Sneaky. It’s my word of the day for describing our state legislature. This time it’s a Republican-controlled legislature, but I’m not naïve enough to think the same word didn't apply when it was Democratic-controlled.
Today I am talking about the election changes that were approved this past week.
A Lenoir resident might on first impulse be angry with writer Julian Turner for his characterization of Lenoir.
His choice of words, in a business story he wrote for New Statesman magazine, “How Google is changing small-town America,” would not be ones that the Economic Development Commission or Caldwell Chamber of Commerce would embrace.
In the story, Turner wrote, “Nestled in the shadow of the iconic Blue Ridge mountains is the unassuming backwater of Lenoir, North Carolina.”
In the summer of America’s independence year, a 33-year-old gentleman was asked to write a few lines to communicate why the British colonies in North America were separating themselves from English rule. His drafts were read and revised by the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia. He took their suggestions, completed rewrites, and resubmitted the 1,500-word document to the Congress on Friday, June 28. The following Monday, Congress read and debated the document. They voted to adopt it the next day, and two days later, on July 4, 1776, they ratified it. Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence was printed that evening and widely distributed to colonial leaders and militia troops over the next few days. Church bells clanged in many places during the week, especially in Philadelphia.
Ordinarily the top stories of the week would not be centered on the municipal meetings in the various communities, schools and county board of commissioners. But this time of the year budgets are being set, and this year each of our communities are facing a tremendous obstacle. It’s called the state legislature. Cuts expected in our county alone could amount to millions of dollars. Battles are being fought in both the Senate and the House.
Some might ask why I would call fathers heroes, but the answer is easy. It can take heroic efforts to be a good father, and fortunately we have many positive examples in our community. It’s hard work to stay married and take care of the family. Fathers who work hard, even in difficult times to provide shelter, food and clothing face a hard task. Fathers who use their free time to coach their child’s teams, read to them in the evening and help them with their homework instead of being glued to the television are special people. Fathers who care what kind of people their children associate with can face criticism, but they do it with love. Fathers who lead the way to church each week set a positive example.
For at least the past decade the school board and top administrators have been dreaming of a new middle school in Lenoir. They’ve saved money, developed plans, made presentations to the Caldwell County Board of Commissioners, school staff and the public. Board members and school personnel have changed, but the vision and the dream have been constant.
And now the dream will become a reality, and in two years students will enter the new middle school.
Last year I tried to get a weekly kudos column off the ground. Initially I wrote them with the hopes that readers would contribute. I did receive a few from readers, but eventually they disappeared. So instead of being committed to a weekly kudos column I believe that I will periodically write an entire column of kudos.
As the warm weather pushed in here again last week, it reminded me of one duty of a small-town newspaper editor I learned about during my first stint at the News-Topic 25 years ago that I have not yet begun to prepare for.
At some point I have to designate a Big Bug and Weird Fruit Editor.
“The times they are a-changin’.”
The 1960s Bob Dylan lyrics may be just as appropriate today for Caldwell County as they were when Dylan wrote them about the ‘60s youth movement.
Just look at what has been announced during the past week or so, and it’s easy to see that in most cases Caldwell County has had many changes that position the county well for the future.
I don't think anyone at Google intended for it to be poignant when they selected a site within Lenoir for the company's data center, but that's what happened. When you leave Google and turn left to Morganton Boulevard, you face Bernhardt Furniture's Plant 3. There at the traffic light, you sit smack between looming symbols of this area’s past and what may be its future.
Although she and her brother, Charles, could be called "Navy brats,” as they traveled the country with her Navy father, Charles Babb, and her mother, Betty, she is a Caldwell County woman. She graduated from South Caldwell High School and attended Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute and Lenoir-Ryhne University. She spent 20 years working for Blue Ridge Electric Membership Corporation.
She is the daughter of Betty and Clark Miller. She is the sister of Charles Babb. She is the mother of Ashley, Scott and Jonathan. She is married to Doug. She is Teresa Johnson, and this year’s recipient of the Satie Broyhill Lifetime Achievement Award.
One thing I definitely will not miss from living in Richmond is the result of what I can only assume is the thrill that newspaper writers there get from referring to the region's residents -- everyone in the entire nearly-1-million-person region, not just in the fewer-than-200,000-person city -- as Richmonders. Richmonders Richmonders Richmonders. You would think they earned money from every appearance of the word in an article.
What in the world would Lenoir residents be called? I wondered.
It’s time we, as parents, grandparents, educators and community leaders, inform our children about the realities of finding a job in the current and future world economics.
There was a time when someone could graduate with a bachelor’s degree in just about anything and find a job. But as Dr. Harry Davis pointed out on Thursday those days are over. Davis, from the Appalachian State University Walker College of Business, delivered a wake-up call to the Community Leaders Council of the Blue Ridge Electric Membership Corp.
Here’s a little secret of the legislative process: Absolutely every time a legislative body convenes, anywhere, some of its members introduce bills that they know stand not a snowball’s chance in Hades of seeing the light of day.
Why would they do that?
The bill may represent a dearly held belief. Sometimes it’s just to please some folks back home.
No matter the motivation, though, at some point the legislator or legislators in question knew or should have known that the measure was fatally flawed – either impractical, unpopular or flat-out illegal and/or unenforceable.
Which brings us to the measure that made North Carolina a national punchline last week.
This job makes me philosophical sometimes, bringing to mind unanswerable questions not unlike “What is the sound of one hand clapping?”
Eastern philosophers pose such questions not to get an answer but to prompt thought. Mine can’t be answered either.
My most recent question: How long is always?
The question relates to the sentence I have heard more than any other in the past two months, coming several times just this week: “The News-Topic has always covered it.”
The conservative Civitas Institute awarded its “Bad Bill of the Week” on Monday to SB155, which calls for setting up an independent commission to take over legislative redistricting.
Although Civitas correctly identifies problems with the bill, it then throws the baby out with the bathwater and declares, “It is impossible to take politics out of the redistricting process.”
Well, no, it’s not.
Selecting the name of Saint Francis of Assisi certainly sends a message of change for the Vatican and a church that has been rocked by scandals, from sex abuse and banking to strife within the Vatican hierarchy. The beloved Saint Francis is known for his concerns for the poor and less fortunate, for his humility and tireless work in helping the church.
The two men have much in common, as Pope Francis also worked tirelessly for the poor and sick in Buenos Aires, abandoned the archbishop's palace and chauffeured limousine for a simple apartment and mass transit, and cooked his own meals. His life sends the same message of simplicity and concern for others. Even his choice of simple white garments and cross when he was introduced to the world speak to his mission and humility.
They say Venezuela is going to keep Hugo Chavez’s body on display under glass.
How Soviet, I thought. Very retro. Just as no one builds Art Deco skyscrapers anymore, you just don’t hear nowadays about dictators being embalmed and placed under glass like an enormous butterfly, except not pretty, and not impaled. When was the last time? Lenin? Maybe that was the only time. I couldn’t think of another.
But as I thought on it, I had another thought.
I want to be under glass.
I did not grow up in the South. I also was not a voter who was subject to a poll tax to exercise my constitutional rights. I have a hard time understanding why people would take to the streets to protest the possibility that a photo ID would be required, especially if access to an ID was provided at no cost.
Journalists tend to be pack-rats. Past News-Topic editors were no exception, so I gradually have been emptying drawers in my office the past six weeks.
Last weekend, emptying the top drawer of a file cabinet otherwise full of news clips dating from at least 1994, I found a pile of old photos. Not just old but historic, some from the early part of the 20th century.
Community journalism is many things. Many times it is tragic and other times it is entertaining. And other times it is inspiring. It all tells the story of our community.
Almost exactly 25 years after leaving the News-Topic, my first reporting job, I now occupy the very desk used by my first editor, Lee Barnes.