Commentary

GenX disaster: More compelling evidence that incessant GOP budget cuts endanger our well-being

It was already patently obvious, but a story in this morning’s Wilmington Star News about the ongoing GenX chemical disaster in southeastern North Carolina makes clear once more the direct connection that exists between incessant Republican efforts to decimate essential public services and structures and a demise in public well-being. This is from the article (“As GenX lingers, NC environmental regulators hobbled”):

“The revelation that the unregulated chemical compound GenX was found in treated drinking water in New Hanover County has spurred the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) into action, prompting testing and an investigation of Chemours, a spinoff of chemical giant DuPont that is responsible for the discharge.

Environmental groups and some lawmakers, though, said years of GOP-mandated cuts have resulted in an agency choked by repeated reductions in staff that can’t handle the workload….

In 2010, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources had a staff of 5,221. By 2012, its staff had shrunk to 4,053, according to the DEQ….

The agency, which was reorganized and renamed the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality in 2015, now numbers 1,582 employees. Most of those employees — including those at state parks, aquariums and the N.C. Zoo — were transferred into new departments, predominantly the Department of Cultural and Natural Resources.

Since 2015, though, the arms of DEQ tasked with overseeing water resources and quality have also shrunk, from 493 before the reorganization to 426 today.”

Naturally, Republican politicians interviewed for the article all trotted out timeworn claims that they’ve been making things more “efficient” and that “more spending doesn’t necessarily mean better services,” but this is baloney and an attempt to deceive. As the article goes on to report:

“While budgets and staff have diminished, the agency’s backlog — permits that have been administratively continued more than 180 days beyond their expiration date or new applications pending for more than a year — of major wastewater permits has grown. In 2010, the backlog was 14 percent of applications, according to DEQ spokeswoman Bridget Munger.

‘As of May 2017, 42 percent of the expired major wastewater permits are awaiting review and processing,’ she said.

One of those awaiting a new permit is Chemours Co., which has discharged the unregulated chemical compound GenX into the Cape Fear River. The chemical can’t be filtered by the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority (CFPUA), which provides drinking water to most of New Hanover County.”

It is, in short, not that complicated. When you employ fewer people and place fewer resources at their disposal, they get less work done. When you do the opposite with even a modicum of intelligence, they get more done. But, of course,  GOP ideologues know this. That’s why Senator Phil Berger, for instance, has dramatically increased the size of the legislative staff that reports to him in recent years,

The bottom line: The article quotes a former agency official as observing “The DEQ does not currently have the staff to provide either good customer service to the business community or good stewardship of the environment.”

And anyone paying any attention at all to North Carolina politics understands that this was an intentional decision by conservative lawmakers who acted at the behest of the polluters who pay their campaign bills. All North Carolinians will suffer as a result of this treachery.

News

Young voters rally outside NC legislature for fair voting maps, an end to gerrymandering

Ajamu Dillahunt, 20, pictured at the podium, told a group of people Wednesday morning that a lack of fair maps remains a barrier for a fair future. (Photo by Nelle Dunlap)

Young North Carolinians gathered Wednesday morning outside the Legislature to talk about how gerrymandering affects their futures and to call on lawmakers to draw fair voting maps.

The event, entitled “Fair Maps for a Fair Future,” featured college students and recent graduates from across the state who are participating in Democracy North Carolina’s summer internship program, Democracy Summer.

“Working for these causes, I believe I’ve already become a familiar face in the halls, offices and chambers of the North Carolina General Assembly,” said Ajamu Dillahunt, a 20-year-old rising junior at North Carolina Central University in Durham. “I’m here today … to represent hundreds of thousands of voters from Greensville to Asheville who understand that until we end the racial and partisan gerrymandering that plagues our state, until we build champions for fair voting maps inside and outside of the People’s House, and until we are able to pick our representatives, not the other way around, there will be no justice for us.”

Dozens of students stood behind Dillahunt and held up “a wall” of petitions with over 10,000 signatures from North Carolinians calling on lawmakers to end racial gerrymandering and support fair voting maps.

Students at a rally Wednesday brought petitions with more than 10,000 signatures from North Carolinians calling for fair voting maps. (Photo by Nelle Dunlap)

Dillahunt said the wall represents how a lack of fair voting maps remains a barrier to a fair future.

After students spoke about gerrymandering, they shouted, “What do we want? Fair maps! When do we want them? Now!”

Austin Padilla, a rising sophomore at Sandhills Community College in Pinehurst, said gerrymandering is a fundamental, undemocratic practice that invalidates the Constitutional principle of one person, one vote.

“We should be supportive of our citizens taking part in our democracy and end barriers to access,” he said. “That’s why I’m here.”

Southeastern Regional Democracy Summer intern Chyna Melton, who recently graduated from Appalachian State University in Boone, was hopeful that her support for redistricting reform would be adopted by lawmakers.

“I am here today because from Boone, where I went to college, to Fayetteville where I have my office, lawmakers have skillfully gerrymandered my state, packing and cracking pockets of voters like myself to nullify my vote and my voice,” she said. “As a young voter and an activist, it is important for me push for fair maps to reflect a true democracy and, through my words and actions today, encourage others to do the same. It is my abiding hope that this will give purpose to our votes and prove that our votes do matter.”

A coalition of young voters rallied for redistricting reform Wednesday outside the Legislature. (Photo by Nelle Dunlap)

Democracy NC spokesperson Jen Jones said it was important for young voters to make their voices heard because gerrymandered maps impact their future.

“Young people are incredibly demoralized with the state of our democracy,” she said.

After the rally, students met with lawmakers inside the Legislature to voice their desire for redistricting reform.

Just before they got started at the rally, Rep. Graig Meyer (D-Durham, Orange) stopped by to thank students for their involvement.

“You are really working on the single most important cause,” he told them.

Environment, Legislature

Windbreaker John Droz pleaded with GOP senators to kill H589; Senate to hear bill today

Sen. Harry Brown’s proposal to kill wind energy could also kill solar. (Photo: NC General Assembly)

Sometime after 4 o’clock today when the Senate convenes, House Bill 589, the clean energy legislation, will know its fate. Solar will live, but wind will die. Solar and wind will both die. Solar and wind will both live. The latter is unlikely.

The good vibes of the bill — which only two days ago was all but assured a smooth passage to spurring more solar energy in the state — was eclipsed by a last-minute maneuver by wind energy opponent Senate Majority Leader Harry Brown. Yesterday in the Senate Rules Committee, Brown announced he had tacked on a four-year moratorium on wind farms to the measure.

Brown’s move played into the hands of John Droz, a climate change denier and vociferous and indefatigable opponent of solar and wind energy, who had been urging Republican lawmakers to oppose the measure.

Droz is a real estate developer who claims to be a physicist because he earned a bachelor’s degree in physics in 1968. An email obtained by NCPW shows that on June 9, Droz sent an 1,100-word missive to GOP senators, calling HB 589 “a black eye to our state.”  (Droz has a standard policy not to speak to NCPW until we stop calling him a real estate developer.)

Although House Bill 589 has its shortcomings, overall, it contains provisions that could further spur the explosive growth of solar energy in North Carolina. Not only would that moratorium stall two projects currently underway, but it would undermine the herculean efforts of stakeholders, including Duke Energy and clean energy groups, which had negotiated the bill language for nearly a year.

In the email, Droz claims to have been a member of the stakeholder group. According to one major stakeholder group, Droz’s name was on the email distribution list. However, no one could remember seeing him physically attend any of the stakeholder meetings.

Climate change denier John Droz cites conservative websites Civitas and the Daily Haymaker to prop up his opposition to HB 589. (Photo: masterresource.org)

As NCPW reported in February, Droz previously supplied talking points to Republican lawmakers, who used them to send a letter to the federal government to close the Amazon Wind Farm near Elizabeth City. At least two of the citations came from Breitbart News, the fake journalism site. And among the lawmakers who signed the letter was Sen. Harry Brown.

Here are some excerpts. The emphasis is in the original document.

If you knew nothing else about H589 other than it was written/supported by: The Southern Environmental Law Center, the Sierra Club, NC Sustainability Energy Association, the Environmental Defense Fund, The Nature Conservancy, etc. — would you think that it was a bill that benefitted consumers, small businesses and the military, or the entrenched solar industry?

The bottom line here is that well-paid professional lobbyists have successfully snookered some conscientious legislators by playing a game of three-card-monte on them. These lobbyists are taking advantage of Republican legislators who never read this 20 page bill, and who have little understanding of the technical issues involved. Instead these legislators accepted superficial soundbites foisted on them by skilled marketers.

 

Here is the full email:

 

John Droz Email by LisaSorg on Scribd

Commentary

Governor’s poor salesmanship allows General Assembly to confuse the teacher pay debate

N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper

Imagine getting two job offers. The first job offer would provide a raise of ten percent while the second would provide a raise of 9.6 percent. Obviously, a full ten percent raise is better, but it’s probably fair to describe both offers as “effectively the same.”

According to the North Carolina Republican party, North Carolina’s teachers are facing the above scenario. Press releases from the Republican Senate and House Caucuses claim that the just-passed General Assembly budget will provide teachers with an average raise of 9.6 percent by the 2018-19 school year, which they describe as “effectively the same” as the Governor’s proposal. After all, the Governor has described his salary plan as providing a 10 percent raise over the biennium.

The competing teacher salary plans certainly sound like they are comparable. A closer analysis, however, shows that they are significantly different. The problem is, that when the General Assembly describes their plan as a 9.6 percent raise, and the Governor describes his plan as a 10 percent raise, they are talking about completely different things.

There are two ways to describe the impact of a teacher salary plan. Read more

NC Budget and Tax Center, News

Prosperity Watch: Looking at LGBTQ equality in NC

June is Pride month and the N.C. Justice Center’s Budget and Tax Center is looking at LGBTQ in North Carolina – and just how far off it seems to be.

This week’s Prosperity Watch highlights the Movement Advancement Project’s startlingly low score for LGBTQ equality in the state.

From the Prosperity Watch piece:

North Carolinians are vulnerable to being fired or denied a job just because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. There are no state laws protecting the LGBTQ community from housing, public accommodation, or credit and lending discrimination either.

The cumulative effect of this legal discrimination is pretty severe, especially since it’s layered with racial and gender discrimination. A recent Williams Institute report found that LGBT adults are more likely than non-LGBT adults to live under or close to the poverty line. Poverty rates are particularly high for lesbian and bisexual women (both single and in same-sex couples), LGBT people of color, and transgender adults. LGBT people, women, and people of color make up a disproportionate number of the minimum wage workforce, earning $7.25 an hour in a state where you need at least twice that much to afford housing. And the 25 percent of LGBT adults who are raising families also suffer from the lack of a state paid family leave law, so they can’t take time off to care for a sick child or spouse, or to bond with a new child.

 

Read the full state’s full MAP equality profile here.