Efforts to reduce the local unemployment rate are like trying to lose weight for the long haul: It can seem maddeningly slow, and you might wonder whether everything you’re doing is actually working.
Pay attention only to legislative leaders' methods, not their pet issues, and you might think the legislature was still being run by Democrats.
Didn’t the Republicans promise something better? For decades they complained about Democratic arrogance, back-room dealing, shady procedural moves, bills written (or overhauled) in secret, oddly coincidental timing – and those were just the minor complaints.
But they just can’t help themselves. Now that they are in power, secret power plays are so much easier than an open, democratic process that they just can’t help acting like the Democrats they criticized.
At least as far as this applies to one bill the Senate passed Tuesday, Republican Gov. Pat McCrory agrees.
Someone should show the public the math that says the new formula for distributing transportation money will result in more projects because on its face, it just makes no sense at all.
Whether it will or won’t is now a moot point. The bill passed, and Gov. Pat McCrory signed it Wednesday, so right or wrong, here it comes. Or doesn’t, if the math is wrong -- or fictional.
Gov. Pat McCrory caused a little bit of a stir earlier this month by referring to the “Moral Monday” protesters – who gather at the Legislative Building every Monday and stay until some of them get arrested – as “outsiders.” Most of the outrage we saw was at the use of the term, particular among that portion of protest sympathizers who are lifelong North Carolinians.
We didn’t think much of it. In fact, we had nearly forgotten about it.
And then we learned that McCrory was born in 1956 in Columbus, Ohio, and his family did not move to Greensboro until the mid-1960s. And that's not all.
Lenoir Fire Chief Ken Briscoe said during Tuesday afternoon’s meeting of the Committee of the Whole that in the intense storms we have had recently, emergency crews often must scramble from fallen tree to flooded street to erect barricades, and only after all are blocked off do they have time to cycle back and see what can be done.
But an unmanned barricade apparently is a puzzlement or even an irritant to some drivers, who get out of their cars and move it or else drive around it and continue on toward the hazard, Briscoe said.
Before members of the Lenoir City Council meet this afternoon to adopt a budget whose final outcome is greatly uncertain because of legislative malfeasance in Raleigh, maybe they should read some short fiction.
There is some solid research that shows that the reading won’t make the budget any better, but it might make the council members feel better about their predicament.
Researchers at the University of Toronto conducted an experiment in which 100 students were given either a piece of short fiction or a factual essay to read; all of the work was by accomplished writers. After reading, each student was given a survey measuring their emotional need for certainty and stability – they had to agree or disagree with statements such as “I dislike questions that can be answered in many different ways.”
Those who read the short fiction gave answers expressing less need for order and more comfort with ambiguity.
It’s all but certain now that local governments will have to fly blind into the start of the new budget year.
House Speaker Thom Tillis, R-Mecklenberg, said Thursday that the General Assembly likely would pass a resolution next week to let the state keep operating under the terms of the current year’s budget even after June 30, the end of the fiscal year.
That’s an option that municipalities can’t take without incurring significant pain for either themselves or taxpayers.
All the talk among legislative leaders in Raleigh is about tax cuts.
All the headlines locally translate to job cuts.
Would news organizations please stop saying things such as this, from an Associated Press story: “The GOP controls the state’s executive and legislative branches simultaneously for the first time since 1870.”
While it is technically true, the repetition of this fact implies an entirely misleading point.
The person in the City-County Chambers on Monday night who had the worst job was Tony Helton, the county finance officer.
Helton was caught in the crossfire between two camps of the Caldwell County Board of Commissioners, one advocating the conservative theory of governance that says you should prudently note risks and avoid debt, the other advocating the conservative theory of governance that says tax rates should be as low as is manageable.
It’s a strange sight to see politicians stepping aside for matters of principle, but it has happened twice now in less than a month.
State Sen. Bob Rucho, R-Mecklenberg, resigned Thursday as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, essentially because Senate leader Phil Berger scrapped the tax-reform plan that Rucho authored – and that the full Senate had already approved – in favor of a less sweeping plan closer to what House leaders and Gov. Pat McCrory support.
His resignation came less than a month after Rep. Robert Brawley, R-Iredell, resigned as chairman of the House Finance Committee because House Speaker Thom Tillis had overruled Brawley on a number of issues in ways that chafed Brawley’s sense of what’s right.
State Sen. Thom Goolsby, a Republican from Wilmington, must feel a little bit like Mitt Romney.
Goolsby has been taking some flak for an opinion column he wrote in which he referred to the “Moral Mondays” protests, in which people opposed to the Republican majority’s legislative agenda have tried to disrupt business at the General Assembly, as “Moron Mondays” and to the protesters as loonies and “aged hippies” and compared them a circus act.
The News-Topic has never seen a letter to the editor quite like one run this week by The Sylva Herald, southwest of Asheville, that was sent in by reader Mary Adams after news that Jackson County had paid consultant BCF $50,000 to come up with a new “brand” for the county. (As far as we’ve ever been able to determine, a “brand” is not much different from what in the old days we would have called a motto, except more expensive.)
That brand turned out to be this: “Play on.”
Adams wrote, in part: “What many don’t realize is that both these words come from Shakespeare’s ‘Twelfth Night,’ lending Jackson County’s new brand not only fun but culture. And the county was wise to act quickly, before all the Shakespearean quotations were gone.”
One idea proposed this week in a column by Christopher Hill, the director of the North Carolina Justice Center’s Education and Law Project, would further decrease the importance of what happens in the classroom. Hill was suggesting ways to correct the overreliance on high-stakes tests, but among them was the idea that “students who are less motivated and do not participate by handing in homework or putting effort in class work” should still be allowed to be promoted to the next grade if they pass a proficiency test.
That makes utterly no sense.
News that the government has been secretly collecting the telephone records of millions of U.S. customers of Verizon under a top-secret court order must have come as a letdown for members of the Washington press corps. They thought the government was waging a quiet war on a free press when it took the phone records of a Fox News reporter. Now it turns out the government is doing it to everyone.
That this is an outrageous intrusion on civil liberties ought to go without saying.
That it would happen eventually, however, was completely predictable.
Who do our state’s colleges and universities exist to serve? The popular short answer is their customers.
But who are their customers? Students? Parents? Potential employers? College professors and other instructors certainly can tell you that students and their parents think they are the customers, demanding a high level of service and constant access.
But their view is at odds with the one that put Gov. Pat McCrory in headlines back in February, when in a radio interview he criticized liberal arts courses that he perceived as having no benefit in terms of getting a job. He said he would propose legislation to change higher education funding “not based on how many butts (are) in seats but how many of those butts can get jobs.”
Not often does a politician in a position of power so publicly burn a bridge the way that state Rep. Robert Brawley, R-Iredell, did on Wednesday.
Announcing that he was stepping down as chairman of the House Finance Committee, Brawley issued a public letter to the Republican House speaker, Thom Tillis, that WRAL accurately described as “blistering.”
If there are any NASCAR fans left who have hope that there remains a trace of the sport’s soul, Bruton Smith is here to implore them to abandon all hope.
Smith, whose Speedway Motorsports makes more money off of NASCAR than anyone or anything without the name France attached to it somewhere, is one of the money-grubbing sons of Mammon who bought the North Wilkesboro Speedway in 1995 for the sole purpose of cutting out its heart -- taking its two Winston Cup races to other, bigger tracks where the races would make more money.
In that same spirit, Smith told Charlotte television station WBTV last week that he likely will move one of the two races -- the October one, deep in the championship chase -- that are now held at Charlotte Motor Speedway to Las Vegas. Why? He was crystal clear.
The state Senate proposes eliminating the part of the law creating the state lottery that requires spending its proceeds on four educational purposes.
When the lottery was created in 2005, the General Assembly said that half the proceeds should go toward class-size reduction and pre-kindergarten, 40 percent for school construction, and the rest for college scholarships for needy students.
Now budget-writer Sen. Pete Brunstetter, R-Forsyth, says it makes sense to eliminate the legal language because no one follows it.
Are the original Charlotte Hornets far enough in the past for us to feel nostalgic about them?
Michael Jordan has asked the NBA to let him change the name of his Charlotte Bobcats to the Charlotte Hornets, the name that was taken by Charlotte’s first NBA team in 1988.
Looking over a list of the changes proposed by the state Senate in its budget proposal for fiscal 2013-14, the mind reels.
There is too much in it begging for commentary. Trying to cover it all would be too confusing. Here are a couple things – or 22, depending on how you county them – that caught our eye.
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
That’s cornerstone wisdom passed down through generations.
We might suggest a corollary: If you need a tune-up, don’t buy a new car.
But at first blush, that seems to be the approach that Senate Bill 127 takes toward the state’s economic development efforts.
The state NAACP has pledged a weekly civil-disobedience campaign called “Moral Mondays” at the General Assembly in protest of what the civil rights group calls the extremist agenda of the legislature’s Republican leadership.
Risking arrest while marching, standing or sitting in place in protest is a time-honored element of non-violent, civil disobedience to draw attention to a cause and demonstrate how strongly those protesting feel about it.
But we question whether the cause in this case is clear and tangible enough for this tactic to be effective.
Legislators are free to spend all their time passing resolutions in favor of sunshine and puppy dogs if they like, but it’s not a useful way to spend their time.
A current bill under consideration in the Senate is not quite that frivolous, but it’s not far off because it would accomplish nothing.
The bill says students can pray, express religious viewpoints, possess or distribute religious literature and organize religious groups as long as they don't disrupt schools.
In other words, it says students have the same First Amendment rights they already have.
In theory, toll roads in urban areas could free up tax money for rural counties. But under a plan like Gov. Pat McCrory’s that would lock in 40 percent of funding for “statewide priorities” and would leave just 20 percent of funding to be split among districts for local priorities (rural legislators on a House committee tentatively got that increased to 30 percent on Tuesday), toll revenue would free no tax money for use elsewhere, only ensure that urban areas have plenty of money while everyone else waits.