BlueNC's blog

Monday News: Walking wounded

CANCER IS STRIKING VETERANS AT AN ALARMING RATE: A McClatchy investigation of cancer rates among veterans in the nearly two decades since the Sept. 11 attacks shows that the number of cancer cases treated by the VA health care system has skyrocketed. The review, based on Freedom of Information Act requests for every unique cancer treatment provided by a VA health care facility from fiscal years 2000 to 2018 found the rates of blood cancers ⁠— lymphoma, myeloma and leukemia ⁠— rose 18% in the same period. Other cancers increased as much as 96%. The VA has disagreed with McClatchy’s findings. However data from its internal cancer registry that the agency provided also shows a significant rise during a similar time frame. According to that, the number of blood cancers increased 41%, from 2000 to 2017.
https://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/article236560778.html

Sunday News: From the Editorial pages

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PLAYING POLITICS OVERRIDES PAYING FOR QUALITY PUBLIC SCHOOLS: What is most important to Senate leader Phil Berger, House Speaker Tim Moore and the majority in the legislature? Politics and partisan loyalty. It is not public education. That was made clear when they offered to increase the teacher pay raise if Democrats would vote to override the governor's veto of the main state budget bill. That is the big reveal. Playing games with teachers' salaries. None of this is based on what is needed to assure a quality education for North Carolina’s children. All of it is about politics. It is about how much legislators must spend in their effort to avoid negotiating with Gov. Roy Cooper. Teachers and parents can add and subtract. They know that North Carolina spends less per student for public education than all but five states.
https://www.wral.com/editorial-playing-politics-overrides-paying-for-quality-public-schools/18746571/

Saturday News: Teachers deserve better

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GOVERNOR COOPER VETOES PALTRY 3.9% RAISES FOR EDUCATORS: Gov. Roy Cooper has vetoed the legislature’s proposed raises for North Carolina teachers, calling them “inadequate.” Instead, he wants to negotiate for higher raises. “It’s clear to me that legislators want to do this, and we shouldn’t accept these paltry pay raises when we have an opportunity to do more,” Cooper told reporters Friday morning at a news conference at the Executive Mansion in downtown Raleigh. The Republican-controlled North Carolina General Assembly had approved average teacher raises of 3.9% over two years, including step increases for longevity. Lawmakers also passed 2% raises for non-instructional staff. But most Democrats opposed the bill containing those raises, and the Democratic governor announced Friday that he had blocked them.
https://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/article237150104.html

Friday News: Climate heroes

GRETA THUNBERG IN CHARLOTTE TODAY TO SUPPORT 14 YEAR-OLD ACTIVIST MARY STEVENS: A visit to Charlotte on Friday by 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg will focus new attention on climate change. But for months, a local student has also clamored for action in lonely vigils outside the city’s halls of power. Each Friday since February, Myers Park High School ninth-grader Mary Ellis Stevens, 14, sometimes joined by a few friends, has held “climate strikes” outside the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center. Mary Ellis’ strikes are part of a global phenomenon. An estimated 4 million young people worldwide, including hundreds in Charlotte, poured into the streets for climate protests on Sept. 20. Friday’s event will be from noon to 2 p.m. outside the government center. Thunberg and Mary Ellis were aware of each other through social media, Mary Ellis said, but not until Wednesday had they directly communicated: I’m coming to join you in Charlotte this Friday, Thunberg wrote in a message.
https://www.newsobserver.com/news/state/north-carolina/article237110839.html

Thursday News: Milking the donors

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BERGER USES CAMPAIGN FUNDS TO PAY HIS MORTGAGE: Berger bought the townhouse in question for $250,000 in 2016, property records show. In a copy of his complaint shared with The News & Observer, Hall said that since then Berger has taken, via an LLC he controls, more than $55,000 from his campaign to pay for the house. Berger “is using his campaign fund like a piggy bank,” Hall said at the news conference. “Unless the State Board of Elections takes action, politicians will continue to profit handsomely by funneling campaign contributions to themselves, directly or indirectly, to pay for inflated expenses and subsidized assets,” Hall wrote in his complaint. The complaint also says Berger has charged his campaign more than $100,000 in recent years for rent and other expenses at his law firm in Eden, through a different LLC he controls. Campaign finance records show Berger typically pays himself $3,000 a month in rent from his campaign — $1,500 each for his law office and his Raleigh townhouse.
https://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/article237052589.html

Wednesday News: Durham bullish on affordable housing

MAYOR STEVE SCHEWEL AND $95 MILLION HOUSING BOND FAVORED BY SUPERMAJORITY: Durham Mayor Steve Schewel easily won election to a second term Tuesday, and voters also overwhelmingly approved the city issuing $95 million in bonds to help create more affordable housing. With all precincts reporting, Schewel outdistanced Sylvester Williams, a minister making his fourth run for Durham mayor, by an 83 to 16 percent margin, according to unofficial results. Affordable housing was one of Schewel's top priorities in the campaign, and the bond referendum was approved by a 76 to 24 percent margin. City Council members Jillian Johnson, Charlie Reece and Javiera Caballero all won re-election in a six-person race for three at-large council seats.
https://www.wral.com/durham-affordable-housing-bonds-pass-mayor-re-elected/18746416/

Monday News: Unexcused absence

TILLIS IS A NO-SHOW AT KAY HAGAN'S MEMORIAL SERVICE: Former U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan was remembered Sunday as a woman who brought tireless energy and passion to her job, her family and her faith. More than a thousand people filled Greensboro’s First Presbyterian Church to honor Hagan, who died last week at 66 after a three-year battle with encephalitis, caused by Powassan virus. The crowd included five of Hagan’s Senate colleagues: Sen. Richard Burr, an N.C. Republican, Democratic Sen. and presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, and three former Democratic senators, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana. The service came almost 11 years to the day that Hagan defeated Republican Sen. Elizabeth Dole to win election to the Senate and five years after she lost the seat to Republican Thom Tillis in what was then the nation’s most expensive Senate race.
https://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/article236823213.html

Sunday News: From the Editorial pages

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UNC BOARD'S FOCUS SHOULD BE EDUCATIONAL EXCELLENCE, NOT LEGISLATIVE FEALTY: A dozen members of the UNC board – fully half of its members – carry the very real potential to be compromised and become puppets of the legislative leadership. Years ago there were various criteria and categories legislators were required to follow in their election of UNC board members. There were even candidate nominations and fierce campaigns within the General Assembly to win a coveted slot. We are not about to suggest that the old was optimal. But the evolution has NOT been an improvement. To achieve more diversity and less fealty to the legislature, give the governor the authority to appoint a third – eight members -- of the board. Even in circumstances where the governor and legislature’s majority may share political party the clear difference in interests would bring about a broader board.
https://www.wral.com/editorial-unc-board-s-focus-should-be-educational-excellence-not-legislative-fe...

Saturday News: Impasse

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MARATHON SESSION ADJOURNS WITH NO NEW BUDGET: "It’s unfortunate that the General Assembly left town passing a sweeping corporate tax cut while leaving teachers with a pay raise much less than other state employees," Cooper said Friday. During the budget impasse, lawmakers passed a series of so-called "mini-budgets" to get new money to various agencies and programs. Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger
said Thursday that the various measures account for 98.5 percent of what was in the vetoed budget. Although Cooper complained about the piecemeal process, he has signed many of the proposals into law. The teacher pay raise bill cleared the legislature Thursday, but Cooper wouldn't say Friday whether he would sign it or veto it to force more negotiations.
https://www.wral.com/long-legislative-session-fails-to-produce-state-budget/18738654/

Friday News: Penny-Pinching Phil

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NC SENATE STRIPS FUNDING FROM HOUSE DISASTER BILL: The nearly $280 million package included $30 million for the N.C. Office of Recovery and Resilience to aid local governments in recovery from the hurricanes, $32 million to enhance laser-made topographical maps of North Carolina and $15 million for Golden L.E.A.F. to provide disaster grants to governments and nonprofits, among others. That bill was not the one voted on in the Senate on Thursday, with the body instead considering and ultimately approving a different Storm Recovery Act of 2019. The Senate effort included $70.8 million to provide matching dollars for Hurricane Florence recovery projects funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s public assistance program, as well as $31.7 million for similar projects that are part of the recovery from Hurricanes Matthew, Michael and Dorian. The House voted 106-0 not to concur with the Senate and appointed a conference committee led by McGrady.
https://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/article236869443.html

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