The week’s top stories on Policy Watch

1. NC judge scraps UNC‘s controversial “Silent Sam” settlement

An Orange County Superior Court Judge effectively scrapped the UNC System’s legal settlement with the NC Sons of Confederate Veterans Wednesday, saying the group had no legal standing to sue for ownership of the “Silent Sam” Confederate monument and a $2.5 million payment for its care.

Judge Allen Baddour initially signed off on the consent judgement in the case, but when the agreement was challenged by students, faculty and alumni he said he would take another look at the details of the case.

“If it was up to me, I’d burn it and see if you could get some money for the ore, then I’d fund some scholarships,” former U.S. Congressman Mel Watt, a UNC-Chapel Hill alumnus who was on hand for Wednesday’s pivotal ruling, told Policy Watch afterward. [Read more…]

2. N.C. is home to most conservative U.S. House lawmaker, new rankings show

WASHINGTON — North Carolina is home to the nation’s most conservative member of the U.S. House, according to a recent ranking of lawmakers’ 2019 legislative records.

GOP Rep. Mark Meadows of the 11th district in the western tip of the state earned a perfect score on the conservativeto-liberal scale, which was compiled by, a nonpartisan organization that tracks government data and statistics.[Read more…]

3. Duke Energy says it will fully excavate coal ash from unlined ponds, but that won’t fix the legacy of contamination

This is the first in a series of stories about Duke Energy‘s closure plans for the ash basins at the remaining six plants in North Carolina.

The modern history of Duke Energy in North Carolina pivots on a single day: Feb. 2, 2014.

On that Sunday afternoon, a pipe collapsed at the utility’s coal-fired power plant in Eden, releasing at least 39,000 tons of ash and up to 27 million gallons of contaminated water into the Dan River, which carried the pollution flow at least 70 miles downstream.

The events of the last six years – court battles and public outrage, two Coal Ash Management Acts and recent EPA regulatory rollbacks, $68 million in criminal penalties and the tainted legacy of former Gov. Pat McCrory, ousted in part because of his mishandling of the disaster – have culminated in this: a historic consent order between the state and Duke Energy that requires the utility to fully excavate the remaining 80 million tons of ash from unlined pits at the remaining six plants. [Read more…]

4. PW profile: Deputy Juvenile Justice Secretary draws from painful personal past to help kids in the system succeed

When Billy Lassiter was 12 years old, he sat in the front row of one of his seventh grade classes surrounded by about 30 students who had their sights set on picking apart their substitute teacher’s strange dialect.

He still remembers that it was a Thursday afternoon; it was sixth period and at the end of the day, so the teacher was growing quite tired of the heckling. To try and deflect the negative attention, the teacher cracked a joke about Lassiter having Albinism, a genetic disorder that causes the skin, hair and eyes to have little or no color.

“That led to other kids in the class jumping onto that, of course,” Lassiter said. “Because he had started it, he couldn’t really control it after that point. For like 10 minutes, it was just kids joking about me. You can take so much, but I got to the point where I just couldn’t take it anymore. My reaction was just to get up and get out of there, and I thought I would make it out before I started to cry, but I didn’t quite make it out that door before that happened.” [Read more…]

5. Superintendent Mark Johnson hit with ethics complaint over email, text message blasts

A language arts teacher from Charlotte has filed a complaint with the N.C. Ethics Commission over email and text messages State Superintendent Mark Johnson sent to educators and parents asking them to take an online survey about Common Core standards.

Justin Parmenter, a frequent critic of the superintendent who blogs at Notes from the Chalkboard, contends the messages were politically motivated. He said they were sent to aid Johnson in his bid to become the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor.

“Mark Johnson’s fake Common Core outrage message to hundreds of thousands of parents and educators is nothing more than an attempt to swing uninformed voters his way in the primary for Lieutenant Governor,” Parmenter said. “It’s unethical for any elected official to use state resources for personal gain.” [Read more…]

6. Perfecting corruption: Latest campaign news shows how far and fast our politics have fallen    (Commentary)

As time goes by, it becomes increasingly difficult to believe that President Richard Nixon was forced to resign from office – ultimately by his fellow Republicans – because of his corrupt political acts and those of his aides.

For instance, one of the key (and at the time shocking) revelations of the Watergate investigation was that the 1972 Nixon reelection campaign (which came to be known by the highly appropriate moniker of “CREEP”) had employed a “dirty tricks” unit. Led by the infamous Donald Segretti, a small group of Republican loyalists did their worst to spy on perceived opponents and disrupt the campaigns of Democratic candidates by spreading lies and misinformation about concocted sexual misdeeds and other invented transgressions.

Such political dirty tricks – what the Nixon people called “ratf***ing” – were, of course, hardly unprecedented in American politics or the exclusive province of Republicans. [Read more...]

7. Greg Lindberg, the man who knew too many (Commentary)
How Lindberg’s ties to Dan Forest, and a whole lot of others, expose the holes in our ethics, election laws

For a man who knew everybody, Greg Lindberg might seem in the coming days like a man who knew nobody.

And at this point, perhaps he doesn’t.

Lindberg, the indicted financier tied up in a widening bribery scandal, is so intimate with federal investigators’ sonorous tones and heavy breathing upon his shoulder he can tell you what their agents had for lunch (my guess is roasted chicken, white rice, steamed cauliflower and a half-gallon of black coffee; these are not the sort to dally with extraneous carbs). [Read more…]

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