Opinion Roundup: N.C. constitutional amendments, new Army Physical Fitness Test, education and rural prosperity, humanely addressing dogfighting and more

Monday, July 16, 2018 -- A round up of opinion, commentary and analysis on: GOP convention could come to Democrat-friendly Charlotte, N.C. voters won't get chance to support schools, Army to introduce new PT test in 2020, Duke Energy Carolinas withdraws proposal to purchase wind power, Oysters could help protect coast from hurricane season and more.

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Monday, July 16, 2018 -- A round up of opinion, commentary and analysis on: GOP convention could come to Democrat-friendly Charlotte, N.C. voters won’t get chance to support schools, Army to introduce new PT test in 2020, Duke Energy Carolinas withdraws proposal to purchase wind power, Oysters could help protect against hurricane season and more.
N.C. voters won’t get chance to support schools (Wilmington Star News) — The GOP supermajority in Raleigh has decided that it’s important to let voters decide in November on six changes to the state constitution. Perhaps no priority is more important than enshrining North Carolinian’s right to hunt and fish in the constitution. That should put a stop to the hordes of angry protesters demanding that fishing be outlawed. Other constitutional amendments on the ballot include extending the GOP-dominated legislature’s control over boards and commissions, demanding that voters present photo IDs, lowering the cap on state income tax rates, and expanding the rights of crime victims. What’s not on the ballot is a school bond.
PAUL WOOLVERTON: Shocking survey says Democrat McCready leads 9th District GOP House candidate Harris by 7 points (Fayetteville Observer reports) — A survey published last week said Republican Congressional candidate Mark Harris is running seven points behind Democratic candidate Dan McCready in the 9th Congressional District. The survey result is surprising because the 9th District, which runs from Charlotte to Fayetteville and Bladen County, was designed by the Republican-controlled legislature to favor Republican candidates.
TOM FOREMAN: GOP convention could come to Democrat-friendly Charlotte (AP reports) — Charlotte, a Democrat-dominated city whose transgender-friendly bathroom ordinance triggered a statewide political war, is a front-runner to host the 2020 Republican Convention where President Donald Trump seeks an anointing to run for a second term. Charlotte's mayor says that would be just fine. But some local Democratic officials say: Not so fast. Published reports suggest Charlotte is favored to land the convention.
Charlotte is alright for Republicans (Winston-Salem Journal) -- The Charlotte City Council is scheduled to vote today on whether the city should enter into agreements with the local host committee and the Republican National Committee to host the Republican National Convention in Charlotte in 2020.
ANDREW DUNN: Why Charlotte is melting down right now over the Republican National Convention (Charlotte Agenda column) -- Charlotte has been talking about hosting the 2020 Republican National Convention. While the politics of these things are always strange, such conventions are a major event that puts the city on a world stage. So why is the Charlotte City Council all of a sudden melting down over it? First off, why does Charlotte want to host conventions?
BILL CRESENZO: Alamance County contemplates new voting machines (Burlington Times-News reports) — Alamance County will soon have to replace its voting machines at a potential cost of more than $200,000. That’s because the current machines that use touch screens are set to become “decertified” and will be replaced by machines that use paper ballots that are scanned by a computer.
Repudiate the rubbish (Fayetteville Observer) -- About a month ago, state legislative candidate Linda Devore got a big headline in this newspaper after she said she will actively disavow any misleading advertising that is circulated in her name. As she also pointed out, a lot of that advertising is churned out by third parties, often from out-of-town political-action and special-interest groups that aren’t allowed to coordinate with the candidates. Yes, it’s a crazy system, but it’s the one we’re stuck with.
JOHN HAWLEY: Area Dems gear up for ‘Break the Majority’ effort for fall (Elizabeth City Daily Advance reports) - Area Dems gear up 'Break the Majority' effort for fall (Elizabeth City Daily Advance reports) -- Area Democrats are marshaling their forces for November, including in Elizabeth City where they met to rally around Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper's “Break the Majority” initiative.
Election board, make the right decision (Winston-Salem Journal) -- The Forsyth County Elections Board will meet Tuesday in a last-ditch effort to seek consensus on an early voting plan for November. If its members can’t meet that goal, the decision will go to the state Board of Elections.
Early voting legislation means longer hours, fewer locations in WNC (Asheville Citizen-Times reports) -- A bill to change the way counties conduct early voting has become law, and counties are feeling the effects. The “early voting bill,” sets a 17-day early voting period for all counties, beginning the third Wednesday and ending the Friday before Election Day. The option for counties to hold early voting on the last Saturday before Election Day was not included in the guidelines, resulting in a veto from Gov. Roy Cooper and a vote to override by the House and Senate. A second bill, House Bill 335, was introduced to restore one-stop early voting on that Saturday soon after the first bill was passed. The bill was signed into law by the governor last week.
TAFT WIREBACK: A combative N.C. General Assembly session was lit by 'blue moon' (Greensboro News & Record reports) -- It was the best of sessions, it was the worst of sessions. With the North Carolina General Assembly’s adjournment now two weeks in the rearview mirror, Republicans and Democrats continue to spin a tale of two sessions out of the same six-week enterprise.
ANDREW DUNN: 7 ways nonprofits can get money directly from the legislature (Longleaf Politics reports) – N.C. taxpayers support plenty of nonprofits across the state. There are numerous grant programs run by public agencies, and opportunities for nonprofits to bid to provide services. But there’s a much easier way for nonprofits to earn money from state government: Getting it directly from the General Assembly. Allocations to charities and other not-for-profit organizations are a regular part of what’s known euphemistically as “special appropriations.” They’re more commonly called earmarks, or pork. This year’s budget had plenty of it.
DEREK LACEY: Local legislators happy with General Assembly session (Hendersonville Times-News reports) -- From amending the state’s biennial budget to putting a slate of constitutional amendments before voters in November, local lawmakers had a busy short session in the General Assembly. Rep. Cody Henson said that overall he thinks it was a great session.
MAXINE TAMAROV: War without Congressional approval impeachable (Jacksonville Daily News reports) -- Congressman Walter Jones and Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard will hold a press conference this week to announce their introduction of a resolution that would define presidential wars not declared by Congress as “impeachable high crimes and misdemeanors.”
ELY PORTILLO: NC Influencers want more jobs, skills training — but tariffs lurk over economy (Durham-Herald Sun reports) — Attracting businesses and finding the skilled workers to sustain them are top concerns for an influential group of North Carolinians, but the specter of fallout from trade wars and tariffs looms over an otherwise rosy picture. As part of an ongoing series, a group of 60 North Carolina Influencers — comprised of leaders in the state’s political, business, academic and faith communities — was asked about what they think are the biggest economic issues facing the state.
State must humanely address dogfighting issues (Greenville Daily Reflector) — Dogfighting is a felony in all 50 states because the blood sport — usually accompanied by heavy wagering — is cruel to dogs. Yet in North Carolina most dogs rescued from such operations face an even harsher fate. Those that show scars and wounds from fighting are deemed dangerous and usually euthanized. Executing the victims is a paradox at the center of an Orange County dog fighting case that raises questions about whether the state’s law is too rigid and what options might be available to spare fighting dogs.
DREW BROOKS: No more sit-ups: Army to introduce new PT test in 2020 (Fayetteville Observer reports) — After more than 30 years, the Army is moving away from the Army Physical Fitness Test. Sit-ups, pushups and a 2-mile run as an indicator of physical fitness will be phased out of the force by October 2020. In place of the Army Physical Fitness Test, the Army will introduce the Army Combat Fitness Test. A 2-mile run will cap the new test, too, but that’s where the similarities end.
ROBERT MOORE: Do you think NC’s cash bail system is fair? ACLU says it’s not (Henderson Times-News reports) — The state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union is on a campaign throughout North Carolina to raise awareness of what it calls the “injustice” of the cash bail system. At a forum Saturday at Sanctuary Brewing Co., Andrea “Muffin” Hudson with All of Us or None detailed her own personal experience with the cash bail system and how it resulted in her being detained for about two months on charges that were ultimately dropped. When she was released, her life was in shambles. It started with a routine traffic stop in 2013, Hudson said, and ended with her in jail. Because she couldn’t afford to pay her bail, she was in jail for 61 days.
SAM DEGRAVE: Asheville police chief fires second captain; appeal to follow, lawyer says (Asheville Citizen Times reports) — The Asheville Police Department has fired a second police captain in about as many months. Police Chief Tammy Hooper fired Capt. Mark Byrd on Friday, citing "repeated untruthful statements, as well as emails and other conduct demonstrating a willingness to malign and undermine other members of the command staff" in her termination letter. Hooper had placed Byrd under investigative suspension on May 16, 15 days after firing Captain Stony Gonce, one of the department's two other captains.
KEVIN GRIFFIN: We asked: Why did you vote for Trump and do you still support him? (Hickory Daily Record reports) -- For some, it’s the economy and immigration. For others, it’s a feeling of restored pride in America and a renewed respect for Christian values. Six members of our community who voted for President Trump share why they supported his candidacy and continue to endorse him. JOHN HALL -- Regulatory rollbacks help business succeed; BRENDA REMBERT -- People are feeling better about their paychecks; STATE REP. JAY ADAMS -- He's not Hillary and I value his knowledge of economics; AMELIA KENNEDY -- Trump win is a huge triumph for Christians; JAMES WELLS WALKER: A vote for change and jobs; DIANNE SHARPE -- I'm for strong borders and against abortion
Intervention can stem path to criminal behavior (Elizabeth City Daily Advance column) — It’s not easy, and it’s certainly not for everyone. The citizens, therapists and community activists who take on the challenges of helping redirect the behaviors of juveniles and other criminal offenders aren't motivated by the typical rewards. Their payoff is simply having a role in moving as many individuals as possible beyond a criminal past toward a future of productivity and positive human potential.
RICHARD GROVES: A visit to the lynching memorial (Winston-Salem Journal column) -- I felt white. Along the walkway leading to the National Memorial for Peace and Justice — casually known as the lynching memorial — signs tell you, “This is a sacred space,” and encourage you to conduct yourself accordingly. Inside the open-air structure visitors walk among the hanging steel coffin-sized monuments — one for each county in which a lynching took place — silently or speaking in hushed reverential tones. The names of the persons who were lynched in each county are etched into the steel along with the date of their deaths.
CELIA RIVENBARK: RGB deserves supreme care (Wilmington Star-News column) -- Dear Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Girl, how you doin’? Seriously. Feeling OK? Need your wee shoulders rubbed? Can someone get you a smoothie? Something with a lot of iron and chia seeds perhaps? Whoa. Whoa. WHOAAAAA. Put down that cheeseburger. Yes. I know it looks delicious and you’re 85 and should be able to eat anything you want but, well, how can I put this? We need you to stay with us. As a nation, we are the emergency room doc putting the paddles on your tiny, fierce body and screaming: “HANG IN THERE, JUSTICE GINSBURG! DON’T LEAVE US!”
ALLEN JOHNSON: ‘Contested Waters’: Why so many racial incidents at pools? (Greensboro News & Record column) -- “Can’t I live?” When he was a preteen, one of my nephews would say those three words — always with a plaintive sigh attached — whenever he felt someone was bothering him for no reason.
KEVIN BAXTER: The road to Morganton (EdNC column) -- The 38-year-old, Durham-based North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics is building a second campus in Morganton to extend its world-class public high school experience to more North Carolina students. To open in 2021, the $78 million campus near Hickory and Lenoir will bring the rigorous and transformative NCSSM residential experience to an additional 300 promising 11th and 12th graders annually and will enhance the school’s online offerings, which touch thousands of North Carolina students in their local schools. The school’s programs seek to maximize the potential of North Carolina’s brightest STEM students to create, discover, innovate, and lead in fields vital to the state’s modern economy. This is the pilot episode of the series that will tell the story of the development of a new campus for the NC School of Science and Mathematics in Morganton.
TINA ADKINS: A trip through African American museum (New Bern Sun Journal reports) -- Tryon Palace recently sponsored a trip to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. More than 100 people filled three charter buses
DAN BAUMAN, TYLER DAVIS & BRIAN O’LEARY: Executive Compensation at Private and Public Colleges (Chronicle of Higher Education reports) -- UNC President Margaret Spellings is the 13th highest paid public university executive in the United States, according to a new report, and N.C. State Chancellor Randy Woodson is close behind. Spellings was paid $977,077 in 2017. Woodson ranked 19th, with total compensation of $826,136. UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Carol Folt was 67th, with total pay of $605,104.
Endowment Can Help Our Schools (Southern Pines Pilot) — The funding of public education in North Carolina is getting more precarious with every passing year. Each annual budget cycle is a struggle for local school systems to make ends meet. Local dollars shoulder an ever-growing level of funding responsibility that the state used to cover. But what if there was a way — beyond federal, state and local tax dollars — to cover special needs, fund expensive building projects, and supplement everyday learning expenses?
Education is the key to creating rural prosperity (Fayetteville Observer) — The solution is at once simple and complex. How do you create prosperity in North Carolina’s rural counties? You get them the same resources that the urban counties enjoy. But that is oh, so easier said than done. And yet, we’ve got to try. Because for many of this state’s rural counties, joblessness, poverty and despair are a way of life.
YEN DUONG: Teachers view student behavior differently based on race, NC State research suggests (Fayetteville Observer reports) — Is that child in class trying to hurt others or obliviously running around? Their teacher’s judgment might be based on their race. In a study published last week, N.C. State University researchers showed that prospective teachers were worse at recognizing emotions on black faces than on white faces. The undergraduates also mislabeled more black faces as ‘angry’ and thought misbehaving black boys showed more hostility than misbehaving white boys.
SARAH VANDER SCHAAFF: Amid the opioid crisis, some seriously ill people risk losing drugs they depend on (Washington Post column) — The country’s first opioid crisis more than a century ago — when doctors freely prescribed morphine, laudanum and heroin for pain — had left 1 in 200 Americans addicted, according to the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis. That eventually led to a backlash and a reluctance to prescribe opioids — a reluctance that persisted until about 30 years ago. Paul Chelminski, a professor at the UNC School of Medicine, is part of a $9 million study considering how cognitive behavioral therapy and motivational interviewing — helping patients figure out how to achieve their goals — might help reduce the use of opioids.
JOHN DOWNEY: Duke Energy Carolinas withdraws proposal to purchase wind power (Charlotte Business Journal reports) -- Duke Energy Carolinas has quietly abandoned plans for purchasing up to 500 megawtts worth of wind power capacity for the Carolinas by 2022 after finding the initial bids from producers "not economically attractive."
TIM WHITE: Some animals are still more equal than others (Fayetteville Observer column) — It was lipstick-on-a-pig week for two of our state’s leaders. Lt. Gov. Dan Forest and Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler headed east to the counties where factory-scale hog farms are the biggest business around, telling their audiences that it’s all the lawyers’ fault. All those lawsuits against the pork industry have nothing to do with the fact that the biggest producers require the farmers who raise their hogs to use a primitive waste-disposal technique that’s worthy of the 19th century, not the 21st.
Time for GenX plans and leadership (Fayetteville Observer) — The word “GenX” entered our lives about 13 months ago. As the summer of 2017 stretched into fall, we began to understand how ubiquitous this threat to health and safety really was. The chemical involved in the manufacture of Teflon and similar coatings wasn’t just a problem for Wilmington area public water systems or for homeowners with private wells in the area around the Chemours plant on the Bladen-Cumberland county line.
PAUL WOOLVERTON: Is hemp the future of NC agriculture? (Fayetteville Observer reports) — If someone were to wander across Al Averitt’s farm, past a corn field on the left and rows of red-flowered crape myrtles on the right, that person might be tempted to call 911. Or he might be tempted to steal. In tidy rows across 3 acres in northern Robeson County, Averitt has hundreds of cannabis plants. One every six feet. The plants look just like marijuana, with long, narrow leaves that have serrated edges. Sure to catch the eye of a law enforcement officer or someone looking to get high. But Averitt’s plants are legal — he has a license to prove it, should the sheriff pay him a visit — and they can’t get you high.
TRISTA TALTON: With State Funding, Is Bird Island Fight Over? (Coastal Review reports) — Acres of pristine, building-free oceanfront land stretching between the last house on the west end of Main Street in Sunset Beach and the Bird Island Coastal Reserve could be state-owned in the months to come. The state budget includes $2.5 million to buy the land, an offer that, if accepted, will close the book on a contentious fight with a story that has as many twists and turns as the inlet that once meandered through the property.
STEPHANIE CARSON: Oysters Could Help Protect NC from Hurricane Season (Carolina Public News Service reports) — North Carolina's coastal residents are breathing a sigh of relief after Hurricane Chris took a turn away from the Atlantic Coast – but there undoubtedly will be additional threats from extreme weather and sea-level rise this season. The answer to those problems could lie with a favorite delicacy – the oyster.
MYRON B. PITTS: Civil War center charged to tell full story (Faytevvile Observer column) — It strikes me that Mayor Mitch Colvin lies right at the dividing line of African-Americans’ opinion on the planned N.C. Civil War & Reconstruction History Center. He told a group of 60-some people assembled for a town hall on Thursday that he supported the center, but it took some convincing. The center is expected to create 200 jobs and bring $20 million a year of economic impact
TOM LASSITER: Pain, peace and justice (Greensboro News & Record column) — More than 20 years ago, not long before my father’s death, I asked him why my grandparents had uprooted the family and moved from Goldsboro to Smithfield when he was an infant. Smithfield was much smaller than Goldsboro, and moving at that stage of life didn’t make sense. My grandfather was a carpenter, and surely there was more work available in Goldsboro. Daddy answered, “They hanged a man. Mama said she didn’t want to stay around people that mean.” It slowly sank in what he meant. The lynching of a black man changed the course of my family’s history.
Share the road, save a life (Henderson Times-News) — Each year, more than 3,000 pedestrians and 850 bicyclists are hit by vehicles in North Carolina, making it one of the least safe states for walking and cycling. On average, about 160 pedestrians and 20 bicyclists are killed each year in the state, representing about 15 percent of all traffic fatalities on North Carolina roads. In collisions with vehicles traveling at 40 mph, pedestrians have an 85 percent chance of dying. These statistics are from DOT’s “Watch For Me NC” program aimed at preventing crashes involving cyclists and pedestrians.

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