Budget_cleaver-150x150This past week I visited Charleston, South Carolina to lay flowers and show support to the people of Charleston and the victims of the Emanuel AME Church shootings. The place buzzed with activists, reporters, and policy makers, including the mayor and governor. Across the nation, political pundits, academics, candidates, law makers, and others have posed a question: “Why did this happen, and what policies will fix this?”

The answers to these questions are neither new nor give us the insight we truly need to begin to remove hatred such as this from our society.

In North Carolina, we are especially equipped to answer the first question. From the 1898 Wilmington coup d’état to this year’s Islamophobia inspired killings of Chapel Hill residents, we have endured many years of hate-inspired violence. We understand and have long dealt with the perverse attitudes that fuel this type of ignorance.

The second question (“What policies will fix the problem?”) does not begin to address the real issue at hand.

The better question is: “Do our laws and policies exemplify the values we want our society to stand for?” In order to combat hatred and ignorance, state legislatures must reevaluate the underlying messages their policies embody.

We do not have a policy issue. We have a values issue. Take, for example, the debate about the state budget.

Fiscal policy is about more than meeting revenue goals and growing the economy, it’s about creating a just and moral society; a society in which the leadership sets the example of how we value and treat individuals. When we refuse to provide all children with access to quality pre-K, when we fail to create equitable education experiences, when we cripple the state’s higher education system, when we fail to support families, when we ignore out-of-work North Carolinians, when we prioritize corporations and neglect individuals, we send a clear message. Read More

NC Budget and Tax Center, Uncategorized

Yesterday I read about the new #BrandNCProject that the Department of Commerce had launched with UNC’s business school. News of the effort immediately drew mockery from some those who don’t like the direction the state is going in in comments sections of news articles and on Twitter.

The survey asks us what words best describe our enduring core values we hold as North Carolinians. The examples include kindness, diversity, loyalty, friendliness, compassion and courage.survey screen shot

“Enduring core values are basic fundamental principles that guide our individual behavior and both determine and reflect how we think and act toward others,” the survey’s instructions state.

I earnestly tried to answer this survey as a North Carolinian who cares deeply about my state’s future and wants its brand stand out, and as someone who wanted to possibly shape this project’s development.

I tried, but I couldn’t.  That’s because I believe holding values and practicing values are two different things. Building, sustaining and practicing “enduring core values” is hard work that is never completed. It takes investment and examination.

Living a principled life is a journey, maybe even a battle. It’s about the sum of our actions.

So maybe we should step back and reflect on some different questions: How are we as North Carolinians living up to our values?  Are we on the right path to being the friendly, diverse, compassionate, fair, creative place we aspire to be? If not, how do we get there?

However important a brand might be –and I don’t dispute it is— it just feels like our leaders are again putting appearances first. And that is not an enduring core value I want for my state.