Commentary, News

The Week’s Top Five on NC Policy Watch

1. Lawmakers refuse to say how incumbent judges and D.A.’s fare in new maps; so we did it for you

Rep. Justin Burr (R-Stanly, Montgomery) said last week that the North Carolina House will pass legislation redrawing the maps under which state judges and district attorneys are elected without any information being made available to the public about how current judges and prosecutors will be impacted.

Lawmakers in the House Select Committee on Judicial Redistricting will vote on the new maps tomorrow, which will dramatically alter the districts in which judges and district attorneys across the state are elected. As of earlier today, they were set to vote on the maps without any idea of who would be affected, who would be “double-bunked,” who stands to lose their seat on the bench or which districts would be affected positively or negatively.

This stands in sharp contrast to when the General Assembly recently redrew legislative maps. At that time, lawmakers not only knew what district each of them would fall under, they actually considered incumbency protection as a criterion in the mapmaking process. [Read more…]

***Bonus read:

2. General Assembly stonewalling Cooper’s nominees to state Board of Education

Sandra Byrd has been a decorated North Carolina high school teacher in western North Carolina and an associate professor at UNC-Asheville, where she also served as assistant provost.

So she seemed a natural fit when Gov. Roy Cooper announced in May that Byrd was one of three new nominees for seats on the State Board of Education, North Carolina’s top public school board.

But as of today, nearly five months after Cooper’s proclamation, Byrd says she doesn’t know when, if ever, she’ll actually assume her duties on the board.

“I appreciate the governor’s confidence in me, and I am looking forward to serving on this board,” says Byrd. “But I don’t know when that will be.”

Byrd is one of three state board hopefuls caught, once again, in limbo with the N.C. General Assembly. Legislative confirmation is required under the state constitution for these powerful state board members, charged with administering state school initiatives and leading North Carolina’s 115 local school districts. But, despite no constitutional bounds on the time frame for confirmation, it was once a speedy process for most nominees, taking weeks or days.[Read more…]

***Bonus reads:

3. Demoted former DEQ chief contradicts department policy in national environmental journal

When Donald van der Vaart and John Evans ran the NC Department of Environmental Quality, they were not shy about expressing their anti-regulatory, pro-business philosophy. But now the former secretary and his chief deputy, who stayed at the agency in lesser roles after Roy Cooper was elected governor, have published a controversial article in a professional journal promoting views that not only clash with those of the current DEQ leadership, but also appear to flout its authority.

In the Environmental Law Reporter, van der Vaart and Evans shared the byline on a seven-page opinion piece calling for the repeal of a core tenet of the Clean Air Act, known as PSD, or Prevention of Significant Deterioration. For the past 45 years, the intention of PSD regulations have been to keep major polluters from eluding stricter emissions rules by moving into areas where the air is relatively clean. The industries could then sully the air in their new locations.

The two officials argue that the PSD is a form of “economic protectionism.” By requiring industries to further curb their emissions should they move into a cleaner locale, the PSD keeps them tethered to the “politically powerful” Northeast and Midwest, they wrote.

Ryke Longest, director of Duke University’s Environmental Law and Policy Clinic, said van der Vaart and Evans’ argument is “the flip side of environmental justice.”[Read more…]

4. Opposition to Confederate monument grows, but UNC officials decline to act

Dr. Altha Cravey, a tenured professor of Geography at UNC-Chapel Hill, knew she was unlikely to hear anything about the ongoing “Silent Sam” controversy at a high powered Tuesday gathering in Chapel Hill.

The meeting, with panels moderated by UNC Chancellor Carol Folt and UNC alum Frank Bruni of the New York Times, was designed to tout UNC system President Margaret Spellings’ vision for the university and mark the 11th anniversary of the 2006 Spellings Commission Report that was issued during her tenure as U.S. education secretary.

“It was kind of love fest for Spellings — they never address real controversies and ongoing issues at these things,” Cravey said in an interview Wednesday. “I hoped that we would hear a little about this division on the UNC Board of Governors, but I knew we wouldn’t — and I knew we wouldn’t hear about Silent Sam.”

Cravey, a faculty member with a long history of activism, decided to take matters into her own hands. During Spellings’ keynote speech, Cravey wrote two hashtags on a piece of paper and raised them up from her table. [Read more…]

5. Charity and other on-the-cheap solutions won’t get the job done
The Right’s latest cynical efforts to undermine government and the common good

Many North Carolina conservatives have long pursued a cynical, ends-justify-the-means strategy when it comes to their ultimate goal of radically remaking the social contract. Here’s how it frequently plays out: First they complain incessantly that public institutions are inherently corrupt and inferior to the private sector; then they use this supposed “fact” as justification to slash public funding and/or sell off core public structures and systems to private interests. Soon, the whole process repeats itself as the self-perpetuating cycle plays out.

For a classic case-in-point, see the Right’s treatment of North Carolina’s public schools. First came the ceaseless drumbeat of complaints about a “broken” public education system and the “failure” of “government schools” and “mass education.” This was followed by years of funding cuts designed to curb “waste, fraud and abuse” and to force “education bureaucrats” to get their house in order. Next came the aggressive push for privatization in the form of vouchers and charters – accompanied, of course, by highly publicized (though frequently ephemeral) pledges to raise teacher pay, even as other essential components of the system were quietly squeezed and starved for resources. [Read more…]

***Bonus video for the week:  Advocacy groups pan Tillis’ rigorous proposal to provide undocumented youth with legal status

Check Also

Republican negotiators reach deal on tax plan

House and Senate Republicans reportedly have struck a ...

Top Stories from NCPW

  • News
  • Commentary

The UNC Board of Governors is holding its last meeting of 2017 Friday, where the latest of its many [...]

Just south of Candler off the Pisgah Highway is a lovely piece of property on Little Piney Mountain [...]

Veteran North Carolina education policy expert Kris Nordstrom has authored a new and vitally importa [...]

When Joni Robbins, a section chief in the N.C. Department of Public Instruction, closes bidding next [...]

“All speech is free, but some speech is more free than others.” This seems to be the motto of the cu [...]

Trumpists prepare to raze another vital common good law It’s hard to keep up these days with the flo [...]

The post That’s how ‘Humbug’ is done appeared first on NC Policy Watch. [...]

The solid citizens of Johnston County, N.C. – in a fateful quirk of geography – for several years ha [...]

Featured | Special Projects

NC Budget 2017
The maze of the NC Budget is complex. Follow the stories to follow the money.
Read more


NC Redistricting 2017
New map, new districts, new lawmakers. Here’s what you need to know about gerrymandering in NC.
Read more