Archive for July, 2009

Two thirds

That’s approximately how many of Delaware’s public schools met the requirements for Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), according to the Department of Education today.

More about the topic soon, but in the meantime: this is absolutely unacceptable for our state. When one-third of schools cannot meet the requirements to be considered adequate (only 83 of 195, about 43%, received a Superior rating), and that’s where Delaware’s children are receiving their seminal educations, something gravely serious has gone wrong. While it’s great that some schools are performing well, the mediocrity plaguing the public school system that this release highlights is unacceptable. It’s hard to sometimes connect when all you see is numbers in a report, but the numbers of failing schools in Delaware will literally determine the futures of thousands of children. For those thousands, two-thirds doesn’t seem enough.

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He made a commitment and he followed through. In May, Governor Markell announced that the State of Delaware’s checkbook – payments to vendors – would be posted online by the end of July. The checkbook can be viewed at checkbook.delaware.gov. I am glad to see that Governor Markell and his team have delivered on the commitment they made to open government. This site is a very positive step in the right direction. The release of the state’s version of the online checkbook comes nearly a month after the release of CRI’s DelawareSpends.com which is a searchable database of not just state spending but county spending as well. Additionally, CRI’s site includes payroll data for the state, school districts and county government. With increasing options to review and track state spending, Delawareans will become better informed about state spending practices.

In all, today marks another very positive step forward in increasing transparency in Delaware.

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Yesterday, July 30th, marked the somewhat arbitrary (not really the end of the month) self-imposed deadline for Gov. Markell to post the state’s checkbook in a searchable format online, as promised in May.

As of this posting, on the 31st, there is nothing on Delaware’s website hinting that the database as been launched, or really any mention of it at all.

Of course, missing the deadline by a day or so isn’t a terribly big deal — no one seems to have really noticed, at any rate — so the checkbook could welcomely launch within the next few hours without much fuss. The official state posting of the checkbook would be a strong symbolic gesture that, if nothing else, the state is seeking to seriously follow-through with promises for increased transparency.

UPDATE: As Garrett notes, the checkbook is now online. I confess that it could have been posted by its deadline yesterday, since even after it is decidedly online, there is no mention of its launch, even on the governor’s own webpage. The only way I was able to find any link is to search the state’s webpage for the word “checkbook.”

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Sounds like a clunker to me. Apparently, the “cash for clunkers” program is still on – either through today or maybe even beyond. By all accounts the program has been a great success as folks are lining up to trade in their cars for more efficient, newer vehicles.

The program was going to be halted because the one billion dollars allocated for it was running out. Now, it is not going to be stopped.

So does the government have any idea how much is left for the program? Maybe, maybe not. This is not the first time this program has had issues. The site where dealers signed up to participate crashed when too many dealers wanted in on the program.

At the end of the day, we have a good program that is doing well, being botched by the government. I shouldn’t be surprised. Don’t worry, by the time the feds take over health care, they’ll work out the kinks and they won’t stop the program mid-surgery on anyone.

We’ll see how long the program keeps going – whether its just through today, the weekend or even longer…

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Stay active

Tonight’s the night where the highly-publicized candidates for the 19th-Senatorial District will hold a debate in Georgetown, DE. With little time left until the election, which is scheduled for this Monday, August 3rd, the debate marks the last substantial chance for Delawareans to hear the candidates’ positions and views.

Sussex county plans to broadcast the debate, starting at 7 PM, on their website, http://sussexcountyde.gov/ There is not yet a direct link (at least not one I can find) to the specific page for the debate, but presumably it will take a prominent position on their homepage.

Regardless of personal views, make sure to have a solid information base before casting your vote. As the recent budget battle indicates, elected officials will continue having a very large impact on the lives of Delawareans in the forthcoming years: it’s not just a civic duty, it’s your own interest that’s at stake.

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The Center for Fiscal Accountability has spotlighted DelawareSpends in their weekly communication.

From their weekly email:

Last week, CFA was represented at the annual American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) conference. We had a great panel discussion on state spending transparency efforts and worked successfully with several of our friends to pass school district spending transparency legislation in the tax and fiscal policy and the education task forces.  While the model bill still needs to be approved by the ALEC board, there should soon be an official model bill.

While state legislative sessions have been winding down, localities have increasingly been stepping up to the plate and have enacted spending transparency. While South Carolina continues to add to the list of local government entities that post their check registers, recent success stories also come from Colorado and North Carolina.  We’re featuring Wake County’s transparency portal on our website this week, so take a look.  Wake County’s CIO has told us they did not appropriate a single extra dollar to create the site.

State think tanks have also created great new transparency resources for taxpayers, such as DelawareSpends.com by the Cesar Rodney Institute.

CFA also provides a great run down of transparency initiatives, which you can view here. In addition to highlighting CRI’s efforts, CFA is tracking Governor Markell’s progress in putting his open government site online.

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Delaware is at risk of forever losing its voice in presidential elections.

On June 24th of this year, the Delaware House of Representatives passed House Bill 198 – a bill that essentially reduces Delaware’s minimal voice in national elections to a mere echo of the voice envisioned by our Founding Fathers.

Twenty-three legislators voted to join an interstate compact to subvert Delaware’s influence in the Electoral College, forcing Delaware to cast its vote for whichever presidential candidate might win the overall popular vote, nationwide. Delaware has but three electoral votes among a total of 538, a miniscule one half of one percent of all of the electoral votes. Under this compact, Delaware’s voice is further reduced to a fraction more than one quarter of one percent.

HB 198 is a fundamentally flawed and constitutionally suspect piece of legislation. If our Senate acts to pass HB 198 and this well-intentioned but-conceived measure actually goes into effect with its counterparts in other states, it will serve as the cornerstone for the destruction of the checks and balances our Founders wove into the fabric of the Republic; and ultimately become the loose thread that could unravel the fabric of Republic once and for all.

You may remember the Mel Gibson line from the movie The Patriot where Gibson’s character asks the rhetorical question (and we paraphrase) “Why trade the tyranny of one tyrant 3,000 miles away for that of 3,000 tyrants one mile away?” The Founding Fathers understood the danger of a “tyranny of the majority.” To avoid such “tyrannies,” the Founders  created the Electoral College to balance the interests of the cities against those of the rural areas of America; the interests of the small states against those of the large states, and those of the agrarian South against those of the growing industrial north.

If this compact were to come to fruition, presidential campaigns would rapidly shift from numerous battleground states to a few large population centers. While some voters may now feel disadvantaged by the Electoral College, even more will be disenfranchised by the “national popular vote compact.” In brief, this misguided plan, of which HB 198 is an integral part, calls for entry into a contract with other states wherein Delaware will be forced to cast our electoral votes for someone who may not win a majority within our state. In the end, the rights of Delaware’s voters and millions of others similarly situated in other “compact states” will be greatly diminished.

Let us not forget that in forming the Republic, the power and sovereignty of the federal government was originally derived from a grant of power and authority from each of the individual states. The creation of the Electoral College is as much testimony to that fact as are the Ninth and Tenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.

Reasonable minds can disagree on whether the current system is indeed “broken.” If, in fact, reforms are needed, alternatives can be found to improve the system – without adopting a scheme that infringes upon states’ rights and silences the voice of untold millions of Americans. Indeed, other methods which are more pragmatic and less likely to infringe upon the Founders’ delicate balance of power must surely exist, if only we would search for them.

The checks and balances of big state versus small state; north versus south; east versus west; rural versus urban, are all the results and benefits of the Electoral College. HB 198 and its counterparts in the other states will most certainly result in our country being controlled by America’s 20 or so largest cities to the detriment of the rest of the country. And if this happens, Delaware’s voice will have been effectively silenced and you can bet your bottom dollar that our Republic and the traditional concept of the American dream are doomed.

Originally posted at CaesarRodney.org

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A well done video highlighting the flaws of government-run healthcare from “Let Freedom Ring”

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The jobs keep leaving

A recent release by the United State Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that over the last year, “jobless rates were higher in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.” This comes as no surprise and confirms what everyone knows.

According to the report, “nonfarm payroll employment decreased in 39 states and the District of Columbia, increased in 10 states, and was unchanged in one state.”

The largest over-the-month increases in employment occurred in North Carolina, Mississippi, Arkansas and Montana.

In Delaware, unemployment reached 8.4%, a series high for the state. In June, 2008, unemployment in Delaware stood at 4.6%. Between June, 2008 and June, 2009, unemployment increase by 3.8%.

Construction jobs decreased by 4,100; trade, transportation and utilities jobs decreased by 4,900; financial activities jobs decreased by 1,600; and professional and business services decreased by 300.

Education and health services jobs increased by 200 while leisure and hospitality  jobs remained constant.

In contrast to figures showing government employment had grown between May, 2008 and May, 2009, the BLS report indicates that government employment in Delaware actually shrank between June, 2008 and June, 2009 decreased by 500.

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A new report by the Rockefeller Center for Government shows that Delaware’s tax revenues are continuing to decline. These figures forecast yet another budget showdown next year.

From January through March of this year, the personal income tax revenues are down 3.5% (only lower than New York and New Jersey in the mid-Atlantic region).

Non-farm employment is down by 4.2% over the same period – accounting for the largest decline in the region.

The report also ranks the states on percent change in economic activity using data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Over the last year, Delaware’s economic activity has declined by 9.2% (the U.S. has a whole dropped by 3.3%). Delaware is tied for the seventh largest decrease over this time period. Over the past three months economic activity in the state has decreased by 2.7% which continues to be among the largest drops in the nation.

The direction of the national economy is out of the hands of our state legislature and our governor. We’ll see if they decide to start making moves to jump start it locally. With the legislature being out of session until January, how bad could they possibly make things?

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