After Hawaii Reporter Story, U.S. Transportation Secretary Addressing Internal Emails Critical of Honolulu Rail Project

Friday, March 16th, 2012

By Malia Zimmerman | Hawaii Reporter

HONOLULU — Two days ago, former Gov. Benjamin Cayetano released a series of email exchanges between Federal Transit Administration officials critical of the city’s planned $5.3 billion steel on steel rail project, claiming city officials had “lousy practices of public manipulation” and “produced 3 failed projects and are well on their way to a fourth.”

Cayetano, a candidate for Honolulu mayor, is opposed to the project, and used the emails written between 2006 and 2009 obtained recently through federal litigation to demonstrate the FTA’s true feelings about the city’s management of the project and the rail plan itself.

Today, the FTA emails – or at least the dismissal of them – became part of the congressional record.

Ray LaHood, US Secretary of Transportation

U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who appeared at a hearing of the Senate Committee on Appropriations’ Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, told Hawaii’s Senior Senator Daniel Inouye the emails were exchanged under a prior administration and now the federal government is fully committed to the project.

“Since I have taken this position, I have had the privilege of being with you in your state. We’ve talked about this project. You were kind enough to convene a meeting about this and other projects in Hawaii. I want you to know that we are committed to this project. This is an important project. This will deliver people all over the island. It’s an important project and at this point, we will continue to work through whatever issues need to be worked through. We’re committed to this. We’re committed to the money; we’re committed to the project. And, until we hear differently from others who are intimately involved in this, I see no reason why we won’t go forward,” LaHood said. Continue reading.


Home Child Care Providers in NC Face Lunch Inspection Mandates

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

By Matt Willoughby | Civitas Institute

RALEIGH – Some parents and lawmakers say the discussion over the Hoke County school lunch issue continues to skirt two key overarching issues. One is what some parents see as an intrusion into their rights when government officials inspect homemade lunches and decide they don’t meet nutrition standards. Another area of concern expressed by some lawmakers is that of unelected bureaucrats making up rules to implement state laws.

People who are paid to babysit children in their private residences could face those same concerns. The Child Care Commission makes the rules covering child care in North Carolina and has proposed the same nutrition rules governing pre-K programs should apply to private Family Child Care Homes. Those are private residences that care for at least two children who are not related to the homeowners.

According to records at the Division of Childhood Development and Early Education (DCDEE), there are 3,338 licensed Family Care Homes in North Carolina serving 19,631 children.

Currently the nutrition rules for those homes are not as stringent as those for pre-K programs, such as the one at West Hoke Elementary School. It became the subject of national attention when children were told their homemade lunches didn’t meet nutrition standards, so the children had to take school food in addition to their bag lunches.

That could become an issue for the Family Child Care Homes under the rules proposed by the Child Care Commission. While those homes don’t have to supplement homemade lunches now, they would have to do so under the new regulations. The proposed rules also prohibit homeowners from serving such snacks as cookies, chips or donuts, except for special occasions.

Children older than 24 months would have to be provided with a snack or meal every four hours. But the meal could not include flavored milk, sugary drinks (including Kool-Aid) sweet tea and fruit drinks. The caregiver also could not give an infant juice in a bottle without permission from a heath care professional.

The homeowner also would have to provide an area for mothers who are breastfeeding their infants. Under the new rules the accommodation would have to be in an area other than a bathroom, have an electrical outlet and be shielded from view by staff and the public.

The Child Care Commission will continue to review the rules at a meeting on May 8. Whatever that panel approves moves on to the Rules Review Commission for consideration. After the Rules Review Commission acts, then citizens have 24 hours to object to any rule. If at least ten people sign a petition of objection, the rule goes to the General Assembly for a hearing. Continue reading.


Arrested IL Official Has Money in Campaign War Chest

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

By Andrew Thomason | Illinois Statehouse News

SPRINGFIELD — March was a banner month for the war chest of recently arrested state Rep. Derrick Smith, D-Chicago.

Smith, who was arrested Tuesday on a federal bribery charge, received more than $72,000 in campaign donations since March 1. The money was pouring in even on the day of Smith’s arrest.

Records from Illinois State Board of Elections, or ISBE, show donors on Tuesday gave Smith $4,916.46. Harry Katsiavelos is president of Peoria Packing Ltd., a series of butcher shops in Chicago, which gave Smith $1,500 Tuesday, according to ISBE.

“I’m shocked,” Katsiavelos said after learning Wednesday about Smith’s arrest. “I feel pretty let down.” Katsiavelos said he had met Smith several years ago as Smith climbed the Chicago political ladder. He said Smith seemed earnest, and when he announced he was running for election, Katsiavelos was happy to help. “He reached out, and I had known him over the years and wanted to see him succeed,” Katsiavelos said. Katsiavelos said he still would support Smith if the representative is cleared of the charge, otherwise, “he needs to return the money.”

Jim Tenuto, ISBE spokesman, said campaign could refund any contribution.


Kerrey/anti-Kerrey ads are off and running in Nebraska

Tuesday, March 13th, 2012

By Joe Jordan | Nebraska Watchdog

OMAHA — In what is expected to be the most expensive Senate race in Nebraska history—some estimate $50 million or more—the first couple hundred thousand is already on the table.

Democrat Bob Kerrey’s first TV ads are out, while his critics are hitting Kerrey with a radio attack.

Although Kerrey downplays talk that his  last 10 years living in New York City will hurt the one term governor and two term Senator, both of Kerrey’s first two ads—costing a reported $104,000—could indicate otherwise.

“Welcome Home” finds several Kerrey loyalists noting his accomplishments before and after leaving Nebraska in 2001. One woman says, “Once a Husker always a Husker.”

In a second commercial, “Step Up,” Kerrey looks into the camera and says, “It’s good to be back.”

Meanwhile, using a clip from Nebraska Watchdog’s exclusive on camera interview with Kerrey, American Crossroads is shelling out $80,000 claiming that Kerrey cut a “secret backroom” deal with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Continue reading and watch the video ads here…

Abound Solar had previously unannounced production shutdown, worried about ‘rumor mill’

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

By Todd Shepherd | Complete Colorado

LOVELAND — Documents obtained by show that Abound Solar created an unexpected, and previously unreported 10 day production shutdown over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, and then went on to tell employees, “Don’t let the rumor mill create false purposes for this shutdown.” The shutdown was announced to employees just after Thanksgiving by company president Craig Witsoe.

Another document outlines the 2012 goals for “The Next Great Solar Company” and specifically states that where cash management is concerned, the company should “stretch payables,” meaning Abound would be attempting to pay their bills at the last possible moment, or perhaps would be agreeing to repay vendors through smaller installment payments that include interest or small penalties. One inference that could be drawn from the “stretch payables” strategy would be that the company is not cash heavy and/or that cash flows are poor.

In a December 2nd email from Heather Gabaldon giving directions for the shutdown, employees were told,

Don’t let the rumor mill create false purposes for this shut down. Holiday shut downs in businesses are common and represent best of class employer actions. We are shutting down to better manage the inventory, cost and to help employees have time with their families. Any other story is a rumor and not helpful in our building open and effective communications.

Abound Solar holiday shutdown

On February 28, the company announced layoffs to 180 full-time workers, and 100 part-time employees, in a move that now even has industry analysts wondering aloud at the future of the company.

ABC News recently reported that just prior to the February announcement of the long-term layoffs:

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform asked Energy Secretary Steven Chu to explain how the solar panel manufacturer had qualified for the loan after the ratings firm Fitch had determined the company would make a “highly speculative” investment.

In September of 2010, was first to report the connections between Obama-bundler and Colorado ‘Gang-of-Four‘ member Pat Stryker, and Abound Solar. Continue reading.


Kaptur wins hard-fought Ohio primary against Kucinich

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

By Steve Miller

TOLEDO — U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur bid goodbye to political foe, Rep. Dennis Kucinich, before the votes were counted and her victory was sealed Tuesday night.

“I want to thank him for a spirited campaign,” Kaptur said to 100 supporters at a gathering here in a downtown union hall. “He wants to help our country, too, and I know that he will find a way to do that.”

In Cleveland, Kucinich did not admit defeat but quietly slipped out of what was supposed to be a victory party.

The Plain Dealer in Cleveland called it for Kaptur shortly after 11 p.m., and no one disagreed.

Unofficially, Kaptur had won four of the five counties in the district and 56 percent of the vote to Kucinich’s 40 percent. A third candidate, Graham Veysey, earned 4 percent of the vote.

It was the end of a hard-fought Democratic primary for the two incumbents, who were thrown together after redistricting allowed state Republicans to reconfigure Kaptur’s 9th Congressional District into a jagged mess last fall, welding the districts of Kaptur and Kucinich together in a 120-mile stretch of Lake Erie coastline from Toledo to Cleveland.

But she could only muster roughly 25 percent of the vote in Cuyahoga County, in which Cleveland sits and a place that Kucinich began his political career as a 22-year-old city councilman.

Kaptur extended a political glad hand to the county, though, despite the snub, promising to give her new constituents “the same representation we have given here,” referring to the Toledo area.

And Kaptur voiced her hopes that she will be considered for the open chair of the House Appropriations Committee, of which she has been a member since 1989.

“I could chair the appropriations committee,” Kaptur said, eliciting cheers from the more Beltway familiar in the audience. “I know that seniority has already gone to work for this community, and I don’t plan to quit.”

In Cleveland, Kucinich supporters at Rubin’s Family Restaurant on the city’s west side expected to hear a concession speech. Instead, the 65-year-old Kucinich concluded his campaign and his 16 years in Washington, D.C., with an unbridled attack on his opponent.

“I would like to be able to congratulate Congresswoman Kaptur, but I do have to say that she ran a campaign in the Cleveland media market that was utterly lacking in integrity, with false statements, half-truths and misrepresentations,” Kucinich said. “I hope that that is not the kind of representation that she would provide to the community.”

Kucinich earlier in the day bought 60-second spots on Cleveland’s premier radio station WTAM for a last-minute plea to turn out voters, telling them that the redistricting threatened to leave Cleveland without representation. He cited a number of accomplishments done on behalf of the city.

But he was fighting a hard fight from the start. The Cook Political Report found the new district included 47 percent of Kaptur’s old district and 39 percent of Kucinich’s.

The two had pronounced differences. Kaptur is a social centrist, against federal tax dollars for abortion while Kucinich supports the funding. Kaptur also backs the Keystone XL Pipeline, while Kucinich is a strident environmentalist who opposes it.

Kucinich and his national profile, formidable via his two quixotic presidential runs in 2004 and 2008, had a hard time playing to the smaller communities in the new district.

In some places, like the area just east of Toledo, he was somewhat persona non grata. Last year, he asked the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to shut down the Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station, a major employer in the area, because of safety concerns. At the time, the facility wasn’t in his district. Redistricting put it in. Continue reading.

Parents upset “chicken nuggets” teacher in Hoke County suspended over the incident

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

By Matt Willoughby | NC Civitas

HOKE COUNTY, NC — At least two families were sent letters from Hoke County Assistant Superintendent Bob Barnes informing them their children’s pre-K teacher was suspended while the infamous“chicken nuggets” incident is investigated. On January 30 some pre-K students at West Hoke Elementary School were told their homemade lunch didn’t meet national nutrition standards. They were then forced to accept school food to supplement their bagged lunch.

State and local officials denied any responsibility. Then the parents received the letter from Barnes dated February 28 telling them teacher’s assistant Emma Thomas would take over the class in place of the teacher Margaret Maynor.  While the parents complained about school officials inspecting their children’s lunches they didn’t point a finger at Ms. Maynor.

The Government Relations Director for the North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE), Brian Lewis, was asked if NCAE was doing anything for Ms. Maynor. His reply by email was: “… she’s not a member.  It looks like the NC taxpayer will be paying her legal bills.”


School choice makes national waves

Friday, January 20th, 2012

Not just an issue for conservatives anymore

By Eric Boehm | PA Independent
HARRISBURG — Americans like to choose.

Choosing success: School choice grows amid controversy in Wisconsin

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

By M.D. Kittle | Wisconsin Reporter

MADISON — The fire took everything.

A community inside a school brought it all back.


Educational choice in PA has expanded in past 20 years

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

By Eric Boehm | PA Independent

HARRISBURG — School choice is advancing in Pennsylvania, even as a public school voucher plan remains stuck in legislative limbo.