WHY CAN'T LEGISLATIVE LEADERS STOP LYING ABOUT THEIR UNFUNDED CLASS-SIZE MANDATE? A group of parents rallied at the North Carolina Legislative Building to demand the General Assembly’s leadership repeal, or responsibly fund, the unfunded class-size mandate due to go into effect in the upcoming 2018-19 school year. The rally drew a troubling response from Phil Berger, President Pro Tem of the state Senate: “Even though some local school leaders decided to use the extra state funding to benefit their own spending priorities instead of to reduce class sizes, those reductions have already been fully funded,” he said. About three weeks later, Speaker of the House Tim Moore was asked to weigh in on the class-size issue. He, too, gave a worrisome response: “We have funded the positions.” Why are these responses so troubling? They are wholly untrue, indicating that the two most powerful men in state government either fail to understand the biggest issue facing North Carolina’s public schools, or are purposefully lying about the issue.
HOW CAN YOU BE CHRISTIAN WITHOUT CARING FOR THE POOR? God could have entered into humanity in a wealthy Galilean family, perhaps as the child of a well-traveled and well-read merchant or scholar. More to the point, God could have chosen to be born into the Roman dynasty, in line to become emperor, to exercise and demonstrate maximum power. Instead, God chose to enter a family headed by a man with a simple profession, married to a woman who, from outward appearances, was no different than the other poor women in their joke of a town. Is it any surprise, then, that Jesus felt such intense compassion for the poor and marginalized? That he constantly asked his disciples to care for the poor, the sick, the forgotten, the stranger? He was one of these throwaway people, and he lived among them for 30 years before his public ministry began. Christians tend to see Jesus’ commands to care for the poor as divine. And they were – Jesus was fully divine. But they also came from his human experience. He was fully human as well. I’m always amazed by people who feel they can be Christian without caring for the poor. Not only did Jesus command us to do this, Jesus himself was from this class. When God chose to join us, he joined us in Nazareth, to make sure that we wouldn’t forget.
OVERLY ROSY VIEW OF NC BUDGET OVERLOOKS OMINOUS THREATS: The state Chamber of Commerce, once leading the push to improve education and advance workforce training and wages, now is singularly focused on cutting business taxes, no matter the impact on the state. That shouldn’t be a surprise -- since before coming to North Carolina, Ebert was a key tax-cut advocate when he led the Kansas Chamber of Commerce. Today that state is scrambling to find money to keep schools open five days a week and maintain its infrastructure. Even the state’s Supreme Court ruled education spending was unconstitutionally low. Kansas should be North Carolina’s canary-in-the-coal-mine warning not an exemplar to model. Having worked to lay the foundation of the failing strategy in Kansas, Ebert’s found willing partners in the North Carolina legislature’s Republican leadership who want to make the state a model for low tax and small government – regardless of need or citizen demand. Public schools and local governments are facing very significant challenges as a result of legislative action: the expensive mandates to cut class size in lower grades; Hurricane Matthew recovery, prison safety; the opioid crisis; workforce and economic development demands; cost of living wage increases for teachers, school administrators and state workers – all of whom are near the bottom in national rankings.
IN NC'S CAPITOL, THE RULE OF LAW IS TRAMPLED BY ARROGANCE: Republican committee chair Sen. Dan Bishop of Charlotte opened the meeting by announcing he wouldn’t let Judge Stephens speak. Bishop said Stephens wasn’t employed by Cooper, so he was out. Sen. Floyd McKissick repeatedly asked that North Carolina’s most esteemed and experienced jurist be allowed to testify. Bishop cut McKissick off. A commonwealth is wounded when a figure like Donald Stephens can be cast aside with the flip of a switch by someone like Dan Bishop. The moral universe shifts on its axis. And we descend. After the shunning, Judge Stephens released a transcript of what he would have said. It included: “I believe in a fiercely independent judiciary. A judiciary elected by the people. A judiciary that has no constituency except its duty to the constitution of this state and to the Constitution of the United States, and to the laws enacted in conformity with those mandates. North Carolina is entitled to have judges who make decisions without regard to partisan politics or any improper pressure or influence. That is how the judicial branch of government should work.” No wonder Bishop shut him up.
NC APPEALS COURT RULES IN FAVOR OF SOLAR FARM: The county’s planning staff and Planning Board recommend approval. But when the Board of Commissioners held a hearing, acting as a “quasi-judicial” body, a number of residents complained that solar panels wouldn’t be compatible with nearby neighborhoods; there were drainage problems on the site; and home values might be adversely affected. Commissioners rejected the application. The developers challenged the decision. A Superior Court judge upheld the county’s action, but the appellate court reversed. Its ruling, written by Judge John Tyson, found that the developers complied with all county requirements and that no competent evidence was presented to the contrary. Specifically, the commissioners’ finding that the solar farm would endanger public health and safety wasn’t supported by facts. A county board of commissioners may be a political body, but when it sits to determine whether an applicant for a conditional use permit qualifies, it must act in a legal capacity. In regard to fears about drainage and flooding, the Currituck board “wholly ignored Petitioners’ expert testimony on water management, and solely considered lay witnesses’ testimony of their speculative fears of worsening floods due to the present state of storm water drainage and management on adjacent properties,” Tyson wrote.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
LOUISE LOCKWOOD-ZOROWSKI: UNC BOG IS AT IT AGAIN WITH PLAN FOR CONSERVATIVE PROGRAM: The Republican-dominated UNC Board of Governors is at it again. First, the board terminated the work of two progressive centers in the School of Law, one on poverty and one on civil rights. Now the board is looking to establish the conservative-leaning James Madison Program in American Ideals at UNC-CH. The board members euphemistically say they want to bring intellectual diversity to UNC-CH. What they really mean is that they want to shift the mindset of students to a more conservative way of thinking. No wonder the Republican-led Board of Governors seems to want to tamp down points of view not shared by it. Just look at the election results in Virginia and the senatorial race in Alabama. The young and the college-educated voted for the Democratic candidate(s) in large numbers. Mark my words, the Board of Governors will do whatever is possible to embed its conservative point of view in the curriculum at UNC-CH.
JULIE ANN COOPER: A SENSE OF MORALITY SHOULD MOVE WALKER: To Rep. Mark Walker: As you are a parent of daughters and a former pastor, I hope you will join me in being appalled by the accusations of sexual misconduct and assault that have been lodged against President Trump. Some legislators are calling for his resignation, and others are advocating for an investigation. Unfortunately, there have been few Republicans brave enough to join this chorus. I am hopeful that your morality will cause you to rise above the partisanship of the House and to say “Enough” to this type of behavior. Women need to know that no one is above the law, whether that is the law of our land or the law of our Lord. If President Trump is innocent, that will be meted out in the end. But not investigating these terrible allegations sends a disturbing message to the men in power and to our daughters who are watching. History reflects fondly on people who stand on the right side of the aisle, particularly when doing so is accompanied by the risk of personal ramifications. I believe this is one of those times when Republicans are being asked to stand up for what is right, rather than just hold the party line.
SARAH PRESTON: WAVE OF FEMALE CANDIDATES ONLY THE BEGINNING: “The wave of women signing up to run for political office has hit North Carolina.” That’s how “Democrats see wave of female candidates” (Dec. 11) described the announcement of six women running for office in the 2018 legislative elections. I would argue that, in fact, that wave began in North Carolina on Nov. 9, 2016. That’s when Lillian’s List first began to see the uptick in women interested in running for office. As an organization modeled on the national group EMILY’s List, we have been recruiting and training progressive women who are champions of reproductive freedom to run for public office for more than 20 years. Over the course of the last year, I have heard from hundreds of women all over North Carolina interested in running for office. Lillian’s List has seen inquiries from women about running in 2017 increase 12-fold over the 2016 election cycle. After progressive victories in Virginia and Alabama, it is clear that the impressive women included in Monday’s article are only the beginning.