Commentary

7-27-15 NCPW CARTOONAs WRAL.com notes this morning, it’s been two months and ten days since Governor McCrory announced that the “time is right” for the state to stop distributing license plates bearing the confederate flag. Since that time, here is what the Guv has done to make that change a reality: zip, zero, bupkis.

The reason for this is obvious. The Governor has placed a wet finger in the wind and determined that much of his conservative base likes the flag. As was explained back in July in a column:

“Of course, the actual reason behind the paralysis of the state’s conservative political leadership when it comes to confederate symbols is not hard to divine and has nothing to do with ‘legal authority.’ Rather, these politicians are simply bowing to the wishes of a large and noisy segment of their political base.

As NC Policy Watch editorial cartoonist John Cole neatly conveyed yesterday, the simple truth is that neither McCrory nor the leadership of General Assembly want (or feel they have the political muscle) to take on the far right on the issue. Once the modest national momentum that arose in the aftermath of the horror in Charleston subsided somewhat, McCrory et. al. quickly realized that a large segment of the conservative base actually likes confederate symbols and what they perceive them to stand for. Add to this the widespread resentfulness that any policy change at all attributable to progressives and civil rights activists is sure to provoke on Fox News and other dark corners of the conservative echo chamber and it’s easy to see why McCrory, Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore have disappeared into their shells.”

And so here’s the bottom line, hard truth about the confederate flag on the North Carolina license plate: it isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. It would be nice if the Governor had the courage to be straight with the citizens about this fact.

Commentary

In case you missed it, the latest edition of the Justice Center’s “Prosperity Watch” has some less-than-encourgaing news about the “Carolina Comeback”:

With wages stagnating, the price of many necessities soars

Getting by is getting harder in North Carolina. The cost of some basic necessities are growing faster than wages in North Carolina, catching households that have to spend the bulk of their income on things like food and housing in a tightening vice. When families don’t earn enough to make ends meet, they can’t buy goods and services that provide jobs for other North Carolinians, so the entire economy slows down.

Inflation has been low over the last year or so, with some economists arguing that this should blunt concerns over wage stagnation. From the end of 2007 through July of this year, the cost of all goods and services that the average household purchases increased by 12.6%, while wages increased by almost the same amount. However, as can be seen above, the cost of essential needs like food and shelter has actually outpaced many other types of consumer goods. The price of shelter increased by 14.5% from December 2007 to mid-2015, and the cost of food went up almost 20% during that same period, growth that outpaces wages in both instances.

The practical effect of these trends is that families living in poverty are feeling the squeeze more than the average household. It should come as no surprise that low-income families are forced to spend a larger share of their income on basic necessities than their more prosperous neighbors.

For example, households in the bottom fifth of income spend 16% of their outlays on food, compared to 11% for the top income group. Households at the bottom of the income distribution spend over 40% of their budget on housing, while the top group comes in around 30%. The real world consequence of this is that poorer families have seen the cost of what they have to spend their money on go up much faster than middle of high income families.

High-level economic data can often shield the most economically vulnerable from view, masking the daily challenges that arise when wages don’t keep up with the growing costs of the basics.  Before anyone declares victory in North Carolina, we need to see wage growth that allows working people, and the economy, to make progress.

News

The State Board of Education released the second annual school performance report cards Wednesday showing that over 72 percent  of the state’s traditional public schools earned a letter grade of “C” or better.

The A-F grading scale is based 80 percent on the school’s achievement score and 20 percent on students’ academic growth.

Almost 28 percent of the schools received a D or F on the latest report card, though it’s worth noting that those are schools where more than 50 percent of the students come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.

“We know that students who come from poor circumstances often make significant academic growth each year, but they often begin school behind their more affluent peers and have many obstacles to overcome,” explained State Superintendent Atkinson. “Many of our children living in poverty do not have access to preschool education – a well-researched strategy for improving student achievement.”

State Board of Education Chairman Bill Cobey believes the letter grades “provide a springboard” for parents to learn more about a schools’ performance in reading, math and science.

Critics of the A-F school letter grades contend they simply show where poor children go to school without providing a deeper understanding of how well schools are educating students.

Here’s a snapshot of how all schools performed:

Performance grades for all schools

Source: NCDPI

 

The new data from the state Department of Public Instruction also shows a clear correlation between D and F schools and the level of poor and disadvantaged students attending those schools:

Grade Shools Povery Percentages

Source: NCDPI

How did your child’s school fare? Click here to find out.

Commentary

As has been explained on multiple occasions by a wide variety of experts, there are a couple of basic rules in play when in it comes to understanding the present and future of the North Carolina coastline.

Rule #1 is that the sandy beaches that run for hundreds of miles along our coast are in a constant state of evolution. They ebb and flow and are moving all the time.

Rule #2 is that no one can change Rule #1.

Oh sure, people will try to build “groins” and other “hardened structures” in an effort to get around Rule #1, but experience shows that all that does is make things worse in a lot of places. If you doubt this, visit some of the beaches of other states along the eastern seaboard who have tried to control nature in this way and then watched as the erosion has only worsened in numerous areas.

Unfortunately, people never seem to remember these rules. Hence, stories like this one from this morning’s Coastal Review Online:

RALEIGH – A provision in the latest version of the state budget still in the works would lift the cap on the number of terminal groins allowed on the N.C. coast. Read More

News

Pardon

 

(Update: According to the AP, the commission has awarded Henry McCollum and Leon Brown $750,000 each, the maximum available under state law.)

At a hearing today, the North Carolina Industrial Commission will consider compensation claims filed by Henry McCollum and Leon Brown, two men wrongfully convicted in 1991 for the 1983 rape and murder of 11-year-old Sabrina Buie in Red Springs, North Carolina.

Under state law, the men are entitled to $50,000 for each of the more than 30 years they spent in jail — McCollum on death row and Brown serving a life sentence — up to $750,000 each.

The two men were exonerated by Superior Court Judge Douglas B. Sasser a year ago after DNA evidence pointed to another man. It then took Gov. Pat McCrory 266 days to pardon the men, a necessary step before an award of compensation.

Patrick Megaro, who represents the two men, is expected to address the commission, following on the petition filed on their behalf in July.

According to a report from the Associated Press, McCollum plans to attend the hearing along with his sister, but Brown is hospitalized for mental health issues exacerbated by his time in prison.

Compensation could not come any sooner, as the men left prison with just $45 in their pockets and have struggled to adjust to life outside.  Even more important than the money though is having their names cleared, McCollum told the AP in June.

Read the petition for compensation filed on their behalf here.