From a Clear and Present Danger, to the latest on Leandro, to having your say on redistricting: The week’s top stories on Policy Watch

1. Clear and present danger: Former Army missile plant has polluted a Black, Latino neighborhood in Burlington for more than 30 years

Military, private owner have allowed toxic contaminants to fester, avoided penalties while residents bear environmental burden

This is the first of a two-part story about hazardous contamination at a former missile plant in Burlington that is threatening a predominantly Black and Latinx neighborhood. Part 2 runs tomorrow. You can also read this story as a pdf file and view the source documents, which are linked within the text.

Leer en español.

Tattooed in ivy, bound in chain-link fence, Building 16 casts an ominous three-story shadow over several homes along Hilton Road. The window blinds are torn, as if it were sleeping with one eye open.

This relic of the Cold War is among two dozen buildings sprawled across the 22-acre Tarheel Army Missile Plant in East Burlington. Here, in the 1950s and ’60s, Western Electric conducted top-secret research on behalf of the military.

That research, developing sophisticated guidance systems for Nike missiles, required workers to handle hazardous chemicals. Over time, those chemicals spilled and seeped and leaked. They were poured down sinks and dumped into storm drains.

Fifty years since the military mothballed the Nike missile program, the plant, once a source of civic pride for the city, is now a toxic disgrace. [Read more…]

2. Former Army missile plant in Burlington posesan urgent public health risk

Private owners neglect the contaminated property, posing an environmental threat to a Black and Latinx neighborhood

This is the second of a two-part story about hazardous contamination at a former missile plant in Burlington that is threatening a predominantly Black and Latinx neighborhood.

Inside Building 1A of the former Tarheel Army Missile Plant, a metal pipe rested on a table amid crumbs of broken glass. Many of the windows had been broken, so with no more effort than a step over the threshold, the entire contaminant 22-acre site was open for skateboarding, playing paintball, even homesteading.

This was the scene in early May. From the outside, little had changed from last November, when city, state and Army officials, as well as the current property owner, David Tsui, visited the plant in preparation for the next phase of the cleanup. [Read more…]

3. America dumbs down freedom, with disastrous consequences (Commentary)

Death and tragedy were front and center in the news again last week.

In Winston-Salem, a high school student was shot and killed by another child. Only a few hours later, tragedy was mercifully avoided at a Raleigh high school when two guns were taken from a student who had brought them to campus. A day after that, another Winston-Salem child – this one just 2 years old – died when a gun was discharged in his grandmother’s home.

Meanwhile, in hospitals across North Carolina and the nation, intensive care units were packed to the rafters with desperately ill and dying COVID-19 patients – the overwhelming majority of whom did not avail themselves of free and widely available vaccines. The pandemic death toll in North Carolina alone inched closer to 15,000.

Meanwhile, a devastating hurricane – fueled, scientists have confirmed, by climate change and the steadily rising ocean water temperatures – wreaked havoc from Louisiana to New England. Dozens died.

What do these three seemingly disparate tragedies have in common? [Read more...]

4. NC surpasses 15,000 COVID deaths, nearly one-third of new cases in children under 17

Governor Roy Cooper said Thursday there is increasing urgency for everyone ages 12 and older to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

For the week ending Sept. 4, children age 17 and under made up 31% of the state’s new COVID-19 cases.

That is the highest percentage since the pandemic began.

“The numbers aren’t good, especially the number of people in the hospital and dying,” Cooper said.

In the past 24 hours, the coronavirus has claimed 110 lives with North Carolina recording 15,004 deaths from COVID-19 since the pandemic began.

By far, the most people hospitalized right now by COVID are unvaccinated.[Read more…]

Bonus Read: Pregnant women should be vaccinated for COVID-19, says Duke expert

5. Judge gives state lawmakers ‘one more last chance’ to fully fund the Leandro plan

Superior Court Judge David Lee has given state lawmakers “one more last chance” to meet their constitutional obligation to provide students in North Carolina with a sound basic education before he takes action to force their hand.

Lee, the judge overseeing the state’s long-running Leandro school funding case, made his remarks Wednesday during a court hearing with lawyers for the defendants and plaintiffs.

He gave lawmakers until Oct. 15 to fully fund a school improvement plan that calls for $5.6 billion in new K-12 funding by 2028. An Oct. 18 hearing has been set to discuss the next steps if an agreement has not been reached to fully fund the plan. [Read more…]

6. NC just enacted ambitious criminal justice reform legislation. Here‘s what it does.

Gov. Roy Cooper signed a comprehensive criminal justice reform package (Senate Bill 300) into law last Thursday. It became effective immediately.

The bill, originally sponsored by Republicans with input from Democrats, gained bipartisan support – though not universal acclaim.

A press release from Cooper’s office touted the fact that the bill included provisions recommended by the Task Force for Racial Equity in Criminal Justice that the Governor established in June of 2020:

“Senate Bill 300 makes important changes to improve policing and criminal justice in North Carolina, as recommended by TREC, including:

  • Promotes recruitment of officers with diverse backgrounds and experiences and improves training so that officers are better equipped to be successful
  • Requires early intervention mechanisms to identify and correct officers who use excessive force or other misconduct
  • Furthers independent investigations of police-involved shootings
  • Limits local laws that criminalize poverty
  • Requires a first appearance in court within 72 hours of a person being arrested.”

The bill also won praise from law enforcement officials. In a press release, the North Carolina Sheriffs’ Association applauded the sponsors of the bill for soliciting and considering the input of the organization.[Read more…]

7. Redistricting public hearings fall short in accommodating public input, advocates say

Lawmakers will travel to 13 locations throughout the state to host public hearings on redistricting, which will redefine the boundaries of congressional and legislative districts for up to a decade to come, including a new, 14th congressional district. However, it appears that members of the public will not be able to participate and provide comments online.

The 13 meetings will take place at these locations:

8. Weekly Radio Interviews and daily radio commentaries with Rob Schofield:

9. Weekly Editorial Cartoon:

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A Clear and Present Danger

 

NC’s Tarheel Army Missile Plant is a toxic disgrace
Read the two-part story about the Army’s failure to clean up hazardous chemicals, which have contaminated a Black and Hispanic neighborhood for 30 years.

Read in English.


Haga clic aquí para leer: Peligro inminente
Una antigua planta de misiles del Ejército ha contaminado un vecindario negro y latino durante 30 años.

Leer en español.