Commentary, Defending Democracy, News

NC, Thomas Farr nomination featured in new video “Trump Blocking Black Women Will Ruin Your Life”

Jouelzy, a popular author, commentator, and digital personality who works to inform and empower an international audience through weekly videos on cultural and lifestyle issues that impact women of color — women who sometimes use the descriptor #SmartBrownGirls — (click here to check out her website) has produced a powerful video about the ongoing conservative effort to remake the federal courts.

It’s great to see that the effort to awaken progressive voices to the fight over the courts has made this kind of progress. Check it out below.

Commentary

Charlotte Observer does the math: What the Utilities Commission should say to Duke’s rate increase request

In case you missed it, the Charlotte Observer has an interesting take on the Duke Energy Carolinas rate increase request. The editorial does the math and explains why the proposed 17 percent increase should be pared to 2.6%. Here’s the conclusion:

“Duke wants to raise bills by $647 million per year. About $336 million of that is to clean up decades of coal ash storage that culminated in one of the nation’s worst spills, into the Dan River four years ago Friday. The company knew its ash was a potential hazard for years. Shareholders, not customers, should pay for Duke’s decision to deal with its waste in the cheapest, not most responsible, way possible all this time.

Subtract the $336 million and Duke’s remaining request is at $311 million.

Much of that money can come from the tax cut the company is about to enjoy courtesy of Congress and President Trump. The Utilities Commission’s Public Staff estimates that Duke will save about $210 million per year on its federal tax bill going forward. Duke made its request months before the tax bill passed and that money should go straight to the company’s needed $647 million.

Put the $210 million toward Duke’s after-coal-ash total of $311 million and Duke’s request stands at $101 million.

Utilities commissioners should dissect Duke’s request and, if found to be warranted, grant that $101 million hike. That would result in an increase on the typical residential bill of about 2.6 percent or about $35 per year. That’s an amount that both Duke and the average customer could live with.

One other needed change: As part of its request, Duke wants to raise the fixed charge on bills from $11.80 per month to $17.79 per month, a jump of more than 50 percent. The economics don’t justify that, and it would be an especially large burden on the low-income customers who, incidentally, typically use less electricity.

Duke has provided reliable electricity at relatively low cost for years. It has made a lot of money, too. The Utilities Commission should maintain that balance.”

Click here to read the entire editorial.

Commentary, News

Remembering MLK on the 50 year anniversary of the Memphis garbage workers strike

Cross-posted from the good folks at the AFL-CIO of NC:

February 1 National Moment of Silence

On February 1, 1968, Memphis sanitation workers Echol Cole and Robert Walker huddled in the back of their truck to seek shelter from a storm. Suddenly, the truck’s compactor malfunctioned, trapping Cole and Walker and crushing them to death.

The tragedy triggered the strike of the city’s 1,300 sanitation workers. They had warned the city about dangerous equipment but were ignored. They were fed up with poverty wages and racial discrimination. They walked off the job and marched under the banner: I AM A MAN. On February 1, 2018, the 50th anniversary of the accident that killed Cole and Walker, we will observe a moment of silence to honor their memory and sacrifice, as we pick up the mantle from the 1968 strikers in the ongoing fight for racial and economic justice.

Pledge to join us on February 1, 2018 at 1 pm EST (or at a time of your choosing), for a national Moment of Silence.

Find or host a local event, or join us for the Facebook Live event on February 1.

Learn more at https://iam2018.org/.

February 4 event at International Civil Rights Center & Museum

The International Civil Rights Center & Museum (ICRCM) in Greensboro, North Carolina, will honor the role of the courageous Memphis City sanitation workers whose strike in 1968 fused the labor and civil rights struggles for social justice, featuring William “Bill” Lucy, the 2018 ICRCM Alston/Jones International Civil & Human Rights Award recipient and the retired International Secretary-Treasurer of the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).

What: Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Memphis “I AM A MAN” Sanitation Workers Strike of 1968
Where: International Civil Rights Center and Museum, 134 S Elm St, Greensboro, NC 27401
When: Sun, February 4, 2018, 2:00 PM – 4:00 PM EST
Free tickets: reserve your seats online

Bill Lucy stood alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in civil rights struggles and Nelson Mandela in opposition to apartheid. Come join the conversation as he discusses the Memphis sanitation workers strike and the power of labor unions.

North Carolina State AFL-CIO President MaryBe McMillan and Triad Central Labor Council President John Crawford will also speak.

This event is free and open to the public.

Commentary

Weekend editorials agree on Trump’s latest energy policy treachery

The Trump administration’s recent decision to slap tariffs on imported solar panels drew condemnation from a raft of editorials over the weekend.

Here’s the Winston-Salem Journal:

“President Trump’s tariffs on solar panels from foreign countries is likely to hurt American workers and consumers, including many in North Carolina. He should reverse his decision.

The Trump administration announced last week that it would impose steep tariffs on imported solar panels, starting at 30 percent next year and ultimately falling to 15 percent by the fourth year, The New York Times reported. But while the panels may be imported, most of the rest of the mechanics and infrastructure used in solar energy production is made in the U.S. Tariffs would likely raise the cost of solar power and slow what has been rapid development in the solar energy industry. It also would result in the loss of roughly 23,000 jobs in the solar industry this year, as well as the delay or cancellation of billions of dollars of investments, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.

Many of those jobs would be lost in North Carolina, where solar farms now generate income where textile factories and tobacco farms once did”

The Wilmington Star News put it this way:

“It’s a shame that the president seems intent on bringing back the past, at least when it comes to energy production. Other, more advanced countries, such as China and the European Union members, are expanding solar and wind-power production. It would be nice if the USA caught up.”

This is from the Greensboro News & Record:

“A forward-looking energy policy would encourage greater development of renewable energy, not hinder it with higher costs….

Protectionism is not a policy that will improve this country’s economy, and certainly not North Carolina’s solar energy industry.”

The Fayetteville Observer:

“…when we look at the likely effects of the tariff’s just imposed on imported solar panels, we have little doubt that the new levy is meant to slow the progress of the solar industry, not to protect American jobs.

The mathematics are pretty clear: The solar panel tariffs announced last week will cost us more than 10 times as many jobs as they’ll save. There are more than 260,000 jobs in the American solar industry, but fewer than 2,000 of them are in the manufacturing sector. Those are the jobs that the president says the tariff will protect and the part of the industry that he says the tariff will cause to grow.”

The Greenville Daily Reflector (quoting the Wall Street Journal):

“Can Donald Trump stand prosperity? Fresh from a government shutdown victory and with the U.S. economy on a roll, the president decided on Tuesday to kick off his long-promised war on imports — and American consumers. This isn’t likely to go the way Mr. Trump imagines.”

Commentary

“Must read” editorial: NC’s plummeting school performance linked to policy failures

The Greensboro News & Record has another good editorial this morning. The subject is North Carolina’s plummeting school performance as measured in Education Week’s annual Quality Counts report. In 2011, when conservatives took over the state legislature, the state ranked 19th in the nation. In the latest report, North Carolina is 40th. As the editorial explains:

“Education Week’s annual Quality Counts report may have its flaws, but it weighs all states by the same standards each year. As far as North Carolina is concerned, it shows a downward trend….

North Carolina’s overall ranking dropped to 40th in the report released this week. It was 39th last year, 37th in 2016, 34th in 2015 and 19th in 2011.

The state has significantly raised teacher pay since then. At the same time, teachers have fewer classroom assistants and less money for classroom supplies. A teaching fellows program was abandoned. Salary bumps for earning master’s degrees were ended. An effort by the legislature to do away with career status, or tenure, failed to survive a court challenge — but it left hard feelings among teachers.

Also, the state has supported a surge in the creation of public charter schools, funneled more than $50 million to private schools through a voucher program and funded two for-profit, virtual charter schools. It seems to some public school advocates that legislators favor these alternatives over traditional K-12 schools.”

After pointing out the troubling gap between the haves and have nots in the state’s public schools, the editorial concludes this way:

“Skeptics who say money doesn’t matter should compare schools in North Carolina’s wealthier counties to those in its poorer communities. There is a difference. The state should do more to close those gaps.

But the legislature has put a higher priority on tax cuts, a policy that arguably encourages job creation in the state’s already thriving urban centers of Raleigh-Durham and Charlotte but does little to help areas that are declining.

Education is a complicated subject, and deeper analysis is needed to determine where North Carolina is slipping and why. It’s clear, however, that the answer isn’t simply to fund more alternatives to K-12 public schools. The charter school record is mixed, and there is virtually no accountability required of tax-funded private religious academies.

We do know that building a skilled workforce, whether it’s prepared for advanced manufacturing jobs or technology positions — skills demanded by such coveted employers as Toyota-Mazda and Amazon — can’t be accomplished on the cheap. If North Carolina is regressing in its willingness to make those investments, it will fall behind even the 10 states that trail us now.

Our cost of living will drop further, leaving many of our residents qualified only for low-paying jobs.”