Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018 -- A roundup of opinion, commentary and analysis on the merits of a key court decision on North Carolina's congressional map, the reasons why Toyota-Mazda passed on building a plant in the state, some divisions in the legislature over the GenX bill and more.
POLITICS & POLICY
CHRISTOPHER INGRAHAM: Still unclear about gerrymandering? See exactly how it worked in N.C. (Washington Post column)
-- “Gerrymandering” — drawing district boundaries so as to give your own political party an advantage in elections. It's possible because, in a majority of states, politicians are responsible for drawing their own district boundaries after each census. North Carolina Republicans have gotten quite good at this, as evidenced by the state's 2016 election returns. Republican House members representing North Carolina won 53 percent of the statewide popular vote, but took 10 out of 13, or 77 percent, of the state's congressional seats. If their seat haul had matched their popular vote total, they would have taken just seven out of 13 House seats.
ALEXANDRA PETRI: What gerrymandering? Every N.C. district just happens to look like a monster. (Washington Post column)
-- The North Carolina GOP said in a statement that it cannot possibly have gerrymandered the state’s congressional districts, as “a ‘gerrymander’ is by definition and common understanding, a strange looking ‘monster’ drawing.” Chris Ingraham correctly pointed out on Twitter that all North Carolina’s 2nd District needs is googly eyes to become a monster menacing Raleigh.
Court takes a strong stand on gerrymandering (Fayetteville Observer)
-- North Carolina just jumped into the middle of national turmoil over political gerrymandering. A panel of three federal judges ruled unanimously Tuesday that North Carolina’s Republican-dominated congressional districts were drawn in a way that violates the Constitution’s equal-protection provision by taking the power to elect their representatives away from the people. The judges called it “invidious partisanship.”
MOSTLY FALSE: GOP Chair Robin Hayes -- A gerrymander is 'a strange looking monster drawing' (PolitiFact)
– North Carolina Republican Party Chairman Robin Hayes said a gerrymander is "by definition and common understanding, a strange looking ‘monster’ drawing," insinuating that North Carolina’s Republican-drawn maps can’t be gerrymanders if the districts have smooth edges and look nice. While he’s right that weird shapes can be indicators of gerrymanders, shapes are not the lone determining factor. And there’s more than just one definition of gerrymandering. We rate his claim Mostly False.
JOSHUA DOUGLAS & MICHAEL SOLIMINE: Precedent, Three-Judge District Courts, and the Law of Democracy (Social Science Research Network)
-- As recent partisan gerrymandering cases have shown, three-judge district courts play a unique and important role in how the federal judiciary considers significant election law disputes. Yet two somewhat quirky procedural questions involving these courts remain unresolved: first, must three-judge district courts follow, as mandatory authority, circuit precedent in the circuit in which they sit? This problem arises because appeals of three-judge district courts go directly to the U.S. Supreme Court, skipping the courts of appeals. Can an appellate court that does not review their decisions still bind these courts? Second, when the U.S. Supreme Court summarily affirms the decisions of three-judge district courts, are those summary decisions precedential on all future courts?
LOUIS JACOBSON: Redistricting Cases Could Redefine State and U.S. Politics in 2018 (Governing Magazine analysis)
-- More than a dozen cases on partisan and racial gerrymandering are winding their way through the court system. Two cases, in particular, could become two of the most important this decade. The two Supreme Court cases this term on partisan redistricting -- Gill v. Whitford from Wisconsin and Benisek v. Lamone from Maryland -- could become the most important cases of this decade.
ANNE BLYTHE: ‘North Carolina is a test case, y’all.’ Judge joins rally against changes to courts (Durham Herald-Sun analysis)
-- A former North Carolina Supreme Court justice joined a crowd of people across the street from the state Legislative Building on Wednesday to speak out against changes lawmakers have proposed for how judges across the state make it to the bench. Patricia Timmons-Goodson, a 63-year-old lawyer who served as an associate justice from 2006 to 2012, was at a rally organized by the state NAACP, NC Voters for Clean Elections, Democracy NC, Progress NC, Common Cause NC, the Council of Churches, Equality NC and the AFL-CIO.
EMERY DALESIO: Miss makes N.C. 0-for-25-years in luring carmakers (AP news analysis) -- A decision by Toyota and Mazda to build a joint car factory in Alabama instead of North Carolina was received as another economic miss for one of the few Southeast states never to land a modern carmaker.
JASON DEBRUYN: Why Toyota-Mazda Passed On NC, And Why That May Be A Good Thing (WUNC-FM analysis)
-- When auto manufacturers Toyota and Mazda build a $1.6 billion joint manufacturing plant in Alabama, it will mark another miss for economic developers in North Carolina. North Carolina was a finalist for the plant, which will add 4,000 manufacturing jobs near Huntsville, but ultimately lost out in the final stages of negotiations.
RICHARD BARRON: 'Wakeup call' for the state: Toyota, Mazda walked away from $1.5 billion incentive package (Greensboro News & Record analysis)
-- Toyota and Mazda made it official: Alabama, not North Carolina, will be the home of their new joint factory. The announcement — made by Alabama's governor and leaders of both car companies in Huntsville, the site of the new plant — was anticlimactic: News of the deal was leaked and spread like wildfire, stunning local and state leaders, some of whom admitted they were caught by surprise. The shock had not worn off Wednesday as details of the offer North Carolina officials made to Toyota and Mazda became known.
RICHARD CRAVER: Runner-up finish for Toyota-Mazda plant stirs questions, self-reflection (Winston-Salem Journal analysis)
-- Alabama has won the competition for a $1.6 billion Toyota-Mazda auto production plant — and the reality of the loss for North Carolina spurred a postmortem wave of questions and self-reflection in the state. What happens when you seemingly throw the economic version of the kitchen sink into snagging a major auto facility and still fall short?
ALAN RAPPEPORT: To Grease Wheels of Congress, Trump Suggests Bringing Back Pork (New York Times analysis)
-- Remember the infamous “Bridge to Nowhere”? The Montana Sheep Institute or the now-shuttered North Carolina teapot hall of fame? Congress years ago eliminated funding for these types of pet projects, known as earmarks, after they became derided as government boondoggles, largess and a pathway to corruption. President Trump now wants to bring them back.
VIVIAN YEE, CAITLIN DICKERSON and SHERYL GAY STOLBERG: Head-Spinning Days for Young Immigrants as Lawmakers and Judges Debate Their Fate (New York Times analysis)
-- Immigration lawyers were deluged on Wednesday morning with clients eager to take advantage of the court-ordered reinstatement. Jeremy McKinney, an immigration lawyer in North Carolina whose firm has more than 1,000 clients with DACA, said he posted the court ruling on the firm’s Facebook page late Tuesday, only for his phones to blow up in the morning. Mr. McKinney said that he had advised his clients against filing renewal paperwork because there was no guarantee that the administration would approve any new applications, even if it did not win on appeal, and he did not feel comfortable accepting legal fees for what would likely be a futile effort.
ENERGY & ENVIRONMENT
GARY ROBERTSON: N.C. lawmakers back at work, no new GenX deal yet (AP news analysis) -- The North Carolina legislature returned to, passing a few simple bills but finishing with Republicans unable to agree on more immediate action for water quality challenges intensified since disclosure of the discharge of a little-studied chemical into a river.
GREG CHILDRESS: Class-size mandate to put a big squeeze on some Durham schools (Durham Herald-Sun analysis)
-- The struggle for classroom space is real for students and teachers at Forest View Elementary School. The school, located in the western part of the county on Mt. Sinai Road, is currently 100 students over capacity, and its teachers and staff have been forced to stretch their creativity to limits to accommodate them all. And after the controversial K-3 class size mandate is factored into the equation for next school year, the Forest View staff will be forced again to tap into their inner-Hephaestus to come up with nine additional classrooms needed to accommodate the roughly 769 students projected to enrolled there during the 2018-19 school year.
A new lesson in school reform (Fayetteville Observer)
-- Robeson County is the first in the state to turn a failing school over to an outside management organization instead of shutting it down. The county’s school board unanimously agreed Tuesday to turn Southside Ashpole Elementary School in Rowland over to the state’s new Innovative School District. The new program was created amid considerable controversy in 2016.