Urban vs. Rural. The Divide Is Real.

Urban vs. Rural. The divide is real.

The Wall Street Journal published an article last week titled, The Divide Between America's Prosperous Cities and Struggling Small Towns---in 20 Charts. And it's well worth a look from North Carolina law makers.

Monday News: The year to stand up

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POOR PEOPLE'S CAMPAIGN SETS OUT GOALS FOR 2018: The NAACP teamed up with the Poor People’s Campaign at Pullen Memorial Baptist Church to ring in the new year Sunday night with a renewed sense of passion for long-standing issues on their agenda. Watch Night service is an African-American tradition that has been around for over 100 years, but a mix of people attended Sunday night’s service. The Poor People’s Campaign viewed the service as a fresh call to action. The goal was to highlight issues the organization has always focused on, including poverty, racism, environmental destruction and other controversial topics. The organization also called for everyone in attendance to renew their commitment to the cause. “In every age, people have to decide to stand up just like they did on the first Watch Night. They had to say ‘we’re going to stand up and take on the system of slavery.’ We have to stand up and take on the systems of oppression. We do not have the luxury of sitting down,” said Rev. William Barber.
http://www.wral.com/-we-have-to-stand-up-poor-people-s-campaign-rings-in-2018-with-renewed-passion-f...

Sunday News: From the Editorial pages

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UNC BOARD'S IDEOLOGICAL BIAS EXPOSED IN COURTING PRINCETON'S CONSERVATIVE CENTER: It is of questionable wisdom, not to mention fairness, for the UNC Board to complain of ideological bias and close some campus-based centers while at the same time actively courting another, clearly ideological center. Does anybody on the board worry about this inconsistency? It is particularly troubling to consider that such a center might be publicly funded or carry the endorsement of the state. As it is imagined now, it is not the place to spend the taxpayers, tuition or student-fee dollars. This board is acting with the kind of fiat that we’re used to seeing from the General Assembly. Sure, the board has the power and authority. But there should be a sincere effort to demonstrate a need, and desire to build support – in this case from a campus, its students, faculty and administrators.
http://www.wral.com/editorial-unc-board-s-ideological-bias-exposed-in-courting-princeton-s-conservat...

Dereliction of duty

What happens when a legislator votes for a bill she or he cannot possibly have read? Isn't there some sort of legal challenge that could be mounted by citizens charging dereliction of duty? Rather than saying, "We use elections to decide such things," how about saying, "This is a matter for the courts. Some things are fundamental. including carrying out the basic responsibilities of the position to which you have been elected. Reading bills is one of them. We fine you $100,000 and declare that you stand for reelection in the next cycle."

Judge sides with environmentalists in Blounts Creek ruling

Score one for the good guys:

The court ruling can on December 18 when Judge Joshua Willey Jr. overturned the lower court decision and vacated or annulled the twelve million gallons per day mine discharge permit given to the Martine Marietta Materials by the Division of Water Resources.

Judge Willey also ruled that the Sound Rivers and community members had the right to bring a permit challenge to court. The foundation said they worked hard to protect the public’s right to access the courts when the regulatory agencies get it wrong. The court win will protect Blounts Creek.

This is a pretty big victory, folks. On par with successfully shutting down the Titan Cement project, both of which involved limestone mining and the ruination of hundreds (if not thousands) of acres of critical Eastern NC wetlands. Interesting side-note: This case was originally given to Junior Berger, after daddy got him an appointment as an administrative law judge. But Little Phil ran for Court of Appeals back in November 2016, and after daddy got his name pushed to the top of the voting ballot, Junior stole that seat from the highly-qualified Linda Stephens. While that election was a kick in the pants, it very well may have paved the way for the savior of Blounts Creek.

Saturday News: So much for philanthropy

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NEW TAX LAW COULD DEAL DEATH BLOW TO CHARITIES AND NON-PROFITS: Taxpayers claim charitable contributions, along with mortgage interest, property taxes and some other expenses, as deductions from their taxable income if they itemize and the total exceeds the standard deduction. For some people – particularly those with higher incomes – the deduction for charitable gifts has served as an important incentive for giving because it helps reduce taxes owed. Operators of some nonprofits are hopeful Congress may still act. If not, and if charitable giving drops $13 billion nationally as one economist has predicted, North Carolina charities could be expected to take a big hit. So could the people who depend on them. In the state, Heinen said, nonprofits collect and spend roughly $42.5 billion a year and employ about 10 percent of the workforce. In the Triangle, they include Duke University Medical Center and WakeMed hospitals.
http://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/national-politics/article192195079.html

Notable environmental developments during 2017

Topping the list is a new Governor who actually cares about it:

Molly Diggins, executive director of the North Carolina Sierra Club, said the most noticeable change in 2017 was definitely the new governor. Cooper, she said, has been consistently showing leadership on environmental issues, like offshore drilling since taking office. “Second to that is the end of the reign of terror at the Division of Environmental Quality and the return of staff being able to do their jobs and being able to have transparency and accessibility in their work again,” Diggins said. The department had become secretive under Regan’s predecessor, Donald van der Vaart, she said, with professional staff reports subject to rewrite to satisfy policy objectives. Regan has done a better job of transparency and outreach, particularly in rural parts of the state.

Grady McCallie, senior policy analyst for the North Carolina Conservation Network, agreed that the change within DEQ’s top ranks has been important. “We have an administration that cares about good, science-based policy and isn’t trying to smother what their agency scientists are telling them with political overlay,” he said. “Every administration considers politics, but this administration seems to be listening to its civil servants and longtime staff and that’s a huge change.”

And it's a job that has been made monumentally more difficult by the NC GOP's approach to funding. Not satisfied to allow Cooper and/or Regan to manage DEQ how they see fit, Republicans have tailored their budget line items to whittle down the staff in certain areas, while blocking the shifting of resources to fix those shortfalls. It was in the midst of these budget debates that GenX contamination of the Cape Fear was initially reported:

Friday News: Death sentence

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NC PRISON GUARDS FREQUENTLY SKIP INSPECTION ROUNDS LEADING TO UNNECESSARY INJURIES AND DEATHS: Early one winter morning in 2012, officers at an eastern North Carolina prison found inmate Willis Gravley hanging from a bed sheet. He’d been dead for hours. His death raised a question: Why didn’t officers at Bertie Correctional Institution stop Gravley from killing himself – or why, at least, didn’t they find his body earlier? Prison investigators later found that officers in Gravley’s unit had been skipping a crucial part of their job for years: doing the required 30-minute security checks. Instead, officers falsified prison records to indicate they had made their rounds, according to dismissal letters issued to some officers involved. In some of North Carolina’s most dangerous prisons, officers routinely fail to make their rounds, a Charlotte Observer investigation found.
http://www.newsobserver.com/news/local/crime/article192023889.html

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