SCOTUS Forces a Change in the Pre-Clearance Formula

Checks and balances do work and today is an example of why we need the Supreme Court of the United States to check the federal government, either the Executive Branch or the Legislative Branch. Today, the voters of Kinston have won…at least temporarily. In 2008, voters in Kinston decided 2-1 that we should have nonpartisan elections. However, we are one of many jurisdictions under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act that requires pre-clearance by the federal government of any voting changes.

One bureaucrat in DC disagreed with the voters of Kinston and did not allow the changes, citing Section 5. This led to a lawsuit against Eric Holder, led by City of Kinston resident John Nix and others. Once this lawsuit gained enough traction the USDOJ reversed their decision, which allowed for nonpartisan elections to begin in 2013. Ultimately, SCOTUS decided to hear a Shelby County, Alabama case instead of Nix v. Holder.

Based on the SCOTUS decision today, it appears that Congress needs to change the formula, which would include the decision as to whether the City of Kinston requires pre-clearance in the future. Until Congress changes the formula, it appears that the voters of Kinston not only have nonpartisan elections, but also do not need to request permission by the federal government to make any voting changes.

To see a history on my blog of this issue, please click here. 

Mayor Murphy Not to Seek Re-election

For Immediate Release

February 5, 2013

Mayor Murphy Not to Seek Re-election

Kinston Mayor BJ Murphy, 32, the youngest mayor in Kinston’s history, has decided not to seek re-election this year although he will keep the Committee to Elect BJ Murphy open.

During his three years as mayor, BJ Murphy has been a strong advocate for non-partisan elections, actively pursued regional partnerships for economic development, led efforts to challenge the status quo in the public power business, supported increased street resurfacing funding, vocalized support for pro-active community policing, and encouraged ongoing demolition and community re-development efforts.

In 2011, Mayor Murphy was named the Young Professional of the Year by the Lenoir County Young Professionals. In 2012, he was named an EA Morris Fellow, which accepts only 15 Fellows each year across the state.

Mayor Murphy helped organize the Eastern NC Mayors Association to collaborate and seek outside consultation on our city-owned utilities’ debts. He has continued to advocate that the Electricities members sell its generation assets in the power plants to help reduce our outstanding debt. He currently is partnering with the mayors of Greenville and Ayden to pursue the “Quad Cities” concept, an interstate loop in eastern NC.

Mayor Murphy has consistently engaged the citizens of Kinston and Lenoir County through his use of social media technology and town halls. During Hurricane Irene many residents learned of the damage and recovery efforts through Twitter, Facebook and YouTube posts and interactions. Each month Mayor Murphy has produced an e-newsletter through BJMurphy.org that now circulates among 600 subscribers.

During the heightened crime of 2011, Mayor Murphy led a community town hall on crime and gang violence, and continued those town halls within the Mitchelltown community. In late 2011, Murphy also hosted Graham Edwards, CEO of Electricities, and other city representatives for a town hall on electric issues. Each of these town halls ensured that residents were more informed on the issues, but also that the elected officials and professional staff were more in tune with the concerns of residents.

Mayor Murphy has also engaged the leadership of the North Carolina General Assembly. In June 2012, he helped stop a threatening local bill that would’ve raised Kinston utility rates by $1,000,000 as of July 1, 2012. Most recently, Mayor Murphy hosted the Speaker of the House Thom Tillis at a social event in Kinston. Representative John Bell and Senator Louis Pate were among the dignitaries.

Mayor Murphy cites his reasons for not running as a re-dedication to his family and business, “My family has sacrificed time with me so that I could give back to my hometown. We have simply decided that although I have a calling to serve, my family and business career need me more right now.”

Mayor Murphy noted that working with our youth has been the most fulfilling role as mayor, “Speaking to our elementary, middle and high school kids has been a highlight during my tenure as mayor. Also, participating in the recognition of our community’s Eagle Scouts has been an incredible honor. Kinston and Lenoir County have a bright future as long as its parents and civic leaders continue to pour love and good morals in our youth.”

 

Pictured from l to r: Jessica, Kathryn (1), Gracyn (4) & BJ Murphy

###

Speech/Welcome at Salute! Veterans Day Parade

11/10/2012 Salute! Veterans Day Parade

Good morning and welcome to downtown Kinston.  Happy birthday United States Marine Corps.

I’d like to recognize Mayor Pro Tem Joseph Tyson, who was helping the ROTC today.  We also have County Commissioners Reuben Davis and Eric Rouse with us.

On behalf of our community, I’d like to say thank you to our Salute! committee. On behalf of the citizens of this great nation, I’d like to thank all of our veterans here today and those who could not be with us.

I am a veteran’s son, but not a veteran myself. It’s because of my father and the men and women here today that I got a choice: 1) get a job, 2) join the service, or 3) go to school.

I chose school and now serve my community through elected office.

Make no mistake, your sacrifices allow this country to defend our Constitution, to ensure we maintain the freedom of speech, press and religion, and the right to bear arms.

We have some World War II veterans with us today.  One of them, my friend Guy Skinner, recently told me this:

Watch your thoughts. Watch your thoughts, they become your words. Watch your words, they become your actions. Watch your actions, they become your habits. Watch your habits, they become your character. Watch your character because it will become your destiny.

His remarks after 94 years have made an impression on me. To all of our veterans – thank you.

Our community loves you.  This community embraces you.

And to those who didn’t receive this – Welcome Home.

Shaping Generations: From Civil Rights To 9/11

Yesterday we were all reminded of the events of 9/11.  My children who are 4 years old and 7 months old weren’t alive to witness the horrors of that day.  However, we all can agree that the world they are growing up in is shaped and defined by the events of that day and how our nation responded.

My generation was scarred by the events of 9/11.  My children will hear the stories and see the pictures but won’t have lived the horrors.

Two decades after integration I started kindergarten.  Forty seven years after seniors at Kinston’s Adkin High School walked out to protest unfair administration policies, my classmates and I graduated from Kinston High School.  The public school system we grew up in was significantly different from my father’s generation.  My generation grew up playing with white friends and black friends, and we learned side by side in the same classroom with the same teacher using the same materials.

We did all of this, however, because of the policies and sometimes tragedies that shaped the civil rights era.

Recently, I spoke at the Tabernacle on Dr. J E Reddick Circle.  The service was a gathering of Adkin High School alumni.  Many of the men and women at that service helped raise me in the public school system and others watched me grow up in this community.

I spoke of the world my daughters are growing up in as compared to my generation and my father’s generation.  Each generation has its own challenges, its own battles and its own issues.  How we choose to communicate and work together to acknowledge and overcome our problems helps define each generation.

Likewise we must also acknowledge that each generation will bring a different perspective to the table.  Each generation is different and each individual within each generation will bring a different perspective based on their upbringing.  No party label or generation’s title or government classification can exclusively communicate the positions or perspectives of an individual on all subject matters.  Sometimes classifications impede constructive dialogue because they mask the true heart of the individuals who desire to be heard.  We are all unique and can help add to the discussions surrounding life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

My desire is that as each generation helps mold and raise the next, that we remember the stories of past generations, learn from them and focus on the positives which have helped bring our nation and community together for more than two centuries.  We must remember that we are all God’s children.  And, no matter the difficulty of the situation, sensitivity of the subject matter, or the outcomes God is always in control.

KFP: Perdue announces will not run for second term as governor

1/27/2012
by David Anderson

Local residents, learning of Gov. Bev Perdue’s decision Thursday to not seek a second term, bemoaned the loss of a governor they considered a champion of Kinston and Eastern North Carolina.

“I just hope that the next governor of North Carolina will be as equally concerned and fair for Eastern North Carolina, because that’s extremely important for us,” said downtown businessman John Marston.

Marston and his wife Lucy, who serves as Lenoir County’s tourism director, have known Perdue for many years.

“Lucy and I both consider Bev a very good friend, and a very fair and concerned individual in all aspects of government for North Carolina,” Marston said.

Perdue announced Thursday she would not seek a second term because of what she called “highly partisan times.”

The governor said in a statement released by her office that “it is clear to me that my race for re-election will only further politicize the fight to adequately fund our schools. A re-election campaign in this already decisive environment will make it more difficult to find any bipartisan solutions.”

The New Bern resident has ties to Kinston and Lenoir County stretching back nearly 30 years when she ran for the N.C. House in the mid-1980s.

Former Mayor O.A. “Buddy” Ritch Jr., his late wife MaryMac and Mansfield Creech, who was on the Kinston City Council at the time, took Perdue around town when she made her first run for the House.

“We helped her with just everything we could, because we had heard so much about her caring for the people in Eastern North Carolina, so we introduced her around and our friendship started from there,” Ritch recalled.

Ritch said Perdue was always accessible to folks in the region, “and she would return your telephone calls; there was no trouble getting to her.”

While Marston and Ritch praised Perdue for focusing on Eastern North Carolina a great deal more than previous governors, the Democratic chief executive has clashed with the Republicans in the legislature on taxes, budgeting, voter ID and many other policies.

Those clashes have filtered down to the local level, as well.

“I think her announcement today is probably one of the best things that’s happened to North Carolina in the last four years,” said Kinston’s Republican mayor, B.J. Murphy. “We still need jobs, we still need roads fixed, we just plain need leadership in North Carolina, and I think she saw the writing on the wall.”

Lenoir County Commissioner J. Mac Daughety, also a Republican, praised Perdue for her attention to the eastern part of the state, though.

“Although I disagree with them on a lot of issues philosophically, her administration, particularly the transportation folks and the economic development folks, have been very helpful, very supportive of us in Eastern North Carolina and we hope that whoever is the next governor, they will be as helpful in helping us get the transportation infrastructure and the economic development support that we need,” Daughety said.

A number of names swirled about Thursday as possible Democratic candidates.

Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton announced he planned to run.

“I believe that our future economy and better jobs depend on our historic commitment to education,” Dalton stated in a press release emailed to reporters late in the afternoon. “After all, education is in North Carolina’s DNA — it’s what sets us apart and it’s what will determine our future.”

 

David Anderson can be reached at 252-559-1077 or danderson@freedomenc.com. Follow him on Twitter at DavidFreePress.

 

The Viking Press: Mayor congratulates football team on ‘historic’ season

http://www.thevikingpress.com/?p=1889

Dear Viking Family,

On behalf of the entire community, I’d like to congratulate the Kinston High School Varsity Football team for their historic and successful season.  Your family, coaches, classmates, faculty, staff and community are very proud of your accomplishments.

A few years ago I had the honor of suiting up for this same team.  We were full of talent and made it to the playoffs where we lost to Winston-Salem Carver.  But, the one thing that stands out to me from my three years playing is something a coach said to me.  Coach Craig Hill said, “Most of you will only suit up about 40 times to play this game in high school.  Since you know there may be a limit, leave everything you’ve got out on the field.”

Whether you’re a band member, soccer player, softball player, student body president, mayor or whatever position you hold, just know that most likely you will eventually move on to something else.  Why not give it your best?

Your experiences on the field and court help build your character for your future off the field and court.  How you prepare for each game or test will have a direct impact on your performance.  President Lincoln once said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”

Take time to study successful athletes, business owners, and more.  Find out what makes them successful.  Sharpen your axe to increase your chances of success when it’s your turn to go out on the field, take the college entry exams or prepare for your next step in life.

And, never hesitate to pass along your knowledge to the kids who look up to you.  Invest yourself in the next generation and you’ll find it to be just as rewarding for you as it is for them.  That’s why I support you.  That’s why our community loves you.  Wishing all of you much success!  Go Vikings!

BJ Murphy
Mayor, City of Kinston
Valhalla, KHS Class of 1998
www.BJMurphy.org
@BJMurphyKinston

Will Barker: The issues behind Kinston’s electric rates

Will Barker is the current Mayor Pro Tem on the Kinston City Council and sits on the board of directors of NCEMPA.  Will’s term with the Kinston City Council expires in December 2011.

Kinston Free Press

Guest Columnist

Electric rates have been a long-standing concern for City of Kinston utility customers. While everyone knows our rates are higher than Progress Energy customers (approximately 30 percent), few residents understand the issues behind our high electric rates. Since joining the Kinston City Council in 2007, I’ve had the opportunity to learn more about the fundamental issues impacting our electric rates.

While our current focus is trying to achieve rate parity with Progress Energy — or at least a significant rate reduction for City of Kinston electrical customers — there is a need for discussing why we are in our current position.

The city used to purchase its power from CP&L, the predecessor to Progress Energy.  Currently, the city purchases its power from the N.C. Eastern Municipal Power Agency (NCEMPA).

The City of Kinston, along with 31 other municipalities, is a member of NCEMPA, which was formed as a result of power supply concerns in the 1970s. NCEMPA shares ownership of five power generation sites with Progress Energy. The two most notable sites are the Shearon Harris and Brunswick nuclear facilities.

The City of Kinston has an 8.7 percent ownership of NCEMPA and is required through a power purchasing agreement to purchase its power from NCEMPA. Because of this arrangement, it is important to note, the City of Kinston does not own the debt — NCEMPA does. Furthermore, the City of Kinston is bound by the power purchasing agreement to buy its electricity from NCEMPA. There are options for a member municipality to leave NCEMPA and purchase its supplemental power on the open wholesale market but there are many other things to consider that have a significant effect on the total cost.

The debt that has been attributed to the high cost of municipal electric rates is largely a result of construction costs incurred in building the Shearon Harris nuclear facility. The current debt owed by NCEMPA is $2.255 billion and approximately 70 percent of that debt is associated to Shearon Harris. As a result, approximately 30 percent of each customer’s electric bill goes directly toward paying down our ownership share of the NCEMPA debt.

An item that is often overlooked in the discussions about the NCEMPA debt is that it is from the issuance of revenue bonds and not simply borrowings from a financial institution. Because NCEMPA is a governmental agency formed under N.C. General Statutes, the processes of issuing debt and early pay-off of debt are much more different than that of a private entity. As of December 31, 2010 there were 47 different bond issuances outstanding bearing interest rates from 3 percent up to 7 percent.

In order for the municipalities to achieve rate parity with Progress Energy, the debt must be removed from NCEMPA. There doesn’t appear to be a silver bullet that allows us to easily shed that debt before the scheduled payoff in 2026. Many people hoped the pending merger between Duke and Progress Energy would provide an opportunity to eliminate or reduce our debt, and we carefully explored that possibility.

Kinston and five other municipalities even hired an independent attorney and a consultant to advise us beyond the advice we were getting from NCEMPA and ElectriCities staff. We were informed by the independent attorney and consultant that neither debt relief nor rate parity, as a result of merger issues, was possible. All parties stated that relief resulting from market power issues, joint dispatching of our generation facilities and protection from merger related issues should be sought.

One of the primary limiting factors for debt relief relates to a lawsuit and subsequent settlement between NCEMPA and CP&L. Based on this settlement, NCEMPA does not have the opportunity to re-open the issues surrounding the Shearon Harris nuclear facility cost of construction and subsequently, the debt.

We have also researched whether NCEMPA should sell its generation assets or have Progress Energy be forced to take the existing debt in exchange for the generation assets. Progress Energy has clearly stated it is not interested in purchasing the generation assets at this time, and currently no one can force them to assume our debt and assets as a condition of its merger with Duke Energy.

Also, because each municipality owns its own electric distribution assets, no municipality can be forced to divest of its own distribution system. Simply put, if there were a willing buyer of the electric generation assets, the 32 NCEMPA member municipalities would have to agree to sell and any subsequent decision of what to do with each municipality’s electric distribution system would be subject to vote by the elected officials of each municipality.

But here is what we have done:

  • ElectriCities has negotiated an agreement with Duke and Progress Energy that protects Kinston customers from merger-related costs while allowing us to benefit from savings achieved as a result of the merger. That should provide some meaningful, but not extraordinary, savings.
  • NCEMPA has repeatedly taken advantage of opportunities to restructure our debt and lower our interest rate. Last year, for example, NCEMPA completed a refinancing that will save $35 million over the next 12 years.
  • NCEMPA continually looks for opportunities to renegotiate power supply agreements to achieve savings. For example, we recently signed a new long-term agreement with Progress Energy for supplemental power (the energy we need over and above the amount we own) that will provide long-term, competitively priced power for Kinston and other NCEMPA members.
  • NCEMPA employs “load management” practices that save Kinston and other cities $40 million a year by minimizing the need to purchase power at peak prices.
  • NCEMPA and Kinston work together to promote energy efficiency and educate customers about how to lower their energy usage. The Free Press recently profiled a local family who reduced its energy bill by more than $500 in four months since receiving a home energy audit and making recommended home repairs.

The N.C. General Assembly has appointed a special committee to look into ways to provide relief from high electric rates in cities like Kinston. When that committee began its work in October, it started by examining the history behind the creation of the power agency and what led to the challenges we face today. There will be another meeting on January 10, 2012 at the Legislative Office Building in Raleigh.

Many residents are worried that high electric rates will impact our ability to successfully recruit and retain businesses. Our experience has shown that while energy costs are an important factor for businesses, factors such as tax rates, quality of the labor force, and infrastructure needs rank just as high.

Recent economic development successes — including the expansion of Smithfield Foods, West Pharmaceuticals and Dapaco — demonstrate that Kinston has a lot to offer prospective employers.

 

Will Barker is a Kinston City Councilman and sits on the board of directors of NCEMPA. The opinions of the guest columnist are not necessarily those of The Free Press.

 

Breakout box:

The Free Press guest columnist feature appears every Wednesday in this space. Would you like to be considered as a guest columnist? Contact Managing Editor Bryan Hanks at (252) 559-1074 or at bhanks@freedomenc.com.

Op-ed: A passionate argument for the mayoral veto

by BJ Murphy
Mayor, City of Kinston

There is a fundamental question before the Kinston voters this Tuesday — do you want your mayor to be a ceremonial figurehead who cuts ribbons or do you want your mayor, the chief elected official, to have a formal say in our local democratic system?

Remove the personalities, stereotypes and false claims out of the equation and you will find the innocence of the checks and balances argument. The framers of the Constitution argued for checks and balances to stop, or at least slow down, the steamrolling of the majority’s stranglehold on the branches of government to protect the minority and its value to our free society.

The mayor of Kinston is not elected by the city council, but by the people, and therefore the mayor does act, or should act, as a separate institution of our government similar to the president and governor. We should elect these government CEOs with the full confidence that with the oath of office comes a huge responsibility to govern judiciously for both the majority and minority.

And yes, the mayor does have the responsibility of consensus-building among the community and council. But what is consensus building when there is no power to act?

The intent of the mayoral veto is to allow our community, not just the council, to pause and reflect on the consequences of their actions. Sometimes you the citizen, voter and taxpayer are the minority when quick rubber-stamping occurs at City Hall. And without some mechanism in place like the mayoral veto, the status quo will continue.

Several questions have been floated by some with clear indication to confuse people. Summing up answers to those objections boils down to about four answers: the legislation to change the city charter was approved by the N.C. General Assembly to be voted on by the citizens of Kinston, the mayor pro tem has all the powers and duties the mayor has in his absence, the council can override any veto with a four-fifths majority, and the mayor abides by the same code of ethics approved by the council.

Anyone can count on one hand the number of absent council members in the past few years. We continue to be blessed by elected members who take their duties seriously, if nothing else than by simply showing up.

Other frequently asked questions about this issue have been answered via YouTube by visiting www.BJMurphy.org, search video.

I certainly will ask you to vote for the mayoral veto referendum to bring checks and balances to the City of Kinston. But, regardless of Tuesday’s outcome of the mayoral veto referendum, you will not see any difference in the passion for Kinston, respect for constructive disagreements, and hope for a greater Kinston from this mayor or any future mayor.

And that is a small example of what makes our democratic society the greatest nation in the world.

 

B.J. Murphy is the mayor of Kinston. You can reach him at bj@bjmurphy.org. The opinions of the guest columnist are not necessarily those of The Free Press.

 

Breakout:

The Free Press guest columnist feature appears every Wednesday in this space. Would you like to be considered as a guest columnist? Contact Managing Editor Bryan Hanks at (252) 559-1074 or at bhanks@freedomenc.com.

Op-Editorial:The missing link in job creation

by Mayor BJ Murphy

Kinston has been victim to several cowardly crimes this year that provoked our Department of Public Safety to implement a “zero tolerance” policy. Our pro-active community policing efforts have increased and with the support of generous donors, The Free Press and confidential informants, several outlaws have been apprehended. 

A former classmate approached me earlier this year and said the city needs to “nip the problem in the bud” — to which I respectfully replied that nipping in the bud starts at home, not with the government. The government has an obligation to serve and protect, but also to develop a positive business environment in which to create jobs. Generally speaking, more jobs equal less unemployment, which can lead to a reduction in crime. And creating jobs is a top priority.

The City of Kinston supports job creation in a number of ways: through economic partnerships, access to water and sewer, and competitive industrial rates. On a macro scale, we encourage the efforts of the NC Department of Commerce, alongside the Lenoir County Economic Development Department, as it relates to their recruitment of jobs to our area. 

On a micro scale, city tax payers financially support the efforts of Pride of Kinston to decrease vacant buildings and increase economic activity in downtown. We are members of the Chamber of Commerce and celebrate every new member with them. However, there seems to be a missing link.

There is no entity or person actively responsible for recruiting and retaining small businesses who locate outside of downtown. Pride of Kinston focuses on downtown, the Chamber serves its members and Economic Development focuses on large, manufacturing-oriented businesses. 

As we welcome our new city manager and vote on new council members next month, we must be ever mindful of the need to fill this gap. If job creation is truly a top priority, then we should also identify policies that we could relax or modify to reduce burdens for construction projects and start-up businesses. We must be willing to do a gut check of any burdensome regulations so our community can help develop solutions, while our council oversees a manager who will implement them.

Next year, the City of Kinston will celebrate 250 years.  Let’s make sure job creation, not crime, remains the top headline throughout the year. Our young people deserve for our elected, civic, educational and spiritual leaders to work toward this common goal. 

Here’s to our success!

 

Mayor B.J. Murphy is on Twitter @BJMurphyKinston and has a website at www.BJMurphy.org. The opinions of the guest columnist are not necessarily those of The Free Press.

 

Breakout box:

The Free Press guest columnist feature appears every Wednesday in this space. Would you like to be considered as a guest columnist? Contact Managing Editor Bryan Hanks at (252) 559-1074 or at bhanks@freedomenc.com.

 

Remarks at Ceremony for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial – Wall That Heals

 

 

 

Vietnam Veteran Eric Cantu during the ceremony.

 

 

Good morning and welcome to the Wall that Heals. 

Our community is grateful to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund for working with our local organizer and veteran Eric Cantu to bring this half-scale replica to this tranquil park.

For more than 10 years, I have gone to Washington DC during Memorial Day weekend to spend time with veterans and active members of our armed forces.  But I’ve also gone to pay my respects to the brave men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice, to lay down their life for a friend, for our nation and for freedom.

The first job I had out of college was given to me by a Vietnam Veteran and Green Beret Ted Sampley.  Ted, although a lightning rod for many issues, never wavered in his commitment to bring our missing POWs and MIAs home from Vietnam.

His commitment and passion for this cause paved the way for men like Eric Cantu, who struggled with his decision to visit the Wall. 

Before Ted passed, Eric promised him that he would indeed visit the Memorial in Washington DC.

I was with him that day and saw his transformation as he seemed released from the bondage of a soldier’s dreary heart.

So it is fitting that he was the one to bring this same Healing Wall to Kinston.  Because a soldier’s call to duty is to serve.  And that’s what this Wall is all about.

Another person who understands what it means to serve is the Honorable Paul Jones.  Judge Jones is a retired Colonel in the US Army Reserves.  He served as Staff Judge Advocate with the 108th Division IT in Charlotte, NC.

Colonel Jones is a native of Kinston and is a testimony to how hard work, determination and commitment to the Lord can bring to you a life of success.

Judge Jones was awarded the Army Commendational Medal, Meritorious Service Medal and the Legion of Merit.  He now serves us a Senior Resident Superior Court Judge in our area and resides in Kinston with his wife Edwina Link Jones.

Please welcome the Honorable Paul Jones.

Free Press article published on 9/16