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    Campaign finance inflation

    BY Rah Bickley
    04/07/2001
    by Rah Bickley on 4/7/01.

    Raleigh old-timers remember when it cost only $ 5 to file to run for City Council. Actually, relative newcomers probably remember, too, because that is how much it cost until Tuesday.

    That is when the Raleigh City Council voted to increase the filing fee to $ 100 for candidates for mayor and council.

    Requiring candidates to spend more than they would for a burger and fries should produce a more thoughtful stable of office-seekers, said Councilman John Odom.

    "I think quite a few people apply just to get their names in the paper," said Odom, who proposed the fee increase.

    According to the Wake County Board of Elections, the old fee didn't even cover the administrative costs of candidates' filings. To start, each of the information packages distributed to municipal candidates costs the board more than $ 5 to put together, said Cherie Poucher, the election board's director.

    Under state law, municipalities can set their candidate filing fees as high as 1 percent of the annual salary of the office sought. That means Raleigh could charge as much as $ 150 to file for mayor and as much as $ 100 for a council seat.

    Councilwoman Julie Shea Graw cast the sole dissenting vote.

    "If it must be raised, I'd rather see it raised incrementally," she said. "It borders on being undemocratic. ... It's everyone's right to put their name on the ballot."

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    Political Scorecard:

    Overworked and underpaid? Chapel Hill Town Council members say they want more money for poring over voluminous reports, tending to government business and sitting in meetings once and, sometimes, twice a week.

    In this year's budget, the council will consider a 42 percent pay increase - pushing the mayor's annual stipend to $ 17,772 from $ 12,500, and the eight other board members' to $ 10,663 from $ 7,500.

    "I would not want this to get focused on a percent that this is going up," said council member Edith Wiggins.

    The last salary increase was in 1989. The proposed hike is based on a formula from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics that compares the buying power of a dollar in 1989 with that in 2001.

    "The longer the council defers looking at this," said council member Kevin Foy, "the more difficult it becomes."

    But council member Pat Evans says she believes it would be self-serving to boost stipends so much when the town manager is discussing a 4.5-cent property tax rate increase.

    Quitting politics, maybe: Many in Garner expected longtime Alderman Ronnie Williams to run for mayor in November, so it surprised everyone when he handed out letters at a board meeting Monday saying he would not seek re-election. But by week's end, Williams' next political move was more of a mystery than ever.

    In an interview Thursday, Williams said he is tired of scheduling his life around board meetings. Then he said he might change his mind and run for the board again because citizens are rallying around him. Then he said he would like to be mayor.

    "This announcement says I'm not going to run for the board. It doesn't rule out anything " said Williams, a 16-year board veteran. "My mind is 90 percent made up."

    Next time, please: Wake County school officials thought that since they are the ones asking for a tax increase they should have been on the speakers list for the public meeting held Thursday on the county budget.

    But N.C. Citizens for a Sound Economy, the conservative grass-roots group that sponsored the meeting, told school officials they could speak at their May 3 meeting instead. Jonathan Hill, the group's director, said there wasn't enough time to have both school officials and county commissioners talk about the tax increase.

    "We didn't set up the meeting for them," said Hill, whose group opposes the school system's request for a 5-cent tax-rate increase. "We set the meeting for our activists."

    School building update: A bill that would make it easier for Wake County school officials to build new schools was unanimously passed by the state House this week.

    The bill, sponsored by Rep. Art Pope, a Raleigh Republican, would let the school system hire one group both to design the school and to serve as construction manager instead of separately contracting out the work. State Sen. Eric Reeves, a Raleigh Democrat who sponsored a companion bill, said he will now work to win final approval for Pope's legislation.

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    Political Trail:

    - State GOP Chairman Bill Cobey will speak to Triangle Republican Women at 7 p.m. Monday at Pipers Deli, 3219 Old Chapel Hill Road in Durham.

    - Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue is set to speak to the Wake Democratic Men's Club at 6:30 p.m. Monday at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, 3313 Wade Ave. in Raleigh. Dinner is $ 14, and reservations are required by calling Mike Savitt at 781-5313 or sending an e-mail message to Mikesralnc@@aol.com

    - Donnie Harrison, the Republican candidate for Wake County sheriff in 1998, will speak to Wake County Young Republicans at 7 p.m. Monday at Sam's Restaurant, 3050 Wake Forest Road in Raleigh.

    - The John Locke Foundation, a Raleigh think tank, will host a breakfast meeting on state and local budgets and taxes at 7:30 a.m. Tuesday at the Brownestone Hotel, 1707 Hillsborough St. in Raleigh.

    - Triangle Growth Strategies, a local nonprofit group, will play host to a public forum on the proposed Coker development at 10 a.m. next Saturday at the Jaycee Park gymnasium, 2405 Wade Ave. in Raleigh.

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    Triangle Politics is a weekly look at the local political scene. Got a tip, story idea or an upcoming political event? Fax Triangle Politics at 829-4529, or send e-mail to frhee@@nando.com and dholly@@nando.com.

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    Politically Speaking:

    'I find it ironic that a group that has labored so diligently against discrimination is now discriminating.'

    - John B. Dagenhart, A board member of Development Ventures Inc., a nonprofit group run by the Durham Housing Authority, who says he was refused membership in the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People because he is white.

    'We don't deny membership on the basis of race.'

    William Marsh, General counsel of the Durham Committee

    GRAPHIC: photo file Odom hopes for serious candidates