THE $74,999 QUESTION: CAN UNC'S $2.5 MILLION BAD DEAL BE STOPPED? The DTH revelations are raising questions about whether the key party to the deal, Sons of Confederate Veterans, violated tax and campaign spending laws. State Attorney General Josh Stein, Secretary of State Elaine Marshall who oversees non-profits -- along with the state Revenue Department and state Board of Elections, all must look into these serious matters. The rush to approve anything, at any cost, to get rid of the Silent Sam issue has done just the opposite. In fact, Superior Court Judge Allan Baddour, who signed the initial consent judgment and order is reexamining his approval and will be holding a hearing on Feb. 12 to further look into the deal. It is time for the courts and regulators to say enough-is-enough. Terminate the deal. University officials should be ashamed of themselves.
RALEIGH MUST HAVE HOUSING FOR ALL INCOMES: As we look to build a better future, it’s important to recognize that our housing has changed throughout the last century. That’s why it’s so important that we evaluate our current options and work to provide housing that’s affordable for many different people, from our older residents looking to remain in their homes to young people starting their first jobs and families. Recently, we responded to environmental concerns and focused on smarter growth and stricter development regulations. While necessary, it also created a narrative of developers versus the environment. And, coupled with the recession and new policies that made it harder to build anything but single family homes, we find ourselves with a shortage of non-high-end housing and even more sprawl into our rural areas. Thus, here we are with younger people struggling to find opportunities to build their own futures in ways that have minimal impact on our environment and are affordable. We’ve told them they can’t keep sprawling out, we’re fighting tear downs in our neighborhoods, and saying no to tall buildings. So where do young families go?
THE NC SENATE FAILS US AGAIN: Medicaid expansion is the main issue that is keeping the budget from being finalized, with, once again, the governor and Senate Democrats seeking to establish it and Republicans standing firmly against it — even a compromised version proposed by state Rep. Donny Lambeth, R-Forsyth, that would have included work requirements. Last week, Kansas became the 38th state — and the 15th red state — to expand its Medicaid program. Expansion in North Carolina would add between 450,000 and 650,000 residents who currently have no health care coverage to the 2.2 million currently covered. It would create jobs and save lives. No state that has adopted Medicaid expansion has expressed regret. Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, still holds to his flimsy claim that he fears the federal government might not do its part by failing to keep its commitment to pay 90% of the cost of expansion. After so many other states have benefited from Medicaid expansion, Berger really owes the public a better reason. Actually, he owes it to the state to stand down.
TRUMP'S MERCENARY FOREIGN POLICY CONFIRMS WHAT OUR WORST CRITICS SAY OF US: In Donald Trump, we have the first president to embrace this disillusioned take on the United States’ role in the world, in which democracy gets bracketed by knowing quote marks while empire is baldly stated. There is no higher purpose in Trump’s approach to foreign policy: it’s all about the Benjamins. In the Middle East, we ought to “take the oil,” while in Europe and the Pacific we should be paid for the peacekeeping troops we’ve deployed. Foggy Bottom and the Pentagon should be profit centers. Trump’s original foreign policy team mistakenly believed this attitude was a result of gaps in his education. My Post colleagues Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker, in their new book, “A Very Stable Genius: Donald J. Trump’s Testing of America,” detail a tumultuous meeting six months into Trump’s term in which Rex Tillerson and Jim Mattis — secretary of state and defense secretary, respectively, at the time — led a remedial tutorial session. “Trump appeared peeved by the schoolhouse vibe,” Leonnig and Rucker write mildly, and things quickly went off track. The mention of troops and missile defenses in South Korea provoked this from the president: “We should charge them rent. We should make them pay for our soldiers. We should make money off of everything.” The president of the United States is now ratifying indictments leveled by some of the country’s harshest critics: that we are a nation of plunderers out for ourselves; that our talk of ideals is a smokescreen to hide our rapacity; that the world is wise to guard its wallet and check its receipts whenever Uncle Sam comes around.
SENATE REPUBLICANS ARE BATHED IN SHAME: The impeachment trial of Donald John Trump began on Thursday when John Roberts, the chief justice of the Supreme Court, directed all of the senators to stand and raise their right hands. Ever since I can’t get two questions out of my head. The first: How in God’s name — and it was in God’s name — can the Republicans who have already decided to acquit President Trump take a solemn oath to administer “impartial justice”? They’re partial to the core, unabashedly so, as their united march toward a foregone conclusion shows. A mind-meld this ironclad isn’t a reflection of facts. It’s a triumph of factionalism. The majority of the party’s senators have said outright or clearly signaled that they have no intention of finding the president guilty and removing him from office. Yapping lap dogs like Lindsey Graham and obedient manservants like Mitch McConnell have gone further, mocking the whole impeachment process. If there were nothing to this, why would Trump stonewall Congress to the extent that he has? That’s not how the innocent act. When witness after witness tells a version of the same story, providing pieces of a puzzle that fit snugly together, you can reach a conclusion about the whole of it. That’s called logic. And if the actual case against Trump were weak, why would Republicans keep redirecting attention to Democrats’ motivations — to how much they despise the president? That’s called distraction.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
PROF. ORRIN PILKEY: DON'T USE DISASTER RELIEF FUNDS FOR BEACH RE-NOURISHMENT: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has approved $237 million for 10 miles of beach recovery on Topsail Island. That is more than $20 million per mile and will be one of the most costly beach nourishment projects ever on the East Coast. Another $44.5 million is scheduled for use on Bogue Banks. These projects can only be characterized as madness. Sea-level rise is clearly accelerating, increasingly intense storms are expected, and the amounts spent on these beaches will need to be expended again and again. But that’s not all. Funds for this project will come from a federal disaster relief package designed to help North Carolinians recover from recent hurricanes. The funds were not intended for beach nourishment. Normally beach nourishment projects are partially funded by local and state government. Now, property owners who imprudently built next to eroding shorelines, and the state government that approved such development, get off scot-free. It’s time to get the Corps off this dead-end path of perpetual spending on shore protection and go forward with a realistic recognition of where the future lies in a time of climate change. Regardless of who’s funding such projects, the time has come to retreat.
MINTA PHILLIPS: THE COLLATERAL DAMAGE OF CARBON IS SIGNIFICANT: The unprecedented, catastrophic Australian bush fires rage on. Who foots the bill? The taxpayers there will pay billions for this extreme consequence of climate change. Economists teach that carbon pollution is a fossil fuel-sourced energy “negative externality.” An ‘externality’ occurs when a market transaction affects people who are not involved in that transaction. For example, when I buy power from Duke Energy, its fossil fuel generator emits carbon pollution — a price not included in my bill. I pay for the electricity which compensates the electricity retailer, distributor, transmission company and the fueled generator. But people (and nature) who are adversely affected by carbon pollution receive no compensation, suffering a “negative externality.” Too much electricity is produced by burning fossil fuels because buyers of that electricity do not face the full costs.
HUMA MUNIR: WE NEED A PRESIDENT WHO WILL NOT MOCK MUSLIMS: On Monday, President Trump retweeted a fake picture of Nancy Pelosi wearing the Muslim headscarf in front of the Iranian flag. This is a new low for this presidency. It is beneath the office of the president to engage in vitriol or belittle different cultures. It is his moral duty to respect the beliefs and sentiments of people he represents. As a Muslim and a U.S. citizen, I expect better from my president. I am a law-abiding citizen who has given back to this country in many ways. I respect the law and I’m loyal to my nation. The president should not mock our beliefs and cultures. I hope the culture in White House changes for the better. I hope we are able to elect leaders who serve us with dignity and tolerance.