NC GOP

Charter school foxes in the public school henhouse

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Mark Johnson has just proven he's nothing but a shill:

Johnson touted Maimone’s background with the charter school in his announcement Friday, pointing out that he led the school as it grew from 110 students in grades 7-9 in 1999 to about 1,300 students in grades K-12 today. The superintendent’s announcement said students “thrived” at Maimone’s school.

The charter earned a “B” performance grade and did not meet growth expectations on its 2016-2017 assessments, according to the most recent state report available. The school serves a decidedly different population than many typical public schools, however, with just 7.5 percent of its students considered “economically disadvantaged.” Traditional school supporters have often pointed out that the state’s growing charter sector serves a more affluent population.

Aside from being completely in the thrall of the school choice crowd, Johnson may have just hired somebody who's keeping a dark secret:

Robeson County Commissioners face lawsuit over pipeline permitting

Holding a sham hearing when you've already made up your mind:

During a quasi-judicial hearing in August 2017, the eight-member commission voted unanimously to grant a Conditional Use Permit to ACP, LLC to construct the facility on land previously zoned as agricultural. But the rules governing quasi-judicial hearings, which much like a trial include sworn testimony and evidence, are strict and clearly laid out in state statute.

And in deciding on special permits, the governing board, in this case the Robeson County Commission, can’t have a “fixed opinion” on the issue before hearing all of the evidence. To do otherwise would be akin to a judge or jury issuing a verdict before a trial even began. But as court documents show, the commissioners strongly supported the ACP long before they were confronted with the decision to issue a special permit for the station and tower.

I've had to "preside" over a few of these quasi-judicial hearings myself, and you have to watch every step you take. In this particular case, what they said in the weeks or months before the hearing will (likely) not be nearly as important as the procedural process itself. If they crossed their t's and dotted their i's, and if the applicant's testimony was not obviously incorrect or deceptive, the Commissioners will probably skate on this lawsuit. And even this "ex parte" allegation may not have the teeth the complainants think it does:

Ted Budd's hold on Congressional seat just got more tenuous

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His race against Kathy Manning is now a toss-up:

This matchup may be the biggest culture clash in the country: Budd is a gun store owner and first-term Freedom Caucus member who homeschools his children in rural Davie County. Wealthy Democratic philanthropist Kathy Manning was the chief fundraiser for Greensboro's $78 million performing arts center scheduled to open next year. If ever there was a race that's "all about that base," this is it.

It's also behaving like open seat: Budd remains relatively unknown and undefined after winning this seat in 2016 with just 20 percent of the vote in the crowded GOP primary and some help from the Club for Growth. And even though the district voted for President Trump 53 percent to 44 percent, Greensboro may be energized and there aren't compelling statewide races to turn out rural GOP voters.

If there's any single "key" to this race (and a lot of others) it's turnout. While Kathy Manning may not be the ideal candidate for progressives, her campaign is vigorous and well-funded. And at the end of the day, when you're running against an empty-suit demagogue who will likely have a lot of money pouring in during the final stretch, having the ability to ramp up your advertising at the last minute is critical. Also, people who pose with their gun while trying to sport a "warm and welcoming" smile are at least three sandwiches shy of a picnic. True story.

Coal Ash Wednesday: Here come the sludge

And this will be fouling the Neuse River for a long time to come:

Matthew Starr had paddled only a half mile of a stretch of Neuse River near Duke Energy’s H.F. Lee power plant in Goldsboro when he saw initial signs that something had gone very wrong. “There was exposed coal ash on trees, floating in the river, on the road,” said Starr, the Upper Neuse Riverkeeper. “There was coal ash lying on the ground. We scooped it up out of the water.”

Flooding from Hurricane Florence had drowned two inactive coal ash basins in five feet of water. The active basins, according to state regulators, were structurally sound, but the Half Mile Branch Creek, according to images published by the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), was flowing through the inactive basin complex, which is covered in trees and other vegetation. Cenospheres, hollow balls of silica and aluminum that are coal ash byproducts, were floating on the water. But cenospheres are not entirely innocuous; they often contain arsenic and lead, just like the coal they came from.

This is one of the coal ash sites Duke Energy was ordered to relocate, but in late 2016 they sought for and received approval to recycle that ash instead. In other words, it shouldn't have been there to leak out. At least not in the volume it did. But of course that "volume" is hard to quantify, since we can't trust Duke Energy to be honest about its reporting:

Tuesday Twitter roundup

Talk about getting it bass-ackwards:

This is a "balance of powers" argument, which (of course) fails to address the invasive elephant in the room: Republicans in the General Assembly have taken numerous steps to erode the powers of that Governor, taking away not only his "relevance" but also his ability to provide a counterpoint to their often regressive policies. And they've taken (or tried to take) similar steps with the NC Supreme Court since that majority flipped as well, not to mention what they've done to the lower courts. And yet John Hood would have us believe those same power-grabbing Republicans need to be re-elected to "contain" the other two branches. That's rather Trumpian, don't you think?

Trump's tariffs will make Florence rebuilding up to 30% more costly

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Steering the ship of state right onto the reefs:

Homebuilders and contractors say the administration’s trade policy will add to the price increases that usually follow natural disasters. In addition to materials like lumber, steel and aluminum, the United States will impose tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese imports next week, including countertops, furniture and gypsum, a key ingredient in drywall. All told, some builders estimate that construction costs could be 20 to 30 percent higher than they would have been without these tariffs.

“We’re all going to pay the price for it in terms of higher construction costs,” said Alan Banks, president of the North Carolina Home Builders Association.

Of course Trump doesn't understand this, and neither do many of his supporters. Our town is going through a growth spurt, and I've had several NIMBY citizens ask me why we are in "such a rush" to approve new housing projects. When I tell them about the cost of building going up because of these tariffs, which will (probably) slow things down quite a bit in the near future, I usually get blank stares. One obviously Trump-supporting dude tried to make lemonade out of it by saying, "Good! My home will increase in value." When I asked him if he was thinking about selling, he said, "No! I love my house!" When I broke the news the only thing he would get out of the deal was higher property taxes, he wandered off with a vacant look on his face. Bless his little MAGA heart. And the tariff punishments just keep on coming:

Voting after Florence: Matthew problems on steroids

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The people who most need a new vision in NC government may lose their voice:

Hurricane Florence disrupted daily operations for local governments in North Carolina, including county boards of elections. It's the second time in two years that voting officials have had to improvise just weeks before a General Election. In Craven County, it's deja vu for Director of Elections Meloni Wray. She remembers when Hurricane Matthew hit her office in New Bern two years ago, less than a month before a major election. "The only difference is we didn't actually have our ballots here in-house," Wray said.

The state Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement drafted this year's ballots later than usual because of multiple lawsuits against four of this year's six proposed constitutional amendments. It turns out that delay helped avoid what could have been a lot of soggy ballots.

That's kind of an up-beat assessment, but the reality is: If those absentee ballots had been mailed out prior to the storm, at least one leg of the journey would have been completed. As it stands now, post offices are closed, people have been displaced, and getting those absentee ballots into their hands in time is becoming somewhere between difficult and impossible. So early (out of precinct) voting is looking more and more like the only solution. But that means all those carefully-prepared and state-approved county voting plans won't be sufficient, for nearly a third of the state. Even if "scheduled" locations are operational by the time early voting begins, just getting to those places with all the road closures (1,100 right now) is going to be a challenge, to put it mildly. We need a new plan, stat.

Tuesday Twitter roundup

Hurricane photo ops:

You should be coordinating your efforts with the Governor, but instead you're touring with Franklin Graham's charity express. Your entire career has been one big campaign event after another, and you should be ashamed. And so should your Legislative buddies:

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