Commentary, News

BREAKING: Charlotte’s Mayor Roberts nixes McCrory’s cynical HB2 “deal”

Mayor Jennifer RobertsMayor Jennifer Roberts of Charlotte continues to show herself to be a courageous and principled leader.

This is just in from the Charlotte Observer:

“Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts said Monday morning the city ‘is not prepared’ to discuss repealing the ordinance that led to House Bill 2 at its meeting Monday night.

Legislative leaders had made dropping the Charlotte ordinance a condition for repealing HB2.

The ordinance extended anti-discrimination protection to the LGBT community and would have allowed transgender people to use the bathroom or locker room of their gender identity.

‘The City of Charlotte continues its commitment to be a welcoming community that honors and respects all people,’ Roberts said in a statement. ‘We appreciate the state wanting to find a solution to the challenges we are facing and applaud the governor for recognizing the state should overturn HB2, which the state can do at any time without any action from the City of Charlotte.

‘We are not prepared to add this item to our agenda this evening, however, we urge the state to take action as soon as possible and encourage continued dialogue with the broader community.’”

Click here to read the rest of the story.

Editorial: Why Charlotte City Council must not repeal ordinance, sell out LGBT community

NO-HB2The lead editorial in this morning’s Charlotte Observer features one of the most important editorials the paper has ever run. It’s entitled “City Council shouldn’t sell out Charlotte’s LGBT community.”

We offer it here in full:

“Gov. Pat McCrory and some N.C. lawmakers are encouraging the Charlotte City Council to make a compromise that might result in the repeal of HB2. It’s a bad deal for the city, and more importantly, for members of the LGBT community who would lose their best chance at protections from discrimination. Council members should not turn their backs on those residents now.

The compromise goes like this: Council members would vote Monday to repeal their non-discrimination ordinance, which had been nullified by HB2 anyway. Lawmakers would then call a special session later this week to consider repealing HB2.

As with a similar compromise offer back in May, council members are being asked to trust the legislature to follow through on its end of the deal. Here’s a hint about how that might go: In a condescending statement Saturday, House Speaker Tim Moore said that if Charlotte “fully and unconditionally” repealed its ordinance, “then I believe we have something to discuss.”

It’s a dismissive tone that overlooks an important bit of history:

In passing its non-discrimination ordinance in February, Charlotte followed the lead of at least 200 U.S. cities and counties. Charlotte’s ordinance, which included a provision addressing gender identity and bathrooms in public accommodations, was not groundbreaking. It’s what progressive cities do to protect their residents.

In passing HB2, which was a response to Charlotte’s ordinance, N.C. lawmakers did what no other state has done. The legislature removed LGBT protections already in place in Charlotte, and it told cities and towns they could not draft non-discrimination ordinances at any point.

In the months since, businesses have pulled projects, and performers have pulled events, from North Carolina. Now, the NCAA and ACC have announced they’re moving their athletic championships out of the state.

None of these businesses and organizations did so because Charlotte chose to protect members of the LGBT community. In fact, those CEOs and officials and performers have explicitly said they took action because of what N.C. lawmakers did.

And yet, lawmakers are once again proposing a compromise that places the burden on Charlotte.

That should be a strong signal to City Council members that if their ultimate goal is offering protections to the LGBT community, this is not a good deal. Read more


No going back on LGBTQ equality: Why Charlotte should not repeal its nondiscrimination ordinance

HB2There’s one thing you can say about Gov. Pat McCrory and the conservative lawmakers now trying to clean up their HB2 mess by attempting once again to force the city of Charlotte to repeal its nondiscrimination ordinance: they don’t give up easily. Faced with national and international condemnation and derision for their horrific homophobia, they’re still trying to pull a cynical, political win out of the fire.

Earth to the Governor and friends: There is no going back to the status quo ante. The fight for LGBTQ rights is here to stay; it is not going back in a box. All the conservative proposal to condition a repeal of HB2 on the repeal of the Charlotte ordinance would do is reaffirm the current unacceptable state of affairs in which LGBTQ people in Charlotte and the rest of our state have no legal protection from discrimination in hiring and public accommodations and transgender people are still treated as mentally ill predators. That’s no “compromise.”

Such a situation would amount to complete victory for McCrory and the forces of reaction who could claim that they had accomplished their absurd “mission” of “keeping men out of women’s restrooms.”

As Human Rights Campaign and Equality NC noted in a joint statement late yesterday:

This is the same cheap trick the North Carolina General Assembly has attempted all along, asking Charlotte to repeal crucial protections for the LGBTQ community and trust they will hold up their end of the bargain on a full repeal of HB2,” said JoDee Winterhof, Senior Vice President of Policy and Political Affairs. “This arrangement would create problems, not solve them. It would require Charlotte to drop the very protections for the LGBTQ community that businesses, the NCAA and other organizations have now made clear are need and are a priority.”

“We can’t afford more antics from Pat McCrory, Phil Berger, and Tim Moore. They are the ones who got us in this situation in the first place and are costing our state millions,” said Chris Sgro, executive director of Equality North Carolina. “Hundreds of other cities across the nation already had in place a similar ordinance to Charlotte’s. While important to the LGBT community, it was not unique. What is unique and dangerous is HB2. It’s HB2 that cost us the NCAA, ACC, and the NBA. It’s HB2 that’s causing us economic harm, and it’s HB2 that needs to be repealed. Enough games and blame – repeal HB2.”

Not only do more than 100 communities across the country have non-discrimination protections like Charlotte, so do 19 states and hundreds of Fortune 500 companies. Just this week, the NCAA and ACC have joined more than 200 major business leaders in calling for full repeal of HB2. Repealing Charlotte’s non-discrimination ordinance would leave North Carolina without an “inclusive atmosphere for all college athletes, coaches, administrators and fans,” which the NCAA called for this week.

It’s true that North Carolina is not the only state to currently allow discrimination against LGBTQ people. The Governor and his friends and supporters are right that we would not be alone if we went back to the situation prior to the Charlotte ordinance. Unfortunately for them, there’s been too much water under the bridge for that now.

As with so many other reactionary and bigoted stances in history, HB2 has actually energized and expedited the movement for progress. It’s understandable that the Guv, trailing in the polls, now wants to wave a wand and make everything that’s happened in the past six months go away, but it’s simply too late for that.

The only conceivable “compromise” on HB2 that makes any sense at all is the one suggested in this column a few months back — i.e. the notion that lawmakers could pair full repeal of HB2 with some kind of new law to toughen penalties for predatory behavior in bathrooms. As was noted at the time:

Read more

Commentary, News

This Week’s Top Five on NC Policy Watch

ff-9131. The NC GOP revealingly digs in as the damage from HB2 continues to mount

The official response by the North Carolina Republican Party to the decision by the NCAA to move seven championship events out of the state next year because of the anti-LGBT law HB2 was startling and offensive.

GOP spokesperson Kami Mueller said the NCAA decision was “so absurd it’s almost comical” and was looking forward to the “NCAA merging all men’s and women’s teams together as singular, unified, unisex teams.”

Mueller called the decision an “assault to female athletes across the nation” and then said, “I wish the NCAA was this concerned about the women who were raped at Baylor.”

It’s not clear what the horrific sexual assault scandal at Baylor has to do with a law that bans protections against discrimination for LGBT people but Mueller’s comments set off a firestorm of criticism for equating the two.

And Mueller’s comments weren’t just offensive. They were revealing too. [Continue reading…]

***Bonus Read: After loss of ACC and NCAA, Governor and House Speaker stand by HB2, Dems seek special session for full repeal

***Bonus Audio interview: Rep. Sgro: McCrory has “closed the door for business in NC” with HB2

edsupport2. An election year switcheroo on public education
After bashing teachers and public schools for years, the Right suddenly and dramatically changes its tune

Last week, one of the most prolific conservative voices on Twitter when it comes to North Carolina policy and politics (he’s authored more than 33,000 “tweets” in recent years that often echo and promote takes of various Art Pope Empire employees) posted a disturbing and remarkably cynical comment. Here’s what he said in response to another social media participant who had questioned the logic of how North Carolina pays teachers and touted a recent essay by the North Carolina Justice Center’s Kris Nordstrom entitled “Why NC is not measuring teacher pay properly (and how we should do it)” :

“So, what’s the market rate for an unaccountable degree-holding babysitter?”

So, one might ask, why is this noteworthy? After all, it’s no particular news that social media websites are chock full of uninformed “trolls” who spew all sorts of hateful and nonsensical venom. Why should anyone care that a conservative blowhard is lobbing stink bombs at public school teachers?  [Continue reading…]

redwolf-913b-john-froschaue3. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to scale back endangered red wolf program in NC, send some animals to zoos
At this moment, on millions of acres in northeastern North Carolina, 45 endangered red wolves are living much like their ancestors did hundreds of years ago: Hunting for deer and rabbits, hanging out with their mates, raising their kits.

But by 2018, a third of these wolves — the entire wild species — will be relocated from their native lands in five counties to just one: Dare, near the federal bombing range and in part of the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge. The rest of the wild wolves, at least those that can be trapped, will be shipped to zoos throughout the United States to live in captivity.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced this week that it has failed to adequately protect the red wolf, which was declared endangered in 1967. Without a new recovery plan, the species will become extinct in possibly as few as eight years, and most certainly within the next 40. There are too few red wolves in zoos to sustain the species — about 225 — and even fewer in the wild.

“This is a better path for the red wolf,” said Cindy Dohner, Southeast regional director of FWS. “It’s not sustainable here.” [Continue reading…]

jk-coop-915c4. In one of NC’s bleakest food deserts, hope is on the horizon

A new sign went up this week at the once-abandoned shopping center on Phillips Avenue in East Greensboro.

That’s rare enough in one of the city’s poorest areas and itself cause for celebration.

But what the sign represents is much larger.

“Renaissance Community Co-Op,” it reads in bright red and green. “Healthy, Affordable, Community Owned.”

When it officially opens Nov. 5, it will be the area’s first real grocery store since 1998.

“No one would come, the stores just gave up on us,” said co-op President John Jones Wednesday. “But the community wanted it. They believed and they organized and it’s happening now.”

North Carolina is 9th in the nation in food insecurity according to the United States Department of Agriculture, which collects data on where people have the least access to fresh, healthy food.

Greensboro and High Point are, as a metropolitan area, one of the worst in the nation for food insecurity. [Continue reading…]

pv9195. New school year highlights NC’s ongoing failure to invest in child and community well-being

Every year as students from pre-school through college return to the classroom, North Carolinians have a window through which to see how our collective investments match up to the needs of communities.

Are classrooms crowded? Are children ready for Kindergarten? Do schools have the resources to deliver a 21st century education? Do parents need to provide more and more personal resources to fill the gaps?

In recent years, despite an economic expansion that provided an opportunity to improve the classroom experience, the needs of our children and our communities have been increasingly neglected. As Budget and Tax Center analyst Cedric Johnson highlighted recently, state per student spending in North Carolina this school year remains below pre-recession levels when adjusted for inflation. This is obviously bad news for our children, each of whom should have the supports and tools we know are necessary to foster achievement in the classroom and life. And this reality makes the promise and excitement of a new school year feel a little bit harder to realize.  [Continue reading…]

Tom Jensen of Public Policy Polling***Upcoming event: Thursday, September 22 -Crucial Conversation — An election preview with Tom Jensen of Public Policy Polling

The 2016 election is headed into the homestretch and absentee voting by mail is already underway. Join us as we learn the details of where things stand and what the political world is likely to look like on November 9 with one of America’s premier pollsters, Tom Jensen of Raleigh-based Public Policy Polling.

Register today.


US Senate passes water projects bill, allows states to run their own coal ash landfill programs


(Photo: Tim Quijano, Creative Commons)

Buried on Page 427 of the 644-page federal Water Resources Development Act — S 2848 — is a section devoted to states and their control over coal ash disposal. If the bill becomes law,  North Carolina could establish its own approval and permitting protocol for coal ash landfills in lieu of a federal program.

The measure passed 95-3; both North Carolina senators Thom Tillis and Richard Burr voted yes.

Under the proposal, states could run their own programs as long as the standards were “at least as protective” as the federal coal combustion rules. Those final rules go into effect on Oct. 4.

States could establish their own technical standards, even if they deviate from federal ones, as long as protections were ultimately the same or better. These protections could apply to structural landfills and the use of fly ash, for example, in producing concrete.

Sen. Roy Blunt, a Missouri Republican, seemed to indicate that the state programs would have more latitude, raising questions of how the law would be interpreted. “I have heard from rural electric utilities that the rules handed down by the EPA are too harsh. The language here will help address those concerns in a bipartisan way.”

However, the EPA rules aren’t as rigorous as they could be. For example, coal ash is considered solid waste, instead of hazardous waste, and is subject to less stringent disposal requirements. (These are known as Subtitle D rules; hazardous waste is under Subtitle C.)

Nor does the EPA have enforcement power under its current coal combustion rules. They prohibit the federal government from bringing an enforcement action against utilities for alleged violations of the standards.

However, the Senate bill would give the EPA enforcement authority over utilities in states that choose not to establish their own permit programs. The EPA administrator could also revoke a state permit if it fails to protect human health and the environment.

The utilities would benefit from the law because they would comply with just one set of rules. An article in Utility Dive, an industry newsletter, quotes Duke Energy as saying compliance with federal rules and state requirements — such as NC’s Coal Ash Management Act — is “difficult and costly.”

And arguably, utilities have more political leverage in state government, where they have easy access to lawmakers and environmental officials, than at the federal level.

The $10 billion measure also contains key funding for the replacement of lead-contaminated pipes in Flint, Michigan, and other at-risk communities, plus money for testing. Additional appropriations would help pay for flood-control projects undertaken by the US Army Corps of Engineers.

The bill now goes to the House, which could take it up next week.