NCGA

The GOP's targeting of UNC System institutes and centers

Ideology hiding under the cloak of efficiency:

Supporters of the review say the process is a responsible and long-overdue look at how universities spend state money.

Critics charge the Board of Governors, now dominated by Republican appointees, with political bias. The UNC centers on the Board of Governors’ short list include ones that advocate for civil rights, women’s issues and the Cherokee people. One center is named for former Gov. Jim Hunt, a Democrat. Another, a poverty center, is led by Gene Nichol, a UNC-Chapel Hill law professor whose public comments about state government have angered conservatives.

Typical behavior of a tyrannical regime cementing its rule. Get rid of college professors and the research they were working on, especially if that research could/would demonstrate the negative effects of your policy approaches. And for Art Pope and his minions, it has the added benefit of clearing the field so their propaganda will get more exposure and less criticism.

Mayor Vaughan speaks out on SB36

While she still has a voice to speak with:

The moment she introduced Senate Bill 36 (entitled, “An act to clarify the form of government, method of election, and determination of election results in the city of Greensboro”) state Sen. Trudy Wade ignited a fire storm. The fuel on this fire is that this act does not actually “clarify” the current method of electing the City Council; it completely changes it.

The 5-3-1 system gives the voter greater representation. The beauty of this system is that it allows every voter the opportunity to vote for a majority of the City Council. With the 7-1 format, each voter is limited to choosing only one voting member of the council — his or her district representative. That is a substantial reduction in constituent influence. The math is simple: When there is an issue before the council, do you want five people directly accountable to you or just one?

One need only look at demographics to understand why Trudy Wade is making this move: Republicans only make up 19% of registered voters in the City of Greensboro. Which makes their holding 2 out of 9 seats on the current City Council a true representation of the people. But it also makes them powerless, a position the GOP finds untenable, especially when the GOP-led General Assembly is just sitting there waiting for another opportunity to screw with local (and especially metropolitan) governments.

GOP siphons more money away from low-income schools

In support of their unwise privatization efforts:

The White House on Friday issued a report that said a House Republican plan to revise the Elementary and Secondary Education Act would reduce North Carolina’s federal Title I money for disadvantaged students by an estimated $17 million in 2016 and $220 million over the next five years.

Currently Title I funds are concentrated in schools with large numbers of poor students. The House bill would allow this grant money to follow each low-income child to the traditional or charter public school of the parent’s choice.

The emergence of this legislation during a time when many new charter schools are failing due to fiscal mismanagement is no coincidence. The people behind the curtain in this movement are well aware their "efficiency" leaves something to be desired, so they've been scheming to find various flows of public monies to tap into. And in case you were wondering, yes, this is an ALEC initiative:

NC Open Government Coalition's Sunshine Day coming soon

Throw open the curtains, baby:

Join us for Sunshine Day 2015 at the Durham Convention Center on Monday, March 16, 2015. Sunshine Day will include a morning public records training session that will highlight Greensboro’s Public Information Request Tracking system, our inaugural awards luncheon, a keynote speech by Attorney General Roy Cooper, and afternoon panel sessions on transparency in the justice system. You can register through the event page on Eventbrite here. If you’ve got questions about Sunshine Day registration or need an alternative to registering through the website, please contact director Jonathan Jones at jjones86@elon.edu.

Government works best when the lights are shining on it, and with the increase in corporate manipulation of our public policy, we need this movement to succeed more than ever. Very often the discussions we have here at BlueNC begin with news that's reported by our local media outlets, who are often stymied by government officials who would release no information at all if they could get away with it. It's a constant struggle, and we owe these folks a pat on the back for engaging in it on a near-daily basis.

GOP tax reform: Lose your home to foreclosure, and then pay taxes on it

They have absolutely no shame:

One of the other provisions in the legislation would startlingly hurt homeowners struggling with foreclosure by counting as income any portion of their mortgage debt forgiven by a lender.

Sen. Tamara Barringer, a Republican, bucked her leadership and voted against the bill because of the change, telling the News & Observer, “these are people that have lost their homes. Are we going to tax them when they’re trying to get back on their feet?” Apparently the answer from Senate leaders is yes. There were no hearings on that part of the gas tax bill, no discussion with mortgage lenders or people who work with struggling homeowners.

I hope my friends who support the gas tax will join me in calling for a Veto for this bill. And I also hope AG Roy Cooper speaks out, and quickly, since he has been a champion for those suffering from the unethical practices of those lenders who propagated the mortgage fiasco that has ruined so many lives. This provision will put families thousands of dollars in debt to the state, money they don't have and can't get, quashing any hopes they might have of recovering. And all because Republicans wanted to give people with three homes and two boats a tax cut. Disgusting doesn't even cover it.

Triple-murderer had a concealed carry permit

So much for the law-abiding, even-tempered, 2nd Amendment hero fantasy:

Hicks, a Second Amendment rights advocate with a concealed weapons permit, often complained about both Christians and Muslims on his Facebook page. "Some call me a gun toting Liberal, others call me an open-minded Conservative," Hicks wrote.

Imad Ahmad, who lived in the condo where his friends were killed until Barakat and Mohammed were married in December, said Hicks complained about once a month that the two men were parking in a visitor's space as well as their assigned spot. "He would come over to the door. Knock on the door and then have a gun on his hip saying 'you guys need to not park here,'" said Ahmad, a graduate student in chemistry at UNC-Chapel Hill. "He did it again after they got married."

Bolding mine, since the media has apparently determined the fact he was licensed by the state to carry a concealed weapon is only worth a casual mention. We'll give the nut-jobs over at Grass Roots NC a few more hours to concoct their tortured reasoning to show how this doesn't call into question the crime-fighting superhero image they've created of CCW Man.

Exploring NC's gas tax conundrum

It's not as cut-and-dried as you might think:

The gas tax is a major revenue source for transportation projects such as repairing bridges, repaving roadways, and building highways. The failure of the current gas tax (and other transportation funding sources) to support these important public services means that backlogs for both maintenance and repairs projects persist. The state Department of Transportation estimates that North Carolina faces a $60 billion shortfall for transportation improvements through 2040, and that the state needs to come up with $32 billion just to keep the status quo.

I am genuinely conflicted on this issue, and it's doubtful I will be able to find a comfortable position on either side. I also find little comfort in the fact that infrastructure is crumbling all across the country, and not just in North Carolina. In response to a comment I made on Facebook about the regressive nature of the gas tax, Mark Turner made a good point:

Coal Ash Wednesday: The deadly ingredients

Thanks to Physicians for Social Responsibility for outlining the harms:

Arsenic: It has long been known that arsenic, if ingested in very high levels, is deadly. However, lower levels of exposure are also harmful and can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea; anemia and decreased production of the white, infection-fighting blood cells; abnormal heart rhythms; blood vessel damage; numbness in the hands and feet; partial paralysis; and decreased vision, even blindness. Repeated low levels of exposure over an extended period of time can produce effects similar to a one-time high level of exposure, and chronic exposure to low levels can cause skin cancer. Arsenic has also been linked to cancers of the lung, bladder, kidney, liver and prostate.

Contaminated drinking water is a primary route of arsenic exposure. Exposure from birth may increase urinary cancer risk much later in life, suggesting that people whose drinking water is contaminated by arsenic from coal ash should be monitored long-term for this cancer, even if they stop drinking the contaminated water.

I know a lot of environmental advocates who are energetic as all get-out, but lacking somewhat in the details. Energy is important, but you need some basic factual tools at your disposal if you want to persuade others the danger is real. Understanding the toxics involved and their deleterious effect on our health is likely the best tool you could wield in that effort:

The crossroads of poverty and poor student performance

A concerned teacher speaks out:

The strong correlation between poverty and academic achievement has been noted for decades. Nutrition, stress, lack of health-care and housing stability all play a role in brain development and student learning. This is not disputed, yet as educators, we largely ignore poverty and instead focus on how to better teach our students. No amount of revised lesson plans or new curriculum will remove the impact of poverty on student learning.

Taking a stand against low wage poverty is a stand for education. I want to be clear: there is nothing intrinsically wrong with the academic abilities of poor children. In fact, when you remove the stresses created by poverty, academic achievement goes up. There is something wrong with a society and economic system that allows so many of our children to live in poverty.

And one of the biggest problems we have to overcome is ingrained prejudice bolstered by a healthy dose of narcissistic navel-gazing. I got into a very unsettling argument with a handful of normally progressive friends and family recently over the living wage issue. The concerns raised by these folks centered around fairness: "Is it fair to the people who have labored to obtain a college degree or professional certification, only to have someone who didn't even graduate high school come along and get paid $15 per hour?" The argument pretty much fizzled out when I explained how they (as taxpayers) were actually paying part of the wages the employers refused to, via food stamps and other public assistance a $7.25 per hour worker was qualified for. But that didn't address the deeper social schism that caused those feelings of unfairness, a schism that is a direct result of decades of Meritocratic thinking. We're programmed to believe we compete with each other, but, in fact, we are competing with the 1%. And losing.

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