Editorial: Start of school shows the need for common sense on guns and COVID

(Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

If you haven’t done so already, be sure to check out this morning’s lead Capitol Broadcasting Company editorial on WRAL.com. As is spelled out in “Going to school shouldn’t be life risking. Common sense, not politics, is the remedy,” state legislative leaders need to stop pandering to their narrow right-wing base and take strong action to tackle two enormous public health crises that threaten our kids: gun violence and COVID-19.

Gun violence and inexplicable resistance to basic health precautions are putting our children and school workers in jeopardy. It doesn’t need, and shouldn’t, be this way….

…North Carolina’s legislative leaders need to wake up to the realization that what they may see as a political game – and appealing to a narrow partisan base – has consequences.

Failure to be serious about firearms safety does matter. North Carolina teenagers are buying guns on the internet.

The new school year has hardly started. COVID-19 is already disrupting efforts to return to much-needed classroom instruction.

Legislative leaders need to stand up for the safety and health of everyone in the state. Mandate COVID vaccines for all students and school personnel. This is nothing new. Vaccinations have been state health policy for 82 years.

Vaccines are patriotic. George Washington ordered soldiers in the Continental Army to be vaccinated against smallpox.

The editorial concludes by praising a recent Cooper veto and reiterating the call for mass vaccination:

The governor’s veto of legislation to do away with state background checks for pistol purchase is no attack on the Second Amendment – it is a small effort toward keeping guns out of the hands of those who present a real public danger. Back the veto.

Schools should be places where public health and safety are a top priority. Legislative leaders need to stand up and support safety mask mandates, rather than look for ways to stifle these policies. In fact, they need to go further and support mandated vaccinations for ALL eligible students and school personnel.

The security and well-being of North Carolina needs to be their top priority.

Amen. Click here to read the entire editorial.

It’s time to use the state budget to fix North Carolina’s leaky roof

Years ago, a traveling salesman was stuck outside in a thunderstorm, miles from the nearest town. At the next house he came to, a man was standing in the door watching the rain pour. The salesman walked up and asked whether he might be able to stay the night while the storm passed.

“Well,” the man replied, “the only place I’ve got is in the kitchen, and the roof leaks so bad in there you’d get just as wet as staying out here.”

Taken aback, the salesman asked, “Why don’t you fix the roof?”

“Are you crazy?” the man replied. “It’s raining out here!”

“’Course I don’t mean now,” the increasingly frustrated salesman retorted. “Why don’t you fix it when it ain’t raining”?

“’Cause then it ain’t leaking.”

There’s some wisdom in that old country yarn about where North Carolina was when COVID-19 arrived. Our state government is like the roof in the story. We had been through the longest period of uninterrupted economic growth in generations, but leaders allowed our shared home to fall into disrepair. As soon as the storm started, it became even more painfully evident how years of neglect had left our public institutions unable to cope with a crisis.

We also allowed an economic situation to evolve that left far too many families with little or no shelter of their own to fall back on. Big corporations and the ultra-rich did just fine in the wake of the Great Recession, but most families and working people in North Carolina didn’t have the savings to survive without work or income when the pandemic shuttered businesses across the state. Like the traveling salesman, millions of North Carolinians were left out in the storm with little shelter in sight.

Now the combination of broken public institutions and a top-heavy economy are undermining the pace of our recovery. As we document in a recent report, hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians face enormous barriers in their effort to rejoin the labor force. Around 250,000 people in our state, mostly women, can’t work because they don’t have access affordable child care; roughly 100,000 have site concerns about contracting or spreading COVID-19 by working in person, 50,000 lack reliable transportation, and many either can’t access the jobs that do exist or lack broadband needed to work remotely or search for a job. In most of these cases, people of color and women who had the least financial cushion to fall back on when they lost jobs due to COVID-19 face the largest obstacles to rejoining the labor market.

The good news is we have an opportunity to rebuild our collective home. As legislative leaders huddle behind closed doors to hash out a budget, the question is whether they will make the long-overdue choice to fix our public institutions or continue down the path that left us out in the rain when COVID-19 darkened the skies. After years of not passing a budget, North Carolina has billions of dollars sitting in the bank that could be used to help people still struggling to make it through the pandemic. Unfortunately, the proposals made by both the Senate and House failed to tap into those resources and would continue to hand out tax cuts to profitable corporations. State action is also urgently needed to make good use of any potential additional federal support. Years of neglect made it hard for the state to deploy previous rounds of state aid, so investment is needed to get any future relief to where it is most needed.

It certainly hasn’t stopped raining yet, but it’s time to get those hammers swinging to put a new economic roof over the people of North Carolina.

Patrick McHugh is the Research Manager with the Budget & Tax Center.

Weekend humor from Celia Rivenbark: Civility going to the dogs…

We are a nation divided. Half of us want to do the responsible, scientifically proven gesture to help our fellow man; the rest think it’s just fine to walk their dogs and toss the collected bag of poo into their neighbor’s garbage can.

A friend IRL posted a harmless enough question about this behavior on the book of faces last week. Allow me to set the scene. My friend was approached by a neighbor who shouted out to him to stop putting his dog’s droppings (bagged, of course; he’s not a savage) in this fellow’s garbage can, positioned streetside along the dog walker’s daily route.

“Is this reasonable? What is the etiquette here?” my friend asked.

OK, anyone who has been on social media in the past, er, ever, knows that simple, earnestly asked questions such as this result in … screeching and screaming and way too much all caps.

A few of the less caffeinated folks chimed in with a simple and appropriate answer: “If he told you not to do it, the best thing to do is simply respect his wishes.” Wow. That’s some seriously good Emily Vanderpost type etiquette advice right there. Asked and answered.

Oh, if only that could’ve been that. But that’s not who we are, is it? We are ANGRY and PUT UPON and more than a little BONKERS.

While I don’t have a dog in this fight (ha!) I’ll admit that when I’m sitting on my porch enjoying my afternoon Sanka like Gladys Kravitz (ask your parents) and spy a dog walker drop Fido’s daily dose in my can, I’m significantly irked.

I cheerily shared this on my friend’s thread, prefacing it with an acknowledgement we have much more important things to worry about these days. Much more.

But still…

The reaction was swift from the tightly wound. One armchair psychiatrist speculated the protester was clearly a deeply unhappy soul whose “trashcan is the only thing he can control in his life.”

Another suggested the man who complained has no beef if the bag is duly knotted “unless the trash can is where he keeps his stank ass attitude.”

Paging Ms. Vanderpost…

“Some people are themselves garbage,” opined another, referring to the complainer. Whoa.

Another respondent who walks at least two of his four dogs at a time said: “It’s not reasonable to try and carry multiple bags of poop along the way.” While I snarkily consider that to be the very definition of a “you problem,” I didn’t jump into the fray. Once bitten and all.

Another shared his frustration after recently moving into a new neighborhood and getting a letter from the homeowners’ association informing him the neighbors were “repulsed” by the sight of him picking up dog poo with bag and not a specially designed poo picker-upper.

Repulsed? Isn’t that a bit over the top? I mean, this guy isn’t dropping his pants and joining Rover in solidarity so he wouldn’t have to poop alone in the Wisteria Lane cul de sac. That might qualify as worthy of revulsion.

And then the thread turned geographical, as it always does in the South, sooner or later.

“The Southeast is full of hateful people who are mad due to decades of religious oppression.”

Yes, guilty as charged. It’s not my reeking trash can that upsets; it’s the systematic, deliberate imbalance of power between the Christian majority and minority religious groups. Please shut up.

As one sage pointed out, this wasn’t even an issue back in the day. It’s true. Did you even grow up in the 70s if you never stepped on a dog patty and used rusty barbecue tongs to pry it from the crevices of your Family Dollar store tennis shoe bottoms?

See? We’ve made some progress, at least.

Celia Rivenbark is a NYT-bestselling author and columnist. Write to her at [email protected].

From a Clear and Present Danger, to the latest on Leandro, to having your say on redistricting: The week’s top stories on Policy Watch

1. Clear and present danger: Former Army missile plant has polluted a Black, Latino neighborhood in Burlington for more than 30 years

Military, private owner have allowed toxic contaminants to fester, avoided penalties while residents bear environmental burden

This is the first of a two-part story about hazardous contamination at a former missile plant in Burlington that is threatening a predominantly Black and Latinx neighborhood. Part 2 runs tomorrow. You can also read this story as a pdf file and view the source documents, which are linked within the text.

Leer en español.

Tattooed in ivy, bound in chain-link fence, Building 16 casts an ominous three-story shadow over several homes along Hilton Road. The window blinds are torn, as if it were sleeping with one eye open.

This relic of the Cold War is among two dozen buildings sprawled across the 22-acre Tarheel Army Missile Plant in East Burlington. Here, in the 1950s and ’60s, Western Electric conducted top-secret research on behalf of the military.

That research, developing sophisticated guidance systems for Nike missiles, required workers to handle hazardous chemicals. Over time, those chemicals spilled and seeped and leaked. They were poured down sinks and dumped into storm drains.

Fifty years since the military mothballed the Nike missile program, the plant, once a source of civic pride for the city, is now a toxic disgrace. [Read more…]

2. Former Army missile plant in Burlington posesan urgent public health risk

Private owners neglect the contaminated property, posing an environmental threat to a Black and Latinx neighborhood

This is the second of a two-part story about hazardous contamination at a former missile plant in Burlington that is threatening a predominantly Black and Latinx neighborhood.

Inside Building 1A of the former Tarheel Army Missile Plant, a metal pipe rested on a table amid crumbs of broken glass. Many of the windows had been broken, so with no more effort than a step over the threshold, the entire contaminant 22-acre site was open for skateboarding, playing paintball, even homesteading.

This was the scene in early May. From the outside, little had changed from last November, when city, state and Army officials, as well as the current property owner, David Tsui, visited the plant in preparation for the next phase of the cleanup. [Read more…]

3. America dumbs down freedom, with disastrous consequences (Commentary)

Death and tragedy were front and center in the news again last week.

In Winston-Salem, a high school student was shot and killed by another child. Only a few hours later, tragedy was mercifully avoided at a Raleigh high school when two guns were taken from a student who had brought them to campus. A day after that, another Winston-Salem child – this one just 2 years old – died when a gun was discharged in his grandmother’s home.

Meanwhile, in hospitals across North Carolina and the nation, intensive care units were packed to the rafters with desperately ill and dying COVID-19 patients – the overwhelming majority of whom did not avail themselves of free and widely available vaccines. The pandemic death toll in North Carolina alone inched closer to 15,000.

Meanwhile, a devastating hurricane – fueled, scientists have confirmed, by climate change and the steadily rising ocean water temperatures – wreaked havoc from Louisiana to New England. Dozens died.

What do these three seemingly disparate tragedies have in common? [Read more...]

4. NC surpasses 15,000 COVID deaths, nearly one-third of new cases in children under 17

Governor Roy Cooper said Thursday there is increasing urgency for everyone ages 12 and older to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

For the week ending Sept. 4, children age 17 and under made up 31% of the state’s new COVID-19 cases.

That is the highest percentage since the pandemic began.

“The numbers aren’t good, especially the number of people in the hospital and dying,” Cooper said.

In the past 24 hours, the coronavirus has claimed 110 lives with North Carolina recording 15,004 deaths from COVID-19 since the pandemic began.

By far, the most people hospitalized right now by COVID are unvaccinated.[Read more…]

Bonus Read: Pregnant women should be vaccinated for COVID-19, says Duke expert

5. Judge gives state lawmakers ‘one more last chance’ to fully fund the Leandro plan

Superior Court Judge David Lee has given state lawmakers “one more last chance” to meet their constitutional obligation to provide students in North Carolina with a sound basic education before he takes action to force their hand.

Lee, the judge overseeing the state’s long-running Leandro school funding case, made his remarks Wednesday during a court hearing with lawyers for the defendants and plaintiffs.

He gave lawmakers until Oct. 15 to fully fund a school improvement plan that calls for $5.6 billion in new K-12 funding by 2028. An Oct. 18 hearing has been set to discuss the next steps if an agreement has not been reached to fully fund the plan. [Read more…]

6. NC just enacted ambitious criminal justice reform legislation. Here‘s what it does.

Gov. Roy Cooper signed a comprehensive criminal justice reform package (Senate Bill 300) into law last Thursday. It became effective immediately.

The bill, originally sponsored by Republicans with input from Democrats, gained bipartisan support – though not universal acclaim.

A press release from Cooper’s office touted the fact that the bill included provisions recommended by the Task Force for Racial Equity in Criminal Justice that the Governor established in June of 2020:

“Senate Bill 300 makes important changes to improve policing and criminal justice in North Carolina, as recommended by TREC, including:

  • Promotes recruitment of officers with diverse backgrounds and experiences and improves training so that officers are better equipped to be successful
  • Requires early intervention mechanisms to identify and correct officers who use excessive force or other misconduct
  • Furthers independent investigations of police-involved shootings
  • Limits local laws that criminalize poverty
  • Requires a first appearance in court within 72 hours of a person being arrested.”

The bill also won praise from law enforcement officials. In a press release, the North Carolina Sheriffs’ Association applauded the sponsors of the bill for soliciting and considering the input of the organization.[Read more…]

7. Redistricting public hearings fall short in accommodating public input, advocates say

Lawmakers will travel to 13 locations throughout the state to host public hearings on redistricting, which will redefine the boundaries of congressional and legislative districts for up to a decade to come, including a new, 14th congressional district. However, it appears that members of the public will not be able to participate and provide comments online.

The 13 meetings will take place at these locations:

8. Weekly Radio Interviews and daily radio commentaries with Rob Schofield:

9. Weekly Editorial Cartoon:

A deluge of desperate ‘Team Trump’ emails: ‘There is no end to them’

(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Former President Donald J. Trump must be getting desperate.

Over the past few weeks he has deluged me with emails begging for money and trying to sell me various sorts of stuff that I would mostly describe as “junk.’’

He is clearly deranged.

“Lucy,

President Trump knows you have been here for him since day one.

Despite the never-ending WITCH HUNTS, the countless calls for his IMPEACHMENT, the FAKE NEWS LIES, AND most recently, the Censorship coming from BIG TECH, he’s always been able to count on you, Lucy.’’

That is merely the beginning of a September 5 email sent by “Team Trump.’’

Contribute any amount, the emails repeatedly say, promising that someone will increase that by 400 or 500 percent. They don’t say who will do this.

Some of his emails offer bargains like some of Mike Lindell’s “MyPillow’’ collection or special t-shirts made to insult someone.

He also wants me to claim my “Official Trump Card,’’ the one with an Eagle on the front and the infamous Trump signature in the corner.

Or buy his new T-shirts printed with “Everything Woke turns to Sh-t.’’

Some emails try to link Dr. Fauci to Hitler and promote various miracle cures for things like “mosquito bites’’ or old people who fall down.

He also promises “Biblical weapons’’ which sound suspiciously like home grown marijuana to rid us of constant pain. He says God told him about the “Biblical weapon’’ that will usher in a new era of spiritual and physical healing in America.

He constantly criticizes the vaccines that are being dispensed to save us from COVID-19, President Joe Biden and the “lamestream media,’’ and the handling of our withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Every day he wants more money so he can “flood the airwaves with our new video.’’ He says he wants to see a list of “every patriot who steps us to help us reach our $1,000,000 goal. I hope to see your name.’’

On Sunday one of his fundraising emails even came from former U.S. Rep. Newt Gingrich, with a promise to put my name on the “Gold Medal” list.”

In between emails seeking contributions, Trump is peddling a “kicka$$ EDC fixed blade survival knife’’ at a 66 percent discount or a military styled knapsack with a stars and stripes patch on the front.

His emails predict a coming fall in the value of our dollar and the decline of stocks and tout a mysterious substance that will relieve “digestive discomfort, fatigue, any joints, brain fog, dry skin and weight gain.”

There is no end to them. They come from the “Daily Trump Report.’’

Could he be more misinformed?

They must really be desperate to think any contribution might come from me.

Pulitzer Prize-winner Lucy Morgan was chief of the St. Petersburg (Tampa Bay) Times capital bureau in Tallahassee for 20 years. She is now a contributor to the Florida Phoenix, which first published this essay.