RURAL BROADBAND NEEDS A LEVEL PLAYING FIELD IN NC: Broadband access is a critical resource for all Americans to participate in today’s technology-driven society. Access to educational information is vital. It is imperative for educators, students and parents to have reliable broadband or a creative approach to ensure students in rural areas have a level playing field with high speed broadband and access to the world. At issue is who will build the infrastructure to accommodate rural communities lacking access. Local governments that cannot legally build their own systems are challenged with convincing private sector companies to invest in rural areas. In 2008, Wilson built its own high speed broadband network. But a federal appeals court reinstated a 2011 North Carolina law that blocks local governments from building their own broadband service in competition with telecommunications providers.
IN NC, TRUMP'S OUTBURSTS COULD TRIGGER A BLUE TSUNAMI: The November election is almost a year away, but Democrats are already focused on it like kids a week before Christmas. And polls – driven by President Trump’s regular but still startling outbursts – show that the results for Democrats may exceed even their already high expectations. Much can happen before November. The nation could enter an unforeseen crisis or Trump could achieve a sense of self-control, but neither is as likely as more of what we have now – a general calm often broken by a president who’s an embarrassment to his office and the nation. In a discussion with reporters last week, Democratic pollster Fred Yang outlined what looks to him like a surge favoring Democrats across the nation and especially in North Carolina. “There is a sign that the Republican Party is in big trouble for 2018,” he said. “There is a tremendous enthusiasm advantage for Democrats.”
THE IMPACT OF NEW TAX LAW ON NC PRIVATE HIGHER EDUCATION UNCERTAIN, TROUBLING: We can only estimate the impact the tax law changes will have on charitable giving – the lifeblood of higher education’s scholarship and academic programs. The question for all nonprofits is how much the expanded standard deduction provision, without the inclusion of a universal charitable giving deduction, will reduce charitable giving. Estimates of the tax bill’s impact on charitable giving include a reduction from 30 percent of taxpayers who itemize currently to as low as five percent. The elimination of a tax incentive for 25 percent of filers to make charitable donations could be devastating to nonprofits of all types and sizes. The excise tax on college and university endowments is a public policy change which penalizes private, nonprofit institutions for maintaining significant endowment funds to use in reducing college costs, funding student aid, and supporting research.
THE RIGHT INCENTIVES FOR NC INDUSTRY: Once, it was possible to have a debate over whether North Carolina should play the incentives game — granting tax breaks and cheap land and all sorts of infrastructure in exchange for a major manufacturer agreeing to bring jobs to the state. But intense competition, particularly with other states in the Southeast, pretty much put the debate away. The state has to play the game, Republicans and Democrats agree. North Carolina needs, in addition to incentives for companies, true investment in its people in ways that will benefit entire families: Better job training for parents, better high schools and middle and elementary schools for younger kids, better health care. These are things with lifetime benefits that will help people qualify for jobs and improve their futures beyond their working lives. If Republicans and Democrats can unite about business recruitment, they ought to be able to join on other “make the state better” efforts and more “help people bring themselves up” campaigns. State officials were immensely pleased in their recruitment of this auto plant to be able to “put $1.5 billion on the table.” Now let’s see them put a lot more than that on the table — for the needs of all citizens.
PROTECTING DREAMERS MUST BE THE FIRST PRIORITY: Democrats don’t hold much power in Washington, but they should use every bit they’ve got to protect the Dreamers. Those are the 700,000 young adults brought to this country illegally as children who hold temporary legal status granted through former President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Democrats’ first choice is the reasonable course of passing a simple DACA bill. Trump briefly agreed to that in a bipartisan meeting last week until Republicans explained his bargaining position. Holding those young people hostage to a $33 billion immigration enforcement bill is unfair. Most of that money — $18 billion — supposedly would pay for Trump’s border wall boondoggle. The funding would stretch over 10 years, and the wall still wouldn’t fortify the entire border. Parts of it wouldn’t be a wall at all. And Mexico won’t pay for it. The next president could cancel the project, but not before billions of dollars were wasted.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
SUSAN AND JOE ELINOFF'S REACTION TO TRUMP'S "SHITHOLE COUNTRIES" COMMENT: We were saddened and infuriated, but not surprised, to read the comments of Donald Trump regarding immigration from what he referred to as “s---hole countries.” He specifically named Haiti and Nigeria. We live in a small Durham neighborhood that has representation from at least 12 different countries, among which are two Haitians and a Nigerian. One Haitian is a professor of U.S. constitutional law, the other is a dancer and choreographer with his own dance troupe. The Nigerian is a physician researcher specializing in pediatric nephrology. They have wonderful families and are great neighbors. They contribute more each day to American society than Trump seemingly has his entire life.
MATT SMITH: COMMISSION HELPS DUKE ENERGY KEEP YOU SILENT: The North Carolina Utilities Commission’s sole purpose is to protect us. It is its job to look at a rate increase request from Duke Energy and decide what is fair for its customers to pay. However, just after Christmas, NCUC Chairman Edward Finley Jr. denied a request by the Sierra Club to add a public hearing on the monopoly’s proposed rate increase. Apparently, in their opinion, three meetings is more than enough opportunity for folks whose wallets will be impacted by Duke Energy’s massive rate increase to weigh in on whether or not the request is fair, and Durham customers don’t matter. Finley denied the request by citing concerns with security, saying “the commission finds it increasingly difficult to find cooperating venues open after business hours with adequate security at a reasonable cost.” The NCUC is required to hold public hearings on the rate increase, and by declining the Durham hearing, they’re essentially saying the three hearings currently scheduled meet their obligations to North Carolinians and are sufficient per the law. But, are they?
BOB MARTIN: GRAND OLD PARTY NO LONGER SO GRAND: I apologize to my Republican friends (if there are any left who have not shunned this progressive Democrat), but between Trump’s lifetime appointments of unqualified bigots to the federal bench and staunch party support of Roy Moore, I have come to the unfortunate conclusion that your party no longer stands for truth, justice and the American way. I am not saying that there are not Republicans that are good and kind and wise, but your party has deserted you to take up arms for a group of white, advantaged and privileged folks who, ironically believe that they are under siege; that feel the tip of their pinky being pried from the reins of power and liken that to experiencing the death throes of a 40-pound Mackerel on the fishing deck of a trillion-dollar yacht. Voices of reason fade as judicial appointees who have never judged in court but judge with venom and ire all those that do not sound like them, look like them and think like them sail through confirmation hearings. When passing a tax code that will affect every one of us cannot garner the support of even one elected official from the other half of our (that means yours and mine) country; when the motivation behind legislation is “If we don’t do something, we won’t be re-elected,” instead of what’s best for our country; when you talk about the Christian ideal of forgiveness regarding a defrocked judge whose sexual appetite is at best perverse, even while you sport a “LOCK HER UP!” bumper sticker; when rather than even attempt to understand the admittedly tectonic shifts that are occurring in this global/digital revolution you are panicked into fantasizing about an idyllic past that never existed, then, my friend, it is clear that your Grand Old Party is no longer Grand — that the mold has taken hold.