Commentary, News

McCrory 2008 20151. What would the Pat McCrory of 2008 think about the current culture of corruption in Raleigh?
A couple of weeks before the 2008 gubernatorial election, then candidate Pat McCrory released what his campaign described as a detailed reform plan to end the “culture of corruption” he said was a major problem under the previous Democratic administrations in Raleigh.
The plan included a five-section-long executive order that he would issue if was elected and a seven-part legislative agenda. The introduction to the specific policy proposals included this promise.

“In North Carolina, ‘it’s time for a change’ is not just a campaign slogan…it’s a necessity. As governor, I will shake up state government by establishing a culture of honesty, integrity and transparency. Corruption and fraud will not be tolerated. Public service will be conducted ethically and without undue favor.”

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For-profit colleges2. In the wake of for-profit college collapses, a long road to student loan debt relief
State and federal regulators announced a string of court victories and settlements involving predatory for-profit colleges in recent weeks, and while at first glance the numbers are big and the recognition of widespread deception precedential, the impact on student borrowers laden with loan debt might not be so direct.

In late October, a federal judge entered a $531 million judgment against Corinthian Colleges — one of the largest for-profit college chains in the country, with more than 100 campuses and approximately 74,000 students — finding that the schools had deceived student borrowers about costs and career opportunities. The company had already ceased operations and shut down all its campuses in late April and filed for bankruptcy in May.

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McCrory UI3. The McCrory administration’s “ketchup is a vegetable” unemployment insurance system
Thirty-four years ago, the administration of President Ronald Reagan stirred up one of the great domestic policy P.R. controversies of the early 1980’s with its laughably ill-conceived plan to consider tomato paste (and, thereby, its salty-sweet sibling, ketchup) as a “vegetable” in the national school lunch program. The purpose of the proposal, of course, was to save money in a supposedly overly-generous “welfare” program that was draining public coffers.

By the end of 1981, the ridiculous cost-cutting proposal had been quickly repudiated and consigned to the monologues of late night comedians. In the decades since, “ketchup is a vegetable” has rightly served as a shorthanded putdown for clumsy and mean-spirited proposals of all kinds that seek to slash essential public service programs in the name of cost-cutting, all while attempting to maintain a veneer of compassion and decency. If there is any justice in the world, the “ketchup is a vegetable” moniker will soon be widely applied to another, more recent and cold-hearted assault on an essential safety net structure – North Carolina’s unemployment insurance system.

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Western Governors U4. Out-of-state online college favored by legislature halts NC enrollment while waiting for approval
An online college granted money in the last state budget is facing snags enrolling North Carolina students.

Western Governors University stopped accepting students from North Carolina this fall because it hasn’t yet gotten the required approval from the state university system.

The online college had been enrolling students previously, despite warnings from the UNC system in 2014 to stop until the state system had vetted the online college’s offerings.

Caught in limbo were nearly 700 teaching and nursing students, who needed to spend time observing classrooms or in clinical medical settings before being able to go out into the workforce.

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Wages5. New report: Raising public employee wages helps balance budgets and boost the economy
Raising wages for municipal and county employees lets workers afford the basics, boosts the economy, and helps local governments balance their budgets, a new report finds. That’s why dozens of states and local communities across the nation have recognized that the federal minimum wage simply doesn’t pay enough for families to cover their everyday needs and have acted to establish better wages by enacting living wage policies.

Municipal and county governments in North Carolina have already seized the opportunity to join this national movement and take positive action to raise wages for workers living in their communities. Local governments in Greensboro, Greenville, Asheville, Durham, and Wake County have all enacted living wage increases for their own public employees, while a dozen other municipal and county governments have wage floors well above the national minimum wage of $7.25.

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Lonise BiasAnd be sure to RSVP for a very special upcoming Crucial Conversation luncheon:

Closing the health coverage gap for North Carolinians living with substance use disorders:
Featuring Dr. Lonise Bias of the Len and Jay Bias Association and Jeff Matkins of Insight Human Services
Monday, November 30, at noon

Space is limited – pre-registration required.
Click here for more information


Dear Roy,

I don’t want to leave you out of the party. I kind of counted on you staying out, more fool me. Sigh. What’s with you talking smack about Syrians? Don’t you even read this blog?!

I have to ask, how could you? I notice that you sent your cockamamie statement on Syrian refugees from your campaign, not from your “Top Law Enforcement Officer” (TLEO) office, so at least we’re all clear on what you’re really about with the giant foam middle finger you’re waving at these desperate and downtrodden people. Who are mostly children.

I hate to break it to you, Roysie, but when you send a get tough message (however nonsensical), you don’t look tough if you’re just piling on. Too bad you waited so long to see which way the wind was blowing. Think how Dirty Harry it could’ve been if you’d opened up Saturday morning! Oooh, talk about a mastermind! If you’d known right away to start pounding on the rootless women and children trying desperately to find peace and real homes, you could’ve been so boss. So Walking Tall even – the Joe Don Baker version, obviously, not the one with The Rock – but riding the coattails of a guy who actually thinks every checkpoint is named Charlie is just kinda sad. Seriously, you heard the guv on Diane Rehm and thought, “He is so cool, I gotta get me some of that”? I guess I didn’t know you were a McCrory fanboy. You’re going to be so conflicted during this campaign, buddy! Read More


As this week’s edition of The Weekly Briefing made plain, state leaders remain absurdly out of touch with the economic reality on the ground in North Carolina. The following announcement from colleagues at the N.C. Justice Center highlights this problem once more

Jobless workers struggle even as Division of Employment Security announces $600 million in tax cuts to employers
Employment remains more than 4 percentage points below pre-recession levels, according to October data 

Jobless workers continue to struggle with an economy that fails to provide enough jobs and an unemployment insurance system that is ill-equipped to deliver partial wage replacement to stabilize the economy, even as North Carolina’s Division of Employment Security announced $600 million in tax cuts to employers.

Employment levels as a share of the population remains more than 4 percentage points below pre-recession levels, according to today’s announcement on labor market conditions for October 2015.

Last month’s state employment rate was 5.7 percent, the same level as one year ago. However, the number of unemployed North Carolinians has increased over that period by 11,591 jobless workers. The national unemployment rate was 5.0 percent in October, dropping by 0.7 percentage points over the year.

“North Carolina should not be issuing tax cuts for employers when we have failed to reach what are generally agreed to be safe levels for our state’s Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund,” said Alexandra Forter Sirota, Director of the Budget & Tax Center, a project of the North Carolina Justice Center. “Instead, our state policymakers need to re-balance their approach to ensure the system can deliver partial wage replacement to jobless workers and in so doing serve as a stabilizing force in the economy.”

Important trends in the October data also include:

  • The percent of North Carolinians employed is still near historic lows, and below the nation. October numbers showed 57.5 percent of North Carolinians were employed, leaving the state well below employment levels commonplace before the Great Recession. In the mid-2000s, employment levels reached a peak of about 63 percent. The percent of North Carolinians with a job remains below the national average, as it has been since the Great Recession.
  • There are still more North Carolinians out of work than before the Great Recession. There were more than 270,000 North Carolinians looking for work in October, almost 50,000 more than before the Great Recession.
  • North Carolina’s unemployment insurance system only provided temporary wage replacement to 22,545 North Carolinians. The number of jobless North Carolinians receiving unemployment insurance has dropped precipitously since 2013, ranking us 49th in the country on this measure and hindering the ability of the program to serve as a stabilizing force in the economy.

“North Carolina’s labor market is still too weak to ensure jobs are available for all those who seek employment,” Sirota said. “This affects all of us, as wages are falling short of the growth needed to boost the economy in the immediate and long-term.”

For more context on the economic choices facing North Carolina, check out the Budget & Tax Center’s weekly Prosperity Watch platform.


Don’t miss the next N.C. Policy Watch Crucial Conversation luncheon:

Closing the health coverage gap for North Carolinians living with substance use disorders
Featuring Dr. Lonise Bias of the Len and Jay Bias Association and Jeff Matkins of Insight Human Services.

Click here to register

North Carolina, along with every other state, has an unprecedented opportunity to expand health coverage to its most vulnerable residents. Currently, 30 states plus the District of Columbia have broadened Medicaid eligibility with financing available from the Affordable Care Act. So far, legislators in North Carolina, along with the Governor, have blocked these federal funds from expanding access to health care, boosting the state’s economy and bolstering rural hospitals.

Closing the health insurance coverage gap in North Carolina would provide better access to medical services and treatment for 500,000 working poor families. Many of the people locked out of the system have treatable, chronic diseases. An estimated 150,000 are living with substance use disorders. Millions in our state are in long-term recovery from addictions and need ongoing support to remain healthy.

Join us as we discuss these and related issues with two very special experts on the subject:

Dr. Lonise Bias

Dr. Lonise Bias is the Founder and President of the Len and Jay Bias Foundation. Through her pain at the loss of two sons, Dr. Bias has created youth and family programs to reclaim the community and has inspired thousands. She will share her story with us about her son, Len Bias’ tragic death of cocaine intoxication in June 1986 just two days after being drafted by the Boston Celtics.

Jeff Matkins

Jeff Matkins, Chief Operating Officer of Insight Human Services (formerly known as the Partnership for a Drug Free NC), works with colleagues in 60 counties to provide substance use prevention, intervention and treatment. Jeff will discuss how sound policy decisions such as Medicaid expansion would help provide access to care and improve the lives of thousands of North Carolinians.

Click here to register

When: Monday, November 30, at noon — Box lunches will be available at 11:45 a.m.

Where: Center for Community Leadership Training Room at the Junior League of Raleigh Building, 711 Hillsborough St. (At the corner of Hillsborough and St. Mary’s streets)

Space is limited – pre-registration required.

Cost: Thanks to a generous donor, admission is FREE and includes a box lunch. Donations, however, are welcome.

Questions?? Contact Rob Schofield at 919-861-2065 or

Click here to register


Here’s some shocking news: the big eggbeaters that North Carolina’s political leaders had touted as an alternative to the costly and time consuming (but proven) pollution control methods that had been planned at one time to clean up the Triangle’s Jordan Lake are, in a word, a “bust.”

This is from the Department of Environmental Quality’s preliminary report after a year of solar powered water churning:

“There were no statistically significant differences in pH and Chl a values at all three project treatment versus control site comparisons during SolarBee deployment, with the exception of significantly higher Chl a concentrations at the Haw River project site compared to its control site. Morgan Creek project area sites had the same or lower percent exceedances for both pH and Chl a than their control sites in New Hope Creek, but all were above water quality impairment criteria. The Haw River project area site had higher percent exceedances for both pH and Chl a than its control site. These preliminary results indicate that nutrient related water quality conditions did not significantly improve in areas of the lake where SolarBees were deployed.”

Who would have guessed?

No word yet on whether the report will cause state officials to reconsider their harebrained delaying tactic toward what needs to be done. If the response of conservative politicians to any number of far more dire environmental problems plaguing the state and the world are any indication, there’s reason for concern.