Commentary, News

Five things to have on your radar this week


#1 Affordable Housing – This morning, Congressman David Price (NC-04) hosts Secretary Julián Castro of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for a tour of the Capitol Park development in downtown Raleigh. The visit will highlight the Raleigh Housing Authority’s successful use HUD funding for community redevelopment and revitalization and allow Secretary Castro to hear directly from local residents, community leaders, and elected officials about the affordable housing challenges facing the City of Raleigh.

Affordable housing has increasingly become a big issue in Wake County – where a worker must earn $18.21 on average to afford a safe, decent two-bedroom apartment.

Learn more about the state’s affordable housing crisis in this report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

firstlady#2 First Lady  – Michelle Obama returns to North Carolina today urging would-be voters to be sure they are registered to vote ahead of an October 14th deadline. Mrs. Obama will also be making the case for the Clinton-Kaine ticket  with campaign rallies in Raleigh and Charlotte.

Interested in attending?

In Charlotte – doors open at 9:30 a.m. for the noon-time event – at the Charlotte Convention Center.

In Raleigh – doors open at 12:30 p.m. for the 3:00 p.m. event  – at Reynolds Coliseum on the NC State campus.

#3. October’s Board of Education meeting – The North Carolina State Board of Education will hold its bi-annual planning and work sessions today and Wednesday of this week followed by the monthly board meeting on Thursday.

Look for talk about who will head-up NC’s new Achievement School District.

This month the board will be meeting on the campus of Appalachian State University in the Plemmons Student Union. Find agendas for all three days here. You can also listen to live audiostreaming of those meetings here. cc-flynn-300x203

# 4. How do we repair our broken democracy? – On Wednesday, please join N.C. Policy Watch as we present a special Crucial Conversation with Karen Hobert Flynn, President of the national nonprofit watchdog, Common Cause. Has American democracy reached a crisis point? If the 2016 election campaign is any indication, this seems a fair assessment. Between the toxic combination of big, dark money, rampant gerrymandering and voter suppression, weak ethics laws and an often dysfunctional news media, the situation can sometimes seem rather bleak and, perhaps, even beyond repair.

Karen Hobert Flynn shares these concerns. As the President of Common Cause, a venerable and nonpartisan nonprofit that battles the forces of reaction and operates under the motto “holding power accountable,” she is acutely aware of the deep problems that confront the American experiment in the 21st Century.

Fortunately, Flynn remains optimistic that the American people can and will overcome these enormous challenges and that, better still, the current state of affairs can provide the precise impetus necessary to spark real and lasting change.

Wednesday’s noon-time event will be held at the Junior League of Raleigh Building, 711 Hillsborough St. (At the corner of Hillsborough and St. Mary’s streets).

#5. WaPo columnist at Duke – Finally, Kathleen Parker, Pulitzer prize-winning columnist for The Washington Post, will be at Duke University Wednesday to discuss one of the most outlandish presidential races in modern history. Parker’s address is open to the public and will be held at 5:30 p.m. in Rubenstein Hall 200 on the Duke campus.

You can read some of her recent columns here.

Commentary, News

The week’s Top Five on NC Policy Watch

N.C. House Speaker Tim Moore1. Speaker Moore admits the alleged deal on HB2 was a sham

Two weeks ago Raleigh was buzzing about an alleged deal to repeal HB2, the anti-LGBTQ law that has demonized a group of people and cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue and tens of thousands of jobs.

The N.C. Restaurant and Lodging Association announced it was brokering an agreement under which the Charlotte City Council would repeal its nondiscrimination ordinance and then Gov. McCrory would call the General Assembly into special session to repeal HB2 and hopefully stop more economic losses in the state.

Legislative leaders were reportedly on board. That was the announcement anyway. [Continue reading…]

fROM LEFT TO RIGHT: Bonny Moellenbrock of Investors' Circle, Matthew Patsky of Trillium Asset Management, Joshua Humphreys of Croatan Institute, and Todd Sears of Out Leadership call for the full repeal of HB2. 2. Investors representing $2.1 Trillion push for full repeal of discriminatory HB2

Major investors representing more than $2.1 trillion in assets gathered in downtown Raleigh Monday to deliver a message to Gov. Pat McCrory and the North Carolina General Assembly. Fully repeal HB2, they said, before the damage to the North Carolina economy becomes irreversible.

“Obviously there has been overwhelmingly negative reaction to HB2,” said Matthew Patsky, CEO of Trillium Asset Management. “While the U.S. economy continues to grow, quite frankly North Carolina appears to be headed for what I would call a state government inflicted recession.”

Patsky said that’s because the controversy over N.C. House Bill 2, which prohibits anti-discrimination protections for lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, has reached a fever pitch and is impacting how investors view the state and the businesses that call the Tar Heel state home. [Continue reading…]

ff-927-hb2logos3. McCrory, under siege, continues to lash out against critics of HB2

When it comes to HB2, the disastrous anti-LGBT legislation that he signed into law, Gov. Pat McCrory can’t seem to help himself.

Virtually every prominent individual or institution that criticizes HB2 in any way can count on a bitter and over the top attack from the governor and his top surrogates with many of their claims consisting of wild exaggerations and outright falsehoods.

It’s an odd strategy indeed for a governor who claims that economic development is his top priority, to aggressively attack prominent companies and organizations that have second thoughts about North Carolina because of a law that targets the LGBT community for discrimination.

This week brought another sobering reminder of what HB2 is doing to the state as investors with $2.1 trillion in collective assets under their management called for a repeal of the law, saying it is making it harder to get deals done and finance businesses in the state.[Continue reading…]

4. The EPA is practically toothless in its ability to protect the poor
Environmental justice rules regarding coal ash are weak, says US civil rights commission

By many standards of childhood, Tracey Edwards enjoyed an idyllic country life in Walnut Cove. Growing up in rural Stokes County, she and her friends played outside, picking fresh apples, blackberries and muscadine grapes, as if their neighborhood were its own private Eden.

But in the early 1970s, Edwards told a state environmental justice advisory committee in April, Duke Energy fired up a power plant, Belews Creek. It spewed coal ash into the sky that returned to earth like snow. The ash coated the predominantly African-American neighborhood, she said, so thick, “we could write our names on the cars.” The ash powdered the rooftops. It carpeted the family garden, where in the summertime, Edwards unaware of the contaminants in the ash, would eat “hot ripened tomatoes” right off the vine.

Edwards, now 48, said that over time many residents of Walnut Cove, including herself, became sick or died — of cancer, neurological disorders, respiratory illnesses — long before their time. [Continue reading…]

***Bonus inforgraphic: Demographics around North Carolina’s coal-fired power plants

Barber_112-20165. Attacking the messenger for delivering some hard truths
The Right launches another barrage of scurrilous attacks on the NAACP’s Rev. William Barber

As was discussed in this space a couple of years back when the Moral Mondays movement was center stage, there are few things that the political right in North Carolina loves more than bashing the Rev. William Barber. No matter what Barber actually says or how eloquent and insightful he is or how many personal sacrifices he makes or how many near-24 hour days he puts in in service of the causes of peaceful change and human rights, you can rest assured that uninformed blowhards will employ every tool in the character assassination toolbox to smear him and cue all of the worst racist dog whistles.

This is especially true when, as was the case last week in Charlotte, large numbers of people of color are in motion and demanding change. What’s more, this phenomenon is not just confined to fringe bloggers and Internet trolls. Supposedly responsible voices with actual paid jobs and offices engage in this kind of shameless behavior too. [Continue reading…]

***Upcoming event on Wednesday:
Crucial Conversation — How do we repair our broken democracy?
Join us October 5th as N.C. Policy Watch presents a special Crucial Conversation luncheon – Karen Hobert Flynn, President of the national nonprofit watchdog, Common Cause: How do we repair our broken democracy? Has American democracy reached a crisis point? Register today.


North Carolina draws more national attention as Comedy Central’s Daily Show lampoons HB2 (video)

As Policy Watch has noted before, HB2 is about far more than bathrooms.

Comedy Central’s Daily Show decided this week to demonstrate what the discriminatory law looks like when a business puts it into effect.

Click on the picture below to go to Comedy Central’s page. (***Note that while certain words are bleeped in the video, some viewers may consider this language NSFW – not safe for work.)



Op-ed: It’s time HB2 critics talk about more than just the economic harms of the NC law

Equality advocate and former U.S. Senate candidate Jim Neal has today’s must read op-ed on House Bill 2.

Neal notes in the Charlotte Observer that while plenty of politicians and business leaders have spoken out strongly against the economic harms of HB2, far fewer have been vocal about the negative impact on LGBTQ individuals. Neal goes on to explain:

Jim Neal (Photo: LinkedIn)

Jim Neal (Photo: LinkedIn)

I recognize the economic effects of HB2. It is a valid point – but it is not the point. Lost in political doublespeak is the physical and psychological damage that HB2 inflicts day in and day out on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. Those who pay lip service to gay people’s civil rights by using garden variety economic tropes are not leading – they’re pinkwashing. Politicians repeat phrases ad nauseum like “I oppose all forms of discrimination” rather than speak plainly about the oppression of gay people. To these politicians, I say: Gay people are not a commercial venture. We are not an athletic event. We are not an economic development project. We are not a business. We are not a revenue stream. So much ado about a lost game while we remain fair game. We still live on the fringes of society. We are a people who are denied the same rights as heterosexuals. We are a people most likely to be the target of hate crimes in America. We are a people whose 10-24-year-olds attempt suicide 400 percent more often than straight youth. For all the talk about commerce, HB2 is a boon for trauma centers, mental health professionals, suicide hotlines, police departments, physicians and workers’ compensation insurance carriers.

Opposition to HB2 has been packaged in the soft fabric of conventional rhetoric about jobs and the economy by establishment political, educational and business leaders. Gay and transgender people have become invisible in public discourse. Despite having been cast as antagonists in Gov. Pat McCrory’s film noir, we remain mute background actors. U.S. Senate candidate Deborah Ross spoke of HB2 as “bad for business and it’s bad for our brand.” State Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Roy Cooper spoke to HB2 by saying “this is not about sports, this is about communities in North Carolina suffering real economic blows.” State Senator Ricky Gunn suggested repealing HB2 because of the impact it has had “on NCAA and Atlantic Coast Conference athletic championship events.” The statement issued by chancellors Carol Folt at UNC and Randy Woodson at N.C. State was particularly disappointing. In response to the ACC’s decision to move championship games out of North Carolina, they said “We appreciate … the A.C.C.’s strong commitment to diversity and inclusion,” adding, “However, we regret today’s decision will negatively affect many North Carolinians, especially in the affected host communities.” They should have said diversity and inclusion … for the LGBTQ community. But they didn’t. Their words were crafted to appease, not to confront. They bypassed an opportunity to engage in honest talk about compassion, justice and equality for queer people in the state. Words matter.

Neal was the first openly gay candidate to run for U.S. Senate in North Carolina in 2008. You can read his full opinion piece here in the Charlotte Observer.


As Charlotte works to heal, a young girl sums up a community’s anguish (video)

Zianna Oliphant brushed back tears as she told the Charlotte City Council Monday evening that fear and violence should not be a part of childhood in the Queen City. Oliphant was one of more than 50 speakers to pour out their raw emotions in the aftermath of the police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott.

“We are black people and we shouldn’t have to feel like this, we shouldn’t have to protest but y’all are treating us wrong,” Oliphant told a packed council chamber.

Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts has invited the U.S. Department of Justice to monitor the CMPD’s investigation into Scott’s shooting. Roberts wrote in an op-ed in the Charlotte Observer:

“Our city must be more open, honest and transparent in investigating police shootings if we are to restore trust.”

The mayor is also calling for the repeal of a new state law set to go into effect on Saturday that prohibits releasing dash and body camera footage to the public without a court order.

Click here to read Roberts’ full op-ed. Click below to watch Zianna Oliphant’s emotional two-minute appeal.

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