Commentary

Cooper’s non-discrimination Executive Order is one step forward on road to diversity, acceptance in NC

Governor Roy Cooper’s non-discrimination Executive Order, which states transgender North Carolinians can use public restrooms and facilities that match their gender identity, is a most welcome reprieve from HB2 – and its partial repeal in HB142 – that have plagued our state for nearly two years. Critically, the proposal rightfully and finally prohibits discrimination on the grounds of race, color, ethnicity, veteran status, sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity or expression in state positions, and “makes {at least state government in} North Carolina a welcoming place to all.”

That such an order was even necessary is a reflection of the warped priorities in our General Assembly on social issues as of late – ones that focused on non-existent “dangers” to others, based votes on “fake news”, and disrupted our local governments’ abilities to respond to the needs of their communities, cloaking the true intent to dismantle nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ North Carolinians.

The order arrives alongside a consent decree issued by Gov. Cooper, Attorney General Josh Stein, and advocacy groups representing LGBTQ to resolve the ongoing legal dispute over HB142. If the decree becomes law it will provide some relief to many transgender North Carolinians in our state.

But HB2 and HB142 will remain. Nothing can entirely erase the impact these hateful laws have had on our state, or its reputation. The work to move North Carolina forward as a human rights destination for everyone must and will continue. This week’s firm declaration that our state welcomes all individuals is a breath of fresh air and should be welcomed by all as such. The Consent Decree, which should be adopted, likewise closes a courageous legal chapter by re-lighting the path of righteousness and equal justice for us all.

Rick Glazier is the Executive Director of the North Carolina Justice Center.

Environment

Finally, here is a list of DEQ, DHHS Science Advisory Board members — and it’s impressive

Chief Medical Officer and State Health Director Dr. Betsey Tilson. (Courtesy photo)

Toxicologists, ecologists, air quality experts and public health officials: After a wait of more than two months, the list of 16 appointees to the Secretaries’ Science Advisory Board has been posted on the NC Department of Environmental Quality website.

The roster is current as of Oct. 17. The board will meet Monday, Oct. 23, at 3 p.m. in the Ground Floor Hearing Room of the Archdale Building, which faces Halifax Mall in Raleigh.

The members include Detlef Knappe, one of the scientists who originally discovered GenX in the Cape Fear River and in the drinking water at Wilmington’s Sweeney plant.

In August, as the GenX crisis was unfolding, Gov. Roy Cooper announced the expansion of the existing science advisory board and its role. Appointed by the secretaries of DEQ and the Department of Health and Human Services, the board’s first charge is to study ways to better protect public health and the environment from new or emerging chemicals of concern, including GenX and hexavalent chromium.

However, environmental advocates have been quietly critical of the agencies’ slow response in appointing the board. Just last week, DEQ Secretary Michael Regan announced that Jamie Bartram, a professor and founding director of The Water Institute at UNC Chapel Hill, would be the chairman.

Here is the roster of the other members and their scientific backgrounds. According to their résumés, they all are accomplished in their respective fields.

W. Greg Cope, a toxicology and fisheries biology professor at NC State University (Photo: NCSU)

  • Tom Augspurger, is an adjunct associate professor in the toxicology program at NC State University. He specializes in ecology and environmental contaminants as a specialist with the US Fish & Wildlife Service in Raleigh.
  • W. Greg Cope, an NC State professor in toxicology and fisheries biology, focuses on pesticides, persistent organic pollutants, metals, the impacts of sediments and ecosystems. He is also affiliated with the Southeast Climate Science Center, which is under the US Department of the Interior.
  • Richard T. Di Giulio, a professor of environmental toxicology at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment, also directs the university’s Superfund Research Center. He also leads the integrated toxicology and environmental health program. Di Giulo’s research has also found contamination in waterways related to coal-fired power plants.
  • David Dorman, the associate dean for research and graduate studies at NC State’s veterinary school is also a toxicology professor. He has contributed to a the National Research Council on projects related to toxicology and human risk assessment. Dorman was appointed to the original Science Advisory Board in 2011.

    Elaina Kenyon, a toxicologist at the EPA in Research Triangle Park. (Photo: LinkedIn)

Elaina Kenyon, a research toxicologist, works at the EPA in Research Triangle Park. A member of the original SAB since 1996, she has published research on air toxics, risk assessment and toxicological modeling.

Thomas Starr of TBS Associates, an environmental consulting company, has also worked as an adjunct associate professor at UNC’s Gillings School of Public Health. A past member of an EPA science advisory board on a type of compound known as halogenated organics. These chemical are used in several common products, including pesticides, paint and flame retardants.

  • Dr. Woodhall Stopford of Duke University’s Department of Community and Family Medicine has written more than 80 publications on workplace-related toxicology, pesticides and contaminants in consumer products. A board member since 1990, Stopford also served on an EPA panel assessing the risks of dioxins in ceramics.
  • John Vandenburg, the national program director of the EPA’s Human Health Risk Assessment Program, focuses on hazardous air pollutants and risk. He also worked as an adjunct professor at the Duke Nicholas School, where he specialized in toxicology and environmental policy.
  • State Health Director and DHHS Chief Medical Officer Betsey Tilson is a pediatrician and works in preventative medicine. She also was a assistant consulting professor and cancer control specialist with Duke University Medical Center and as a clinical pediatric fellow UNC Chapel Hill.
  • Philip Tarte, has been the New Hanover County Public Health director since July 2016. He sits on the NC Department of Agriculture’s Pesticide Advisory Board and NC Institute of Medicine board.
  • Viney Aneja is a professor in NC State’s Department of Marine, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences. He has been appointed to the EPA’s Board of Scientific Counselors Exeutive Committee and chairs a related committee on Air, Climate and Energy.
  • Jaqueline Gibson, an associate professor at UNC’s Gillings School of Global Public Health, researches how environmental policy decisions affect population health. Among her research work is “Strategies to improve private well water quality: a North Carolina perspective,” which will soon be published in Environmental Health Perspectives.
  • Gina Kimble supervises the lab for the Charlotte water system. She serves on the NC Urban Water Consortium and as an advisory committee member for the Water Resources Research Institute.
  • A professor of aquatics, wildlife and zoological medicine at NC State, Michael Stoskopf researches ecosystems and the health of wildlife species, including the endangered red wolf. He also directs the Environmental Medicine Consortium at NCSU.

Dr. Michael Stoskopf and Dr. Anne Acton (right) examine a sleeping red wolf at the College of Veterinary Medicine. The lone wolf is part of a study of the endangered species and the red wolf reintroduction program. (Photo by Roger Winstead)

Commentary

Breaking: U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee approves extremist conservative Thomas Farr to be federal judge

Thomas Farr and Thom Tillis

With North Carolina’s Thom Tillis leading the way (including making arrangements for a couple of his fellow Republicans to run in at the last minute for the vote) the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee approved North Carolina arch-conservative Thomas Farr this morning to serve as a federal judge in the state’s Eastern District. The vote was by a partisan count of 11-9.

Farr’s nomination has been decried by national civil rights organizations as “repugnant” and “the culmination of a white supremacist political machine.” Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and former head of the Civil Rights Division at the U.S. Department of Justice, put it this way:

“Mr. Farr has devoted much of his 38-year legal career to restricting voting rights and defending employment discrimination. As the Congressional Black Caucus wrote in a letter last month opposing Mr. Farr’s nomination: ‘It is no exaggeration to say that had the White House deliberately sought to identify an attorney in North Carolina with a more hostile record on African-American voting rights and workers’ rights than Thomas Farr, it could hardly have done so.’ The judicial vacancy to which Mr. Farr has been nominated has never had an African-American judge in its 143-year history. President Obama nominated two highly qualified African-American women for this judgeship, but they were blocked by Republican senators.  It is now the oldest judicial vacancy in the country.”

Read more about this disastrous nomination by clicking here and here.

Commentary

Editorials blast legislature’s “petty,” “bullying” attacks on Gov. Cooper

The leaders of the North Carolina General Assembly continue to embarrass themselves and the state with their childish attacks on Gov. Roy Cooper. To their credit, the Fayetteville Observer and Raleigh’s News & Observer are taking lawmakers to task for their behavior.

Here’s the Observer in an editorial entitled “Bullying in the year of the veto”:

“We could call it the Year of the Veto. But it’s probably more accurate to use the longer form: the year when good government was sacrificed on the altar of power politics.

Even though Roy Cooper is still a couple of months short of his first full year in office, it’s clear what’s going on. The leadership of the General Assembly has decided that Job No. 1 is slapping the governor down at every opportunity, even when he wants to do something that will protect the health and safety of North Carolina’s residents — Democrat, Republican, Libertarian and independent alike.”

After detailing numerous ways in which legislative leaders have harmed the state for partisan purposes — most notably in the Gen X pollution disaster — the editorial concludes like this:

“We understand the nature of political struggles and the way they are conducted in Raleigh. But we don’t understand why Berger, Moore and their lieutenants are so willing to harm the state’s residents so they can score political points. And don’t tell us the Democrats did it too. You’re right, they did. But the Republicans are in charge now and they’re responsible for the messes we’re in. They took office with a pledge to run a better government than the Democrats did. And they’re failing.”

And here’s the N&O in an editorial entitled “NC’s GOP legislators take petty revenge against Cooper”:

“Roy Cooper committed a Big Sin last November, one that Republican leaders of the General Assembly apparently find unforgivable.

Yes, the veteran attorney general won the governor’s office over a Republican legislators didn’t particularly like, Pat McCrory, but at least he was a Republican. So even though Cooper was a veteran legislator himself before becoming attorney general for four terms, GOP leaders are still pouting. Thus, they’re dragging their heels on approving Cooper’s appointments to boards such as the Utilities Commission, the State Board of Education and the board of the State Employees Retirement system (WRAL reports).

The delays have dragged on for months, and the reason is simple: Cooper is a Democrat, and since before he took office, Republicans have tried to strip that office of power and money any way they could in trying to curb Cooper’s appointive power and budget. Cooper’s still fighting the actions, but he can’t do much about the latest immature, petulant behavior of Republican leaders in simply sitting on their hands and delaying approval of Cooper’s choices on key boards.

But it’s beyond ridiculous partisanship. This is irresponsible, hurting the decision-making process on key boards and defying the governor’s constitutional right to make these appointments. This kind of behavior is a disservice to the people of North Carolina. But maybe Republicans are mad at them, too. They elected Cooper, after all.”

HB2, News

Cooper: Transgender North Carolinans can use public bathrooms that match gender identity

Gov. Roy Cooper and Attorney General Josh Stein have proposed a solution for transgender North Carolinians who are prevented from using public restrooms that match their gender identity in legislation enacted to replace House Bill 2.

Cooper signed a non-discrimination Executive Order today for the state “to promote diversity and prohibit discrimination in government agencies and government contracts in an effort to make North Carolina a welcoming place to all.”

The order prohibits discrimination in his administration on the grounds of race, color, ethnicity, sex, National Guard or veteran status, sexual orientation, and gender identity or expression in employment, and it also requires those doing business with the state to do the same.

This means that transgender individuals will not be prohibited under HB142, which repealed HB2.

Cooper and other parties to the lawsuit over HB142 (formerly over HB2), Carcano v. Cooper, also submitted a consent decree to the court to resolve the dispute.

“Earlier this year, I said there was more work to do to protect against discrimination and make North Carolina a welcoming state,” Cooper said in an email. “Today’s executive order and consent decree are important steps toward fighting discrimination and enacting protections throughout state government and across our state.”

In a statement, the ACLU, which represents Joaquín Carcaño, a transgender man who is the lead plaintiff in the case, said some parties to the suit agreed to the decree because of the significant constitutional harms HB142 has caused transgender North Carolinians.

“Nothing can make up for the cruel and senseless attacks transgender people have faced in North Carolina, but I am hopeful that the court will agree to clarify the law so that we can live our lives in less fear,” said Carcaño.

The original sponsor of HB2, Sen. Dan Bishop (R-Mecklenburg), was not so thrilled with the news. He tweeted simply, “truce torched” with a link to a Facebook rant.

“Gov. Cooper, Attorney General Josh Stein and the ACLU propose a court ‘settlement’ that would guarantee access to opposite-sex restrooms, showers and changing facilities, statewide. They have joined together to ask for a ‘consent decree’ from the federal court that would prohibit officials ‘to … block, deter or impede’ anyone from using any ‘public facilities’ ‘in accordance with … gender identity.,'” he wrote. “It is the epitome of a collusive settlement. And an attack on the rule of law worthy of … well, I won’t say who. So much for the truce. I warned it would be fleeting. For anyone still prosaic enough to have regard for rights to physiological privacy — to be ‘distressed’ by ‘[t]he thought of male genitalia in girls’ locker rooms,” as the Observer put it many months ago — call the Governor’s office. Same goes for the business interests who pleaded for the HB2 controversy to be quelled by good faith compromise.”

You can read more thoughts from Cooper here and more from the ACLU here.