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Jones Clones

Tara Servatius, thanks for bringing to light the failure of the Judicial Standards Commission which has made the unbelievable a reality: Judge Bill Jones' return to the bench! ("Along Came Jones," October 2) Folks who've been following this saga from early spring 2001 when the SBI became involved and conducted their investigation into Jones' improper relationship with Katie Holiday through August 2001, when, during the investigation Jones suddenly and unexpectedly announced news of his "retirement" are cheering the long-overdue public exposure of his antics as former Chief Judge of the District Court of Mecklenburg County -- and those of his entourage!

Ron Chapman (Letters, "No Deal," October 16) emerges in full regalia as a Jones-Holiday groupie rendering his recrimination with a red herring assault on the parent identified in the article. His interest in rescuing the flailing Jones is just a little too transparent given his recent past unsatisfied bids to garner a seat on the bench for himself.

Consider too the fact that under the direction of former lead counsel for the Children's Law Center, Becky Thorn Tin, Chapman "graciously" offered to conduct an investigation into the facts surrounding a very disturbing notarized affidavit submitted to the CLC in July 2001 which called into serious question the original custody assignment made by Judge Jones in Myers vs. Perry. That was nearly 16 months ago --an investigation has yet to take place!

Some might call this a cover-up or even a conspiracy.

--Karen Myers, Charlotte

Budget Folly

Tara Servatius' recent column "Legislating in the Dark" (Citizen Servatius, October 2) would have been more appropriately titled "Reporting in the Dark." The allegations that legislators are on a spending spree and that there is no state budget crisis are baseless.

First, full six-volume copies of budget documents were prepared in late 2000 by the outgoing Hunt administration for the 2001-03 two-year budget cycle. While those documents were assembled, the state's fiscal situation took a dramatic turn for the worse. Governor Easley took office in January 2001, and immediately determined that the state faced an imminent budget crisis for the 2000-01 fiscal year and even larger problems for the 2001-02 fiscal year. To use the prepared six-volume budget would be folly, for it was out of balance by several hundred million dollars. The governor decided to use the budget in place for each agency as of December 31, rather than the volumes of documents with budget numbers including inflation and caseload adjustments.

Second, actual state spending for 2001-02 was over $300 million less than actual state spending for 1999-2000. In February and April of this year, Governor Easley acted to fill a $1.5 billion budget hole left by a shortage of revenues. Revenues fell below expectations in over 40 states, due to the sagging economy.

Third, the governor ordered his cabinet secretaries to construct plans to reduce their 2002-03 budgets by up to 11 percent. The direction was for each agency to eliminate programs or spending not related to the agency's core mission or strategic direction. The result was the first reduction in general fund operations appropriations in several decades. Moreover, these plans were released to numerous members of the media in full compliance with their public records requests. Those media members therefore have a better understanding of the extent of the budget crisis than others who choose merely to criticize without diligent investigation.

Finally, the obfuscation of facts by citing the proposed NCSU golf/hotel project (which involves no state tax dollars) and the state's new economic incentive package (which ensures that we remain competitive with other states) as examples of out of control spending at a time of budget shortages contributes nothing meaningful to the debate.

No, Servatius had it exactly wrong. There is a budget crisis. Her article shows that there is also a journalistic crisis.

--Dan Gerlach, Senior Fiscal Policy Advisor, Office of the Governor, Raleigh

TEACCH ME SOMETHING

I read your article on "Parents: Autistic Kids Ill-Served" (Sam Boykin, October 30). I am always glad for any article that brings autism to light. However, I thought you could have been more informative on what TEACCH is. For my son, who is now 11, ABA was not working. We moved here, like so many, to try TEACCH. TEACCH has been very successful in helping my son. It is not a cure-all and Michael still has autism. Since Michael has been in a TEACCH program, we have seen marked improvements in every aspect of his autism.

--Barbara Lee, Charlotte

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