When I was a reporter in Asheville, I saw how Easley, who was then the state's Attorney General, practically stole land from a private owner. Easley's claim was that the land needed to be environmentally protected, as if it were pristine wilderness. Then an aerial photograph showed that there were already not only housing developments nearby but a chemical plant also. I saw the plans that the guy had for the land and there's no question in my mind that he was going to responsibly manage the land and make it into something that everyone could enjoy. He was certainly going to do a much better job at it than the state government ever would.
Easley had the state take it anyway.
So now Mike Easley is on his way out as governor, and it looks like he's feeling that the taxpayers "owe" him for the "service" he has given this state: Easley racked up a $170,000 bill during a "business" trip to Italy, which also included his wife, members of his staff and three North Carolina Highway Patrol officers to provide "security" for Easley. During the trip, which included overnight stays in Rome, Venice and Florence, Easley and his contingent stayed at some of the most expensive hotels in Venice and enjoyed dinner at what are considered to be among the finest restaurants in Europe. They also enjoyed the service of a luxury limo and driver at the rate of $3,600 a day.
All of this was billed to the taxpayers of North Carolina.
And strangely, WTVD in Raleigh is reporting that many of the expenditures were not reported, having been "redacted".
The trip is being lauded as a "success" by Easley's staff and supporters.
I've got three questions:
1. What kind of a return can we, the taxpayers of North Carolina, expect for the "investment" that we were forced to make for Easley and his buddies to party hardy down Rome and Venice way?
2. What kind of business interests are there in Italy that we in North Carolina should have a compelling interest in? So far, not Easley or anyone on his staff has been forthcoming with this. We're told that they promoted North Carolina as a tourist destination to the Italians... which is kinda like trying to sell a snow machine to an Inuit.
3. In this time of fiscal constraint, how does Easley and his staff justify such wanton spending when there were less expensive alternatives, if this trip was deemed to be an absolute necessity?
I'm not expecting answers from either Easley or his cronies on those questions. It's pretty obvious that the "business" aspect was a facade over what was for all intent and purpose a pleasure trip which this state can't adequately justify and funded by money that we don't really have.
One more example of what I've come to call the "rotted timbers", folks...