A few days prior to Labor Day weekend our unemployment numbers for July were released, and finally Caldwell County fell below double digits to a remarkable 9.9 percent. Finally! It has been a long time since the News-Topic could report such a low unemployment number. It’s the lowest number since I arrived four years ago, and much lower than our February 2010 number of 17.1 percent.
Tiny Beloit College in Beloit, Wis., started a project called the Mindset List 15 years ago. Initially prepared by two college professors as a witty way of telling their faculty colleagues to be aware of making dated references that incoming freshmen wouldn't understand, the list is now used around the world. This liberal arts college now has over a million online visitors each fall to read the new Mindset List for incoming freshmen, which this year is the Class of 2017.
A friend told me about the list, and I thought it was interesting and would share some of the highlights with you.
I apologize to our readers for the failure to include coverage of what appeared to be, judging by all the commentary across the Internet, the most important story in the world the past week: Miley Cyrus’ twerking.
The last two or three weeks I have received a higher-than-usual number of calls complaining that the News-Topic editorial page is nothing but liberal opinions. In particular, many of those complaining say we are constantly criticizing Gov. Pat McCrory and never have anything bad to say about President Barack Obama.
The complaints themselves were not unusual, but the run of calls was. Because I have tried to more or less have a balance of opinion on the News-Topic opinion pages since I arrived seven months ago, I feel a little defensive about such calls.
But I had to wonder.
You can feel it in the air. School is just around the corner, and with it comes new clothes, colorful tennis shoes, brightly colored backpacks and an array of school supplies.
But with it also comes a deep financial strain on many families’ pocketbooks. They cannot afford school supplies, much less the new school clothes. Many children will wear hand-me-downs, or garage sale and thrift store retreads.
When we were children and encountered a problem, we went to our parents, and they fixed it.
Parents can fix anything.
Which leads me to the reaction to Amazon founder Jeffrey Bezos buying the Washington Post.
What are the happy moments in your life? Hopefully you’ve had many in the past, with many more to come.
Two of my happiest moments involve my daughter. One when she was born nearly 29 years ago. The second is today, when she will marry the love of her life, Brendan Williams.
Boy, I sure messed that up.
I had a column for today addressing a reader’s question: “Why don’t you have anything nice to say about the governor?” The reader who called our publisher last week to ask that was someone who knew Gov. Pat McCrory personally and felt that the tide of editorials and opinion columns mentioning him were overwhelmingly negative and didn’t reflect the person she knows. She wanted some balance.
The column explained that McCrory's getting little positive press on the opinion page of the News-Topic, whether from local editorials or the editorials and columns we publish from other sources, was entirely a function of what opinion pages do and what has dominated the first seven months of McCrory’s tenure, which was a General Assembly with a Republican supermajority.
But then I blew the whole argument up with a colossally stupid mistake.
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.