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Chemours and DEQ: Do the right thing

02 markus spiske ZKNsVqbRSPE unsplashWhen circumstances merit, our publisher, Bill Bowman, yields this space so others can address topics that are important to the community. This week, he yields to Gray’s Creek resident Janice Burton to share the letter she sent to North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality Secretary Michael Regan.Burton is the former associate publisher of Up & Coming Weekly.

Secretary Regan:I am one of many citizens who live in the Gray’s Creek community and who are threatened by the chemical contamination by Chemours. I know that there are literally thousand of us who are nameless and faceless people whose stories you do not know and, from decisions made by your department, do not care about. 

But I care, so if you will indulge me, I would like to share them with you.

Cumberland County is known as a place of history, heroes and a hometown feeling. Gray’s Creek is the embodiment of that. For centuries, the founding families of this community have lived, worked and worshipped here. I back this up by mentioning the McNeill family that still has the land grant that the King of England issued to their family prior to the American Revolution. They, and people like the Riddles and the Canadys, have farmed their lands and provided fresh vegetables for their families and their neighbors. Now, they are afraid to farm their land, let alone feed their produce to their families or sell it to their neighbors. Chemours and you, by failure to act in a responsible manner, are killing that proud history and heritage.

Heroes. Over the past two decades, soldiers and their families have moved into the community seeking peace and quiet — far from the gates of Fort Bragg. That is my story and those of many other military families — my husband was deployed 13 years of my son’s 19 years of life. We moved to the area, found a church family filled with those families who settled this ground, and who took us in and made us family.

My husband found peace and friendship with the old men who gather to drink coffee at the corner store. They call it getting the news, but it’s a community and that’s what those heroes who moved here were looking for. These men who literally have fought for 20 years and came back alive now have an enemy they can’t fight, and they can’t protect home and hearth because you gave Chemours an out to do the least amount possible.

Every single house that has contamination should have a full home system put in — not a stopgap measure. Daily, new reports are coming out that are proving that the PFAS go through the skin — so giving us drinking water and sink systems isn’t helping. They (Chemours), and you by lack of responsible action, still have a loaded gun pointed at all of us.As the person who is supposed to protect our health, you are the one pulling the trigger. I have told you about our community and the stories of the people who live here. But you need to know these people, my family, deserve more than the minimum. The people of Cumberland County should not have to bear the burden of paying for water to be extended — and we shouldn’t have to wait for years and continue being poisoned.

Chemours’ pockets are deep and you have the ability to make them do the right thing — right now. Not after it is too late. You need to step up to the plate and take care of the people you are sworn to protect. Whole-house systems for every affected home or immediate expansion of water to everyone, paid for by Chemours, are the only two options that are acceptable.

I urge you to do the right thing for the people of this community — not for the deep pockets of Chemours.
Janice Burton
Gray’s Creek resident

 

Thanks to Chemours, local farmers who have worked the land for generations are afraid to farm their lands, much less feed their produce to their families and neighbors.

Car battery recharged twice

17 roadside survival Walt Brinker, 1966 West Point graduate, retired US Army infantry lieutenant colonel and Vietnam War veteran, retired civilian project manager, instructor at FTCC, and Eastover resident, has provided well over 2,000 free-of-charge roadside assists as a hobby. With experience from these assists he wrote a book, “Roadside Survival: Low-Tech Solutions to Automobile Breakdowns” for the everyday motorist. He also set up a website, roadsidesurvival.com, to help individuals, driver education teachers and law enforcement. This vignette captures one of his many assists, along with lessons:

Fifty miles west of Augusta, Georgia, returning home from Baton Rouge, where I spoke to Louisiana driver education teachers, I stopped for a 30-something-year-old woman and her two young daughters in a Chrysler Sebring sedan on the shoulder of eastbound Interstate-20. She told me her battery light had been on for 15 miles before the engine stopped running, adding that her alternator was bad, which caused her battery to run out of juice for the ignition system. She had been on the phone with a mechanic friend who provided her that assessment. She had called for a tow, which had not arrived. I offered to charge her battery with my alternator using jumper cables; then I would follow her until her battery’s juice ran out and it needed a new charge. I extended my cables from my battery, over my car, to her battery and engine compartment. After we had charged the battery for 15 minutes, with my engine running and hers off, and her engine could run without my cables, she was ready to roll. Then the tow truck showed up. Its driver told her he liked my plan. To avoid paying for a tow she no longer needed, she released him. The tow truck driver advised us that about 25 miles ahead there was a rest area where it would be safer to recharge her battery than on the highway shoulder. I followed her to the rest stop. Her battery light had not come on, but I gave her another 10 minutes of battery charge — to ensure she could make it to Augusta. I recommended that once there, she proceed directly to a store with auto mechanics. She agreed. Many thanks from her and we returned to I-20.

Your vehicle will often “tell” you when it’s about to fail and you need to get it checked out right away. In this case, the car’s battery light was telling the woman to get her car to a shop right away, but she kept driving and the car died on the interstate.

Walt’s Tips:

1. Using a set of jumper cables, as I did, one car’s alternator can charge another car’s battery. Long (20 feet), thick (at least 4-gauge; 2-gauge is better) cables make the job much easier. Of course, to do this, the cables must be in the car, not at home in the garage.

2. Depending on the condition of the vehicle’s battery, such a charge may permit up to 40 miles of driving in daylight, but during night time, use of headlights will reduce this range to about 7-8 miles.

Can you improve your relationship with money?

06 N1607P49008CIn your life, you will have all sorts of relationships — with your family, your friends, your coworkers and even with civic groups and charitable organizations you support. But have you ever considered another key relationship — the one you have with money?

Of course, this type of relationship has several aspects, such as saving, spending and investing. And your fellow Americans clearly face some challenges in these areas. For example, in a recent survey by financial services firm Edward Jones, only 21% of respondents reported that they feel happy when thinking about saving money, while 92% said they see room for improvement in their financial health. Yet only one in four plan to improve their spending habits. Furthermore, just 26% said retirement was a top savings priority.

If you share some of these concerns, what should you do? Here are a few suggestions:

• Identify your money-related emotions. Try to recognize the emotions you feel in connection with saving and investing. Do you get nervous about spending? Does putting away money for the future give you satisfaction or not? Do you worry that you don’t know how much you should be investing, or whether you’re investing in the right way? Clearly, these types of questions can cause some anxiety — and, even more importantly, they may lead you to make poor decisions. Emotions are obviously closely tied to money — but they really should not play a big role in your spending, saving and investing choices.

• Develop a financial strategy. By developing a sound financial strategy, you can reduce money-related stress and help yourself feel empowered as you look to the future. A comprehensive strategy can help you identify your goals — a down payment on a new home, college for your children, a comfortable retirement, and so on — and identify a path toward reaching them. Your financial strategy should incorporate a variety of factors, including your age, risk tolerance, income level, family situation and more. Here’s the key point: By creating a long-term strategy and sticking to it, you’ll be far less likely to overreact to events such as market downturns and less inclined to give in to impulses such as “spur of the moment” costly purchases. And without such a strategy, you will almost certainly have less chance of achieving your important goals.

• Get an “accountability partner.” Your relationship with money doesn’t have to be monogamous – you can get help from an “accountability partner.” Too many people keep their financial concerns and plans to themselves, not even sharing them with their partners or other family members. But by being open about your finances to your loved ones, you can not only avoid misplaced expectations but also enlist the help of someone who may be able to help keep you on track toward your short- and long-term goals. But you may also benefit from the help of a financial professional — someone with the perspective, experience and skills necessary to help you make the right moves.
Like all successful relationships, the one you have with money requires work. But you’ll find it’s worth the effort.

The art of motorcycle photography

Jims wreckresized"Jupiter's Travels: Four Years Around the World on a Triumph" is a novel by journalist Ted Simon. In 1973, he navigated the earth traveling over 64,000 miles and crossing 45 countries.

The story is fascinating and great reading for any motorcyclist or traveler. However, the book only had a few pictures. Simon spent four years traveling. Fast forward to 2013 when he published "Jupiter's Travels in Camera: The photographic record of Ted Simon's celebrated round-the-world motorcycle journey." I was lucky enough to get a copy and see the pictures that his book described.

Today, every motorcyclist is a traveling reporter. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are full of motorcyclists' stories. On any given day, we see motorcyclists with their bikes, friends, routes, locations, points of interest and their selfies. With the quality of smartphones, it only takes a second to snap a memory, and just like that, you are now your own journalist.

With many great motorcycle trips under my belt, I wanted to do more than capture my travels with my iPhone. During the Hogs and Rags annual rally, we hire a photographer to capture the day's events. I reached out to Kia McMillian, who has taken pictures at a few of our events, and I asked her what camera she was using because they turned out very nicely. She said she used a Canon D7 Mark II. In our conversation, Kia mentioned that it is more than a camera, but the photographer and the lens that make a good photo. After studying various reviews, I bought myself a Canon also.

After a year of shooting in auto, I knew I wanted to know more about photography. Being a fan of the Fayetteville Technical Community College Continuing Education program, I signed up for the Fundamentals of Photography class taught by Johnny Horne. On the first night of class, he shared many of his photos. I quickly appreciated his wisdom, experience and expertise. He emphasized the importance of knowing your camera and said that, in the digital age, a good picture is important, but we needed to learn how to use photography software to make the best picture we could.

Here are a few pointers I learned with my photography. A clean bike makes a better picture. Learn to frame your image and the "rule of thirds." Know what you want before you shoot. Instagram, Facebook and Twitter all have various optimal picture size. Check out what you want to do and plan to optimize the screen. If you are using your phone to take a video, remember to turn your phone sideways to take advantage of the screen.

Technology is changing so quickly that being able to safely keep your pictures over time seems to be an art unto itself. We think our photos will last forever on a drive or in the Cloud. I recommend that you print your valued pictures. Today's images are data. In the 80s, we saved our data on cassettes. Things change, so I recommend that you print your important pictures. For the last few years, I've started printing a yearbook on Shutterfly. This year, I went a step further and put a calendar together for a few friends to celebrate our travels. I hung it on my wall at work, it makes for an excellent conversation piece and a good reminder that there is life outside of the office.

Motorcycling is one of the most exciting things a person can ever experience. While you are traveling along the road, don't forget to stop and enjoy the moment and capture it.

If there is a topic that you would like to discuss, you can contact me at motorcycle4fun@aol.com. Ride safe!

Photo by Jim Jones 

State’s economy flourished in 2019

05 N1906P49009CI gather from my social-media feeds and hate mail that North Carolinians are supposed to be infuriated at the way things are going in our state. I have my frustrations with certain politicians, to be sure, but I’m not infuriated. Nor am I alone.

 North Carolina continues to boast a thriving economy, prudently managed finances and many popular places to move to for jobs, incomes and quality of life. The growth isn’t equally distributed, of course. It never has been. But compared to its peers, North Carolina is doing rather well.

 Consider the latest job-market data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. North Carolina employers added about 94,000 net new jobs in 2019, up 2.1% from the previous year. That growth rate exceeds that national (1.4%) and Southeastern (1.6%) averages. Indeed, our state had the ninth-fastest rate of job creation in the nation last year.
 Comparisons like these can vary over time. Did 2019 just happen to be a good year? If we look at a longer-term trend, the outcome is still positive. Since 2013, North Carolina employers have added about 500,000 net new jobs, a 12.2% increase in overall employment. That rate exceeds the nation’s (10.9%) and the region’s (11.7%).
 Our region, the Southeast, includes lots of other fast-growing states — most of which are also governed by fiscally conservative legislatures, by the way. Nevertheless, if North Carolina had simply added employment at the average regional rate since 2013, we would have ended up with 18,000 fewer jobs by the end of 2019.

If we had only matched the national rate, the job count would be 52,000 lower.

 We mainly desire a strong economy because of the benefits it confers on private individuals and households. But if you want your government to deliver necessary public services at an economical price while saving against a rainy day and otherwise leaving you alone, a flourishing economy is highly preferred to a floundering one.

 According to the latest figures from the state controller’s office, revenues to the state’s general fund for the first six months of the 2019-20 fiscal year are up $471 million over the same period of the previous year. General fund spending is up, too, by $317 million. The lack of a final budget agreement between Gov. Roy Cooper and the General Assembly doesn’t mean expenditure levels were entirely frozen.

 On a cash basis, the general fund budget has run a $542 million surplus halfway through the fiscal year. Keep in mind that revenues and expenditures don’t distribute evenly across all 12 months, however. The April revenue numbers, reflecting prior-year tax payments, tend to have an outsized effect on state finances, for example.

Still, it would be fair to say that North Carolina’s financial picture was solid as we began 2020. The state has $1.2 billion in its rainy-day reserve plus hundreds of millions in various other reserve accounts. It also has a whopping $2.15 billion unreserved credit balance in the general fund.

If there is a budget deal, that balance will fall — and that will be fine. The budget passed by the legislature contained valuable construction projects and welcome pay raises for public employees. The point is that, failing some unforeseen disaster, North Carolina will have sufficient revenues to address the state’s immediate needs while continuing to accumulate reserves to shield taxpayers against the downside risk of a future recession.

Conservatives may see these figures and conclude some additional tax relief would be a good idea. Progressives may see these figures and conclude there would be no financial risk if North Carolina expanded Medicaid and other entitlement programs.

I agree with the former and disagree with the latter, no doubt shocking no one. However you think state policymakers should respond to the current moment, I think you should take seriously the idea that North Carolinians who reject apocalyptic rhetoric from both parties are being quite sensible. They can see things are good and getting better.
 

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