News

Civil rights groups launch court challenge to Greensboro panhandling ordinance

This just in from the folks at the ACLU of North Carolina:

Three people who have experienced homelessness and a national advocacy group today filed a federal lawsuit seeking to block a Greensboro ordinance that criminalizes “aggressive” panhandling and many activities protected by the First Amendment.

The plaintiffs are being represented by the American Civil Liberties (ACLU) of North Carolina, Legal Aid of North Carolina and the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty. The groups say that Greensboro’s ordinance violates the free speech, equal protection, and due process rights of people who ask for contributions in public places in the city.

“I ask for donations only because I need the money,” said Terry Lindsay, a plaintiff in the lawsuit, who is legally blind and regularly panhandles in downtown Greensboro and on Gate City Boulevard. “This law will only make it more likely that I will become homeless again. I need help keeping my housing and providing for myself, not more obstacles that will keep me from having a better life and being able to have clothes, food, and a place to live.”

“Asking people for money in public spaces is protected by the First Amendment, and the right to free speech applies equally to everyone in Greensboro,” said Emily Seawell, staff attorney for the ACLU of North Carolina. “Criminalizing unpopular or uncomfortable speech violates the Constitution, and taking a punitive approach to poverty does nothing to address the root causes of why people in Greensboro are resorting to asking strangers for help providing for their basic needs.” Read more

Commentary, What's Race Got To Do With It?

It’s Black Women’s Equal Pay Day: Here’s why that’s important

Image: www.womendadvancenc.org

By Antionette Kerr

Why are we still telling Black Women to work twice as hard?

It’s time for equal pay

The women in my family set high standards for what “hard work” felt and looked like. In many ways these lessons gave me strength and inspiration. I have a tremendous amount of respect for their wisdom and I credit them for my fierce work ethic. But lately, I’ve started to challenge the old adage that as a Black Woman I have to “work twice as hard” to be considered successful.

Demanding equal pay is especially important for communities of color who have been told that they had to work “twice as hard,” and be “twice as good” to be successful. This belief is so widely accepted that even former first Lady Michelle Obama advances it in speeches across America.

I echo the thoughtful sentiments of Guardian writer, Britni Danielle. “There’s one mantra many black parents drill into their children’s heads throughout their life: be twice as good. It goes that as black folks in America, we’ve got to work twice as hard to get half as far as our white counterparts,” she wrote. “Some semblance of this speech has been handed down for generations, and given our history in the US – forced into chattel slavery, oppressed under Jim Crow, and racially stigmatized to this day – it’s proven itself to be true.”

This is especially ringing true for women of color. According to equalpaytoday.org , “Each year, Equal Pay Day for All is held in April, but when we look at the wage gap for women of color, the gap is far greater. When compared to all men, women earn $.80 (cents) on the $1. When compared to White, non-Hispanic men, Black/African American women earn only $.63 (cents) on the $1. This means the typical Black woman must work until August 2018 to be paid what the typical White man was paid at the end of December 2017.”

The “work twice as hard” speech has become a rite of passage in many communities of color. Read more

News

How to watch tomorrow’s sold out Crucial Conversation on the constitutional amendments

Tomorrow’s NC Policy Watch Crucial Conversation, North Carolina’s constitutional amendments blitz: What should be done?” featuring former legislative counsel Gerry Cohen, Senator Floyd McKissick, Jr. and “Tuesdays with Tillis” activist Karen Ziegler is a sell-out. Due to space constraints we’ve had to cut off registrations.

Happily, there is still a way to watch the event — both later and as it happens.

To do so, head to the NC Policy Watch Facebook page a few minutes after 12:00 noon tomorrow, Wednesday August 8.

Here is a description of the event:

In the final harried days of the 2018 legislative session, North Carolina lawmakers took the unprecedented step of voting to place six constitutional amendments on the November ballot. The amendments deal with a wide-ranging array of subjects: the right to hunt, fish and harvest wildlife; the rights of crime victims; changes to the state board of elections and the transfer of appointment powers from the governor to the legislature; selection for judicial vacancies; a cap on the state income tax and requiring a photo ID to vote.

In the weeks that have followed, a growing chorus of critics has emerged to decry the amendments as individually flawed and, collectively, a massive and deceptive power grab by legislative leaders. Unlike virtually all previous amendments in recent decades, the critics note, five of the six amendments lack basic implementing language that would even allow voters to understand what they are voting on.

So where do things stand? What would the amendments really do and not do? What will happen next if any of them were to pass?

Join us as we tackle these question and others with an extremely knowledgeable panel of experts, including:

  • State Senator Floyd McKissick, Jr. of Durham
  • Former North Carolina General Assembly Special Counsel, Gerry Cohen
  • Karen Ziegler, leader of the Tuesdays with Tillis protests

Hope to see you — at least virtually — tomorrow!

Commentary

Op-eds provide hope for renewable energy on another globally warm August morning

A news article in The Guardian puts it pretty bluntly in a Q&A article about the horrific wildfires plaguing California right now. After drawing direct connections between the heat and drought that have been battering the Golden State and the fires, the article puts it this way:

“What can be done?

Bluntly, stop using fossil fuels. ‘People are doing everything they can, but nature is very powerful and we’re not on the side of nature,’ California Governor Jerry Brown said last week. ‘We’re fighting nature with the amount of material we’re putting in the environment, and that material traps heat.’”

Which, thankfully, brings us to a couple of encouraging op-eds from North Carolina news outlets in recent days about the encouraging rise of sustainable energy and the can’t-happen-soon-enough demise of fossil fuels,

As Elizabeth Ouzts of Southeast Energy News explained in “Renewable energy losing its edge as a political wedge in N.C.” on WRAL.com, even many conservative Republicans are seeing the light:

“In this year’s Conservatives for Clean Energy survey, Republican voters said increasing competition in the energy marketplace and investing in clean energy should both be bigger policy priorities than supporting fossil fuels.

Asked how policy makers should solve the problem of toxic coal ash, a plurality of Republicans chose ‘investing state resources into solar, wind and other renewable energy sources’ over the options of doing nothing and paying utilities to clean up the waste.

A majority of voters – including a plurality of ‘very conservative’ ones – said they would be less likely to vote for a politician who supported the temporary ban on new wind projects.”

Some of the conclusions in Ouzts’ article are also reflected in another op-ed — this one by Jim Warren of NC WARN — in Raleigh’s News & Observer entitled “Why solar power is beating coal and natural gas.” Here’s Warren:

There’s good news — outside of North Carolina — in the increasingly desperate fight to slow the climate crisis before its own momentum makes acceleration unstoppable. Economical storage, the long-sought Holy Grail of renewable energy, is surging in the marketplace while climate-wrecking fracked “natural” gas has begun to decline.

“North Carolina is held back by Duke Energy executives’ obsession with gas and their obstructionist strategy toward solar and storage as they cling to the increasingly risky plan to build the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and some 20 gas-fired power plants.

The difference? Market competition versus monopoly capture of customers, public and civic leaders, and public debate.

Solar-with-storage projects are surging in many states by beating gas plants on economics and reliability. By 2026, the U.S. is expected to add storage capacity equal to 35 nuclear plants, generating $4 billion in annual savings.”

After detailing how Duke continues to stonewall efforts to expedite the conversion to renewables, Warren ends on this somewhat more encouraging note:

“Fortunately, utilities commissioner Dan Clodfelter, the Public Staff’s Chris Ayers and Attorney General Josh Stein are changing the long-standing rubber-stamp of Duke Energy’s ‘build plants, raise rates, control debate’ business model. Local leaders are emerging too. Working with Clean Path volunteers, Chatham County commissioners recently made a move toward solarizing county-owned facilities.

North Carolinians must insist that Duke Energy get on the right side of the accelerating climate crisis by belatedly joining the clean energy revolution.”

Amen.

Commentary, News

Chair of Governor’s Leandro commission decries education budget cuts

There were new and strong words yesterday from Brad Wilson, Chair of Gov. Cooper’s Commission on Access to Sound Basic Education. The Commission was created by Governor Cooper in July 2017 to take a comprehensive, interdisciplinary approach to how the state should meet its constitutional obligations under the Leandro rulings.

Wilson’s comments come in response to a General Assembly-mandated $5.1 million budget cut for the 2018-19 fiscal year, which led to the Department of Public Instruction’s recent announcement that it was eliminating 61 positions, including 29 positions focused on turning around our state’s lowest performing schools and districts. Here’s Wilson’s statement:

“The Commission on Access to Sound Basic Education is concerned that once again cuts to our state’s public education budget are disproportionately and negatively affecting the students, schools, and districts that are likely to suffer the most from the cuts. The most recent example, announced by the Department of Public Instruction, includes the layoffs of 29 staff from the Educator Support Services Division – staff whose primary focus was to support turnaround efforts in our state’s lowest performing schools and districts.

Experts from across the political spectrum have agreed for years—with the research to back it up—that the key tenets of North Carolina’s now 20-year-old Leandro case still hold true: quality teachers, quality school leaders, and adequate resources must be available to every student in every school across the state. The recent cuts stand in the way of all of these.

It is imperative that our state’s education leadership—starting with the General Assembly, which controls state funds for public education—does everything possible as soon as possible to ensure that a workable plan is in place to compensate for the cuts and that the negative impacts of the cuts are mitigated. The Department’s new regional support plan discussed at this week’s State Board of Education meeting is a start, but we need assurances that school districts will continue to receive adequate support to turnaround their low-performing schools. Governor Cooper appointed me to chair this Commission, and he remains steadfast in his commitment to ensuring that every student in our state receives the quality education he or she deserves and is constitutionally guaranteed. I, along with my fellow commissioners, will employ our collective expertise and experience to make the Governor’s commitment a reality.”