I like to say that bureaucracies exist to perpetuate themselves. By extension, I could say the same of bureaucrats – they write rules so they can enforce them. But such a blanket statement would be unfair to Clayton planning director Jay McLeod.
Maybe I don’t give bureaucrats enough credit, but in a story in a recent edition of the Clayton News-Star, Mr. McLeod said something that struck me as decidedly not bureaucratic. Talking about how Clayton should approach the writing of some sign rules, he said this: “Whether or not the heartache and suffering of people going through this process is justified in maintaining that unified look ... or not, it’s more appropriate to let the market drive, let the landlord and tenant drive, the color of each signage on each site.”
In short, Mr. McLeod was saying that a business owner, not government, should decide the color of the sign on his or her business. He should be careful that the Bureaucrats of America don’t revoke his membership.
But seriously, Clayton’s sign rules have long been too restrictive, and for my taste, they will still be too restrictive if a proposed rewrite passes. But Mr. McLeod deserves credit for acknowledging that a business deserves some say in the signage promoting to its business.
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Credit where it’s due
I can be hard on Johnston school leaders, particularly their failure to acknowledge that Smithfield and Selma schools are failing to educate too many children.
But I also like to give credit where it’s due, and the Johnston County school system continues its effort to make high school relevant for students not bound for a four-year college.
Most recently, the school system said that, starting next year, it will offer firefighter training at Clayton and Smithfield-Selma high schools. Students in the program will graduate from high school just one semester short of the credits needed for firefighter certification.
Before that, the schools announced a career and technical academy based at Clayton High School and an agriculture degree program at South Johnston High School.
These programs acknowledge that not every high school student wants to spend four years at a liberal arts college. Many want a skill they can put to practical use after two years of community college, or even less time in the case of the new firefighter-training program.
I was quite happy to spend four years at UNC-Chapel Hill, and I was able to put one of my degrees to use immediately after graduation. (Indeed, I graduated on a Sunday and went to work the next day.)
But that’s not what everyone wants or needs, a fact that Johnston schools dismissed when they all but abandoned vocational education. But what vocational education needed was re-imagining, not shelving, and Johnston school leaders, including Superintendent Ross Renfrow and his predecessor, Ed Croom, deserve credit for giving more young people reason to come to high school every day.
Lost in translation
I don’t always get my point across. Witness the number of readers who thought last week’s column was an attack on Donna White, who recently won election to the N.C. House of Representatives.
That was not my intent. Had I lived in Mrs. White’s district, I would have voted for her. We have known each other for decades; our paths first crossed when fellow Republican Billy Creech launched his first campaign for the N.C. House.
I wrote – and meant – only that I thought Mrs. White’s Democratic opponent, Rich Nixon, would fare better than he did. I didn’t think he could win, but I thought he could make the race competitive, partly because Mrs. White carried what I thought was political baggage – her role in giving retired school superintendent Ed Croom a bloated pension at the expense of Johnston County taxpayers. As a school board member, Republican House candidate Larry Strickland carried that baggage too, but I didn’t give his opponent any chance of winning, mostly because voters don’t embrace candidates who switch political parties.
But voters didn’t hold Dr. Croom’s fat pension against Mrs. White; she essentially routed Mr. Nixon, a well known, highly regarded teacher in Johnston County.
I thought I wrote that Mr. Nixon lost because he is a Democrat in a county where Democrats can no longer win a partisan race. But if I wasn’t clear, let me say that Johnston County voters are no longer buying what Democrats are selling. That’s not indictment of Mrs. White; it’s a wake-up call for a Democratic Party out of touch with average folk.
I used Mrs. White’s race only because I thought it would be the most competitive of the contested partisan races on the Nov. 8 ballot. It was closer than the others, but not really close at all.