Confederate monument on State Capitol grounds vandalized, #BlackLivesMatter spray-painted on it

Graffiti on Confederate Women's Monument in downtown Raleigh (photo by Sarah Ovaska-Few).

Graffiti on Confederate Women’s Monument in downtown Raleigh (photo by Sarah Ovaska-Few).

The words “Black Lives Matter” were spray-painted on a Confederate monument on the State Capitol grounds overnight,

The Confederate Women’s Monument is downtown Raleigh is one of two Confederate monuments on the capitol grounds in downtown Raleigh, where Gov. Pat McCrory has his office.

Workers had begun trying to remove the “Black Lives Matter” graffiti off of the monument Tuesday morning.

Tuesday’s actions comes as the state House of Representatives will finish debating a bill today that would make it more difficult for local communities to remove Confederate monuments from public property. Any removals would have to be approved by the state legislature.

McCrory has also said he wants the legislature to pass a law preventing the distribution of “Sons of Confederate Veterans” state license plates adorned with the Confederate battle flag. Republican state Sen. Phil Berger has said McCrory has the power to stop issuing the plates on his own, and does not need the legislature’s permission.

Meanwhile, demand last month for the Confederate flag license plates depleted the state’s existing stock, and the N.C. Department of Motor Vehicles, which is under McCrory’s purview, is in the process of having more produced.

Workers try to remove "Black Lives Matter" graffiti on Confederate monument.

Workers try to remove “Black Lives Matter” graffiti on Confederate monument.


Community Care of North Carolina downsizing, several top staff are reportedly out

Several top staff and board members of Community Care of North Carolina, the provider-led network that coordinates care for many Medicaid patients in the state, have left the organization.

It’s unclear how many other members of the leadership team may have left the organization, with CCNC only issuing a vague statement about the recent departures citing an overall need to reduce costs wherever possible.

“Staff has been reduced by about 9 percent, including both leadership and staff levels,” wrote CCNC spokesman Paul Mahoney in a statement. “No significant staff changes are planned for the remainder of the 2015-2016 fiscal year.”

Dr. L. Allen Dobson Jr., the president of CCNC, remains at the helm of the organization, Mahoney said.

Others confirmed that there had been significant recent departures at CCNC.

“There were several staff people that left for various reasons,” said Richard Stevens, a former Republican state senator who currently works as a contract lobbyist for CCNC.

A listed staff lobbyist for CCNC, Amy Hobbs, resigned from her position on July 1, records with the N.C. Secretary of State’s office show.

Three board members have also left the non-profit leadership boards that govern CCNC.

Brian Toomey, a former board member for N.C. Community Care Networks, said he recently left the board managing CCNC’s network of community care centers, but not as part of any planned or unplanned exodus.

Rather, he said he left for his own reasons – namely to spend more time at his job managing the Carrboro-based Piedmont Health Services as state leaders debate what the future of the state’s Medicaid system is.

“The world is about to change,” Toomey said. “The problem is, we don’t know how.”

CCNC manages the health care for approximately 1.4 million North Carolinians enrolled in the state’s Medicaid system, a federally mandated program that provides health coverage to some of the most vulnerable North Carolinians – low-income children, seniors and disabled persons.

It’s also gained national attention for its approach to health care, which has been found in studies to keep costs down while improving care. A 2011 study by a California consulting firm found CCNC saved the state nearly $1 billion between 2007 and 2010.

But the group’s future has been uncertain in recent years, with Republican leaders in the state legislature disagreeing about whether or not CCNC should have a place in the state’s potentially revamped $14 billion Medicaid program, the largest line-item in the state budget and one that frequently experiences cost overruns.

Several leading House Republicans have been supportive of CCNC and its approach to use locally-based medical providers to manage the care of patients, while Senate leaders have been less enthusiastic.

The Senate version of the budget, released in mid-June, proposed severing CCNC’s $65 million contract with the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services after Jan. 1, in favor of pursuing a more privatized Medicaid system of contracting with managed care companies.

The House and the Senate are currently in the midst of budget negotiations.


Living downwind from a North Carolina hog farm

HogsThere’s an interesting (and lengthy) piece on Quartz, an online-based magazine, that dives into the lives of Duplin County residents who say they suffer from being surrounded by lagoons of noxious hog waste.

The article takes a deep look at the large hog industry in North Carolina, and what it sees as the price residents in a highly impoverished county end up paying for providing cheap bacon to American and international markets.

From the article:

The first thing Violet Branch does when she wakes up is to inhale through her nose to see whether the smell of hog excrement from across the street has seeped into her home again.

“Sometimes when I wake up the odor is in the house. Sometimes before I go to bed, the odor is in the house,” says Branch, 71, who lives next door to a swine farmer who keeps two lakes filled with a swampy mixture of feces and urine that he periodically spreads on his crops as fertilizer. An acrid odor of rotting eggs fills her yard at least twice a week and occasionally her home, giving her nausea and on some occasions causing her to vomit. All she can do is wait until it passes or ask her son who lives next door to drive her to the nearby Walmart where she paces the aisles until her breathing returns to normal.

Branch, wearing tiger-striped reading glasses and a mustard-colored sweatshirt, sits in the kitchen of her small one-story home crowded with pictures of her grandchildren and her parents who ran a farm here in Warsaw, 50 years ago while raising Branch and her 10 siblings. When asked about the lawsuit she has filed against hog production giant, Murphy Brown, which buys from the hog grower across the street, she says, “You ever hear that saying, ‘What comes around goes around’?”

Branch is one of over 500 residents in eastern North Carolina who are suing Murphy Brown, the pork production arm of Virginia-based meat conglomerate Smithfield Foods. They’re seeking damages over the cesspools, or lagoons as the industry calls them—uncovered earthen storage pools of waste. The complainants say the lagoons disrupt their lives and devalue their properties.

You can read the entire piece here.


For-profit University of Phoenix comes to legislature to talk about N.C.’s workforce needs

A for-profit higher education company made a presentation at the N.C. legislature Wednesday, in part to make a pitch for the state to establish a central office where businesses can request help meeting their workforce needs.

Scott D’Amico of Apollo Education Group , the parent company for the University of Phoenix, said he conducted a survey of manufacturing businesses, and found that many wished they had more awareness of what the higher education system can do to help train future workers.

D’Amico said he surveyed the companies on behalf of the N.C. Chamber of Commerce, as a way of gauging the needs of North Carolina’s business community.

Though there are many groups in the state that work on issues surrounding training future workers with needed skill sets, many employers are often unaware of those efforts, D’Amico said.

“The manufacturers don’t always hear about this,” he said. “There were a lot of disjointed efforts”

D’Amico’s 12-page presentation (click here to view) at the Senate Workforce and Economic Development committee meeting was met with some skepticism by lawmakers, several of whom pointed out that the state’s community college system and commerce department already work closely with employers.

“Do you not do the same things our community colleges do?,” asked state Sen. Jerry Tillman, an Archdale Republican and an influential member on education issues. “I would hope and expect our chamber would be just as anxious to work with our community colleges.” Read more


N.C. House Speaker Tim Moore gets job as Cleveland County attorney, tasks include advising on legislation (with update)

Note: This post has been updated to include comment from Moore’s legislative office.

N.C. House Speaker Tim Moore has a new job, after he was hired this week to serve as the attorney for Cleveland County, where he lives.

N.C. House Speaker Tim Moore

N.C. House Speaker Tim Moore

One of his tasks in the county position will be to “[a]dvise the Board and Manager on proposed legislation,” according to a copy of Moore’s contract, which was obtained by N.C. Policy Watch.

That could raise questions about whether the new job poses a conflict of interest for Moore, a Kings Mountain Republican. As head of the state House of Representatives, Moore has considerable influence and insider knowledge about state budget negotiations as well as other pieces of state legislation that affect counties around the state.

Moore’s legislative staff said that his county-based job will be limited to offering advice on proposed legislation in the county, and not any state legislation.

The House Speaker job tends to be a time-consuming one, though all members of the legislature are considered part-time lawmakers with many still running businesses or going to jobs in their home districts. Moore makes $38,151 a year as House Speaker.

The Shelby Star noted that when Moore was hired Tuesday at a county commission meeting, he made reference to his position in the state legislature.

“Moore joked about having another job that gave him ‘some insight’ about what is going on in the state and communities but still had a law practice to keep up,” the Shelby Star wrote in an article about Moore’s hiring.

State ethics law prevents those in public positions, like lawmakers, from using their public position to bring “financial benefit to the covered person or legislative employee, a member of the covered person’s or legislative employee’s extended family, or business with which the covered person or legislative employee is associated.”

Clayton Somers, Moore’s chief of staff, said Friday afternoon that Moore sought an informal ethics opinion before taking the job, and that the legislation referred to in the contract was only county-based proposals, not state legislation.

“He is not going to advise the county on any state legislation,” Somers said.

Moore will receive a $25,000 annual retainer, and will bill the county $250 an hour for whatever work he does serving as the legal adviser to the county commission, according to a copy of his contract obtained from Cleveland County by N.C. Policy Watch.

The job will require Moore to attend commission meetings, consult with the county commission and county manager as needed and prepare legal documents and contracts, in addition to offering advice about pending legislation.

“It just doesn’t look good,” said Jane Pinsky, the head of the N.C. Coalition for Lobbying and Government Reform, about Moore’s new contract employee job with the county.

Even if the arrangement is legal and Moore operates in an ethical manner, it can still leave the public with the impression that those in political power are able to easily secure jobs because of their public roles, she said.

“It’s one more thing that people think if you’re one of the good old boys, there’s a benefit to that,” Pinsky said.