scharrison's blog

Richmond County public comment policy unconstitutional, expert says

Hat-tip to Lisa Sorg, who put the "T" in Tenacity:

Reached by email, Jonathan Jones, director of the Open Government Coalition at Elon University, said the county’s policy “clearly violates the First Amendment.”

Under North Carolina law, counties and cities are required allocated time in their meetings for public comment at least monthly. This time is known as a “limited public forum,” said Jones, who is a First Amendment scholar. And in limited public forums, officials can’t single out a category of class or speech to prohibit. “There’s almost no getting around that,” Jones added.

Thank God. I almost thought I was losing my mind, or losing my grasp of Constitutional principles. When I first read that "No comments about items on the Agenda" thing, I went back and re-read it outloud, to see if it sounded less crazy when vocalized. Sounded crazier. In case you're not up to snuff on this, Enviva is building a wood pellet plant in a predominantly African-American neighborhood, and said neighbors have been trying to express their concern and outrage for months:

NC's hair-raising dam safety issues not being addressed

When the levee breaks, I'll have no place to stay:

To help local and state official save lives in the event of a breach, the N.C. General Assembly included a provision in the Coal Ash Management Act of 2014 requiring some dam owners to file emergency actions plans (EAPs) with the state. The plans use modeling software to help decision makers understand where water will flow should the dam breach and when to warn or evacuate homeowners who, like Fraser, often don't know a dam is nearby.

Now, more than a year after those plans were required to be in place, 1,309 of the 2,011 dams that are supposed to have them don't. Only dams defined as high-hazard or intermediate-hazard potential -- designations based on the threat and property should the dam fail -- are required to have completed documents. In counties east of or contiguous to Interstate 95, 160 of the 217 dams supposed to have an EAP do not. The 73.7 percent lacking plans in eastern North Carolina is slightly outpacing the state's 60.6 percent.

Bolding mine. As is often the case when stories like this break, there's a handy expert standing by to tell us there's really nothing to worry about. And yet, not a rainy season goes by where several dams nationwide don't lose structural integrity and fail, and North Carolina has had its share. These emergency action plans do more than tell us what we should do in case of a failure, they help us figure out what other infrastructure needs we have by modeling the flow of flood waters in the event of a dam failure. And the fact we're still below 40% compliance is outrageous. A monumental failure to serve the people, that *will* result in the loss of life and property if not rectified.

Paralyzed shooting victim speaks out on need for gun control

His life was changed forever in the blink of an eye:

I’m one of the 78,000 people a year who are lucky enough to survive a gun injury. Lucky is a relative term. I have a spinal cord injury. I struggle with relentless nerve pain. One gun, one bullet changes everything.

Little did I know that 4:29 pm, April 15, 2005 would be the last pain-free moment I’d ever spend in my lifetime. At 4:30 pm, I entered the outer lobby of a Detroit television station, and was shot at point blank range. There was no confrontation, no attempted robbery, no yelling and screaming. A young man suffering from paranoid schizophrenia quietly pulled a 33-caliber handgun out of his pocket and pulled the trigger. It’s amazing the pain one bullet can cause. It was a living nightmare, a nightmare I share with an estimated 309 people who are shot in America on any given day.

This is almost too horrible to write about. To be wheelchair-bound is bad enough; we take for granted the ability to get up off the couch and walk to the bathroom, or dash back into the house if we forgot our wallet or sunglasses. For somebody in a wheelchair, even the simplest of activities are a challenge. But to also be in constant pain from a spinal injury, a pain that never fades away, nor can it be "managed" with pain meds, is just incomprehensible to most of us. We can't imagine it. But we really need to try, if we are to hold our elected officials accountable and not allow the gun-nuts to dictate policy:

NC GOP drives its Legislative fiat into downtown Asheville

And Big Brother is barely out of his campaign diapers:

Edwards made it clear that he doesn’t care what the people of Asheville think of this. Of course that isn’t terribly surprising, given that Edwards only represents a sliver of the city he wants to save from itself.

“As a courtesy I am informing you of this intent with the hope that your discussion may revolve more around ‘how’ to district, and forego the discussion of ‘should’ we district,” he told the City Council.

It's a testimony to the arrogance of the GOP that a freshman Senator feels free to dictate terms to a City Council that collectively has a few decades of service under its belt. But that's the difference between most Republicans and Democrats: When an "R" wins a race, no matter what the margin of victory, they consider it a "mandate" to do whatever crosses their mind. When a "D" wins, however, that's when the soul-searching really begins, the desire to make sure they are acting in the best interests of the whole, as opposed to disparate parts. But as far as Edwards is concerned, what the citizens of Asheville want doesn't matter:

Filed under "Also not a Transgender offender"

Under the sub-category "The dangers of opposite-sex attraction"

Robert William Woodard III, 28, was charged Thursday with 8 counts of felony indecent liberties with a student, 7 counts of felony first-degree sexual offense of a child 15 years of age or younger and 18 counts of felony sex acts with a student, according to the Chatham County Sheriff's Office.

An investigation by school officials, along with a tip from a parent, revealed potential violations of law, which the school district reported to the Sheriff’s Office. Members of the Sheriff’s Office are investigating allegations that Woodard was involved in an inappropriate relationship with a female student at Chatham Central High School.

Bolding mine, because a) Damn, and b) The girl doesn't have a driver's license, so she couldn't have become involved with this guy off school grounds unless somebody shuttled her around. I suppose she could have walked, but the school is kind of out in the boonies. It's like 4 miles from Goldston, which isn't what I would classify as a metropolitan hub, if you catch my drift. Yeah, I know. It happens, and they caught the guy. But when I think of the misplaced fear of LGBT folks, and the discrimination they suffer due to that fear, stuff like this takes on a different meaning, doesn't it? Real predators thrive in an environment where people are afraid of imaginary monsters.

The benefits and dangers of revamping NC's renewable energy policies

Big changes could be on the horizon:

Word that the work of a large stakeholder group of industry and environmental advocates convened in early 2015 to tackle a number of energy issues would likely yield new legislation this session came in a keynote speech Friday by Rep. Chuck McGrady, R-Henderson, at the University of North Carolina Institute for the Environment’s Clean Tech Summit in Chapel Hill.

“When that draft bill was shown to the groups who had been part of the collaborative process, everyone got their shorts in a wad,” McGrady said in his remarks. “Surprisingly though, in a very short period of time, the outline of an energy bill is emerging.”

Instead of taking up space on the front page with my usual long-winded rant, follow me below the fold if you're interested:

Diagnosing Trump: Mental health professionals are speaking out

And it's not looking good for the Liar in Chief:

These behaviors include but are not limited to: condescension, gross exaggeration (lying), bullying, jealousy, fragile self-esteem, lack of compassion, and viewing the world as Us versus Them. Having observed the school-yard bully tactics Trump employed during a series of public debates as well as his boasting presentation during interviews, we felt it would be important to raise awareness about some of his behaviors.

So in January 2016, we published Bullies: An Exploration Into Different Types of Bullies. Note: Our intention was to use a picture of Trump to make our point but were dissuaded due to the possibility of offending some of our Psychology Today readers, who are also his supporters, and so opted for a generic-looking meanie as our bully poster boy.

If you could have offended enough of those readers back in early 2016 with the truth of his personality disorder, we might not be in the situation we're in. But better late than never:

CCRC and Dogwood Alliance speak out on wood pellet plant

And Richmond County's draconian public comment rules:

The group had come to last month’s meeting to voice concerns about the Enviva plant, but were denied because of the county’s public comment policy, which states that speakers must sign up with the the board’s clerk the Friday prior to the monthly meeting.

Kim McCall, secretary of the group, said she and Debra David attempted to do so this month, but were again denied because Enviva was on the agenda. The public comment policy — which county officials said has been in place since 1997 — also does not allow for comment for an item on the agenda. McCall calls not being allowed to speak an “injustice.”

These County Commissioners might think they're being clever, but they're about to get a hell of a lot more exposure than they imagined, and not the good kind, either. Here's a few words from Emily Zucchino, fighting the good fight for the Dogwood Alliance:

Translating Trump: "They have their place"

Here's a dose of reality, you fuckwit: It's not 1920, and women serve *all* the same "roles" that men do in our society. They don't just fill a niche here and there; they are lawmakers, surgeons, engineers, soldiers, law enforcement officers, and even real estate moguls. And one of them got almost 3 million more votes for President than you did, which pissed you off so badly it led you to claim 3+ million votes in the election were "fraudulent." So you can stick your pseudo-compliments for their achievements where the sun don't shine, and follow it with that not-so-smart phone of yours.

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