2010 Winter Conference Kicks Off

More than 120 NCLGBA members and guests are at Asheville’s Grove Park Inn this afternoon for the start of the association’s 2010 Winter Conference.

Among the opening festivities, Asheville Mayor Terry Bellamy extended her appreciate for the conference being held in her City.

Asheville Mayor Terry Bellamy

“There are more than 500 municipalities,” Mayor Bellamy said, “and you chose the best in North Carolina.”

Mayor Bellamy took the opportunity to highlight many of the unique facets to Asheville, including one or two most attendees were not aware of.

“We have the largest number of art deco buildings (in the U.S.) outside Miami,” she mentioned, among other things.

Mayor Bellamy also extended appreciation to the City of Asheville’s own budget professionals.

“Asheville has a wonderful budget staff. Tony (McDowell) has done a wonderful job. It’s always good to have key people who, when they give you information, you can believe them.”

“I apologize, on behalf of (fellow Council members) who may question or second guess you. Why do we do it? When things go wrong, it’s not often that you see budget and finance staff in the paper. It’s elected officials.”

Mayor Bellamy concluded by asking attendees to “spend (their) money inside the City Limits” while they were at the conference.

Attendees got started right away with a plenary discussion on North Carolina Politics led by Dr. Chris Cooper and Dr. Gibbs Knotts with the Department of Political Science and Public Affairs at Western Carolina University.

Cooper and Knotts offered a strong overview on the state’s historic and current political climate, focusing significantly on the 2008 and 2010 elections.

Dr. Gibbs Knotts and Dr. Chris Cooper, Western Carolina University

Cooper and Knotts are extensive writers and contributors in academic and nonacademic sources, including the News & Observer and Public Administration Review. Dr. Knotts also maintains an active blog on state politics and policy, available at http://wcuppi.blogspot.com.

Dr. Cooper discussed how North Carolina compared with respect to numerous political metrics. Generally, the Tar Heel State was found to be a competitive, two-party state, especially in recent years, with reasonable and reliable media coverage.

Dr. Knotts talked about the professionalism of North Carolina legislators and Governors. Research indicates that the General Assembly is the 28th most professional, with wide diversity across professionals, low pay, and reasonably-sized staff.  They also found that the Governor of North Carolina, traditionally, is the 7th least professional of the 50 across the country.

Cooper also discussed the historic significance of the 2008 election in the South, especially the fact that President Barack Obama won three Southern states (including North Carolina) in the general election. His findings focused on the strength of voter turnout, especially in how stronger-than-average turnout helped the Obama campaign.

Cooper’s comments also included how President Obama’s campaign utilized “new media” outlets, a trend that initiated with the campaign of Howard Dean in 2004. Examples he gave included utilizing text messaging to build supporter databases and grow interest among constituencies and enable them to feel “part of the team.”

According to Cooper, Obama dominated social media exposure compared to his opponent, Republican John McCain.

Knotts followed-up with a discussion on the 2010 election, an analysis still in progress. The synopsis suggested that turnout was not a significant factor with election results in North Carolina, while both Democrats and Republicans have increased their use of attack ads on a regular basis since 2002.

Their analysis concluded with some interesting information on the impact of recent election results, including the continued decline of Democrats on county commissions within the state (now down to a little more than half).

Some of these thoughts were shared in an article they wrote for the News & Observer, published earlier today and now available online.

NCLGBA’s 2010 Winter Conference will continue on Thursday and Friday morning. Event sponsors include Davenport & Company LLC, MGT of America, Inc., and Robert S. Segal, CPA PA.

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