News

North Carolina’s tight Senate race earned a new distinction this week – topping $100 million spent in total advertising, according to the nonpartisan Sunlight Foundation.

The contest also brought former Massachusetts governor and 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney to Raleigh Wednesday stumping for Republican House Speaker Thom Tillis:

“There’s no question but that the president’s policies are on the ballot in November, even though the president himself is not,” Romney said. “And I don’t want to see President Obama’s policies furthered in this country any more than they already have been.”

Not to be outdone, incumbent Democrat Kay Hagan will have former President Bill Clinton by her side Friday rallying voters at Raleigh’s Broughton High School. You may recall, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton already appeared on Hagan’s behalf last week in Charlotte.

So will these political heavyweights make a difference for voters?

We put that question to NC State political scientist Andy Taylor, who appears on NC Policy Watch’s weekly radio show this weekend with Chris Fitzsimon:
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So, whether you have a fit for Mitt or a thrill when you see Bill, just remember that early voting draws to a close this Saturday. For a list of early voting times and locations, click here.

To find your polling place for Tuesday, November 4th, click here.

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As we reported yesterday, the Justice for All NC PAC is poised for a last-minute ad blitz supporting Republican-endorsed candidates for the state Supreme Court, after receiving a fresh infusion of $400,000 from the Republican State Leadership Committee this past week.

Now it appears that at least of some of that money is going toward a television ad from the Louisiana-based Innovative Advertising – which goes by the tagline “People Who Think” — supporting conservative Winston-Salem lawyer Mike Robinson, who’s challenging incumbent Justice Cheri Beasley.

The people who think didn’t have to dig too deep into the innovation barrel for this one, though.

Instead they’ve recycled the Paul Newby banjo ad (watch above) — also their creation — this time replacing the banjo with a guitar and the catch phrase from “Newby Tough but Fair” to “I Like Mike.”

Read more here from Chris Kromm at Facing South, and watch the Robinson video below.

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Commentary

NCGA folliesThe follies of the North Carolina General Assembly and its shortsighted attitudes toward public education (and public service in general) are neatly illustrated by two stories in this morning’s Winston-Salem Journal.

In “Who’s a teacher? The legislature wrongly decides,” reporter Scott Sexton tells the story of  veteran teacher named Patti Morrison who, because of the absurd, complex and bureaucratic new teacher pay plan and teacher redefinition laws adopted this year by the General Assembly and Governor McCrory, is now considered “a person who is employed to fill a full-time, permanent position.”

As Sexton reports:

“So for someone such as Morrison, who is teaching reading to elementary school kids on a part-time basis, or a certified teacher who is filling a temporary classroom position, that means they’re technically no longer considered teachers.

Instead, they’re lumped into a more disposable employment category. They’re now considered ‘at-will employees,’ those ‘not entitled to the employment protections provided a career employee or probationary teacher,’ according to House Bill 719.

That might seem like an exercise in semantics to you or me, but to Morrison it amounts to a body blow. To her, the state stripped her of a key part of her identity. She chose to become a teacher because she could see the profound impact she could have on young lives.”

Story two is this editorial entitled “Paying more than twice as much, thanks to legislature.”  In it, the Journal tells the ridiculous story of the Forsyth County school system which used to make use of a Department of Transportation crew to fix parking lots. Now, thanks to the General Assembly and the Governor and their never-ending commitment to the “genius of the free market,” the school system is paying twice as much to private contractors to do the same job:

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News

A group of Wilmington-area charter schools missed a Monday deadline to provide information to the state about salaries earned by employees of a private contractor that work at the public schools.

Baker Mitchell of Roger Bacon Adademies, with students.

Baker Mitchell of Roger Bacon Academies, with students.

But the private company contracted to run the four charter schools said it will give up the salary information under one condition – that it be considered a “trade secret” and withheld from the public.

“This is a simple yet reasonable approach, utilized frequently throughout North Carolina by state, county and local public agencies to protect confidential and proprietary mutual interests of CDS, DPI, SBE and their constituents, while preserving the sanctity of the RBA Confidential Information,” wrote George Fletcher, an attorney for Roger Bacon Academies in an Oct. 21 letter to John Ferrante, the chair of the schools’ non-profit board of directors.

(Scroll down to read the letter.)

Roger Bacon Academies, the company owned by conservative charter school founder Baker Mitchell Jr., has received millions in public funds as part of the company’s exclusive contracts to run four Wilmington-area charter schools – Charter Day School in Leland, Columbus Charter School in Whiteville, Douglass Academy in Wilmington and South Brunswick Charter School in Bolivia.

Nearly 2,000 students enrolled at the four tuition-free schools this year, which draw down federal, state and local education funds. Mitchell also owns a company that leases land and school supplies to the public charter schools. Close to $9 million has gone to Mitchell’s companies over the last two years, according to the Wilmington Star-News.

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There is lots of talk on right-wing avenue this week about North Carolina’s big jump in the business climate rankings published by the right-leaning Tax Foundation.

Imagine that, a conservative think tank that evaluates states solely on their tax rates giving North Carolina a higher ranking for cutting taxes on corporations and the wealthy. More on that later this week on the main NC Policy Watch site.

But business leaders care about a lot more than just  tax rates when deciding where to set up shop—things like the quality of life for their employees, a well-educated workforce, good transportation infrastructure, etc. And they care about how states treat their workers.

That was the message from Apple CEO Tim Cook in a recent speech in his native state of Alabama.

Alabama was “too slow” to guarantee rights in the 1960s, Cook said, and it removed a ban on interracial marriage from its Constitution only 14 years ago.

And (Alabama is) still too slow on equality for the LGBT community. Under the law, citizens of Alabama can still be fired based on their sexual orientation,” said Cook, a native of coastal Baldwin County. “We can’t change the past, but we can learn from it and we can create a different future.

Workers in North Carolina can also still be fired based on their sexual orientation. Our state  leaders need to listen to Cook and create a different future here too.