Thursday News: Suppressing the press

REPORTERS FORCED INTO THE BASEMENT OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY: For 56 years, ever since the Legislative Building opened, media organizations have had workspace across the hall from where news conferences are held and downstairs from the House and Senate chambers. But that's about to change, and legislative leaders don't want to talk about why. Legislative Services Officer Paul Coble has decided to move the press to a smaller space in the basement in the farthest corner of the building. "[It's] as distant from the action as you could possibly be, which will make it harder for reporters to keep tabs on what's going on in the building," said Colin Campbell, editor of NC Insider, a state government news service. "We'll be farther from the floor when there's a meeting called with very little notice, and there'll be a reduction in space, which will mean fewer reporters have dedicated space." Asked about the move Wednesday, Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger said it's up to Coble.

TIM MOORE IMPLAUSIBLY DENIES HE WAS AWARE GILLESPIE PUSHED DEQ ON CHICKEN PLANT: House Speaker Tim Moore says he had no idea that a member of his legislative staff had contacted state inspectors about environmental issues at a property Moore was trying to sell. Moore’s denial came as he provided a letter showing that a state ethics investigation triggered by different allegations about the property is now closed. The News & Observer reported on Tuesday that in 2016, Mitch Gillespie, who was then a member of Moore’s staff at the legislature, had made an inquiry to the state’s environmental department about a closed chicken processing plant in Siler City owned by one of Moore’s companies. After Gillespie’s inquiry, environmental officials approved Moore’s company, Southeast Land Holdings, to receive more than $20,000 from a state environmental trust fund.

WINSTON-SALEM PROPERTY OWNER ALSO WANTS CONFEDERATE STATUE MOVED: The owner of the land where a recently vandalized Confederate statue in North Carolina sits has joined the voices calling for the monument’s removal. The city of Winston-Salem has told monument owner United Daughters of the Confederacy to remove the statue by Jan. 31 or face a possible lawsuit. The land beneath the monument is owned by Winston Courthouse LLC, which operates apartments in an old courthouse building. The Winston-Salem Journal reports that Mayor Allen Joines said Tuesday that Winston Courthouse told the Confederate group to remove the monument to ensure people living in the apartments are safe and undisturbed. The argument echoes the city’s position, seeking to avoid the “confrontation and violence” that’s hit other cities with Confederate statues. The report didn’t include the United Daughters of the Confederacy’s response.

SUPPORTERS OF EMBATTLED ECU CHANCELLOR SEND LETTER TO UNC BOG: “These criticisms are simply symptomatic of today’s social media environment.” the letter states. “In fact we argue that Dr. Staton has done an incredible job in working to bring back athletics with his hires of Dave Hart, Joe Dooley, Jon Gilbert and Mike Houston. To judge the Chancellor on what he has done for athletics is premature at best. We feel his recent hirings prove he has handled athletics as well as possible considering the mounting problems of the last few years.” The letter does not identify directly sources of criticism but refers to “frivolous charges” regarding questions about his hiring, the use of outside contractors, his role in the purchase of a $1.3 million, off-campus home and other items that have been “repeatedly investigated” by the board of governors. Board of Governors Chairman Harry Smith, an ECU alum, criticized Staton in a July email to state legislators for what he thought was an “inappropriate” op-ed Staton wrote in the News & Observer. Smith also was critical of the chancellor’s new residence and the university’s approach to athletics and admissions.

SOME LANDOWNERS VOW TO FIGHT BORDER WALL ON THEIR PROPERTY: The federal government has started surveying land along the border in Texas and announced plans to start construction next month. Rather than surrender their land, some property owners are digging in, vowing to reject buyout offers and preparing to fight the administration in court. "You could give me a trillion dollars and I wouldn't take it," said Cavazos, whose land sits along the Rio Grande, the river separating the U.S. and Mexico in Texas. "It's not about money." Trump is scheduled to visit the border Thursday in McAllen, a city of 143,000 on the river. The government has laid out plans that would cut across private land in the Rio Grande Valley. Those in the way include landowners who have lived in the valley for generations, environmental groups and a 19th century chapel. Many have hired lawyers who are preparing to fight the government if, as expected, it moves to seize their land through eminent domain.



Wisdom from Geremy

One of these days I'll get around to using my real name again, but I'm kinda having too much fun right now...