Commentary

Weekend editorials agree on Trump’s latest energy policy treachery

The Trump administration’s recent decision to slap tariffs on imported solar panels drew condemnation from a raft of editorials over the weekend.

Here’s the Winston-Salem Journal:

“President Trump’s tariffs on solar panels from foreign countries is likely to hurt American workers and consumers, including many in North Carolina. He should reverse his decision.

The Trump administration announced last week that it would impose steep tariffs on imported solar panels, starting at 30 percent next year and ultimately falling to 15 percent by the fourth year, The New York Times reported. But while the panels may be imported, most of the rest of the mechanics and infrastructure used in solar energy production is made in the U.S. Tariffs would likely raise the cost of solar power and slow what has been rapid development in the solar energy industry. It also would result in the loss of roughly 23,000 jobs in the solar industry this year, as well as the delay or cancellation of billions of dollars of investments, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.

Many of those jobs would be lost in North Carolina, where solar farms now generate income where textile factories and tobacco farms once did”

The Wilmington Star News put it this way:

“It’s a shame that the president seems intent on bringing back the past, at least when it comes to energy production. Other, more advanced countries, such as China and the European Union members, are expanding solar and wind-power production. It would be nice if the USA caught up.”

This is from the Greensboro News & Record:

“A forward-looking energy policy would encourage greater development of renewable energy, not hinder it with higher costs….

Protectionism is not a policy that will improve this country’s economy, and certainly not North Carolina’s solar energy industry.”

The Fayetteville Observer:

“…when we look at the likely effects of the tariff’s just imposed on imported solar panels, we have little doubt that the new levy is meant to slow the progress of the solar industry, not to protect American jobs.

The mathematics are pretty clear: The solar panel tariffs announced last week will cost us more than 10 times as many jobs as they’ll save. There are more than 260,000 jobs in the American solar industry, but fewer than 2,000 of them are in the manufacturing sector. Those are the jobs that the president says the tariff will protect and the part of the industry that he says the tariff will cause to grow.”

The Greenville Daily Reflector (quoting the Wall Street Journal):

“Can Donald Trump stand prosperity? Fresh from a government shutdown victory and with the U.S. economy on a roll, the president decided on Tuesday to kick off his long-promised war on imports — and American consumers. This isn’t likely to go the way Mr. Trump imagines.”

Commentary

“Must read” editorial: NC’s plummeting school performance linked to policy failures

The Greensboro News & Record has another good editorial this morning. The subject is North Carolina’s plummeting school performance as measured in Education Week’s annual Quality Counts report. In 2011, when conservatives took over the state legislature, the state ranked 19th in the nation. In the latest report, North Carolina is 40th. As the editorial explains:

“Education Week’s annual Quality Counts report may have its flaws, but it weighs all states by the same standards each year. As far as North Carolina is concerned, it shows a downward trend….

North Carolina’s overall ranking dropped to 40th in the report released this week. It was 39th last year, 37th in 2016, 34th in 2015 and 19th in 2011.

The state has significantly raised teacher pay since then. At the same time, teachers have fewer classroom assistants and less money for classroom supplies. A teaching fellows program was abandoned. Salary bumps for earning master’s degrees were ended. An effort by the legislature to do away with career status, or tenure, failed to survive a court challenge — but it left hard feelings among teachers.

Also, the state has supported a surge in the creation of public charter schools, funneled more than $50 million to private schools through a voucher program and funded two for-profit, virtual charter schools. It seems to some public school advocates that legislators favor these alternatives over traditional K-12 schools.”

After pointing out the troubling gap between the haves and have nots in the state’s public schools, the editorial concludes this way:

“Skeptics who say money doesn’t matter should compare schools in North Carolina’s wealthier counties to those in its poorer communities. There is a difference. The state should do more to close those gaps.

But the legislature has put a higher priority on tax cuts, a policy that arguably encourages job creation in the state’s already thriving urban centers of Raleigh-Durham and Charlotte but does little to help areas that are declining.

Education is a complicated subject, and deeper analysis is needed to determine where North Carolina is slipping and why. It’s clear, however, that the answer isn’t simply to fund more alternatives to K-12 public schools. The charter school record is mixed, and there is virtually no accountability required of tax-funded private religious academies.

We do know that building a skilled workforce, whether it’s prepared for advanced manufacturing jobs or technology positions — skills demanded by such coveted employers as Toyota-Mazda and Amazon — can’t be accomplished on the cheap. If North Carolina is regressing in its willingness to make those investments, it will fall behind even the 10 states that trail us now.

Our cost of living will drop further, leaving many of our residents qualified only for low-paying jobs.”

Commentary, News

Raleigh lawmaker to host bipartisan town hall event on threats to NC’s independent judiciary

Rep. Cynthia Ball

Folks who haven’t yet gotten fully up to speed regarding the ongoing effort at the General Assembly to raze and remake the North Carolina courts system may want to check out a bipartisan event next week being sponsored by State Representative Cynthia Ball of Wake County.

This is from the announcement distributed by her office:

Threats to an Independent Judiciary

Raleigh, N.C. – On Tuesday, January 30th, Representative Cynthia Ball will host her fifth nonpartisan Town Hall Forum. Attendees will have the opportunity to hear from former Chief Resident Superior Court Judge Don Stephens, former NC Supreme Court Justice Bob Orr, and Dr. David McLennan, Professor of Political Science at Meredith College, about recent laws and proposals that affect the way North Carolinian’s select their judges. This is a highly controversial issue that has stirred the public interest and attracted national media coverage.  This Forum will provide the public an opportunity to hear from experts and become better informed.

Anyone wishing to come—regardless of whether they reside in NC House District 49—is invited to attend.

The Town Hall Forum will be held on Tuesday, January 30th, at Meredith College’s Ledford Hall, Room 101, located at 3800 Hillsborough Street in Raleigh. Registration will begin at 6:30 PM. The program will begin promptly at 7:00 PM. There will be ample opportunity for questions from the audience.

In announcing the forum, Rep. Ball noted:

“There may be no more important issue before our General Assembly today than proposals that impact the independence of our judiciary. Redrawing district maps and changing the way we select judges may pose a threat to our democratic system of checks and balances. This Forum will shed important light regarding what is at stake regarding the future of North Carolina’s judiciary.”

To RSVP, please contact Rep. Ball’s office at ballla@ncleg.net  / 919-733-5860 or via Facebook at facebook.com/events/281050622423967/

Commentary

Jurors issue another verdict on the death penalty: It’s time has come and gone

In case you missed it, Kristin Collins over at the NC Coalition for Alternatives to the Death Penalty had an insightful post yesterday on the decision of a Wake County jury to reject imposing the death penalty in the aftermath of a recent murder conviction. Check it out below:

This keeps happening: Wake jury rejects death penalty for 9th time in a row

By Kristin Collins

It’s starting to feel like Groundhog Day in Wake County. Every year begins with a capital trial, and every year, the jury chooses life. This week was the ninth time since 2008 that a Wake jury said no to the death penalty. [Donovan Richardson sentenced to life in prison for 2014 double murder]

Donovan Richardson

We’re hoping that, from now on, we can skip this annual ritual.

Wake is the only county in the state where a defendant has been tried capitally every year for the past three years. Since the beginning of 2016, three of North Carolina’s 10 capital trials have been in Wake County. By contrast, Mecklenburg County — home to Charlotte — hasn’t had a capital trial since 2014.

Why has a county where a jury hasn’t agreed to death sentence in a decade become North Carolina’s leader in death penalty trials? It makes no sense.

It’s not as if a capital trial is the same as a non-capital one with another sentence option thrown in. Adding the death penalty to the mix transforms the entire process. The defendant has a right to two attorneys, the jury members must be chosen based on their willingness to impose a death sentence, the trial lasts weeks longer, and the process costs more than four times as much as a non-capital prosecution.

There’s something else, too, that’s starting to get repetitive in Wake County. At every capital trial, it’s a black defendant having his fate decided by an almost entirely white jury. At the last three capital trials combined, there were only two black jurors.

In fact, we got curious and looked back. Of Wake’s nine failed capital trials since 2009, seven of the defendants were black. And during those years, several white defendants were tried non-capitally for high-profile crimes. Remember Jonathan Broyhill, Joanna Madonna, Jason Young, or Bradley Cooper?

There are just so many reasons for North Carolina’s capital county to leave the shadow of the death penalty behind.

Commentary, Defending Democracy, News

Latest GOP redistricting appeal: “A case of deja vu all over again”

In case you missed it late yesterday (or simply find yourself hopelessly confused by the whole mess and have just given up trying to stay on top of it), Republican lawmakers have yet again sought to stop a federal court from ordering the implementation of fairer, less gerrymandered maps for the election of the members of the North Carolina General Assembly. As Gary Roberton of AP reported last night:

“Republican legislative leaders in North Carolina asked the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday to halt a second lower-court redistricting order that went against them recently, this one involving challenges to state House and Senate districts they approved last summer.

Lawyers for the GOP lawmakers filed their formal request for the court to block a three-judge panel’s decision that accepted alterations to two dozen legislative districts made at their request by a court-appointed expert. The judges directed the changes be incorporated into boundaries that didn’t need to be fixed and the amended maps be used in this year’s elections, beginning with candidate filing that starts Feb. 12. Primaries are in May.

Last week, the Supreme Court agreed to block an order by another three-judge panel that determined the state’s congressional map was coated in over-the-top partisan bias that favored Republican candidates. The justices stopped the judges’ demand that new lines be approved by Wednesday.

‘This is a case of deja vu all over again,’ Washington-based attorney Paul Clement wrote in the brief for the GOP lawmakers in seeking a stay, referring to a quote attributed to baseball great Yogi Berra.”

As a lawyer for the Republicans, Clement isn’t right about much, but he’s right in his Yogi Berra characterization. The new appeal is just the latest in an endless string of them from the GOP lawmakers. Using another sports-based reference a few weeks back, I described the Republican strategy in this area as the political equivalent of Dean Smith’s old “four corners offense.”

As they have in the past, the GOP lawmakers are simply trying to run out the clock so they can have yet another election based on illegal maps in 2018. Their bogus argument — that the new and fairer maps present some kind administrative burden — flies in the face of their own action in recent days to commence the process of completely overhauling state judicial districts in recent weeks.

To use yet another sports analogy, the Republicans are throwing a last minute Hail Mary in their never-ending quest to preserve their illegal maps. Let’s hope the Supreme Court doesn’t abet their scam.