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Wednesday, 20 September 2006 00:00

Flood money decisions important for taxpayers

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The media coverage the last three weeks about goings-on inside the Haywood County School System involve very complicated spending matters. The controversy about flood rebuilding decisions, FEMA reimbursements and accusations about motives, however, come down to a very important matter for parents and taxpayers in Haywood County — are the school board and the administration making wise spending decisions?

This question, unfortunately, has almost become secondary due to the other issues surrounding this story. Much more attention has been paid to the investigation into the credit account that was set up at a local building supply company. Two separate criminal investigations discovered no wrongdoing, but former school system employees Ted Norman and John McCracken believe they were unjustly targeted by their former employers.

Because of laws protecting the privacy of public employees, it would take a court case for the public to discover everything that happened during the course of the investigation and its fallout. That’s not likely to happen, and an unfortunate byproduct of such a case would be that a dark pall would be cast over the entire school system. That’s too bad for the teachers, administrators and other staff who spend countless hours doing important work.

More important for Haywood County’s citizens, though, is to take the time to understand what happened, talk to school board members about these incidents, and try to make a personal determination about the abilities of those who have been given the important task of running the Haywood County School System. Were flood re-building decisions smart, especially those where poor bid specifications led to cost overruns? Did the school system strike a reasonable balance between the need to get the damage repaired quickly and making sound decisions about spending taxpayer money? Were the right people put in charge?

Right now it appears the school system will have to pay back more than $300,000 for flood reimbursement requests that the state has decided it won’t pay. More could be coming.

These are all reasonable questions for people with an interest in the Haywood School System to ask. Fiscal management is more important than ever. There is no more important locally funded entity than the public school system, especially since it seems that money is always tight and important programs often go under-funded.


Shuler’s Iraq position in step with reality

Rep. Charles Taylor and Democratic challenger Heath Shuler weighed in on the war in Iraq last week’s Smoky Mountain News, and the pair offer a stark contrast for voters in Western North Carolina.

Taylor, a Republican from Brevard who has been in office for eight terms, says, basically, play it again Sam. He’s a congressional conservative who believes the tide will turn in Iraq: “Fostering democracy is never easy, but in due time Iraq will be a beacon of hope for the Middle East. ”

Shuler says it’s time to set clear benchmarks and make some new decisions: “It’s is past time for Congress to begin demanding accountability from the Administration over the course of events in Iraq.”

The choice is clear: Taylor is a stay-the-course Republican supporting Bush, and Shuler is preaching measurable benchmarks, which means he’s looking for a reason to bring the troops home.

From our perspective, Shuler’s position is much more defensible. The current strategy may win us friends in a few Iraqi villages as we take out insurgents for the short term, but it’s not winning the war or defeating the enemy. We must begin to make concrete plans for a timed withdrawal.

The truth is that, despite the politics of the issue, we should have never become embroiled in Iraq. Since the decision to invade the problems have just increased. We have not made any headway in democratizing the Middle East. If this issue loses the election for many prominent Republicans who continue to support the Bush agenda, so be it.

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