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Tuesday News: Ticking time-bombs


4 STUDENTS IN SCOTLAND COUNTY SCHOOL WERE PLANNING COLUMBINE-STYLE ATTACK: Law enforcement and school officials in Scotland County are investigating after receiving reports that some students were discussing a Columbine-style attack, WMBF reported. Scotland County Sheriff’s Lt. Inv. Jessica Sadonikov said last week employee a Carver Middle School employee alerted the school resource officer about suspicious posts on Instagram. Officials determined that three or four students, between the ages of 12 and 13, were discussing a Columbine-style attack in a manner that made investigators think they were serious, Sadonikov said. She added that specific teachers and several students were targeted, and one of the alleged posters specifically mentioned Columbine when questioned.

Monday News: Party business

ERICA SMITH SETS HER SIGHTS ON THOM TILLIS IN 2020: State Sen. Erica Smith, from Northampton County in the northeast, announced her 2020 bid to unseat Tillis on Saturday through social media and at a Democratic Party gathering in Charlotte. Smith is a math instructor and ordained minister first elected to the legislature in 2014. Mecklenburg County Commissioner Trevor Fuller also announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination last week. Primaries are in March 2020. Smith's announcement came as 500 members of the Democrats' executive committee met. There current party Chair Wayne Goodwin was re-elected for another two-year term. He was the only candidate. Former state Rep. Bobbie Richardson was elected first vice-chair, defeating current first vice-chair Aisha Dew and another candidate.

Sunday News: From the Editorial pages


SCHOOL CHOICE DOESN'T HAPPEN IN A VACUUM: Since the cap on charter schools was lifted by North Carolina’s state legislature in 2012, the number of charter schools in the state has nearly doubled. This year we have 185 charter schools in operation, serving more than 100,000 students across the state (overseen by a staff of 8 people). Next year we’ll have 200. The rapidly expanding charter schools siphon money away from traditional public schools and reduce what services those public schools can offer to students who remain, according to a recent Duke University study. As students leave for charters, they take their share of funding with them--but the school district they leave is still responsible for the fixed costs of services such as transportation, building maintenance and administration that those funds had supported. Districts are then forced to cut spending in other areas in order to make up the difference. In Durham, where 18 percent of K-12 students attend charter schools, the fiscal burden on traditional public schools is estimated at $500-700 per student. As the number of charters increases, so will that price tag.

Saturday News: And then there were six


REPUBLICAN CHIEF JUSTICE MARK MARTIN RETIRING, COOPER TO PICK REPLACEMENT: The chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court announced his plans Friday to retire next month, paving the way for a 6-1 Democratic majority on the state’s highest court. Mark Martin is the longest-serving justice now on the court, having first been elected in 1999. According to a press release from the North Carolina Judicial Branch, he is leaving to become the dean of the law school at Regent University, a Christian school in Virginia. Martin has been the chief justice since 2014. He is one of two Republican judges remaining on the court. But with his departure, his vacant seat will be filled by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper. Cooper does not have to pick a Republican to fill out the rest of Martin’s term, which ends in 2022.

Friday News: Grifters gonna grift

MOORE AIDE GILLESPIE DREW SALARY FOR 8 MONTHS AFTER RETIRING: Last April, state lawmakers, legislative staff and lobbyists used Facebook and Twitter to wish Mitch Gillespie, a senior policy adviser for House Speaker Tim Moore, a happy retirement. But after Gillespie, 59, of McDowell County, left the legislature in April, he continued to receive his paycheck. All told, he collected $81,700 in pay, state records show, and then he reported he was owed another $12,400 in unused leave. Those records show his last day as an employee was Dec. 31, 2018. Today, Moore’s staff and the legislature’s human resources director are offering little explanation as to how an employee who worked full-time for about five years could accrue enough leave time to receive $94,100 after he stopped working. Lawmakers do not receive paid vacations and cannot accrue leave.

Thursday News: The company you keep


BURR CAMPAIGN ILLEGALLY COORDINATED WITH NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION IN 2016: The complaint comes from American Bridge 21st Century, a liberal super PAC that opposes Republican candidates. American Bridge filed its complaint Wednesday against three Republicans who ran for office in 2016 and 2018. It alleges that the Burr campaign and the NRA’s Political Victory Fund worked together to “create, produce and distribute coordinated public communications in the form of television advertisements.” The complaint is based on a Mother Jones story published earlier this month. The group says that Burr and the NRA’s fund had similar television ads that aired on the same network (NBC affiliate WECT in Wilmington), during the same weeks, in the same time slots, using the same media vendor and the same person to authorize the media buys (Jon Ferrell). The NRA spent $6.2 million on Burr’s 2016 campaign, its largest-ever expenditure on a non-presidential race at that time, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Wednesday News: Denied


JUDGE REJECTS WRIT OF MANDAMUS FOR HARRIS: A judge on Tuesday denied Republican Mark Harris' effort to be declared the winner of the 9th Congressional District election, saying the incoming State Board of Elections doesn't have to certify the results of the election until an investigation into alleged absentee ballot fraud is completed. Superior Court Judge Paul Ridgeway denied Harris' motion for a writ of mandamus, which would amount to a court order forcing the elections board to certify the results. Harris has acknowledged hiring Bladen County political operative McCrae Dowless to oversee absentee ballot operations in the county. Several people have told reporters that Dowless paid them to pick up mail-in ballots, a felony under North Carolina law due to tampering concerns. Dowless has, through his attorney, denied any wrongdoing, but he hasn't yet sat down with elections board investigators looking at the 9th District.

Tuesday News: Symbols of oppression


CITY COUNCIL WILL HEAR PUBLIC COMMENTS ON WINSTON-SALEM CONFEDERATE STATUE TONIGHT: The city council meets at 7 p.m. Tuesday (Jan. 22), and statue opponents are saying on Facebook that they plan to protest the presence of the statue during the public-comment period of the meeting. Some supporters of the statue said earlier this month that they also wanted to speak at the next meeting of the council. The statue, paid for by donations to the United Daughters of the Confederacy and dedicated in 1905, has become a flash point between people who see it as a symbol of racism and people who see it as memorializing Southern soldiers who died in the Civil War. City officials, expressing concern over the potential for violence, has given the UDC until the end of January to move the statue. The owners of the courthouse building has weighed in with the same arguments, saying the statue must go.

Monday News: Braving the cold

WOMEN'S MARCH RETURNS TO A CHILLY ASHEVILLE: Participants in an annual Women's March in western North Carolina say they feel empowered and encouraged by midterm election victories that raised the profile of women in politics. The Citizen-Times reported thousands of people marched in downtown Asheville on Sunday for the city's third edition of the march. Other versions of the march were held Saturday cities like Washington and New York. The newspaper says the Asheville crowd was smaller than in previous years and dwindled to hundreds as marchers reached Martin Luther King Jr. Park. Rally speakers recounted elections won by women last November. Longtime activist Mandy Carter of Durham urged young people to pledge to mobilize as the 2020 presidential election cycle began. Women's marches began in 2017 in response to President Donald Trump.

Sunday News: From the Editorial pages


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.


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