END THE COURTROOM DELAY TACTICS. FUND EDUCATION EQUITY ORDER NOW: Twenty-eight years. Countless hours of courtroom hearings and debates. Thousands of pages of legal pleadings. Mounds of data. Two landmark North Carolina Supreme Court decisions. What does it take to get a government -- that is supposed to represent the people; one where elected officials in the three branches of government take oaths to uphold the State Constitution -- to fulfill that Constitution’s promise of access to a sound, quality education for every child? Significant pluralities agree with the courts determination that the state isn’t living up to its Constitutional duty according to the latest WRAL-TV poll – 50% of those who say they voted for Donald Trump; 51% of rural voters and even 45% of Republicans. Sixty-two percent of North Carolinians say public schools are under funded including 59% of Republicans and 63% of rural voters. Additionally, 66% of North Carolinians say teachers are underpaid – including 66% of Republicans. For too long, access to a quality education had depended on where you lived and who your parents were. That is NOT what North Carolina’s Constitution intended. If state revenues were suffering or even stagnant Republicans might have an excuse for delays, but it's just the opposite. They're sitting on billions in surplus, revenues already collected. They could fully fund Leandro and *still* have a healthy rainy-day fund, but children don't make campaign contributions. That's the problem in a nutshell.
IT'S TIME NC DID MORE TO HELP FORMER OFFENDERS LIKE ME SUCCEED: I know firsthand what is possible when people with criminal records are given a second chance, and I know what happens when they are denied in North Carolina. April is Second Chance Month, a time to highlight experiences like mine and demand investment in the support services we need to rebuild our lives. When I was released from confinement in 2017, I had high hopes from my prison reentry program. Instead, I felt misled, with few services and little support available to me. I realized that I needed my community to provide services the system did not offer. Reentry should be a seamless process. In reality, there are around 38,000 laws nationally creating economic and social barriers for individuals reentering society. People often face a temporary or permanent ban on their housing applications because of a specific criminal charge. In my case, I was convicted of a felony three presidents ago, when George W. Bush was still in office — and I still have a difficult time today finding housing from anyone who isn’t an absentee slumlord. The Local Reentry Council is different. They provided career training and helped me to get a commercial driver’s license, which, with the encouragement of N.C. Supreme Court Justice Anita Earls, Judge Dave Hall, and Umar Muhammad, led me to my current position at the Southern Coalition for Social Justice. The SCSJ is a nonprofit law firm dedicated to helping people with reentry and expungement of charges. I pay it forward now too. I’ve helped people secure long-term employment. I drive all over Durham dropping off “Your First 48” pamphlets and Umar Muhammad Clean Slate tool kits so more people can get their records expunged so they can access housing and job opportunities. The tool kits are named after my cousin, a reentry activist. After I got out of prison, I had no idea I would become a community organizer and a reentry specialist. I am proof that second chances come with a world of possibilities. What it all boils down to is options. The fewer options you have, the more likely you will be forced down a road that will lead back to prison. This is often hard for white people to understand, because they (usually) have an unlimited supply of second chances. If you don't believe that, spend some time auditing courtrooms.
"AMERICA FIRST" RALLY PUTS TRUTH LAST: The errors of fact, the errors of omission, the errors of exaggeration and out-and-out dishonesty were shocking – even given the former president’s lowly standard for truthfulness. We’ll start with the crowd. Right Side Broadcasting Network – launched to stream Trump rallies – contended there were 20,000 people at the rally. Nearly every other independent report put the crowd at about 2,000 to 5,000 tops. Rep. Dan Bishop avoided holding those responsible for the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection accountable. “Let’s find out, once and for all, how many feds were at the Capitol on January 6. And why did Pelosi leave the Capitol unprepared,” Bishop said. What Bishop didn’t mention was that just a day earlier Charles Donohoe of Kernersville and a leader of the Proud Boys, confessed and pleaded guilty to conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding and assaulting an officer. He’s agreed to provide information to prosecutors about what the top members of the organization had planned for the Jan. 6 attack. Also, Trump called to former Gov. Pat McCrory -- who is running in the GOP Senate primary -- as "the bathroom governor." Trump added "what a mess that was!" It was a reference to the disastrous HB2 law concerning gender designation for bathroom use that cost the state billions in canceled tourism, athletic and economic development opportunities. What wasn't mentioned -- it was Bishop who was the law's chief architect when he was a state legislator. This is typical of blowhards and bullies, trying to use the most embarrassing point (bathrooms) to label and deride their enemies. What's also typical is the bully's logical disconnect and ironic missteps, which (more often than not) blows the insult right back in their faces. But when you're dealing with such idiots as found in the MAGA crowd, you don't have to worry about critical thinkers.
ALEXANDRA SIROTA: STAYING THE COURSE WILL SINK OUR SHIP: John Hood recommends that North Carolina stay the course on tax reform despite all the evidence that doing so would sink our proverbial ship. For those so insulated from the elements of today’s economic winds and the rocky reefs that line our path out of this pandemic, it may be helpful to look long-term at where we all hope to get to realize just how unlikely it is that deep income tax cuts for the top will get us there. We all should work toward a state where who you are and where you are born doesn’t determine whether you can put food on the table or keep a safe roof over your family. A state that can weather the shock of a public health or economic event through adaptation and solid foundations to rapidly rebound from disruptions is something to be rather than to seem. Income tax cuts in recent years have not only reduced what we can do to smooth the course for families and communities — it has given the wealthy and big corporations an outsized benefit. When Hood talks of “broadening some tax bases while restructuring others”, what he means is corporations not paying their share, with low- and middle-income folks paying more than their share through sales taxes and fines and fees. During the pandemic, those at the top have profited amidst the current hardship. Corporations have allowed prices to skyrocket and raked in record profits for shareholders. The very richest have topped up their bank accounts. These profits and income left untaxed aren’t solving the persistent barriers to a full recovery — too few health care providers in certain communities, too low wages for a solid day’s work, and too much broken infrastructure to connect people to opportunity. Everyone in North Carolina – Black, white, brown, and other people of color — can prosper only if our leaders commit first to removing the barriers to opportunity and laying the foundation for prosperity for all. John has always insulated himself from the truth, because it makes his life much easier. Misplaced faith in the Invisible Hand of the market is comforting to people like Hood, but don't make the mistake of believing that Hand doesn't exist. The Invisible Hand bars entry into the land of opportunity for many, the Invisible Hand takes food off the tables of hungry children, the Invisible Hand bangs on the bedroom door, and the Invisible Hand squeezes every drop of blood from the working class to grease the wheels of the ruling class. One day the voting public will recognize this, but it may be too late to save democracy.
I'M TRANSGENDER. I WON'T BE GETTING AN "X" ON MY PASSPORT: The U.S. State Department, in acknowledgement of the roadblocks such as these that trans, gender non-conforming, non-binary and intersex people routinely experience while traveling, recently announced that applicants for passports will soon have the option to choose X as their gender marker as an alternative to M or F. It’s a nice symbol of support, and putting an X on a passport might really mean something to a select few. But given the trouble that often accompanies being out as non-binary, the move won’t “advance inclusion” as much as the department’s announcement claims. If the State Department really wanted to take a step forward, there’s an easier, cheaper and more powerful option: remove gender from passports altogether. Now, the X marker could be affirming for non-binary people who do not experience or anticipate persecution related to their gender identity. It could also work for people traveling exclusively through airports that have done an excellent job training their staff about gender and the meaning of the X marker, and that have policies in place to make travel smooth for gender-diverse travelers. These hypothetical people and places, however, will be rare. More likely, the X will cause more of the hassle trans people have become accustomed to. Every once in a while, I do “pass” with the F on my passport. If I had an X, though, extra scrutiny would be practically guaranteed. I asked a handful of non-binary friends about the upcoming change, and every one of them indicated that willingly outing themselves on their passport would mean inviting danger into their travel experience. This is especially relevant given the waves of anti-trans legislation being passed in the United States, and even more so when international travel is considered. Trans rights are imperiled domestically, but they are in even worse shape throughout much of the world. Having an M or F — especially if one doesn’t always “pass” — can cause trouble for a transgender traveler; carrying a passport with an X on it is likely to cause more. Yeah, expecting this to make life easier for LGBTQ+ folks is a fantasy. The average American is even less capable of nuanced behavior than they were 20 (or even 40) years ago. And in many foreign countries (see Barbados and Saint Lucia), an X on your passport could lead straight to jail. Removing gender entirely is the best solution.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
CLAIRE LINKER: KEEP POLITICAL SIGNS ON PRIVATE PROPERTY: Here we go again. Candidate voting signs are beginning to litter the roadsides. It would be so nice if there was a law that prohibited these signs from anywhere except personal property. Does anyone actually vote for a person because they saw that name on a sign by the side of a road? I doubt it. As somebody who has placed many campaign signs (including personal ones) on public rights-of-way, I should disagree with this. But Claire's right. Among many other issues, these signs are a distraction for people driving multi-ton vehicles at excessive speeds. Every second eyes are drawn to gaze at them is a second that should be spent watching the movements of other vehicles, and of course pedestrians. We even place them in curves, which is mind-numbingly stupid.
CHRIS GILLY-FORRER: OIL COMPANIES ARE WAR PROFITEERS: No one should be profiting from a war, but that’s exactly what the fossil fuel companies are trying to do. The fossil fuel industry continues to take advantage of the crisis in Ukraine, pushing out disinformation aimed at lining their pockets by keeping Americans dependent on oil and gas. Most of the big oil and gas companies posted huge profits in 2021, the highest profits seen in years. Even with U.S. oil and gas production nearing record levels, Americans haven’t been spared volatile fossil fuel prices. Much has been said about the impacts of cutting off Russian oil imports. The clean energy and climate provisions under consideration in Congress would reduce annual U.S. oil consumption by 180 million barrels per year by 2030 — roughly twice current U.S. imports of Russian oil. For all their bluster in recent weeks, fossil fuel companies spent decades blocking clean energy in favor of fossil fuels, which has only served to increase profits and oil executive salaries, and strengthen Vladimir Putin’s hand and other fossil-fueled autocrats like him. Continued reliance on fossil fuels will never end the price spikes in energy. Only moving to homegrown, reliable and affordable clean energy will do that. There is simply no downside to transitioning away from fossil fuels. Not for people like you and me, anyway. There is a downside for Big Oil, but they have earned that punishment a thousand times over.
EMILY BIRD: BRING BACK THE CHILD TAX CREDIT: While pumping gas or buying food at the grocery store, all of us in North Carolina have felt the burden from inflation. And adding to financial stress, the child tax credit payments expired, causing 3.7 million children to fall into poverty in January. Research shows families with low incomes spent the child tax credit on basic needs like food, utilities, and housing costs. As the price of these costs have increased, assistance to provide these resources has decreased. Families are struggling to pay for basic human needs because Congress allowed these resources to expire. Child poverty went down during the pandemic with the expansion of the credit, so we know it helps. Will Congressman Patrick McHenry, Senator Thom Tillis and Senator Richard Burr build upon the child tax credit foundation, to get children out of poverty, by using political will? Make a lasting mark on our future generation, as the credit expansion benefits 90% of children in NC and lifts 135,000 children in NC out of poverty, by extending the 2021 child tax credit with permanent full refundability and resuming the monthly payments as soon as possible. Inaction is still action and your lack of action affects others. They can't hear you, because they are laser-focused on what their wealthy donor base wants, another tax cut. Children simply don't matter.