Opinion Roundup: N.C.'s child welfare system under scrutiny
Posted September 25
Monday, Sept. 25, 2017 -- A roundup of opinion, commentary and analysis on an investigative series exposing flaws in N.C.'s child welfare system, a church in hot water over an alleged unemployment scam, a call to end political games in the GenX water investigation and more.
GREG BARNES: Deaths point to crisis in NC’s child welfare system (Fayetteville Observer investigation) – An investigation found more than 120 children have died in the state within a year of their parents or caregivers being referred to a DSS agency. Some of those deaths, which go back nearly a decade, were from undetermined causes or accidents. But 31 of the children were killed — beaten to death, shot, drowned, smothered or poisoned by drugs. The deaths of children are the most disturbing evidence of a state child welfare system that has been in crisis for years.
Child abuse series shows Observer commitment (Fayetteville Observer) -- Many things have changed at the Observer over the years, from how we deliver the news online to how we design the print paper. What hasn’t changed is our commitment to the big story. Exhibit A: Today’s front page, where we begin a four-part series investigating North Carolina’s child welfare system.
A failing system puts our children at grave risk (Fayetteville Observer) -- It’s a hard story to read, but we’ve got to read it anyway. It may make you cry. It should make you furious. And it’s got to motivate all of us to demand better. The story is told by Observer reporter Greg Barnes, who spent several months reviewing public records and interviewing people to look at the dreadful conditions in which some of this state’s — and this city’s — children live and die.
Fatal Flaws: About the series (Fayetteville Observer) -- The Fatal Flaws series began last year, while senior reporter Greg Barnes was investigating the death of Rylan Ott, a toddler who drowned in a Moore County pond. Barnes began to recognize that many other North Carolina children have died after entering the state’s child welfare system.
NOAM LEVEY: Senate GOP unsure what healthcare bill does, even as they push ahead (Los Angeles Times analysis) -- Senate Republicans are poised to take an unprecedented leap into the dark as they prepare to vote on legislation that would affect health protections for tens of millions Americans yet has been subject to virtually no analysis or public scrutiny. “This is like legislating blind,” said University of North Carolina political scientist Jonathan Oberlander, who has written extensively on the history of major healthcare legislation. “It is really hard to find an example of something where Congress was this reckless.”
Red States Also Among Losers in GOP Health Bill (AP Analysis) -- Memo to Republican senators: Many of the states President Donald Trump won last year would lose significant federal financing under the last-ditch Republican health care bill headed for a possible showdown in the Senate this week. Of the 30 states Trump carried in his surprise victory, 16 would lose federal health care money under the bill to dismantle Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act.
RICHARD CARVER: Health systems plod ahead with statewide Medicaid plans (Winston-Salem Journal analysis) -- A coalition of 11 health care systems in North Carolina is trying to establish a firm foundation for a statewide not-for-profit plan to provide health care through Medicaid. The state’s reform initiative is the culmination of efforts by legislative leaders to coordinate services like physical, behavioral and long-term health services.
CATHERINE PEARSON & FRANK TAYLOR: Mountain maternity wards closing, WNC women’s lives on the line (Carolina Public Press analysis) -- Mission Health, a nonprofit hospital network headquartered in Asheville, has operated many longstanding small hospitals throughout the 19-county region ― most notably in rural, low-population areas. Until two years ago, these communities had a labor-and-delivery center nearby. But in 2015, Mission began to close them. First a unit at the Transylvania Regional Hospital in Brevard. Then in July 2017, Mission shuttered labor and delivery at Angel Medical Center in Franklin. At the end of September, Blue Ridge Regional Hospital of Spruce Pine will also lose its labor-and-delivery.
Costly addiction (Winston-Salem Journal) -- Recent findings about the connection between opioid addiction and unemployment illustrate just how intertwined some problems are. There’s no easy solution, but we have to keep trying.
The heartbeat of innovation (Winston-Salem Journal) -- Our city keeps pushing the innovation borders. In the latest case, a Winston-Salem-based health-care technology company is developing a process to cut through numerous tests to determine whether a patient really is facing a cardiac issue.
POLITICS & POLICY
MITCH WEISS & HOLBROOK MOHR: Spindale church stoked tithing with unemployment scam (AP investigation) -- When Randy Fields' construction company faced potential ruin because of the cratering economy, he pleaded with his pastor at Word of Faith Fellowship church in Spindale to reduce the amount of his weekly tithe. To his shock, church founder Jane Whaley proposed a divine plan to allow him to continue tithing at least 10 percent of his income while helping his company survive: File fraudulent unemployment claims on behalf of his employees.
LAUREN K. OHNESORGE: N.C. offered Foxconn $570M in incentives — and still lost (Triangle Business Journal analysis) -- Despite the state's best efforts – and an incentives package worth about $570 million – North Carolina lost Foxconn Technology Group’s $10 billion flat-screen factory to Wisconsin.
Good news for the middle class, but economy not roaring for all (Charlotte Observer) -- Good economic news for the middle class, but not everything is worth celebrating.
ROBERT BARNES: Supreme Court case offers window into how representatives choose their constituents (Washington Post analysis) -- Behind the locked doors of a “map room,” in a politically connected law firm’s offices across from the historic Wisconsin State Capitol, three men worked in secret to ensure the future of the state’s newly triumphant Republican Party. They were drawing the legislative districts in which members of the Wisconsin Senate and State Assembly would be elected. When the men — two aides to legislative leaders and a lobbyist brought in to help — finished in the early summer of 2011, they headed across the street to present their work.
GARY ROBERTSON: GOP legislators say new districts to be OK'd for 2018 elections (AP analysis) -- New legislative district maps that North Carolina lawmakers approved last month eliminate any unlawful racial bias federal judges ruled was in previous maps and should be permitted for use in the 2018 elections, Republican legislators who helped draw them argued.
MATTHEW BURNS: NC elections officials: State not ‘directly’ targeted in Russian hack (WRAL-TV) -- Elections officials say Russian hackers targeting election systems across the United States last year did not “directly” target North Carolina with their cyberattacks. The State Board of Elections & Ethics Enforcement said the U.S. Department of Homeland Security informed the board Friday that North Carolina wasn't among the 21 states whose election systems were targeted by Russians during last November's election.
MATTHEW BURNS: Commission delays decision on moving Confederate statues (WRAL-TV analysis) -- The North Carolina Historical Commission on Friday delayed any decision on moving Confederate monuments from the State Capitol until next spring to give members time to study the impact of such a move and to determine what authority the panel actually has to carry it out.
GARY ROBERTSON: Decision on moving NC Confederate monuments delayed (AP) -- Seeking further input, a state panel in North Carolina on Friday delayed a decision on whether three Confederate monuments from the grounds of the old Capitol should be moved to a Civil War battlefield in an adjoining county.
ROGER CHESLEY: Students indoctrinated by falsehoods as Confederate monuments arose (Norfolk Virginian-Pilot column) --- School history textbooks formerly romanticized the Southern war effort and infantilized slaves.
MARTHA WAGGONER: Interest in black soldiers who fought for Union grows in NC (AP analysis) -- As Deborah Jones was researching her own genealogy, she stumbled onto some North Carolina history with which she wasn't familiar -- the muster of a troop of black union soldiers as the Civil War was wrapping up.
CHARLIE HALL: Civil War monuments controversy has not altered regional educational programs (New Bern Sun Journal analysis) -- History can be rewritten and physical evidence can be destroyed. Those things however, do not change the telling of history. That is the mind-set of many historical groups and museums in Lenoir and Craven counties. History education is the mission and has not deterred their goals in light of the recent Civil War monument controversy that has raged across the country and in some surrounding counties, as close as Pitt County.
Black Lawmakers Ponder Trump Agenda at Annual Gathering (AP analysis) -- On the campaign trail last year, then-Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump sought the support of black voters by asking them, "What the hell do you have to lose?"
GENE SMITH: After the brawl is over, what’s next? (Fayetteville Observer column) -- E pluribus unum. The motto has been around as long as the Declaration of Independence. Those who don’t already know its meaning need not be embarrassed. But they need to know it now. It means “From many, one.” If we take ourselves seriously as a nation, it has another meaning, too. It means that we eventually will have to move on.
CELIA RIVENBARK: Sorry, but this dish is too spicy (Wilmington Star-News column) -- When Sean Spicer made that surprise cameo at the Emmy Awards, making fun of himself as the angry, lying press secretary brilliantly lampooned on “Saturday Night Live,” I laughed out loud. Wow. Takes a big man to make fun of himself in front of a worldwide audience, I thought, watching Spicy steer a rolling podium onto the stage.
ED HARDIN: Time to shut up and listen, starting with President Trump (Greensboro News & Record column) -- Everyone from Michael Irvin to Terry Bradshaw to Jake Tapper piped in, all with opinions and remarks aimed at the president. And still Trump talked. Or tweeted. He continued to harangue the league just as he’d done toward Steph Curry, a Charlotte native playing for the NBA champion Golden State Warriors, who said he would not be attending a White House meeting with the president.
After Trump’s tweet, here’s what Hornets owner Michael Jordan says country needs (Charlotte Observer) -- Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan comments on freedom of speech, after President Donald Trump’s statements about athletes and social activism.
DAN GELSTON: Richard Petty says he'll fire drivers who protest during national anthem (AP Analysis) -- Hall of Fame NASCAR driver Richard Petty says he would fire any drivers who protest during the national anthem. "Anybody that don't stand up for the anthem oughta be out of the country. Period. What got 'em where they're at? The United States," Petty said. When asked if a protester at Richard Petty Motorsports would be fired, he said, "You're right."
KEN BELSON & JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS: Trump Attacks Warriors’ Curry. LeBron James’s Retort: ‘U Bum.’ (New York Times analysis) -- President Trump took aim at two of the world’s most powerful sports leagues and some of their most popular athletes, directly inserting himself into an already fiery debate over race, social justice and athlete activism and stoking a running battle on social media over his comments. … By midafternoon, a spokesman for the University of North Carolina national championship basketball team confirmed the team would not be going to the White House, but he said it was a scheduling conflict, not a response to the day’s back-and-forth.
STEPHANIE CARSON: NC Groups Receive Infusion of Funds to Assist "Dreamers" (Public News Service column) -- As the futures of young immigrants in the DACA program hang in limbo, a North Carolina foundation is providing funds to groups helping them navigate the uncertainty. The Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation has created a DACA Rapid Response Fund, dividing $100,000 among eight organizations to support legal, education and emergency planning services as DACA permit holders seek to renew their permits or find other immigration assistance.
LEWIS PITTS: A kangaroo court for Jose Charles (Greensboro News & Record column) -- If you’re wondering what happened to 15-year-old Jose Charles since his disputed encounter with Greensboro police on July 4, 2016, the answer is a lot.
BJ BARNES: Dear Congress: Do your job and fix immigration (Greensboro News & Record column) -- As a first-term sheriff in 1998, I was asked to testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, chaired by Sen. Jesse Helms. The topic: the impact of drugs being brought across our border and distributed in our country. I warned that we needed to secure our borders, not only because of drugs but the influx of illegal immigrants.
MICHAEL M. PHILLIPS: Brothers in Arms: The Tragedy in Small-Town America (Wall Street Journal analysis) – Mike and Chris Goski, twins, were small-town boys, part of a generation who came of age at the time of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Since 2001, volunteers from such places—many of them out-of-the-way counties struggling with lagging economies, drug addiction and limited options—have shouldered the greatest burden for America’s defense. They enlisted, fought and died in greater proportions than those from relatively more prosperous urban areas, an analysis of government military data found.
ANNE BLYTHE: She serves a life sentence for killing her husband. But she goes out to lunch? (Durham Herald-Sun) -- Barbara Stager was sentenced in a Lee County courtroom 28 years ago for the fatal shooting of her husband while he slept in their bed. Stager’s death sentence was overturned on appeal and a new jury settled on a life sentence that has made her eligible for parole since 2009. Stager, 68, has been granted privileges to go out to lunch outside the walls of the North Carolina Correctional Institution for Women in Raleigh as long as she is with a prison-approved sponsor.
For Raleigh Mayor: Nancy McFarlane (Raleigh News & Observer) -- Nancy McFarlane is a low-key, but effective leader. She gets things done without fanfare or acrimony.
TAYLOR BATTEN: We in Charlotte were blind, now we see. Now what? (Charlotte Observer column) -- Covenant Presbyterian’s investment in affordable housing shows action, not just words.
REBECCA MARTINEZ: Overhaul Coming Soon To NC's 911 Centers (WUNC-FM analysis) -- North Carolina is overhauling the technology in its 911 centers to connect better with one another and with cell phones users. The current analog system serving the 117 centers in the state was designed in the 1960s, according to State Information Technology Secretary Eric Boyette.
PAUL R. DUNN: Roosevelt Memorial Golf Course: Too Important to Close (Southern Pines Pilot column) -- President Franklin Delano Roosevelt did more for the game of golf than any other American president. He became an avid golfer at age 8, when his father, James Roosevelt, built a small, six-hole golf course on the family estate at Hyde Park, New York. James Roosevelt had discovered the game in France in 1890.
ENERGY & ENVIRONMENT
TIM WHITE: We need safe, clean water but we get political games (Fayetteville Observer column) -- We all have our work day rituals, the stuff we do before we head to the office for the day. My last steps are almost always the same: Stop at the fridge to fill a stainless steel bottle with a liter of fresh, filtered water, give the dogs one last scratch on the head, grab the already-filled travel mug of fresh-brewed coffee and then zip out the door.
Toxic politics wins out on GenX response (Wilmington Star-News) -- We confess that we’ve been terribly naive. When we found out that an unregulated and possibly harmful chemical was being deliberately discharged into the primary source of our drinking water, we were convinced that our otherwise perpetually divided state political leaders would finally come together and act in the best interest of the people. Boy, were we wrong.
Regulatory agencies need more resources (Greensboro News & Record) -- Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed a bill last week but was responding to years of neglect.
EMERY DALESIO: Duke Energy reverses, will disclose coal ash disaster maps (AP analysis) -- The country's largest electric company says it will publish federally mandated maps that it previously refused to publish, showing what could happen to neighboring properties if a coal-ash pit burst.
JOHN DOWNEY: N.C. solar industry braces for rising costs after trade ruling makes tariffs possible (Charlotte Business Journal column) -- North Carolina solar developers say they are disappointed, but not surprised, by the U.S. International Trade Commission ruling that opens the way to tariffs foreign solar panels.
SCOTT SEXTON: Remember Matthew? Story of natural disaster is also tale of resilience, compassion (Winston-Salem Journal column) --- Todd Allen — Chief Allen to the 26 firefighters of the Pine Terrace Volunteer Fire Department in Robeson County— wasn’t all that surprised to be tracked down. He’s a first responder, the head of a fire department that was all but wiped out by floods following Hurricane Matthew — remember him? — and he has a heck of a story to tell, one born from natural disaster and based on resilience, compassion and generosity.
LESLIE BRODY: Charter-School Operators Seek New Direction (Wall Street Journal analysis) -- Educators and advocates will gather at the Independent Charter School Symposium to refocus on the original purpose of charters and counter negative publicity drawn by bigger networks.
Community college working to reduce Wilson jobless rate (Wilson Times) -- Wilson Community College wants to put our county back to work.
JEFF HAMPTON: N.C. boatyards built wooden boats crucial to allied effort in WWII (Norfolk Virginian-Pilot column) -- An Elizabeth City naval historian researched the "Splinter Fleet."
JOHN RAILEY: Homegrown star brings communal message of the arts (Winston-Salem Journal column) -- Ben Brantley, a self-professed outcast when growing up in Winston-Salem in the early 1970s, now wields one of the mightiest pens in the land and has the battle scars to prove it. Theater and screen stars James Franco and Alec Baldwin are among those who have raged against him. “You develop a pretty thick skin,” Brantley, chief theater critic for The New York Times, told Cris Wiley’s10th grade history class at R.J. Reynolds High School. “People should be allowed to say whatever they want to say about me. But I don’t have to listen to it.”
150 years old, and we’re still going strong (Wilmington Star-News) -- It was 150 years today that this newspaper saw the light of day, emerging from a print shop above a grocery store in downtown Wilmington. The following century and a half saw a lot of name changes. We started as the Evening Star, switched to the Morning Star, Star-News and now StarNews. The years since 1867 saw a lot of other changes as well. We added photos, color ink, comics, sports pages and a website. Like the Energizer Bunny, we kept going.
BEN STEELMAN: The newspaper’s history, decade by decade (Wilmington Star-News feature) -- William Henry Bernard would hardly recognize the newspaper today that he started on Water Street in 1867. The Morning Star has become StarNews Media -- not just a paper product but a multimedia website and database. One thing hasn’t changed, though -- getting the who, what, when, where and why of what’s happening out to attentive readers. Following, decade by decade, are some of the highlights of our news coverage.
BEN STEELMAN: How the Morning Star evolved into the StarNews (Wilmington Star-News analysis) -- A survey of technological and social changes in the Star-News’ 150-year history.
Former Giants, Jets assistant coach Denny Marcin dies at 75 (Wilmington Star-News obit) -- Former New York Giants and Jets assistant coach Dennis "Denny" Marcin of Southport has died. He was 75. Denny began his coaching career as an assistant at St. Edward HS in Lakewood, OH in 1964, and was head coach at St. Edward in 1972-73. From there, he joined the collegiate coaching ranks in 1974 at his alma mater, Miami University, where he stayed for 4 years before moving on to the University of North Carolina. He spent 10 years leading the UNC defense,
Longtime Outer Banks developer, Norfolk native Gerald Friedman dies (Norfolk Virginian-Pilot obit) -- Friedman developed more than 6,800 acres on the Outer Banks including the Corolla area going back to the 1960s.