NC Budget and Tax Center

As our minds turn to food in preparation for Thanksgiving, there continue to be too many North Carolinians who struggle to bring food to the table each and every day. For these families, a lack of resources represents the greatest challenge in ensuring nutritious meals are available but another factor is access and proximity to stores that sell food.

North Carolina’s food deserts, or areas where access to food is made difficult by distance to store locations, can be found in both urban and rural settings. They affect more than 1.5 million North Carolinians and nearly 350 neighborhoods (or census tracts). For people living in a food desert, there is an association with poorer health outcomes such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease as well as an increased likelihood to having difficulty putting food on the table.

Like community-eligibility that targets students in schools, there are effective place-based initiatives that can address hunger in North Carolina’s communities by reducing the number of food deserts. Some initiatives have already been piloted here in NC, others have been established in other states and still others are being developed by local community leaders in North Carolina right now.

  1. Provide convenience store owners with loans to support equipment and food purchases that increase access to healthy food options. Pitt County health department has had success in supporting convenience stores as they provide greater food options and business owners have found this expansion of their inventory to be profitable.
  2. Establish a Healthy Food Financing Fund at the state level to provide favorable loan terms or grants to businesses committed to locating in food deserts and actively serving low-income residents. Already the federal government has provided funding for private loans that support financing projects that locate food outlets in food deserts and North Carolina’s State Employee’s Credit Union has benefited. In other states, like Pennsylvania, where state level funds have been established, outcomes have extended beyond addressing hunger. Eighty-eight new or improved grocery stores have been located in underserved communities, impacting 400,000 residents. but In addition, 5,000 jobs have been created or retained and an additional $540,000 in local tax revenue was generated from a single store in Philadelphia.
  3. Reduce barriers to local grassroots efforts to form food cooperatives in food deserts in the state. Already in Greensboro and Raleigh neighborhood leaders are pursuing the establishment of grocery stores cooperatively owned to serve their communities that currently lack healthy food options. But as was presented at the recent state House legislative Committee on Food Desert Zones, there are barriers to establishing cooperatives that could be addressed through state policy so that more communities could come together to address hunger and food access.

Policies can support our state’s work to ensure that no child goes hungry and no family struggles to put food on the table. Above are just a few ideas that should be on the table in 2015 as policymakers work to address the challenges that North Carolinians face in accessing nutritious meals. The benefits to those families extend into the community and strengthen our economy’s capacity for job creation and growth.

Commentary

The list is no doubt long and growing rapidly — be sure to check out this morning’s edition of the “Friday Follies” for more — but the always-entertaining (if rarely intentionally) State Senator Andrew Brock has to be a leading contender in the category of “most inane response by a North Carolina politician” when he tweeted the following this morning:

Commentary

There were lots of compelling moments in the President’s speech last night on immigration policy. Especially during the moments in which he appealed to the better angels of our nature with powerful rhetoric and Biblical citations, Obama reminded us of why he can be such an inspiring figure to so many Americans. For example:

“Are we a nation that tolerates the hypocrisy of a system where workers who pick our fruit and make our beds never have a chance to get right with the law? Or are we a nation that gives them a chance to make amends, take responsibility, and give their kids a better future?

Are we a nation that accepts the cruelty of ripping children from their parents’ arms? Or are we a nation that values families, and works to keep them together?”

What appealed most to me, however, were the moments when the President talked simple practicalities, as he did in this passage:

“But even as we focus on deporting criminals, the fact is, millions of immigrants — in every state, of every race and nationality — will still live here illegally. And let’s be honest – tracking down, rounding up, and deporting millions of people isn’t realistic. Anyone who suggests otherwise isn’t being straight with you. It’s also not who we are as Americans. After all, most of these immigrants have been here a long time. They work hard, often in tough, low-paying jobs. They support their families. They worship at our churches. Many of their kids are American-born or spent most of their lives here, and their hopes, dreams, and patriotism are just like ours.” (Emphasis supplied.)

He’s completely right, of course. Short of turning the U.S. into a police state, deportation of these people simply ain’t gonna happen, no matter what the xenophobes and Tea Partiers say. Indeed, it’s one of the great ironies of modern American politics Read More

News

President Barack Obama’s plan to sidestep Congress and order his own action on immigration,  sparing as many as 5 million people from deportation is drawing a mixed response:

mc-1“With this latest executive order, President Obama is making new law by bypassing Congress. I’m already discussing with other governors a long-term solution to immigration reform as well as an appropriate legal response to this unconstitutional overreach of the White House. North Carolina is not a border state, but it’s impacted by illegal immigration. I’m extremely concerned about the potentially negative impact of this executive order on our public schools, health services and public safety.”
Governor Pat McCrory

 

mary-meg-mccarthy“We are relieved and grateful that President Obama finally has kept his promise to address our broken immigration system and relieve the fear of permanent exile and family separation that has plagued immigrants and American families. With this temporary relief, parents of U.S. citizen and lawful permanent resident children, as well as adults who have been raised and educated in our communities, will have the opportunity to pursue their educations, open businesses, advance their careers, and continue to contribute to our cities and economy. The president’s plan will help restore some stability to American families, neighborhoods, schools, and businesses that have struggled in recent years as the government has detained and deported people at a record pace. While the president’s program is a step in the right direction, we regret that it still excludes many parents and other individuals who have deep roots in U.S. communities. We will continue to encourage Congress to fulfill its obligation to create a permanent solution that makes our immigration system more humane and functional for everyone.”
National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) Executive Director Mary Meg McCarthy

 

burr“Tonight the President announced his intention to pursue amnesty for illegal immigrants through executive action. This decision, counter to his own statements over the last few years, represents the very height of Presidential arrogance and signifies a dangerous shift from a nation of laws to a nation of men. In order to achieve some sort of gain for his political party, the President risks damage to the rule of law in our nation, but he also threatens a more immediate impact on those here legally, those following the legal process to gain entry into our country, and others struggling to find work in a fragile economy. Our border states will also be further stressed as they deal with another, almost certain surge of additional illegal immigrants looking for similar treatment from this White House.”
– U.S. Senator Richard Burr (R-NC)

 Price“After two years of failed promises and delay tactics from Speaker Boehner and House Republicans, the time has come for decisive action to fix our broken immigration system. The cost of inaction has simply become too great. Republicans who have criticized the administration would be wise to consult their history books. Every President since Eisenhower has exercised Executive authority on immigration, including five Republicans. Arguing that President Obama’s actions are unconstitutional is both false and disingenuous.

“That said, the President’s action is limited in scope and should not be interpreted as a substitute for congressional action – in fact, the administration has strongly encouraged the House and Senate to pass a comprehensive reform bill that would supersede the Executive Order and deal with the full range of immigration challenges. I hope my Republican colleagues will heed this call.

“We must always remember that we are a nation of immigrants, and I commend the President for using his Executive authority to correct broken immigration policies that have persisted for too long and are doing our country great damage. My hope is that this action will at long last break the partisan logjam and allow for real progress on comprehensive immigration reform.” – Congressman David Price (D-NC)

News

As has already been reported, the Charter Day School group of public charter schools run by a private company has turned over much of the salary information.

Both the Wilmington Star-News and ProPublica, a national investigative journalism non-profit, have reports out about what was missing from the disclosures.

Roger Bacon Academies, the company owned by conservative charter school founder Baker Mitchell Jr., has received millions in public funds as part of the company’s exclusive contracts to run four Wilmington-area charter schools — Charter Day School in Leland, Columbus Charter School in Whiteville, South Brunswick High School in Southport and Douglass Academy in Wilmington.

The State Board of Education, as part of an effort to increase transparency in charter schools, had asked for detailed salary information from all 148 charter schools operating in the state, including those who have contracts with education management companies. The quartet of schools run by Roger Bacon Academies were the only schools to not respond to the state’s request. The schools provided the information after it was put on a financial noncompliance status earlier this month.

The Wilmington paper reported this week that the salaries of Charter Day School administrators seem to lag their traditional public school counterparts, but note that details about bonuses or other financial benefits were not disclosed to the N.C. Department of Instruction.

Nor was salary information about Mitchell’s son, who works at the schools as an information technology director, provided, according to this report from ProPublica. The group published an extensive article looking into the North Carolina charter schools earlier this fall.

From ProPublica:

Nick Mitchell, Baker Mitchell’s son, is on the payroll of Roger Bacon Academy, his father’s for-profit management company, according to both his LinkedIn profile and the schools’ own organizational charts. The younger Mitchell is the only management firm employee listed on the schools’ organizational charts whose salary is not on the list turned over to regulators.

The North Carolina State Board of Education last week took Mitchell’s charter schools off financial probation after finally receiving the salary list. After ProPublica flagged the missing salary to the state board, an agency attorney, Katie Cornetto, said the state has “asked the school to clarify” and is awaiting a response.

And what does the non-profit board of directors that employs Roger Bacon Academies have to say? Apparently not much, at least to ProPublica.

From the article:

We also requested comment from Baker Mitchell and John Ferrante, the chair of the nonprofit board that oversees the schools. In an email reply ending with a smiley-face emoticon, Ferrante declined to answer ProPublica’s question about the missing salary.

You can read the entire exchange here.