Environment

In north Durham, scientists tackle the health of the Eno River Watershed; public can comment

A map of the Eno River Watershed in the northern part of Durham

        A map of the Eno River Watershed in Durham (Map courtesy City of Durham)

For the next three weeks, a regiment of scientists and engineers, armed with dippers and water sampling bottles, will travel 72 miles of stream banks in the Eno River Watershed in Durham. They will evaluate stream conditions and water quality in this portion of the watershed — which drains all the way to the Atlantic Ocean — to determine how much pollution is entering the water, from where, and how to reduce it.

In 2014, the Eno River received grade of 91, or an A, by city stormwater staff. However, there are lingering problems with high levels of fecal coliform, which comes from raw sewage. Fortunately, no part of the watershed in Durham was placed on the federal 303(d) list of impaired waters.

The Eno River and its watershed extend from Hillsborough in Orange County into Durham. From there, the Eno River flows into Falls Lake, a major drinking water source for Raleigh. Falls Lake then drains into the Neuse River, and the water travels another 275 miles before emptying into the Albemarle-Pamlico Sound and the Atlantic Ocean.

The City is now accepting public comment on the selected stream segments, listed on the map. Many of these streams, as well as the Eno itself, run through residential neighborhoods and commercial districts in the northern part of the city and county. Contact Sandra Wilbur at Sandra.Wilbur@DurhamNC.gov or (919) 560-4326 ext. 30286.

News

HB2 and conflicting principles in the new NCGA session

As we reported earlier this week, the controversial House Bill 2 is likely to be revisited in the North Carolina General Assembly’s new legislative session, which kicked off yesterday.

As reported by the News & Observer, N.C. House Speaker Tim Moore says he wants to find a “compromise” between assuaging business and sports interests that have boycotted the state over HB2 and conservative members of the GOP caucus that want to see most or all of HB2 stay in place.

“Conversations continue to happen, and I think you’ll see us trying to find some compromise on that issue,” Moore told reporters. “You won’t see the General Assembly betray its principles, but if there are ways to deal with the concerns that were there and perhaps allay any issues or concerns of the business community, I think you can probably see something like that.”

Of course, “compromise” continues to be a dirty word for groups on both the political left and right when it comes to HB2.

As the session opened the N.C. Values Coalition issued a statement strongly opposing any attempt to repeal or mitigate HB2.

From the statement:

“As the 2017 legislative long session convenes, our message to lawmakers is clear, “Stop Playing Politics with Privacy”.

Governor Cooper, leaders of the General Assembly and the Senators who voted to repeal HB2 in December should recall our state’s strong economy and resist the bullying of immoral sports organizations and fringe activists who only seek to replicate Charlotte-like ordinances and their radical agenda in every municipality across our state.

Our coalition cannot and will not support any efforts by Governor Cooper or any lawmaker to sacrifice the privacy, safety, or freedom of young girls by forcing them to use the bathroom, shower, or change clothes with grown men.”

On the other end of the spectrum, Equality North Carolina and the Human Rights Campaign issued a joint statement calling for immediate and unequivocal repeal:

Today, Equality NC and the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) called on North Carolina lawmakers to fully repeal the state’s deeply discriminatory HB2 at the beginning of the new legislative session. For more than nine months, HB2 has harmed North Carolina’s people and economy as businesses, major sporting organizations, entertainers, and others have moved events out of the state over the outrageous law. Just this week, the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) confirmed that a decision to move the ACC Championship out of the state will be made soon if HB2 is not repealed.

“Every single day, HB2 has put LGBTQ North Carolinians at risk for discrimination and violence. North Carolina voters have sent a clear message by rejecting Pat McCrory, the face of HB2, at the ballot box,” said Equality NC Executive Director Chris Sgro. “Today’s convening of the 2017 session is an opportunity to show that North Carolina is not what is represented by the deeply discriminatory HB2. With HB2 still on the books and the Charlotte Ordinance fully repealed, we will only continue to lose businesses and put LGBTQ North Carolinians in harm’s way. The North Carolina General Assembly has but only one option – a full and complete repeal of HB2”

“North Carolinians have resoundingly rejected the hate and discrimination of HB2, and it’s far past time for their elected representatives to do the same,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “Those who stand in the way of a clean vote to fully repeal HB2 are directly responsible for the continued harm this destructive law inflicts on the people, reputation, and economy of the state of North Carolina. HB2 must be repealed, and it must be repealed now.”

We’ll continue to closely cover the issue here at N.C. Policy Watch – but clearly this is going to be very difficult needle to thread.

 

News

Following violent altercation at Rolesville High, advocates call for Wake County to remove police from schools

YouTube Preview ImageWhen Letha Muhammad first saw the video of a Rolesville police officer slamming a Wake County teen to the ground, she—like many who have spoken up since the violent encounter last week in a North Carolina high school—says she was “appalled.”

“I felt sad for this young lady and her family,” said Muhammad, of the Education Justice Alliance, a grassroots group that advocates for equity in Wake County Public School System’s discipline practices.

“To see that in black and white and color, this man pick up this small young person and slam her to the ground, I would like to say I was shocked,” she adds. “But I’ve traveled across the country for social justice campaigns and, unfortunately, I’ve heard of this happening, just not in Wake County. My heart goes out to the family.”

Now, Muhammad and other local protesters say they plan to call on leaders in the Wake County school system to end an ongoing agreement that allows armed police to provide security in local schools.

The video, which was posted to Twitter on Jan. 3, shows a police officer lifting a female student at Rolesville High in the air and slamming her to the ground. Media reports said the girl was attempting to break up a fight when the officer, Ruben De Los Santos of the Rolesville Police Department, dragged her away.

The video prompted strong reactions online, including a condemnation from the ACLU of N.C.

School officials have already said they plan to review their agreement with police in the wake of last week’s controversial altercation. Meanwhile, De Los Santos has been placed on administrative leave with an investigation ongoing.

But protesters say they want to see major changes in how the school system operates. Muhammad will join advocates with the Youth Organizing Institute and other community members in holding a press conference at the district’s headquarters in Cary Tuesday.

She said Thursday that the group’s top goal will be removing police officers from local schools. “But we recognize that process won’t happen overnight,” she says. “So along with that, we’re also looking for greater training of school resource officers (SROs) as well as community input” in the district’s agreement with local police.

As an eventual replacement to SROs, the groups plan to ask district officials to shore up school support staff with more social workers, counselors and what she calls “peace counselors,” parents and teachers trained to head off violence in schools.

“We recognize with young people that things will happen,” Muhammad adds.

Policy Watch will continue to follow this as it develops.

Commentary

New study: ACA repeal would be the true job killer

Obamacare: Repeal, amend, replace

Image: Adobe Stock

Despite the fact that 30 million people would become uninsured within two years of repeal, President-Elect Trump and the GOP-led Congress remain committed to repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA), even though they have yet to come up with a replacement plan. If the impact of repeal on peoples’ lives won’t slow down lawmakers, perhaps this information will: according to a new report from George Washington University and the Commonwealth Fund, the repeal of the ACA would have disastrous economic consequences for the entire country.

If the current ACA repeal effort moves forward, Congress and the Trump administration would kill 2.6 million jobs by 2019, rising to a total of 3 million jobs lost by 2021. Close to a million of these jobs are in the health care arena, with the rest coming from industries like construction, real estate, retail trade, finance, insurance, and the public sector.

North Carolina would see some of the highest job losses with an estimated total of 76,000 by 2019. A full 97% of these losses would come from the private sector.

In addition to losing jobs, between 2019 and 2023, North Carolina could see fewer dollars coming into the state, including a loss of nearly $25 billion in federal funds. This would result in diminished economic activity, including losses of $67.2 billion in business output and $39.4 billion in gross state product.

What’s more, over this period, repeal of the ACA could force our state to lose out on $1.2 billion in state and local taxes—revenue no longer available for the state to invest in priorities like education, teacher pay, and economic development. And these devastating impacts would come despite the state’s previous refusal to expand Medicaid. Fortunately, Governor Cooper has shown leadership and pledged to close the coverage gap, which could create up to 40,000 jobs by 2020.

While opponents of the ACA have called the law a job-killer, the private sector has actually grown every month since the law was passed in 2010. Here’s to hoping the Congress doesn’t become the job killer—let’s save our economy and North Carolina lives instead.

Courts & the Law, News

Trump to name U.S. Supreme Court nomination within two weeks of inauguration

U.S. Supreme Court

U.S. Supreme Court

Donald Trump speaking

President-elect Donald Trump

President-elect Donald Trump announced Wednesday that he would name a U.S. Supreme Court nominee within about two weeks of his inauguration on Jan. 20.

President Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland officially expired Jan. 3, with the Senate refusing to hold a hearing or vote on the nomination.

There’s been media reports of Democrats promising a fight if Trump nominates someone considered outside the legal mainstream, but other reports have Republicans vowing to nominate his pick one way or another and warning of consequences to Democrats who try to hinder the process.

Trump’s public comments about the Supreme Court at a press conference Wednesday are the first since his election. He said he thinks the Supreme Court vacancy is one of the major reasons he was elected.

“I think the people of this country did not want to see what was happening with the Supreme Court,” Trump said.

He told reporters that he has gone through his list of 20 candidates and met with numerous of them.

“They’re outstanding in every case,” he said. “They were largely recommended and highly recommended by (The) Federalist Society.”

In the meantime, SCOTUSblog is profiling nine judges frequently mentioned by journalists and commentators as front-runners for the nomination: Judge William Pryor, Judge Steven Colloton, Judge Raymond Gruender, Judge Neil Gorsuch, Judge Diane Sykes, Judge Thomas Hardiman, Judge Raymond Kethledge, Justice Thomas Lee and Justice Joan Larsen.