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Two members of the state’s advisory board for charter schools unexpectedly submitted their resignations yesterday.

Both Baker Mitchell, of Wilmington, and Paul Norcross, of High Point, co-founded charter schools and have been some of the more prominent advocates through the N.C. Alliance for Public Charter Schools for the privately-run but publicly-funded schools. They also both own companies that have contracts to run public charter schools in the state.

State Sen. Phil Berger appointed Sherry Reeves of Pamlico County to fill the unexpired term of Baker Mitchell. Reeves served on the board of Arapahoe Charter School in 2011-12. Berger appointed Phyllis Gibbs of Guilford County to fill the unexpired term of Paul Norcross.

The state Senate approved those replacements today. The charter school advisory board reviews applications for charter schools and makes recommendations about approvals and rules governing the schools to the State Board of Education.

Mitchell and Norcross had been the target of recent ethics complaints, though no violations of state ethics law have been substantiated.

This spring, Eddie Goodall of the N.C. Association of Charter School’s filed complaints with the N.C. Ethics Commission against the two. Goodall’s complaint takes issue with Norcross and Mitchell not recusing themselves from a May charter school advisory vote to approve a school  that’s a member of the alliance organization that Mitchell and Norcross have affiliations with.

Mitchell and Norcross submitted their resignations to Sen. Phil Berger within an hour of each other Wednesday afternoon, according to copies of their resignation letters obtained by N.C. Policy Watch.

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Aldona Wos, North Carolina’s embattled Health and Human Services Secretary, was the woman of the hour at a luncheon held Wednesday that included remarks from Gov. Pat McCrory that Wos has been unfairly criticized.

The Greensboro News & Record covered the event sponsored by the Greensboro Partnership, a booster group for city, that honored Wos.  A former Greensboro mayor that spoke at the luncheon referred to it as “an old-fashioned love feast.”

NC HHS Sec. Aldona Wos

NC HHS Sec. Aldona Wos

A Greensboro physician and wealthy Republican fundraiser, Wos has been a lighting rod in the $1-a-year job she took in January 2013 heading the health and human services agency under McCrory.

At the luncheon Wednesday, McCrory came to Wos’ defense.

“She is fighting battles that you would not believe, while I read the Raleigh and Charlotte newspapers that say she’s overpaid at a dollar a year,” McCrory said, according to the News & Record.

She also received “a crystal sculpture depicting a person who is pushing a big ball uphill,” according to the newspaper.

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The governor hasn’t been out in the public much this week, at least not in places where reporters could ask him about the $21.3 billion compromise budget Republican legislative leaders announced yesterday.

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Gov. Pat McCrory

But Gov. Pat McCrory’s office did take care Tuesday night to give last-minute notice to the state’s press corps that the governor would speak about the budget,  just at an event reporters were barred from attending.

Sent at 7:25 p.m.  Tuesday, an emailed media advisory from McCrory’s press office notified reporters that the governor would speak in 20 minutes, at 7:45 p.m., for the N.C. Sheriff Association’s annual banquet in New Bern.

McCrory’s talk would include “an update on the immigration issue many states, including North Carolina, are facing. The governor will also provide an update on the ongoing budget negotiations back in Raleigh.”

(It’s worth nothing here that, though details about an average teacher pay raise of seven percent in the budget deal were announced yesterday by legislative leaders, the actual budget has yet to be publicly released.)

McCrory’s media advisory from Tuesday night also noted that the event was closed to media — meaning any reporters who could have scrambled with 20-minutes notice to hear his thoughts on these two big public policy issues wouldn’t be welcome.

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In a joint press conference Tuesday, N.C House Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate President Pro-Tem Phil Berger gave a broad outline of their recently-reached compromise on the state’s $21.3 billion budget for the fiscal year that began July 1.

N.C. House Speaker Thom Tillis (right) and N.C. Senate leader Phil Berger (left) at Tuesday budget press conference

N.C. House Speaker Thom Tillis (left) and N.C. Senate leader Phil Berger (right) at Tuesday budget press conference

The Republican legislative leaders used the half-hour press conference to outline what the budget would do (teacher and state employee raises, avoid kicking some elderly and blind off of Medicaid) but didn’t delve deep into details abgoutwhat cuts could be seen in other arenas.

WRAL’s Mark Binker has a good run-down on what’s known about the budget proposal here. Click here to read Tillis and Berger’s press release.

The state’s teachers would get average raises of 7 percent, working out to approximately $3,500 per teacher, at a cost of $282 million. The teacher salary schedule would also be compressed from 37 steps to six steps, said Berger, the Senate leader.

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A deal between two North Carolina electricity providers could finally give some Eastern North Carolina residents relief from monthly electricity bills that rank among highest in the state.

The N.C. Eastern Municipal Power Agency and Duke Energy announced Monday a plan for Duke to buy $1.2 billion worth of assets held by the municipal power group, which is managed by the Raleigh-based Electricities group.

The municipal power group that serves 32 Eastern North Carolina communities has long been saddled with high levels of debt taken on when the cities bought into nuclear and coal-power plant projects decades ago and costs soared during construction. That led to high levels of debt with the costs passed on to consumers through higher electricity rates.

The N.C. Eastern Municipal Power Agency and Duke Energy deal, if given final approval, would lower the debt owed by the towns from $1.9 billion to $480 million, according to a news release from the N.C. Eastern Municipal Power Agency.

The drop in electricity costs for consumers would still vary by community, depending on how much outstanding debt is still owed by each community.

“When we entered these negotiations, we knew it wasn’t feasible to expect to completely eliminate the debt by selling our assets. But this agreement has the potential to reduce our current debt by more than 70 percent,” ElectriCities CEO Graham Edwards said, in a written statement “That’s a significant decrease in our costs and the savings would be directly passed along to NCEMPA members.

Electricities

Towns in the 32-city Electricities network include Lumberton, Kinston, Selma, Smithfield, Apex, Elizabeth City, Wilson, New Bern, Washington, Tarboro and Edenton.

Many of the communities that depend on Electriticies for electricity also have stagnant economies, with high levels of impoverished residents.

As part of the plan, Duke Energy would buy the municipal power group’s stakes in four power plants – the Brunswick (County) Nuclear Plants, the Mayo and Roxboro plants in Person County and the Shearon Harris Nuclear Plant in Wake County, according to the press releases form the companies.

The move would still need approval from state and federal energy regulators.

Do you live in one of the communities affected by this? We’d like to hear from you about how high your electricity bills are now and what you think of today’s news.

Leave a comment below, or you reach reporter Sarah Ovaska at (919) 861-1463 or sarah@ncpolicywatch.com.