N&O columnist: Time for UNC to send right-wing mega-donor packing

Carroll Hall UNC Hussman School of Journalism (Photo by Mihaly I. Lukacs CC BY-SA 4.0)

Be sure to check out columnist Ned Barnett’s fine essay in this morning’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer. In “As Hussman returns to UNC, it’s time for UNC to say goodbye,” he offers a clear explanation of why the UNC School of Journalism should end its relationship with the man — right-wing publisher Walter Hussman, Jr. — who did so much to lead the racially-charged opposition to the hiring of acclaimed journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones.

Hussman is returning to campus today and tomorrow, and this visit, Barnett rightfully points out, ought to be used by school leaders as an opportunity to sever the relationship. Here’s the excellent conclusion to Barnett’s essay:

According to [faculty member] Steven King’s memo, Hussman and the school’s administrators and a few selected faculty are expected to meet Friday to draw “a road map for working through our differences that is agreeable to Faculty and Mr. Hussman.”

It might be best if the road map includes an exit. Hussman has only delivered a small portion of his pledge and $12.5 million of it won’t be paid until he and his wife are deceased. Hussman and UNC should use this juncture to consider cutting their losses. He can keep the remainder of his pledge and UNC’s journalism school can try to restore its reputation.

And the damage isn’t limited to Hussman’s actions. The UNC administration has engaged in a witch hunt by searching faculty emails to find who might have leaked information on Hussman’s contract. Really, a journalism school is cracking down on information disclosed about the operation of a public university.

Even without the Hannah-Jones controversy, the idea of a UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media is a stretch. Hussman’s support of conservative politicians often falls short of another core value of journalism: “Afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted.”

Indeed. Click here to read the entire column.

Council of Churches: Energy bill “compromise” should be rejected

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Gov. Roy Cooper is expected to sign House Bill 951 — the “compromise” energy bill approved by the General Assembly last week — this afternoon. One group, however, that makes a strong argument in opposition to the legislation is the North Carolina Council of Churches.

The group issued the following statement on Monday and reiterated it via email again today:

North Carolina Council of Churches Opposes the Passing of HB 951, “Energy Solutions for North Carolina”

RALEIGH, NC — The North Council of Churches is committed to prioritizing policies that center justice and equity, and when a bill lacks these moral imperatives, we stand in opposition to the legislation becoming law.

HB 951 “Energy Solutions for North Carolina” does not center justice and equity. The data support our conclusion that this law will create harmful cost impacts on low income people. The loan program included in the legislation (On Tariff Financing) is not enough to adequately offset the increased costs of the legislation because these programs are often not available to low-income homeowners due to the poor condition of their homes, and renters can rarely participate.

The Council is well aware that the dynamics around environmental and renewable energy in North Carolina are urgent, especially given the reality that the detrimental effects of climate change fall disproportionately on low wealth communities. Energy solutions that also fall disproportionately on low income communities are not real solutions. Our faith shows that God has a preferential option for the poor. Scripture provides numerous examples of God’s compassion for “the least of these,” punctuated by Jesus’ own parable about the inbreaking of God’s kingdom. “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40). How then shall we answer, “Lord, when was it that we saw you . . .?” (v.44).  When we allow power bills to rise 50% in 3 years on those who can least afford to pay, we are failing to see Jesus.

Although an important piece of HB 951 legislation includes a carbon reduction plan, this plan is not designed to support those hurt first and worst by the ongoing climate crisis and furthermore we have significant concerns that the plan will fail due to poor design and drafted provisions that will make it easy for utilities to avoid the implementation of the plan. At best, this “Energy Solutions for North Carolina” will only benefit those who are already thriving, not those who are barely surviving.

Our faith convictions compel us to stand in solidarity with the North Carolina Justice Center’s opposition statement: “This legislation will hurt millions of people in North Carolina who are already spending a disproportionate amount of their incomes to meet basic needs.”

“When was it that we saw you . . .?”

Editorial blasts NC GOP “Freedom Caucus” for spreading election misinformation

Rep. Jeff McNeely

In case you missed it yesterday, be sure to check out the News & Observer editorial entitled “NC Republicans aren’t fooling anyone with dig at Durham elections.”

As the essay rightfully points out, the recent announcement by a handful of GOP lawmakers led by Rep. Jeff McNeely that they would attempt to undertake a self-styled “inspection” of Durham County voting machines is an embarrassing exercise in looniness.

After patiently explaining the fact that North Carolina elections have been shown to be overwhelmingly and blessedly fraud-free, the editorial offers this on-the-mark assessment:

McNeely and any North Carolina Republicans who continue to spread this misinformation are not for “freedom,” or upholding the U.S. and North Carolina constitutions as they claim to be. They are trying to stir doubts about elections that could leave the results vulnerable to the very political manipulation they say they are trying to root out.

After noting that state and county election official have made clear that the lawmakers will not be permitted to rummage around in Durham’s voting equipment, the editorial concludes this way:

One aspect of this ridiculousness can’t be overstated: Durham is one of 89 counties that uses hand-marked ballots for early voting and Election Day. Even counties that use ES&S ExpressVote Universal Voting System have a paper record produced and double-checked by people.

North Carolina Republicans don’t even need to bring up voter fraud allegations. Trump won the state by 74,483 votes. It would almost exclusively benefit them in the governor’s race, where incumbent Roy Cooper beat Republican nominee Dan Forest by more than 248,000 votes. Even if every single vote for Cooper from Durham County was tossed out, Cooper would still have more than 100,000 votes on Forest.

North Carolina’s Republican Party needs to understand the power it has to spread information, and condemn this kind of talk before it starts to fester. Stop trying to push the Big Lie.

Click here to read the entire editorial.

Faith leaders demand apology, dialogue from Robinson in response to homophobic remarks

Rev. Nancy Petty addresses members of the news media at a protest outside the Lt. Governor’s residence on Monday.

Days after remarks delivered by North Carolina Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson came to light in which he described homosexuality and “transgenderism” as “filth,” a group of North Carolina faith leaders gathered outside his official residence in Raleigh on Monday afternoon to demand an apology and dialogue.

Joined by a group of 35 or so supportive demonstrators who chanted “we are not filth,” and who held signs decrying the remark and the message of hate it conveyed, Rev. Nancy Petty of Raleigh’s Pullen Memorial Baptist Church declared that all human beings are created in the image of God — regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Petty then laid out three specific demands:

  1. that Robinson plainly and publicly apologize for his remarks and the damage they inflicted on LGBTQ people everywhere,
  2. that he sit down and engage in dialogue with the protesting group,
  3. failing #1 and 2, that he resign or be removed from office.

Petty was followed to the podium by Rev. Vance Haywood, Jr., Senior Pastor at Raleigh’s St. John’s Metropolitan Community Church, who noted that Robinson’s hateful remarks had put people’s lives at risk — both from violence and the risk of suicide. Haywood’s comments seemed especially relevant on a day that UNC-Chapel Hill canceled classes to address the threat of suicide amongst students and that was marked across the nation as National Coming Out Day.

Other speakers at the event included:

  • Kori Hennessey of the LGBT Center of Raleigh,
  • Rev. T. Anthony Spearman of the North Carolina NAACP,
  • Bishop Samuel Rodman of the Diocese of North Carolina, and
  • Rev. Jennifer Copeland, executive director of the North Carolina Council of Churches.

All decried Robinson’s statements and echoed the demands voiced by Rev. Petty.

Rev. Spearman, who took a break from his longstanding vigil outside the Governor’s mansion to demand justice for Dontae Sharpe, seemed to fight back some emotion as he declared that North Carolinians “must not be silent,” in the face of Robinson’s comments.

Bishop Rodman described Robinson’s comments as “not acceptable by any standards.”

Rev. Copeland expanded upon the observation that the diversity of humanity reflects God’s design for the world and called on Robinson to apologize and “make it right.”

At the conclusion of the event, Rev. Petty announced two additional events. On Wednesday, the group will return to the same spot at 5:00 pm to renew their demands and highlight the pain and suffering that comments like Robinson’s are causing for young people and on Friday a demonstration will take place at 4:00 pm outside the State Capitol Building.

New study shows the long list of NC elections decided by only a vote or two

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Veteran North Carolina government watchdog Bob Hall of the group Voting Matters, Inc. is out with a new and fascinating report today in anticipation of the onset of 2021 municipal elections.

This from the news release that accompanied it:

Study: One vote can turn an election in North Carolina

With early voting set to begin this Thursday in many cities, a new report answers the question:  Does one vote really make a difference in an election?

The new study shows that in a surprising number of cases a single voter can determine the winner in odd-year elections like those being held this year in 461 municipalities.

Key finding: How one person decided to vote – or not to vote – made the difference in who won or lost an election in 39 North Carolina cities in 2019.

“One vote will again be decisive somewhere this year and then somebody will be mad they didn’t bother to vote,” said Bob Hall, director of the new nonpartisan organization Voting Matters Inc.

“Of course, many of the close contests are in small towns but they involve mayors and council members who decide major issues like police oversight, affordable housing, and zoning for a new grocery store or a landfill,” he said. “Local elections are important and every vote really matters.”

Hall said about a dozen 2019 elections ended in ties and were settled by a coin toss or other method that followed a state law requiring that ties in city elections be resolved “by lot.” [Citation below.]

In a tie-vote election for town council in Tabor City in eastern North Carolina, the chair of the Columbus County Board of Elections flipped a gold coin and one candidate called heads – and won. A coin toss also broke ties for council seats in Sylva (Jackson Co.), Hildebran (Burke Co.), Kelford (Bertie Co.), and a second city in Columbus County, Sanderfield.

The tied race for a town board seat in Creswell (Washington Co.) was decided by which candidate pulled the highest numbered piece of paper from a jar.  For the tied race in Whitakers, the director of the Edgecombe County Board of Elections placed pieces of paper with the candidates’ names in a box and another person drew out of the winner. “Whatever way this turns out, I am OK with it,” said Doris Howington before the drawing. She won.

Candidates for mayor in 2019 won by just one vote in Cape Carteret (Carteret Co.), High Shoals (Gaston Co.), Jefferson (Ashe Co.), Love Valley (Iredell Co.), and Teachey (Duplin Co.).

The mayor in Atkinson (Pender Co.) won by two votes, i.e., if one of his supporter had picked the other candidate, the resulting tied election could have led to his defeat.

Other cities with races decided by just one or two votes in 2019 include Aberdeen, Bakersville, Columbus, La Grange, Middlesex, Mount Gilead, Old Fort, and Pantego. A complete list is below.

“Your one vote can have a big impact in a local election and, conversely, the local officials who win can have a big impact on your life,” Hall emphasized. “Their decisions can dramatically affect your neighborhood’s development, drinking water quality, and public health and safety services.”

Early voting begins October 14, but some cities are not paying election boards to open early voting sites. Check the State Board of Elections listing: https://www.ncsbe.gov/2021-municipal-voter-tool.

People can view their personal ballot by following the directions at demnc.co/ballot.

Close North Carolina Elections in 2019

This spreadsheet shows where a mayoral or a council seat election was decided by 2 votes or less in 2019.  Read more