North Carolinians reflect on the life, legacy of Congressman Walter Jones

Congressman Walter Jones Jr., who served in Congress and the state legislature for over 34 years, died Sunday on his 76th birthday.

The long-serving Republican was a fiscal hawk who repeatedly spoke out against the war in Afghanistan.

In a 2013 interview with NC Policy Watch, Jones discussed the debt ceiling, gun control, immigration, and the damaging influence of Citizens United. Click below to listen to that interview:

Here’s how North Carolina’s top elected officials are remembering Congressman Jones:

“Congressman Walter B. Jones, Jr. was the true embodiment of a public servant. He will be long remembered for his tireless advocacy for Eastern North Carolina, which he loved dearly, and for always following his convictions, no matter the political cost. He always did what he felt was right for his constituents, his district, and his country, and it was no wonder why he was so widely admired and trusted. It was a true honor to serve with Walter Jones. Susan and I send our deepest condolences to Joe Anne and his loving family.”
– U.S. Senator Thom Tillis

“I am deeply saddened by the passing of a long time leader, proud North Carolinian, a devoted family man of deep faith, and my friend of over forty years- Congressman Walter B. Jones, Jr.

“Congressman Jones represented the best of North Carolina politics. He understood that being a leader meant often putting political allegiances aside in order to bring people together around important work. He was a proud representative of eastern North Carolina, and the residents of North Carolina’s Third Congressional District are better off thanks to the lifelong service and dedication of Walter Jones.

“To serve alongside Walter Jones was a great honor and privilege. Let us honor Walter Jones’ service to our country and the profound leadership he offered eastern North Carolina. I will miss his humility, intellect, and unwavering love of his community.

“I send my condolences to his wife Joe Anne, his daughter Ashley, and all those who had the honor of knowing and benefitting from the work of Congressman Walter B. Jones, Jr. Rest in peace, my friend.”
– Congressman G. K. Butterfield (NC-01)

“Walter Jones was one of a kind. He served with conviction, humility, generosity and kindness. My condolences to Jo Anne and the Jones family.”
– Congressman Mark Walker (NC-06)

“Renee and I join so many of our fellow North Carolinians in mourning the passing of my friend Congressman Walter Jones. He was a man of character and strong faith who served his country honorably— he will indeed be missed.”
– Congressman Richard Hudson (NC-08)

“Deeply saddened by the passing of Walter Jones—a beloved colleague and friend who had a profound impact on all through his graciousness, character, and committed Christian faith. God be with and keep his family. We will miss him.”
– Congressman Mark Meadows (NC-11)

– Congresswoman Alma Adams (NC-12)

“I am grateful for the life and service of my longtime friend Congressman Walter Jones Jr. He was a public servant who was true to his convictions and who will be missed.”
– Governor Roy Cooper

“I’m proud to serve the same state as the late Congressman Walter Jones, an immovable advocate for eastern North Carolinians and our armed forces who set a strong example of civil discourse & principled leadership in Washington D.C. for a quarter-century. ”
– NC House Speaker Tim Moore

“Whether serving in Raleigh or DC, Jones’ first priority was always eastern NC.
He was an increasingly rare kind to stand alone on an issue that, while not popular, he saw as right. My prayers are with his family.”
– Senator Dan Blue

“Congressman Walter Jones was a passionate patriot willing to fight for sometimes unpopular causes while remaining a humble & approachable statesman. I appreciate his lifetime of service and offer my condolences to his family and constituents. We are better having known you.”
– Rep. David Lewis

Commentary, News

From ICE raids, to UNC-CH’s new chancellor to combating climate change: The week’s top stories on NC Policy Watch

1. ICE tearing apart families in historic raids across state

Kay* was cooling her machine down Tuesday morning at Bear Creek Arsenal in Sanford when she and a mechanic nearby noticed a supervisor looking visibly worried talking to someone they had never seen before.

It didn’t take long for word that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) had arrived to spread like wildfire. Before Kay could process what was happening, other employees were trying to run away – one even tried to climb out a window.

That’s when the officers made their presence known. They flooded into the building and began yelling at everyone. They surrounded the area and no one could leave. [Read more…]

2. Critics to state regulators: Duke Energy must do much more to combat climate change

Since Colson Combs was born just over 15 years ago, the planet Earth has recorded more than 10 of its hottest years on record. If humans have not dialed back greenhouse gas emissions by the time Combs reaches his late 20s, the world will likely be headed toward a climate crisis that will stalk him for his entire life.

This dystopian prospect compelled Combs to speak for the third time before the North Carolina Utilities Commission Monday night, on this occasion to plead with the board to reject Duke Energy’s Integrated Resource Plan. The plan details the utility’s proposed energy mix for the next 15 years, at which point, the planet’s climate could pass the point of no return.

“I’m here fighting for renewable energy,” Combs said. “I’m fighting for our future. It’s a scary time. Our world is changing for the worse.” [Read more…]

3. Gov. Cooper to Congress: Our future depends on climate action

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper testified on Capitol Hill Wednesday, urging Congress to step up the fight against climate change as Democrats move to elevate the polarizing problem into a key campaign issue in the 2020 elections.

Speaking at one of the first House committee hearings on global warming in more than eight years, Cooper said North Carolina is the poster child for what can happen if the problem continues to go unaddressed.

In testimony before the House Natural Resources Committee, Cooper told of mountain mudslides in western North Carolina that hurt apple growers and closed ski areas. He said high temperatures in the central part of the state have killed poultry and crops, while hurricanes and tropical storms have lashed coastal communities on the eastern shore. [Read more…]

4. New UNC-Chapel Hill chancellor, system president agree: Silent Sam needs to go

UNC-Chapel Hill’s new interim chancellor wants the “Silent Sam” Confederate monument moved off campus – a position the interim UNC system President said Thursday he also shares.

At a press conference to welcome Kevin Guskiewicz as interim chancellor, interim UNC President Bill Roper went further than he ever has in opposing the statue’s return to campus.

“He is on record as saying that the monument should not be anywhere on the campus, and rather should be somewhere else,” Roper said of Guskiewicz’s position on the controversial monument.

“That’s my position as well and I’m comfortable with his position,” Roper said. “That’s one of the reasons that I thought he was the right person to lead UNC-Chapel Hill at this crucial time.” [Read more…]

5. School districts, lawmakers, launch new fight for calendar flexibility

Two bills being considered by the State House would give several local school districts calendar flexibility, but could also reignite a long standing disagreement between educators and tourism officials about when North Carolina schools should open and close.

On Tuesday, the House Standing Committee on K-12 Education reviewed House Bill 12 that would exempt the Alamance-Burlington School System from state law requiring it to open no later than the Monday closest to August 26 and to close no later than the Friday closest to June 11.

Lawmakers who spoke Tuesday said local school boards should have the authority to set school calendars.[Read more…]

6. Why North Carolina needs state leaders, not the Koch brothers, to save public education

Public education advocates in North Carolina are ablaze these days, after a report from The Washington Post in late January teased a nebulous plan hatched by the conservative Koch network to spend boatloads of cash on a massive, as-yet-unnamed, K-12 initiative in five states.

If North Carolina is one of the five, state leaders and the Kochs are mum, even as Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson promises a “big” announcement later this month with business leaders.

Speculation abounds, even if Johnson’s announcement has nothing to do with the Kochs. Ramp up the anticipation, or anxiety, depending on where you stand.[Read more…]

7. Marching this Saturday in Raleigh: The moral (and effective) thing to do

There’s a vexing conundrum that frequently confronts movements for social justice when they’re trying to rally supporters to action. It turns out that the best and easiest times to spur people to action often coincide with the moments at which the movement is at its weakest and least able to effect real change.

Think about it.

Five-plus years ago when the Moral Mondays movement really took off in North Carolina, it was at a moment of historic impotence for the state’s progressives. With the Governor’s office, the General Assembly and the state Supreme Court in conservative hands and an aggressive, hard right policy push in full swing, progressives had few, if any, venues in which to make a stand or push back. A similar reality confronted progressives at the national level in early 2017 after the inauguration of Donald Trump.[Read more…]


As legislators begin eyeing budget, experts call for renewing North Carolina’s commitment to public schools

Tuesday morning the House Education Appropriations Committee will hold one of their first meetings of the long legislative session.

Ahead of that meeting, state lawmakers would be wise to listen to our recent interview with Keith Poston, Executive Director of the Public School Forum of North Carolina.

Poston discusses the erosion of North Carolina’s commitment to public school, the need to address rural funding challenges through school finance reforms, and seizing the opportunity to advance adequacy and equity in our schools.

Click below to hear the full interview with Poston. Click here to read the Forum’s Top 10 Education Issues of 2019.


Commentary, Courts & the Law, Education, Environment, Higher Ed, News, public health

The week’s Top Stories on Policy Watch

1. In some North Carolina counties, traditional schools are being squeezed by charters

School buses prepare for another school year

There has been much written about the impact charter school growth has had on some of North Carolina’s larger, urban school districts.

But the impact might be greater on some of the state’s smaller, rural school districts where the loss of students, and the funding that follows them, are felt more profoundly.

Take Granville County Public Schools (GCS), a district of about 7,600 on the Virginia border.

This month the school board approved a plan to close an elementary school and to consolidate two middle schools, the result of lagging enrollment. [Read more…]

2. When will Republicans’ patience with President Trump run out?


Republicans, we need to talk.

Not about the shutdown. I get the ceasefire, I get that the air traffic slowdowns may have finally spooked the president and D.C. Republicans, even if only for a temporary respite.

This is about the bigger picture, not about short-term, beltway battles and shutdowns that may or may not be on the minds of Americans when they go to the polls in 2020 – although I don’t imagine the passage of time will sweeten the memory for Americans who worked weeks without paychecks.

This is about the future of the GOP platform, that grand-old-promise to shrink government, reduce inefficiencies, cut taxes, and preserve the American dream. [Read more…]

3. “The spill was an instant disaster”: Reflections on the five-year anniversary of the Dan River coal ash breach

Until that winter’s day, the 4-foot section of corrugated metal pipe, 48 inches in diameter, had done its job. It swallowed storm water, said to be uncontaminated, that drained from Duke Energy property, chugged the water through its gullet that ran beneath an unlined coal ash basin, and then spewed it into the Dan River near Eden.

But on Feb. 2, 2014, the pipe could take no more.

For more than 50 years, Duke Energy had dumped millions of tons of coal ash into an open, unlined pit at its power plant on the Dan River. On that calm, cloudy Sunday afternoon, as pre-gamers chilled beers and fried chicken wings for their Super Bowl parties, the pipe collapsed. Hazardous material from the basin rushed through the breach, which released at least 39,000 tons of ash and up to 27 million gallons of contaminated water into the Dan River.

At 2 o’clock, a security guard making the rounds had noticed the water level in the 27-acre ash pond had dropped.

At 6:30 p.m., thousands of North Carolinians watched the Seattle Seahawks, led by former NC State quarterback Russell Wilson, win the coin toss to start Super Bowl 48 against the Denver Broncos. Two minutes later, as the Seahawks kicked off, Duke Energy officials were investigating the pipe breach and preparing an EM43 report, used to document emergencies in North Carolina. [Read more…] Read more