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Opinion Roundup: Long-running power struggle heads to N.C.'s highest court

Posted August 28

This is a shot of the entrance area to the N.C. Legislative Building.

Monday, Aug. 28, 2017 -- A roundup of opinion, commentary and analysis on the court case that could decide oversight of N.C. elections, a string of high-level state education departures, the real toll that opioid abuse is taking on local communities and more.

POLITICS & POLICY
STEPHANIE CARSON: Fairness of Future Elections at Issue at N.C. Supreme Court (Public News Service column) -- The N.C. Supreme Court will hear a case that could determine the future of the state's election commission, along with other policies. Cooper versus Berger and Moore is one of several challenges filed by Gov. Roy Cooper and others against conservative legislative leaders as a result of their repeated efforts to limit his powers after his election victory last November. Bob Hall with Democracy North Carolina said changing the structure of the State Board of Elections could have a long-term impact on the state.

EMERY DALESIO: Top N.C. court takes up lawmakers stripping governor's powers (AP analysis) -- North Carolina's highest court for the first time is wading into the long-running effort by Republican legislators to strip away as many powers as possible from Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper.

ROBERT BARNES: After losses on voting laws and districting, Texas turns to Supreme Court (Washington Post analysis) -- The decision retained a portion of the law that could put states back under the pre-clearance requirements — for up to 10 years — if courts find the states had engaged in intentional discrimination. “It’s no surprise the issue of ‘bail-in’ is coming up in Texas,” said Richard Hasen, a voting law expert at the University of California in Irvine. “It and North Carolina are the places most aggressive” in passing and enforcing new laws after the Shelby County decision was handed down, he said.

‘Garbage Juice’ bill suddenly turns sour (Greensboro News & Record) -- Gov. Roy Cooper’s most recent vetoes are still standing, some more firmly than others.

JOHN MCGOWAN: UNC Chancellor Carol Folt’s baffling stand on Silent Sam (Durham Herald-Sun column) -- The University was handed a get out of jail free card by Gov. Roy Cooper – and declined to use it. What?​

DAVID A. GRAHAM: Local Officials Want to Remove Confederate Monuments—but States Won't Let Them (The Atlantic column) -- Laws preventing the removal of statues raise questions not only about historical legacy but also about local control and public safety.

Move the Confederate statues (Norfolk Virginian-Pilot) – Johnny Reb casts a long shadow on Norfolk from his perch atop a shaft of granite in the center of Main Street.

CHRIS LARSEN: Current Events Would Disgust Both Washington and Lee (Southern Pines Pilot column) -- If denouncing Nazis is the easiest “gimme-putt” in politics, the president’s first attempt lipped out, and his comeback putt has rolled off the green.

Statues? We can decide (Fayetteville Observer) -- It’s sad to learn that Fayetteville police feel the need to conduct extra patrols around the city’s two Confederate memorials. Sad but a sign of our turbulent times. We’re grateful to have avoided, so far, angry protests, confrontations or mindless vandalism here. We hope it stays that way. If we had our way, we’d keep both of our monuments.

BILL WADFORD: Don’t let the alt-anythings control the conversation (Fayetteville Observer column) -- Neo-Nazis, KKK, Antifa and neo-Marxists are all peas from the same totalitarian pod. The fact they are so-called alt-right and alt-left are just media creations. How can that be? Are they not depicted as occupying opposite ends of the political spectrum? Yes and that’s the rub with the political spectrum being depicted as a straight line. The political spectrum is not linear; it is more accurately depicted as a circle.

BILL KIRBY JR.: Protest of statues not a license to destroy property (Fayetteville Observer column) -- D.B. McCallister says the Confederate statue at the intersection of Morganton and Fort Bragg roads is a part of history. Was when he was a kid. Still is, he says. “I’m absolutely disgusted about what happened in Durham,” he says in an email about protesters who on Aug. 14 toppled a Confederate soldier monument at the Bull City courthouse.

Farm bill must keep fighting hunger (Winston-Salem Journal) -- We were pleased to learn that U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx paid a visit to our local food bank last week. And we hope the visit encourages her to keep intact money for fighting hunger in the 2017-18 House Farm bill.

JOHN RAILEY: Sessions and our other employees in Washington tune us out (Winston-Salem Journal column) -- When U.S. Attorney General Jeffrey Beauregard “Jeff” Sessions III came to Winston-Salem the other day, he took no questions from the press. I tried.

CELIA RIVENBARK: Throwing shade on Hillary’s new book (Wilmington Star-News column) -- Hillary Clinton’s newest book, with the shell-shocked sounding title of “What Happened?,” will “drop” as they say in a couple of weeks. So why do I feel like ducking? That’s easy. As the kids say: “Too soon.” A book that promises a frog-in-paraffin style dissection of Clinton’s ill-fated 2016 presidential campaign seems painful and, well, wholly unnecessary.

EDUCATION
KELLY HINCHCLIFFE: Turnover 'higher than usual' as more top officials leave NC education agency (WRAL-TV analysis) -- The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction is preparing to say goodbye to more senior staff members, the latest in a string of high-level departures at the agency this year.

School board, not city, needs to act on de facto segregation (Wilmington Star-News) -- Ed Higgins, chairman of the New Hanover County school board, has a suggestion for how to create greater diversity in the schools he helps lead: The city of Wilmington needs to change its housing policies. “It’s going to be impossible to have diversity in the schools if you don’t have diversity in the city,” Higgins said. “If the city is so interested in trying to create diversity, then they need to take on that task, that challenge.”

MOLLY WORTHEN: Memorize That Poem! (New York Times column) -- Before the invention of writing, the only way to possess a poem was to memorize it. Long after scrolls and folios supplemented our brains, court poets, priests and wandering bards recited poetry to entertain and connect with the divine. A poem learned by heart could be a lifeline — to grapple with overwhelming emotion or preserve sanity amid the brutalities of prison and warfare. Yet poetry memorization has become deeply unfashionable, an outmoded practice that many teachers and parents — not to mention students — consider too boring, mindless and just plain difficult for the modern classroom. Molly Worthen is assistant professor of history at UNC-Chapel Hill.

VALERIE STRAUSS: Why it’s a big mistake to run a school like a business (like Trump wants to do) (Washington Post column) -- For years many policymakers in education have been making decisions about how to “fix” public schools and assess the “value” a teacher brings to student achievement that don’t really do either. The idea has been to apply principles from the business world — where competition is the key — to a civic institution, the public education system. It hasn’t worked in the way supporters had hoped. There have been serious consequences for students, schools and teachers, and in this post, one educator talks about the real effects on real teachers.

ANTHONY HOWARD: Wakefield HS Students Reflect About a Day That Inspired New Outlooks and Change (WUNC-FM analysis) -- Here’s a list of senior pranks we’ve seen in recent years at Wakefield High School: tying a trash can to a flagpole, scattering balloons on the floor, placing a painted cow on top of the roof. But, what happened this year took pranks to another level.

HEALTH
Join the fight to end addiction (Rocky Mount Telegram) -- In today’s edition begins a series of stories on a deadly killer that has gripped the nation and hasn’t spared the Twin Counties in its toll. As Telegram staff writer Amelia Harper reports, opioids are commonly found in many of our medicine cabinets and addiction to this lethal drug does not discriminate. All ages, genders, races and households of every socio-economic status have been hit by this epidemic. The worst mistake we can make is to shrug off these stories and tell ourselves, “Not my city, not my family, not me.”

AMELIA HARPER: Opioid crisis affects community health, Part 2 (Rocky Mount Telegram analysis) -- The opioid crisis does not just affect individuals but also impacts the health care and social welfare of every county in the state. Opioid use disorder also accounts for a growing number of patients suffering mental health issues.

BILL LUCIA: A Grim Portrait of Public Health in Appalachia (Route Fifty column) -- New research finds the region is lagging in dozens of health metrics, including mortality rates caused by ailments like heart disease, cancer and stroke.

MICHAEL ABRAMOWITZ: Funding cuts jeopardize drug treatment center (Greenville Daily Reflector analysis) -- Officials with an agency that broke ground for a much-needed drug use recovery center in 2016 said they may not be able to deliver on the facility due to state budget cuts. Trillium Health Resources, which manages North Carolina Medicaid payments for mental health, substance use and developmental disability service providers in 25 eastern counties, was going to fund the center in north Greenville by utilizing a portion of $80 million in savings.

JOHN LA FONTAINE: Hickory’s opioid problem, our crisis (Hickory Record) -- In a matter of minutes, two problems barreled into the audience. First, the seeming denial of an actual crisis impacting the community, and second, rhetoric making light of staying informed – words spoken by Hickory City Manager Warren Wood, arguably the most important, and highest paid, public servant of Hickory’s government.

ENERGY & ENVIRONMENT
LORI WYNN: Rising Seas: NC Coast Faces Chronic Flooding (Coastal Review analysis) -- A new report on sea level rise indicates that at least 20 North Carolina communities could be regularly inundated with sea water within 15 years but local experts feel some areas are already suffering the effects.

Solar turning a corner in N.C.? (Charlotte Observer column) -- Opening of a huge facility boasts something new - Republicans.

Water-quality threat must be addressed (Greensboro News & Record) -- The people who live along the lower Cape Fear River are worried about the water they drink. They should be, and they have a right to demand that politicians help rather than hinder.

RUSSELL GOLD: Duke Pulls Plug on Nuclear Plant; Cancellation Is Latest Blow to Sector (Wall Street Journal analysis) -- Duke Energy is abandoning plans to develop a nuclear plant in South Carolina, the latest blow to the U.S. nuclear industry. The company had planned to build two reactors.

AND MORE
ANDREW DUNN: Sleepy, struggling downtown Kannapolis is set for a major overhaul (Charlotte Agenda analysis) -- Two years ago, Kannapolis put a big bet on itself — and we’re about to see whether it will pay off. The city spent nearly $9 million to purchase the majority of its downtown. The city council raised property taxes significantly to cover the bond payments. That was just the start of a vision of spending more than $110 million to build a series of anchor projects over the coming decade. The idea is to make the downtown vibrant again, with apartments, a hotel, a performing arts center and a sports venue.

MACKENSY LUNSFORD: Tourism spurs growth in Asheville breweries (Asheville Citizen-Times analysis) -- Bolstered by beer tourism and sales to cities clamoring for Asheville beer, even the smallest of local breweries can't seem to stay small for long. As they grow, so grows the web of supporting industries — malt and yeast-makers, for example — staking ever-larger claims in the business of manufacturing beer. The growth can be felt all over.

JORDAN ANDERS: North State falls short of U.S. Little League title (Greenville Daily Reflector column) -- Greenville North State had given up just one run in three games at the Little League World Series. At the time when the team could afford it the least, the team from Lufkin, Texas, became the first to figure out how to score on it. The tournament's Southwest champion scored six runs in the final three innings Saturday, erasing a five-run deficit and stunning North State 6-5 to deny the Southeast representative a berth in the world championship game.​​​​​​​

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