News

As one NC politician apologizes for comments about protesters, another attempts to reframe #Charlotteprotests

Congressman Robert Pittenger is trying to walk back comments he made in a BBC interview Thursday in which he said the Charlotte protesters “hate white people because white people are successful and they’re not.”

Pittenger was addressing questions about the reaction of protesters following the police shooting death of Keith Lamont Scott.

Pittenger, who represents part of Charlotte, later apologized for that interview tweeting that his anguish led him to respond to a reporter’s question in a way that he now regrets. Here are two of Pittenger’s follow-up comments on Twitter:

As Pittenger sought to clarify his statements, state Senator Jeff Jackson posted his impressions from Uptown Charlotte, focusing on the peaceful nature of Thursday night’s protests and the roll of local clergy:

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Charlotte has announced a midnight curfew for the Queen City.

In the meantime, the family of Keith Scott says it has more questions than answers.

Commentary, News

Another court challenge seeks to overturn NC’s partisan gerrymandering

As readers will recall, advocates at Common Cause NC filed a challenge to North Carolina’s politically gerrymandered congressional map back in August. Today, another complementary suit was filed by the good people at the Southern Coalition for Social Justice. Here is the news release that accompanied today’s filing:

Southern Coalition for Social Justice Files Data-Driven Partisan Gerrymandering Lawsuit 

Challenge adopts standard for measuring partisan advantage in redistricting

DURHAM, N.C. – The Southern Coalition for Social Justice and the Campaign Legal Center filed a complaint today on behalf of the League of Women Voters of North Carolina and numerous individual voters, arguing that North Carolina’s 2016 congressional redistricting plan violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution.

League of Women Voters of North Carolina v. Rucho was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina. North Carolina’s 2016 redistricting plan was drafted during a special legislative session after a federal three-judge panel ruled that previous maps were unconstitutional racial gerrymanders.

“The Constitution guarantees everyone’s right to participate equally in an electoral system that does not discriminate against them because of their beliefs,” said Anita Earls, executive director of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice. “It’s clear that the intent and effect of creating North Carolina’s 2016 congressional maps were to manipulate the democratic process. The result disparages voters and ensures that one party can maintain political power even when a majority of the state’s voters do not support them.”

In 1986, the U.S. Supreme Court held that partisan gerrymandering claims present a legal controversy that courts could potentially resolve. However, to date, the court has not agreed on an acceptable standard to determine when a partisan gerrymander is unconstitutional. League of Women Voters of North Carolina v. Rucho offers an empirical analysis to demonstrate the extent to which an extreme gerrymander exists. That analysis is called the efficiency gap, which captures the packing and cracking among a plan’s districts in a single number.

Developed by Nicholas Stephanopoulos and Eric McGhee, the efficiency gap is the difference between the parties’ respective wasted votes in an election, divided by the total number of votes cast. Wasted votes are: (1) any vote cast for a losing candidate; and (2) votes cast for a winning candidate in excess of the number needed to win. More information about wasted votes and how efficiency gaps are calculated is below.

According to the complaint, North Carolina’s efficiency gaps in 2012 and 2014 “exhibited pro-Republican partisan biases larger than 25 percent—[] by far the worst in North Carolina’s modern history and at the far edge of the nationwide distribution.” (p. 16).

“When it comes to congressional districts, North Carolina’s are an extreme and egregious partisan gerrymander. Packing and cracking voters in districts based on their political ideology and voting history classifies voters in an invidious manner unrelated to any legitimate legislative objective,” said Gerry Hebert, Executive Director of the Campaign Legal Center. “Radical partisan gerrymandering like that in this case turns democracy on its head. For the sake of North Carolina voters and voters across our nation, this practice must come to an end. The implementation of our efficiency gap standard would go a long way in ensuring that every voter is entitled to equal protection under the law and having their voice heard.”

Click here to read the full complaint: http://www.southerncoalition.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Complaint-Final.pdf

Supporting documents are here: Read more

Environment

Today’s time suck: Find a natural gas and hazardous liquid pipeline near you

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The National Pipeline Mapping System shows natural gas pipelines in blue, hazardous liquids pipelines in red.

The interstate Colonial Pipeline, which shut down for 12 days after leaking at least 336,000 gallons of gasoline in Alabama, has sparked interest not only in gas prices but also public transit timetables. (For faster service, please have fare ready when you board and make sure your dollar bills are crisp.)

The pipeline leak also made us curious about the invisible network of tubes and chutes that criss-cross North Carolina and the U.S.

The National Pipeline Mapping System shows you the route of pipelines carrying natural gas and even hazardous liquids. Another link allows you to out who operates the pipelines in your area. Colonial is one of five operators in Wake County, along with Public Service, Piedmont, Cardinal and Dixie.

The interface is a bit clumsy; you can see the general areas only one county at a time. But the resolution is good enough to indicate that if you live between Apex and Holly Springs, for example, there’s a lot of swooshing happening under your feet. Whether you want to know what those hazardous liquids are … how well do you want to sleep?

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Commentary

Charlotte Observer: Police should release video of shooting

The lead editorial in today’s Charlotte Observer is, not surprisingly, directed at the crisis that has gripped the city the last couple of days. This is from “Charlotte police should share video of Keith Lamont Scott shooting”:

“Did Keith Lamont Scott have a gun in his hand when officers confronted him in a University City apartment complex parking lot Tuesday afternoon?

Or was it a book?

Police say the former. Relatives and protesters say the latter.

What we know is that, as Charlotte-Mecklenburg police resist disclosure of the body camera and dashboard camera footage, their narrative of a justified police shooting is getting elbowed aside by the social media livestreams and posts of angry relatives and protesters.

To bring clarity, police should release the footage now.”
And, after pointing out how the release of such a video helped bring clarity to a similar situation in Tulsa, Oklahoma and refuting the claim of Police Chief Kerr Putney that he cannot release the video, the editorial concludes this way:

“Putney can legally release the videos now. After Oct. 1, he could do so with a court order.

We must rebuild trust between police and minority communities. The videos, whatever they show, can help roll back the uncertainty that feeds mistrust.

We applaud the restraint shown by officers during Tuesday night’s protests, which produced injuries to 16 officers.

We appeal to protesters to demonstrate peacefully going forward, and to purge their ranks of the kind of belligerent provocateurs who could be seen on a livestream spewing threats of “head shots” in officers’ faces.

We are surely better than that, Charlotte.

Let’s pull together now, and prove it to the nation.”

Click here to read the entire editorial.

Commentary

Important lessons for avoiding a teacher shortage in North Carolina

An important new report from the Learning Policy Institute examines national trends in the supply and demand of teachers to warn of a growing national teacher shortage. Across the country, declining enrollments in schools of education, high teacher turnover, increasing K-12 enrollment, and district efforts to return to pre-recession pupil-teacher ratios are leading to teacher shortages estimated to reach 112,000 teachers by 2018.

The national trends contributing to teacher shortages are all evident in North Carolina. North Carolina has experienced an over 30% decline in enrollments at UNC schools of education and teacher preparation programs. Declining enrollment in education programs is a national trend, but North Carolina’s undergraduate enrollment decline exceeds the national trend.  From 08-09 to 14-15, North Carolina had the 12th largest decrease in the nation in undergraduate enrollment in education programs. Survey data from the ACT exam also indicates that North Carolina high school students are losing interest in entering the teaching profession at a faster clip than the rest of the nation. Six percent of students in the class of 2011 indicated an interest in pursuing a 4-year degree in education, compared to 3.2% of the class of 2015, a decline of nearly 50%.  Nationwide, the share of high school seniors planning to pursue a 4-year education degree has fallen 30% over this same period.  Read more