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Opinion Roundup: Families on the brink; Sanders lifts other voices; Trump's N.C. numbers drop; Lewis leaves House; and more

Posted July 27, 2020 9:00 a.m. EDT
Updated July 27, 2020 9:01 a.m. EDT

Back to school masked child

Monday, July 27, 2020 -- A round up of opinion, commentary and analysis on: A round up of opinion, commentary and analysis on: families on the brink; Trump's numbers in N.C. are down on day of visit to the state; David Lewis leaving N.C. House; clashes over discrimination continue; Machelle Sanders lifts other voices; and more.


CORONAVIRUS 2020
Unpaid bills drive N.C. families to financial brink (Ap reports) -- As many as 1 million families in N.C. have fallen behind on their electric, water and sewage bills, threatening residents and their cities with severe financial hardship unless federal lawmakers act to approve more emergency aid.

Water, Electricity Shutoffs Set To Resume In NC As Governor's Order Expires (WFAE-FM reports) -- More than 1 million North Carolina families who are behind on utility payments could have their water, sewage or electricity shut off once an executive order from Gov. Roy Cooper expires Thursday.

Split 5-4, Supreme Court Rejects Church’s Challenge to Shutdown Restrictions (New York Times reports) -- The Supreme Court rejected a request from a church in Nevada to block enforcement of state restrictions on attendance at religious services. The vote was 5-4, with Chief Justice John Roberts joining the court’s four more liberal members to form a majority. Calvary Chapel Dayton Valley in Dayton, Nevada, argued that the state treated houses of worship less favorably than it did casinos, restaurants and amusement parks. Those businesses have been limited to 50% of their fire-code capacities, while houses of worship have been subject to a flat 50-person limit.

Juvenile has NC’s 1st confirmed case of coronavirus in a state youth institution (N.C. McClatchy reports) -- North Carolina officials announced the state’s first confirmed coronavirus case in a juvenile being held in a state-run youth institution. The individual at Pitt Juvenile Detention Center in Greenville entered the facility already infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 but remains asymptomatic, state officials said in a news release.

Cumberland District Court to remain closed for a week (WRAL-TV reports) -- Cumberland County District Court courtrooms were closed Friday after a courthouse worker tested positive for coronavirus, officials said.

MELBA NEWSOME: Lifeline or Life Risk: Working in an Amazon Warehouse (N.C. Health News reports) -- While hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians were losing their jobs, Amazon was on a hiring spree. But at what price?

COVID-19 expenses cost N.C. $300M during initial months of pandemic (The Center Square reports) -- North Carolina accumulated more than $300 million in COVID-19-related costs during the first four months of the pandemic, according to a report sent to the federal government. The interim expense report, which runs from March 1 to June 30, specifies the costs by categories. States are asked to file the reports because the expenses are being paid through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.

Myron B. Pitts: Americans did not fail with COVID-19; our leaders did (Fayetteville Observer column) -- The American public always took COVID-19 seriously, according to polls, and still does.

Thom Tillis’ COVID-19 plan is thoughtful and way too late (Charlotte Observer editorial) -- There may be few people as busy as an incumbent legislator in a tight race for reelection, and Thom Tillis might be among the busiest. Each week brings new announcements of bills the he has a hand in designed to show he’s working hard for the folks who have a say in his future. That’s not a bad thing. We like our elected officials to be productive, which is why we were intrigued last week by a news release from the senator’s office titled: “Tillis Releases Plan to Help Defeat COVID-19, Protect North Carolinians, and Prepare for the Next Pandemic.” The plan that followed is a thoughtful blueprint for attacking the pandemic. It’s exactly what North Carolina needed - four months ago.

CAMPAIGN 2020
Republican who had prominent role in redistricting to retire (AP reports) -- A Republican lawmaker who played a prominent role in North Carolina’s redistricting process announced that he will not seek reelection this fall and will instead retire from his post at the end of the year. Federal courts described the efforts he promoted as targeting "African-Americans with almost surgical precision." He bragged at a redistricting hearing: “I propose that we draw the maps to give a partisan advantage to 10 Republicans and three Democrats ... “because I do not believe it’s possible to draw a map with 11 Republicans and two Democrats.”

David Lewis, key leader in the NC House, announces surprise retirement (WRAL-TV reports) -- Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett, has been key in the state's fight over voter ID and election maps.

David Lewis, architect of voter ID and redistricting laws, retiring from NC legislature (N.C. McClatchy reports) -- One of the most powerful Republicans in the state legislature announced he’s retiring from public office, just months before he was set to run for re-election this November. Harnett County Rep. David Lewis has been a state lawmaker since 2003. He plans to serve out the rest of his term , but then says he wants to spend more time with his family.

Trump visits N.C. today. New poll shows Democrats Biden, Cunningham and Cooper lead (NBC News reports) -- Joe Biden leads Donald Trump by a 7-point margin in the key swing state of N.C., a new NBC News/Marist poll finds, with voters also favoring Democratic Senate and gubernatorial candidates and saying by a 2-1 margin that the state was right to balk at the Trump administration’s Charlotte convention plans over concerns about coronavirus safety protocols. Among registered voters, Biden gets the support of 51 percent, compared with 44 percent who back Trump. In March, Biden had a 4-point advantage in a head-to-head matchup, 49 percent to 45 percent. Incumbent Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper easily bests his Republican challenger, Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, 58 percent to 38 percent. Democratic Senate candidate Cal Cunningham leads GOP incumbent Sen. Thom Tillis in the poll by a 9-point margin, with the backing of 50 percent of voters compared to the Republican’s 41 percent.

Trump coming to N.C. toeday to see work on virus vaccine (AP reports) -- President Donald Trump is coming to N.C. to visit a biotech facility involved in work to create a COVID-19 vaccine.

Morrisville firm working overtime to produce potential coronavirus vaccine (WRAL-TV reports) -- The Triangle has joined the race to find a coronavirus vaccine, with a Morrisville company manufacturing one of the candidate drugs. President Donald Trump will visit the Diosynth plant Monday to tout his administration's Operation Warp Speed.

With potential vaccine manufacturing under way, RTP company prepares for Trump’s visit (N.C. McClatchy reports) -- From Martin Meeson’s perspective, Operation Warp Speed, the federal effort to get COVID-19 vaccines and treatments to the public as quickly as possible, is living up to its name. As CEO of Fujifilm Diosynth, a Japanese contract drug manufacturer with a large presence in Research Triangle Park, Meeson is leading a partnership between Fufjifilm and the biotech company Novavax to manufacture one of the more promising vaccine candidates for the novel coronavirus. The partnership is already moving swiftly, and on Monday, President Donald Trump will visit Fujifilm’s facility in RTP to see its progress.

Coronavirus, mail voting will mean an accelerated 2020 election (N.C. McClatchy reports) -- Of the six core presidential battleground states, five of them — North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan and Florida — will begin sending absentee ballots to voters who requested them in September. As soon as the ballots are received, voters can return them through the mail. The lone state that won’t allow voters to submit ballots in September, Arizona, begins early voting and sending absentee ballots through the mail on the same day, Oct. 7. No battleground state lets voters submit their ballot sooner than North Carolina, which will begin shipping mail-in absentee ballots to people who requested them on Sept. 4, nearly two full months before Election Day. Mike Rusher, a Republican operative there, expects absentee balloting to swell from about 5% of the total vote in the last general election to nearly 30%, which means voters can expect more intensive outreach in August and September.

Private-Equity Executives Pour $92 Million Into 2020 Races (Wall Street Journal reports) -- Employees of private-equity and other investment firms spent $84.1 million on 2020 congressional races and presidential campaigns through June 30, based on data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics. Republican senators widely considered on shaky ground for re-election include Thom Tillis of North Carolina, Joni Ernst of Iowa, Susan Collins of Maine, Steven Daines of Montana, Cory Gardner of Colorado and Martha McSally of Arizona. These six have collected just under $1.6 million in total direct contributions from private-equity employees, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

JENNIFER RUBIN: The Republican convention debacle is vintage Trump (Washington Post column) -- If you have ever wondered how President Trump went bankrupt running a casino — where the house is always supposed to win — the debacle surrounding the Republican National Convention is informative. It has all the telltale signs of Trump’s formula for failure: One part narcissistic delusion, one part impulsiveness and one part incompetence. Recall that Trump, months ago, impetuously insisted that North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, allow him to hold his convention in Charlotte without restrictions, even without a detailed plan to comply with covid-19 prevention requirements from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. When Cooper refused to provide assurance that such an irresponsible plan could proceed, Trump abandoned North Carolina in a huff. Throwing away the millions raised for the Charlotte event, he declared he would go to Jacksonville, Fla., which soon thereafter defied Trump’s insistence that the pandemic would just “disappear.” Instead, Florida became a virus hot spot. Trump still pushed for the event to go forward, despite the health situation and Floridians’ strong opposition to having the event. Finally, on Thursday, the pretense ended. Trump canceled the event and will now just have a speech instead of a convention.

Tillis, Cunningham agree to dates for debates in September (N.C. McClatchy reports) -- The top two candidates for U.S. Senate in North Carolina have set dates for two debates in September. Republican Sen. Thom Tillis and Democratic challenger Cal Cunningham have agreed to debates on Sept. 14 on WRAL in Raleigh and on Sept. 22 on Nexstar and its affiliates, which includes stations in Charlotte, Raleigh, Greensboro and Greenville. Additionally, both candidates have agreed to a September debate on Spectrum News, which covers much of the state — but the date has not been set.

GOP mailer pitches voting by mail despite president's 'Rigged Election!!!' rhetoric (WRAL-TV reports) -- State party blurs out half the president's tweet as it tries to up absentee ballot numbers.

FALSE: Ad takes Tillis handwashing comments out of context (PolitiFact/WRAL-TV) -- A new TV ad from Majority Forward PAC presents old comments from U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis in the context of the pandemic. But they're from 2015, and Tillis has since clarified his position on whether restaurant workers should be required to wash their hands.

Bipartisan group secretly gathered to game out contested Trump-Biden election. It wasn’t pretty (Boston Globe reports) -- On the second Friday in June, a group of political operatives, former government and military officials, and academics quietly convened online for what became a disturbing exercise in the fragility of American democracy. The group, which included Democrats and Republicans, gathered to game out possible results of the November election, grappling with questions that seem less far-fetched by the day: What if President Trump refuses to concede a loss, as he publicly hinted recently he might do? How far could he go to preserve his power? And what if Democrats refuse to give in? ... In multiple scenarios, officials on both sides homed in on narrowly decided swing states with divided governments, such as North Carolina, Wisconsin and Michigan, hoping to persuade officials there to essentially send two different results to Congress. If a state’s election is disputed, a legislature controlled by one party and governor of another each could send competing slates of electors backing their party’s candidate.

Linda Cooper-Suggs to succeed Jean Farmer-Butterfield in N.C. House (AP reports) -- Linda Coope-Suggs, a retired educator and Wilson County Democratic Party chairwoman will serve out the term of former North Carolina state Rep. Jean Farmer-Butterfield and seek her own two-year term in the fall. Cooper-Suggs will take on Republican Mick Rankin in November.

MONUMENT(al) CHANGE
Ideologies clash at Maggie Valley protest (Waynesville Mountineer column) -- They felt like strangers in a strange land, even the ones from Haywood County, and yet, for the Black Lives Matter protesters in Maggie Valley on July 18, the threats and harassment served as bitter confirmation of their message’s validity. As The Mountaineer reporter covering Maggie Valley, I anticipated some counter-protesters, but the sheer volume and outward aggression of the group was astonishing.

State task force adopts three recommendations for racial equality in criminal justice (WRAL-TV reports) -- The state task force for racial equality in criminal justice has adopted three recommendations in response to protesters' calls for police reform.

Asheville turns to reparations to heal 'a community breakdown' (CNN reports) -- In the wake of George Floyd protests, Asheville is pushing to address past wrongs through reparations to Black residents. It is grappling with the complexities of how it can be accomplished as well as the backlash, largely coming from White residents.

Virtual town hall hacked by white supremacists, Hillsborough mayor and Northern Orange NAACP say (WRAL-TV reports) -- Leaders say a virtual town hall hosted by the Northern Orange NAACP was hacked by white supremacists. The meeting was meant to create a safe space for members of the Black and Latinx communities to share their experiences. As it was going on, Hillsborough Mayor Jennifer Weaver said the call was suddenly interrupted by users she described as white supremacists. She says they shared racist pictures and audio while posting lewd comments under the names of various users.

Legal experts differ on law dictating future of Wilmington’s Confederate statues (Wilmington Star-News reports) -- A Wilmington lawyer said she is not convinced the law says the city has to put the statues back up

ALLEN JOHNSON: Confederate statues need to go, but what about Honest Abe? (Greensboro News & Record column) -- n Ralph Ellison’s beautiful recounting of the ugly truth about race in America, “Invisible Man,” the protagonist recalls a haunting landmark at the Southern black college he attended in his youth. “.... In my mind’s eye I see the bronze statue of the college Founder, the cold Father symbol, his hands outstretched in the breathtaking gesture of lifting a veil that flutters in hard, metallic folds above the face of a kneeling slave; and I am standing puzzled, unable to decide whether the veil is being lifted, or lowered more firmly in place; whether I am witnessing a revelation or a more efficient blinding.”

White paint spilled on Black Lives Do Matter mural at Market House in Fayetteville (WRAL-TV reports) -- White paint has been spilled on the Black Lives Do Matter and End Racism Now murals that surround the Market House in downtown Fayetteville. The spill, which appears to be white paint poured from a car driven around the circular mural, looks intentional, but Fayetteville police are being contacted to determine if it is an act of vandalism.

POLICY & POLITICS
2 more N.C. prison inmates die from COVID-19 complications (AP reports) -- Two more male inmates at a North Carolina prison with among the highest number of COVID-19 cases have died after testing positive for the virus, state prison officials said.

NC Community Groups Advocate Importance Of Census During COVID-19 (WFAE-FM reports) -- his was supposed to be the year of the census. It still is, but it’s also the year of the coronavirus pandemic. That makes it harder for community advocates to hold in-person events and get people counted.

Bath High School grad Machelle Sanders has passion for amplifying voices of those who need to be heard (N.C. McClatchy reports) -- Values from her parents, her upbringing in Belhaven and at Bath High School in eastern N.C. have influenced Machelle Sanders throughout her life -- from promoting female leadership in the pharmaceutical industry, where she was an executive at Biogen, to advocating for racial equity in Gov. Roy Cooper’s administration, where she's secretary of the Department of Administration. In June, Cooper named Sanders to lead the Andrea Harris Social, Economic, Environmental and Health Equity Task Force to seek solutions to address these disparities facing North Carolina residents.

Mayor Colvin: Tillis’ actions on environment place Fayetteville at risk (Fayetteville Observer column) -- North Carolina, we have to pay attention. As Mayor of Fayetteville, I have had the honor of leading through some tough challenges. In 2016 and 2018, respectively, Hurricanes Matthew and Florence hit North Carolina hard, particularly the citizens of Fayetteville. We saw lives ravaged by these natural disasters.

More than 120 members of National Guard return to NC after deployment to Middle East (WRAL-TV reports) -- On Saturday, more than 120 members of the North Carolina national guard returned home after spending more than a year deployed in the Middle East.

An assault on American cities (Greensboro News & Record/ Winston-Salem Journal editorial) -- President Trump’s troubling deployment of paramilitary federal troops to dominate protesters in Portland, Ore., has only exacerbated problems there. And his determination to send similar forces to other American cities should concern freedom-loving people everywhere.

30th Infantry Division recognized in ceremony for efforts during WWII (WRAL-TV reports) -- The 30th Infantry Division, nicknamed "Old Hickory" formed from National Guard soldiers in North Carolina and surrounding states, were recognized in a special ceremony -- years in the making -- on Saturday. After D-Day in World War II, the division was tasked with holding back a massive counterattack by German tank divisions in the small French town of Mortain. Though they were successful, more than 2,000 soldiers were killed or wounded in the intense fighting. After the war, Gen. Dwight Eisenhower's European Theater Historian, S.L.A Marshall, determined that the 30th Infantry Division was the best infantry division of its category in the European Theater and deserved the highest decoration that could be awarded to a unit for bravery, but bureaucracy and new Army award policies prevented it.

Cheers! Pandemic buying drove N.C. liquor sales to new heights (Fayetteville Observer reports) -- Despite the COVID-19 pandemic — or maybe because of it — North Carolina liquor sales jumped nearly 12% in the fiscal year that ended June 30, to a new record of nearly $1.37 billion. It’s normal for the sales to grow and set a new record annually — sales have set records for the past five years, the North Carolina ABC Commission said — but this jump was much higher than normal. In the prior five fiscal years, the sales growth averaged 7.14% annually,

N.C. liquor sales see 12% jump during fiscal year (AP reports) -- Liquor sales jumped 12% during the fiscal year that ended on June 30, according to data from the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission.

CELIA RIVENBARK: Back to school with Betsy DeVos (N.C. Policy Watch column) -- Hey kids! Let’s learn arithmetic with U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos! Ready? Let’s get started! Here’s the first question: If Betsy DeVos owns 10 yachts–which is a true fact by the way, and she thinks she can tell you and your families there is “nothing that says that kids being in school is in any way dangerous”– where do you think we should tell her to put those 10 yachts? Sorry! Just having a little fun here. Johnny! Stop touching Brandon! You have to stay on your red dot exactly 6 feet from Brandon’s blue dot. What do you mean what is red and what is blue?

EDUCATION
Majority of NC public school students will start new school year learning from home (N.C. McClatchy reports) -- The majority of N.C. public school students will start next school year continuing to learn from home instead of going back to school for face-to-face classes. At least 46 school districts and 30 charter schools have decided over the past week to use remote instruction when classes resume in August.

Investigation into death of UNCW prof Adams; 911 call details released gun shot wound indicated (WECT-TV reports) -- Mike Adams, a controversial professor who was set to retire from UNC Wilmington on Aug. 1 was found dead inside his home in New Hanover County. Officials confirmed the identity of the body as that of Adams and the computer-aided dispatch report noted a “gsw” -- the abbreviation used for gunshot wound. The official cause of death has not been confirmed by New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office as the investigation is ongoing.

Affidavit adds twist to Staton lawsuit (Greenville Daily Reflector reports) -- An affidavit circulated earlier this month counters a central claim in a lawsuit filed by former ECU Chancellor Cecil Staton, but the document has yet to be filed in conjunction with the case. Staton, however, has amended his suit to include the names of individual members of the Board of Governors. The amended lawsuit was filed in Orange County Civil Superior Court on June 26, one day after a former ECU professor reportedly prepared an affidavit saying she, and not individuals named in the lawsuit, wrote a dossier that Staton said prevented him from working at another university.

NC wants to make sure students and teachers wear face masks in class due to COVID-19 (N.C. McClatchy reports) -- Updated state health guidance makes it clear that North Carolina public school students and teachers are required to wear face coverings when they’re in class during the school day. The state Department of Health and Human Services guidance released last week only mandated that face coverings be worn when students, staff and visitors were or may be within 6 feet of another person. But revised guidance released on Friday drops the wording about only wearing the coverings when you’re within 6 feet of another person.

Duke study of virus in students to help guide schools' decisions on returning to classrooms (WRAL-TV reports) -- Duke University researchers plan to monitor coronavirus transmission among students and staff in a couple of local school districts to show the impact of the virus as schools shift from remote to in-person instruction.

Emergency funding frustrations grow for students in Chapel Hill (WRAL-TV reports) -- The University is beginning to release emergency funding from the federal coronavirus relief bill for students who have been affected by the COVID-19 outbreak, but some students have criticized the administration for moving too slowly to release funds and not being transparent about the process.

'Clear as mud' housing refund plans irk college students (AP reports) -- When Laura Comino opened the housing email from the UNC at Greensboro in June, she knew she had to take action.

Duke University dorm capacity reduced by about 30% to limit coronavirus spread (WRAL-TV reports) -- Duke University officials released a new plan to limit the spread of COVID-19 on-campus for the Fall semester.

Cardinal Gibbons student-athlete tests positive for COVID-19 (WRAL-TV reports) -- A student-athlete at Cardinal Gibbons High School has tested positive for COVID-19, according to a spokeswoman for the school. The student was screened for symptoms upon arriving for a small group outdoor workout and was sent home. The student later tested positive. Cardinal Gibbons did not say which sport the student participates in.

Symptoms, staff safety, bus capacity on the table as state board of education works toward start of school (WRAL-TV reports) -- The State Board of Education had only a few hours to review the CDC's recommendation before their meeting Friday morning, but said "in general it does seem to be in line with" plans in place for North Carolina schools.

NCSU startup OpenGait aims to provide life-changing prosthetic kits to amputees (WRAL-TV/TechWire reports) -- Three members of the Wolfpack are developing life-changing prosthetic kits to help above-the-knee amputees worldwide. Here’s their life-changing story.

New Tool Aims to Help Educators Keep Kids Reading on Grade Level (Public News Service reports) -- Even before the coronavirus pandemic, the majority of N.C.'s eight-year-olds, especially those from low-income families, lagged in reading proficiency. A new online tool developed by the N.C. Early Childhood Foundation shows how the state stacks up to national averages on factors that influence third-grade reading skills, including low birth weight and regular school attendance. It's aimed at helping educators and community services providers such as Karen Mills, operations director of Partnership for Children of Johnston County, prevent children from falling too far behind. Mills says the Pathways Data Dashboard sets the stage for measuring reading progress at the statewide level.

ENERGY & ENVIRONMENT
Designer to Create Shoes Made From Litter (Coastal Review reports) -- Genevieve Gholizadeh, an NC State grad student, is designing and creating a pair of beach running shoes made from litter found on the coast.

... AND MORE
Secret passageways and freedom roads: Remnants of the Underground Railroad in NC (WRAL-TV reports) -- When visiting North Carolina's coastal communities, visitors may not expect that some of those quaint riverside buildings once held secret passageways and smuggling tunnels. Situated at the end of the Pamlico River, one of the state's most popular "Freedom Roads," the city of Washington played a large role in the history of the Underground Railroad.

RICK SMITH: McClatchy, which bought N&O in 1995 for $373M, sells for $312M (WRAL-TV/TechWire column) -- Hedge fund Chatham Asset Management says will pay $312 million to buy newspaper publisher McClatchy - publisher of The News & Observer and Herald Sun in the Triangle - out of bankruptcy protection.

Ocracoke fig festival forced to go online-only, but cakes and preserves still selling well (Norfolk Virginian-Pilot reports) -- Fig trees grow in almost every yard and some varieties have been around for 200 years.

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