Sunday News: From the Editorial pages


BILL REQUIRING IN-PERSON LEARNING RELIES ON LUCK NOT REALITY: The leaders of the North Carolina General Assembly treat legislation like a wish to the genie in the lamp. The demands in legislation, like requiring in-person classroom instruction for most public schools will instantly happen because, poof, the bill becomes law. For this legislation to work, several assumptions that are far out of the control of mere mortals – even esteemed and powerful state legislators – must align. The reality, as legislators have been repeatedly shown over the years but refused to acknowledge, is that commands for action require understanding, planning, communication, resources and consensus. For some reason, legislators who often crow that local governance and decision-making is their strong bias, feel this one-size-fits-all solution is best. This legislation prevents communities from making their own assessment of local needs and conditions to make these sensitive decisions.

POLLUTERS' TAX WOULD HELP CLEAR TOXIC WASTE SITES: One in six Americans lives within three miles of a toxic waste site so dangerous that the government has designated or proposed that the EPA’s Superfund program should clean it up. According to a new report from the U.S. PIRG Education Fund, North Carolina is the 12th-worst state in the country when it comes to Superfund sites, with 38 of these contaminated locations from the low country of Wilmington to the mountains of Waynesville, including a handful in our largest population centers – one in Charlotte and two in Raleigh. The chemicals at these sites may increase the risk of cancer, heart and respiratory problems, and other serious health issues, especially for people who live nearby. The radius of potential victims keeps getting wider as climate-induced disasters threaten to spread contamination from Superfund sites further into residential areas. With North Carolina being the third most hurricane-prone state, the risk of flooding breaching a Superfund site poses a severe threat. You’d think preventing exposure to hazardous materials would be a national priority, but the federal government has underfunded this key cleanup program for decades. A Polluter Pays tax would fix that. In fiscal year 2020, the Superfund program completed cleanup at only 10 sites, compared to an average of 71 sites each fiscal year from 1991 to 2000, when the Superfund budget was at its highest. Congress could increase appropriations to the Superfund program to clean up these sites. But the public shouldn’t have to pay for polluters’ messes. Instead, we should reinstate the Polluter Pays tax that originally funded the program.

MAKING MINIMUM WAGE A LIVABLE WAGE NEEDS TO BE TOP LEGISLATIVE PRIORITY: Legislators are working diligently to: Make sure citizens can carry firearms into places of worship and their adjacent schools; Get spectators back into the bleachers at athletic events; Tell city councils what they can and cannot spend on law enforcement as well as telling local law enforcement who can and cannot be kept in custody. They’ve been so busy with these non-urgent items, appealing to their narrow partisan political base, they haven’t been able to find time to deal with one of the most pressing matters for all hard-working North Carolinians – making sure they receive a decent wage for their honest hard work. It has been 12 years since North Carolina’s lowest-possible $7.25 an hour minimum wage has been changed. In that time, the buying power of that wage has dropped. A minimum wage earner’s clout at the cash register had gone down nearly $3,000 a year. The state’s minimum wage, for a single parent and child, is $2,340 less than the $17,420 federal poverty line. No one gains at the state’s absurdly low minimum wage. Workers don’t have the money they need for the basics to sustain themselves. As a result, somewhere at some time, someone else ends up paying the difference – when food must be on the table, when a health issue becomes a life-or-death emergency, when basic shelter must be provided.

A TRANSPHOBIC TIRADE AGAINST THE EQUALITY ACT MASQUERADING AS FEMINISM: “I rise today in defense of women, girls and children,” Greene began. After declaring that there shouldn’t be discrimination in our nation and extolling the rights achieved by women in various aspects of American life, Greene got to her bigoted point. “The Equality Act will change all of that, because it will put trans rights above women’s rights, above the rights of our daughters, our sisters, our friends, our grandmothers, our aunts. It’s too much,” groused Greene. “You see, as a woman, I have competed in sports and I’m so thrilled I was able to do that, but I competed against biological women.” It went downhill from there, with a lot of folderol about how “biological women cannot compete against biological men” and how “biological little girls cannot compete against biological little boys and they shouldn’t have to.” The offensiveness of this is off the charts. Transgender women are women. Transgender men are men. Period. But we’re talking about Greene, who has shown herself to be a bottomless pit of ugliness. But I digress. Later that day, after Rep. Marie Newman (D-Ill.) displayed a transgender pride flag outside her office in support of her transgender daughter. Greene, whose office is directly across the hall, responded by putting up a sign with a transphobic message. The next day, the Georgia congresswoman with nothing else to do because she was kicked off her committees dubbed the Equality Act “a completely evil, disgusting, immoral bill.” Talk about projection. The Equality Act was made to protect me and other LGBTQ Americans from people like Greene, people who are always trying to reduce our lives to bedrooms, bathrooms or locker rooms rather than deal with the complex lives of real people who must endure their hatred.

THE RIGHT'S CAMPAIGN TO CANCEL CRITICAL RACE THEORY: It’s something of a truism, particularly on the right, that conservatives have claimed the mantle of free speech from an intolerant left that is afraid to engage with uncomfortable ideas. Every embarrassing example of woke overreach — each ill-considered school board decision or high-profile campus meltdown — fuels this perception. Yet when it comes to outright government censorship, it is the right that’s on the offense. Critical race theory, the intellectual tradition undergirding concepts like white privilege and microaggressions, is often blamed for fomenting what critics call cancel culture. And so, around America and even overseas, people who don’t like cancel culture are on an ironic quest to cancel the promotion of critical race theory in public forums. In September, Donald Trump’s Office of Management and Budget ordered federal agencies to “begin to identify all contracts or other agency spending related to any training on ‘critical race theory,’” which it described as “un-American propaganda.” Many of the intellectual currents that would become critical race theory emerged in the 1970s out of disappointment with the incomplete work of the civil rights movement, and cohered among radical law professors in the 1980s. The movement was ahead of its time; one of its central insights, that racism is structural rather than just a matter of interpersonal bigotry, is now conventional wisdom, at least on the left. It had concrete practical applications, leading, for example, to legal arguments that housing laws or employment criteria could be racist in practice even if they weren’t racist in intent. Editor's note: I should have connected these dots before, but it is obvious to me now that Mark Robinson's loud protestations during the Board of Education's discussions about new Social Studies standards were not cooked up in his own head. He was putting on a show for somebody else, but only time will tell us who is holding his strings.


ERIKA KELLY: IT'S TIME TO BAN THE COYOTE KILLING CONTEST: Last weekend, the Carolina Coyote Classic took place in North Carolina and hunters killed 272 coyotes over a few days. The end result was a pile of dead canines in the back of a trailer. This is a prime example of unethical waste of wildlife. Every being has a purpose in our ecosystem and nature has a way of balancing itself. When we need to interfere with an out of balance ecosystem, we look to our state’s Wildlife Resources Commission to manage wildlife populations. Our commission has published a Coyote Management Plan based on science and years of data collection. They have repeatedly said that bounties and killings of coyotes en masse do not control populations and in fact can lead to more breeding and more litters. If science and ethics do not support these killing contests, it is our responsibility to ban these contests in our state.

DYLAN CROMER: YOU CAN'T LEGISLATE PUBLIC TRUST IN THE POLICE: Regarding “Cities that ‘defund the police’ would be punished under new NC bill,” (Feb. 17): State Sen. Chuck Edwards laments police not being supported by the public. His solution is to force the public to support them by law. Doing this will magnify antipathy for the police, not reduce it. The problem of police violence against Black people is complex. Police have lost the trust of some of those they protect and serve. Regaining it can’t be done through force, whether force of arms or force of law. The power wielded by the police is derived from the consent of the people. Our founders knew this so well that they wrote it in the Declaration of Independence preamble. A local government’s very purpose is to ensure that the power is wielded in accordance with consent. Edwards’ legislation runs against this core American principle, and will only harm the people of North Carolina.

PROF. ARNOLD KALUZNY: DISABLED NEED TO BE MOVED BACK UP ON COVID VACCINE PRIORITY LIST: North Carolina’s recent decision to move people with intellectual/developmental disabilities to a lower-priority group for COVID vaccination is disappointing. Both the CDC and World Health Organization have designated this historically under-served group — no matter their age — as being at high risk of being infected. Many individuals have an array of comorbidities, and as a result are more likely to die from COVID complications. By definition, many are unable to fully understand and comply with CDC guidelines presenting a greater risk to themselves and their communities. I applaud the efforts of Gov. Roy Cooper and DHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen for their clear messaging. I know they face enormous pressure from a variety of deserving high-risk groups. However, I urge them to return intellectually and developmentally disabled persons to a Group 2 priority, rescinding the decision to move them to Group 4.



And an educator shall lead them.

I will skip my usual self-righteous bloviations this week in order to update readers on the new leadership of the North Carolina Democratic Party. Dr. Bobbie Richardson has become the 1st African-American Chair, and she brings a ton of experience with her:

Former Representative Bobbie Richardson was elected Chairwoman after serving one term as first vice-chair. Chair Richardson previously represented Franklin and Nash counties in the North Carolina General Assembly, serving from 2013-2018. Chair Richardson is a retired educator and administrator, with 35 years of experience as an educator in North Carolina public schools.

Her work with students and community outreach has given her a much-needed perspective, but it may be her administrative chops that will make her a great Chair. Here are the other officers elected:

Former Senator Floyd McKissick was elected first vice chair. McKissick served 13 years in the NC Senate before being appointed by Governor to the NC Utilities Commission where he is currently a Commissioner. He previously served as a County Chair for the Democratic Party in both Durham and Warren Counties and on the NCDP Executive Council.

Matt Hughes was reelected for a third term as second vice-chair. Matt, the state party’s first out LGBTQ+ officer, has been serving as Second Vice Chair since 2017. A Hillsborough Town Commissioner, Hughes brings a wealth of experience to the NCDP with seven cycles of experience leading transformational change within our party.

Shannon Auer was elected for her first term as third vice-chair. Shannon is a lifelong Democrat from Catawba County. She has held leadership roles in the Democratic Women of North Carolina and the Young Democrats of North Carolina.

Melvin Williams of Duplin County was reelected as Secretary for his sixth term. He is responsible for meeting minutes and writes the “Good News About Democrats” newsletter.

Congratulations to a great team, and the SEC members who chose them.

p.s. It's Precinct Organization time, and please don't assume your particular precinct is well-covered. Five people might seem like an easy requirement, but I guarantee you it is not. Zoom meetings will begin next Saturday and conclude by March 20th. Check with your County Party leadership if you don't know your Precinct details.