Commentary

11-17-14 NCPW cartoonNC Policy Watch cartoonist John Cole — who , by the way, is always expressing his own opinions and voice in his work — drew the cartoon at left describing the impending change in the leadership of the state Democratic Party this week. This provoked some critical emails from defenders of the outgoing chief, Randy Voller.

Although NC Policy Watch is a proudly nonpartisan organization that criticizes politicians of all parties, we recognize that Voller’s occasionally tumultuous tenure at the the Democratic Party has provoked a lot of strong feelings — both pro and con — amongst our readers. So, in the interest of letting everyone who wants to to have their say, we’re re-running the cartoon here on The Pulse this morning (our main site is not set up for public comments).

Fire away. We know that both John Cole (one of the nation’s best cartoonists, who writes for multiple publications) and Randy Voller (who’s weathered many a political storm) can take it.

News

Commentary

There are two excellent reads over on the main Policy Watch site today that you should check out if you haven’t already.

#1 is this excellent and sobering analysis of North Carolina’s new fracking rules and the shortcomings therein by Sarah Kellogg of of the environmental advocacy group Appalachian Voices. As Kellogg writes before outlining the detailing the failures:

The North Carolina Mining and Energy Commission (MEC) issued its final vote on proposed changes to the rules regulating the process of hydraulic fracturing for natural gas (i.e. fracking) last Friday. As you’ve probably heard by now, the panel voted unanimously to approve the rule set.

What you may not know is that between July 14 and Sept. 30, the MEC received 217,000 public comments on more than 100 draft rules regarding safety standards for fracking in the state. More than 2,000 North Carolinians attended the commission’s four public hearings, and the vast majority of speakers opposed fracking and asked for stronger rules. The MEC’s response, written in a hearing officer’s report released two weeks ago, showed a considerable lack of consideration for public comments, a fact that disappointed concerned citizens and advocates across the state. Almost all of the recommendations fell short of what the public overwhelmingly asked for, and the few recommendations that strengthen the rules do so quite minimally.

Must read #2 is this news story by NC Policy Watch Reporter Sarah Ovaska about some equally troubling developments at a public charter school in western North Carolina:

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Commentary

voteThe three guest speakers who joined Chris Fitzsimon at today’s NC Policy Watch Crucial Conversation luncheon delivered mostly optimistic messages about the long-term electoral prospects for progressives in North Carolina in the years ahead. For a variety of reasons — history, voter attitudes on the issues, improved organizational structures to name a few — Tom Jensen, Carol Teal, and Dan Blue III remain quite positive about the future. (We’ll post a video of the event in the coming days.)

That said, there’s no denying that there were some troubling and discouraging developments on November 4 — both in the elections results themselves and in the frustrating apathy of many potential voters who might have participated. In this vein, a regular NC Policy Watch contributor, Prof. Charles Beem of UNC Pembroke, recently authored the following election post mortem that is decidedly less optimistic.

Troubling takeaways from the election
By Dr. Charles Beem

There are a lot of disturbing takeaways from the recent election results. For progressives, Thom Tillis’ narrow victory and the stronger-than-ever, gerrymandered majorities in the General Assembly and the state’s congressional delegations were enough to make one feel as if the energetic Moral Monday protests and organizing efforts of the past couple of years have produced precious little effect.

Perhaps even sadder is the fact that it is clear today that a critical mass of citizens simply do not seem to care who gets elected to public office, while a highly motivated minority, whose hatred of President Obama defies a rational explanation, are the tail wagging the dog of contemporary America.

The day after the election I made the mistake of asking the eighteen students in my World Civilizations class how many of them voted last Tuesday. The answer was none, even though (or perhaps because, in part) North Carolina’s voter repression law had severely circumscribed their ability to vote.

Scary, right? What is even more chilling is that earlier in the semester this same class read the book “How the Irish Saved Civilization,” in which author Thomas Cahill persuasively attributed the fall of the Roman Empire (an empire plagued by structural decay, grave economic disparity between rich and poor, and barbarians at the gates — sound familiar?), to the fact that the Roman people ultimately did not care enough to intervene. Instead, they allowed the affluent to drive their civilization into the ground simply for their own short term economic benefit. Sad to say, not a single student made the critical connection between the lessons of history and their own reality as American citizens. Read More

NC Budget and Tax Center, Poverty and Policy Matters

This school year, high-poverty schools across North Carolina will provide breakfast and lunch meals at no cost to students. As part of a laudable effort to eliminate child hunger, nearly 650 public schools have adopted a universal meal program that ensures that every child receives two nutritious meals each day and show up to class ready to learn. These schools serve more than 310,000 students – around 1 in every 5 students in public schools.

Schools in North Carolina that have adopted a universal meal program are part of a nation-wide initiative known as Community Eligibility, which aims to increase participation rates in breakfast and lunch programs in high-poverty schools. Children who show up to class with food in their stomach are inclined to be more focused and attentive, less distracted, and more engaged. Simply put, a child well-fed is better prepared to learn. Read More