For those who have been following my saga with the Los Angeles Times online subscription, they finally came down to 10 cents a week, so I guess I’m going to sign up; $2 for 20 weeks is a pretty good deal, but it did make me wonder if that was their best offer. So I might give it a little more time. During our negotiations I have full access to the paper at no charge, so that’s hard to beat.


North Carolina State Treasurer Dale Folwell has his work cut out for him trying to deal with the mess left behind by his predecessors.

Folwell stopped by the Rhino Times world headquarters the other day and, although it’s always enjoyable to talk to Folwell, after he leaves I realize how far over my head he is. I’ve tried telling him to talk to me like I was a sixth grader, and that works for a while but then he lapses back into finance-speak.

But I did glean a few facts that I’m fairly confident about from our conversation.

North Carolina has one of the best-funded pensions in the country and it is still underfunded. Folwell said that one of the problems is that the figures are based on earning a 7.25 percent rate of return every year and it hasn’t earned 7.25 percent in the past 20 years.

There is nearly $100 billion in that account, but according to Folwell the only way the numbers work is if you assume that 7.25 percent rate of return, which hasn’t been adjusted since the 1970s.

Folwell calls the underfunded pension plan, “The single biggest threat to public education.” According to Folwell the need to fund the pensions could eat the entire state budget.

The good news from Folwell is that he has cut out over $300 million in Wall Street fees.


Mayor Nancy Vaughan said that the city has upheld its end of the agreement with Cone Denim Entertainment Center owner Rocky Scarfone.

Vaughan said the deal was that the city would give Scarfone the land to build a three-story green room on the back of Cone Denim and the money to build the addition, with the stipulation that it be built in compliance with the building code.

Scarfone discovered that according to the building code he will have to build stairs inside the 17-by-20 foot structure, which takes up a lot of floor space, and he wants the stairs on the outside.

Vaughan said that Scarfone signed the agreement and cashed the city’s check for $735,000, and a deal is a deal.

City Attorney Tom Carruthers said that some of the wording in the easement, which was part of the agreement, had been adjusted, but that he thought they were close to having all the accompanying documents for the agreement signed.

The agreement was the settlement of a lawsuit Scarfone filed against the city after the Greensboro City Council voted to condemn the easement across the parking lot where the city is currently building a six-level parking deck and pay Scarfone $55,000.

In the settlement, the city gave Scarfone $735,000, a new easement to the back of his building, a parking agreement and the land to build a three-story green room on the back of his building.

At the time Scarfone had the upper hand because the city needed to get started building the parking deck, which will have a 10-story Westin Hotel built on top of it. Since construction has started, it appears Scarfone no longer has the leverage he did when the original agreement was reached. Vaughan said the city had given Scarfone all the land it could between his building and the parking deck and if the stairs have to go on the inside per the building code, that is not the city’s fault.


District 3 City Councilmember Justin Outling, the lone male on the Greensboro City Council, has a blog site,, where he posts concise and informative pieces about City Council meetings. He also gives his views on some of the issues before the City Council. The blog posts include links to videos of the meetings and documents discussed.

I attend all the meetings and found getting an insider’s view of what had happened interesting and helpful.


I picked up the wrong bottle of wine at the grocery store recently and didn’t realize it until I was checking out. It was a little more expensive than the wines I usually buy, but I figured it wasn’t going to break the bank. It wasn’t until I got home that I realized that it was from a North Carolina winery.

I love North Carolina and like to buy local products when possible. But my experience with North Carolina wines over the years is that they are overpriced and lacking in quality. So here was a bottle that could change my opinion. It did not. The wine was thin, felt more like water than wine and had no complexity. It was drinkable, but Californian and Argentinian wines I bought at the same time were better and cheaper. I wouldn’t buy this wine again at half the price. It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t good.

There are now wineries all over the state and maybe some people love these wines but I haven’t found one I like at a price I’m willing to pay. I keep thinking the next glass of locally produced wine I drink is going to be great, but so far I have been disappointed.