reliable sources. One was obtained from a public information request and the other from an unidentified third party.

Email #1 - This is a communication (email) between the director of the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau letting his board members know that the North Carolina State Auditors Office has contacted him and will be doing a state audit on the financial operations of the bureau.  A copy of that email can be viewed here.  The bureau has been under fire from EyeonDare on several occasions this year regarding how they administer their grant funds and spend their tax revenues.  A newer blog post on that matter will be forthcoming in the next few days.

Email #2 - This is a communication (email) between a high NCDOT official and the local NCDOT board member that, on the surface, clearly shows that NCDOT has not been as cozy with the idea that beach nourishment at Buxton, on Hatteras Island, will do anything to protect Hwy 12.  The argument consistently used by some members of the Hatteras Island communities and commissioners Allen Burrus and Warren Judge is that the project is different from the northern beaches projects because it is not intended to protect private properties, but the highway.

On Monday, November 16th the Dare board of commissioners will be reviewing tax data that has been prepared by the county manager and county finance officer in an attempt to decide whether to assess property taxes on Hatteras Island to help pay for the nourishment project.  Residents of the northern beach towns of Nags Head, Kill Devil Hills, Kitty Hawk and Duck will be paying extra property tax to help fund their respective projects. The commissioners are expecting opposition from Hatteras Island under the guise that the project only protects Hwy 12 and they don't get a fair return for the amount of tax revenue that the island collects for county and state coffers.

Clearly, the email communication weakens any argument that the commissioners or taxpayers on Hatteras Island may make about Highway 12.  All Dare County taxpayers should have some idea by the end of Monday's meeting which direction the board will take.....tax Hatteras Island...or...give them a free ride on beach nourishment.

The NCDOT email can be read here.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Time to Pull the Plug

Warren Judge
Warren Judge announced this week that he would like to end his 15 year career as a “tax and spend” Dare County commissioner and begin traveling the long, winding highway to the state legislature in Raleigh. The funny thing  is, sources say that Judge never drives himself to Raleigh on county business, but always lets someone, mostly county manager, Bobby Outten,  chauffeur him there. Nonetheless, come March,  Judge will be seeking to represent the District 6 counties of Dare, Hyde, Washington and part of Beaufort.

However, one misfortune for Judge, as it is for our current state representative, Paul Tine, is that the drive to Raleigh is more difficult today than it was during the heyday of former state senator Marc Basnight, and governors Perdue, Easley and Hunt.  And, the telephone line isn't as good either.

So, is there a problem with Judge’s decision to run for state office?  Well, the problem is that Dare County, since the Republican takeover, has been all but totally quarantined from anything important that goes on in the state legislature.  And, with no end to that in sight, it just might be inhumane for Judge to spread the Dare County poison to the much needier counties of Hyde, Washington and Beaufort?

The hard facts are, the best thing the voters in the above counties can do right now  is to hurry themselves, and come up with a good peoples' candidate of their own choosing, who can understand that it’s no longer necessary for all roads in eastern North Carolina to pass through Dare County before they get to Raleigh.
Furthermore,  they should recognize the fact that Judge has absolutely nothing in common with them and the families of hard working people throughout rural, eastern North Carolina.  What Warren Judge understands best is the smell of ocean air flowing through the lobby of one of his hotels, not the scent of a pulp mill or a hog farm that has been a long time staple for the economy for many of our inland counties.  For Judge, the sound of a SUV idling in a beach parking lot is sweeter than a combine cranking up in the wee hours of the morning while throngs of Outer Banks visitors sleep blissfully to the sounds of sea.

With that said,  the only jobs that Judge might bring to those counties would be in the form of more buses to pick up day workers to help support the Outer Banks tourism economy .  The people of Hyde, Washington and Beaufort deserve better.
So, why has Judge, a long recognized tourism/motel magnate, decided it’s time abandon his once valuable seat on the Dare board of commissioners? Perhaps, it’s because talk on the street is that it's time for him to go. Most working people in Dare County today say they are tired of the spend, spend and spend by our local governments, while they struggle to make ends meet by paying more property taxes,  sand taxes, high gasoline prices, and excessive food, insurance and housing costs.  And, certainly, riding by extravagant county buildings and the huge McMansions that line our highways has done little to ease the pain. 

 To many people in Dare County today, all of the above is symbolic of what Warren Judge and other local elected leaders have represented, and brought to them during his 15 years in office. And the proof may be in the pudding.  Last year, Judge lost his 10 year tenure as “chairman of the board” when the voters elected a five member Republican majority and sent him packing towards the end of the row on the county podium. Now, he's up for reelection.  Again.

So it is with politics. When it gets in ones blood, as it has with Judge and other politicos, there is only one cure, and that comes from the voters.  So, we should know within the next few months whether Judge can survive. EyeonDare says it’s time to pull the plug, but let’s wait and see what the voters  have to say about that.