DEMOCRATIC LEGISLATORS HOLD KEY IN UPCOMING VETO SHOWDOWN: Sustaining Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of controversial Senate Bill 359 could end up in the hands of a few African-American Democratic legislators – some of whom are ministers. That is the picture that emerges from a look at how members of the state House of Representatives and Senate voted on the bill earlier this week. All four Democrats in the House who voted for the bill are black, two are ministers. Three of the five Democrats who didn’t vote are also black. In the Senate, the two Democrats who voted for the bill also are black. The effort to sustain the Democratic governor’s veto will be a critical test of Cooper’s clout and the power that Senate Leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore wield in the Republican-dominated General Assembly. The fate of this over-ride effort is particularly critical because it is the first since Republicans lost their veto-proof legislative majority.
IN NC, COURT COSTS ARE CREATING DEBTOR'S PRISONS: The concept of “debtors’ prisons” may seem outdated; indeed, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that it is unconstitutional to jail someone who cannot pay court debt. But today in North Carolina, judges send at least hundreds and likely thousands of people to jail every year because they cannot afford to pay off the fines and fees that people are ordered to pay when they are convicted of any offense, even as minor as a speeding ticket. Through public records requests to all 100 North Carolina counties and hundreds of court observations in four geographically and demographically diverse counties — Edgecombe, Avery, Robeson, and Mecklenburg — we found that North Carolina has trapped thousands of its residents in an inescapable cycle of poverty and even incarceration. Over two decades, changes to state law and bad courtroom practices have turned judges into debt collectors and sought, unsuccessfully, to fund state programs off the backs of the poor, systematically increasing the amount of money people must pay, while making it harder for them to escape the burden of that debt when they can’t.
DWANE POWELL DESERVES A PULITZER AS A CARICATURIST: Friends who went to restaurants with Dwane may have saved a napkin on which they found themselves skewered by Dwane’s notorious doodling. He could pick out a facial feature or personal trait that stuck. His caricature of Jesse Helms with oversized glasses and outraged eyes and the comb in “good buddy” Jim Hunt’s earnest pompadours were often copied by other cartoonists. A cartoon of the late Lt. Gov. Jimmy Green as a wrinkled, smoking porcupine a leash to a forlorn Hunt stuck with quills is a classic in caricature. His cartoon of Billy Graham at a wall safe behind a picture of Jesus should have won the Pulitzer. Dwane would practice in editorial meetings drawing some of his co-workers. His notebook is littered with drawings of editorial writer and columnist Jim Jenkins, and Dwane told me once that I was the model for all of the stern, square-jawed FBI agents in his cartoons. I write this memory of Dwane in the hopes that the News & Observer will enter his cartoons to the Pulitzer committee for caricature. It’s long past time that this unmatched talent be recognized.
GOP, YOU LOOK DOPEY WHEN YOU ATTACK AOC: The latest example began when one of your rank and file, Rep. Sean Duffy, took aim at the Green New Deal, Ocasio-Cortez’s wish list of social, economic and policy goals to stem the impact of climate change. He called it “elitist.” She responded forcefully. “You want to tell people that their concern and their desire for clean air and clean water is elitist?” she said. “Tell that to the kids in the South Bronx, which are suffering from the highest rates of childhood asthma in the country. Tell that to the families in Flint, whose kids have their blood ascending in lead levels. ... Call them elitist.” That speech prompted another of your members, Rep. Andy Barr, to issue a dare disguised as an invitation: “Come to Eastern Kentucky where thousands of coal miners no longer have paychecks,” he said. ”... Go underground with me and meet the men and women who do heroic work to empower the American economy.” Whereupon Ocasio-Cortez did what Barr never expected: she accepted, noting that the Green New Deal envisions fully funding miners’ pensions “because we want a just transition to make sure we are investing in jobs” in mining communities. His bluff called, Barr backtracked. He withdrew the invitation, claiming Ocasio-Cortez had to first apologize for an unrelated Twitter spat about a different issue with another legislator.
THE MUELLER REPORT AND THE DANGER FACING AMERICAN DEMOCRACY: Both sides saw potential gains, the report said — Russia in a Trump presidency, the campaign from the stolen information. The Times documented 140 contacts between Mr. Trump and his associates and Russian nationals and WikiLeaks or their intermediaries. But the Mueller investigation “did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.” That is the part Mr. Trump sees as vindication, though the activities of his chaotic campaign team that the report describes are — at best — naïve. It is obviously difficult for this president to acknowledge that he was aided in his election by Russia, and there is no way to gauge with any certainty how much impact the Russian activities actually had on voters. But the real danger that the Mueller report reveals is not of a president who knowingly or unknowingly let a hostile power do dirty tricks on his behalf, but of a president who refuses to see that he has been used to damage American democracy and national security.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
LILY KEYES: NC TEACHERS HAVE EVERY RIGHT TO RALLY: As a former high school social studies teacher, now frequent substitute teacher, I take issue with the letter from the teacher who opposes the May 1 rally. I question her condemnation of colleagues who choose to travel to Raleigh to engage in discourse with legislators. Those teachers are not “on strike.” Our constitutional rights guarantee all citizens, including teachers, the right to peacefully assemble and present their grievances. I don’t believe such actions run counter to teaching students how to “deal with adversity through discourse and research.” Too often those in powerful decision-making roles do not appear to be listening. As a parent, teacher, and N.C. citizen, I say to those teachers following their conscience to Raleigh: You most certainly represent me.
MARVIN ROUSE: TIME FOR WOMEN TO LEAD: Can a woman save us? Our male leaders have so poisoned politics that our citizens are left with no good ideas about dealing with our problems. We are confronted with issues without answers and the hate filled language is doing deep damages to our nation both internally and worldwide. We all see it and while we profess to be horrified by the damage, we are unable to correct it. We need fresh ideas from fresh people as the old ideas have grown stale. We need. We need. In the absence of our male leaders’ inability to solve our problems, is it time to ask our women to save us? The argument for a more robust female leadership effort is supported by current events. Our current male leaders are unable contain the excesses of the most corrupt administration in a century while our country suffers embarrassment after embarrassment. Countries that have fought on our side through two wars and many conflicts are belittled and yet there is no effective pushback by our supposed leaders. Do we need women leaders who can push back when the threat to grab them by the genitals is made? Can a female leader convince the mature white female not to accept this type of language from presidential candidates? Can the mature white females be motivated to vote against the enablers who support presidential candidates with this type of disdain for our women? Our male leaders have not been effective so far, let’s give a woman a chance.
RICHARD WILSON: REJECT THE NC TREE BILL: The N.C. Senate is considering a bill (SB 367) which would effectively prevent city or county ordinances that regulate the removal of trees. Hundreds of cities around the country have recognized the measurable importance of trees for citizens’ mental and physical health, air and water quality, aquifer restoration, flood control, and property value. They’ve taken a variety of steps to prevent the loss of trees. Every town and county has different circumstances and therefore needs to be able to craft regulations that solve their particular problems and respond to their citizens’ priorities. Threats to air and water quality, heat waves, torrential rains, the further destruction of wildlife habitat, and the stress of modern life will not be improving as decades pass. Foresight and the search for least-cost solutions requires that trees be considered in local governments’ long-term planning. Their problem-solving abilities and accountability to their citizens should not be impaired by state legislation.