It's difficult to believe that we're now 12 days or so from a Primary Election in a Presidential Election year -- and that voting has already been happening for a week.
Amazingly, despite all the political polarization in our country, there seems to be a distinct lack of interest or enthusiasm in this primary which may go down as a stealth election!
There have been very few candidates out and about, working to gather votes or to take the pulse of the community.
The good-old-days of politicians getting out, going door-to-door, appearing at public meetings and making themselves known at just about any kind of gathering apparently are just not going to happen this year, at least to any great extent.
There have been a few political ads in this newspaper from candidates who have been working, but not as many as you might expect in such an important election year.
In the last week or so, there have been political signs popping up like mushrooms after a spring rain although I can't imagine that those things do any good beyond name recognition.
Most have nothing on them except the candidate's name, the office they are seeking and, perhaps, their party affiliation.
Shouldn't we have known all that a long time ago -- and shouldn't we be hearing from them about how they stand on whatever issues are important in the race they are running?
Signs don't do any of that -- in fact, about the only good I can see them doing is putting bucks in the hands of those who design and print them.
I suspect I'm not the only person who considers them a roadside blight and a nuisance since many of those signs never get taken up after the election and are chopped into litter by road mowing crews.
I can't imagine voting for a candidate based on a mere sign. My own vow is that the more signs I see for a candidate, the less likely that candidate is to get my vote.
There is one Primary Election race that will be fun to watch and that is the Democrat's presidential primary.
Super Tuesday will be the first time that Michael Bloomberg's name will actually be on a ballot and it will be fascinating to see how that tips -- or doesn't tip -- the race.
It's pretty obvious that Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg are concerned about Bloomberg -- and have unleashed their opposition points to try to slow his so-far slow but relentless climb in the polls.
And even though it's many long months until November, President Donald Trump also is waging verbal war against Bloomberg -- and that is telling us something.
I just wish the candidates would focus more on their own plans and goals -- and spend a lot less time throwing mud at each other. As any kid who grew up in the country knows, when you throw mud at others, you usually end up with more on yourself than you do on your target.
You'd think politicians would learn that -- but obviously they haven't!
Anyway, just get ready -- and vote, whether you do it during early voting or on Super Tuesday, March 3, vote!
Franklin County got a bit of a gut punch last week -- the second in the last year or so -- when major funding for a long-awaited and very beneficial project seemed to evaporate without an explained reason.
If you read our last edition, you know that the county's long-expected $12-million grant to finance major upgrades to the Franklin County airport has been delayed for most of a decade, at least.
Ooops, I'm supposed to call that place the Triangle North Executive Airport but since it's not north of the Triangle and use of the term "executive" seems overstated, I'll just stick with Franklin County Airport, thank you.
Anyway, when that grant was announced several months ago, there was much fanfare and beating of chests by our local officials who said that the improvements would make the airport one of the best general aviation airports in the state and turn it into an even bigger force for local economic development than it already has proven to be.
So, what the heck happened and why?
Well, officially, the word is that the Trump Administration's Federal Aviation Administration has changed the rules for such grants and, simply stated, our local airport no longer qualifies for assistance.
The explanation is that the airport does not have enough traffic from larger aircraft and not enough aircraft leave Franklin County for trips of more than 500 miles to qualify under the new rules.
Those concerns were never mentioned back when the grants were first sought -- nor were they mentioned when the grants were supposedly approved.
So, is this just another effort by big government to redirect money to its favorite projects -- or could there be other factors involved?
But something else happened between when those grants were announced and when they were withdrawn.
Back when the grants were sought and approved, the local airport was being run by an airport authority which had a great deal of autonomy and which had a solid, successful track record of growth and development of the airport into a viable, money-making operation that drew compliments from pilots and visitors alike.
But shortly after the airport seemed to be in line for a big cash infusion, the county changed its rules.
For reasons that have never been adequately explained, the county commissioners suddenly abolished the airport authority and decided that the county would take on oversight of the airport.
Rather than do everything directly, the commissioners downgraded the airport authority to a virtually powerless airport advisory board -- and the commissioners gave themselves all the power to run, oversee and manage the airport.
Isn't it interesting that as soon as there were big bucks on the table, the county suddenly wanted to control the action?
And, isn't it interesting that shortly after the county made this power grab that all the anticipated money just dried up?
That's a lot of coincidences -- and grumpy, cynical old reporters don't tend to believe in coincidences!
Thus you have four options to explain this sudden loss of funding:
1) The federal government is looking out for our dollars by not spending money to upgrade one of the best general aviation airports in the state to perhaps the best in the entire region;
2) This is a simple grab of allocated money to fund other federal projects;
3) The feds didn't have confidence in the new scheme of governance of the airport and had little faith that a county which can't seem to find water, broadband, adequate sewage treatment or even get its radio communication system to work properly can actually run a successful airport;
4) Some combination of 1, 2 and/or 3.
Your choice, your dollars, your community.
Actually the loss of these airport dollars is the second time in the last year that Franklin County has taken a major financial hit.
The first came when our beloved North Carolina Department of Transportation, which contends it is facing money woes, put Section D of U.S. 401 improvements on hold for several years.
That comes, naturally, after all that highway was upgraded in Wake County because, after all, no one dares delay anything that Wake County wants.
At least Section C of 401, from the Wake County line north to Royal, is on track.
But the real need is for Section D from Royal north to Louisburg since it is the most dangerous and includes access to the county's airport.
About the time Section D was being delayed, the NCDOT also said it was putting about 900 other highway projects on hold across the state, but an emergency allocation from the General Assembly has apparently provided enough cash to get many or most of those projects moving again.
But apparently our legislative delegation didn't have enough clout in Raleigh to get Section D going again, and that's a major blow to this county's future economic development.
After the November election, we'll have a new state senator and state representative representing us -- so let's hope that whoever wins can get the 401 ball rolling again.
Losing Section D in the short term and having the airport projects put off for most of a decade is not good news for Franklin County and both our officials and local residents should be very concerned.
A new attraction?
But if the airport and U.S. 401 projects are in limbo, it might be that the town of Louisburg will soon have a new "attraction" that could draw tourists and local folks alike.
We've dubbed it the Great Wall of the Burg -- and it's downtown along Nash Street.
Erected at a cost of at least a couple of hundred thousand of your tax dollars, the Great Wall is part of a new sidewalk ... er, complex ... that runs along the north side of Nash Street.
It's replacing the old concrete sidewalk that had been cobbled together over a century or more -- and looked like it.
To be fair, the new, brick sidewalk will make parking along the street easier, although there will be fewer parking spots because of another "bump out" that's somehow supposed to make a pedestrian crossing safer.
One of the issues with the sidewalk was a severe elevation change from one end to the other -- but I feel a little vindicated about how it's turning out.
When the project started, we were assured that the sidewalk project would eliminate the inconvenient steps about midway along -- but I simply couldn't visualize how that would work given the elevation differences.
I'm not sure what they're calling those brick things workers have built but they certainly fit my definition of steps!
But the real "attraction" of the project is the graduated, granite-toppedwall that separates the walk along the street with the walk that's much higher at door level to the buildings.
It's quite a little construction creation -- unlike any sidewalk project I can remember seeing, especially when the access to the "bump out" crosswalk is considered.
But unless they put some kind of railing along that wall, I fear it's only a matter of time until someone trips over it and ends up face down on the bricks below.