You get what you vote for

The good folks of Lee County are up in arms about Duke Energy & Pollution's plan to dump coal ash in Sanford and Moncure.

If the comments made during a meeting inside the Lee County Board of Commissioners Room Monday night are any indication, Lee County residents do not want coal ash in their backyards.

“Who invited this idea,” one resident asked. “Why weren’t we notified sooner? And what is the purpose of bringing coal ash to our area?”

“If the coal ash dumping is so desirable, then why aren't the CEOs from Duke Power and their neighbors fighting to have it in their backyards,” another resident said.

Daily dose: Starve the beast edition

Much hand-wringing this week over the catastrophic budget cuts coming next year. Tough tomatoes. This is the Republican plan: "starve the beast." And the only target of budgetary significance is public education. To all those holier-than-thou white men who voted for the GOP two weeks ago, well played. Maybe the baby Jesus will come riding up on a dinosaur to save the day.

POLICY & POLITICS
Looming Budget Crisis in N.C. Following Tax Cuts (Public News Service) -- North Carolina lawmakers are likely enjoying some downtime after the legislative session and midterm election, but experts predict a tough session waiting for them on their return to Raleigh. A report from the Office of the State Controller indicates tax revenues are down by almost $400 million compared with this same time last year - a six percent drop in revenue. Alexandra Sirota, director of the North Carolina Budget and Tax Center, says it's not a problem the State Assembly will be able to ignore in January. "This is a serious issue," she says. "It's self imposed in that policymakers chose to reduce our revenue. Now they're going to have to make choices about some pretty deep cuts.”
http://www.publicnewsservice.org/2014-11-18/budget-policy-and-priorities/experts-predict-looming-bud...

In The South, Obamacare Advocates Try to Outmaneuver Opponents (NBC News) – In North Carolina, there’s a staff of dozens of people, led by a director, who are in charge of getting people enrolled in Obamacare. The operation, which serves all of the state’s 100 counties, includes a toll-free number where you can call and set up an appointment with an Obamacare specialist. The staff meets constantly to see if its methods are working, and they are getting results: the state had the ninth highest enrollment in the nation. Here’s what may surprise you: none of these people work for the state of North Carolina, the federal government or any of North Carolina’s cities. North Carolina may be a purple state during presidential elections, but its state politics right now are very red. The state legislature passed a bill barring North Carolina from expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, which Republican Gov. Pat McCrory has opposed anyway. The state has also not set up its own health care exchange and has done little to encourage ACA enrollment. … North Carolina is at the forefront of a strategy being employed in conservative states across the country: Obamacare advocates working around their state governments to implement the law. In Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Texas and other states, there is intense organizing by coalitions of groups to sign people up for Obamacare, which started open enrollment on Nov. 15 for its second year.
http://www.nbcnews.com/politics/politics-news/south-obamacare-advocates-try-outmaneuver-opponents-n2...

McCrory’s NCDOT plans to set up toll lanes in Charlotte (AP) -- — While controversy has swirled about toll lanes for Interstate 77 north of Charlotte, the N.C. Department of Transportation is working on a plan to set up toll lanes on one of the city's major city thoroughfares by the end of 2016.
http://www.reflector.com/ap/staten/ncdot-plans-set-toll-lanes-charlotte-2712365

McCrory’s borrow & spend program: DOT's urban loops depend on deficit spending (Raleigh News & Observer) -- Gov. Pat McCrory broke ground on Winston-Salem’s long-delayed I-74 Northern Beltway last week in a shiny-shovels ceremony made possible, his office said, by the Urban Loop Acceleration Plan. The What Plan? Around North Carolina, “urban loop acceleration” is a self-contradictory expression – like jumbo shrimp. … The governor and his state Department of Transportation want to find ways to build more urban loops. McCrory recently expanded the acceleration options to include three flavors of borrowed money. We’ll call them toll bonds, GARVEE bonds and – thanks to a blackout on details – McCrory’s mystery bonds.
http://www.newsobserver.com/2014/11/17/4331221_road-worrier-ncdots-urban-loops.html

The path forward: A reinvigorated, refocused state party

One of Randy Voller’s last acts as chair was to announce that he would not run for re-election to helm the North Carolina Democratic Party. He must be commended for his announcement as it was a selfless ownership of responsibility for this year’s election and provides the opportunity for the Party to start anew ahead of the 2016 elections. North Carolina Democrats have a lot of work cut out for them, yet I remain optimistic for what lies ahead for our party.

Academic standards for NC schools

Today, I sat in on a meeting of the Academic Standards Review Commission, the group that has until December, 2015, to come up with education standards so incredibly high they will put the Common Core to shame. The meeting was held in the Administration building in Raleigh and many of the Commission members had driven in from the far ends of the state. Finding information about the Commission meeting was somewhat difficult. I only found out about this meeting by sending an email to a reporter who wrote an article about their September meeting.

Polluters get a free pass with "Biological Trump" rule

Not unlike throwing a suspected witch into a river to see if she drowns:

Proposed revisions to state surface water quality standards, including the numbers the state uses to evaluate metals, have been approved by the N.C. Environmental Management Commission in response to the federally-required Triennial Review of Surface Water Quality Standards. Also included in approval of the recommendations made during this standards review are:

•Health protective water quality standards for 2,4-D, a widely used herbicide.
Updated aquatic life protective concentrations for arsenic, beryllium, cadmium, chromium III, chromium VI, copper, lead, nickel, silver and zinc.
•Clarity on allowing site-specific standards to be developed when studies are done in accordance with guidance from the Environmental Protection Agency.

Bolding mine. I'm still perusing this massive document (1,000+ pages), but the gist of this "aquatic life" modification is to throw out previous toxicity levels and wait to see just how massive the fish-kills are after contamination:

Daily dose

POLICY & POLITICS
Bipartisan NC justice overhaul keeps good marks (AP) — In an era of hyper-partisanship with elected officials worried about being accused as weak on crime, lawmakers got reminded of what looks like on its face a bipartisan success story on criminal justice issues.
http://www.news-record.com/news/north_carolina_ap/bipartisan-nc-justice-overhaul-keeps-good-marks/ar...

Food Stamp Approval Mistakes Cost State $440K (TWCN-TV) -- Some families received as little as $11 extra, while others received as much as $12,000 in extra food assistance.
http://centralnc.twcnews.com/content/news/all_nc_news/713978/food-stamp-approval-mistakes-cost-state...

Fayetteville mayor cuts ties with N.C. Metro Mayors Coalition (Fayetteville Observer) -- Fayetteville Mayor Nat Robertson has severed ties with the N.C. Metropolitan Mayors Coalition. The first-term mayor says he opted this summer not to renew the city's membership because the coalition wasn't very effective at representing urban issues. Fayetteville officials were hoping to save the state's tax credits on historic properties and the privilege license fees charged to businesses. Both will be eliminated next year. "Those are huge failures for cities to have to deal with, costing us millions of dollars," Robertson said. The membership to the Metro Mayors Coalition cost the city about $13,000 last year, and Robertson cut that appropriation from this year's council budget.
http://www.fayobserver.com/news/local/inside-politics-fayetteville-lawyer-plans-run-for-state-attorn...

NC GOP stacking the deck against Solar farms

Fracking cheerleader Womack all-of-a-sudden worried about water quality:

“It would impact the county because that land, you know, there are taxes being paid to the county now, and it would reduce some of those taxes, so it's not a good deal for the county,” Commission Chairman Charlie Parks said.

Commissioner Jim Womack said while he was also concerned about solar farms not paying as much in taxes, he did not want to stand in the way of renewable energy development as long as taxpayers aren't bearing the burden in the long run. “[The solar farms] end up with potentially large amounts of disruption of the soil with storm water runoff, which we could bear the cost of later,” he said.

Yes, if they're not landscaped properly, Solar farms could exacerbate stormwater runoff. But it's standard procedure to install berms and other features to avoid such problems. What isn't standard, however, is Womack's concern for water quality. Here's another Commissioner from a neighboring County:

Daily dose

POLICY & POLITICS
Small-town blues: Rural communities struggle to chart a future (Fayetteville Observer) -- Many communities with fewer than 10,000 residents across the state were once depended on factories that employed hundreds or thousands. But in the late 20th century into the last decade, textile makers and other manufacturers closed their plants as they chased low wages to other countries. Even before the recession struck in 2007, much of rural North Carolina was economically stagnant or declining. The situation is much on the mind of rural state lawmakers, such as Rep. David Lewis of Dunn, next door to Erwin in Harnett County. Lewis, a Republican, is one of the higher-ranked lawmakers in the General Assembly. It's a challenge to bring jobs back to small towns, Lewis said. "Unfortunately, the jobs follow jobs," Lewis said. "In other words, these people that move into an area want their employees to have a certain standard of life, a certain standard of living. It's very difficult once the ball starts rolling toward the bigger town that has the restaurants and the movie theaters. Folks begin to live where they work."
http://www.fayobserver.com/news/local/small-town-blues-rural-communities-struggle-to-chart-a-future/...

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