Expert blasts presidential debate moderators for ignoring the biggest problem facing the U.S.

In a week in which even the CEO of Exxon-Mobil has stated that climate change brings “real” risks that require “serious” action, Dr. Joe Ramm of the Center for American Progress has a brief but great column lamenting the “criminally irresponsible” failure of presidential debate moderators to ask any questions regarding what is likely the most important existential challenge facing humanity. Here’s Romm:

“Climate silence lives. Despite pleas from editorial writers, columnists, and scientists, Chris Wallace, the moderator of the third and final presidential debate ignored arguably the most important issue facing the next president?—?climate change.

Thus the 2016 election continues the inexplicable tradition begun in the 2012 election in which presidential and vice presidential debate moderators remained silent on the gravest preventable threat to the health and well-being of all Americans.”

After noting that scientist and editorial writers of all kinds had pleaded for such a question he concludes this way:

“All to no avail. In the immediate aftermath of the debate, commentators are rightfully shocked over Trump’s statement that he refuses to say he will accept the election results.

But if we fail to avoid multiple irreversible catastrophic climate impacts?—?from Dust-bowlification to sea level rise to ocean acidification to ever-extremer weather?—?future generations are going to care about little else for decades if not centuries. And they will be rightfully shocked that major figures in the U.S. media failed to raise the issue in presidential debates when it mattered most.

Bottom line: The only guaranteed way for a candidate to make sure climate change and clean energy come up in a debate to bring it up herself, as Clinton did in the first debate.”

Click here to read the entire column.


National report: K-12 funding cuts in North Carolina among the worst in the nation

Education cutsA national report released today seems to confirm what many of the N.C. General Assembly’s harshest critics have long declared: K-12 education funding in North Carolina has fallen prodigiously since the economic recession of 2008, and has worsened even as the state’s economy begins to rebound.

The report, authored by a nonpartisan, D.C.-based research group, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, lists North Carolina among just eight states nationwide that have cut general funding per student by almost 10 percent or more since 2008.

From the report:

Five of those eight — Arizona, Kansas, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin — enacted income tax rate cuts costing tens or hundreds of millions of dollars each year rather than restore education funding.

Most states raised general funding per student this year, but 19 states imposed new cuts, even as the national economy continues to improve.  Some of these states, including Oklahoma, Kansas, and North Carolina, already were among the deepest-cutting states since the recession hit.

Our country’s future depends heavily on the quality of its schools.  Increasing financial support can help K-12 schools implement proven reforms such as hiring and retaining excellent teachers, reducing class sizes, and expanding the availability of high-quality early education.  So it’s problematic that so many states have headed in the opposite direction over the last decade.  These cuts risk undermining schools’ capacity to develop the intelligence and creativity of the next generation of workers and entrepreneurs.

The survey comes just days after Policy Watch reported that Gov. Pat McCrory’s administration ordered all state departments, including the public schools, to ready a 2017-2019 budget proposal with a 2 percent spending cut. For North Carolina schools, that would amount to roughly a $173 million cut, and could have drastic implications for classroom resources and the state’s teaching force if North Carolina leaders follow through on the reduction.

Of course, we’ve written extensively at Policy Watch on the state of K-12 funding in North Carolina and how it has impacted state officials’ ability to weather rising student enrollment.

Read more

Commentary, News

Trending today on social media: #EarlyVoting, #NCvotes

With the debates now in the history books, voters are taking advantage of early voting in several states today.

Across North Carolina, long lines are being reported — not just in the state’s larger cities, but also in the smaller communities that were recently contending with the floodwaters of Hurricane Matthew.

Here are just a few pictures from Twitter with folks sharing their experience at the polls:


Prominent Charlotte real estate exec to McCrory and legislature on HB2: “Just change the damn law”

There was another strong indicator this morning that Gov. McCrory and other HB2 supporters have lost the war. This is from a story by reporter Ken Elkins in today’s Charlotte Business Journal entitled “Johnny Harris offers blunt assessment of HB2 at PGA championship event”:

Johnny Harris, developer and president of Quail Hollow Club, where the 2017 PGA Championship will be played, has refined his opinion of House Bill 2 just a bit.

Now, he’s more direct.

“Just change the damn law,” he says. “That’s all we’ve got to do.”

“It was a mistake,” Harris adds. The law, enacted by the N.C. General Assembly to negate Charlotte’s ordinance extending protected status to the LGBT community, is “very disappointing.”

Harris, the CEO of development firm Lincoln Harris who personally recruited the 2017 PGA Championship to Charlotte, spoke on a panel at a Charlotte Business Journal event that attracted about 200 to Quail Hollow Wednesday.

Harris has opined on HB2 before. On his travels around the country, business and sports people question him about life after the enactment of HB2. He has been quoted predicting that HB2 troubles will only worsen until the law is changed.

Now the 2017 PGA Championship is one of the few tourism-generating, national sporting events that remains in Charlotte after HB2 became law.

When HB2 proponents lose people like Harris (a rich developer who spends the rest of the article expounding on the wonders of self-serve beer machines) you know the demise of their discriminatory law is just a matter of time. Click here to read the rest of the article.


Scientists call out US Fish and Wildlife Service over “alarming misinterpretations” about red wolves’ survival

Red wolf

(Photo: Wolf Haven International)

This post has been updated with comments from Jett Ferebee, who opposes the Red Wolf Recovery program.

Red wolves kept in captivity are not in danger of extinction — not now, not in 10 years, not even in 125. The US Fish and Wildlife Service is using “alarming misinterpretations” of data to determine the future of the Red Wolf Recovery Program, according to scientists hired by the agency in a sharply worded letter yesterday.

At a Sept. 12 press conference, USFWS Regional Director Cynthia Dohner said that “with no changes to current management, the species will likely be lost within the next decade.” Based on this conclusion, Dohner justified moving most of the endangered wild red wolves from eastern North Carolina to zoos and wildlife parks to boost the captive population.

“This is a better path for the red wolf,” Dohner said at the time. “It’s not sustainable here.”

USFWS had hired the scientists to conduct a “population viability analysis.” The point of the study was to determine how  red wolves would likely fare both in captivity and in the wild.

The red wolf was declared endangered in 1967. There are about 225 red wolves residing in zoos. Another 30 to 40 live in five counties in northeastern North Carolina, where USFWS re-introduced them on federal lands in the 1980s in hopes of rebuilding the wild population. At its peak in the early 2000s, there were more than 125 wolves in the wild. But since then, people have shot them — sometimes mistaking them for coyotes, but in other cases, intentionally.

According to the analysis, captive red wolves won’t become extinct, as USFWS had stated. Nor do zoos “need red wolves from North Carolina” to keep their numbers up. Zoos could even release some of the animals into the wild without harming the captive population, the letter said. And Dohner’s statement that “it is clear that more animals are needed in captivity to support any wild population” has no scientific basis, at least in the population viability study.

The scientists’ letter asks USFWS to append and edit its statement.

A few private landowners in northeastern North Carolina oppose the Red Wolf Recovery Program. They view it as a government intrusion and an imposition on private property rights when the wolves roam onto their land. Jett Ferebee, one of the leading opponents, owns land that he rents to hunters, which compete with the wolves for prey. (Ferebee told NCPW that he does not rent his land to hunters, but that his family and friends hunt on it.)

Ferebee, a real estate developer, had requested — and received — a “take permit,” from USFWS, which allowed him to kill red wolves even if they posed no immediate threat to him or his property. He didn’t want the wolves on his property, he said, but “I’m trying to make USFWS adhere to the rules when they came into the state [and reintroduced the wolves].”

Ferebee said he trapped and returned 10 wolves to USFWS. “I could have shot every one of them,” he said. “But I didn’t want to kill the wolves.”

Last month, a federal judge ordered USFWS to stop issuing the take permits. The Southern Environmental Law Center, representing several wildlife groups, had sued USFWS, alleging it was failing to protect the red wolf as required under the Endangered Species Act.

The USFWS’s recent recommendation on the Red Wolf Recovery Program must go through a public comment period and rulemaking. That process could take more than a year.