Friday, September 27, 2013

No jobs from the new coliseum contract?

What strange alchemy at the Greensboro Coliseum Complex.

The News and Record and other sources have reported that Wake Forest University, the owner of the Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum and several other venues in nearby Winston-Salem, has contracted with Matt Brown's Greensboro Coliseum Complex to run events at its venues.
Greensboro Coliseum Director Matt Brown’s empire is spreading across the county line.

Wake Forest University has hired the coliseum’s staff to book and manage events at Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum and three other athletics venues here.

The university will pay Greensboro $115,000 a year for the next five years, plus a share of Ticketmaster fees earned from events.
The News and Record article and an editorial tout the many potential benefits from regionalizing the management of the major venues in Greensboro and Winston-Salem--most importantly, the ability for the combined operation to compete more effectively with other major venues in North Carolina and beyond.

It's also a testament to Mr. Brown's and his staff's skills that Wake Forest decided that outsourcing the management of its venues to his shop was more cost-effective than using the university's own staff.

However, a sentence in the second-to-last paragraph of the News and Record story begs some questions.
Greensboro doesn’t plan to hire new staff because of the agreement, said City Manager Denise Turner Roth.

Wake Forest is hiring the Coliseum staff to perform $115,000 worth of services that it wasn't performing before and wouldn't be performing otherwise.

It's alchemy to suggest that these new services don't have any staffing implications.

Without staffing changes, the Coliseum's staff will either make room in their existing work schedules for these services by performing fewer services for the taxpayers of Greensboro, OR the staff currently have a considerable amount do-nothing time that's available for hire.

Greensboro taxpayers should be concerned if its staff will perform fewer services on behalf of the city. Taxpayers should also be concerned if the Coliseum is currently over-staffed and has workers with extra potentially billable time on their hands.

If the current staffing is appropriate, the Coliseum should either add workers or perhaps add hours for some part-time workers. The contract should mean either new jobs or better jobs in Greensboro.

Another possibility is overtime pay for the existing workers, but this seems inefficient, especially given the enormous number of unemployed people in the city.

Is Mr. Brown about to perform alchemy? Or will he find a way to add to Greensboro's job base?

Mr. Speaker are jobs still your "number one priority?"

Speaker of the House, Rep. John Boehner, has repeatedly said that jobs are his "number one priority"--a statement that's hard to square with his and House Republicans' current actions. From Bloomberg
A shutdown of the U.S. government would reduce fourth-quarter economic growth by as much as 1.4 percentage points depending on its length, economists say, as government workers from park rangers to telephone receptionists are furloughed.

Mark Zandi of Moody’s Analytics Inc. estimates a three-to-four week shutdown would cut growth by 1.4 points. Moody’s projects a 3 percent rate of growth in the fourth quarter without a closure. A two-week shutdown starting Oct. 1 could cut growth by 0.3 percentage point to an annualized 2.3 percent rate, according to St. Louis-based Macroeconomic Advisers LLC.
If the number one priority truly is creating jobs, the economic hostage-taking must end.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Job-killing in Raleigh continues

Chalk up another self-inflicted job wound by Gov. McCrory's administration.

The North Carolina Coastal Federation is reporting that the state's Division of Water Resources has just turned down two federal grants totaling $583,000.
Saying they don’t need the money to meet their new mission, state environmental officials recently turned down almost $600,000 in federal grants. The money would have been used to set up a network of sites to begin testing streams in the Piedmont where natural gas production is likely to occur and to establish a long-term planning and monitoring program to protect wetlands.
One grant would have paid state researchers to collect baseline water quality data in the economically depressed central Piedmont region. The other grant would have paid for public employees to plan for and monitor the protection of wetlands.

The grants would have provided valuable outputs, especially given the possibility of natural gas fracking in the central Piedmont and the need to protect sources of water flowing into Jordan Lake. Both grants would have supported the goals of advancing economic development while simultaneously improving the environment.

More prosaically however, both grants would have funded well-paying jobs in a state that needs every job it can get its hands on.

The decisions are also wasteful given that valuable state resources went into the effort to apply for the grants.

But nevermind those considerations. The general economic interest of the state is no match for the narrow special business and political interests of the Governor.

It's little wonder that North Carolina trails the nation in job growth.

Another jobless month in North Carolina

Another month, another no-growth jobs report for North Carolina. On Friday, the U.S. Department of Labor reported that the state lost 1,700 non-farm jobs on a seasonally-adjusted basis in August.

While the state added 5,100 private sector jobs, it shed 6,800 public sector jobs (Dr. Aldona Wos' efforts to employ under-qualified McCronies notwithstanding). Since January, North Carolina has lost 12,600 public sector jobs. The current number of public sector jobs is the lowest its been since June 2007.

The Department of Labor estimated that 8,700 fewer North Carolinians were unemployed on a seasonally-adjusted basis in August than July. However, the drop off occurred because just over 12,000 fewer North Carolinians were in the labor force.

Gov. McCrory's approval ratings have taken a similar dip. Maybe it's because there are so many more idled North Carolinians available to take pollsters' calls.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Our failing public charter schools

A struggling charter school in Kinston, NC fails spectacularly and leaves taxpayers, students, teachers, and two local school systems holding the bag. NC PolicyWatch reports
State education officials want to know what happened to more than $600,000 in public education funding a Kinston charter school spent this school year despite only holding classes for 10 days.

Kinston Charter Academy, which opened in 2004 with the goal of educating low-income children in and around Lenoir County, voluntarily shut its door on Sept. 6, a few days into the new school year. The state Board of Education had been poised to try and close the charter school after hearing numerous complaints about financial instabilities at the school.

The sudden closure, two weeks into the school year, left the families of the 230 students in the K-8 school only a few days to enroll in nearby public schools in Lenoir and Pitt counties.

But it also brought up questions about what the school did with the $666,818 state education funding it received in July that was supposed to last through October. The school was also overfunded, receiving money to educate 366 students when only 230 students enrolled.
Two-thirds of a million state tax dollars to provide almost no education, while throwing numerous students back onto the local school systems at the last minute.

Where's the accountability?

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Misplaced concerns

Reflecting their deep and genuine concern about women's health, South Carolina legislators in recent years have enacted a host of regulations to increase the "safety" of abortions, including requirements that only licensed obstetrician/gynecologists be allowed to perform abortions after the first trimester and that only licensed physicians be allowed to prescribe medication to induce abortions.

Terminating a pregnancy carries some health risks, but completing a pregnancy and delivering a child have much, much higher risks (U.S. women are almost 15 times more likely to die in childbirth than to die from an abortion). Given those relative risks, you would think that the concerned legislators in South Carolina would also require that OB/Gyns be present at delivery.

They don't, and sometimes the results are tragic.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Greensboro's little white school houses

The charter school movement in North Carolina is intended to provide educators with flexibility to innovate and to open doors for all children to learn. However, many charter schools use this flexibility to subtly keep some children from finding those doors.

In Greensboro, this has led to one publicly-funded charter school--Greensboro Academy--being the whitest public school in all of Greensboro. Figures from the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction indicate that in the 2012-13 school year, 81.7 percent of Greensboro Academy's students were white. By way of contrast, just under 38 percent of public school students in Guilford County are white. Greensboro Academy's current composition represents progress of a sort; a few years ago just over 90 percent of its students were white.

Another publicly-funded charter school--Cornerstone Academy--isn't far behind with 74.0 percent of its students being white, essentially double the proportion of white students in Guilford County's public schools.

How do these publicly-funded schools achieve these remarkable numbers? The biggest factor is location. Public schools, including both charter and district schools, draw largely from their surrounding neighborhoods. Patterns of racial segregation in housing are reflected in racial segregation in school composition.

Greensboro Academy and Cornerstone Academy are both located near the northwest fringes of Greensboro (they're less than four miles driving distance apart), a section of the city that is predominantly white. For example, the district elementary school for children who live very near Greensboro Academy is Claxton Elementary, which is 59.7 percent white, and the district middle school is Kernodle, which is 64.5 percent white.

However, these locational choices are compounded by another factor--the lack of general school bus transportation to the schools. Parents at these schools are responsible for transporting or arranging transportation for their children. This makes it much harder for low-income parents, especially those who lack cars. The schools assist parents who want to locate car-pool partners, but this would still be a substantial barrier for those without cars in the first place. Additionally, neither school is especially walkable.

Charter schools are allocated a share of the state and local transportation funds, but part of their academic "flexibility" includes being able to use those funds for other purposes.

Put the schools' location and transportation barriers together and you have a dandy recipe for racial exclusion--all on the public dime.

Another publicly-funded charter school--Summerfield Charter Academy, the Howard Coble Campus--has just opened a few miles further out in this "underserved" area. Look for it to generate even more skewed demographics.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Americans participating in the labor force like it's 1978

The U.S. Department of Labor reported this morning that the national unemployment rate fell from an estimated 7.4 percent in July to 7.3 percent in August, on a seasonally adjusted basis. At first blush, a falling unemployment rate looks like good news, but upon closer examination, the supporting survey data suggest that the labor market actually weakened in August.

The unemployment rate is calculated from a large, national, monthly survey of approximately 60,000 households. Among other things, the survey asks whether adult members of the households were participating in the labor force (meaning they were either working or available and looking for work) and whether they were employed. The unemployment rate is calculated as the ratio of people who are in the labor force but not working (the numerator) and all people who are in the labor force (the denominator).

By these definitions, the August survey indicates that nearly 200,000 fewer Americans are unemployed, which should be very good news--except that all of this decline (and then some) came from a reduction in the labor force. Overall, the government estimated that the number of Americans in the labor force fell by just over 300,000, and the number of Americans who reported that they were working fell by just over 100,000.

The percentage of non-institutionalized, adult civilians who were in the labor force fell from 63.4 percent in July to 63.2 percent in August, the lowest that figure has been since 1978. The percentage of non-institutionalized, adult, civilians who were working fell from 58.7 percent in July to 58.6 percent in August. That number is little changed since the depths of the Great Recession (the rate bottomed out at 58.2 percent in 2010).

Some of the change seems likely to be sampling error. The Department of Labor cautions that monthly changes in the survey estimates that are smaller than 400,000 aren't statistically meaningful. Thus, we can't rule out the possibility that the numbers of people in the labor force and who are employed actually grew. Indeed, preliminary estimates from the establishment survey, which counts jobs at firms rather than counts of people who report employment, indicate that the number of non-farm jobs grew by 169,000 on a seasonally adjusted basis (plus or minus 100,000 given the sampling error).

Nevertheless, we can conclude with certainty that jobs aren't being added quickly enough to make meaningful improvements in the economic lives of Americans. That's disappointing and sadly, not news.