Commentary, News

This week’s top five on N.C. Policy Watch

ECU_Staton1. ECU chancellor-elect brings complicated, political past to new role:
Critics question whether ideology trumps academics in Cecil Staton’s hiring

Late last month, when Cecil Staton—Republican politician, religious scholar, businessman and right-wing book publisher—was named the future chancellor of East Carolina University, the news came and went with little reaction from most North Carolinians.

Staton, one of the first major university appointments under controversial new UNC system President Margaret Spellings, was hailed as a celebrated academic with an Oxford degree, a successful entrepreneur, a vaunted academic fundraiser and a “cheerleader” for higher education at his former home in Georgia. But, based on a N.C. Policy Watch investigation, Staton’s past is more complicated and, apparently, much more bizarre than that.

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Coal ash pollution2. Did the McCrory administration fail to perform the most basic job of government?
Deposition indicates administration officials and Duke Energy pressured regulators to loosen water safety standards, jeopardize public health

There are a lot of serious indictments that can be leveled at a public official. Corruption, ineptitude, disloyalty – the list of potential offenses is a lengthy one. At some basic level, however, it’s hard to imagine a more damning allegation than that he or she knowingly jeopardized the physical health and well-being of his or her constituents.

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Budget choices3. More ill-conceived tax cuts and MIA investments: Why the House budget proposal comes up short

The $22.225 billion budget proposal that the state House of Representatives released for the upcoming 2017 fiscal year reflects the limited aspirations for North Carolina that the House and Senate leadership have agreed on. Legislative leadership used a flawed formula to set a low budget target — even lower than the Governor’s $22.33 billion proposal — that has no basis in economic realities or community needs and leaves $127.4 million on the table unspent.

Overall, the House proposal represents a 2.26 percent — or $490.3 million — increase over the current 2016 fiscal year budget. This proposal reflects leadership’s loyalty to severe budget constraints and lopsided tax cuts, which primarily benefit profitable corporations and the wealthy.

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McCrory bathroom4. On HB2, warning signs abound, but state leaders just keep on driving

As the fallout from HB2 continues to pile up, one bad news story at a time, I am reminded of the time a friend of mine drove from Washington, DC to Birmingham, Alabama, unintentionally by way of Miami, Florida. (In case anyone is wondering, Miami is not exactly on a direct route, being about 10 hours further south than one needs to drive when traveling to west Alabama from points north and east). When I asked my friend why he took the scenic route (this was before the advent of GPS), he answered that he didn’t have a map, wasn’t quite sure where all the other exits went, and felt like he should just keep driving south, because he knew eventually he’d hit water.

Right about now, Governor McCrory is behaving a lot like my friend.

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Classroom5. A brief lesson on the reality of immigration and the lives of immigrants in North Carolina

Immigration is one of the most contentious issues of our time. Debates on the matter — both generally and with respect to the specifics of various proposals surrounding it — are pervasive in homes, schools, workplaces, television and social media.

Given this backdrop, I probably should not have been surprised when I received an email recently that was purportedly from a North Carolina fifth grader. But I was. And I was sad to see unauthorized immigrants painted in such a negative light – even by such a youngster. Hopefully my response, which follows below, can help shed some light and maybe even open and change some minds.

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