Commentary

Charlotte, Greensboro editorials: Only one path forward on GOP gerrymandering

Another day, another pair of strong editorials blasting North Carolina’s outrageously gerrymandered legislative maps and demanding a permanent, nonpartisan fix.

After noting that a recent court order demanding new state legislative districts in 2017 will probably provide a little improvement, but not much, the Charlotte Observer puts is this way:

“There’s a better way. This past session, 63 N.C. House members – both Republicans and Democrats – co-sponsored House Bill 92, which would have established a nonpartisan Redistricting Commission whose members would be chosen by both parties. Those 63 House members made up a majority, but the bill never made it to a vote.

Similar redistricting reform efforts have been supported in the past by Republicans, including N.C. House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate President Pro-tem Phil Berger. But whenever a party takes control, the prospect of reform suddenly becomes less appealing to its members.

Tuesday’s federal court ruling won’t change that, even if it does provide an incremental improvement in racial gerrymandering. Our best hope: That someday, enough lawmakers will see the greater good of redistricting reform instead of their own small self-interest.”

“Those impacts [of gerrymandering] are clear. One is that voters are denied the opportunity to choose representatives in truly competitive contests.

Another is the fixed outcomes. Here, the gerrymandering is intended to saddle a Democratic county with mostly Republican representation in Raleigh. Democratic candidates received an average of about 60 percent of the vote in Guilford County, yet Republicans won five of nine legislative seats. It’s simply a matter of arranging districts so that votes are apportioned to elect more Republicans than Democrats. It’s clever, effective and undemocratic.

This pattern was repeated in the state’s other urban counties.

The legislature must take seriously the court’s order and draw fair, balanced districts that allow minority voters a reasonable chance to elect candidates of their choice, without packing overwhelming numbers of them into a few districts.

Ideally, elections next November will see full slates of candidates vying in competitive contests — and no more 100 percent victory margins.

Unfortunately, experience suggests that partisan lawmakers still will try to stack the deck to the greatest extent they can manage. Ultimately, redistricting should be undertaken by a nonpartisan commission given the responsibility of drawing balanced districts that serve the best interests of voters, not of the politicians. There has been bipartisan interest in the state House to do this; opposition has come from the state Senate.

Senators should soften their stance and, for once, do something that advances democracy rather than denies it.”

Commentary

Editorial: 2017 special election isn’t the answer to GOP gerrymandering

This morning’s lead editorial in the Fayetteville Observer is on the mark with its take on the special legislative election that the a federal court has ordered for North Carolina in 2017. It points out that though the new round of voting has the potential to do some good, it doesn’t address the central problem. Here’s the conclusion:

“Republican leaders were predictably unhappy with the court decision. Sen. Bob Rucho of Mecklenburg County and Rep. David Lewis of Harnett County, both Republicans, are the principal architects of the state’s voting districts. They said in a joint statement Tuesday that the ruling “would effectively undo the will of millions of North Carolinians just days after they cast their ballots.”

But that’s exactly what Rucho and Lewis did when they drew those districts, creating sometimes bizarre boundaries intended to cluster as many African-American voters as possible into as few districts as possible. Because most African-Americans are reliably Democratic, jamming many of them into a few districts – in this case, 28 of the General Assembly’s 170 House and Senate districts – gave Republicans an easier route to dominate many adjoining districts and maintain control. It was effective but, three federal judges ruled, unconstitutional….

It’s unclear if the governor or legislative leaders will appeal the decision, but we see a better route: End this gerrymandering nonsense for good by creating the nonpartisan redistricting commission that Democrats and Republicans have supported in the past – including the current leaders, albeit only when they were in the minority.

These redistricting battles are endless, frustrating and unnecessary. We all know what the better way is. Let’s make it happen.”

Click here to read the entire editorial.

Commentary

Editorial: McCrory disrespects democracy, tarnishes his own legacy with “incomprehensible” lack of grace

Be sure to check out this morning’s lead editorial in the Governor’s hometown newspaper — the newspaper that once was one of the strongest backers of his long political career. It’s not a pretty assessment:

“In a razor-close race, he has gone way beyond asking that every vote be counted before a winner is declared. He and his fellow scaremongers have disrespected democracy and honest election workers of both parties while slandering innocent North Carolina citizens by recklessly accusing them of felonies. In doing so, he has further tarnished his already-stained legacy and will be remembered always for the lack of grace he showed in what may be his final election.

His behavior is so incomprehensible – he fights in the face of virtually certain defeat – that it suggests there is an alternative goal. Like President-elect Donald Trump’s, McCrory’s creation of phantom election cheats tills the ground for future voter suppression efforts.

After documenting the pointlessness (and even offensiveness) of many of the voter challenges McCrory and his team have lodged in recent days and the likelihood that GOP lawmakers are preparing for another legislative push for voter suppression laws, the Observer concludes this way:

“After initially asking for a statewide recount, McCrory now says he’ll surrender that if Durham County produces similar results in a hand recount of 94,000 early votes.

Such a recount would probably just widen the gap between McCrory and Cooper. But if it will erase doubts among McCrory supporters and allow the state to move on to its new governor, why not? All voters should want an accurate count, and if Cooper’s lead remains less than 10,000, McCrory has the right to seek a recount statewide.

What he doesn’t have a right to do is malign innocent voters with claims that he either knows are mirages or doesn’t care enough to vet. The state board of elections – which, like all 100 county boards, is majority Republican – issued an order Monday effectively dismissing all 52 of McCrory’s complaints.

They know voter fraud is not a real problem in North Carolina. And, down the road, voters shouldn’t allow the myth that McCrory foments to provide cover to overzealous lawmakers – in Raleigh or in Washington.”

Click here to read the entire editorial.

Commentary

NC teacher pens open letter to Burr re: Trump nominee for Education Secretary

NC Policy Watch friend and occasional contributor, Forsyth County public schoolteacher Stuart Egan, has authored another one of his fine open letters to a powerful politician about our public schools. The latest is a passionate plea directed to Senator Richard Burr regarding Donald Trump’s troubling plan to nominate Michigan Amway queen Betsy Devos as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education.

Senator Burr,

As the senior senator of our state embarking on your third term in office, your voice in the national arena carries both weight and experienced perspective. And while you and I share many differing opinions on issues that affect our country, I do believe that we share a passion to make sure that all students have access to a great public education.

In preparing to cast my vote this past election, I did review your website to glean your perspective on some issues that seemed to become lost in the national debate with what might be one of the more bombastic presidential elections in history. On your www.burrforsenate.com website, you posted on op-ed you wrote for the Fayetteville Observer entitled “Giving our children a better future.”

In it you made statements such as:

“Our children are the future of North Carolina, and they represent the best of us. I am proud to be an avid defender of North Carolina students in the Senate.”

“As a part of my commitment to defending North Carolina students, I was proud to offer an amendment to fix a long-standing inequality in education funding that has shortchanged North Carolina’s teachers, schools and low-income students for over 15 years.”

“My amendment makes sure that federal education funding meant for schools that serve kids from low-income families actually goes to those very schools.”

“This means that with more education dollars coming to North Carolina, we will have more teachers in North Carolina helping our students get a great education.”

“We have made great strides this Congress to deliver control of K-12 education back to local communities, while making sure limited federal education funding is going to the communities that need it the most. But making sure that our children are getting the best education possible is going to be an ongoing fight for North Carolina families in Washington. I’m pledging to continue fighting for North Carolina’s schools, teachers and students, because a brighter future for North Carolina students means a brighter future for North Carolina.”

What I sense in these words is a commitment to our public schools.

In fact, you are the son of a former public school teacher and a graduate of R.J. Reynolds High School in Winston-Salem. I teach at another school in Reynolds’s district, West Forsyth High School, and am proud to report that Reynolds still holds an incredible reputation as a historically effective institution and I know many of the fantastic teachers who work there.

However, we are experiencing in North Carolina a decline in teacher candidates. Why? Because public education is under attack. And when public education is under attack by “re-forming” efforts like vouchers and unregulated charter school growth then communities suffer. Your wife is a leading realtor in the Triad area. I feel very confident that she could tell you the effect that the public school system has on the “value” of property in our communities.

I say all of this because President-elect Trump has appointed a candidate to lead the nation’s public schools who very well may be the most unqualified individual to ever be considered for the position.

And you have the power to help keep that from happening.

Read more

Commentary, News

Uber drivers, airport workers join Fight for $15’s national day of strikes, action today

fight-fo-15As national political events continue their dramatic and troubling shift in a reactionary direction (click here to read about one particularly disturbing possible Labor Secretary in a Trump administration), one gets the sense that today’s national Fight for $15 “day of disruption” may be a harbinger of things to come.

This is from a story by Nadia Prupis for the website Common Dreams:

A nationwide day of action and disruption is set to take place on Tuesday, as workers from around the country and across industries are set to take part in strikes to show their refusal to back down in the face of an incoming right-wing political agenda.

The actions, organized by the Fight for $15 collective, will see airport baggage handlers, Uber drivers, fast-food cooks, cashiers, hospital workers, and others strike to disrupt the U.S. service economy. It marks the first time that Uber drivers will be joining in a Fight for $15 action, showing that the labor collective is growing, with gig workers protesting side by side with more traditional labor.

Protests are scheduled at 20 major airports and outside McDonald’s franchises throughout the country to “underscore that any efforts to block wage increases, gut workers’ rights or healthcare, deport immigrants, or support racism or racist policies, will be met with unrelenting opposition by workers in the Fight for $15,” the organization said Monday.

In addition to showing solidarity with immigrants, people of color, and workers nationwide, the actions will also take on Uber, a central figure in critiques of the U.S. “gig economy”—which many say exploits workers under the guise of offering them flexibility and autonomy.

The movement expects hundreds of events to take place around the country. Here in North Carolina, events will be taking place in Charlotte and Durham this morning, while a larger statewide rally is planned for Durham this afternoon at 5:00 p.m. That event will take place at 2220 N. Roxboro St. (corner of Club and Roxboro). It will be be led by low wage workers and feature an appearance by Rev.  William Barber of the state NAACP.

Click here for more information.