Commentary, News

The Week’s Top Stories on Policy Watch

1. PW exclusive: Durham’s new D.A. is breaking the mold

In a one-on-one interview, Satana Deberry explains how she’s transforming the prosecutor’s office in NC’s 6th largest county

When Satana Deberry was executive director of the North Carolina Housing Coalition, it was easy for her to see the ripple effects of interactions with the justice system.

A single arrest, a single plea, a single conviction for even a low level infraction could close doors to employment, housing and education, she said. That could lead to further arrests, perpetuating generational cycles of poverty.

So when she ran for District Attorney of Durham County last year, she said, it was to make serious change.

When she won, she set about doing just that.[Read more…]


2. Pork giant Murphy-Brown battling insurers over who should pay for hog nuisance verdicts

If you drive through eastern North Carolina some days, especially in the wet heat of a summer afternoon, you might become immersed in the stench of hog waste. Many farmers hail it as the smell of money. Some neighbors of the industrialized swine operations denounce it as the foul air of misery.

But for pork producing giant Murphy-Brown and ten of its insurance companies, the odor represents nearly $100 million in damages and legal fees from hog nuisance lawsuits that, as it stands today, somebody will have to pay.

The insurance companies, though, have refused to pay Murphy-Brown’s claims. They argue in part that the policies don’t cover damages related to hog waste because of a “pollution exclusion clause.” Murphy-Brown is now suing the companies (see the complaint at the bottom of this story), accusing them of breach of contract. [Read more…]


3. Legislative hypocrisy on “pork” (and we’re not talking about hog farms)

It may seem like ancient history, but there was a time not that long ago in North Carolina in which Republican legislators were out of power and, alongside conservative advocacy groups, passionately promoting a “change” platform that blasted the incumbent Democrats for: 1) gerrymandering elections for partisan gain; 2) abusing power at the General Assembly by not allowing adequate debate on controversial legislation; and 3) stuffing the state budget with pork barrel projects.

Those who’ve paid any attention at all to state politics in recent years are probably already aware how promises #1 and #2 turned out (not so well), but the issue of pork barrel spending can be a little tougher to ferret out and assess. Fortunately, at least two North Carolina news outlets have been looking into the matter in recent weeks and, have, not surprisingly, uncovered compelling evidence of more rank hypocrisy.

Consider the chart that published last Friday morning. In eight pages, the chart lists 530 separate items contained in the budget sent by lawmakers to Gov. Cooper last month that would direct a total $383 million to local projects over the next two fiscal years. [Read more…]


4. Board of Elections does a 180 on decision to delay certifying voting machines

The North Carolina State Board of Elections plans to move forward with certifying new voting machines ahead of the 2020 elections after a member mistakenly voted Monday night to delay the process to create stricter requirements out of concern for cyber security.

The reversal of course came as a surprise to voting rights advocates and citizens who had praised Board members last night for postponing certification in the name of voter integrity.

Board members had voted 3-2 for the postponement in order to adopt more stringent requirements for digital voting systems at a later meeting in mid-August (a meeting for which they would have provided 15 days’ notice to the public).

However, another meeting notice sent out Tuesday by the Board stated that the group planned to consider a motion this Thursday morning to “rescind [the] decision to notice meeting to amend NC Election Systems Certification Program.” [Read more…]



5. In the age of social media, Donald Trump’s bigotry blooms on the Internet

The notion that social media is a fun-house mirror, distorting our features beyond recognition, is not a new one.

But there is a case to be made, in our hyper-politicized country and state, that our social media feeds offer a more truthful image of us than we know. Perhaps it is that we only wish our social media feeds – so laden with animosity – were a misrepresentation. Perhaps the “fun-house mirror” characterization is a terribly optimistic one.

In that case, Donald Trump’s most fervent supporters are spending a lot of time gazing at their own reflections these days, and it appears, God help us all, that they like what they see.[Read more…]


6. Rowan County charter school seeks to sever agreement with Raleigh-based management firm

School’s board cites fiscal and operational concerns

Essie Mae Kiser Foxx Charter School in the Rowan County town of East Spencer recently notified the state Charter School Advisory Board that it will part ways with its management firm – Raleigh-based Torchlight Academy Services (TAS) – after only one year due to poor fiscal and operational management.

Specifically, school officials say TAS failed to account for expenditures, pay operating costs, follow policies, rules and regulations and adhere to the curriculum adopted by the school’s governing board.

“Our board determined that it would be in the best interest of the school to move forward without TAS as our management company,” Tina Foxx Wallace, who chairs the school’s Board of Directors, said in an interview. [Read more…]

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