Commentary, HB2

Crucial Conversation luncheon: HB2 on its one-year anniversary

NC Policy Watch presents a special Crucial Conversation luncheon:

An expert panel discusses the state of North Carolina’s infamous discrimination law on its one-year anniversary

Click here to register

Amazingly, Thursday, March 23 marks the one-year anniversary of HB2 – the LGBTQ discrimination law that will forever be known by the name it received during a special one-day kangaroo session of the General Assembly.

When it passed, it seemed almost unbelievable that supposedly responsible state officials would take such harmful and poorly thought out ideas from the “back of the envelope” to state law in less than 12 hours. A year later, it seems downright surreal. Tragically, however, that’s what really happened and North Carolinians of all stripes have been paying the price ever since as the state has become a national and international pariah.

Today, despite the best efforts of the state’s new Governor, Roy Cooper, the law remains on the books and the damage to the state continues. So what now? Where do things stand? What’s next? When will this stain finally be removed?

Join us Thursday March 23 at 12:00 p.m. as we explore these questions and others with an expert panels that will include Chris Brook, Legal Director of the ACLU of North Carolina, Ames Simmons, Lobbyist and Director of Transgender Policy at Equality NC and Rick Glazier, Executive Director of the North Carolina Justice Center.

Don’t miss the opportunity to hear from this important leader on this controversial matter.

When: Thursday March 23, at noon — Box lunches will be available at 11:45 a.m.

Where: The North Carolina Association of Educators Building, 700 S. Salisbury St. in downtown Raleigh.

Space is limited – pre-registration required.

Cost: $10, admission includes a box lunch.

Click here to register

Questions?? Contact Rob Schofield at 919-861-2065 or rob@ncpolicywatch.com

News

N.C. Sen. Joel Ford: Tweets, apologies and LGBT criticism

N.C. Sen. Joel Ford (D-Charlotte)

On Tuesday N.C. Sen Joel Ford (D-Charlotte) had a strange, tense exchange with LGBT activists who criticized his record on LGBT issues.

He responded to the activists with a GIF of a dog defecating in the snow. This led Matt Comer, a Charlotte-based LGBT activist, to ask if that was appropriate behavior for a state senator.

Ford’s tweet led to a public backlash and a scolding from the editorial board of the Charlotte Observer.

Ford ultimately deleted the tweet and issued an apology – including a personal call to Comer, with whom he agreed to have coffee to discuss his record and LGBT issues.

Dakota Cary, Ford’s campaign manager, even told Charlotte NPR station WFAE that his campaign is going to create a series of pre-approved GIFs for Ford to use, because he prefers to tweet GIFs at those questioning and criticizing him rather than give individual responses.

Cary said Ford selected the GIF of the defecating dog from the “awkward” section of his “GIF keyboard.”

“He used that one,” Cary explained, “because he thinks that when people like that come for him on Twitter… it’s easier than sitting down and typing out the same response each time.”

Asked whether Ford regretted the move and would want a do-over, Cary said yes. “None of the GIFs that we’ve been using have been well received, and so I think there’s a disconnect between trying to use GIFs as a way to communicate with people and what they actually mean,” adding, “You end up with a problem like this where what he wants to convey and what comes across (are) two different things.”

Cary said the campaign will consider creating a list of pre-approved GIFs for the candidate to use when responding to people on Twitter.

Ford, a more conservative Democrat, is used to criticism from the LGBT community.

Last year he was one of the few Democrats to support a Republican bill to allow magistrates to recuse themselves from performing same-sex marriages. This session he has been one of the few Democrats to support a repeal of HB2 that would put LGBT protections to local referendum votes.

But the criticism has turned up to 11 since Ford announced he’d be running against Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts, a fellow Democrat, as she seeks re-election.

Roberts supported and defended the Charlotte City Council ordinance that extended greater legal protections to LGBT people in the city – and resulted in the N.C. General Assembly’s passage of HB2.

Ford said he supported the ordinance but not its bathroom provision, the most controversial part of the bill. He was conspicuously absent during the HB2 vote but later said he would support repeal.

In an interview with N.C. Policy Watch Wednesday, Comer said he appreciated Ford’s apology and hopes he’ll actually be open to dialogue with the LGBT community. But if he thinks he can make criticism go away while still supporting policies that hurt LGBT people, Comer said, he’s sorely mistaken.

My concern that I think would be echoed by other LGBTQ leaders across the state is that Senator Ford’s first impulse on issues of equality seems to be to take a discriminatory position,” Comer said. “Then, when he meets criticism he’ll pull away from that.”

Matt Comer, LGBTQ activist

If Ford wants to be mayor of Charlotte – the state’s largest city and home to a large and vocal LGBT community – Comer said he’ll have to do better than that.

“He has an opportunity now to actually listen to this community and understand how his statements and his positions have affected us,” Comer said. “I hope he’ll take that opportunity and it can lead to some change.”

In a statement Wednesday, Ford left room for questions about just how fruitful that dialogue will be.

“To provide context, I am tired of being slandered by some people on Twitter as anti-LGBT and homophobic,” Ford said in the statement. “I have worked to find solutions that are realistic and impactful but some people do not see it that way.”

Commentary

Another bitter HB2 reminder today as NCAA hoops tourney starts in South Carolina

NCAA logoSouth Carolina is a fine place with many fine people, but let’s be honest: North Carolina losing out to the Palmetto state on a regular basis in the economic development and major events worlds makes about as much sense as the Tar Heels losing on an annual basis to Clemson or the University of South Carolina in basketball. It’s an assault on the basic order of the universe and something even the folks in South Carolina don’t really expect to happen or seem to feel quite right about.

Amazingly, however, that’s what’s happening now as HB2 approaches its one-year anniversary. Today is another bitter reminder of our new reality as the NCAA men’s basketball tournament — an event that’s as synonymous with North Carolina as any other state in the union — gets underway south of the border. Luke DeCock of Raleigh’s News & Observer explains:

“If any state knows how North Carolina feels right now, it’s right next door. South Carolina spent 14 years in NCAA limbo, prohibited from hosting NCAA neutral-site championships as long as the Confederate flag flew on the capital grounds. It came down in July 2015, less than a year before House Bill 2 put North Carolina in the same position.

In Greenville, S.C., where North Carolina and Duke will play this week instead of Greensboro, there’s a definite sense of opportunity, with North Carolina potentially excluded from six years of NCAA events unless HB2 is repealed in the next few days. There’s also sympathy.

‘I hate it for North Carolina,’ said Robin Wright, the senior sports manager at Visit Greenville SC. ‘I hate it for all you guys. I really do.’

But when the NBA pulled its All-Star Game out of Charlotte in July, Wright went ahead and blocked hotel rooms for this week, just in case the NCAA followed suit – which it did, two months later.

Wright’s foresight played a key role in Greenville landing the subregional when the NCAA moved it and six other 2016-17 neutral-site events out of North Carolina in September because of HB2, which prevents cities and counties from enacting anti-discrimination protections for LGBT people. The ACC quickly followed suit.

As repeal efforts stagnate, and as the NCAA’s April 18 date to announce championship sites in 2018-19 through 2021-22 looms – already postponed from December to give North Carolina more time – the possibility that North Carolina could be out of the NCAA and ACC picture for six years is increasingly likely, with events for 2017-18 likely to be yanked at or around the same time.”

DeCock goes on to explain that the South Carolina folks are now working hard, understandably, to capitalize on North Carolina’s self-inflicted wound by expanding their bids and to make the NCAA events they’ve already snatched big successes. He concludes this way:
“If Greenville, Furman and the Southern Conference pull this off with aplomb, and HB2 is still on the books on the other side of the border, it might be more than six years before the NCAA tournament returns to North Carolina.”
Meanwhile, Senator Phil Berger and the other HB2 true believers fiddle while their state’s image/brand burns around them.
agriculture, Environment

Don’t spray this at home: Bee-friendly bill would limit public sales of certain pesticides

Bee hive at American Tobacco Campus, Durham (Photo: Lisa Sorg)

T oday was Ag Day at the legislature, and the commons was packed with people promoting North Carolina livestock, fruits and vegetables, including watermelons, strawberries, sweet potatoes and even wine. All of these crops need bees to pollinate them; in the case of wine, mead, like that produced at Starrlight in Pittsboro or Honeygirl in Durham, requires a consistent supply of high-quality honey made by healthy bees.

But neonicotinoid pesticides, also known as neonics, threaten the bee population in North Carolina and nationwide. These pesticides dull a bee’s memory, as if the insect had dementia, preventing it from finding its way back to its home hive. The chemicals weaken a bee’s immune system, making it vulnerable to disease and mite infestations. Direct exposure can kill the bee within minutes.

Introduced on Ag Day, House Bill 363 would limit the purchase and use of neonicotinoid pesticides to licensed applicators, farmers and veterinarians. No longer would the casual gardener be able to buy Rose Defense, Ortho Bug B Gon or Mallet — all brand names of neonic products — off the shelf. Large hardware stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s are already phasing out neonics, but smaller retail outlets still carry them, said Preston Peck, policy director for Toxic Free NC.

The bill is modeled on legislation passed in Maryland, Connecticut and Minnesota. Co-sponsors are Democrats Pricey Harrison and Grier Martin, and Republicans Chuck McGrady and Mitchell Setzer.

From left: Hoke County beekeeper Rodney Medley, Toxic Free NC Policy Director Preston Peck and State Rep. Pricey Harrison (D-Guilford), one of four co-sponsors of House Bill 363. (Photo: Lisa Sorg)

McGrady, a beekeeper when he’s not at the General Assembly, said the issue is “near and dear to my heart.”

Former beekeeper and state Rep. John Ager of Buncombe County owns an apple orchard and a blueberry farm. “This is critical right now,” said Ager, a Democrat. “This is my farm’s future. .

In 2015-16, those repeated physical insults resulted the loss of 44 percent of commercial hives across the U.S. because of colony collapse disorder. In North Carolina, that tally was 41 percent. “That’s staggering and unsustainable,” Peck said.  In January, US Fish & Wildlife Service listed the rusty-patched bumblebee as an endangered species. Part of its demise, Peck said, can be attributed to neonics. (The order has not gone into effect, pending the Trump administration’s and Congress’s dismantling of the ESA).

And there is a growing body of evidence that indicates these chemicals run off from farm fields and into waterways, where they harm aquatic life.

The bill also directs the NC Pesticide Board to monitor EPA studies about neonics and to study whether the state should regulate the sale of seeds coated with neonics. Those seeds are particularly harmful to birds.

The state Pesticide Board has had ample opportunity to regulate the sale of neonics. For more than two years, Peck has lobbied the board to exercise its regulatory authority. Over the past six months, the board has heard presentations from scientists and experts on the effects of the pesticides, both on pollinators and aquatic life. It also learned that NC Department of Environmetnal Quality doesn’t test waterways for the pesticide. Nonetheless, just yesterday the board again punted the issue, voting to take no action.

Nothing hurts more than opening a hive and finding out that it’s dead Click To Tweet

“The regulatory authority has chosen not to do anything,” Peck said. “Now we’re turning to the legislature.”

Rodney Medley has five hives in Hoke County. “I’m not saying get rid of pesticides altogether, but we need to mitigate the additional pressure on bees,” he said. “Nothing hurts more than opening a hive and finding out that it’s dead.”

 

 

 

News

Amidst charter boom, Durham schools official talks promoting traditional public schools

Durham Board of Education Chair Mike Lee

Here’s a fascinating report from The Herald-Sun‘s Greg Childress on how at least one Durham schools leader is responding to charter schools’ rapid growth in his district.

Amidst reports that the county’s charter student population could approach 7,000 next year—close to 20 percent of Durham Public Schools’ total enrollment—school board Chair Mike Lee is calling for the school district to promote itself better.

From The Herald-Sun:

Speaking at a Durham Board of Education work session last week, Lee said DPS can no longer afford to concede enrollment losses to the county’s 13 charter schools.

“What are we doing to get those kids back?” Lee asked. “Are we counter-advertising?”

Lee noted that he frequently sees advertising on social media for Discovery Charter School, a Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (S.T.E.A.M.)-themed middle school planned for Northern Durham that’s expected to open in September with 350 sixth-and seventh-graders.

“I don’t see an ad for our S.T.E.M. [Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics] middle school programs — Lowe’s Grove, Neal, Lucas or the great things at Carrington or Little River,” Lee said.

He said DPS must begin to aggressively use social media, web advertisements, web videos and other strategies to reach families.

“We need to do anything we can do to reach those families thinking about sending their children to charter schools,” Lee said in an interview Tuesday.

The renewed push to better sell DPS to families started a week or so ago.

It has been a topic of conversation for about three years, but talks stalled after DPS was forced to layoff key personnel in its public relations department last year,

So over a recent lunch, Lee and board colleague Xavier Cason agreed to revive the discussion about the development of a marketing strategy to get more families through the doors of DPS schools.

Both believe that if parents visit schools, meet principals and teachers they will feel comfortable sending their children to DPS schools.

“I want to make sure parents are aware of the great things we have to offer in spite of what they otherwise hear,” Cason said. “If citizens were informed about what’s really happening in Durham Public Schools, we wouldn’t be talking so much about declining enrollment.”

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