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Want to offer up your two cents about what type of leader should be at the helm of North Carolina’s public university system? Your chance is here.

The University of North Carolina’s Board of Governors are hosting four public forums around the state in connection with its ongoing search for a new system president. There are also opportunities for the general public to provide feedback via email.

UNCsystemThe purpose is to allow the public to provide feedback for the “leadership statement,” which is essentially the job description that will be used to recruit candidates to lead the 17-campus university system.

Of course, it remains to be seen how much input from the public will be taken into account by UNC Board of Governors, who will make the final decision. The board has said it hopes to have a new president announced this fall.

The 32-member board, all of whom received appointments from the Republican-led legislature, opted in January to dump Tom Ross, the system leader since 2011, in a move speculated to have political roots. No concrete reasons other than a general desire for change were given for dismissing Ross, a former judge and Davidson County president who had been hired to lead UNC when Democrats were in control of the state. Ross will stay in his position until 2016.

The input sessions are in:

  • Asheville: 7 p.m. on May 26, at the Sherrill Center (Room 417) at UNC-Asheville’s campus.
  • Greenville: 7 p.m. on May 27, East Carolina Heart Institute (Room 1415) in Greenville.
  • Durham: 7 p.m. on May 28, Mary Townes Science Complex (Room 1111) on N.C. Central University’s campus.
  • Charlotte: 7 p.m. on June 1, Harris Alumni Center in Charlotte.

Information about parking and directions is provided here, on the UNC system website.

Can’t make it but still want to tell the UNC Board of Governors what you think?

The university system is also operating a survey (click here) through May 22, and taking feedback via email and mail.

You can send your thoughts to uncsearch@northcarolina.edu, or mail to UNC Presidential Search, P.O. Box 2688, Chapel Hill, N.C. 27515.

News

Former state Rep. Stephen LaRoque will find out his fate this summer , with his sentencing on a criminal charge of stealing federal funds now pushed back to July.

LaRoque-PC

Stephen LaRoque

LaRoque, a Kinston Republican and former co-chair of the powerful House Rules committee, plead guilty in January in front of Senior U.S. District Court Judge Malcolm Howard to a charge of stealing $150,000 from federally-funded economic development groups he ran.

The other 11 charges he faced were dismissed as a condition of his plea agreement. He also agreed to repay $300,000 that prosecutors contend he stole from the non-profit he founded, East Carolina Development Company.

He was supposed to be sentenced on May 12, but the sentencing has been pushed back to the week of July 7. In motions filed in court, his attorney said LaRoque needed more time to provide financial information to the federal probation officials writing up the pre-sentencing report that Howard will use to decide LaRoque’s sentence.

LaRoque faces up to 10 years in a federal prison, as well as a fine of $250,000, on top of $300,000 he agreed to pay in restitution as a condition of his plea agreement. Read More

Commentary

This morning’s Greensboro News & Record lets the Tea Party wing of the General Assembly (and Rep. Bert Jones in particular) have it this morning. In an editorial entitled “April Foolishness,” the N&R juxtaposes the convention champions’ supposed fondness for limits on power with the General Assembly’s recent attacks on local government:

We thought the state legislature convened in Raleigh.

Last week, it apparently met in Fantasy Land.

How else to explain the House Judiciary I committee debating for an hour whether North Carolina should join the call for a “Convention of the States” to discuss amendments to the U.S. Constitution that would limit the federal government’s power?

“I think there is a wide agreement among Americans that we need to place some constraints on the federal government,” said Rep. Bert Jones, the Reidsville Republican who sponsored House Bill 321, one of two bills calling for such a convention. “Are we going to depend on Congress to say, ‘It’s time to limit ourselves’?”

The convention would reconsider amendments involving term limits for Congress, fiscal restraints and limits on “the power and jurisdiction of the federal government.” “I look at this as an intervention of the states, just as if you have a drug-addled family member,” Jones said, sounding proud as punch.

That’s rich. Even as state lawmakers overreach with constant meddling into the affairs of cities and counties — changing the makeup of local boards and councils, including Greensboro’s, and making partisan power grabs for airports and water authorities — the political pot has the gall to call the kettle black and grouse about “federal overreach.”

Read the rest of the editorial by clicking here. Would that lawmakers had before passing their outrageous assault on voters in Wake County.

News

N.C. Sen. Jeff Jackson

State Sen. Jeff Jackson managed to make it into work this morning —  one of the only people to do so after ice and snow shut down the Republican-led state legislature.

The Charlotte Democrat, an attorney with less than a term under his belt, unexpectedly found himself the most powerful person in the building.

He was quick to take advantage of the situation.

Check out Jackson’s Twitter feed and Facebook page this morning, where he’s detailing a one-man takeover of the N.C. General Assembly under the hashtag #JustOneLegislator.

And then there’s that hang-up over puppy mills, after a bill banning them stalled last year. Not to worry, Jackson tweeted.    

He’s also got a little something to bring back home.

Of course, it’ll be an uphill battle for any of these to come to fruition this session, but a lawmaker in the minority party can dream, can’t he? Keep following Jackson on Twitter here, he’s also taking requests on his Facebook page. Stay safe, everyone. UPDATE: Jackson’s been hard at work while most of us are watching the ice slowly thaw at home.

He even defeated his own filibuster.

Commentary
NCGA food drive

House Speaker Tim Moore – Photo: Twitter.com

As Chris Fitzsimon aptly noted last Thanksgiving, there are few things more maddening in the world of state politics than the spectacle of lawmakers piously calling for donations to help the poor even as they enact and defend new policies to do precisely the opposite.

Yet, here we are again today, watching as state legislative leaders “team up” with the state’s Retail Merchants Association to hold a “food drive” at the General Assembly just months after having concluded a legislative session that slashed unemployment insurance, eliminated the state Earned Income Tax Credit for working families, cut child care subsidies to thousands and denied affordable heath insurance to hundreds of thousands.

As Chris wrote last November:

“You’ve probably seen the request from a politician, asking you to donate generously to your local rescue mission, food pantry, emergency shelter or medical clinic. And you should. They do incredible work to help children and families who are struggling to survive.

But there’s a disconnect somehow in the holiday message and the rhetoric we hear from many political leaders and right-wing pundits the rest of the time. Low-income families and unemployed workers don’t fare so well in their press releases and talking points then.

Instead they are portrayed as lazy, people who are living off the government, who aren’t looking hard enough to find a job.

They are ‘takers’ we are told, the 47 percent that Mitt Romney so famously derided in the 2012 presidential campaign.

They need to help themselves, pull themselves up by their bootstraps. Those are the clichés and the stereotypes we hear about the poor and the unemployed in Raleigh and Washington, that helping people who are struggling only breeds dependence and makes them less likely to do what they need to do to lift themselves out of poverty.

And it goes beyond legitimate questions about the effectiveness of specific anti-poverty programs. It’s somehow become acceptable in the current political debate to blame people for their struggles, to question their character.”

The hard and plain truth: Even under the best of circumstances, private charitable efforts like food drives will always remain a small part of the solution to the problems of hunger and poverty in our state. Meanwhile, state political leaders continue to blame people in need and undermine the public structures that actually have the capacity to make a large and permanent difference.