Commentary, News

This Week’s Top Five on NC Policy Watch

Stan_Riggs4001. Leading coastal scientist resigns from key state panel in protest

It wasn’t just the political controversy over sea-level rise. Or the Coastal Resources Commission’s defense of a sea-level rise report.

Or state environmental officials, who are allowing 21 eight-bedroom houses to be built on ecologically sensitive and flood-prone land on Sunset Beach.

No, “it was really a slow drip drip” of politically driven decisions, Dr. Stan Riggs said, that ultimately drove the renowned marine geologist away.

A distinguished professor of geology at East Carolina University, Riggs resigned from the CRC’s science panel on July 25 over political conflicts about development and growth on the coast. He co-founded the panel in 1996.

“I believe the once highly respected and effective science panel has been subtly defrocked and is now an ineffective body,” Riggs wrote in his two-page letter.

Riggs also sent his letter to Braxton Davis, director of the N.C. Division of Coastal Management. Davis has not returned message seeking comment.

At stake in the state’s policy decisions are the millions of people who live, work and visit the coast, as well as sensitive marine habitats already jeopardized by development. [Continue reading…]

vouchers-62. More taxpayer funding for voucher schools that openly discriminate against LGBT students and parents

Bible Baptist Christian School in Matthews is one of 336 religious schools and private academies that receive taxpayer funding under the voucher program created by the General Assembly in 2013 and signed into law by Gov. Pat McCrory.

The school collected more than $100,000 in public support for the 2015-2016 school year to pay for the education of 26 students who signed up for a voucher.

But not all taxpayers have access to the school.  Gay students and students with gay parents are banned from attending Bible Baptist Christian School even though their tax dollars support it.

That’s not an unwritten policy quietly enforced by the admissions office.  It is quite explicit that gay students and students with gay parents are not welcome.

Page 76 of the student handbook of the school includes a “Homosexual Conduct Policy” that makes it clear. [Continue reading…]

NC Poverty Research Fund3. “Radicalized concentrated poverty”
Disturbing new report on NC’s largest city is a must read for those who care about our state and its future

The city of Charlotte – bustling with activity, rapid growth and construction cranes and soon to be within shouting distance of a million residents – may seem an odd place to feature in a new report on poverty. The authors of “Economic Hardship, Radicalized Concentrated Poverty and the Challenges of Low Wage Work: Charlotte, North Carolina” acknowledge this truth right up front in their just-released study.

As Professor Gene Nichol and researcher Heather Hunt of the University of North Carolina School of Law and the N.C. Poverty Research Fund note in the opening paragraphs of their report, the city of Charlotte and its home county of Mecklenburg have a long and impressive list of things going for them – a fast-growing population, gleaming office towers filled with the employees of major corporations, giant medical centers, top flight universities, big league sports teams and an outsized share of the state’s wealth and economic output. [Continue reading…]

McCrory ASD4. Gov. McCrory signs off on charter takeover of low-performing schools

As expected, Gov. Pat McCrory has signed House Bill 1080, controversial legislation that will allow for-profit charter takeovers of several low-performing schools in North Carolina.

McCrory’s office announced the signing Tuesday, although the news was buried in a press release about the governor’s signing of legislation intended to help state officials keep track of veterans.

It’s unclear when the governor gave his seal to the bill. On Tuesday, staff at McCrory’s press office did not respond to Policy Watch’s inquiries about the signing.

The bill, which was opposed by most Democrats and public school backers in the state legislature, creates a statewide “achievement school district” for five low-performing schools. [Continue reading…]

604-chart5. Failing charter schools: Inadequate screening and oversight causing big problems for many NC families

Erinn Rochelle says she beat herself up for months after her sons’ charter school unexpectedly shut down during its first year of operation.

“Not only did I put my kids there, I recommended that school to my friends,” said Rochelle, whose children entered the brand new StudentFirst Academy in Charlotte in 2013. “Four or five of them decided to enroll their children there too, and it just makes me feel really bad. My name is tarnished.”

In spring 2014 with about a month left in the school year, StudentFirst was in debt by more than $600,000 and shut its doors, giving only a week’s notice. Rochelle scrambled to get her children into a public magnet school operated by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school district. [Continue reading…]

Bonus read:

BREAKING: Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals strikes down NC’s Monster Voting law (Updated)

There are 83 pages to wade through — click here to do it yourself — but one thing is clear from the ruling today issued by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals: North Carolina’s “monster” voter suppression law has been struck down. These are the final two paragraphs of the court’s opinion: [Continue reading…]

News

BREAKING: Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals strikes down NC’s Monster Voting law (Updated)

There are 83 pages to wade through — click here to do it yourself — but one thing is clear from the ruling today issued by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals: North Carolina’s “monster” voter suppression law has been struck down. These are the final two paragraphs of the court’s opinion:

“It is beyond dispute that “voting is of the most fundamental significance under our constitutional structure.” Ill. State Bd. of Elections v. Socialist Workers Party, 440 U.S. 173, 184 (1979).  For “[n]o right is more precious in a free country than that of having a voice in the election of those who make the laws under which, as good citizens, we must live. Other rights, even the most basic, are illusory if the right to vote is undermined.” Wesberry v. Sanders, 376 U.S. 1, 17 (1964).  We thus take seriously, as the Constitution demands, any infringement on this right. We cannot ignore the record evidence that, because of race, the legislature enacted one of the largest restrictions of the franchise in modern North Carolina history.

We therefore reverse the judgment of the district court. We remand the case for entry of an order enjoining the implementation of SL 2013-381’s photo ID requirement and changes to early voting, same-day registration, out-of-precinct voting, and preregistration.”

In response to the ruling, the ACLU of North Carolina, which helped represent the plaintiffs, issued the following statement:

A federal appeals court today struck down North Carolina’s restrictive omnibus voting law in a sweeping victory for voting rights. The ruling blocks voter ID and restores preregistration, a week of early voting, same-day registration, and out-of-precinct provisional voting.

The American Civil Liberties Union and Southern Coalition for Social Justice challenged the provisions restricting a week of early voting, same-day registration, and out-of-precinct provisional voting.

“With surgical precision, North Carolina tried to eliminate voting practices disproportionately used by African-Americans. This ruling is a stinging rebuke of the state’s attempt to undermine African-American voter participation, which had surged over the last decade,” said Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project. “It is a major victory for North Carolina voters and for voting rights.”

The groups filed the lawsuit in 2013, charging the law unduly burdens the right to vote and discriminates against African-American voters, in violation of the U.S Constitution’s 14th Amendment and the Voting Rights Act. A lower court upheld the law in April, prompting the Fourth Circuit appeal.

The ACLU, ACLU of North Carolina, and Southern Coalition for Social Justice represent the League of Women Voters of North Carolina, the North Carolina A. Philip Randolph Institute, North Carolina Common Cause, Unifour Onestop Collaborative, and several individuals.

“We applaud the appeals court for recognizing the discriminatory intent behind and effect wrought by the 2013 monster law. Because of this ruling, North Carolinians will now be able to register and vote free of the obstacles created by the Legislature in 2013,” said Southern Coalition for Social Justice senior attorney Allison Riggs.

 

Environment

At a weird meeting, Gov. McCrory warns ag board about “environmental extremists”

Ag Bill signing_1_0

Gov. McCrory signs the farm bill after making odd remarks about environmental extremists. (Photo from the governor’s office.)

This week’s agriculture board should have been a snooze. Instead, it was a doozy. On the agenda were two ceremonial items: Governor Pat McCrory would sign the farm bill and Associate Supreme Court Justice Paul Newby would swear in new board members. And then, the board would delve into a mind-numbing discussion of ag rules, including those on pen-raised quail and garbage-fed swine.

But McCrory opened his remarks with an odd pronouncement:

“A lot of work being done by extremist environmental groups” which, although not naming names, McCrory said, are planning attacks on the state’s agribusinesses.

“I’m concerned about what I’m seeing behind the scenes,” McCrory went on. “I’m looking for input from you [the agricultural board] about from where and why these assaults are coming. We can’t have these types of people putting us out of business.”

NCPW contacted the governor’s press office by phone and email to elicit more information about the identity of the groups and the source of his information. No one from the press office has returned our messages.

McCrory also used the ag board pulpit to assail the Environmental Protection Agency over its new Clean Water Rule. The rule adds and clarifies protections of waterways that have been historically covered under the Clean Water Act: tributaries, wetlands, and waters that connect with oceans and rivers that cross state lines.

“It’s pretty extensive federal government intervention,” McCrory said. “We need to stop or revise it. The EPA is getting more involved in our state’s rivers and streams. It could have major ramifications for the agricultural community.”

However, the EPA is clear that the new rule doesn’t require any new permitting from farmers and retains most of the agricultural exemptions. In fact, many agricultural practices, such as planting, harvesting and moving livestock, have been exempt from the Clean Water Act.

The meeting was odd from the get-go, when Justice Paul Newby swore in three new agriculture board members. Bible in hand, Newby invoked state General Statute 11. Article 1 of the statute defines oaths as “being most solemn appeals to Almighty God, as the omniscient witness of truth and the just and omnipotent avenger of falsehood.”

“This is a reminder that God sees everything,” Newby added. “You can never fool God.”

Assuming that’s true, that means God also saw the $2 million that poured into Newby’s campaign coffers in 2012. A regular on the tea party circuit, Newby received contributions from conservative groups and super PACs, such as the , the NC Judicial Coalition, Justice for All and the Republican State Leadership Committee, which were trying to influence the ostensibly nonpartisan elections.

The RSLC  spearheaded the redistricting maps that favored Republicans. These are the same maps that came before the state supreme court — of which, again, Newby is an associate justice — to rule on their constitutionality.

With that as context, consider Newby’s money quote as he cautioned incoming board members about the temptations of public service. “People have long through public office is for personal gain,” Newby said. “But you have put personal self-gain aside. It’s a difficult thing to do.”

Commentary

HB2 editorial: McCrory refuses to accept “responsibility he so richly deserves”

HB2_LOGOSIn case you missed it yesterday, the Virginian-Pilot, which serves as the newspaper of record for much of northeastern North Carolina, published a comprehensive editorial yesterday that condemn HB2 and Gov. McCrory’s ongoing performance with respect to the matter.

Here are a couple of excerpts:

After detailing the NBA’s recent decision to make good on its promise to move the NBA All-Star Game out of state if the law remained on the books, the editorial said this:

“McCroy handled the news with typical aplomb.

‘The sports and entertainment elite, Attorney General Roy Cooper and the liberal media have for months misrepresented our laws and maligned the people of North Carolina simply because most people believe boys and girls should be able to use school bathrooms,’ he said in a blatantly false statement issued by his office on Thursday.

He blamed Democratic Party presidential nominee Hillary Clinton for this setback. He has previously blamed President Barack Obama for the ill effects of this state law. On Friday, deploying the grace with which North Carolinians have grown familiar, he called the NBA’s decision ‘total P.C. B.S.’ during an interview on NPR.

Basically, McCrory has done everything and anything but accept the responsibility he so richly deserves.”

And here’s the conclusion:

“…McCrory expressed outrage over the decision but, tellingly, made light of it at rally for Donald Trump in Winston-Salem on Monday.

This law has cost the state jobs and tens, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars in revenue. It has stained North Carolina’s reputation. And it’s demonized thousands of good people for short-term political gain and, courtesy of the governor, at least one cheap laugh.

The question now is if other events to be held in North Carolina – the 2017 PGA Championship, this year’s ACC Football Championship, preliminary rounds of the NCAA Basketball Tournament – could be moved as well.

If that happens, don’t expect McCrory or state Republicans to shoulder the blame. They have yet to accept responsibility for the harm they’ve inflicted on North Carolina, and it’s unlikely they ever will.”

 

Commentary, News

WATCH: NC NAACP president: We must “revive the heart of our democracy.”

NC NAACP President Rev. William Barber brought his Moral Monday message to Philadelphia Thursday preaching for the need to raise wages, improve labor conditions, enhance public education, and protect both LGBTQ and voting rights.

“We need to embrace our deepest moral values…for revival at the heart of our democracy.”

Click below to watch an excerpt of his speech before the
Democratic National Convention:

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