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Opinions for week ending: Sunday, February 15 2009

(2.10.09) Electing sheriffs leaves too much to chance
A municipality would never think of electing a chief of police. But in North Carolina, sheriffs are elected like a high school popularity contest. When I tell people there are no qualifications required to run for sheriff, they are amazed. Anyone can be elected sheriff without ever having completed first grade ó although itís not likely. A sheriff does not have to complete basic law enforcement training or have any law enforcement experience. This issue has surfaced again with the incident involving Swain County Sheriff Curtis Cochran.

(2.10.09) Slow down, changes ahead
And so, the battle begins in earnest. On one side, the city of Wilmington, looking to expand to the area near Monkey Junction, which already looks as though it's part of the city. On the other, residents and business owners who fear all they'll get out of the deal is higher taxes. Meanwhile, legislators representing New Hanover County have filed bills to delay the annexation for a year, presumably to give the Honorables time to consider a host of proposed changes to the state's annexation laws. Given the prospect that the annexation laws will change, not to mention the state of the economy, waiting makes sense.

(2.10.09) Rural areas need stimulus, too
A friend of mine predicted recently that rural North Carolina would emerge from this recession relatively unscathed. After all, the recession that began in 2001 wiped out 117,000 manufacturing jobs, 39,000 in textiles alone. What, he asked, did rural communities have left to lose?
As it turns out, quite a lot. Consider that: More than 75 percent of manufacturing jobs lost last year were in the state's 85 rural counties. That translates into 12,700 rural jobs in just one sector. (Data compare the second quarter 2007 to 2008.) During that period, rural counties suffered a net loss of private sector jobs. The only job growth was in the public sector.

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