LET'S LOWER THE CURTAIN ON THE NC GENERAL ASSEMBLY'S BAD SHOW: This is political and judicial theater that is both comedy and tragedy but, more importantly, a show that should not have taken the stage in the first place. These six potential amendments to the state’s constitution — two taking appointments from the governor, one requiring voters to produce IDs, one to lower the state’s income tax ceiling, one about rights for crime victims and one to be sure you know hunting and fishing are a right — are not worthy of constitutional status. You will hear and read that dozens of times between now and Nov. 6. They shouldn’t be on the ballot. Legislators rushed back into session to change the law so that they, not that commission, would write those descriptions. When Cooper vetoed that bill, lawmakers returned Saturday to override that veto. That generated the various lawsuits, which argue that those efforts mislead voters with imprecise wording.
COURT CHALLENGES SHOW LEGISLATURE'S EMPTY AGENDA: The official ballot wording of the half-dozen unnecessary amendments the legislature rushed onto the ballot – as a cynical partisan effort to boost Republican turnout for the fall elections – is at best misleading and at worst in stark contrast to the actual intent. It’s no accident. Efforts to mislead voters have been unrelenting. In language that could have come from one of George Orwell’s novels, House Rules Committee Chairman David Lewis, R-Harnett, tried to blame those seeking more clarification for the controversy and latest lawsuits. “It’s an attempt to once again use the courts to short-circuit the will of the people,” Lewis said last week. Is the action of a court-declared illegally gerrymandered legislature the “will of the people?” We should heed the caution from former House Republican Majority Leader Paul Stam of Wake County, who once said of Lewis: “David can obfuscate more than anybody I know.”
WANT TO HURT NC'S PUBLIC SCHOOLS? LOWER THE INCOME TAX CAP: Public schools are integral to our state culture. So, what do public schools have to do with a proposed income tax cap? In short, everything. Education is our state’s second highest budget expenditure. Each year, all of our well-earned income taxes are collected to fund the state—and over a third of that money goes directly toward our public education system. This is the money that pays our teachers, principals and counselors. Without redistribution efforts from the state, rural school districts will be left to fend for themselves as their urban neighbors’ income levels soar. Families living in these districts will continue paying the flat income tax rate, but their districts will be unable to make up for disparate local funding levels. This amendment will make poor schools poorer, and rich schools richer. We should be proud of our public education system. Income taxes aren’t the most glamorous issue, but they will almost certainly make the difference between staggering inequality and prosperous, equitable growth.
WHY THE GOVERNMENT WANTS TO KNOW YOUR CITIZENSHIP STATUS: The involvement of people like Steve Bannon and Kris Kobach — the Kansas secretary of state, who is a leading proponent of the idea that voter fraud by noncitizens is rampant — says everything you need to know about what the real rationale for the question was. These are individuals who, along with Attorney General Jeff Sessions and other members of the Trump administration, have long had a deeply anti-immigrant agenda. They’re seeking to redefine and restructure American democracy to preserve their political power at a time when the demographics of this country are changing significantly. This isn’t the first time that nativists have sought to have a citizenship question included in the census. It’s just that it’s always been a fringe agenda, and now that fringe is in political power. And this question is just the beachhead. It goes hand in hand with efforts to purge voters and restrict voting rights; with moves to strip citizenship from American citizens; and with schemes to revoke birthright citizenship, which is guaranteed by the 14th Amendment.
GENE NICHOL: CONFESSIONS OF A FIREBRAND: I’ll confess I don’t think the answer to North Carolina’s stunning war on decency (see, there you go) is to move a smidgen or two toward the compassionate and humane side or to coolly moderate the General Assembly’s path-breaking agenda of tribalism. It won’t work, at this point, to focus on what “unites” us. When folks blatantly and enthusiastically reject equality, democracy, separated powers, checks and balances, and the traditions of constitutional government, it won’t do to say, “Hey bud, I’ll meet you in the middle.” Think about it. Federal courts have repeatedly found and Republican leaders have occasionally admitted to a bold and historically stunning agenda to diminish African-American political participation and representation in North Carolina. Through state and federal redistricting plans, biased ID laws, ballot access tampering, polling place restrictions, threatened criminal prosecutions and public accusations of voter ineligibility, Republicans have sought to re-embrace Jim Crow electoral schemes. These measures aren’t judgment calls. Nor are they miscalculations. They are explicit refutations of our constitutive norms and unhidden repudiations of the premises of egalitarian democracy. Facing them with pleas for moderation, civility and purported common ground betrays our calling as a people. That’s nothing to either seek or brag about.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
MARTHA BOGDAN: WE NEED TO KEEP THE CLEANER EMISSIONS STANDARDS FOR CARS: The Trump Administration has announced its plan to roll back cleaner cars standards. This rollback would result in dirtier cars that pollute the air and harm public health. Transportation is the number one source of carbon pollution in the United States. Cleaner cars standards are critical when it comes to protecting public health from the impacts of climate change. Rolling back cleaner cars standards would weaken the ability of the U.S. to reduce vehicle emissions and protect Americans from the worst impacts of climate change and the health threats it brings. From heat waves and droughts to wildfires and floods, climate change degrades air quality and puts children and people with lung disease at even greater risk; these impacts are taking a toll on Americans’ health today. I urge the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration not to roll back the cleaner cars standards. The health of Americans depends on it.
DEB PRINTUP: I'VE SEEN IT FIRSTHAND, TARIFFS ARE HURTING: Regarding Tom Kirkman’s letter of Aug. 4 (“Trump knows what he’s doing with tariffs”): He states that, whenever you hear a comment by a member of the media or a politician about how tariffs are hurting American citizens, it’s untrue. As an American and small-business owner, I beg to differ. I have been in the publishing business for almost 20 years, and I am experiencing firsthand how tariffs are hurting our industry. We are a small company, and every price increase affects our business. During the past couple of months we have been notified twice by our longtime printer that the price of paper is increasing because of the new tariffs imposed on paper. This is likely not the end of the increase, so we are bracing for more bad news. No, Mr. Kirkman, we are not receiving money from any foreign government or industry. We are just a small company trying to stay alive.
LYNN MITCHELL KOHN: MAKE THE SWITCH TO CLEAN, RENEWABLE ENERGY: Every night the news is dominated by reports of “record-breaking high temperatures” accompanied by disasters of biblical proportions – floods, fires, droughts – making it harder to deny the human and economic consequences of global warming. If climate change doesn’t directly cause such catastrophes, it certainly makes them worse. Warmer temperatures lead to longer and more frequent heat waves; warmer air holds moisture resulting in storms and floods; warmer soil dries out, resulting in droughts. At the same time, we now know that natural gas is not the solution to global warming. Methane, of which natural gas is largely made up, is a greenhouse gas. The need to move to and develop renewables is obvious. The response of Duke Energy has been to promote natural gas projects like pipelines and hinder the development of solar energy. It is time for Duke Energy to drop its obstructionist, reactionary policies and instead use its influence to help our state make the necessary switch to clean energy.