News

The cost of securing “Silent Sam”

As the controversy over Confederate monuments  heads to the North Carolina Historical Commission on Sept. 22, we thought it was worth asking the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill what it costs to secure “Silent Sam,” the Confederate monument that has become the most recent flash point in the controversy.

MC VanGraafeiland, media relations manager for the university, said it can be difficult to separate the cost of patrols and surveillance related to the statue from the larger security of McCorkle Place, the historical heart of the campus that includes the quad and “Silent Sam.”

But between 2014 and July of this year, the university has spent $41,000 on maintenance, upkeep and security of the monument, VanGraafeiland said.

That includes cleaning up after multiple instances of vandalism.

“In at least once case, the University spent more than $17,000 to remove the paint and seal the statue and monument,” VanGraafeiland said.

In the wake of deadly white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, VA and the toppling of  Robert E. Lee statue in Durham,  the question fo how to deal with “Silent Sam” has caused controversy on the UNC Board of Governors and divided members of the N.C. Historical Commission. The commission will need to approve any moving or removing of historical monuments, according to a 2015 law.

This week UNC students threatened a federal lawsuit if the statue is not removed.

 

News

DACA recipients, advocates, legal experts pushing for clean passage of DREAM Act

Recipients of DACA — the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program — and advocates are “laser-focused” getting the DREAM Act passed with no strings attached, according to a media teleconference Friday.

“That is the line that we’re holding,” said Greisa Martinez Rosas, a DACA-recipient and Advocacy Director of United We Dream.

President Donald Trump’s administration announced earlier this month that it would end DACA, which has protected nearly 800,000 young undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children from being deported.

In the past couple days, however, it’s been reported that Trump is brokering a deal with Democrats to back away from his plan to deport such individuals.

Itzel Guillen, a border Dreamer and Immigration Integration Manager with Alliance San Diego, said that exchanging border enforcement for the passage of the DREAM Act means increased deportation risks for communities and loved ones.

“This is a sinister form of blackmail that trades our safety for that of our loved ones and the rest of our community,” said Guillen, who is also a member of the Southern Border Communities Coalition.

Several representatives from organizations spoke Thursday about the latest state of play of immigration policy in the U.S., including litigation of the termination of the DACA program.

“We absolutely continue to calling on both Democratic and Republican leaders to have the same courage that these immigrant youth leaders in our country have and to do the job that they have been elected for and pass a bipartisan DREAM Act,” said Marielena Hincapié, Executive Director of the National Immigration Law Center (NILC). “There’s absolutely no reason for us to be throwing more taxpayer money, wasting money, when our border is already so secure.”

The NILC represents a man from New York who is suing over the termination of DACA and Hincapié said the first hearing was promising with the judge showing a thorough understanding of the legal issues.

“We believe that we have momentum,” she said. “We know that we’re on the right side of justice and the right side of history and we are urging our policymakers to have that same level of courage.”

Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice Education Fun, said the outcome of the DREAM Act debate will be a huge moment in American history, as well as in the lives of Dreamers.

“Are we going to be the generation that turned on American kids who have done everything that’s been asked of them and put them in harm’s way, throw them out of the country that they grew up in where their dreams are made in America to the countries that they don’t even remember?” he asked. “This could go down as one of the darkest chapters in American history, certainly in terms of immigration policy, akin to turning back Jewish refugees in the 1930s, akin to the deportation of Mexicans in the 1930s and 1950s, even akin to the use of concentration camps for Japanese Americans.”

Commentary, News

The Week’s Top Five on NC Policy Watch

1. Web of local money, political connections behind legislature’s decision to bypass DEQ in GenX clean-up

The fire is elusive, but the smoke is thick.

An analysis of professional and political relationships among major players in the GenX crisis shows the connections that led to a controversial state appropriation made by state lawmakers during the most recent special legislative session in House Bill 56, and a contract between the Cape Fear utility and a public relations firm.

It’s not unusual for state lawmakers to have deep political connections to major donors and operatives in their districts. But these connections could wind up diverting badly needed money away from an underfunded state agency to a public utility beset by scandal.

House Bill 56 has several contentious provisions, among them, the puzzling last-minute gift of $185,000 from conservative lawmakers to the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority (CFPUA). The utility knew about the GenX contamination at its Sweeney drinking water plant in May 2016, according to a timeline it provided, but did not alert state environmental authorities. [Read more….]

Bonus reads:

2. More with less: With $3 million in the balance, initial AG cuts take effect

Changes from a $7 million budget cut to the North Carolina Department of Justice went into effect September 1 and as expected, people are making do with less.

“The work is still getting done,” said Laura Brewer, spokeswoman for the Attorney General’s Office, adding that employees are committed to doing the work and serving the public.

The General Assembly cut $10 million from the DOJ budget, which is operated by Attorney General Josh Stein. The cut wasn’t in either the initial Senate or House budget but was added at the last minute before a final vote was taken on the FY2018-19 budget.

It was unexpected and has been viewed by many as a partisan move because Stein is a Democrat. Stein has repeatedly refused to speculate about the political nature of the massive budget cut and has instead expressed grave concern for the safety of North Carolinians if he is forced to keep cutting. [Read more….]

3. North Carolina conservatives must disavow allies’ bigoted hate speech
Website with ties to Civitas Institute promotes anti-Semitic attack on Attorney General Stein

There are a lot of deeply troubling and even shocking aspects to the ongoing rise in “white nationalism” and religious bigotry that plagues the American political landscape these days. First and foremost, of course, is the active participation of the president of the United States in the process. That the highest office in our land is being used in such a perverted way to aid and abet such a noxious cause remains a stunning and unacceptable reality that should sicken all people of good will on a daily basis.

Almost as disturbing as the behavior of Trump and the coterie of bigots with whom he associates at the national level, however, is the real world experience of confronting such behavior close to home. Increasingly, acts, viewpoints and arguments that most of us thought had been relegated to the dustbin of history are now rearing their ugly heads in public places – even places connected to and promoted by “responsible conservatives.”

On Monday of this week, just such a disturbing occurrence took place in North Carolina on a website supported and funded by one of the state’s most visible conservative groups.[Read more….]

4. Charter takeovers met with skepticism as director begins pitching model

Eric Hall, in the midst of a rainy drive to rural Robeson County to pitch North Carolina’s ambitious but controversial plan for a charter takeover of several low-performing schools, wants to set one thing straight.

“It’s not a takeover,” he says of the so-called Innovative School District (ISD) that he leads. “It’s about making conditions better locally.”

Hall seems well aware of the skepticism surrounding the model, once dubbed the “Achievement School District” but given a new name this year after rocky beginnings for similar efforts in states like Tennessee and Louisiana grabbed headlines.

Last week, Hall’s office released a list of 48 low-performing schools spread across 21 districts, the lion’s share situated in high-poverty locales. Each of them will be eligible for the first year of Hall’s district, which will launch with two schools in 2018-2019 and another three in 2019-2020.

Now he begins a slew of community meetings with local district leaders in places like Robeson County, home to five of the schools that made the state’s list. All reported performance grades in the bottom 5 percent statewide, and none met or exceeded academic growth goals in the last three years. [Read more…]

5. Author of new book on tragic 1991 Hamlet chicken plant fire: Little of substance has changed

Twenty six years ago, one of the worst industrial accidents in U.S. history rocked the tiny town of Hamlet, North Carolina.

Twenty five workers died and 55 were injured when a grease fire broke out at the Imperial Food Products plant, which made cheap chicken tenders for chain restaurants like Long John Silvers. The victims, mostly black and female, struggled to get out of the building but found the doors locked from the outside. The plant’s owner, Emmett J. Roe, kept the doors padlocked and the windows boarded because he thought his low-wage workers might steal chicken.

Some struggled desperately to kick the doors open, leaving indentations in the steel before being burned to death or succumbing to smoke inhalation. Others tried to huddle in a large walk-in freezer to avoid the blaze, where they nearly froze before suffocating.

In the aftermath of the fire, state and federal investigators found the building had no fire alarms, no sprinklers — nothing that could be considered a fire exit. It had never undergone a safety inspection. [Read more….]

***Upcoming event on Tuesday, September 26th: NC Policy Watch presents a special Crucial Conversation luncheon: Prof. Bryant Simon discusses his new book, “The Hamlet Fire: A Tragic Story of Cheap Food, Cheap Government and Cheap Lives”

Environment

DEQ delays water quality decision, dealing setback to Atlantic Coast Pipeline

Just a week ago, the utility companies behind the Atlantic Coast Pipeline had urged federal regulators to fast track their application, citing “contractual obligations.” Their letter claimed that “the state’s actions for water quality certifications and other state requirements are proceeding and align with our anticipated construction schedule.”

Apparently, that was merely wishful thinking.

The NC Department of Environmental Quality has delayed by three months its decision on whether to grant a 401 water quality and buffer permit to the owners of the ACP. In a letter to the ACP, state environmental officials laid out in two pages myriad missing information, some of it very basic: construction drawings, erosion control plans, a calculation of cumulative impacts and stream restoration plans.

DEQ had originally  set a deadline of Sept. 19 for the decision.

Southeast Energy News first reported the story this morning.

Given the ACP’s application history, it’s not surprising that vital data has still not been provided. Both the draft and final environmental impact statements, issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, contained large information gaps. In other cases, such as the environmental justice section, the issue was given short shrift, as if it were a box to be merely checked off.

The public has been overwhelmingly opposed to the project for environmental, safety and social justice reasons. Only economic boosters, local governments and the occasional industry front group in North Carolina have spoken for it.

The ACP’s letter to FERC noted that pipeline contractors wanted to begin tree-cutting in November. But in its letter to the ACP, state environmental officials warned that “you have no authorization” under state and federal regulations “for this activity and any work done within waters of the state or protected riparian buffers” would violate state law.

 

 

ACP RequestForAddInfo 09-14-17 by Lisa Sorg on Scribd

Commentary, News

BREAKING: First woman president of NC AFL-CIO elected

This just in from the good people at the North Carolina state AFL-CIO:

NC State AFL-CIO President MaryBe McMillan

North Carolina’s Labor Federation Elects First Woman President
Secretary-Treasurer MaryBe McMillan Succeeds First African-American President James Andrews

(Atlantic Beach, N.C., September 15, 2017) MaryBe McMillian becomes the first woman to lead the North Carolina labor movement after being unanimously elected President of the North Carolina State AFL-CIO during the 60th Annual Convention that wrapped up today.

McMillan has served as Secretary-Treasurer of the federation since 2005. She has spearheaded the cause of getting national and international unions to invest in and organize the South. Before beginning her career in the labor movement, she worked with housekeepers trying to organize at North Carolina State University, and after receiving her Ph.D in sociology did public policy research for several progressive nonprofits. In 2004, she took a job at the AFL-CIO’s Union Community Fund, where she met Andrews – beginning a 12 year partnership fighting for working families in North Carolina.

“James has mentored and inspired countless labor leaders and activists in North Carolina and beyond,” said McMillan. “For over 40 years, he has fought tirelessly to make our state a better place for working people. Our labor movement is much stronger because of James’ leadership, and so many of us are better leaders because of his example. I know that I am.”

Governor Cooper Awarded President Andrews the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, the State’s Highest honor, for his more than four decades of service to the labor movement.

McMillan knows challenges lie ahead, but she is ready to lead with the support of the most diverse board in history that includes two members from the Farm Labor Organizing Committee and the first LGBTQ member.

“I look forward to working with our affiliates to build the movement we all want – one that is constantly growing, that is both big enough and bold enough to set the agenda and drive our politics, that is unafraid to hold our politicians and our own leaders accountable – a movement with the power to change this state and this nation.”

The 60th annual convention featured workshops on storytelling, internal and community organizing, and strategic planning for the future of North Carolina’s labor movement. It also highlighted the debut of a North Carolina labor history exhibit from the Knights of Labor in the 19th century to the Duke Faculty union in 2016.

“I am proud to call the new President of the North Carolina AFL-CIO my friend,” said AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Tefere Gebre. “MaryBe is a champion of working people in North Carolina, and we will stand with her in the fight to ensure we all have the freedom to join together and negotiate. We will march with her to end discrimination at the polls in North Carolina and across America. And we will organize and mobilize across the state and the South.”

For highlights from the convention, including photos and video, check out the hashtag #ncafl60.

McMillan will be speaking at the next NC Policy Watch Crucial Conversation luncheon on September 26. Click here for more information.