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


Thursday, September 17, 2015

Franklin TDA September 2015 Meeting
Lacked a quorum for vote to subsidize ads in Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine

The Franklin Tourism Development Authority convened a meeting on Monday, September 14, 2015 without a quorum present. A quorum is defined as five members in their Rules of Procedures. The board has eight seats, two of which are vacant. Chairman Candy Pressley was absent and member Josh Drake did not arrive until just after the 35 minute mark in the video. Before his arrival, the board amended their agenda to add a representative from Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine for a presentation. The board voted 4-0 to spend up to $3,000 to subsidize ads for local businesses in the November 2015 issue of Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine. Since a quorum was not present for this vote, the vote was not valid and will have to be re-voted on at another meeting that has a quorum present.

The board heard a proposal from Rob Gasparo for the Franklin TDA to sudsidize the Macon county Transit to run a shuttle service for hikers to use to come into Franklin. He said it would cost $6,750 to run the shuttle twice a day from February to May. The county commissioners voted earlier this year to not fund a shuttle, citing they would prefer not to interfere with local businesses and individuals who already transport hikers to and from the trail. Gasparo said that regardless of whether or not they found funding from the TDA or TDC, he would seek frunding from private sources to pay Macon County Transit to run a service. He will be presenting the proposal to the Macon County TDA today (Sept 17th) at the noon meeting. Macon Media will be covering that meeting.

The board declined (5-0) to subsidize a coupon book for Major Display to be handed out to visiting ball teams at Parker Meadows promoting local businesses.

The board voted 5-0 to fund the Naturalist event being organbized by Outdoor 76.

The board also discussed a vacation guide, but I missed the disposition of that because I was researching the quorum question, and upon review of the video, the board members were speaking so low I still could not understand what they wee saying to one another. I apologize for that.

After the meeting had been adjourned, members of the board and representatives of press (Macon Media and The Franklin Press) discussed whether or not the board had a quorum present for the meeting. Town manager Summer Woodard reported a conversation she had with the board attorney, John Henning, Jr, who was of the opinion that four did constitute a quorum. I disagreed and referred to the Rules of Procedure for the board, which defines a quorum as five. I have embedded a copy of the section of the Rules of Procedure that define a quorum for your convenience. [FULL COPY]

The day after the meeting, the Town manager sent out a notice that a quorum is indeed five members and the vote that the board took will be ratified at the October meeting. I have included a copy of that as well.

From: John Henning []
Sent: Tuesday, September 15, 2015 3:26 PM
To: Summer Woodard
Subject: Tourism Development Authority

Dear TDA Board Members,

I understand that at the beginning of your meeting yesterday, four of you were present. A majority of the members currently appointed to the TDA were present (four (4) out of the current membership of six (6)). Approximately 30 minutes after the meeting started, a fifth member joined the meeting. Since Section 5.5 of the TDA bylaws currently sets a quorum at five members, the TDA will need to take action to ratify any votes that were taken before five members were present. This bylaw appears to anticipate always having all nine (9) memberships filled, and unfortunately, the TDA Board only consists of six (6) members at this time.

At your October 12, 2015 board meeting, and assuming five members are present, the Board will need to reconsider the item(s) that were voted on while only four members were present. My understanding is that there was only one such item, to participate in publishing Blue Ridge Outdoor Magazine, which will be recognizing the Town in an upcoming issue. Since that expenditure will come due sometime after November, the Board can ratify that vote and there will be no other problem with making that approved expenditure.

By and large, this is a problem caused by the language setting the quorum at five members, which seems to be based on the assumption that all nine members will be appointed at any given time. Despite the Town’s best efforts – including web and print advertising – to find persons willing to serve on the TDA Board, your current membership totals six. That makes this an appropriate time to say a heartfelt thank you to each of you for your willingness to serve on the TDA Board. Your time is very much appreciated. And if any of you knows anyone who might also be willing to serve, please ask them to get in touch with Candy Arvey or Summer Woodard about joining the Board.

Finally, and keeping in mind that the Town greatly appreciates your time and willingness to serve, please make every effort to attend the October board meeting.

In the near future, we will also look at amending the quorum bylaw, to avoid this difficulty in the future.

Please don’t hesitate to contact me directly if you have any questions or concerns.

Best regards,

John F. Henning, Jr.

Even though my research is not needed, I am posting it anyway for future reference.

Here is an excerpt from an article on the UNC School of Governemnt website:

"...the first step in identifying the quorum for a committee or appointed board will usually be to find out whether the governing board has adopted a rule imposing a method of quorum calculation."


"Simply saying that a quorum is a majority of a body’s members or membership doesn’t explain how vacancies should be treated in a quorum calculation. For city and county governing boards, this issue is addressed by statute. Pursuant to G.S. 160A-74, vacant seats aren’t counted in quorum determinations for city councils. The opposite is true for boards of county commissioners: G.S. 153A-43 provides that the number of commissioners required for a quorum “is not affected by vacancies.” The blog post by Frayda Bluestein linked to above explains in detail how these rules work.

Local governing boards generally have the power to decide whether vacancies must be included in quorum calculations for their committees and appointed boards. (Sometimes those bodies are permitted to adopt their own procedural rules. In those situations, the committee or board itself may specify whether a quorum is a majority of total seats or of current members.) It often happens, though, that local rules don’t address the effect of vacancies on the quorum for committees or appointed boards."

Source >> "Quorum Calculations: The Impact of Vacancies and Members Who Don’t Vote" by Trey Allen, UNC School of Government

Supporting Documents

Franklin TDA Rules of Procedure

NC General Assembly law that created the Franklin TDA

Franklin Town board of Aldermen Occupancy Tax Resolution



Summer Woodard
Vickie Springer
Connie Gruberman
Cheryl Pullium
Josh Drake (arrived after 6 pm)


Macon Media (me)
The franklin Press
Macon County News and Shopping Guide

The TDA Board will meet again in the lower level of town hall on Monday, October 12th at 5:30 pm.

Monday, September 14, 2015

NC Senate and NC House Leaders Introduce Compromise Budget
Full Details Not Available At Press Time
Budget Has Been released to the Public

09/16/2015 7:00 am Update

The budget and conference report on the budget have been added to the website of the North Carolina General Assembly and Macon Media has embedded them below and made them available for the public to download from this page. The NC House convenes today at noon and the NC Senate convenes at 2:00 pm. The budget is expected to be the topic of discussion.

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Speaker of the NC House Tim Moore and Senator Phil Berger held a joint press conference to brief the press corps on the compromise busghet worked out in conference committee over the last few weeks. The full budget was not made available to the press or public at the time of the press conference, but was promised to be released later this afternoon or evening.

Macon Media recorded the audio stream from the North Carolina General Assembly website and, in the interest of time and portability, added the audio to a video so you could listen to the whole thing yourself. The audio has been amplified, but there are a couple of sections when one of the speakers drifted away from the microphone and you'll have to boost the volume to hear what they're saying. There was a brief period of 30 seconds where the audio completely dropped out and it has been left in the video.

So, without further ado, the audio is posted below, and a "highlight" of the budget has been posted below, all of which has been lifted from Representative Chuck McGrady's blog.

House Bill 97
2015 Appropriations Act

Conference Committee Overall Highlights

September 14, 2015
  • Appropriates $21.734 billion for FY 2015-16, an increase of about $652 million (or 3.1% percent) from the FY 2014-15 budget
  • Increases State-funded positions by a net of 96.60 positions

Adjustments to Availability

  • Increases the Savings Reserve Account by $200 million, bringing the total to $851.6 million. Another $250 million is transferred if House Bill 943 [Connect NC Bond Act of 2015] is enacted, increasing the total amount in the Savings Reserve to $1.1 billion;
  • Appropriates $150 million to the Repairs and Renovations Account;
  • Repeals the statutory transfer of $215.9 million in funds from the Highway Fund to the State’s General Fund;
  • Reduces Availability by a net of $74.7 million in FY 2015-16 and $326.5 million in FY 2016-17 for various tax adjustments;
  • Earmarks $75 million for FY 2015-16 and another $150 million in FY 2016-17 in non-recurring funds for deposit into the newly established Medicaid Transformation Fund;
  • Returns $10 million each year of the biennium to Golden L.E.A.F. from Master Settlement Agreement funds.

Salary and Benefits

  • Public Schools:
    • Increases starting teacher salary from $3,300 to $3,500/month ($35,000 per year);
    • Grants a step increase for eligible educators who gain a year of creditable service;
    • Grants a step increase for School-based Administrators (SBAs) (i.e. Principals and Assistant Principals);
    • Provides that no teacher or SBAs will receive a drop in pay;
  • Provides $202 million for $750 bonuses for all State and State-funded local employees;
  • Grants a step increase for Assistant & Deputy Clerks, Magistrates, the Highway Patrol;
  • $12.5 million in FY 2015-16 and $25 million in FY 2016-17 to fund the Salary Adjustment Fund for market-based adjustments;
  • $10 million in FY 2015-16 and $20m in FY 2016-17 for salary increases for NC Community College personnel (local Boards have flexibility in allocating the funds);
  • $12.8 million in FY 2015-16 and $25.6 million in FY 2016-17 to implement Pay by Custody Level for Correctional Officer;
  • $12 million in FY 2016-17 to implement OSHR’s Compensation Update;
  • Maintains current benefits and policies in all State retirement systems;
  • Increases benefits to members of the National Guard Pension Fund;
  • Funds the State Health Plan at the level recommended by the Board of Trustees’ for FY 2015-16;
  • Provides funds for Worker’s Compensation payments to accurately reflect projected spending.

 Other Areas

  • Funds Teacher Assistant positions at the FY 2014-15 level;
  • Funds Driver Education Training over the biennium;
  • Provides funds $16.8 million in capital investments such as $5.8 million for Water Resources Development projects and $3.5 million for repairs to the USS North Carolina Battleship;
  • Provides $30 million in non-recurring funds to the Film and Entertainment Grant Fund in each year of the biennium;
  • Establishes a new Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.

Tax Package

  • Cuts Personal Income Tax Rate by 0.26% to 5.499%
  • Increases Standard Deduction in 2016 from $15,000 to $15,500, non-taxable.
  • Unlimited deduction for both Medical and Charitable.
  • Maintains Corporate Income Tax rate reduction trigger (Current forecast has us hitting the trigger in 2016 dropping rate to 3%)
  • Phases in Single Sales Factor over 3 years starting next year (study market based sourcing)
  • No extension of the Solar Tax Credit or R&D Tax Credit

2017 Estimated Average Effective Tax Rate

Federal Adjusted Gross IncomeCurrent LawProposed Law
$20,000 to $29,9992.71%2.47%
$30,000 to $39,9993.40%3.15%
$40,000 to $49,9993.79%3.54%
$50,000 to $59,9993.97%3.72%
$60,000 to $69,9994.06%3.82%
$70,000 to $79,9994.10%3.86%
(Estimates as produced by the North Carolina BearingPoint Individual Income Tax Model for Tax Year 2017)


K-12 funding: 5.0% ($410 M) increase from base budget
  • Fully funds Teaching Assistants to secure better educational support and student outcomes.
  • Fully funds Driver Education to help North Carolina train responsible drivers.
  • Invests $l.5M over biennium for Transforming Principal Preparation to support innovative programs to dramatically improve the rigor of principal preparation in North Carolina.
  • Increased funding for Textbooks & Digital Learning Resources.
  • Invest in School Connectivity Initiative to bring broadband access to all K-12 schools.
  • Increases Opportunity Scholarships by $14 million (129%) to award more scholarships to children of low-income and working-class families to attend a private school of their choice.
  • $7.5M to 58 Community Colleges across the State for state-of-the-art equipment to keep up with the changing needs of employers and train future workforce.
  • Increase capacity of training for medical residents, with a focus on primary care and general surgery.

Heath & Human Services

  • Increased support for community mental health services, examples include:
    • 7% increase for three-way psychiatric beds in community hospitals.
    • Addition of 66 mental health beds at Central Regional Prison.
    • Establishes mental health treatment units at 8 custody prisons.
    • Traumatic Brain Injury waiver to provide victims better support.
    • Training for Paramedics for Behavior Health
  • Foster Care: Raises age to 21yrs, provides funds for Youth Villages, increases funding by $12M for increased Foster Care caseload.
  • Increases market rates for Child Care Subsidy and includes “Grandparent” fix.
  • No changes to CON Laws.
  • Does not eliminate Community Care of North Carolina (CCNC).
  • Home and Community Care Block Grant: restores cut to services for seniors.
  • Provides funds to  improve State Medical Examiner system.


  • Eliminates the transfer from the Highway Fund to the General Fund.
  • $440M in additional road funding.
  • $70M in for port modernization.
  • Increased funding for contract resurfacing and the bridge program, and pavement preservation fund.
  • Increased funding for capital construction projects through STI.
  • Continued funding for modernization of DMV.
  • Increased funding for state aid to municipalities.
  • Reduce taxpayer dollars used for Board of Transportation travel expenses.
  • Increases funding for airport development and the UAS program.
  • Eliminates 50 Raleigh-based, non-field positions.

Agriculture & Natural Resources

  • Support for Dredging of the coastal inlets to keep our waterways open for business and recreation.
  • $1M for Military Buffers through Farmland Preservation.
    • $1M through Clean Water Management Trust Fund
  • Additional funding to support Oyster Industry
  • $1M FY1 and $2M FY2 for Tourism Funding to continue to encourage out-of-state tourism.
  • $500k for Shale Gas Exploration
  • Funds expansion of AgWRAP (well-drilling initiative for Ag).
  • Eliminates $1.5M for state-wide branding initiative.
  • $1.3M department-wide DENR administrative cut.

Salary & Benefits

  • All teachers and State employees will recive a $750 bonus by the end of Fiscal Year 2015. Legislators do not receive this bonus.
  • Teachers will still receive step increase raises based on experience.
  • Starting teachers (0-4yrs) will see a salary increase from $33,000/yr to $35,000/yr.
  • All Sworn Members of the Highway Patrol will receive a 3% salary increase.
  • Starting Highway Patrol salary increase from $35k/yr to $36,050/yr.
  • No reductions in the State retirement benefits.
  • $38M in fund for Administration to adjust salaries of employees in hard to recruit areas.
  • Increases General Fund appropriation to National Guard Pension Fund.

Justice & Public Safety

  • Grants for Body-Worn Video Camera for Law Enforcement Agencies to protect our sworn officers. Optional- does not force Departments to comply.
  • Provides remaining funds for cameras in Highway Patrol vehicles to keep our troopers safe.
  • $1.6M for HERO Grants to combat sex crimes against children.
  • Clerks and Magistrates will still receive step increase raises based on experience.
  • Additional funds for court modernization.
  • Funds for Managed Cell Access System to deter the illegal smuggling and use of cell phones by inmates.

General Government

  • New Department of Military and Veterans Affairs
  • New Department of Information Technology
  • New Department of Natural and Cultural Resources to consolidate management of all state attractions.
  • Additional funds for VIVA in FY 2015-2016 to execute voter outreach.
  • $17.5M for Workforce Housing Loan Program, develop low-income housing.
  • Align Agency Budgets to Actual Expenditures to track the use of taxpayer dollars.
  • Governmental Budgetary Transparency/Expenditures Online to ensure an open, transparent, responsible state government.

Statewide Reserves

  • $600M to Savings Reserve and R&R
  • $186M to a Medicaid Contingency Reserve. This reserve is to address any budgetary shortfalls within the Medicaid budget.
  • $225M over the biennium for a Medicaid Transformation Reserve. Will be used for when the State transitions to fee-for-service to capitation under Medicaid reform.

Other Highlights

  • $3M for OneNC Small Business Fund
  • $2.5M annually for Rural Economic Development Grants
  • $30M for Film Grants
  • $8M in FY 2016-2017 for Historic Tax Credit
  • JMAC funded on recurring basis; $6.9 million in FY 2015-2016 and $7.5m in FY 2016-2017

Thursday, September 10, 2015

NC Voter Rights Forum is tonight at 6:30 pm at town hall

Macon County League of Women Voters

Macon Co. League of Women Voters to present N.C.Voter Rights Forum on Sept. 10 in Franklin.

The Macon Co. League of Women Voters will be presenting a forum on “Voter Rights in North Carolina: Barriers and Challenges 50 Years After Passage of the Voter Rights Act,” on Sept. 10, Thursday, at the Franklin Town Hall at 6:30 PM.

In 2013 the NC State Legislature passed controversial new voter ID laws that require the use of a photo ID for voting in person, but not for voting by absentee ballot. The NC Board of Elections has estimated over 300,000 registered voters in N.C. do not have a driver’s license or comparable documentation for obtaining a state-issued photo ID.

The 90-minute forum will include a presentation by Bob Hall, Executive Director of Democracy-NC, a non-partisan voting rights organization based in Durham, N.C., who will highlight recent analysis of the 2014 NC election: “… We have concluded that new voting limitations and polling place problems reduced turnout by at least 30,000 voters in 2014.”

Debbie George with the Macon Co. Board of Elections will clarify recent changes to the photo ID requirement. Other presenters will be Ann Butzner from Buncombe County, a voting rights activist who has led efforts to register the elderly and other marginalized voters in WNC; and Selma Sparks, veteran civil rights activist and journalist from New York City, who now lives in Macon Co. Ms. Sparks was the only female journalist to ever interview Malcolm X. There will also be updates on legal challenges to the NC Voter ID laws.

Susan Ervin with the League says “…there remains considerable confusion over these laws-what is an acceptable photo ID at polling stations; student ID’s are not acceptable, but tribal membership cards are. We fear a confused voter will likely be a non-voter, and this will be a setback to a democracy based on the fundamental right to vote. Our forum is meant to clarify some of these issues.”

The 1965 Federal Voting Rights Act was meant to simplify and expand access to the ballot box. Since 2011, 34 states have introduced voter ID laws. North Carolina has recently become the center of a national discussion over whether these laws constitute voter suppression or ballot “security” to restore confidence in elections.

The League of Women Voters is a non-partisan national organization with state [and local chapters in North Carolina], that focuses on voter rights and education, civil rights, and social justice issues.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Mercer delivers update on The Father's House at September Commissioner meeting

This video is from the public comment period of the September 8, 2015 meeting of the Macon County Commissioners. Dr Gordon Mercer spoke about the efforts of The Father's House to comply with housing and fire codes. The church runs a homeless shelter as part of their ministry.

Here is a video someone posted of the cleanup that took place at Father's House as part of a mission trip from Grantie Falls, NC:

Regular September 2015 Meeting
Macon County Commissioners
Part 1 - Public Education Supporters Rally

Last night's meeting of the county commissioners began at 6 pm and commissioners went into closed session to discuss acquiring property at around 10 pm, so the video of the meeting will be broken up into segments to make for easier viewing.

The agenda packet that the county shares with members of the press (and others by request under sunshine laws) is posted at the end of this article. Currently, Macon Media is the only member of the local press that shares this public document with the citizens of Macon County.

MEDIA ROLL CALL (media organizations with reporters at the meeting)

Macon Media (me)
Macon County News and Shopping Guide
The Franklin Press The Smoky Mountain News
WLOS-TV  [See their coverage]

I will update this section over the next week as the other news outlets post their coverage about this segment of the meeting.

The first segment is the beginning of the meeting and a mini-rally in support of public education and a presentation by John DeVille. He is a local teacher at Franklin High School and member of the North Carolina Association of Educators. The presentation was billed as an update on state budget/education issues. Video, supporting documents and photos are below.

You can see the slideshow John DeVille presented either at his website or via the embed below.

Here is a slideshow of photos taken at the pre-rally meeting at Ratheskeller's and then at the county commissioner meeting:


If you're of a mind, and can afford it, a dollar a month (or more) from enough people will make a huge difference in improving the quality of these reports and will allow remote weather stations and weather cams to be deployed throughout the county that you will be able to access online.

So far, 13 people have pledged $75 a month, and 9 of them have followed through with $55 for the month of August. This is a tremendous help.

Thank you to the two people who sent checks during August.

Please visit for more information on how to contribute.

Businesses can underwrite this coverage by day sponsorships, surplus equipment donations, etc. Inquire at for more information.

If I can do this on less than $100 a month, imagine what I can do if a thousand (or more) of you were willing to send a dollar a month.