LEGISLATURE NEEDS TO END GOVERNING BY WHIM, DECREE AND AMBUSH: Unfortunately the autocratic behavior of legislative leaders is now reflected by the University of North Carolina Board of Governors – who are appointed by the legislature – in its latest effort to tell UNC President Margaret Spellings how to organize her office. Again, all done without any prior consultation with those most impacted. Again and again, the current legislative leaders preach that government should be operated like a business. But no well run business operates – or survives – the way Senate leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore try to run the state. Their primary motivations are settling fictitious scores with Democrats like Gov. Roy Cooper and Attorney General Josh Stein. They must change and be more deliberative and open. If not, even the most severe gerrymandering won’t blind voters to the malfeasance on display over the last nine years.
RALEIGH'S AFFORDABLE HOUSING CRISIS LOOMS LARGER: Wake County officials asked for it, and they got it. Commissioners and staff people asked consultants to assess the affordable housing situation in the county, and what’s emerged from their work is worrisome and not just for those of lower income who can’t afford the escalating costs of housing in the county. The county’s prosperity is one ironic problem: Incomes are going up and housing developers want to capture those of higher incomes for their markets, and thus the incentive for developers and builders is to focus on more expensive housing. It’s understandable. Developers are in a profit-making business, and higher-end housing is where the profits are.
AMAZAON & NC: A GOOD FIT LEGISLATURE MUST SIZE UP: Even among seasoned economic development professionals, the scale of Amazon’s HQ2 project – a second company headquarters – is astronomical. But North Carolina is already handicapped -- not by the lack of incentives, but by politics. Commentators, locally and nationally, have been quick to point out the North Carolina legislature’s antipathy toward many high-tech ventures. Many of these firms, such as Amazon, were vocal and in the forefront of condemning one of the pet projects of the legislature’s leadership – House Bill 2. The legislative leadership has been quick to blame these companies, not themselves, for the damaging blow to North Carolina’s reputation – not to mention the jobs missed and other hits to the state and local economies. Legislators, including Senate Leader Phil Berger and Budget Chairman Sen. Harry Brown, personally sought to kill the $400 million Amazon wind farm project – a renewable energy project that has brought much-needed work and tax revenue to the financially-strapped northeastern part of the state.
TRUMP, THE MAGIC 8 BALL PRESIDENT: Trump’s bombastic promises often have an odd “Stay tuned if you want to see how this turns out” tone to them as if we’re watching “The Voice” and only he knows if the 17-year-old banjo-playing single mom from Texas can beat the crowd favorite crooning cross-dresser from New York. Maybe it’s meant to be comforting. He knows how things are going to turn out because he has the best brain. Or does he? There’s nothing to worry about because Trump has seen how it ends and the rose will go to the most deserving bachelorette. He’ll be right back after this or that spleen-venting tweet about the election he won nearly a year ago. Don’t touch that dial! There is always the almost paternal language that he is going to take care of us and everything is going to be so beautiful and we all get a pony. Except the dreamers.
COVERING OUR EYES WON'T SAVE OUR LIVES: Ignoring climate change won’t make it go away. It would be wonderful, as some officials in Raleigh and Washington seem to believe, that not talking about global warming would protect us from its dangers. But after Hurricane Irma roared into Florida while Texans were still reeling from Hurricane Harvey, it should be clear that it’s past time to talk not only about climate change but also about what we can do to combat it and prepare for what it might bring. Yet, too often, our political leaders stubbornly refuse to acknowledge what almost all reputable scientists now believe: that the atmosphere and oceans are warming, and sea levels are rising, in part as a result of human activities — and that these changes present great risks not just far away, but right here.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
MEREDITH BAIN: CUSTOMERS SHOULDN'T HAVE TO PAY FOR DUKE ENERGY'S COAL ASH CARELESSNESS: Duke Energy Carolinas is attempting to increase electricity rates by 16.7 percent for residential customers. The $311 million from this rate increase would not fund a new and better utilities infrastructure; instead, the money would reimburse Duke for its to-date efforts to clean up the poisonous coal ash that it carelessly dumped in North Carolina for years. The electricity rate base ought to cover the investments that Duke actually made for reliable power infrastructure, rather than the ones it should have made. Given that Duke never invested in safe methods for coal ash disposal, it shouldn’t earn recovery on environmental compliance costs. It’s risky to participate in a capitalist market. Duke took a risk by dumping toxic waste irresponsibly, and that risk backfired. Customers should bear no part of the $2.5 billion that it will cost Duke to clean up coal ash over the next 40 years; rather, the company and its shareholders should accept cleanup costs as a consequence of their own negligent management. I encourage all Duke customers to attend the rate hike hearing in Raleigh on Sept. 25, when the Utilities Commission will be accepting comments on the proposed increase.
TRINA HARRISON: WALKER'S NO VOTE ON RELIEF WAS WRONG: Indivisible members from Burlington, Mebane, Pittsboro and Snow Camp asked Walker to explain how his vote to against disaster relief simply because it was attached to a debt-ceiling increase. Disturbingly, waffling on aid in a time of crisis, members argued, is consistent with Walker’s pattern of voting to gut other forms of humanitarian aid, like the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, disability insurance, child tax credits and the National Flood Insurance Program. Speakers strongly urged Walker to vote for permanently lifting the cap on the debt ceiling. Predictable threats to shut down the government can be avoided when bipartisan solutions are given priority. Gridlock hurts regular people in times of need, speakers continued. Indivisible members openly wondered whether or not Walker would vote to aid 6th District constituents should a natural disaster befall this area. The group will continue its Tuesdays-at-10 gatherings at Walker’s Graham office.
PETER V ANDREWS: REPUBLICANS NEED TO TAKE IT SLOW ON TAX REFORM: “He who hesitates, may know something you don’t.” That line was written by a friend of mine named Chuck, who kept a neatly printed poster on the wall of his office titled, “Ten Laws for Today’s World” to which he had added his line as the 11th law. Chuck’s law came to mind when three Republican Senators, Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins and John McCain, refused to vote to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). In doing so, they knew what the other Republican senators either did not know or refused to admit publicly – that repealing Obamacare would wreck our health care system, deprive millions of Americans of adequate health care and become terribly unpopular very quickly. Chuck’s law should come to mind again very soon, as Republicans try to overhaul the tax code. Here, the Republicans will give huge tax cuts to the wealthy without replacing the lost income. They will then use the resulting deficit as a cudgel to cut social programs such as Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security. Our nation “dodged a bullet” on health care, thanks primarily to those three senators. I hope we can be as lucky again on beating back the tax overhaul.