UNC'S STATURE THREATENED BY SYSTEM BOARD'S MEDIOCRITY: Folt’s courtesy, professionalism and willingness to meet the desires of legislative leaders (including several key aides to legislative leaders landed well-paying jobs at the campus) has not been returned in kind – as displayed Tuesday when the UNC Board impetuously fired Folt four months before the date of her intended resignation. The board’s action, preceded hours earlier by an angry statement from Board Chairman Harry Smith, displayed just why exceptional and capable leaders like Margaret Spellings and Folt don’t want to work for them. Tuesday was Spelling's last day as president of the UNC system. Folt will leave on Jan. 31. Folt has accomplished a great deal in her tenure as chancellor. We thought at times that she did not move as quickly as she should have. But her deliberate style helped the university smooth out several trouble spots. Smith couldn’t bring himself to offer any appreciative words for Folt’s service to the students, faculty, administration, as well as his board.
IN NC, ALL DIVERSITY SITS ON ONE SIDE OF THE AISLE: In the 2019 House, the 26 African Americans and one Native American member are all Democrats. All 65 Republicans are white. In the Senate, the 10 African-Americans and 2 Indian-Americans are Democrats. Every Republican (29) is white. So when the majority Republican caucuses repair to their private deliberations to set the rules for North Carolina, only white people attend. There are no blacks, no Latinos, no Native Americans – though 22 percent of Tar Heels are black, 9 percent are Hispanic and 2 percent are Native American. Almost 150 years after the enactment of the 15th Amendment, our General Assembly is controlled by a white people’s party. Re-read that sentence. Perhaps it is unsurprising, then, to examine the fruits of their last seven years’ labor. The largest racial gerrymanders in history. Repeated “surgically precise” steps to thwart black electoral participation. Laws eliminating race discrimination claims. The repeal of the Racial Justice Act. State encouraged school segregation. Idolatrous protections for Confederate monuments. Legal shielding of police-camera footage. I could go on.
THE LEGISLATURE'S LATEST ASSAULTS ON TRANSPARENCY: It’s difficult to remember now, but when Republicans took the reins of power back in 2011, they rode in on a platform that promised a new era of openness in government. Whether they were highlighting the corruption of former House Speaker Jim Black, the top-heavy control of the Senate by longtime Democratic leader Marc Basnight, or the numerous ethical foibles that plagued the administration of former Gov. Mike Easley, Republican leaders promised a new, cleaner and more transparent government. As has been documented in the years since, however, most of those promises of reform have been ignored or affirmatively broken. Rather than disinfecting the legislative branch, conservative leaders have doubled down on secrecy, obfuscation, abuse of process, and limitations on debate. From hastily-called late night “special” sessions, to the disastrous backroom deal that produced HB 2, to last year’s remarkable decision to pass a state budget without allowing an opportunity for the proposal and consideration of amendments, the pattern continues.
CONSUMERS EMBRACE RENEWABLE ENERGY, SO SHOULD NC LEGISLATIVE LEADERS: Public officials along with public and private energy generators and distributors should take notice and look for appropriate ways to encourage expanded residential use of renewable energy. Gov. Roy Cooper has noticed and has been leading efforts to grow the clean energy economy. Our legislative leaders have been out of step with both North Carolinians desires and our neighboring states energy policies. Virginia and South Carolina have looked to expand opportunities for solar capacity and offshore wind energy development while appropriately remaining highly skeptical at efforts to make our coastal waters open to fossil fuel exploration and development. These solar rebates were gone in a flash. It should be a bright signal to North Carolina policy makers. It is past time to expand opportunities to embrace renewable energy and put the state back on the road to national leadership in growing its clean energy economy.
THE LOST CHILDREN OF THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION: In an accounting that resulted from Judge Sabraw’s order, stemming from a legal challenge brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, the government acknowledged that nearly 3,000 children had been separated from their parents since the policy was announced. But on top of that, the inspector general said, thousands more may not have been counted. Over all, the total number of children separated at the border is “unknown,” according to the report. Nor was it clear how many of these children had yet to be reunited with their families. The report describes department officials essentially grasping in the dark to come to terms with what had happened. “Because the tracking systems in use at that time were informal and designed for operational purposes,” according to the report, immigration officials were “unable to provide a more precise estimate or specific information about these children’s placements.” Department officials had to search more than 60 databases “to identify indicators of possible separation, such as an adult and child with the same last name apprehended on the same day at the same location.” Officials also had to review 12,000 case files and contact the department’s shelters to find children who had been separated from their families.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
REGAN MENSCH BROWN: DIX SHOULD BE A WILDERNESS PARK, NOT A COMMERCE CENTER: The Triangle has multiple outdoor performance venues, great botanical parks, historical farms, numerous children’s theme parks in addition to the wonderfully renovated Pullen Park, athletic parks for soccer, softball and even cricket, and bicycle trail systems. We also have a great multitude of restaurants and breweries everywhere. But what we need in our bustling city are wilderness park areas — large areas of quiet forest and swamp where we can see and hear wildlife and walk in quietude. Even now, Umstead, the Fine Arts Museum grounds and Dix Park are being threatened with commercial development — from a quarry to a city venue of hotels, parking, restaurants, and amusement parks. Wilderness parks provide a place to walk, sit, and contemplate - a spiritual refuge from the noise and commotion of the city. They also provide ecosystem services - to purify the air, treat the water runoff from streets, absorb carbon, provide habitat for wildlife and preserve plant and insect diversity. Lets make Dix Park a refuge within the city, not just more of what we already have.
JOSEPH LYONS: PRESIDENT TRUMP IS STILL A SPOILED CHILD: When Donald Trump first occupied the office of president, the White House staff expected civility, judgment, and benevolent leadership. They were ready for someone who would respect and dignify the office of the presidency. Instead, they got rudeness, and crass language. They experienced behavior they had never seen before: absurd exaggerations and serial lying, impulsive decision-making, virulent attacks on our free press, the denial of fact-based information from our intelligence agencies, and sudden, incoherent rages. These rages were the most confusing because of their intensity. They were not at all like the noble and righteous anger of leader, but rather like a incessant whine of someone who didn’t get what he wanted. No wonder the staff members were confused and bewildered by this strange, nonpresidential behavior, for many had never seen a full-blown temper tantrum from a grown man. But given the twisted nature of this odd person, his outbursts should have been surprising, but not unexpected. You see, Donald Trump simply grew up a spoiled child who usually got what he wanted if he cried, screamed, whimpered and pounded the floor with his tiny fists. These children intuitively know if they shout long enough, over and over, “I want, I want, I want, I want,” their parents will eventually give in. So it is with Donald Trump. But take heart, these tantrums don’t usually last long, and once over, Donald will be able to resume his abnormal behavior. Unfortunately, he has become a president like no other in history; he is definitely not a mature human being, but rather a man-child who doesn’t read, listen, think or lead.
ALLEN BRYANT: SILENT SAM AND THE MORAL ARC OF JUSTICE: Ol’ Sam was never silent. He always spoke volumes – about priorities and power, about the South’s fetish for romanticizing the Confederacy. Sam stood guard in our beautiful quad, a reminder of who and what was in charge. Legs spread-eagled, clutching his rifle, he stood there like a bulwark against modernity. Or justice. Today, though, on that campus I love more than words can describe, there is just a square space of wilted brown where grass hasn’t grown for a century. And yet Sam still isn’t silent. Now, however, he has a new message, and that is that the moral arc of the universe, though slow, does indeed bend towards justice.