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GerrymanderingIn case you missed it, Raleigh’s News & Observer is featuring an essay by one of the nation’s founding fathers today that highlights the sorry state of politics in 21st Century North Carolina.

As Elbridge Gerry — the man for whom gerrymandering was named — informs us:

“A short while ago, I read that most legislative districts in North Carolina were not even competitive, with nearly half of your General Assembly races having just one candidate on the ballot last year – effectively deciding the election before a single vote was cast. Sadly, the prime culprit depriving you of a choice at the ballot box is gerrymandering.

As someone who risked his life to establish American democracy, I must say that this is appalling. We fought our revolution for the right to decide our own fate, for the right to vote for our leaders. Now other Americans, from both political parties, are trying to take it all away.

I was really depressed when I realized this and was feeling more than a bit guilty for my role in pioneering such tactics, but lately I have seen some signs that gerrymandering may be waning.

Twenty-one states have taken the power of redistricting out of the hands of politicians and given it to independent commissions…

And about two weeks ago, the U.S. Supreme Court – one of our better creations when we wrote the Constitution – upheld the right of states to create these independent redistricting commissions. Justice Ginsberg got it right when she said ‘the people themselves are the originating source of all the powers of government.’

Also good news is that the U.S. Supreme Court told Alabama, Virginia and North Carolina that they needed to take another look at the way they did redistricting in the last round. They ordered Alabama to redo its map drawing and another court told Virginia to redo theirs. North Carolina is still up in the air.”

The bottom line: If even the man for whom gerrymandering was named can endorse a better path forward, surely Senator Phil Berger — the man responsible for the current mess in North Carolina — can do so. Come on Phil, don’t wait 203 years to admit your error.

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The State Board of Elections - Foley on the left, Howard in the center.

The State Board of Elections – Paul Foley on the left, Chairman Josh Howard in the center.

The scandal surrounding the forced, late night resignation of State Board of Elections member Paul Foley has given rise to some pretty creative wordsmithing by SBOE chair Josh Howard. How else to explain these two facts from this story by the Raleigh News & Observer’s Craig Jarvis:

#1- Foley lied repeatedly about his knowledge of his law firm’s representation of a controversial video sweepstakes business. He even did it publicly on Wednesday during an SBOE meeting.

#2 – When Foley decided finally to resign late Wednesday night, Howard issued a statement in which he said, among other things, “There has been no finding of wrongdoing by Mr. Foley….”

I suppose Howard’s claim is technically true in some sense — no official investigator has, apparently,  yet, made any formal finding that Foley violated any laws. But good grief, the man out and out lied to Howard and the rest of the Board and the public about a highly important matter just hours before he resigned. That would seem to be an obvious and blatant bit of wrongdoing that Howard would have to be a complete nincompoop not to see.

All of which makes a citizen wonder what else Foley lied about during his stint on the Board and what other acts Chairman Howard and his colleagues are carefully parsing their words over.

Good government watchdog Bob Hall told Jarvis:

“I’ve never seen a board member, Republican or Democrat, so miserably fail to recognize their duty to serve the public interest, rather than a selfish business or partisan interest. The State Board of Elections had no hope of being a credible agency if Foley continued to serve and be accepted as a member by his peers.”

Howard’s carefully worded statement is enough to make a person wonder whether Hall was being extremely charitable.
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NC Policy Watch presents a Crucial Conversation luncheon —

Caring for Caregivers: The importance of quality wages for ensuring quality care

Click here to register

Like the rest of the nation, North Carolina is quickly aging. Within 35 years, the population over age 65 is projected to more than double. There is a rapidly growing need for direct care to allow community members to continue living with dignity.

Unfortunately, recruiting and retaining skilled people to do this work is increasingly difficult. Though it includes some of the state’s fastest growing occupations, direct-care work offers some of the lowest wages in the state. As a result, too many home-care workers don’t make enough to afford the basics like groceries, rent and transportation — leading to increased turnover of caregivers and disrupted care for seniors.

So what can be done? Are there public policy changes able to address these problems? And how can grassroots activists get involved?

NCPW-CC-2015-07-20-caregivers-rep-yvonne-holley-220x270

Join us as we pose these and other questions to a panel of experts that includes state Rep. Yvonne Holley (pictured left) and Allan Freyer, director of the Workers’ Rights Project of the North Carolina Justice Center, as well as directly impacted community members.

The luncheon will also feature a video of remarks President Obama will deliver at the July 13 White House Conference on Aging.

Don’t miss the opportunity to learn more about this important and timely subject.

When: Monday, July 20, at noon — Box lunches will be available at 11:45 a.m.

Where: The North Carolina Association of Educators Building, 700 Salisbury St., Raleigh, NC 27601

Space is limited – pre-registration required.

Cost: $10, admission includes a box lunch.Thanks to a generous donor, this luncheon is free of charge. Please select the $0.00 event fee on the registration page before checkout.

Click here to register

Questions?? Contact Rob Schofield at 919-861-2065 or rob@ncpolicywatch.com

Commentary

For the past six and half years, it’s been obvious to anyone with even a shred of honesty and observational skills that a disturbingly large portion of the incessant opposition to President Obama’s every move is the byproduct of one simple factor: his race.

The haters and obstructionists will deny this and try to attribute it all to Obama’s supposed “leftist” or “socialist’ leanings  — even when the thoroughly moderate President is frustrating progressives and championing one-time conservative and Republican ideas — but you don’t have to be a MENSA member to see and understand what’s really going on.

Fortunately for the sake of the truth — if not the near term well-being of the country — a gaggle of confederate flag waving knuckleheads in Oklahoma cut through all of the B.S. last night and showed both: a) the true nature of the ignorant and irrational hatred with which our President must contend every day and b) its often symbiotic connection to a symbol of racist hatred and treason that continues to stain the country.

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An editorial in this morning’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer does a nice job of explaining yesterday’s State Board of Elections look into the cesspool of modern, post-Citizens United, pay-to-play politics. The subject of course was the big money that the owners of an illegal business (video gambling AKA “sweepstakes games”) have been spending in an effort to buy laws that would legalize it.

As the N&O explains:

“[Sweepstakes boss Chase] Burns and his company gave $274,500 in donations to North Carolina candidates during the 2012 campaign. The video sweepstakes industry at the time was pushing for legislation to legalize Internet sweepstakes cafes after courts delivered conflicting verdicts about whether the operations constituted illegal gambling.”

As the N&O also explains, however, though the practices of the industry as it sought to buy influence were sleazy, ridiculously weak laws make it difficult to find law violations:

“In the end, investigators and board members were more frustrated by the limits of the law than satisfied that the law had not been broken. U.S. Attorney Thomas Walker should give this report close attention to see whether more could be found given the extra investigatory powers of his office.

Bob Hall, director of the voter advocacy group Democracy NC, filed the complaint in April 2013 that launched the investigation. He said he appreciated the investigators’ efforts, but he thinks prosecutors may be able to find more. Hall said the board’s 100-page report details who received the money and the way it was distributed as part of “a sophisticated effort to turn a criminal enterprise into a legitimate business activity in North Carolina.”

The investigation, Hall said, ‘provided a window into the kind of corrupt pay-to-play system we have now in North Carolina.’”

Let’s hope the investigations continue and that state laws get toughened soon.

Meanwhile, in a positive related note, Elections Board member Paul Foley resigned overnight. WRAL has more here.