NEW 9TH DISTRICT ELECTION MUST PROMPT OTHER MUCH-NEEDED REFORMS: There’s more than ample testimony and evidence for criminal prosecutors to sift through. Wake County District Attorney Lorren Freeman's ongoing probe of 2016 election activities by Bladen County political fixer McRae Dowless – the apparent mastermind of the absentee ballot scheme at the root of the tainted election -- will easily be expanded to include the latest allegations. Further, we hope and encourage U.S. Attorney Robert Higdon’s office to take a serious look at what happened here. It would be an opportunity to resurrect his office’s reputation after it failed to explore these problems when the state Board of Elections passed along worrisome findings two years ago. We’re thankful for the persistence of the Board of Elections staff – particularly amid the political manipulating by state legislative leaders that embroiled the agency in litigation – for its focus on its duty.
IT'S TIME TO CRACK DOWN ON ANTI-VAXXERS: North Carolina remains among the states with the highest vaccination rates, but between the 2012-2013 and 2016-2017 school years, the number of kindergarteners excused from immunization more than doubled, the Raleigh News & Observer reported. Those came mostly from western North Carolina, but there also are pockets of religious exemptions in Mecklenburg and Wake counties. N.C. lawmakers should not only follow the lead of their counterparts in Oregon and Washington state — who are crafting legislation that would eliminate non-medical exemptions — but lawmakers in California, who are contemplating allowing health departments to crack down on doctors who sign off on questionable medical waivers. Anti-vaxxers argue that the state has no right to tell them how to care for their children. But government has long protected kids from poor parenting, and it has long shielded the greater community from the recklessness of individuals. It’s time to treat vaccination deniers for what they are — a threat to others.
WIND ENERGY IS POISED TO BOOST NC'S ECONOMY: With North Carolina’s legislative session well-underway, I have a renewed optimism about many exciting new economic development and employment opportunities for communities all across the state. The end of 2018 marked the end of our state’s two-year moratorium on wind energy developments, which has unnecessarily put a hold on new wind projects in eastern North Carolina. More importantly, the moratorium kept the state from financial investments, construction and full-time jobs, manufacturing opportunities, and resulting property tax revenues for rural communities that would have been a shot in the arm for many areas. We can focus now on the road ahead and the prospect for our state’s economy to reap significant benefits as the wind energy industry is poised to thrive – both nationally and locally – this year.
INSTITUTIONS STRUGGLE WHEN CONFRONTING #METOO: Workplaces and entire industries have bowed before bigwigs, ignoring whispers and allowing VIPs to abuse for years, even decades. They overvalue the contributions of a select few and count on financial pressures and tools like non-disclosure agreements to keep victims silent. The outlines of organizational failure have become familiar, even as new stories emerge. #MeToo continues to topple superstars and CEOs. The groundswell should knock down entrenched systems that shield abusers. Institutions are stewards of millions of people, some of whom will offend, some of whom will be victims. Organizations need to change their cultures and create stronger mechanisms to punish culprits, support survivors and encourage whistleblowers. The Vatican’s actions this month are signs of progress there. But every day institutions don’t move aggressively to do the right thing places more people in jeopardy.
IT'S NOT THAT MEN DON'T KNOW WHAT CONSENT IS: When Nicole Bedera, a doctoral candidate in sociology at the University of Michigan, interviewed male college students in 2015, each could articulate at least a rudimentary definition of the concept: the idea that both parties wanted to be doing what they were doing. Most also endorsed the current “yes means yes” standard, which requires active, conscious, continuous and freely given agreement by all parties engaging in sexual activity. Yet when asked to describe their own most recent encounters in both a hookup and in a relationship, even men who claimed to practice affirmative consent often had not. When they realized that their actions conflicted with that benchmark, though, they expanded their definition of consent rather than question their conduct. Their ideas of “yes” were so elastic that for some they encompassed behavior that met the legal criteria for assault — such as the guy who had coerced his girlfriend into anal sex (she had said, “I don’t want to, but I guess I’ll let you”). She then made it clear that he should stop. “He did, eventually,” Ms. Bedera told me, “and he seemed aware of how upset she was, but he found a way to rationalize it: He was angry with her for refusing him because he thought a real man shouldn’t have had to beg for sex.”
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
MICHELE RIVEST: EXPANDING MEDICAID WILL HELP NC'S INFANT MORTALITY PROBLEM: In response to “Why close the gap? Kids’ health depends on it.” (Feb. 16): North Carolina has the 12th-worst infant mortality rate in the country, and almost 10 percent of babies are born at a low birth weight. We could make a positive impact on these challenges with improved prenatal care and access to health coverage for parents. Expanding health coverage in other states has been shown to lead to more healthy births and a decline in the infant mortality rate. It’s time to tackle these problems for the families in our state. Closing the coverage gap would give more than 100,000 parents in North Carolina access to the care they need to be healthy. All babies deserve the opportunity to fulfill their potential, and it starts with a healthy birth and healthy parents.
JOEL GALLAGHER: MEDICAID EXPANSION IS BOTH SMART AND RIGHT: As a physician, I see firsthand how medical conditions cause the loss of a life’s work. Medicaid currently covers low-income children and their parents, pregnant women, seniors and disabled people. To qualify, a family of four must make $11,000 or less annually. However, for that same family, the Affordable Care Act starts providing subsidies when income reaches $25,000. This coverage gap (i.e., those who cannot qualify for Medicaid or the ACA subsidies) leaves 500,000 North Carolinians without affordable coverage and one disaster away from ruin. Having health care facilities to provide care is equally important. Rural hospitals are closing at an alarming rate. Hospitals in the Triad are showing signs of financial strain. Since 2010, five community hospitals in North Carolina have closed. Asheboro’s Randolph Hospital could be next. Hospitals are lifeblood to rural communities, providing both health care and jobs. Medicaid expansion would provide a much-needed boost to these facilities, creating 43,000 jobs and an economic boost of $4 billion. Passing a clean version of Medicaid expansion is key to addressing these issues. I encourage all readers to contact their state representatives and tell them Medicaid expansion is the smart and moral course.
SENATOR TILLIS, PROTECT OUR COAST FROM OFFSHORE DRILLING: Last week, Sen. Thom Tillis wrote a letter noting the “potential economic benefits coming from offshore energy production” but also noting the economic importance of North Carolina tourism and fishing industries. He requested “more details about specific actions... to safeguard long standing industries in our coastal communities.” While we appreciate the senator’s newfound interest in how drilling could impact our vital tourism and fishing industries, with all due respect, the information he seeks has been available for quite some time. Coastal tourism in North Carolina supports over 30,000 jobs and generates more than $3 billion in annual revenue. Commercial and recreational fishing in the state support an additional 22,500 jobs and $787 million in revenue each year. Where offshore drilling exists in the U.S, between 2001 to 2015, there were over 700 spills that discharged at least 4.93 million barrels. Drilling is inherently risky, and there is no way to guarantee against spills. We would be remiss if we did not note that Tillis’ first speech on the Senate floor in 2015 was a call to open up our coast to drilling. This change of heart needs to yield real action. With the Trump administration set to release their outer continental shelf leasing plan, now is the time for serious action. We hope that Tillis and Congressman Rouzer will stand up for more than the NC municipalities that have passed resolutions opposing offshore drilling and seismic testing. And we hope they will follow the example of the late Congressman Walter Jones, who listened to his constituents instead of powerful special interests. Ben Cahoon, Mayor, Town of Nags Head, Rett Newton, Mayor, Town of Beaufort, Bob Woodard, Chairman, Dare County Board of Commissioners, Drew Ball, Director, Environment North Carolina, Randy Sturgill, Senior Campaign Organizer, Oceana, Matt Walker, Co-chair, Outer Banks Surfrider Foundation and small business owner.