Commentary, News

Five things to have on your radar this week

#1 DACA in Crisis; Panel Discussion
A panel of lawyers, activists, and students gather Monday evening at the FedEx Global Education Center in Chapel Hill to discuss the future for DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) recipients. Panelists will discuss how to protect students and how to support the undocumented and ‘DACAmented’ community. Panelists include:
• Rubi Franco Quiroz, current UNC student and immigrant activist
• Raul Pinto, Attorney, Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project at the North Carolina Justice Center
• Yesenia Polanco, Raleigh-based immigration attorney
• Emilio Vicente, UNC alumnus and United We Dream organizer
The event begins at 6:30 p.m. at FedEx Global Education Center, 301 Pittsboro Street, Chapel Hill. Learn more here.

#2 Protect health care, protect Medicaid – protest outside Sen. Tillis’ office
The so-called Graham-Cassidy bill is the latest bill seeking to repeal and replace key parts of the Affordable Care Act. Health Care advocates and activists say if it passes in the Senate, it would destroy Medicaid as we know it.

On Tuesday, activists will gather outside Senator Thom Tillis’ office to continue to let him know that the vast majority of North Carolinians do not want cuts in Medicaid. Participants are pressing North Carolina’s Senators to strengthen, not weaken, the ACA. The event runs from 11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. at 310 New Bern Ave, Raleigh.

#3 Judicial Redistricting back in the spotlight
Rep. Justin Burr reconvenes the House Select Committee on Judicial Redistricting this Tuesday. The 1:00 p.m. meeting will be held in 544 of the Legislative Office Building.

As Melissa Boughton reported at last week’s meeting:

The House and Senate just might come to a deal when it comes to judicial redistricting and merit selection: pass them both and see what sticks.

Rep. Justin Burr (R-Stanly, Montgomery) said Tuesday after a House judicial redistricting committee meeting that a deal between the House and Senate in which Representatives pass judicial redistricting and Senators look at merit selection “could certainly be on the table.”

Follow Boughton’s live coverage of tomorrow’s  meeting on Twitter @mel_bough.

#4. – One-Stop Voting begins
Early voting begins on Friday for this year’s October elections. For more on the municipal elections, visit: http://www.ncsbe.gov/Elections/2017-Election-Information.

#5A monumental discussion
Friday morning will be the fall meeting of the North Carolina Historical Commission. While the commission’s meetings have drawn little attention in the past, look for a lot of interest this week after calls by Governor Roy Cooper and others to remove Confederate monuments from state grounds in the wake of deadly violence at a white supremacist rally over a Robert E. Lee statue in Charlottesville, Virginia.

If you haven’t been following this issue, read Joe Killian’s piece with newly appointed commission member David Ruffin:

“There is no question that many of the monuments were erected during the Jim Crow era, through the last gasp of the Jim Crow era,” Ruffin said. “They were political monuments from the beginning. But as late as four or five months ago I said I hoped we didn’t have to go there with this controversy, because the country seems so torn apart in so many other ways. I just thought it was one more battle I hoped we didn’t have to fight.”

Then Charlottesville happened, Ruffin said, and opened his eyes.

“Charlottesville was so toxic, it really changed my mind about some of these things,” Ruffin said. “History and politics aren’t my profession – in fact, getting into some of this can be harmful in my profession. But you do know what is right and wrong. In this case, this is a runaway train. There’s no choice. You have to pick your battles – but in this case, you have to take a stand.”

Friday’s meeting of the state Historical Commission begins at 10:00 a.m. at the Archives and History/State Library Building in downtown Raleigh. You can find the agenda here.

Commentary, News

The Week’s Top Five on NC Policy Watch

1. Web of local money, political connections behind legislature’s decision to bypass DEQ in GenX clean-up

The fire is elusive, but the smoke is thick.

An analysis of professional and political relationships among major players in the GenX crisis shows the connections that led to a controversial state appropriation made by state lawmakers during the most recent special legislative session in House Bill 56, and a contract between the Cape Fear utility and a public relations firm.

It’s not unusual for state lawmakers to have deep political connections to major donors and operatives in their districts. But these connections could wind up diverting badly needed money away from an underfunded state agency to a public utility beset by scandal.

House Bill 56 has several contentious provisions, among them, the puzzling last-minute gift of $185,000 from conservative lawmakers to the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority (CFPUA). The utility knew about the GenX contamination at its Sweeney drinking water plant in May 2016, according to a timeline it provided, but did not alert state environmental authorities. [Read more….]

Bonus reads:

2. More with less: With $3 million in the balance, initial AG cuts take effect

Changes from a $7 million budget cut to the North Carolina Department of Justice went into effect September 1 and as expected, people are making do with less.

“The work is still getting done,” said Laura Brewer, spokeswoman for the Attorney General’s Office, adding that employees are committed to doing the work and serving the public.

The General Assembly cut $10 million from the DOJ budget, which is operated by Attorney General Josh Stein. The cut wasn’t in either the initial Senate or House budget but was added at the last minute before a final vote was taken on the FY2018-19 budget.

It was unexpected and has been viewed by many as a partisan move because Stein is a Democrat. Stein has repeatedly refused to speculate about the political nature of the massive budget cut and has instead expressed grave concern for the safety of North Carolinians if he is forced to keep cutting. [Read more….]

3. North Carolina conservatives must disavow allies’ bigoted hate speech
Website with ties to Civitas Institute promotes anti-Semitic attack on Attorney General Stein

There are a lot of deeply troubling and even shocking aspects to the ongoing rise in “white nationalism” and religious bigotry that plagues the American political landscape these days. First and foremost, of course, is the active participation of the president of the United States in the process. That the highest office in our land is being used in such a perverted way to aid and abet such a noxious cause remains a stunning and unacceptable reality that should sicken all people of good will on a daily basis.

Almost as disturbing as the behavior of Trump and the coterie of bigots with whom he associates at the national level, however, is the real world experience of confronting such behavior close to home. Increasingly, acts, viewpoints and arguments that most of us thought had been relegated to the dustbin of history are now rearing their ugly heads in public places – even places connected to and promoted by “responsible conservatives.”

On Monday of this week, just such a disturbing occurrence took place in North Carolina on a website supported and funded by one of the state’s most visible conservative groups.[Read more….]

4. Charter takeovers met with skepticism as director begins pitching model

Eric Hall, in the midst of a rainy drive to rural Robeson County to pitch North Carolina’s ambitious but controversial plan for a charter takeover of several low-performing schools, wants to set one thing straight.

“It’s not a takeover,” he says of the so-called Innovative School District (ISD) that he leads. “It’s about making conditions better locally.”

Hall seems well aware of the skepticism surrounding the model, once dubbed the “Achievement School District” but given a new name this year after rocky beginnings for similar efforts in states like Tennessee and Louisiana grabbed headlines.

Last week, Hall’s office released a list of 48 low-performing schools spread across 21 districts, the lion’s share situated in high-poverty locales. Each of them will be eligible for the first year of Hall’s district, which will launch with two schools in 2018-2019 and another three in 2019-2020.

Now he begins a slew of community meetings with local district leaders in places like Robeson County, home to five of the schools that made the state’s list. All reported performance grades in the bottom 5 percent statewide, and none met or exceeded academic growth goals in the last three years. [Read more…]

5. Author of new book on tragic 1991 Hamlet chicken plant fire: Little of substance has changed

Twenty six years ago, one of the worst industrial accidents in U.S. history rocked the tiny town of Hamlet, North Carolina.

Twenty five workers died and 55 were injured when a grease fire broke out at the Imperial Food Products plant, which made cheap chicken tenders for chain restaurants like Long John Silvers. The victims, mostly black and female, struggled to get out of the building but found the doors locked from the outside. The plant’s owner, Emmett J. Roe, kept the doors padlocked and the windows boarded because he thought his low-wage workers might steal chicken.

Some struggled desperately to kick the doors open, leaving indentations in the steel before being burned to death or succumbing to smoke inhalation. Others tried to huddle in a large walk-in freezer to avoid the blaze, where they nearly froze before suffocating.

In the aftermath of the fire, state and federal investigators found the building had no fire alarms, no sprinklers — nothing that could be considered a fire exit. It had never undergone a safety inspection. [Read more….]

***Upcoming event on Tuesday, September 26th: NC Policy Watch presents a special Crucial Conversation luncheon: Prof. Bryant Simon discusses his new book, “The Hamlet Fire: A Tragic Story of Cheap Food, Cheap Government and Cheap Lives”

Commentary, News

Lunch & Listen: On the future of DACA and the need for an immigration policy based on human rights not exclusion (video)

The Trump administration recently announced it was ending the DACA protections provided by the Obama administration for young, undocumented immigrants brought here by their parents.

President Trump wants Congress to come-up with a new version of the program or let it expire. The New York Times reports the first attempt to protect these immigrants from deportation has already stumbled in Congress.

This weekend on News & Views with Chris Fitzsimon we talk about the administration’s decision and what it means for the Dreamers and their families with Angeline Echeverría, Executive Director of El Pueblo.

Click below for a preview of this weekend’s radio interview. The full interview with Echeverría will appear on Policy Watch’s main site on Monday.

News

Lunch & Listen: The state of working North Carolina (audio)

We kick off this week’s lunchtime podcast series with an interview with Brian Kennedy, Public Policy Fellow with the NC Budget & Tax Center. Brian discusses the center’s new report “Work, Interrupted: How the Recession and a Changed Labor Market Will Affect Millennials in North Carolina for Years to Come.”

Among the major themes of the report:

  • The Millennial generation is now the majority of the labor force in North Carolina.
  • Millennials have entered the labor market at a time of technological change and disruption.
  • Changes in many of the institutions and policies that affect the quality of jobs and the access to increasing skills mean the labor market looks very different for this generation.
  • The Millennial generation also includes more people of color than any generation before, which means that longstanding barriers and historical disinvestment in communities of color, for example, tend to magnify the negative consequences of recessions and policy retreats for people in these communities, while minimizing the benefits of better times and better policies.

Click below to hear Chris Fitzsimon’s radio interview with Kennedy:


Commentary, News

Five things to have on your radar this week

#1 – Today is September 11th – a National Day of Service and Remembrance – a chance to pay tribute to the 9/11 victims, survivors, and first responders in the aftermath of the 2001 terrorist attacks.

If you are looking for a place to make a difference in the wake of Hurricane Irma, here’s an excellent list of suggestions.

#2 – On Tuesday, the House Select Committee on Judicial Redistricting meets at 1:00 p.m. in Room 544 of the Legislative Office Building.

The judicial maps are expected to pass the House before the end of the year, but it’s unclear if the Senate will be on board. The meeting is open to the public and the audio will be live-streamed here.

Policy Watch’s Melissa Boughton will provide coverage.

#3 – The Environmental Management Commission (EMC) has scheduled committee meetings on Wednesday with the full EMC meeting on Thursday. Of particular note, Wednesday afternoon there will be a special presentation on emerging chemicals with members discussing Chemours and recent contamination of the Cape Fear River. The meetings will be held in the Archdale Building, 512 N. Salisbury Street, Raleigh.

Lisa Sorg, Policy Watch’s environmental reporter, will be there and live-tweeting Wednesday’s meeting.

#4 -On Wednesday, the NC Justice Center’s Education & Law Project, in partnership with Legal Aid of North Carolina’s Advocates for Children’s Services will be hosting Back-to-School Legal Clinics from the Justice Center’s downtown Raleigh office.

All are welcome and encouraged to bring questions and concerns surrounding school discipline, enrollment procedures and considerations for students needing Special Education services.
Dates:

Please call the Legal Aid Helpline at 866-219-5262 with any questions about the clinic.

#5 – And we wrap-up the week with an appearance by Joe and Jill Biden at the Guilford College Bryan Series.

Before spending the last eight years in the White House, Biden was a U.S. Senator for 36 years, while his wife focused her life’s work on issues of importance to women and military families. Through their recently established foundation, the Bidens have set wide-ranging goals including promoting equal rights and funding cancer research.