Expert blasts presidential debate moderators for ignoring the biggest problem facing the U.S.

In a week in which even the CEO of Exxon-Mobil has stated that climate change brings “real” risks that require “serious” action, Dr. Joe Ramm of the Center for American Progress has a brief but great column lamenting the “criminally irresponsible” failure of presidential debate moderators to ask any questions regarding what is likely the most important existential challenge facing humanity. Here’s Romm:

“Climate silence lives. Despite pleas from editorial writers, columnists, and scientists, Chris Wallace, the moderator of the third and final presidential debate ignored arguably the most important issue facing the next president?—?climate change.

Thus the 2016 election continues the inexplicable tradition begun in the 2012 election in which presidential and vice presidential debate moderators remained silent on the gravest preventable threat to the health and well-being of all Americans.”

After noting that scientist and editorial writers of all kinds had pleaded for such a question he concludes this way:

“All to no avail. In the immediate aftermath of the debate, commentators are rightfully shocked over Trump’s statement that he refuses to say he will accept the election results.

But if we fail to avoid multiple irreversible catastrophic climate impacts?—?from Dust-bowlification to sea level rise to ocean acidification to ever-extremer weather?—?future generations are going to care about little else for decades if not centuries. And they will be rightfully shocked that major figures in the U.S. media failed to raise the issue in presidential debates when it mattered most.

Bottom line: The only guaranteed way for a candidate to make sure climate change and clean energy come up in a debate to bring it up herself, as Clinton did in the first debate.”

Click here to read the entire column.


Prominent Charlotte real estate exec to McCrory and legislature on HB2: “Just change the damn law”

There was another strong indicator this morning that Gov. McCrory and other HB2 supporters have lost the war. This is from a story by reporter Ken Elkins in today’s Charlotte Business Journal entitled “Johnny Harris offers blunt assessment of HB2 at PGA championship event”:

Johnny Harris, developer and president of Quail Hollow Club, where the 2017 PGA Championship will be played, has refined his opinion of House Bill 2 just a bit.

Now, he’s more direct.

“Just change the damn law,” he says. “That’s all we’ve got to do.”

“It was a mistake,” Harris adds. The law, enacted by the N.C. General Assembly to negate Charlotte’s ordinance extending protected status to the LGBT community, is “very disappointing.”

Harris, the CEO of development firm Lincoln Harris who personally recruited the 2017 PGA Championship to Charlotte, spoke on a panel at a Charlotte Business Journal event that attracted about 200 to Quail Hollow Wednesday.

Harris has opined on HB2 before. On his travels around the country, business and sports people question him about life after the enactment of HB2. He has been quoted predicting that HB2 troubles will only worsen until the law is changed.

Now the 2017 PGA Championship is one of the few tourism-generating, national sporting events that remains in Charlotte after HB2 became law.

When HB2 proponents lose people like Harris (a rich developer who spends the rest of the article expounding on the wonders of self-serve beer machines) you know the demise of their discriminatory law is just a matter of time. Click here to read the rest of the article.


This morning’s “must read” op-ed: Bring back public financing for judicial elections

The best op-ed in North Carolina newspapers this morning comes from Melissa Price Kromm, Executive Director of N.C. Voters for Clean Elections and can be found in Raleigh’s News & Observer. Here are some highlights from “NC should restore public funding for judicial elections”:

“For nearly a decade North Carolina enjoyed a widely popular and effective election system that gave state Supreme Court and Court of Appeals candidates limited funds to run competitive campaigns without having to solicit money from special interests who may later appear before them in court. In 2013, Governor Pat McCrory and the state legislature eliminated the program over the objections of business and civic leaders, former governors, a dozen former presidents of the State Bar Association, the American Bar Association and hundreds of other public leaders.

The result has been unsurprising and follows a troubling trend threatening fair and impartial courts in states around the country. In 2014, the first North Carolina Supreme Court election without public financing since 2002 saw candidates spend more than $6 million on top of another $2 million spent by special interest groups and political parties. That money funded some of the nastiest political attack ads in the state’s history. Justice for All, with funding from the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC), a national super PAC funded by corporations and wealthy individuals to elect Republicans to state office, spent $900,000 on an ad falsely accusing North Carolina Supreme Court Justice Robin Hudson of siding with child molesters in the courtroom.

A growing body of research has documented the negative effects all of this campaign spending can have on court decisions after Election Day. The ‘soft on crime’ ads run against Justice Hudson are particularly troubling. A 2015 study found that the more TV ads aired during state supreme court elections, the less likely justices are to vote in favor of criminal defendants.

Several studies have also shown that the more campaign contributions from business interests justices receive, the more likely they are to vote for business litigants appearing before them in court.”

Kromm rightfully points out that this is not how our court system is supposed to work. The courts should be open to all and completely unbiased. The idea of big money special interests essentially buying our judges ought to make all of us sick to our stomachs. Here’s her excellent conclusion:

“To be sure, our system of public financing judicial elections was not perfect since, with or without the program, judges will still have to contend with outside groups spending hundreds of thousands or millions on ads for and against them. But when the program was in place, 80 percent of candidates participated and were able to run competitive campaigns without creating potential conflicts of interest down the road.

In the long-term we need a constitutional amendment or a new U.S. Supreme Court that allows common-sense limits on how much special interest groups can spend in elections.

Let’s hope our governor and legislature are listening to the judges who have to run in the current system and spare us from yet another judicial election dominated by special interest spending.”

Click here to read the entire op-ed.


New report: Hard facts about NC teacher pay, who’s really underpaid and what we need to do

Teacher payBe sure to check out the latest installment in the NC Justice Center’s special “How to build an economy that works for all” series. Today’s special report is entitled “Attract–and keep–high quality teachers in the classroom with competitive pay.”

Among other things, the report explains why North Carolina teacher salaries are “extremely un-competitive” — especially for veteran teachers. Here’s an excerpt:

While American teacher salaries are, on average, inadequately competitive, North Carolina’s teacher salaries are even less so. According to research from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), North Carolina’s wage competitiveness is tied for 49th, with only Arizona offering less-competitive teacher salaries. Traditional teacher pay rankings placing North Carolina’s teacher salaries at 41st in the country under-sell the extent to which the state’s teacher salaries are inadequate.

Drawing upon a different U.S. Census data source comparing only full-time workers shows that North Carolina’s teacher salaries might be even less competitive than indicated by EPI. By this measure, North Carolina teachers’ wages are just 57 percent of the wages of other full-time workers in North Carolina with at least a bachelor’s degree, compared to a 64 percent ratio nationwide.

Using this data allows an examination of wage competitiveness by age group. The data runs somewhat contrary to the conventional wisdom that the biggest weakness of North Carolina’s teacher salary schedule is beginning teacher salaries. Instead, it appears that experienced teachers are the most under-paid.

While the age ranges are rather broad, these findings are consistent with EPI’s national analysis showing a smaller wage gap for young teachers, as compared to more experienced teachers.

Click here to read the whole report.



Fast-growing numbers show that Asian Americans will be a key swing vote in NC

The good people at North Carolina Asian Americans Together and a collection of good government groups have released a new report on the growing role that Asian Americans will play in the election here in North Carolina. Here’s the release that accompanied it:

New report highlights how Asian Americans, the fastest growing racial demographic in the political battleground of North Carolina, could hold the key to victory in 2016.

As the election season enters its final weeks, there’s a key demographic that candidates and parties in North Carolina should be paying attention to: Asian Americans. Asian Americans are the fastest?growing racial demographic in the country and in North Carolina. As a voting bloc that is largely independent, they are a key swing vote that could decide tight races in North Carolina in 2016, including contests for president, U.S. Senate and governor.

Those are among the highlights of a new report, “A Growing Voice: Asian American Voters in North Carolina,” released by a group of Asian American and civic organizations. The report finds the number of registered Asian American voters in North Carolina has grown 130 percent between 2006 and 2014, and that this voting bloc could provide the margin of victory in competitive statewide races and in some legislative districts.

“Asian Americans are a largely untapped voting base in North Carolina,” said Allie Yee, author of the report and associate director of the Institute for Southern Studies, a nonprofit research center in Durham, North Carolina. “As this community grows, it will play an increasingly important role in determining the future of our state and country.”

The report looks at several unique characteristics of Asian American voters in North Carolina:

Read more