DURHAM'S PARTICIPATORY BUDGETING INCLUDES LGBTQ YOUTH CENTER: Durham’s first foray into letting residents decide how their tax dollars are spent will help fund four new city-wide projects, including an LGBTQ Youth Center. For Asher Skeen, a 20-year-old transgender man, having a center could mean everything to local LGBTQ youth, if it’s done right. “I think the biggest thing that the city of Durham should do is to listen to the voices of queer youth and people in the community and ask them what they need,” Skeen said. “What [do] they need out of the space? What would make it helpful and a good place to go?” Durham is the second city in the state behind Greensboro to offer participatory budgeting. Greensboro started its program in 2014 and divvies up $500,000 among its five city council districts.
UNC ASHEVILLE MOVES TO DIVEST FROM FOSSIL FUELS: The University of North Carolina-Asheville has moved to divest a portion of its $50 million endowment away from fossil fuels. The Asheville Citizen-Times reports it is the first school in the UNC system to do so. The school's board of trustees recently voted to shift about $5 million of its endowed funds to a private asset manager that focuses on investments billed as socially responsible. In recent years, some of the nation's universities have drawn criticism for making investments in certain industries that activists say run counter to the schools' mission. Colleges are split. Some have stopped investing in industries such as fossil fuels or prisons. Others put few restrictions on their investments.
GOVERNOR CONTINUES TO PUSH HARD FOR MEDICAID EXPANSION: Cooper spoke Saturday morning to a conference of radiation oncologists at the downtown Embassy Suites, discussing preparations for hurricanes and other disasters. Most of the governor’s remarks, however, were directed toward urging state legislators to accept federal funds to extend Medicaid coverage to more patients. These people fall in a coverage gap, Cooper said -- too well off to qualify for Medicaid but too poor to qualify for tax credits under the Affordable Care Act. As a result, many cannot afford private health insurance and do not get coverage from employers. Republican leaders in the General Assembly have refused to consider Medicaid expansion as part of the current state budget negotiations. “Since 2013, they have refused to accept $4 billion in federal money,” Cooper said. “Those are taxpayer funds, that our taxpayers have paid, which are going to other states.” This, he argued, was a vital part of the budget process.
DEM PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES HOLDING MOCK DEBATES IN PREPARATION FOR THE REAL THING: The leading candidates are girding for criticism. Mr. Biden, who leads in the polls but spent last week under attack for his history of striking deals with segregationists, has been holding mock debates to practice as his advisers urge him to stay above the fray. Mr. Sanders, struggling to keep his second-place standing as Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, a fellow populist, rises quickly, has been reading written policy briefings prepared by advisers, but has resisted certain kinds of debate drills as his advisers discuss whether to aggressively harry Mr. Biden. Three other Democrats who have gained varying degrees of traction — Ms. Warren; her Senate colleague, Kamala Harris of California; and Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind. — view the debates as a chance to extend or accelerate their momentum. Ms. Warren, by far the most prominent candidate in the Wednesday debate, is looking to deliver a forceful version of the policy-heavy calls for political reform she has been trumpeting on the trail. Ms. Harris and Mr. Buttigieg, who are both in the Thursday debate, are also aiming to amplify their core themes while navigating the complicated dynamics of sharing a stage with Mr. Biden and Mr. Sanders.
THEY WON'T GO TO JARED: KUSHNER'S "BUSINESS" APPROACH TO PEACE BETWEEN ISRAEL AND PALESTINE FALLS FLAT: A U.S.-backed investment conference to drum up business for Palestinians will have no Palestinian government representatives and Israeli officials appear unlikely to attend, leaving in doubt whether the session can raise significant money or political support for President Trump’s effort to strike a Middle East peace deal. The investment and development gathering that opens Tuesday in Manama, Bahrain, includes a roster of wealthy and powerful figures from international business and finance, many with connections to Trump’s aide and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who organized the session. But the lack of Palestinian and Israeli involvement in the conference is the latest illustration of the difficulty that Kushner and the administration are having in establishing any momentum for their peace efforts, which face deep skepticism in the region and in the United States. Munib al Masri, 85, the billionaire industrialist known for being the wealthiest Palestinian, said he immediately rejected his invitation. “Our problem is a political one, not an economic one,” he said. “We have dignity, we have leadership, and they don’t want to go because they believe America is not an honest broker.” Without Palestinian representation, the initiative is doomed to fail, he said. “It’s like going to the wedding and the bride and groom aren’t there,” he said.