Commentary

North Carolina should copy this New Jersey law right away

In the ongoing battle against the Trump administration’s plan to introduce offshore oil and gas exploration and drilling along the coasts of  North Carolina and other Atlantic states, there’s been an assumption that the fight was entirely a federal matter. Now, however, thanks to some smart people in New Jersey, it’s clear that there is a path forward for state officials to take useful action as well. Natasha Geiling at Think Progress explains:

“On Tuesday, in response to the Trump administration’s recent push to open up nearly all federal waters to offshore drilling, legislators in New Jersey unanimously passed a bill banning offshore oil and gas development in state waters. The bill also bans infrastructure in state waters that would support drilling in federal waters off the state’s coast.

The bill now goes to New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy’s (D) desk for his signature. Murphy, who has been an outspoken critic of the Trump administration’s plans to open the North Atlantic to oil and gas development, is expected to sign the bill into law.

While states can’t prohibit the federal government from opening up federal waters to oil and gas development, it can control the kind of industry and infrastructure allowed in state waters. State waters run several miles out from the coast (anywhere from three to nine nautical miles, depending), and federal waters extend roughly 200 nautical miles from the end of state waters.

Prohibiting infrastructure needed for drilling in federal waters means that companies couldn’t build things like pipelines or docking facilities in state waters, which would complicate efforts to extract oil and gas from federal waters offshore. Without being able to rely on infrastructure in state waters, oil and gas companies would have to utilize massive floating storage stations and transfer the oil directly onto ships for market — equipment and steps that are expensive, especially at a time when the price of oil is relatively low….

Beyond prohibiting oil and gas drilling and infrastructure in state waters, the bill would also require the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection to review any plans for development off the Atlantic coast, even if that development were to take place in federal waters.

If the department found that the development could impact New Jersey state waters, it would be compelled to conduct a consistency review. Under the Coastal Zonal Management Act, states can review offshore oil and gas exploration to make sure that it’s consistent with state objectives. If a state finds a particular activity inconsistent with its policies, it can serve as a major blockade for the federal government opening up offshore waters to private oil and gas development.”

Sounds like an obvious idea for drilling opponents to push in North Carolina and for lawmakers to enact this May when the General Assembly returns to Raleigh.

Commentary

Editorial: Don’t re-segregate our schools

Linda Brown, the girl at the center of the famous U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education died over the weekend at age 76. It was the refusal of the Topeka, Kansas school system to allow Brown to attend an all-white public school near her home that helped spur on the landmark ruling.

Sadly, though much progress has been made in eliminating official segregation in the 64 years since the ruling, much remains to be done — especially in light of recent trends in states like North Carolina where past integration efforts are being systematically rolled back in many places.

This morning’s lead editorial in the Winston-Salem Journal (“Re-segregated schools hurt us all”) does a great job of explaining where things stand and where we need to go by highlighting a recent report released by Kris Nordstrom of the North Carolina Justice Center. This is from the editorial:

A recent report from a progressive advocacy and research group that says North Carolina’s traditional public schools are becoming more segregated by race and income should concern everyone interested in education and a functioning society, as is the claim that the segregation is partly because of charter schools….

“Every one of North Carolina’s 10 largest school districts has become more segregated by income over the past decade — substantially so in many cases. These changes indicate that students from low-income families are becoming increasingly segregated from their higher-income peers within North Carolina’s largest school districts,” according to the report.

This is a trend that must be reversed.

According to the Century Foundation, students in integrated school have higher average test scores; are more likely to enroll in college; and are less likely to drop out. Integrated schools help reduce racial achievement gaps and encourage critical thinking, problem solving and creativity. They also help reduce racial bias and counter stereotypes.

But either advertently or inadvertently, the gains of the 1960s have become diminished.

The editorial notes that charter schools are a part of the problem as they have become increasingly segregated and abandoned their original commitment to reflect the racial makeup of the districts in which they are located. It concludes this way:

The report makes recommendations for turning the trend around, including creating more integrated neighborhoods, requiring charter schools to provide transportation and school lunch and closing charter schools whose demographics significantly differ from the district in which they’re located.

But changing the picture will require extensive time and effort from all levels of government — which means legislators will require urging from citizens — school professionals and parents.

“North Carolina could create a much fairer, inclusive and integrated system of schools by spending just slightly more on student transportation and demonstrating a modicum of political will,” according the report. “In the end, failure to integrate schools is the much more expensive proposition — financially and morally.”

Commentary, Defending Democracy, News

Civil rights, immigrant advocacy groups condemn new Census question on citizenship; California sues

A wide array of civil rights and immigrant advocacy groups are loudly condemning the Trump administration’s plan to include a new question in the 2020 Census about citizenship. This is from the good people at the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law:

“In no uncertain terms, we condemn Secretary Ross’s decision to incorporate an 11th hour citizenship question into the 2020 Census,” said Kristen Clarke, President and Executive Director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.  “This is a clear attempt to politicize the process by discouraging minority communities and immigrant communities from participating in the count. This decision comes at a time when we have seen xenophobic and anti-immigrant policy positions from this administration. This is an arbitrary and untested decision that all but guarantees that the Census will not produce a full and accurate count of the population as the constitution requires.”

Clarke continued, “while Secretary Ross claims that the citizenship question will help with enforcement of the Voting Rights Act, the reality is that the Justice Department has proven hostile to safeguarding minority voting rights. Enforcement of the Voting Rights Act has come to a grinding halt. Clearly, this is mere pretext to mask the discriminatory motives underlying this move.”

Advocates at the Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM) put it this way:

“The ramifications of adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census is extremely anti-immigrant and intended to deter millions of immigrants from participating for fear of being targeted by this administration. If there is any question of just how radical this effort is, consider that every census since the first enumeration in 1790 included people living in the United States, citizens and non-citizens alike.

This is a direct attempt to undermine our democracy. We are going to fight this with everything we have. We will do everything within our power to ensure that this decision is reversed and that our communities continue to be counted.”

And this morning the state of California challenged the action in federal court. This is from a story at CNN.com:

Progressives, states and civil rights advocates are preparing a flurry of legal challenges to the Trump administration’s decision to add a question about citizenship to the next census, saying the move will penalize immigrants and threaten civil rights.

The late Monday move from the Commerce Department, which it said came in response a request by the Justice Department, would restore a question about citizenship that has not appeared on the census since the 1950s. The administration said the data was necessary to enforce the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

The state of California immediately challenged the plan in federal court.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and Secretary of State Alex Padilla trashed the move as anti-immigrant.

“The citizenship question is the latest attempt by President Trump to stoke the fires of anti-immigrant hostility,” Padilla said in a statement.

“Now, in one fell swoop, the US Commerce Department has ignored its own protocols and years of preparation in a concerted effort to suppress a fair and accurate census count from our diverse communities. The administration’s claim that it is simply seeking to protect voting rights is not only laughable, but contemptible.”

For more information on this development, check out Julianne Hing’s article at The Nation.

Commentary

The bad news and the good news in gun manufacturer’s bankruptcy filing

By all indications, the newly announced bankruptcy filing of Remington Outdoor, one of the oldest firearm manufacturers in the United States, is at least in part attributable to what some are calling a “Trump slump.” The international news site The Guardian explains:

“’They call it the Trump slump,’ said Robert Spitzer, a professor at the State University of New York at Cortland and the author of five books on guns.

‘Gun sales have become politicized to a great degree,’ he said. ‘Gun purchases recently have been made not just because someone wants a new product but to make a statement; not just because of fears that there might be tighter regulation but also to make a statement against Obama.’

With Trump in the White House, said Spitzer, gun sales had sharply defaulted to their long-term trend of declining ownership rates.

‘Gun ownership has been declining since the 1970s and there are now fewer gun owners than ever,’ said Spitzer. Fewer people are hunting, younger people are less interested in gun ownership and the gun industry has had little success in its attempts to appeal to women and minorities.

The US has the highest rate of gun ownership in the world with 88 guns for every 100 people. But just 3% of the population owns an average of 17 guns each, with an estimated 7.7 million super-owners in possession of between eight and 140 guns apiece.

The surge of gun purchases under Obama was largely driven by sales to existing gun owners. Sales spiked on Obama’s re-election and after his calls for new laws in the wake of tragedies like the Sandy Hook massacre in 2012, which claimed the lives of 20 children and six adults.”

In other words, there is some bad news and some good news here.

The obvious bad news is that the explosion in gun sales of the recent past in the country was largely attributable to the irrational fears and twisted political desires of a group of Americans who have caused countless new killing machines to be injected into our society for no good reason. This is the kind of mad, lemming-like behavior of society at its worst.

The good news, however, is that this group is shrinking fast and that — as the Remington filing demonstrates — even irrational fearmongering can only so so far in suppressing the obvious truth that our society will be safer, healthier and freer as demographic trends continue to work their magic and gun ownership becomes more and more the exception than the rule.

Thanks goodness.

 

Commentary

Yet another editorial to Trump: Don’t drill off NC coast

The Fayetteville Observer posted a short and sweet editorial over the weekend that reiterates the point millions of North Carolininas are wanting to make to the Trump administration: Don’t drill here.

“The Trump administration’s plan to open up virtually the entire American coastline to oil and gas exploration has created an angry storm of opposition, as well it should. We read almost daily about the enormous amounts of oil and gas already being pumped from old and new oil patches across the country, thanks to new drilling techniques that include “fracking.” The U.S. is on track to become the world’s leading petroleum producer within a few years — without needing to open up new areas to offshore drilling.

As we know, offshore exploration can be risky. The Deepwater Horizon disaster is only our most recent example. And even with relatively well-managed offshore drilling, there are small accidents that foul beaches and marshes. Residents of coastal areas that support large fisheries and tourist industries are understandably reticent to consider the addition of oil to their economies. And while it appears Florida’s governor cut a quick deal to keep the drilling rigs away from his coastline, other states’ appeals haven’t gotten such a sympathetic response.

Several states — including South Carolina — are taking other measures to keep the drilling rigs away, introducing legislation that prohibits infrastructure related to oil or gas production from being built in or crossing their state waters. But especially in our neighbor to the south, there’s plenty of support for drilling as well. It’s going to be a battle royal. Yet the issue is already settled in virtually all coastal communities: Residents don’t want it. They see it as a threat to their very existence. And it is.

There may come a time when we need the oil and gas that are out there, but this isn’t it.”