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Pat McCrory 4This morning’s editorial in Raleigh’s News & Observer gets it just about right with its assessment of Pat McCrory’s bizarre foul-up of — of all things — the appointment of North Carolina’s poet laureate by ignoring the established processes and then compounding the error by appointing a person whom some have charitably described as “a beginner” in the field:

The state has on its college campuses a number of professional poets and teachers who would easily fit the bill as the position is described to demonstrate literary excellence and inspire it in others.

Whether McCrory intended it or not, his attitude toward this appointment raises suspicions that he’s just sort of thumbing his nose at the state’s literary community (liberals, maybe?). And he certainly was not well-served by staff members who should have known more and taken this appointment more seriously.

A good friend of NC Policy Watch, veteran North Carolina poet, author, political observer and longtime Peace College faculty member Sally Buckner of Cary, had this to say yesterday in a Facebook message:

As one who has studied our literary scene since the 1960s, I know why North Carolina is what Doris Betts called it: “the writingest state.” It’s because the literary community here is cooperative rather than competitive. Our poets laureate beginning with Sam Ragan have been major figures in making it so. And they’ve done so with little recompense. $15,000 a year doesn’t begin to pay for their travels, workshops, etc….  McCrory’s spokesperson lauds Ms. Macon’s interest in the homeless. I praise it, too–but it’s not a reasonable substitute for professional quality in poetry.

N.C. Poet Laureate Valerie Macon (Provided by N.C. Arts Council)

N.C. Poet Laureate Valerie Macon (Provided by N.C. Arts Council)

Both Sally and the N&O are right, of course — though the N&O may be giving the Guv too much credit. If he really wanted to stick it to the liberal intelligentsia he’d have had his staff find some kind of far right professor at a conservative Christian college or institute to put up for the job.

But that’s not how McCrory operates. In many ways, the appointment is actually reminiscent of the Guv’s equally bizarre decision last summer to deliver cookies to reproductive rights protesters outside the mansion. As in that episode, the Governor’s actions are like those of a distracted, partially-engaged college boy rather than a committed politician with any kind of coherent ideology or agenda.

Seen in this light, the fact that McCrory opted to select an anonymous state employee who has self-published some poetry as a kind of hobby as North Carolina’s poet laureate makes more sense. By selecting such a person the Guv has opted for someone like himself — a person who doesn’t fully comprehend his job or the fact that he doesn’t comprehend it.

Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/2014/07/15/4008193/a-laureate-for-nc-without-laurels.html?sp=/99/108/#storylink=cpy

MedicaidThere’s new and compelling evidence that North Carolina’s model for delivering Medicaid (Community Care North Carolina -CCNC) is a winner — notwithstanding the often-bumbling oversight provided by embattled state DHHS Secretary Aldona Wos and the attempt by Senate leaders to sell the program off to a private managed care company. (It’s worth noting that the flawed sell-off idea was once also touted by Gov. McCrory and Sec. Wos as well until the two gradually came to their senses over the past year).

Today, in a letter to state Medicaid directors throughout the country, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services at the national DHHS announced today that they are launching a new national collaborative initiative called the “Medicaid Innovation Accleerator Program.” The goal of initiative is “to improve care and improve health for Medicaid beneficiaries and reduce costs by supporting states in accelerating new payment and service delivery reforms.”

The letter announcing the initiative holds up three examples of state innovation success in Ohio, Washington and North Carolina. Here’s what it has to say about North Carolina: Read More

NC GearA friend of NC Policy Watch points out that a new and controversial $4 million McCrory administration program to fight inefficiency in state government may itself be an example of inefficiency and redundancy.

As WRAL reported earlier this week, the head of the NC Government Efficiency And Reform initiative (NC GEAR) — a former John Locke Foundation staffer — got a fairly skeptical reception at a joint legislative committee on Monday.  Senators and representatives both voiced concern that $4 million was a lot to spend on an ill-defined initiative that has thus far produced very little of substance.

Even, however, if one sets aside the output from NC GEAR thus far (i.e. not much), it’s also worth noting that North Carolina already has a similar program in place called NC Thinks.

Thus far, the main evident function on the NC GEAR website is a virtual suggestion box for improving government efficiency. But, as a our friend points out, NC Thinks already does that!

Here is the website description for that initiative: Read More

A new report from the experts at the N.C. Budget and Tax Center paints a sobering picture of what the new “recovered” North Carolina economy really means for average people:

“North Carolina’s recovery from the Great Recession has been marked by slow job growth and persistent challenges for working families to make ends meet. The minimal job growth has been concentrated in low-wage industries, a new report finds, which will only make North Carolina’s economic recovery that much more difficult. Read More

State Senate leaders are unveiling their approach today to cleaning up the state’s hazardous coal-ash ponds, but a leading environmental group is already saying new legislation doesn’t go far enough.

The proposal will be discussed at a 3 p.m. committee hearing in Raleigh at the N.C. General Assembly.

The AP first reported last night that the Senate proposal (click here to read) would require Duke Energy to close its coal-ash dumps within 15 years, and WRAL had this wrap-up as well and a summary to the Senate proposal here.

Coal ash from February spill near the Dan River

Coal ash from February spill near the Dan River

But Frank Holleman, the attorney steering the Southern Environmental Law Center’s litigation over coal ash, said the Senate bill still defers many of the decisions to the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources. That, he said, could mean that Duke Energy could continue to get passes on cleaning up the toxic by-products found in 33 unlined pits at the electricity utility’s 14 coal-fired plants in the state.

All the pits have contaminated nearby groundwater, and environmental groups have criticized DENR’s reluctance before the February coal ash spill in the Dan River to demand cleanup.

“What North Carolina needs but is not done in this bill is a direct requirement that Duke clean up its coal ash,” Holleman said. “It leaves it to the failed state agency.”

Read More