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Opinion Roundup: Trump does Triangle; Gantt talks; evictions to skyrocket; private schools awash in PPP funds; and more

Posted July 28, 2020 9:12 a.m. EDT
Updated July 28, 2020 9:15 a.m. EDT

Trump tours Morrisville vaccine plant

Tuesday, July 28, 2020 -- A round up of opinion, commentary and analysis on: Trump does the Triangle; Gantt talks change; utility cutoffs and evictions about to skyrocket; vouchers challenged; private schools get millions in COVID relief funds; and more.


CORONAVIRUS 2020
NC lawmaker with COVID recovers; no other legislative cases known (WRAL-TV reports) -- Sen. Danny Britt, R-Robeson, appears to have had a case of the coronavirus.

Travelers From NC to DC Must Quarantine (Coastal Review reports) -- Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser has ordered that anyone coming into the district after traveling from a “high-risk state” such as North Carolina self-quarantine for two weeks.

CAMPAIGN 2020
Trump seeks political shot in the arm in vaccine push (AP reports) -- President Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic put his political fate in grave jeopardy. Now he’s hoping to get credit for his administration’s aggressive push for a vaccine -– and crossing his fingers that one gets approved before Election Day.

Trump promotes vaccine progress at NC plant (N.C. McClatchy reports) -- Trailing in recent polls and blamed for his administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, President Donald Trump visited a Research Triangle Park company Monday and lauded progress toward treatments and a potential vaccine. “We will achieve a victory over the virus by unleashing American scientific genius,” Trump said at the beginning of his remarks at Fujifilm Diosynth in Morrisville. Fujifilm Diosynth is manufacturing a vaccine for the biotech company Novavax, which was awarded $1.6 billion

Trump seeks political shot in the arm in vaccine push (AP reports) -- President Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic put his political fate in grave jeopardy. Now he’s hoping to get credit for his administration’s aggressive push for a vaccine -– and crossing his fingers that one gets approved before Election Day.

Trump applauds speed of coronavirus vaccine development in Morrisville visit (WRAL-TV reports) -- President Donald Trump made a quick visit to the Triangle on Monday to tout his administration's efforts to produce a vaccine for coronavirus.

Vice President Mike Pence to visit Thales Academy (WRAL-TV reports) -- Vice President Mike Pence is coming to North Carolina on Wednesday, when he plans to visit Thales Academy K-5, a private school in Apex where the founder is a top GOP donor. Thales is currently open for in-person classes. Pence will be touring Thales to see how school choice works and to advocate for more implementation.

JIM HUNT: Donald Trump is striking the wrong tone on opening schools (N.C. McClatchy column) -- At this moment of crisis and uncertainty, we need leaders who will follow the science and data wherever they lead us, and right now, President Trump is failing to meet the moment.

Trump's pandemic plan: Develop vaccine, win re-election (WRAL-TV reports) -- President Donald Trump said Monday that his administration is completely focused on developing a vaccine and other treatments to deal with coronavirus, which will allow him to rebuild the nation's shattered economy during a second four-year term.

Trump’s visit to Triangle reignites debate over H-1B visa suspension (WRAL-TV/TechWire reports) -- Pro-business groups and universities argue that an executive order regarding H-1B visas, which was signed by the president in June and will last until the end of the year, is making it harder for these kinds of companies to recruit the talent necessary.

NC Senate race heats up over accusation of misusing a VA loan (WXII-TV reports) -- An Democratic N.C. Senate candidate in a competitive district may have violated the terms of a Department of Veterans Affairs home loan program by borrowing money to buy an investment property, according to his GOP opponent. Democrat J.D. Wooten, who’s seeking the Senate seat being vacated by Republican Sen. Rick Gunn in Alamance and eastern Guilford counties, used a VA loan to purchase a house in Greensboro in March 2019, property records show.

GARY PEARCE: Guide to reading polls (Wilson Times column) -- . As someone who spent 40-plus years reading polls, analyzing results and questioning pollsters, here are my tips about reading polls.

MONUMENT(al) CHANGE
‘What did not change, was racism’: A conversation with Charlotte civil rights icon Harvey Gantt (Charlotte Agenda reports) -- It’s almost noon on June 23, one day after four people were killed on Beatties Ford Road, two days after Father’s Day, four weeks after the George Floyd protests began, 37 years after he became Charlotte’s first Black mayor, 57 years after he became the first Black student to attend Clemson, 60 years after he was a high school kid sneaking out of his house to lead the sit-in movement in Charleston, and one day too soon for the lunch menu. Progress can be like that. Even for Harvey Gantt, a civil rights icon who’s given more of his life to Charlotte than just about anyone in the past century, sometimes there aren’t exceptions. “I think we’ll always remember what you were doing in 2020, what you were doing pre-2020, and what you were doing after 2020,” the 77-year-old says. “We’re eating differently. We’re approaching people differently. I find myself tipping more than I used to tip. Everything is changed.”

N.C. Racial Equity Task Force invites public to join Zoom meeting (WRAL-TV reports) -- The newly-formed State Racial Equity Task Force wants input from the public.

ANN DOSS HELMS: Gaston Confederate Monument Report Comes At Tense Time (WFAE-FM reports) -- Gaston County commissioners will get a report on the county's Confederate monument Tuesday night, at a meeting that's expected to draw a crowd in a time of racial tension. Feelings were already running high two weeks ago, when a volunteer advisory panel voted 7-5 to remove the Confederate soldier on a pedestal that has stood outside Gaston County’s courthouse since 1912. Some said it’s a tribute to soldiers who fought bravely. Others denounced it as a monument to white supremacy.

Journal joins news outlets demanding release of video in John Neville's death (Winston-Salem Journal/Greensboro News & Record reports) -- The Winston-Salem Journal and the News & Record of Greensboro have joined a coalition of media organizations, including the New York Times, that is petitioning a judge to publicly release video footage in the jail-related death of John Elliott Neville in December. The Forsyth County Sheriff's Office did not publicly acknowledge his death for seven months and released limited information on June 26 only after questions from the Winston-Salem Journal.

POLICY & POLITICS
Unpaid bills drive NC families to financial brink (AP reports) -- As many as 1 million families in North Carolina 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.

Finding Home: Evictions Resume In Mecklenburg, But Money And Mediation Help Keep Some In Their Homes (WFAE-FM reports) -- Here's a recipe for an avalanche of evictions: The state's moratorium on evictions amid the coronavirus pandemic is over. Eviction courts have reopened. Unemployment remains high and federal benefits are running out. Mecklenburg County so far has been able to stave off evictions in about half the cases, thanks to emergency rental assistance and cooperation among Legal Aid, landlords, mediators and social service agencies.

Lindberg pulled into $524M case (Triangle Business Journal reports) -- The Durham billionaire already convicted on federal bribery charges has been hit with another civil suit in federal court, a case that revolves around hundreds of millions of dollars.

Charlotte council member faces conflict-of-interest questions over COVID-19 relief money (Charlotte Observer reports) -- When the federal government sent millions of dollars to Charlotte to give relief to businesses and workers devastated by the economic shutdown caused by the coronavirus, City Council member Tariq Bokhari agreed to help city administrators decide how the money should be used. Bokhari said Charlotte City Manager Marcus Jones asked him to take part because of his experience with workforce development and connections with businesses. Bokhari is executive director of the Carolina Fintech Hub, a nonprofit designed to turn the region into a hub for financial technology. But some City Council members and others say they were alarmed that administrators proposed $1.5 million go to support participants in the nonprofit’s advanced technology jobs program. The proposal would have allowed Bokhari’s organization to potentially benefit from taxpayer money he is responsible for helping oversee, City Council members warned.

Lucama federal suit widens: Amended complaint includes buried records, electric bills (Wilson Times reports) -- Allegations that officials ordered town records buried and allowed adjustments to some residents’ electric bills are among new claims added to a federal lawsuit.

EDUCATION
LIZ SCHLEMMER: NC Public School Advocates File New Lawsuit Challenging School Vouchers (WUNC-FM reports) -- Five years after the state Supreme Court declared North Carolina's largest private school voucher program constitutional, public school advocates have filed another lawsuit challenging Opportunity Scholarships. Seven parents have signed on as plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed Monday, including the current president and recent vice president of the North Carolina Association of Educators.

Suit again targets NC private school voucher program (AP reports) -- Several North Carolina parents sued on Monday to halt the state's taxpayer-funded voucher program for K-12 children to attend private schools, saying they're discriminated against based on their beliefs about religion and sexuality.

Parents sue NC over tax-paid vouchers to private schools with religious requirements (N.C. McClatchy reports) -- Seven North Carolina parents filed a lawsuit Monday in Wake County Superior Court claiming that the state’s school voucher program is unconstitutional, in part because it provides funding to schools that discriminate against students or their families on religious grounds. The lawsuit, filed with support from the North Carolina Association of Educators and the National Education Association, challenges the state’s Opportunity Scholarship Program, which pays $4,200 per year toward tuition at private schools. The program has been controversial since it was launched in 2014. Supporters say it gives parents more choice in educating their children. Opponents say it siphons millions of tax dollars away from public schools each year and requires little accountability from private schools that receive the funds. The N.C. Attorney General’s Office said Monday it was reviewing the filing.

Private and charter schools in North Carolina received millions in PPP loans (N.C. McClatchy reports) -- More than 50 charter and private schools in Raleigh, Durham and Charlotte received loans of $150,000 to $2 million in recent months from the federal Paycheck Protection Program. The program, which was organized by the U.S. Small Business Administration, allows companies and nonprofits with fewer than 500 workers to get a low-interest loan to cover up to two months of payroll and expenses like rent and utilities. If the loan is used to retain workers and the company doesn’t cut wages, the loan becomes a grant. Of the 53 schools that received more than $150,000 in PPP loans, 13 were charter schools.

UNCW professor Mike Adam's death ruled suicide, says sheriff (WRAL-TV reports) -- The medical examiner said Mike Adams died from a single gunshot wound to the head.

UNC's dorm plan deemed "highest-risk" by CDC (WRAL-TV reports) -- As of right now, UNC-Chapel Hill plans to allow full capacity in dorm buildings. That could mean as many as eight students sharing one suite. That falls under the Center for Disease Control's highest risk category for shared living situations. UNC reported over 1,200 cancellations of housing since May 1, but does not track reasons for those cancellations.

MONICA LEE: Innovative models for increasing college enrollment and completion: McNair Mentors program (EdNC column) -- Rutherford County is a rural county located in the foothills of North Carolina. Ranked as a Tier 1 county by the North Carolina Department of Commerce, it is one of the most economically distressed counties in the state. Over 70% of the students in Rutherford County Schools come from low-socioeconomic households and less than 25% of residents have earned a two- or four-year degree. As such, a majority of graduates from Rutherford County will be first generation college students. Recognizing these challenges, the Robert and Janice McNair Educational Foundation created the McNair Mentor program in 1992 to provide additional support to students in Rutherford County Schools.

Another researcher with Duke ties is under the spotlight for disputed studies (Triangle Business Journal reports) -- A former Duke doctor faces scrutiny in a new report.

HEALTH
ROSE HOBAN: Health insurance premium picture for coming year uncertain (N.C. Health News reports) -- COVID-19 continues to rage with no end in sight, even as deadlines for insurers to ask for next year’s premium rates arrive. How do insurance companies know what their rates should be?

Trump welcomes N.C. 'Walking Marine' to White House (AP reports) -- President Donald Trump welcomed a Marine veteran to the White House as he completed his 300-mile walk from N.C. to the nation's capital to raise awareness about the problem of veteran suicide. Terry Sharpe, 69, was met at the Washington Monument by Karen Pence, the wife of Vice President Mike Pence, for the final leg of his journey from Summerfield, N.C., to the White House grounds where he was greeted by Trump, Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie and the U.S. Marine Band.

Hospital’s new owner rocks Plymouth with Texas-sized vision for northeastern NC counties (Carolina Public Press reports) -- Hospitals in NE counties grapple with pandemic costs, while newcomer talks revival. Health officials confident in regional big dog Vidant, despite cuts.

ENERGY & ENVIRONMENT
'Brushing scam': NC residents urged to not plant mystery seeds they didn't order (WRAL-TV reports) -- Many North Carolina residents are receiving packets of seeds they never ordered.

... AND MORE
‘Scared and excited’: Greg Fishel’s ‘leap of faith’ leads him away from North Carolina (N.C. McClatchy reports) -- In the almost 18 months since his departure from WRAL, Greg Fishel has reflected, readjusted and pretty much hit the reset button on his life. Now, newly divorced and in the middle of a global pandemic, the Triangle’s most famous weatherman is about to take a huge leap of faith. At the end of July, Fishel, 63, will leave Raleigh — his home for nearly 40 years — and move to West Palm Beach, Florida, to start a new life. He has friends there, but there’s no job or family waiting, just a strong sense that this is the right thing for him at this point in his life.

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