More on Florence voting difficulties: Out of county, out of luck?

Depending on the Statutes, this might be another Special Session need:

North Carolina’s robust early voting schedule this year should help, but that won’t be an option for voters who end up staying far from their home county. Current rules require you to use only the early voting sites in the county where you’re registered. State leaders should consider allowing voters from affected counties to cast provisional ballots across the state.

That likely creates a logistical hassle, but it would provide flexibility for people who might not be able to return to their home county just to vote.

And I just (before reading the above) sent a follow-up e-mail to the NC BOE suggesting this very thing. The truth is, with all these satellite early voting sites drawing information from the same state-wide database, there's no major technical challenge to allowing people to early vote out-of-county. But after a brief perusal of the Statutes in question, the General Assembly may need to add some wording to make that allowable. I've yet to see a "you must vote in your county" directive, but the chain of custody (voter to county, county to state) seems to preclude that.

Monday News: Implausible denialism

DUKE ENERGY SEZ COAL ASH YOU'RE SEEING IS NOT REALLY THERE: Nearby, a gray film floated around the banks of the river, which Matt Butler, a program director for Sound Rivers, a nonprofit that monitors the Neuse and Tar-Pamlico River Basins, identified as the lighter parts of coal ash. The heavier components, he said, sink to the bottom or are suspended in the water. “I think this is a very significant spill,” Kemp Burdette, the Cape Fear riverkeeper, said in an interview Saturday. “There were numerous breaches that have all contributed to this ... given the aerial photography and the satellite imagery that we have seen it looks like a lot of coal ash was kind of pulled down to those breaches and out to the Cape Fear River. That is certainly what we saw yesterday when we were on the water.” But Duke Energy disagreed that ash is contaminating the water, suggesting that Burdette may have seen nontoxic byproducts floating in the water.
https://www.newsobserver.com/news/business/article218870635.html

Sunday News: From the Editorial pages

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LEGISLATORS SHOULD TAP HUGE RAINY DAY FUND TO SPEED HURRICANE FLO RECOVERY: The truth is that North Carolina has the resources to meet the immediate recovery needs – and address broader policies and needs including effective alternatives to massive hog and poultry waste lagoons that have overflowed in the storm dumping millions of gallons of raw manure into streams and rivers. Legislators boast that the state’s rainy day fund has more than $2 billion dollars in it – along with another $650 million in unspent money from the 2017-18 budget. There is no better time to tap some of those funds than now. Hurricane Flo was a rainy day if there ever was one. Be sure, voters will be watching to see if the legislature chooses to play partisan political games or works diligently with the governor to address the dire needs of suffering citizens. The special session comes almost exactly a month before Election Day 2018. See you at the polls.
https://www.wral.com/editorial-legislators-should-tap-massive-rainy-day-fund-to-speed-recovery-from-...

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:

Saturday News: Toxic nightmare

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FLOODED DUKE ENERGY SUTTON PLANT MIXING COAL ASH INTO CAPE FEAR RIVER: Duke Energy confirmed Friday that floodwaters from Hurricane Florence have spilled into a coal ash storage pond near Wilmington and could be washing the toxic waste into the Cape Fear River. The river had been rising for days, and Duke had issued an emergency warning Thursday that a breech was likely. The 47-year-old coal ash pond is separated from the Cape Fear River by Sutton Lake, a public fishing lake used as a source of water to cool a coal-burning power plant that was shut down in 2013. Because of rising waters, the river, lake and ash pond are now part of one water system, but Duke has installed a steel barrier at the ash pond to prevent the waste from moving in the reverse direction back into the river. “Its all mixing,” said Duke spokeswoman Paige Sheehan. “We know that water is being discharged from the ash basin.”
https://www.newsobserver.com/news/business/article218791660.html

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.

Friday News: One-trick elephant

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GEORGE HOLDING PUSHES "TAX RELIEF" BILL FOR HURRICANE FLORENCE VICTIMS: With the cleanup from Hurricane Florence just beginning for many residents of North and South Carolina, three congressmen want to provide storm victims with tax relief. Rep. George Holding of Raleigh introduced the Hurricane Florence Tax Relief Act on Thursday in the U.S. House. The bill is co-sponsored by two of Holding’s fellow Republicans, Rep. David Rouzer of Johnston County and Rep. Tom Rice of Horry County in South Carolina. “FEMA has been on the ground for days and billions of dollars in grants and assistance will be made available to individuals and communities,” Holding said in a statement. “But I have concluded that recovering from a storm of this magnitude will also require creative, outside the box solutions.”
https://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/article218736590.html

Bravery in the face of male sexual privilege

Hat-tip to Annie Kiyonaga at the Daily Tarheel:

"I remember an eighth grade boy from Mater Dei, an all-boys Catholic middle school in our area, walking up to me and asking me to give him a blowjob. And I distinctly remember telling him to go fuck himself. I remember the adrenaline rush of standing up for myself, and the concurrent swell of queasiness I felt when I thought about this random boy, with his adolescent swagger, feeling entitled enough to ask me for something that I didn’t even fully understand yet. I remember feeling small and ridiculed, despite my big, confident refusal. I was 12."

Follow the link and read the whole thing, including the parade of sexist idiots trying their best to shut her up in the comments. This has been going on seemingly forever, but brave young women like Annie may hold the only key to stopping it, through exposing the disgusting underbelly of our society's biggest blind-spot.

Getting students back to school in Eastern NC a huge challenge

Even when schools reopen, you still have to get them there:

Bounds said school officials are eager to get students back to give them a dry, safe haven and a hot meal. While a couple of Scotland County's schools were without power or water this week, Bounds said the real limiting factor to restarting school is getting to students. Many roads in the area remain flooded or badly damaged.

Bounds said transportation will be the school's biggest challenge, forcing the school district to devise new bus schedules and bus routes. She said she expects that schools from her county all the way east to the coast are facing that same dilemma of how to reach students.

Even roads that appear to be just fine might be ticking time-bombs. From time to time we've seen part of a road collapse due to sinkholes and washouts, it happens several times a year across the state even without a monster storm like Florence. But roads have been collapsing (or on the verge of) in every county affected by the storm, even up in the Piedmont. But maybe even more dangerous for children than collapsing roads is the likelihood of persistent mold growth after their school has been reopened:

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