Civitas Review

All Aboard! Empty "Express" Buses are Waste of the Week

Jan
26

$110 per round-trip commute. That's what taxpayers are paying to subsidize riders of the Johnston County Express. The Express is a bus service established to help alleviate traffic headaches for commuters during the Fortify 40/440 project. But high costs and low ridership have turned this service into Civitas' Waste of the Week.

The Express has proved to be very costly. As shown in the chart below, for the 12 months ending November 2014 (the latest data available) the total cost was $519,984 to serve 8,780 riders – which comes to an average cost per rider, per trip of $59.22.[i]

Meanwhile, the fare for riders comes to $3.00 a trip, which means that taxpayers have been subsidizing each rider to the tune of more than $55 for each one-way trip. For each rider’s daily round-trip commute on the Express, taxpayers are paying about $110.

And at such a great expense, the Express has done nothing to ease the traffic snarl of the Fortify project. Most months the Express bus averages around 2 riders per trip. If anything, adding a 40-foot bus with an average of 2 passengers traveling back and forth to downtown makes traffic worse.

Civitas Drops a "Bombshell"

Jan
23

That's the description the radical left-wing rag IndyWeek gave to the Civitas Institute's new project: Mapping the Left (MTL).

MTL is an online resource connecting the dots and exposing the massive, well-funded army of left-wing advocacy groups clamoring for expanded government and an erosion of our freedoms.

Click here to read the article introducing the MTL project, here is a sample:

What you will find on the Mapping the Left website:  more than 140 organizations involving more than 1,800 individuals and funded by more than 300 foundations. Since 2003, these foundations have contributed more than $400 million to the organizations listed in the Mapping the Left project. Sixty-five of the funders are North Carolina-based; their contributions to the left-wing groups total at least $153 million.

Forget everything they try to tell you about money and influence in NC politics. Check out mappingtheleft.com now.

NC Blue Cross Price Transparency: Disrupting Healthcare?

Jan
21

Forbes takes a look at the new pricing tool provided by Blue Cross Blue Shield North Carolina.

So what and where is this pricing tool? It was unveiled with relatively little fanfare last week by Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina. Why is this disruptive? Because it’s an online tool that the general public can use to compare in-network pricing for specific procedures by provider and location.

….

Historically, these rates have been a closely guarded secret. They’re often so difficult to negotiate that high profile payers (say Anthem in California and Highmark in Pennsylvania) wind up in pitched battles with equally high profile providers (like Stanford Health and UPMC). When these giants can’t agree on these rates, it’s not uncommon for them to terminate existing agreements (or threaten to) so it’s always been information available to “members only.” That was until last week.

Some observers were stunned to see significant price discrepancies in the reimbursement rates for the same procedure at different locations. But that may work in the consumers favor as those at the high end of the pricing scale may begin to feel pressure to lower their prices in order to compete.

Prices convey important information, and help shape consumer decisions. When consumers can make more informed decisions, a dose of healthy competition is introduced into the market. Let's hope to see greater pricing transparency introduced into healthcare. But the question remains, will this transparency make much difference in the government-controlled era of Obamacare?

Providing Public Records Is McCrory Admin's Business

Jan
20

Imagine that your house caught fire, and when you called the fire department, the fire chief told you they had to charge you a fee to look up your address, and then additional fees for actually coming out to your house and putting out the blaze.

That's what the McCrory administration is doing when it charges people to look up official records.

As in the old auto company ad, for a government of free people, transparency is Job One.

What good is any government action if it is conducted in secret? If we the people don't know what government is doing, we can't evaluate it and respond.

Hidden government is tyrannical government. If government is allowed to work in secret, there is no freedom.

Being transparent is not a distraction from a democratic government's job; it is government's job.

Some say public records requests are often frivolous. Well, who says so — the government? Providing public records isn't a frivolity, it is a core function of government.

Ask any police officer, and he or she will tell you that most police calls are trivial. But, of course, police must answer them all the same, because they don't know in advance which are trivial and which are vital.

Way, way back when I was a young police reporter, there was a county sheriff's officer whose job was to answer calls. One old lady constantly called up to report every loud sound and unknown passerby. One day the officer got another of her calls, saying she had heard a gunshot and asking for a car to come out right away. He said, Yeah, sure, and hung up the phone, without sending a deputy over.

The next day, of course, the body of a local drug deal was found in a car outside the old lady's apartment. He'd been shot in the head. That's why police have to answer every call, as best they can.

If you called the police and an officer said he couldn't respond because your request was frivolous, what would you think? You didn't think it was frivolous; and aren't we always admonished to tell the authorities about anything suspicious?

The same holds for record requests: Many may seem frivolous, but we taxpayers don't know till we get the records. Anyway, it's our job to decide that, not some bureaucrat's.

Some protest that searching for records is expensive. First, it's worth it. Second, if the expense gets to be a burden, a government should jettison the really frivolous and even harmful things it does, then it will have of money to respond to the public's request to know what their government is doing..

NCAE membership and finances continue to fall

Jan
20

In early December our friend Mike Antonucci at the Education Intelligence Agency (EIA)  released NEA data for all 50 states and DC for 2012-13. At the time we reported on the huge decline in NCAE membership.  Earlier today EIA released information on NCAE finances. Here are a few interesting figures:

18 percent  –  Percentage decline in revenue, $9.8 million to $8.3 million. Much of the loss is due to membership losses.

$350,000 – NCAE budget deficit for the year

$5.9 million – amount paid in staff salaries

$201,216 – Base salary and compensation of highest paid NCAE employee, Joyce Jarret, Associate Executive Director.