Commentary, News

This week’s top stories on NC Policy Watch

1. Now what? Five election takeaways for North Carolinians

The 2018 election is finally and mercifully over and, as was noted in this space yesterday, now is no time for progressives to rest on their laurels. Having taken some promising initial steps in the struggle to overcome Trumpism and build a better, fairer, freer and more sustainable nation and planet, now is the time for caring and thinking people to redouble their efforts and turn their electoral energy toward the cause of governance.

Here in North Carolina, this will remain an enormous challenge. Despite important progressive victories in several races, the state legislature and congressional delegation both remain absurdly and illegally gerrymandered and highly unrepresentative of the state’s closely divided and increasingly urban and diverse voter population. Despite being headed for victory in the combined popular vote in congressional and legislative races (the Democrats only ran candidates in 12 of 13 U.S. House races), North Carolina Democrats remain mired in minority status.

That said, last night’s results offer some significant glimmers of hope for the future. Here are five initial takeaways…

[Read more…

2. Black sheriffs make history in sweep of seven larges NC counties

While Congressional and General Assembly races got most of the election headlines this week, history was quietly being made in a series of law enforcement races.

On Tuesday the state’s seven largest counties – Buncombe, Cumberland, Durham, Forsyth, Guilford, Mecklenburg and Wake – all elected Black men sheriff.

Five – Buncombe, Cumberland, Guilford, Durham, Forsyth – did so for the first time.

In Pitt County — the state’s 14th largest — voters elected Paula Dance as their first Black female sheriff.

[Read more…]

3. A requiem for the GOP supermajorities and other post-election thoughts

Ever been to a funeral where no one had anything nice to say about the dearly departed?

“Well, they certainly were bellicose,” we might say through gritted teeth.

That’s the feeling today, with North Carolina now weeks away from burying the Republican supermajority in the General Assembly.

North Carolina voters handed down a good many split decisions in these elections, which like it or not, were always going to be skewed to the right by GOP gerrymandering. But in the legislature, Republicans may be surprised by their losses today, losses which, presuming the final vote counts are upheld, would break the GOP supermajorities in both the state House and Senate. [Read more…]

4. Midterm election proves to be Independence Day for NC courts

The North Carolina courts have a lot to celebrate after Tuesday night – voter turnout in statewide judicial races was higher than the past three midterm elections, voters elected the first openly LGBTQ candidate in any statewide political race, and there was a rejection of lawmakers’ efforts to politicize the judicial branch.

“No doubt this is an encouraging sign,” said Douglas Keith, counsel in the Brennan Center for Justice’s Democracy Program. “The public’s broad rebuke of these efforts and the bipartisan public officials’ rebuke of these efforts will hopefully be kept in the back of the minds of anyone who thinks of revisiting efforts to politicize the judicial branch.”

[Read more…]

**BONUS READ: NC voters pass 4 constitutional amendments; lame-duck session looming

5. Half-truths and sometimes no truth at all: Public debates pollution limits at Enviva’s wood pellet plant in Hamlet

About a quarter-mile off NC 177 in Richmond County, just north of Hamlet, skeletons of buildings gouge the horizon, as bulldozers coerce the dirt into mounds and flats. This is the site of Enviva’s new wood pellet production plant, its fourth in North Carolina. Logs timbered from area forests are chopped up, dried and made into pellets that resemble dog kibble. Those pellets then begin their long journey, far from their birthplace in North Carolina forests.

At the nearby CSX terminal, they are transported by diesel train to the port of Wilmington, then loaded on ships powered by sulfur-spewing, low-grade bunker fuel that are bound for the United Kingdom and the European Union. Upon arrival, the pellets are again transported by rail or truck to power plants, where companies, benefiting from large government subsidies, burn them instead of coal.

Every step of wood pellet production carries significant environmental and climate consequences…

[Read more…]

**BONUS READS:

6. Editorial Cartoon: The Real ‘Wave’

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