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From ICE raids, to UNC-CH’s new chancellor to combating climate change: The week’s top stories on NC Policy Watch

1. ICE tearing apart families in historic raids across state

Kay* was cooling her machine down Tuesday morning at Bear Creek Arsenal in Sanford when she and a mechanic nearby noticed a supervisor looking visibly worried talking to someone they had never seen before.

It didn’t take long for word that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) had arrived to spread like wildfire. Before Kay could process what was happening, other employees were trying to run away – one even tried to climb out a window.

That’s when the officers made their presence known. They flooded into the building and began yelling at everyone. They surrounded the area and no one could leave. [Read more…]

2. Critics to state regulators: Duke Energy must do much more to combat climate change

Since Colson Combs was born just over 15 years ago, the planet Earth has recorded more than 10 of its hottest years on record. If humans have not dialed back greenhouse gas emissions by the time Combs reaches his late 20s, the world will likely be headed toward a climate crisis that will stalk him for his entire life.

This dystopian prospect compelled Combs to speak for the third time before the North Carolina Utilities Commission Monday night, on this occasion to plead with the board to reject Duke Energy’s Integrated Resource Plan. The plan details the utility’s proposed energy mix for the next 15 years, at which point, the planet’s climate could pass the point of no return.

“I’m here fighting for renewable energy,” Combs said. “I’m fighting for our future. It’s a scary time. Our world is changing for the worse.” [Read more…]

3. Gov. Cooper to Congress: Our future depends on climate action

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper testified on Capitol Hill Wednesday, urging Congress to step up the fight against climate change as Democrats move to elevate the polarizing problem into a key campaign issue in the 2020 elections.

Speaking at one of the first House committee hearings on global warming in more than eight years, Cooper said North Carolina is the poster child for what can happen if the problem continues to go unaddressed.

In testimony before the House Natural Resources Committee, Cooper told of mountain mudslides in western North Carolina that hurt apple growers and closed ski areas. He said high temperatures in the central part of the state have killed poultry and crops, while hurricanes and tropical storms have lashed coastal communities on the eastern shore. [Read more…]

4. New UNC-Chapel Hill chancellor, system president agree: Silent Sam needs to go

UNC-Chapel Hill’s new interim chancellor wants the “Silent Sam” Confederate monument moved off campus – a position the interim UNC system President said Thursday he also shares.

At a press conference to welcome Kevin Guskiewicz as interim chancellor, interim UNC President Bill Roper went further than he ever has in opposing the statue’s return to campus.

“He is on record as saying that the monument should not be anywhere on the campus, and rather should be somewhere else,” Roper said of Guskiewicz’s position on the controversial monument.

“That’s my position as well and I’m comfortable with his position,” Roper said. “That’s one of the reasons that I thought he was the right person to lead UNC-Chapel Hill at this crucial time.” [Read more…]

5. School districts, lawmakers, launch new fight for calendar flexibility

Two bills being considered by the State House would give several local school districts calendar flexibility, but could also reignite a long standing disagreement between educators and tourism officials about when North Carolina schools should open and close.

On Tuesday, the House Standing Committee on K-12 Education reviewed House Bill 12 that would exempt the Alamance-Burlington School System from state law requiring it to open no later than the Monday closest to August 26 and to close no later than the Friday closest to June 11.

Lawmakers who spoke Tuesday said local school boards should have the authority to set school calendars.[Read more…]

6. Why North Carolina needs state leaders, not the Koch brothers, to save public education

Public education advocates in North Carolina are ablaze these days, after a report from The Washington Post in late January teased a nebulous plan hatched by the conservative Koch network to spend boatloads of cash on a massive, as-yet-unnamed, K-12 initiative in five states.

If North Carolina is one of the five, state leaders and the Kochs are mum, even as Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson promises a “big” announcement later this month with business leaders.

Speculation abounds, even if Johnson’s announcement has nothing to do with the Kochs. Ramp up the anticipation, or anxiety, depending on where you stand.[Read more…]

7. Marching this Saturday in Raleigh: The moral (and effective) thing to do

There’s a vexing conundrum that frequently confronts movements for social justice when they’re trying to rally supporters to action. It turns out that the best and easiest times to spur people to action often coincide with the moments at which the movement is at its weakest and least able to effect real change.

Think about it.

Five-plus years ago when the Moral Mondays movement really took off in North Carolina, it was at a moment of historic impotence for the state’s progressives. With the Governor’s office, the General Assembly and the state Supreme Court in conservative hands and an aggressive, hard right policy push in full swing, progressives had few, if any, venues in which to make a stand or push back. A similar reality confronted progressives at the national level in early 2017 after the inauguration of Donald Trump.[Read more…]

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