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Opinion Roundup: A sharp right turn

Posted September 18

People gather on Aug. 1, 2017, to protest a plan to prohibit the UNC Center for Civil Rights from filing lawsuits. (Photo by Sarah Krueger)

Monday, Sept. 18, 2017 -- A roundup of opinion, commentary and analysis on the future of the UNC Center for Civil Rights, the status of Hurricane Matthew recovery money amid other storms, the two counties that may not be part of NC's new Innovative School District and more.

POLITICS & POLICY
A vote against justice (Winston-Salem Journal) -- The civil rights center at the University of North Carolina law school has served as a training ground for future lawyers and as a symbol of hope and justice in the state. The vote to ban the center from litigating cases will mar the school’s ability to serve its students and will leave a black eye on the state’s reputation.

UNC’s revamped board sends a clear message: change is on the way (Durham Herald-Sun analysis) -- Seats on the University of North Carolina system’s governing board are coveted and are typically held by politically connected business leaders — the movers and shakers of North Carolina. But the new 28-member board, which like the previous board was virtually all Republican, is smaller and has more members with close ties to the GOP-led legislature, including five former lawmakers and several others who earn their living as lobbyists.

JOHN NEWSOM: ‘We are by far the greatest, powerful, decent nation in the world’ – Joe Biden (Greensboro News & Record analysis) -- For the first time in more than 40 years, Joe Biden isn’t running for office. He still has a good stump speech game. For more than an hour, the former vice president covered the political waterfront, from tax policy to foreign affairs and bemoaned the loss of collegiality and consensus in Washington. Joe Biden and wife, Jill Biden, kicked off the 2017-18 season of the Bryan Series, the annual lecture series put on by Guilford College.

GARY ROBERTSON: Nixing labels, young lead surge in N.C. unaffiliateds (AP analysis) -- Unaffiliated voters reached a long-expected milestone this month in North Carolina when they became the second largest bloc of voters in the state, exceeding Republican registration for the first time.

TIM WHITE: And now the GOP is No. 3 (Fayetteville Observer column) -- Wow, that was fast. Just a few months ago, it looked as if it might take another year or two for our fastest-growing group of North Carolina voters to push the Republican Party into No. 3 position. But it happened in this month — somewhere between Sept. 2 and Sept. 9, according to State Board of Elections figures.

GARY ROBERTSON: Lawyers say 12 N.C. legislative districts remain illegal (AP analysis) -- Illegal and unconstitutional boundaries remain within North Carolina's new state legislative districts, lawyers who sued successfully over the old maps told federal judges Friday while asking for another redraw.

A.G. Stein says office lawyers to oversee redistricting cases, not me (AP analysis) -- North Carolina's top elected government attorney is staying out of legal spats over redistricting.

Josh Stein plans to speak out against gerrymandering. So how will he handle defense of NC maps? (Charlotte Observer analysis) -- NC Attorney General Josh Stein is taking a stand against partisan gerrymandering while his office defends NC lawmakers in redistricting challenges.

GENE SMITH: The view from the end of the pasture (Fayetteville Observer) -- What is it that North Carolina lawmakers expect a Republicanized judiciary to do for them? What goods and services will a host of newly minted GOP prosecutors and trial judges deliver? Those are the questions you’re left facing if you just drive around to the other end of the pasture and save yourself the trouble of tiptoeing among the cow pies. But maybe you like a bucolic stroll now and again. OK then, lace up your brogans and let’s go.

MIKE DEBONIS: GOP takes aim at state-and-local-tax deductions — raises ire of Republicans in blue states (Washington Post analysis) -- GOP leaders have made clear the SALT deduction is on the table as they rewrite the tax code — but internal dissent threatens the effort. “I intend to fight it with everything I know how,” said Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-N.J.), in whose district 43 percent of tax filers claim SALT deductions.​

JONATHAN COHEN: U.S. has a lottery problem. But it’s not the people buying tickets (Washington Post column) – States enacted lotteries to avoid hard choices between program cuts and tax increases.

RICHARD CARVER: Triad prepares to cast long-shot bid for Amazon headquarters (Winston-Salem Journal analysis) -- Triad economic officials have placed a combined hand on their cast for the latest economic recruitment holy grail — a second Amazon headquarters with a potential of 50,000 employees. Site selection experts and economists project the Triad as a long shot to win the prized $5 billion project.

TAYLOR BATTEN: Jennifer Roberts just made Kenny Smith’s life a whole lot harder (Charlotte Observer column) -- Kenny Smith could perhaps have beaten Jennifer Roberts. Against Vi Lyles, he faces a stiffer challenge.

Candidates, you are creative. Now show us. (Charlotte Observer) -- Charlotte needs creativity from its leaders. Here’s our challenge to them.

JOHN HINTON: Hate or heritage? Winston-Salem's Confederate monument remains controversial (Winston-Salem Journal analysis) -- Former Lt. Col. Alfred Moore Waddell, a former Confederate Calvary officer, was the keynote speaker. He had served as a member in the U.S. House during the 1870s. Many modern-day historians regard Waddell as a white supremacist, mostly for his actions in the bloody 1898 Wilmington Riot, which is regarded as the country's only successful coup d'etat.​

LEE FRANCIS: On hate and heritage (Fayetteville Observer column) -- Tuesday marks the one year anniversary of the day on which I stepped on the American flag. In the year following flag-gate, I have lived in three states — North Carolina, New York (Brooklyn), and Louisiana. I have returned to the classroom, but this time, as a law student. Like me, our country has experienced similar pangs within the past year. Our struggles have included division regarding Confederate heritage, Black Lives Matter, and the mission to “Make America Great Again.”

LAVERDRICK SMITH: NC triathlon canceled after controversy over Trump name (Charlotte Observer analysis) -- A triathlon that was scheduled to take place at a Trump National golf course has been canceled after Trump’s name was removed from the event.

CELIA RIVENBARK: Trump relationship gets built (Wilmington Star-News column) -- The relationship was off to a fine start. She met him at a dog park in the neighborhood near her brand new apartment; he was the right age, looked preppy-cute, but not to the point of being obnoxious, and was just the right amount of attentive to his labradoodle puppy. He admired her dog, a recent acquisition, and, truth be told, a shelter mutt.

ALLEN JOHNSON: President dishes out tweets better than he takes them (Greensboro News & Record column) -- The White House’s fevered outrage last week at a series of tweets by ESPN host Jemele Hill is so hypocritical it’s almost funny.

TRAVIS FAIN: Did commuting state troopers violate truthfulness policy? (WRAL-TV analysis) -- In 2009, the State Highway Patrol fired a trooper for lying about how he lost his hat. Eight high-ranking members of the patrol recently fibbed to state auditors about where they lived and their commutes.

ANNA DOUGLAS, STEVE HARRISON & FRED CLASEN-KELLY: Charlotte spent $380K to review CMPD’s handling of protests. Where’s the report? (Charlotte Observer analysis) -- Charlotte hired the Police Foundation to critique Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police after September 2016’s shooting of Keith Lamont Scott.

FRED CLASEN-KELLY, STEVE HARRISON & JANE WESTER: Chief says CMPD has changed. Critics say reforms didn’t happen (Charlotte Observer analysis) -- One year after Keith Lamont Scott police shooting, activists and some public officials complain that several major police reforms have stalled.

MATT LECLERCQ: Observer investigates North Carolina child deaths (Fayetteville Observer column) -- These are the stories that make you sick to your stomach. A 5-month-old boy, his arms broken, killed by a blow to the head. Children who are smothered, poisoned, drowned or shot to death. Babies who die from neglect, their parents strung out on drugs or suffering from mental illness.

Always dangerous (Fayetteville Observer) -- We’re saddened every time a soldier dies, whether it’s on a battlefield or somewhere else. Being a soldier is dangerous, a great deal of the time. We were reminded of that last week when Staff Sgt. Alexander P. Dalida died during demolition training that was part of the Special Forces Qualification Course.

‘Yes’ to Brunch Bill Helps Our Visitors (Southern Pines Pilot) -- Credit goes where credit’s due: It took them close to three months, but Southern Pines and Aberdeen finally took decisive positive action for the tourism industry this past week and approved moving Sunday alcohol sales back to 10 a.m. from noon.

Justice for Walnut Tree (Winston-Salem Journal) -- Residents of the Walnut Tree community in Stokes County have a raw deal, receiving problem-plagued water and sewer service from the town of Walnut Cove but not getting their say at the voting booth. Walnut Tree residents have long wanted Walnut Cove to resolve those problems and others,

JOHN RAILEY: ‘They deserve to live here with dignity’ (Winston-Salem Journal column) -- They’ve grown up in their beloved United States, investing their sweat and tears in this land like so many of the rest of us. It chills them down deep that some in this country are cold on them and would cast them out.

ROSE HAMID: What hurricanes teach us about being welcoming (Charlotte Observer column) -- Irma, Harvey evacuees faced similar challenges as refugees, immigrants.

ENERGY & ENVIRONMENT
FEMA Diverts N.C. Matthew Recovery Money (Coastal Review) -- FEMA has diverted to the recent Harvey and Irma victims the about $134 million owed to dozens of North Carolina counties for repairs after Hurricane Matthew almost a year ago.

JIM WARREN: Replace fossil fuels, save billions and slow the climate crisis (Fayetteville Observer column) -- With countless challenges buffeting our society, I regret to report that the global climate crisis is storming ahead as if it were the only demand for our wisdom and collective action. Fortunately, two practical opportunities are available, and North Carolina has a pressing duty to start making good decisions.

Stop the sniping about climate change (Charlotte Observer) -- Rush Limbaugh, Florida professor draw attention away from how we can confront climate change issues.

Covering our eyes won’t save any lives (Greensboro News & Record) -- Ignoring climate change won’t make it go away.

Sea-level rise too risky for us to ignore (Wilmington Star-News) -- Water began bubbling up from storm drains at high tide in Miami Beach long before Hurricane Irma took aim at Florida. Sea level rise is not an abstract topic there. The city of Miami Beach is launching a $100 million project to raise roads, install pumps and revamp sewer systems. But now is not the time to talk about rising sea levels or climate change.

TIM KAINE: Congress should help communities prepare better for hurricanes (Norfolk Virginian-Pilot column) – As we watched hurricanes Harvey and Irma devastate Southeast Texas and Florida and prayed for the safety of the communities in their paths, those of us from coastal states couldn’t help thinking, “There but for the grace of God go I.”

Time to invest more in flood protection (Fayetteville Observer) -- It feels like a bait-and-switch con. We asked for help, were promised help and started getting help from Washington as we rebuild from the devastating floods of Hurricane Matthew. The Federal Emergency Management Agency committed to spending nearly $135 million to help North Carolina to rebuild roads, dams and bridges, repair public facilities and improve their storm-proofing for future floods. In many cases, projects were underway, with the expectation that the costs would be covered by federal aid. And then, suddenly, the aid was gone.

LAURA KUSISTO & ARIAN CAMPO-FLORES: Early Lesson From Irma: Hurricane, Building Code Regulations Work (Wall Street Journal analysis) -- Homeowners in Florida are finding that homes built to the stricter building codes seem to have fared better during Hurricane Irma.

JEFF HAMPTON: Shelly Island is no longer an island ... for now (Norfolk Virginian-Pilot column) -- Shelly Island may not be an island anymore – for now. The massive offshore sandbar that gained national attention, and a name, after it formed in the spring has continued to grow – it now connects at low tide to Cape Point, which belongs to Cape Hatteras National Seashore. A stream of water maybe 20 feet wide and 6 inches deep flowed between the two land bodies at high tide this week. It was fun while it lasted – tourism officials believe it helped increase the number of visitors and seasonal revenue.

MARK HOLMBERG: Storm-stirred ocean bestows gifts (Wilmington Star-News column) -- The beautiful post-Irma sunset Tuesday on Wrightsville Beach capped our kindest encounter with the devastating storm. Big, good surf late in the day (after wind and rain) and the best shelling in years, many of us on the beach agreed.

GenX and the unanswered questions (Fayetteville Observer) -- So far, the state’s response to the discovery of chemicals from the Chemours plant in the public water supply has been strong. Environmental officials are getting testing done, taking legal action against Chemours, holding public hearings and informational meetings and generally being as transparent as we’ve seen from government in some time. Still, the experts are shrugging too often.

BENJAMIN SCHACHTMAN: Chemours cooperates with DEQ in public, but private letter tells a different story (Port City Daily analysis) -- Chemours has accused the DEQ of acting in secrecy, violating its constitutional rights and says the regulatory agency has not proven it has the authority to stop it from dumping certain chemicals into the Cape Fear River.

TRAVIS FAIN: Chemours blasts state's GenX efforts as secret, arbitrary, 'unsupported factually' (WRAL-TV analysis) -- The company that has discharged chemicals into the Cape Fear River describes itself as a good corporate citizen "stymied by DEQ at every turn."

DAVE DEWITT: EPA Will Reconsider Coal Ash Safeguards (WUNC-FM analysis) -- The Environmental Protection Agency has announced it will reconsider safeguards the Obama Administration put in place to regulate coal ash disposal. The EPA granted the petition made by Utility Solid Waste Activities Group and AES Puerto Rico LLP. The former is a lobbying group based in Washington that represents power companies, including Duke Energy. Environmental groups reacted strongly to the news that the EPA had granted the petitions to reconsider coal-ash storage rules.

JOHN DOWNEY: Australian coal-ash recycling company putting U.S. HQ in Charlotte region — for now (Charlotte Business Journal column) -- Australian company Nu-Rock Technology, what processes coal ash into bricks and other construction blocks is establishing its U.S. headquarters — for now — in the small Lincoln County community of Denver.

Pipeline is still a cause for concern (Norfolk Virginian-Pilot) – There is ample cause for caution and care when it comes to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, the proposed 600-mile conduit that would bring natural gas from Harrison County, W.Va., to Virginia and North Carolina.

EDUCATION
KELLY HINCHCLIFFE: Durham, Johnston schools ask to be excluded from NC's new Innovative School District (WRAL-TV analysis) -- As state education leaders try to decide which low-performing public schools should be part of North Carolina's new Innovative School District, school leaders in Durham and Johnston counties have one message for them – don't pick us.

ALEX GRANADOS: Connections between law and education (EdNC analysis) -- When people think about public education, they rarely consider the team of legal experts behind school boards, district, education leaders, and elected officials. It takes legal acumen to keep public school systems running. Alex Granados talks with Eva DuBuisson, an education law attorney with Tharrington Smith LLP, about the role the law plays in public education.

State deserves an F for its testing fetish (Greensboro News & Record) -- What a wasted opportunity.

PETER BERKOWITZ: What’s the Point of a Liberal Education? Few top colleges explain their purpose to students (Wall Street Journal column) -- I reviewed the course listings at five top private universities: Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, the University of Chicago and Yale; six high-ranking public research universities: North Carolina, UC Berkeley, UCLA, Michigan and Virginia; and five distinguished liberal arts colleges: Amherst, Middlebury, Swarthmore, Wellesley and Williams. Few of the liberal arts and sciences faculty at these schools offer courses that explore the origins, structure, substance and aims of the education that they supposedly deliver.

WILLIAM HARRIS: 125 years of opportunity at Winston-Salem State (Winston-Salem Journal column) -- Simon Green Atkins, education visionary and social justice advocate, had a bold dream to create an institution where every student would meet the challenges of their day, and where students were equipped with an education designed to intellectually prepare the “head, hand, and heart.”

HEALTH
STEPHANIE CARSON: NC Hospitals Offer Medicaid Solution (Public News Service analysis) -- It's the first of its kind in North Carolina. A coalition of 11 systems have submitted a proposal to the state to offer a provider-owned health plan for Medicaid beneficiaries. The plan, known as Provider-Led and Patient-Centered Care and Presbyterian Healthcare Services, is intended to meet the state's goal of finding a more predictable budget for Medicaid costs.

RICHARD CARVER: CDC study shows nearly 32 percent of NC adults obese (Winston-Salem Journal analysis) -- The number of adult North Carolinians considered obese has taken an upward turn after remaining relatively unchanged for the past seven years. Of the state’s 7.92 million adults, about 31.8 percent, or 2.52 million, are considered obese, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s behavioral risk factor surveillance system for 2017. The rate has been at 30 percent most of this decade.

ROSE HOBAN: Use of antibiotics falls in N.C. (Greensboro News & Record column) -- Fewer North Carolinians are getting and filling antibiotic prescriptions over the past five years, and, according to infectious disease experts, that’s a good thing.

Innovation, patience, money needed for opioid crisis (Elizabeth City Daily Advance) -- Four Pasquotank County residents have died so far this year from opioid overdoses, three fewer than last year. While 11 deaths may not seem like a lot compared to the scores of deaths from disease and other causes, it’s an alarming number​​​​.​​​

​AND MORE
Bonnie Angelo, political journalist who wrote about moms of U.S. presidents, dies at 93 (Washington Post obit) – Winston-Salem native Bonnie Angelo cannonballed to the forefront of political journalism with a ferocious work ethic, a spitfire personality and a knack for winning the trust of the powerful. Journalist Nan Robertson of the New York Times once called the diminutive Ms. Angelo, with her Southern drawl, “ninety-eight pounds of pepper out of North Carolina.”

ALEXIS COE: William Howard Taft Is Still Stuck in the Tub (New York Times column) -- The best gossip, of course, always contains a grain of truth. President William Howard Taft was, indeed, very fond of bathtubs. He had an extra large one installed in the White House and on several ships, including the cruiser North Carolina, on which he sailed to Panama to oversee the construction of the canal in 1912.

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