In case you missed it, columnist Susan Ladd of the Greensboro News & Record hit a home run this week with an outstanding essay entitled “We are citizens of North Carolina, not customers.” Here’s Ladd:

“I’m not a customer.

I thought it was an odd choice of words when Gov. Pat McCrory first said on the campaign trail three years ago that he intended to treat the citizens of North Carolina like ‘customers.’

McCrory has used that metaphor frequently during his term, most recently lauding the state’s customer service improvements at the N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles.

You can use the customer metaphor for residents and taxpayers, but it is a shallow and ultimately unsatisfactory interpretation of the relationship between people and the government of the state in which they live.

A customer is someone who receives a good or service in exchange for monetary compensation.

It’s clear now what the governor meant when he talked about customers. If you carry the metaphor to its logical conclusion, you can see he has done exactly as he promised.

Your best customers get the best service and the best deals. In politics, those are the customers who can make generous campaign donations, such as oil and gas companies that want to reap the state’s natural resources through fracking and offshore oil drilling. The residents of beach communities and counties targeted for fracking — who only pay taxes, after all — got the bum’s rush.

People without food, the people without jobs, the people without insurance were left to struggle on their own. Because businesses get to choose their customers, I guess that’s the equivalent of ‘No shirt, no shoes, no service.’”

As Ladd goes on to explain, she is:

  • “a resident of Greensboro, and as such I should be able to have a voice in how my leaders are elected.”
  • “a citizen who has the rights and protections that belong to all Americans.”
  • “a constituent, a part of the whole that makes up North Carolina’s voting population.’
  • “a stakeholder in the natural resources of the state, part owner of the water, land and air, who deserves more of a say about how those precious resources are used than the companies who want to exploit them without regard to damaging the environment.”

And finally, here’s her excellent conclusion:

“McCrory made a big splash last week about streamlining and improving customer service at the DMV. That’s great, but making it easier to renew my driver’s license is a poor trade-off for selling the rest of the state to the highest bidder.”

Read the entire piece by clicking here.


Here’s a quick look at what many consider to be the major cases still awaiting decision as the U.S. Supreme Court heads towards the close of its term in late June, with affirmative action, marriage equality and voting rights topping the list.

Though the Court typically releases opinions on Mondays, it could add additional days as the month winds down, as it did last year when it released the opinion in the Affordable Care Act case.

Other cases to be on the watch for:

Collection of DNA from criminal arrestees

In Maryland v. King, the court must weigh the needs of law enforcement against the privacy rights of those who have been arrested for a crime. States allow the collection of DNA for those convicted of a crime, but lower courts are split on whether states can collect DNA without a warrant from people who have only been arrested. The federal government and 28 states allow the collection of DNA from arrestees. Justice Samuel Alito called this “perhaps the most important criminal procedure case that the court has heard in decades.”

Arizona proof of citizenship 

At issue in Arizona v. The Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, Inc. is a section of state law requiring proof of citizenship to register to vote in federal elections. Critics of the law argue that it puts an additional burden on voters and conflicts with a federal law, the National Voter Registration Act.

Patents on human genes

In Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, Inc., researchers, doctors and others are challenging patents held by a company on isolated DNA from the BRCA1 and BRCA 2 genes. Women with mutations in those genes are said to have a higher risk of breast and ovarian cancer. The challengers say that the patents prevent other companies from developing better genetic testing. But the company, Myriad Genetics, argues that their innovation has led to that testing and that they need the patents to protect billions of dollars for research.


Felipe Matos is among the top 20 community college students in America, but he’s ineligible for financial aid at the top universities that have accepted him. Gaby Pacheco has three education degrees and plans to use music therapy as a teaching tool for autistic children and adults. Brought to the United States at age 2, Carlos Roa wanted to join the military but could not because of his immigration status.

Three months ago, they embarked on Trail of Dreams, a 1,500 mile walk from Miami to Washington.  These students are facing much more than sore feet; several are undocumented, and they risk deportation and detention to share their stories and raise awareness about the need for just immigration reform.

These students exemplify why support is growing for the DREAM Act, federal legislation that would enable students brought to the U.S. at a young age to legally access higher education and financial aid. Every year, 65,000 students graduate U.S. high schools but are denied a college education because of our broken and unjust immigration system.  These students include valedictorians, class presidents and community leaders.  Yet they are refused the opportunity to further their education and give back to America — the country they see as their home.

Just graduating high school can be more challenging for undocumented students than for their peers; they often must learn English as a second language, take care of family responsibilities that their parents cannot manage without understanding English, overcome low socio-economic status and all that that entails, and cope with the psychological trauma of living in fear of deportation.

Trail of Dreams, which made its way through the Triangle last week, is a journey of hope for these students and the 12 million undocumented migrants in the United States.

For more information, check out the Southern Coalition for Social Justice’s Statement of Support.