DUKE ENERGY, NOT RATEPAYERS, SHOULD PAY FOR COAL ASH MISMANAGEMENT: Is it fair that North Carolina consumers, who already paid for electric power produced at Duke Energy’s coal-burning power plants as long as 70 years ago, get another bill to pay for the company’s management failures that led to spills and contamination from coal ash storage facilities? Imagine the outrage if years after consumers filled up their cars with gasoline they got a bill demanding more money for that same gasoline because there was an accident at a refinery. That’s just what Duke Energy’s managed to achieve, with the help of North Carolina’s utilities Commission. A couple of months ago the Commission approved a rate increase on consumers in the eastern half of the state. While it was less than Duke initially asked for, it included about $230 million to pay for coal ash removal while at the same time imposing a $30 million penalty for failure in coal ash management.
DAVID PRICE: SANCTUARY FROM AN IMMORAL IMMIGRATION AGENDA: As an elected official, I have worked with dozens of local families, congregations, and advocacy organizations seeking relief from President Trump’s mass deportation agenda, and I have taken senior ICE officials to task directly for their enforcement tactics (including the recent raids in Durham and Orange counties). I have joined countless legislative efforts to grant permanent legal status to Dreamers, reject Trump’s Muslim Ban and border wall, and reform visa programs for immigrants. Yet until we fix our nation’s broken immigration laws comprehensively, too many of our neighbors will continue to live in the shadows, never knowing if the next knock on their door might be the last. That is why the voice of faith communities as advocates for immigrants and refugees is so powerful — and so essential. I commend the local congregations that have made the difficult decision to offer sanctuary.We all must work toward the day when such a decision is no longer necessary.
TAX CUTTING FERVOR SACRIFICES PUBLIC SAFETY IN NC: There are consequences when the North Carolina General Assembly considers its main mission is cutting taxes. Critical tasks citizens rightly expect their government to perform -- like keeping them safe and secure -- don’t get done. In the six months since an escape attempt at the Pasquotank Correctional Institution resulted in the death of four prison workers, at least 34 state prison workers have suffered injuries from assaults serious enough to cause them to lose work time. The unmet Public Safety Department needs are just one of several areas – public schools and universities, the environment and natural resources, health care – crying out for attention after years of financial neglect. There are an estimated half-billion in business tax cuts set to go into effect on July 1. The most important priority is NOT more tax cuts. It is adequately funding the most basic functions of government – including keeping the public safe.
WELCOME TO THE NANNY STATE OF THE UNC BOARD OF GOVERNORS: From the anxious speechifying emanating from Jones Street and the BOG, one might think that UNC schools are little more than political re-education camps where armies of brainwashing "leftist" professors are indoctrinating North Carolina children with the tenets of totalitarian liberalism. That’s just a load of claptrap, and the stellar reputation of the university system and its schools prove the point. For many decades college faculty and staff have urged students to recognize that American higher education is the envy of the world because it is an indispensable institution of democratic progress, and to join in making it all it can be. More recently, that counsel has encouraged students to reject authoritarian stratagems of ideological conformity, and to embrace the difficult but necessary dissonance and debate of intellectual – and democratic – progress. It used to be that advice was directed primarily to students who felt threatened by the status quo. With any luck, students with conservative inclinations will also come to see that they, too, are ill-served by overbearing paternalists.
MULVANEY WANTS BANKERS TO LOBBY MORE: Addressing the American Banking Assn. in Washington on Tuesday, Mulvaney urged its members to lobby lawmakers more vigorously. That was the point at which he also told them that as a congressman, he met with only two groups: lobbyists who’d ponied up money for his reelection and constituents. Lobbyists who didn’t fork over a donation? They didn’t get heard. Mulvaney’s message was clear: Bankers needed to pay to play in order to advance their agenda. It’s an agenda that Mulvaney supports, of course. He and the bankers’ association both want to reduce the bureau’s independence and rule-making authority. But he’s not an ideologue in Congress anymore — he’s now in charge of an agency created to protect consumers against unfair and predatory practices by banks and other lenders. Yet he seems to think his job is to liberate, not regulate, the companies he oversees. Mulvaney — who in his spare time serves as the architect of the White House’s disastrous, debt-crazed budget policy — has emphasized the importance of humility when it comes to the bureau’s regulatory authority. But his endorsement of pay-to-play politics and his ham-handed reversals of the bureau’s operations are anything but humble. The bureau will be lucky to survive his tenure.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
HELEN BELL: GERRYMANDERING JUST ONE EXAMPLE OF NEED TO RESTORE BALLOT INITIATIVES IN NC: Michigan made gerrymandering news last winter. In November they will decide if redistricting will be done by an independent citizens’ commission. NC remains in gerrymandering news as the GOP fights for the right to keep us the most heavily gerrymandered state in the country. Why can Michigan vote to make redistricting independent of politics but we don’t have that option? Citizen initiatives. Michigan is one of 24 states where citizens have the right to put measures on the ballot via petition. Models for citizen initiatives vary, but all allow citizens to have a direct voice in issues the legislature is not satisfactorily addressing. NC is one of the 26 states with no initiative process for its citizens. We lost this right in the 1916 North Carolina Legislation Restrictions Amendment. We remain constrained by this amendment from a century ago. Shouldn’t we demand the right as citizens to put initiatives on the ballot if enough of us agree it should be there? Would you like to see medical marijuana legalized here? Several states passed such laws through citizen initiatives. Other states have expanded Medicaid this way. I think we should have the right to do this, too.
NOAH RUBIN-BLOSE: WE SHOULDN'T ALLOW DISCRIMINATORY POLICY: It is heartening to see so much opposition to the Trump administration’s travel ban. The Muslim Ban, while egregious and especially harmful to refugees seeking a safe home, is not the only policy of its kind. It is part of a long history of discrimination in this country. If upheld, it will continue to pave the way for more policies that harm already marginalized people. Those who have an agenda to harm one group of people will often harm others too – this is true with the Trump administration and N.C. General Assembly. Similar to HB2, the ban is an attempt to scapegoat an entire community. I hope we continue to challenge the racism of the Trump administration as well as racism in our own communities.
LAUREN TOMOLA: SUPPORT NET NEUTRALITY: Net neutrality matters. This issue affects every business, every citizen, and every part of the country. I support net neutrality because I believe in a capitalist economy. In the last decade, the internet has become essential to the way people interact. Capitalism only works when there is a level playing field. If net neutrality is taken away, the cable companies will become the arbiters of every other industry. That goes against every principle of freedom, markets, speech, and equality that I value as an American. The argument that the market will fix this issue without laws just doesn’t hold water. It might have worked in the past when the internet was a service like television, but the world has changed since then. The internet is the medium of commerce and communication, not a service. I want Congressman Price, Senator Tillis and Senator Burr to support the Congressional Renewal Act. The FCC shouldn’t be allowed to make such a nation-changing decision on its own, acting against the good of the country. Our member of Congress must support net neutrality.