I am working on the template of this blog today in order to chase down some problems that have developed with my template and widgets.

Macon County Commissioners

Coverage of the meetings of the Macon County Board of County Commissioners.

Franklin Town Board of Aldermen

Coverage of the meetings of the Franklin Town Board of Aldermen.

Macon County School Board

Coverage of the meetings of the Macon County School Board.


Photos from my photoblog.

nullspace for future use

nullspace for future use


Friday, September 30, 2011

Law Enforcement Seeks Info on Nantahala Forest Rape Suspect

Sketch of rape suspect Credit: Macon County Sheriff Office

NEWS RELEASE –Macon County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO), United States Forest Service (USFS), and the State Bureau of Investigations (SBI)

The Macon County Sheriff’s Office, the US Forest Service and the SBI are seeking information on a rape which occurred Sunday September 25, 2011, at approximately 4:00 PM in Macon County within the Nantahala National Forest. The incident occurred at the intersection of Forest Service Road (FSR) 711 and the Wayah Road, FSR 1310. A female driving through the area stopped to render aid to a person she believed was incapacitated who was lying beside the road. At that time a firearm was used to subdue the victim and she was allegedly forcibly raped.
Law enforcement authorities are seeking information and assistance in identifying a possible suspect. Authorities are looking for a white male, 6’0”, 200 pounds, between the ages of 30 and 40, having brown wavy short hair, no facial hair, green to blue eyes, having a deep voice and a fair complexion. The suspect was last seen wearing dark blue jeans and a medium blue shirt. The subject is armed and considered dangerous and may be carrying a backpack. No vehicle information is available at this time. The attached composite sketch was rendered to assist in identifying the assailant.

On the same date and approximate location a motor grader was vandalized and diesel was stolen. Earlier the same day, three individuals were observed around the motor grader that may have information relevant to the case. These individuals or persons knowing these individuals’ identities are asked to call law enforcement.

Persons having information to pass on to law enforcement may call the US Forest Service Special Agent at 828-231-0288, the Macon County Sheriff’s Office at 828-349-2104 or the SBI at 1-800-334-3000.

Bookmark and Share

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Celebrating National Coffee Day

I have measured out my life with coffee spoons. ~T. S. Eliot

Today is National Coffee Day. Celebrate it by having a cup (or more) of coffee. I like mine "black as midnight on a moonless night".

Bookmark and Share

Jackson County Time Lapse

Here is a short time lapse covering a period of an hour and twenty minutes I shot from a window at the Jackson County Public Library yesterday.

Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Locked Valves

Locked Fire Department Water valves at a local shopping center.

Bookmark and Share

Macon County Economic Development Commission
September 27, 2011 Board Meeting

The Macon County EDC Board met last night in the Cecil Groves Building in the Franklin, NC Siler Farm Road campus of Southwestern Community College at 5.30pm. I was there and took video and here are my very brief notes on the meeting, followed by the agenda:

EDC Staff Change

Trevor Dalton, the Director of the Macon County EDC has resigned and County Manager Jack Horton praised his performance and service to the county and the board, including restarting the Annual Business/Industry Appreciation Dinner and pushing through the paperwork on getting Macon County recognized as a Certified Entrepreneurial Community. He also kept the EDC website up to date.

Jack Horton said there was no need to replace the EDC Director at this time, and a search was taking place to find someone suitable for the position.

Meeting Schedule for 2011 re-established

The Economic Development Commission Board set the meeting schedule for the rest of the year on the following dates and times: Tuesday, October 18th at 5pm; Tuesday, November 15th at 5pm; skip December since the 3rd Tuesday is on the 20th; meet on Tuesday, January 17th at 5pm and elect officers for the coming year at that time. The appointments of several members of the board will be coming to an end and either need to be reappointed or new members found to serve on the board. Jack Horton told members that there were no longer term limits on serving on local boards per a recent decision of the Macon County Commissioners.

ESC Unemployment Rates

EDC Board Chairman Ed Shatley mentioned the recent release of unemployment figures for Macon County and the the surrounding counties. Here is a table with the unemployment figures:

County August 2011 August 2010 July 2011
Macon 10.3 9.4 10.0
Jackson 8.4 7.8 8.8
Swain 11.1 10.2 10.8
Cherokee 13.4 13.1 13.3
Clay 10.2 10.2 10.0
Graham 14.6 12.6 14.7
Haywood 9.4 8.6 9.3
Transylvania 9.0 8.6 8.9

A general discussion followed regarding unemployment and conditions observed locally by various board members.

Business Development Center Activity

Board members discussed the continuing saga of Whitley Products being in the business incubator for several years and the effort to find them another location so that new businesses can be placed in the business incubator. Jack Horton mentioned that there would be a logistical challenge for Whitley to move the production lines that are in the incubator facility, and have been for six or seven years.

The Forex Currency Trader business that has recently been placed in the incubator facility was also discussed by board members.

Board members also discussed charging rates for the use of the business incubator that increased over a period of time to encourage businesses to get serious about finding a permanent location instead of staying in the county facilities for years on end.

Retail Business Development

The board discussed the recent failure to get a Mast Store to locate in the JC Jacobs Building (current site of Peoples Dept Store). Members also discussed the pending move of Wal Mart into their new facilities (Oct 2012 target date for opening) on Dowdle Mountain Rd and the attendant empty building in the Holly Springs Plaza. Jack Horton discussed recent favorable changes in the retail sales tax distribution method. Mayor Joe Collins mentioned that there was a possibility a new ABC Store location next to the new Super Wal Mart. 

Closed Session

Board members went onto a closed session and promised to inform members of the local press of what (if anything) was decided behind closed doors regarding two prospects for locating in the incubator facility. As of 6.30 am the next morning, I have received no email regarding any decisions taken by the EDC Board. Members of the press that were in attendance at the meeting were a reporter from The Macon County News, one reporter representing The Franklin Press and myself, representing this blog. There was one member of the public, Lewis Penland also present. He serves as chairman of the Macon County Planning Board. End of notes.

On this agenda, I am trying something new. I am posting the time in the video at which this particular item was taken up in the video for those who don't want to sit through the whole video. You can just scrub through the timeline to get to each particular portion of the meeting that you are interested in.

Macon County EDC



1. Call to Order - Chairman Shatley  [00:00]

2. Quorum Check (12 members, 7 required) [00:11] (11 seconds into the video)

3. Report on Staff Change - County Manager Horton [00:25]
    A. Interim EDC Director [05:50]
    B. Meeting Schedule for 2011 [10:37]
4. Other Reports:  [19:10]
    A. ESC Unemployment Rates [19:20]
    B. Business Development Center Activity (Incubator)
        1. Whitley Products [23.15]
        2. Forex    [28:22]
   C. Retail Business Development [33:48]
5. Closed Session [38:00]
6. Other Business
7. Adjourn

Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

NC General Assembly 09-27-2011 Legislative Calendar
Links to Bill Texts and Live Audio Feeds

**3.44am** See coverage of yesterday's meeting.

The North Carolina General Assembly will convene today in accordance with the Adjournment Resolution here is the schedule for today. There are also a committee meeting today, a couple of press conferences and sessions of the NC Senate and the NC House are currently scheduled noon today. 

If you cannot listen to these meetings live, check back later to see if I have. I currently plan to listen to the press conferences. If I do, I'll post the audio (and a download link) for the meeting at the top of this page. You can also follow what is happening in the NC General Assembly by keeping an eye on the hashtag #ncga on Twitter.

If I haven't been able to listen, please check with Voter Radio. You should already be subscribing to their podcasts anyway. I do. ???

Link for audio webcasts by room. The old linking system no longer works.

Here is the legislative calendar with more details:

10:00 AM
Joint Legislative Program Evaluation Oversight Sub-Committee on Workforce and Community Colleges
(as of 3am, no agenda for this meeting has been released)
There will be no webcast of this meeting.
421 LOB

Bookmark and Share

Monday, September 26, 2011

Great Composers: Johann Sebastian Bach

Johann Sebastian Bach was one of the greatest composers of music who ever lived. He composed during the Baroque Period of classical music and I particularly enjoy his compositions for the Harpsichord. His Brandenburg Concertos and the Goldberg Variations are among the greatest musical works ever composed in any musical era. Three selections of his work were included on the Voyager Probe music CD to represent the music of earth, more than any other composer. They were: #1--the Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 in F. First Movement, Munich Bach Orchestra, Karl Richter, conductor; #2--"Gavotte en rondeaux" from the Partita No. 3 in E major for Violin, performed by Arthur Grumiaux; #3--The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 2, Prelude and Fugue in C, No.1. Glenn Gould, piano.

Here is a video from the BBC on his life:

Learn more about JS Bach at the following links:

JS Bach Homepage

Download his organ works

JS Bach Discography at CD Universe

Bach Cantatas 


List of Works (over 1.000 of them are known)

List of students of JS Bach who went on to become musicians in their own right

And here are a three long form videos that showcase some of his music: 
(I couldn't limit it to just one)

Bookmark and Share

NC General Assembly 09-26-2011 Legislative Calendar
Links to Bill Texts and Live Audio Feeds

**09-27 3.20am** Here is info from the Joint Legislative PED Committee meeting regarding the state retirement plan called TSERS:

(These links open in a new tab or window; download link at bottom of document)
Presentation Slides (full color version)
SRS Handout
PED TSERS Report (Executive Summary)
PED TSERS Report (Full Report)

There will be no sessions of the NC Senate or the NC House  of the North Carolina General Assembly today. There is a committee meeting scheduled for today. 

If you cannot listen to this meetings live, check back later to see if I have. I currently plan to listen to it. If I do, I'll post the audio (and a download link) for the meeting at the top of this page. You can also follow what is happening in the NC General Assembly by keeping an eye on the hashtag #ncga on Twitter.

If I haven't been able to listen, please check with Voter Radio. You should already be subscribing to their podcasts anyway. I do. ???

Link for audio webcasts by room. The old linking system no longer works.

Here is the legislative calendar with a draft agenda of the committee meeting included for a little more detail on what to expect:

10:00 AM
Program Evaluation Oversight Committee, Joint Legislative
September 26, 2011 
10:00 a.m. 
Room 544 -- Legislative Office Building 
1. Remarks by Chairs  
2. Approve July 13, 2011 Minutes 
3. Presentation:  
a.  Kiernan McGorty, Senior Program Evaluator 
         “Compared to Other States’ Retirement Plans, TSERS is Well Funded                                                  and Its Plan Features Are Typical or Less Generous” 
b. Instruct staff as to any further action on report
4. Preview of Workforce Subcommittee Meeting Tuesday September 27       
Senator Hartsell
5. Adjourn
544 LOB

Bookmark and Share

Sunday, September 25, 2011

GOP Weekly Address for 09-24-2011

Partial Transcript: (the retards in the US Senate have not released a full transcript)

I'm Senator Susan Collins from the Great State of Maine.

Last month, our nation produced no net new jobs. More than 14 million Americans could not find work.

I’ve asked employers what would it take to help them add more jobs. No matter the size of their business or the size of their workforce, they tell me that Washington must stop imposing crushing new regulations.

Some regulations are just plain silly. Last year, the federal government issued a warning to a company that sells packaged walnuts. Washington claimed that the walnuts were being marketed as a drug, so the government ordered the company to stop telling consumers about the health benefits of nuts.

Other regulations have far more serious consequences. The EPA has proposed a new rule on emissions from boilers that it admits would cost the private sector billions of dollars and thousands of jobs.

No wonder employers dread what is coming next out of Washington.

Over-regulation is hurting our economy; unfortunately, the problem is only....
...growing worse. Right now, federal agencies are at work on more than 4,200 new rules, 845 of which affects small businesses, the engine of job creation. More than 100 have an economic impact of more than $100 million each.

No business owner I know questions the legitimate role of limited government in protecting our health and safety. Too often, however, our small businesses are buried under a mountain of paperwork.

Business owners are reluctant to create jobs today if they're going to need to pay more tomorrow to comply with onerous new regulations. That's why employers say that uncertainty generated by Washington is a big wet blanket on our economy.

We Republicans say, enough is enough. America needs a ‘time out’ from the regulations that discourage job creation and hurt our economy.

Republicans have many good ideas about how to tame the regulatory behemoth. We want to prevent agencies from imposing new regulations without first thoroughly considering their costs and benefits. In addition, many of us have called for a one-year moratorium on certain costly new rules.

If a rule would have an adverse impact on jobs, the economy, or America's international competitiveness, it should not go into effect.

That EPA rule on boilers is a good example of why we need a regulatory time out. If it went into effect as written, a recent study estimates that this rule, along with other pending regulations, could cause 36 pulp and paper mills across the country to close. That would put more than 20,000 Americans out of work -- 18 percent of that industry's workforce.

And that is just for starters. Once these mills close, their suppliers would also be forced to lay off workers. Estimates are that nearly 90,000 Americans would lose their jobs. Even that is not the end of the story. People and businesses would still need paper. Where do you think we would get it? We'd be strengthening the economies of other countries like China, India and Brazil, while America's economy grows weaker.

American businesses need pro-growth policies that will end the uncertainty and kick-start hiring and investment.

American workers need policies that will get them off the sidelines and back on the job.

The American economy needs a time out from excessive and costly regulations.

In sports, a ‘time out’ gives athletes a chance to catch their breaths and make better decisions.

American workers and businesses are the athletes in a global competition that we must win. We need a time out from excessive regulations so that America can get back to work. 


Bookmark and Share

Flower Power

Observed on the US441 Bypass near Franklin, NC

Bookmark and Share

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Video and Transcript of Netanyahu's UN Address

Transcript of address:

Ladies and gentlemen, Israel has extended its hand in peace from the moment it was established 63 years ago. On behalf of Israel and the Jewish people, I extend that hand again today. I extend it to the people of Egypt and Jordan, with renewed friendship for neighbors with whom we have made peace. I extend it to the people of Turkey, with respect and good will. I extend it to the people of Libya and Tunisia, with admiration for those trying to build a democratic future. I extend it to the other peoples of North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, with whom we want to forge a new beginning. I extend it to the people of Syria, Lebanon and Iran, with awe at the courage of those fighting brutal repression.

But most especially, I extend my hand to the Palestinian people, with whom we seek a just and lasting peace.

Ladies and gentlemen, in Israel our hope for peace never wanes. Our scientists, doctors, innovators, apply their genius to improve the world of tomorrow. Our artists, our writers, enrich the heritage of humanity. Now, I know that this is not exactly the image of Israel that is often portrayed in this hall. After all, it was here in 1975 that the age-old yearning of my people to restore our national life in our ancient biblical homeland -- it was then that this was braided -- branded, rather -- shamefully, as racism. And it was here in 1980, right here, that the historic peace agreement between Israel and Egypt wasn't praised; it was denounced! And it's here year after year that Israel is unjustly singled out for condemnation. It's singled out for condemnation more often than all the nations of the world combined. Twenty-one out of the 27 General Assembly resolutions condemn Israel -- the one true democracy in the Middle East.

Well, this is an unfortunate part of the UN institution. It's the -- the theater of the absurd. It doesn't only cast Israel as the villain; it often casts real villains in leading roles: Gadhafi's Libya chaired the UN Commission on Human Rights; Saddam's Iraq headed the UN Committee on Disarmament.

You might say: That's the past. Well, here's what's happening now -- right now, today. Hezbollah-controlled Lebanon now presides over the UN Security Council. This means, in effect, that a terror organization presides over the body entrusted with guaranteeing the world's security.

You couldn't make this thing up.

So here in the UN, automatic majorities can decide anything. They can decide that the sun sets in the west or rises in the west. I think the first has already been pre-ordained. But they can also decide -- they have decided that the Western Wall in Jerusalem, Judaism's holiest place, is occupied Palestinian territory.

And yet even here in the General Assembly, the truth can sometimes break through. In 1984 when I was appointed Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, I visited the great rabbi of Lubavich. He said to me -- and ladies and gentlemen, I don't want any of you to be offended because from personal experience of serving here, I know there are many honorable men and women, many capable and decent people serving their nations here. But here's what the rebbe said to me. He said to me, you'll be serving in a house of many lies. And then he said, remember that even in the darkest place, the light of a single candle can be seen far and wide.

Today I hope that the light of truth will shine, if only for a few minutes, in a hall that for too long has been a place of darkness for my country. So as Israel's prime minister, I didn't come here to win applause. I came here to speak the truth. (Cheers, applause.) The truth is -- the truth is that Israel wants peace. The truth is that I want peace. The truth is that in the Middle East at all times, but especially during these turbulent days, peace must be anchored in security. The truth is that we cannot achieve peace through UN resolutions, but only through direct negotiations between the parties. The truth is that so far the Palestinians have refused to negotiate. The truth is that Israel wants peace with a Palestinian state, but the Palestinians want a state without peace. And the truth is you shouldn't let that happen.

Ladies and gentlemen, when I first came here 27 years ago, the world was divided between East and West. Since then the Cold War ended, great civilizations have risen from centuries of slumber, hundreds of millions have been lifted out of poverty, countless more are poised to follow, and the remarkable thing is that so far this monumental historic shift has largely occurred peacefully. Yet a malignancy is now growing between East and West that threatens the peace of all. It seeks not to liberate, but to enslave, not to build, but to destroy.

That malignancy is militant Islam. It cloaks itself in the mantle of a great faith, yet it murders Jews, Christians and Muslims alike with unforgiving impartiality. On September 11th it killed thousands of Americans, and it left the twin towers in smoldering ruins. Last night I laid a wreath on the 9/11 memorial. It was deeply moving. But as I was going there, one thing echoed in my mind: the outrageous words of the president of Iran on this podium yesterday. He implied that 9/11 was an American conspiracy. Some of you left this hall. All of you should have. (Applause.)

Since 9/11, militant Islamists slaughtered countless other innocents -- in London and Madrid, in Baghdad and Mumbai, in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, in every part of Israel. I believe that the greatest danger facing our world is that this fanaticism will arm itself with nuclear weapons. And this is precisely what Iran is trying to do.

Can you imagine that man who ranted here yesterday -- can you imagine him armed with nuclear weapons? The international community must stop Iran before it's too late. If Iran is not stopped, we will all face the specter of nuclear terrorism, and the Arab Spring could soon become an Iranian winter. That would be a tragedy. Millions of Arabs have taken to the streets to replace tyranny with liberty, and no one would benefit more than Israel if those committed to freedom and peace would prevail.

This is my fervent hope. But as the prime minister of Israel, I cannot risk the future of the Jewish state on wishful thinking. Leaders must see reality as it is, not as it ought to be. We must do our best to shape the future, but we cannot wish away the dangers of the present.

And the world around Israel is definitely becoming more dangerous. Militant Islam has already taken over Lebanon and Gaza. It's determined to tear apart the peace treaties between Israel and Egypt and between Israel and Jordan. It's poisoned many Arab minds against Jews and Israel, against America and the West. It opposes not the policies of Israel but the existence of Israel.

Now, some argue that the spread of militant Islam, especially in these turbulent times -- if you want to slow it down, they argue, Israel must hurry to make concessions, to make territorial compromises. And this theory sounds simple. Basically it goes like this: Leave the territory, and peace will be advanced. The moderates will be strengthened, the radicals will be kept at bay. And don't worry about the pesky details of how Israel will actually defend itself; international troops will do the job.

These people say to me constantly: Just make a sweeping offer, and everything will work out. You know, there's only one problem with that theory. We've tried it and it hasn't worked. In 2000 Israel made a sweeping peace offer that met virtually all of the Palestinian demands. Arafat rejected it. The Palestinians then launched a terror attack that claimed a thousand Israeli lives.

Prime Minister Olmert afterwards made an even more sweeping offer, in 2008. President Abbas didn't even respond to it.

But Israel did more than just make sweeping offers. We actually left territory. We withdrew from Lebanon in 2000 and from every square inch of Gaza in 2005. That didn't calm the Islamic storm, the militant Islamic storm that threatens us. It only brought the storm closer and make it stronger.

Hezbollah and Hamas fired thousands of rockets against our cities from the very territories we vacated. See, when Israel left Lebanon and Gaza, the moderates didn't defeat the radicals, the moderates were devoured by the radicals. And I regret to say that international troops like UNIFIL in Lebanon and UBAM (ph) in Gaza didn't stop the radicals from attacking Israel.

We left Gaza hoping for peace.

We didn't freeze the settlements in Gaza, we uprooted them. We did exactly what the theory says: Get out, go back to the 1967 borders, dismantle the settlements.

And I don't think people remember how far we went to achieve this. We uprooted thousands of people from their homes. We pulled children out of -- out of their schools and their kindergartens. We bulldozed synagogues. We even -- we even moved loved ones from their graves. And then, having done all that, we gave the keys of Gaza to President Abbas.

Now the theory says it should all work out, and President Abbas and the Palestinian Authority now could build a peaceful state in Gaza. You can remember that the entire world applauded. They applauded our withdrawal as an act of great statesmanship. It was a bold act of peace.

But ladies and gentlemen, we didn't get peace. We got war. We got Iran, which through its proxy Hamas promptly kicked out the Palestinian Authority. The Palestinian Authority collapsed in a day -- in one day.

President Abbas just said on this podium that the Palestinians are armed only with their hopes and dreams. Yeah, hopes, dreams and 10,000 missiles and Grad rockets supplied by Iran, not to mention the river of lethal weapons now flowing into Gaza from the Sinai, from Libya, and from elsewhere.

Thousands of missiles have already rained down on our cities. So you might understand that, given all this, Israelis rightly ask: What's to prevent this from happening again in the West Bank? See, most of our major cities in the south of the country are within a few dozen kilometers from Gaza. But in the center of the country, opposite the West Bank, our cities are a few hundred meters or at most a few kilometers away from the edge of the West Bank.

So I want to ask you. Would any of you -- would any of you bring danger so close to your cities, to your families? Would you act so recklessly with the lives of your citizens? Israel is prepared to have a Palestinian state in the West Bank, but we're not prepared to have another Gaza there. And that's why we need to have real security arrangements, which the Palestinians simply refuse to negotiate with us.

Israelis remember the bitter lessons of Gaza. Many of Israel's critics ignore them. They irresponsibly advise Israel to go down this same perilous path again. Your read what these people say and it's as if nothing happened -- just repeating the same advice, the same formulas as though none of this happened.

And these critics continue to press Israel to make far-reaching concessions without first assuring Israel's security. They praise those who unwittingly feed the insatiable crocodile of militant Islam as bold statesmen. They cast as enemies of peace those of us who insist that we must first erect a sturdy barrier to keep the crocodile out, or at the very least jam an iron bar between its gaping jaws.

So in the face of the labels and the libels, Israel must heed better advice. Better a bad press than a good eulogy, and better still would be a fair press whose sense of history extends beyond breakfast, and which recognizes Israel's legitimate security concerns.

I believe that in serious peace negotiations, these needs and concerns can be properly addressed, but they will not be addressed without negotiations. And the needs are many, because Israel is such a tiny country. Without Judea and Samaria, the West Bank, Israel is all of 9 miles wide.

I want to put it for you in perspective, because you're all in the city. That's about two-thirds the length of Manhattan. It's the distance between Battery Park and Columbia University. And don't forget that the people who live in Brooklyn and New Jersey are considerably nicer than some of Israel's neighbors.

So how do you -- how do you protect such a tiny country, surrounded by people sworn to its destruction and armed to the teeth by Iran? Obviously you can't defend it from within that narrow space alone. Israel needs greater strategic depth, and that's exactly why Security Council Resolution 242 didn't require Israel to leave all the territories it captured in the Six-Day War. It talked about withdrawal from territories, to secure and defensible boundaries. And to defend itself, Israel must therefore maintain a long-term Israeli military presence in critical strategic areas in the West Bank.

I explained this to President Abbas. He answered that if a Palestinian state was to be a sovereign country, it could never accept such arrangements. Why not? America has had troops in Japan, Germany and South Korea for more than a half a century. Britain has had an airspace in Cyprus or rather an air base in Cyprus. France has forces in three independent African nations. None of these states claim that they're not sovereign countries.

And there are many other vital security issues that also must be addressed. Take the issue of airspace. Again, Israel's small dimensions create huge security problems. America can be crossed by jet airplane in six hours. To fly across Israel, it takes three minutes. So is Israel's tiny airspace to be chopped in half and given to a Palestinian state not at peace with Israel?

Our major international airport is a few kilometers away from the West Bank. Without peace, will our planes become targets for antiaircraft missiles placed in the adjacent Palestinian state? And how will we stop the smuggling into the West Bank? It's not merely the West Bank, it's the West Bank mountains. It just dominates the coastal plain where most of Israel's population sits below. How could we prevent the smuggling into these mountains of those missiles that could be fired on our cities?

I bring up these problems because they're not theoretical problems. They're very real. And for Israelis, they're life-and- death matters. All these potential cracks in Israel's security have to be sealed in a peace agreement before a Palestinian state is declared, not afterwards, because if you leave it afterwards, they won't be sealed. And these problems will explode in our face and explode the peace.

The Palestinians should first make peace with Israel and then get their state. But I also want to tell you this. After such a peace agreement is signed, Israel will not be the last country to welcome a Palestinian state as a new member of the United Nations. We will be the first. (Applause.)

And there's one more thing. Hamas has been violating international law by holding our soldier Gilad Shalit captive for five years.

They haven't given even one Red Cross visit. He's held in a dungeon, in darkness, against all international norms. Gilad Shalit is the son of Aviva and Noam Shalit. He is the grandson of Zvi Shalit, who escaped the Holocaust by coming to the -- in the 1930s as a boy to the land of Israel. Gilad Shalit is the son of every Israeli family. Every nation represented here should demand his immediate release. (Applause.) If you want to -- if you want to pass a resolution about the Middle East today, that's the resolution you should pass. (Applause.)

Ladies and gentlemen, last year in Israel in Bar-Ilan University, this year in the Knesset and in the U.S. Congress, I laid out my vision for peace in which a demilitarized Palestinian state recognizes the Jewish state. Yes, the Jewish state. After all, this is the body that recognized the Jewish state 64 years ago. Now, don't you think it's about time that Palestinians did the same?

The Jewish state of Israel will always protect the rights of all its minorities, including the more than 1 million Arab citizens of Israel. I wish I could say the same thing about a future Palestinian state, for as Palestinian officials made clear the other day -- in fact, I think they made it right here in New York -- they said the Palestinian state won't allow any Jews in it. They'll be Jew-free -- Judenrein. That's ethnic cleansing. There are laws today in Ramallah that make the selling of land to Jews punishable by death. That's racism. And you know which laws this evokes.

Israel has no intention whatsoever to change the democratic character of our state. We just don't want the Palestinians to try to change the Jewish character of our state. (Applause.) We want to give up -- we want them to give up the fantasy of flooding Israel with millions of Palestinians.

President Abbas just stood here, and he said that the core of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the settlements. Well, that's odd. Our conflict has been raging for -- was raging for nearly half a century before there was a single Israeli settlement in the West Bank. So if what President Abbas is saying was true, then the -- I guess that the settlements he's talking about are Tel Aviv, Haifa, Jaffa, Be'er Sheva. Maybe that's what he meant the other day when he said that Israel has been occupying Palestinian land for 63 years. He didn't say from 1967; he said from 1948. I hope somebody will bother to ask him this question because it illustrates a simple truth: The core of the conflict is not the settlements. The settlements are a result of the conflict. (Applause.)

The settlements have to be -- it's an issue that has to be addressed and resolved in the course of negotiations. But the core of the conflict has always been and unfortunately remains the refusal of the Palestinians to recognize a Jewish state in any border.

I think it's time that the Palestinian leadership recognizes what every serious international leader has recognized, from Lord Balfour and Lloyd George in 1917, to President Truman in 1948, to President Obama just two days ago right here: Israel is the Jewish state. (Applause.)

President Abbas, stop walking around this issue. Recognize the Jewish state, and make peace with us. In such a genuine peace, Israel is prepared to make painful compromises. We believe that the Palestinians should be neither the citizens of Israel nor its subjects. They should live in a free state of their own. But they should be ready, like us, for compromise. And we will know that they're ready for compromise and for peace when they start taking Israel's security requirements seriously and when they stop denying our historical connection to our ancient homeland.

I often hear them accuse Israel of Judaizing Jerusalem. That's like accusing America of Americanizing Washington, or the British of Anglicizing London. You know why we're called "Jews"? Because we come from Judea.

In my office in Jerusalem, there's a -- there's an ancient seal. It's a signet ring of a Jewish official from the time of the Bible. The seal was found right next to the Western Wall, and it dates back 2,700 years, to the time of King Hezekiah. Now, there's a name of the Jewish official inscribed on the ring in Hebrew. His name was Netanyahu. That's my last name. My first name, Benjamin, dates back a thousand years earlier to Benjamin -- Binyamin -- the son of Jacob, who was also known as Israel. Jacob and his 12 sons roamed these same hills of Judea and Sumeria 4,000 years ago, and there's been a continuous Jewish presence in the land ever since.

And for those Jews who were exiled from our land, they never stopped dreaming of coming back: Jews in Spain, on the eve of their expulsion; Jews in the Ukraine, fleeing the pogroms; Jews fighting the Warsaw Ghetto, as the Nazis were circling around it. They never stopped praying, they never stopped yearning. They whispered: Next year in Jerusalem. Next year in the promised land.

As the prime minister of Israel, I speak for a hundred generations of Jews who were dispersed throughout the lands, who suffered every evil under the Sun, but who never gave up hope of restoring their national life in the one and only Jewish state.

Ladies and gentlemen, I continue to hope that President Abbas will be my partner in peace. I've worked hard to advance that peace. The day I came into office, I called for direct negotiations without preconditions. President Abbas didn't respond. I outlined a vision of peace of two states for two peoples. He still didn't respond. I removed hundreds of roadblocks and checkpoints, to ease freedom of movement in the Palestinian areas; this facilitated a fantastic growth in the Palestinian economy. But again -- no response. I took the unprecedented step of freezing new buildings in the settlements for 10 months. No prime minister did that before, ever. (Scattered applause.) Once again -- you applaud, but there was no response. No response.

In the last few weeks, American officials have put forward ideas to restart peace talks. There were things in those ideas about borders that I didn't like. There were things there about the Jewish state that I'm sure the Palestinians didn't like.

But with all my reservations, I was willing to move forward on these American ideas.

President Abbas, why don't you join me? We have to stop negotiating about the negotiations. Let's just get on with it. Let's negotiate peace.

I spent years defending Israel on the battlefield. I spent decades defending Israel in the court of public opinion. President Abbas, you've dedicated your life to advancing the Palestinian cause. Must this conflict continue for generations, or will we enable our children and our grandchildren to speak in years ahead of how we found a way to end it? That's what we should aim for, and that's what I believe we can achieve.

In two and a half years, we met in Jerusalem only once, even though my door has always been open to you. If you wish, I'll come to Ramallah. Actually, I have a better suggestion. We've both just flown thousands of miles to New York. Now we're in the same city. We're in the same building. So let's meet here today in the United Nations. Who's there to stop us? What is there to stop us? If we genuinely want peace, what is there to stop us from meeting today and beginning peace negotiations?

And I suggest we talk openly and honestly. Let's listen to one another. Let's do as we say in the Middle East: Let's talk "doogri". That means straightforward. I'll tell you my needs and concerns. You'll tell me yours. And with God's help, we'll find the common ground of peace.

There's an old Arab saying that you cannot applaud with one hand. Well, the same is true of peace. I cannot make peace alone. I cannot make peace without you. President Abbas, I extend my hand -- the hand of Israel -- in peace. I hope that you will grasp that hand. We are both the sons of Abraham. My people call him Avraham. Your people call him Ibrahim. We share the same patriarch. We dwell in the same land. Our destinies are intertwined. Let us realize the vision of Isaiah -- (speaks in Hebrew) -- "The people who walk in darkness will see a great light." Let that light be the light of peace.

Bookmark and Share

2012 GOP Candidates Debate in Florida

Due to my busy schedule over the past couple of days, I forgot all about the latest presidential candidate debate that was held in Orlando, Florida. Here is the full debate, one that will probably be remembered as the one that Texas Governor Rick Perry lost the nomination and Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney won the nomination of the Republican Party. 

Rick Perry was the last hope of anyone successfully beating Mitt Romney barring a draft Palin movement that would be the Hail Mary of all Hail Marys. 

Bookmark and Share

Friday, September 23, 2011

Macon County Commissioners Work session Considers Pros and Cons of Property Tax Revaluation

Macon County Commissioners Work Session for Sept 22 
Photo and Graphics by Bobby Coggins

On Thursday, September 22, 2011 at 5.30pm, the Macon County Commissioners met to consider whether or not to begin the Property Revaluation process this year or hold off to see if the economy begins to recover. Chief among the commissioners concerns was that a revenue neutral revaluation now would mean increased taxes for the bulk of Macon County taxpayers, a move that would hurt those with the lowest valued property the most.

It is my opinion that the Commissioners will vote to not launch a property revaluation at this time. 

Here is the full video of that meeting, followed by a copy of the presentation that County Tax Officer Richard Lightner displayed during the meeting to illuminate what he was saying and a listing of the tweets I sent out during the meeting in reverse chronological order:

Here is the power point presentation that Macon County Tax Officer Richard Lightner displayed during his time at the podium:
Macon County Revaluation Info 2011

Here are my tweets from the meeting in reverse chronological order:

 Bobby Coggins 

 The Macon Co Commissioners have gone into closed session to disc property acquisition. No decision is expected. I'm headed home
 Bobby Coggins 

 Commissioners are taking the time to spell out where they stand on property revaluations for the press to relay to the public
 Bobby Coggins 

 The Macon County Commissioner's comment in that last tweet was Kevin Corbin.
 Bobby Coggins 

 Macon Co Commissioner said this is the 1st time in memory that they've had to deal with decreasing property values
 Bobby Coggins 

 It sounds like the Macon County Commissioners are going to put off property revaluations for a year or two.
 Bobby Coggins 

 Lightner has told the Commissioners the latest his office needs to know to go forward or wait on property revaluations is late Oct
6.40 pm 
 Bobby Coggins 

 Commissioner Ronnie Beale is describing the County's excellent record in winning cases on the Board of Equalization & Review
 Bobby Coggins 

 Richard Lightner, Macon Co Tax Officer, says that home values have dropped an average of 30%, so taxes would have to increase 30%
 Bobby Coggins 

 Macon Co Commissioner Bobby Kuppers said that a property revaluation now will hurt the lowest income brackets worst
 Bobby Coggins 

 Commissioners Kevin Corbin: Macon Co has cut their budget from $49 mln to $42 mln over the past few years
 Bobby Coggins 

 There are no members of the public at this work session. Just county employees & 5 Reporters 
 Bobby Coggins 

 Richard Lightner says a revenue neutral property revaluation would result in tax bill increases for most lower value properties
 Bobby Coggins 

 The County Tax Officer is going thru another laundry list. This one the pros & cons of a reval in 2013 vs 2015
 Bobby Coggins 

 The County Tax Officer is going through a laundry list of examples of how house value changes affect tax rates
 Bobby Coggins 

 Lightner says that beginning in 2013, residents will pay state tax on their vehicles when they get their tags.
 Bobby Coggins 

 Richard Lightner says that the tax collection rate in Macon Co is between 97.5% & 98%, one of the higher rates in the state
 Bobby Coggins 

 The County Tax Officer says that the revenue neutral target is $26 million.
 Bobby Coggins 

 County Tax Attorney says that 54% of that number are foreclosures or tax sales.
 Bobby Coggins 

 Richard Lightner says that MLS Home Sales are a third of what they were in 2006.
 Bobby Coggins 

 Richard Lightner says that the state mandated date for Macon Co property revaluation is Jan 1, 2015
 Bobby Coggins 

 County Tax Officer, Richard Lightner, is presenting a power point on the property re-evaluation process
 Bobby Coggins 

 McClellan said that the housing crisis has gotten even worse than anticipated
 Bobby Coggins 

 Chairman McClellan said that with the housing crisis, there are thoughts regarding, putting off the next re-eval until 2013.
 Bobby Coggins 

 Brian McClellan, Chairman of the Macon Co Commissioners, is giving a background on past property re-evaluations
 Bobby Coggins 

 The County Attorney, Chester Jones, & The Finance Officer, Evelyn Southards, had brief items that the Commissioners approved
 Bobby Coggins 

 The Commissioners will be having a short closed session tonight regarding property acquisition
 Bobby Coggins 

 The Macon County Commissioners are now in session.
 Bobby Coggins 

 The Macon County Commissioners are about to begin their work session on property re-evaluations. 

Bookmark and Share