News

A federal three-judge panel threw out North Carolina’s Congressional Districts 1 and 12 today as racial gerrymanders and gave the General Assembly until February 19 to redraw new maps.

Writing for the court in a decision handed down late this afternoon, Circuit Judge Roger L. Gregory said:

After careful consideration of all evidence presented during a three-day bench trial, the parties’ findings of fact and conclusions of law, the parties’ arguments, and the applicable law, the Court finds that the plaintiffs have shown that race predominated in both CD 1 and CD 12 and that the defendants have failed to establish that its race-based redistricting satisfies strict scrutiny. Accordingly, the Court holds that the general assembly’s 2011 Congressional Redistricting Plan is unconstitutional as violative of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Having found that the 2011 Congressional Redistricting Plan violates the Equal Protection Clause, the Court will require that new congressional districts be drawn forthwith to remedy the unconstitutional districts.

U.S. District Judge Max O. Cogburn, Jr. agreed with Gregory, while Judge William L. Osteen, Jr. dissented in part.

The court’s decision conflicts with decisions by the state Supreme Court in Dickson v. Rucho, which has twice upheld the 2011 legislative and congressional maps — most recently after a remand for further review by the U.S. Supreme Court.  (For more on how the redistricting battles are playing out here and elsewhere, read here.)

And its order requiring a do-over by Feb. 19 disrupts the current election calendar heading into the March 15 primary elections.

Read the decision here.

 

Commentary, News

If you’re looking for a measure of good news to get you through the weekend (and are willing to look outside North Carolina), check out this story (and the amazing photos) on NPR.org detailing the massive new solar power plant in the northwest African nation of Morocco. To quote:

Image: http://www.maroc.ma/en

Image: http://www.maroc.ma/en

“Morocco has officially turned on a massive solar power plant in the Sahara Desert, kicking off the first phase of a planned project to provide renewable energy to more than a million Moroccans.

The Noor I power plant is located near the town of Ouarzazate, on the edge of the Sahara. It’s capable of generating up to 160 megawatts of power and covers thousands of acres of desert, making the first stage alone one of the world’s biggest solar thermal power plants.

When the next two phases, Noor II and Noor III, are finished, the plant will be the single largest solar power production facility in the world, The Guardian says.

Morocco currently relies on imported sources for 97 percent of its energy consumption, according to the World Bank, which helped fund the Noor power plant project. Investing in renewable energy will make Morocco less reliant on those imports as well as reduce the nation’s long-term carbon emissions by millions of tons.”

The plant is especially exciting because it uses a technology that will allow it to generate electricity well after the sun goes down each day.

Mind you this is a country with roughly one-fifth the gross domestic product of North Carolina. And still, somehow, it has managed to muster the kind of world-changing investment that all nations need to be pursuing. If the Moroccans can do it, surely so can Americans (and North Carolinians). The fact that the U.S. solar industry added jobs twelve times faster than the rest of the economy and created more jobs than were created by the oil and gas extraction and pipeline sectors combined last year indicates that we’re already on the right track.

For more information on North Carolina’s mixed/wavering commitment to this essential field, check out a pair of interviews on yesterday’s edition of WUNC’s The State of Things by clicking here and here.

Commentary, News

school-busespng-91b35e2c325e0b5b1. UNC system official explains N.C.’s prodigious drop in those seeking teaching degrees

Members of the N.C. State Board of Education received some more troubling news about teachers Wednesday.

Alisa Chapman, vice president for academic and university programs in the UNC system, presented data that show the state’s increasing inability to attract students to the teaching profession.

Since 2010, enrollment in bachelor’s and master’s education programs systemwide has plummeted 30 percent, said Chapman. And while the plunge has slowed—enrollment declined just 3.4 percent from fall 2014 to fall 2015, Chapman told state education leaders that the trend should be “very concerning.”

“The challenge in hiring teachers in our state is going to increase,” said Chapman, adding that it would be “even more challenging” to recruit educators in rural counties, many of which serve a low-income population that tends to struggle academically. [Continue reading…]

lw-af-1-4002. Low-income students need more support, not an achievement school district

The public rationale for many of the efforts to dismantle traditional public education with various privatization schemes almost always includes the claim that it is all about helping students do better, most often low-income and minority kids.

Supporters of the sketchy North Carolina voucher program say that often, that it’s all about helping poor kids. The program, euphemistically called opportunity scholarships, currently has income eligibility limits, though they have already been increased once and the long term plan is to make vouchers available to thousands of more students.

The same is true of the state’s current experiment with unproven virtual charters, one run by K12, Inc., a company embroiled in scandals in other states and run out of Tennessee.

The online for profit charters will help kids who are struggling in traditional public schools. That’s the line anyway. [Continue reading...]

WB-20220163. When paranoia and fearmongering trump common sense

McCrory refugee emails show state leaders at their worst

It’s been almost 83 years since President Franklin Roosevelt, facing a moment of enormous national suffering and angst, uttered one of the most famous and insightful observations regarding the American experience in our nation’s history:

So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is…fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”

Roosevelt’s prescient words were delivered, of course, in response to the greatest human and economic crisis ever to afflict the nation. Here’s where things stood when he took office in March, 1933: [Continue reading…] Read More

News

If you feel secure in your current job, here’s something that may give you pause:

New analysis by NC State University suggests that jobs in some 39 major current employment categories in our state are at least 70% likely to be eliminated within one generation as a result of automation.

The so-called Disruption Index for North Carolina finds that low-wage jobs are especially at risk.

The index that was developed for this year’s Emerging Issues Forum also finds that on average, North Carolina counties face the potential loss of more than 25% of their current jobs as a result of automation, robots and future technologies.

According to the index, counties poised to take the greatest hit include: Watauga (41% predicted percentage of job losses), Carteret (40%), Dare (40%), Johnston (40%), Buncombe (39%) and Catawba (39%).  See the interactive map below for anticipated job and wage loss.

Anita Brown-Graham, director of the Institute for Emerging Issues (IEI), joins us this weekend to discuss the index and the focus of FutureWork. Click below for a preview of her interview with Chris Fitzsimon.

Monday’s Emerging Issues Forum will be streamed live on the web and broadcast on UNC-TV.

YouTube Preview Image
Commentary

Our neighbors in the Midwest Money Exchangehad a big victory earlier this year when Cincinnati passed an innovative ordinance aimed at reducing wage theft. Recognizing the devastating impact of this common problem on workers and the local economy, Cincinnati is setting expectations for companies that do business with the city or that receive incentives. These companies must disclose prior labor law violations as part of the bidding process and report to the city any wage or payroll fraud complaints received from employees (including employees of subcontractors) during the performance of the contract. In turn, the city will refer complaints to appropriate agencies and, if an adverse determination is issued, will take steps such as termination of the contract, reduction of the incentives payment, and/or debarment from future contracts.

In 2013, the NC General Assembly clamped down on local governments’ ability to take some of these steps in our state. In its expansion of the public policy known as “preemption,” the state now prohibits cities and counties from placing certain requirements on their contractors. Local governments in North Carolina do have the ability to take some measures to improve worker wellbeing in their communities, as explained in our brief The power of wage policies: how raising public sector wages can promote living incomes and boost the economy  – but legislative action is required to enable North Carolina communities to follow Cincinnati’s lead and put other proactive measures into place to protect workers’ wages.