Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Is Hezbollah tunneling into San Diego?

U.S. Rep. Sue Myrick, citing unnamed former intelligence officials, says Hezbollah militants are helping drug cartels in their efforts to dig larger tunnels across the U.S.-Mexico border.

"For their expertise, Hezbollah could be receiving a cut of the drug money," Myrick says in a letter to Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano.

Myrick, a Charlotte Republican, has asked Napolitano to step up investigations of terrorists who might be operating on the border, Washington correspondent Barbara Barrett reports today. Myrick, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, wants Napolitano to convene a task force on the presence of Hezbollah in Mexico.

Click here to read Myrick's letter.

Homeland Security spokesman Matt Chandler said Tuesday in a prepared statement that the agency will respond directly to Myrick about her request.“At this time, DHS does not have any credible information on terrorist groups operating along the Southwest border,” he said.

In her letter, Myrick writes that former intelligence officials "have pointed to the terrain that makes up our border, especially in the San Diego border sector, as a reason why drug cartels have been partnering with Hezbollah. This terrain is very much like the areas around Israel's borders. As we well know, Hezbollah is extremely skilled in the construction of tunnels."

- Doug Miller

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

More on new Meck County Manager pay plan

As a story in today's Observer reports, county commissioners approved a new pay plan for County Manager Harry Jones on Tuesday that eliminates performance bonuses from his compensation package.

Commissioners have approved bonuses regularly to county managers since the mid-1990s, but agreed in 2004 to change the way they are awarded. Under that plan, which you can read here, the manager could receive a performance bonus of up to 30 percent of his base salary based on four criteria, including percentage of county goals achieved and demonstrated leadership.

But on Tuesday, commissioners voted to eliminate that bonus, which they've also called "pay at risk" in the past year. Click here to read new details of the new pay plan.

Instead, the manager's base salary can be changed based on the "prevailing market rate" of his position. Any change to the base salary beyond the market adjustment will be based on the board's evaluation of the manager's performance, according to a document outlining the changes.
(Read more about how the county makes decisions on market rate and other pay adjustments by clicking here.)

For the year that begins July 1, Jones' base salary will be $242,500, up from his current pay of $215,655. The county said the increase is consistent with the average market rate adjustment of other county positions since 2008, the last time the manager had an increase in his base salary.

Jones' total compensation, however, is going down by about 6.6 percent to $283,011. That's because the county eliminated the bonus, as well as a match to his 401(k) plan.

Commissioners said Jones requested the decrease to his compensation.

In other changes to Jones' pay agreement, commissioners agreed to provide full payment of Jones' health insurance premiums if he is terminated by the board before December of 2011. Previously the board had agreed to pay 50 percent of those premiums. In addition, the board will continue to pay the health insurance for Jones' wife until she becomes Medicare eligible, regardless of whether Jones is terminated or retires.

Jones, 60, has been county manager since 2000.

Commissioners typically conduct their evaluation of Jones during the fall, but Chairman Jennifer Roberts said they wanted to discuss Jones' pay at the same time they considered the 2010-11 budget. Roberts said the board's evaluation of Jones' performance will continue in August. -- April Bethea

Obama's oil spill word cloud

Obama word cloud

A visual representation of President Barack Obama's remarks Tuesday on the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, generated by Wordle.net, sizes the words based on the number of times they were used. Articles, pronouns and other similarly common words were removed.

"Oil" was far and away the most-used word; according to the text of his speech released by the White House, he used that word 26 times.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Outlaws motorcycle gang indictment

This 50-page indictment lays out federal charges against 27 members of the Outlaws motorcycle gang, including 10 in the Charlotte region.

The document describes drug dealing, assaults on rival gang members and a plot to use explosives against the Hell's Angels motorcycle gang.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Read applications of council hopefuls

Council members could appoint a replacement for the Charlotte City Council seat vacated this week by Democratic Mayor Pro Tem Susan Burgess as early as Monday.

The application window closed at noon today.

City spokeswoman Kim McMillan said clerks are analyzing the names to make sure applicants meet the criteria, including being registered Charlotte voters. At least one applicant listed a Huntersville address.

Click here to read the applicants' statements of interest.

Here are the 24 people who applied for Susan Burgess’s council seat:

Sherly Francois Bradley
Jason Burgess
Robert P. Caldwell Jr.
Anthony Castrillon
Svend Deal
Ganyika Dixon
Kendra P. Dotson
Micah Elliott
Jack Flynn
Marc Friedland
Trent M. Grissom
Brion P. Lawler
William Mark Mobley
Joel Moore
Donald B. Moye’
Lance Peterman
Lucille Puckett
Lisa Salomon
Eddie Sanders
Ruth Stevenson
Owen Sutkowski
David S Thurston
Nancy Bowen Wiggins
Eric C. Zander

- Jim Morrill

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Data diving with CMS

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board has invited citizens to be part of a five-month study of student assignment, academics, busing, magnets and other hot topics. Folks who want to dive in can review all the data that board members got Tuesday, along with presentations made by staff, by going to the Web site and clicking "documents."
Among the interesting items: A chart that lists how many students live in the zone for each neighborhood school, how many of them attended that school in 2009-10 and how many are choosing other CMS options. There are also several "utilization charts" showing how full CMS considered each school during the year that ends today, though they can be confusing.
An intensive spate of meetings in the next three weeks will focus on big-picture questions, rather than school-by-school data and decisions, officials say. Public forums start June 21; find details and see the guiding principles that will be discussed by clicking "community forums."
The board plans to vote on any revisions to those principles on June 29, then delve into more specific actions starting in July. The goal is to have all decisions made by November so changes can take effect in 2011-12.
Questions, suggestions and comments can be sent to comprehensivereview@cms.k12.nc.us.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

See Duke's tax filing, including Coach K's salary

The News & Observer of Raleigh posted Duke's tax filing, dated last month. Among the revelations:
  • Coach Mike Krzyzewski's compensation topped $4.19 million during the 2008-09 fiscal year. That appears to make him the highest-paid college coach in the nation. And that was before the Blue Devils won the national championship.
  • Duke has raised the pay of its football coach in an attempt to jump-start its lagging football program. New coach David Cutcliffe, who was hired in December 2007, is paid three times as much as his predecessor.
  • Duke athletic director Kevin White was paid more than $400,000 in fiscal 2008-09.]
Read the N&O's complete story here.

You can also read a PDF copy of Duke's filing here. Compensation information for athletics officials is on Page 55 of the PDF.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Susan Burgess statement on resignation

Charlotte Mayor Pro Tem Susan Burgess delivered the following remarks Monday as she announced her resignation from the city council.

Burgess, who underwent surgery in 2007 for colorectal cancer, announced last month her cancer had spread and she was undergoing hospice care. -- April Bethea


Dear colleagues and the people of Charlotte:

With a great deal of personal sadness, I must resign my seat on the City Council of Charlotte, effective immediately. I am unable to fulfill the commitments of a City Council member because I can no longer attend meetings or perform other requirements of the job, and the people of Charlotte deserve an effective representative in this At-Large position.

I love my city and its people and it has been an honor for me to represent them. I treasure the support and encouragement that I have received from so many of the people of Charlotte.

To my colleagues on the Council, and the staff and employees of the City, it has been a pleasure serving with you.

God bless all of you, and God bless the City of Charlotte.


Dear colleagues:
As I must resign my position on the City Council, I urge you to give strong consideration for my replacement to my son, Jason Burgess. He shares my values and ideals completely and I am confident that he will be able to serve in my place and be faithful to the principles that I have worked so hard to represent in my time in office.

By way of background, Jason moved to Charlotte with our family in 1982, attended Alexander Graham Junior High School and graduated from Myers Park Senior High School, where he was a student leader and an outstanding soccer and basketball player. In his senior year at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as a pre-med major, he worked tirelessly to earn a spot as a walk-on for Dean Smith's varsity basketball team. After graduating from UNC-CH's School of Medicine and completing a surgery residency at New Hanover Regional Medical Center in Wilmington, NC, he completed a vascular surgery fellowship at Rush Presbyterian St. Lukes Medical Center in Chicago. With the beginning of his vascular surgery career, he returned with his family to Charlotte.

Jason embodies the qualifies that I have worked towards as a public servant. He is a bridge-builder: soon after he returned to Charlotte, he was elected chief of surgery at Mercy Hospital and since then he was instrumental at merging two separate surgical practices into the largest independent surgical group in the region. He is a natural leader and was recently named by the Charlotte Business Journal as one of the "40 under 40" emerging leaders. In 2009, he was named by Charlotte Magazine as one of Charlotte's Top Docs," because of his commitment to cutting edge medicine and his dedication to his patients. As his resume demonstrates, he is an extremely hard worker and has amazing drive.

Jason lives with his wife, Elizabeth, and family in the Dilworth neighborhood. He has the full support of his family and is confident that he can balance his professional, personal and civic life.

It is important to have my At-Large seat filled as soon as possible, with crucial decisions upcoming. I am certain that Jason is the best person to serve out my unexpired term on the Council, and to continue to stand for the values and ideals that the people elected me to represent at the beginning of this term.

Thank you very much for you consideration of Jason Burgess.

Susan Burgess