Daily dose

Creative response to a created crisis:

All the world's a poet: Laureate flap inspires more verse (Raleigh News & Observer) -- We asked readers to send poems responding to the uproar that ensued when Gov. Pat McCrory, who didn’t go through established channels, chose a relatively unknown poet from Fuquay-Varina as the state’s poet laureate. Valerie Macon has since stepped down. Here is a sampling of those poems: PAT IN THE HAT -- There once was a governor named Pat/ Who put on his own stupid hat/ When appointing a poet/ He didn’t quite know it/ The state has a system for that. WARM EMBRACE -- When art’s left to our politicians,/ It’s subject to noxious conditions./ The state’s warm embrace/ Can become a disgrace/ And displeasing to academicians.

N.C.'s New Poet Laureate Bows Out (New York Times) -- The governor of North Carolina learned the hard way this week about the dangers of mixing politics and poetry. Less than a week into her role as North Carolina’s poet laureate, Valerie Macon, a self-published poet and state employee, resigned over questions about her literary credentials and qualifications.

People in N.C. Are Really Upset About Their New Poet Laureate (Slate column) -- The new poet laureate is unsuitable, and a lot of worthy candidates got a bad deal. People would be mad no matter what. But perhaps writers … should channel their ire less toward Valerie Macon and more toward the governor who put her in her current unenviable position. That would be poetic justice.

N.C. Poet Laureate Cronyism Enrages Baristas With MFAs Everywhere (Gawker) – Valerie Macon, a lyrical dabbler whose appointment embarrassed Republican Gov. Pat McCrory and outraged published poets everywhere, stepped down from the state-funded post today, but not before she and the governor took shots at those nasty elitist writers and professors with their "literary standards" and financially debilitating lifelong commitments to underfunded arts programs. Via the New York Times: Ms. Macon, a state disability examiner who has self-published two volumes of poetry, also took aim at members of the literary community for being elitist. "I would like to encourage everyone to read and write poetry," she said. "They do not need prestigious publishing credits or a collection of accolades from impressive organizations — just the joy of words and appreciation of self-expression." The governor released a statement saying that he understood Ms. Macon's reasons for resigning and accepted her departure reluctantly, but he lashed out at her critics for their "hostility and condescension" toward Ms. Macon. Both Macon and McCrory neglected to mention how the governor cut the North Carolina Arts Council out of the selection process, of which it had previously been an integral part; that Macon's website, which disappeared from the web over the weekend, had misrepresented her as a Gilbert-Chappell Distinguished Poet, which she was not; and how many starving (and well-fed) qualified artists were overlooked to appoint her.

Laureate epilogue (Wilmington Star-News) -- When was the last time, other than book-banning, that literature became a serious political issue in this state?

Rhyme and reason (Greensboro News & Record) -- When a person is selected for a position of honor and distinction, there is an assumption that the recipient already stands out for excellence and achievement. Has Valerie Macon been widely recognized for excellence in poetry? What have been her literary achievements? Is she any good? Is it elitist to pose those questions, or are they necessary to guide such a selection?

Cleanup of Dan River ash sparks backlash (Charlotte Observer) --Most of the Duke Energy coal ash that spilled into the Dan River in February will stay there, creating a rift between regulators and river advocates over the cleanup.

Environment group says public 'mislead' to think Dan River is clean (WNCN-TV) -- An environment group provided photos Friday that it says show deposits of coal ash still in the Dan River despite claims by the Environmental Protection Agency that Duke Energy had completed clean-up of the waterway. The EPA's on-scene coordinator, Myles Bartos, said Thursday that Duke had dredged up about 2,500 tons of the estimated 39,000 tons of coal ash that spewed into the Dan River after a drainage pipe collapsed Feb. 2. Bartos said the cleanup is considered complete after recent testing of both the river water and bottom sediment has shown concentrations of toxic metals below federal limits and close to what was likely present before the spill. "Really, the threat is not the coal ash; it's what in the coal ash," he said. "It's the metal that's in the coal ash. The thing that we're really concerned about is the concentration of metals." He added, "The systems did what they were supposed to -- take particulate out of the river water." Waterkeeper Alliance, however, contends that large deposits of coal ash remain at the bottom of the river and that Thursday's announcement "threatens to mislead the public into thinking the danger has passed."

Mum’s the word with state Sen. Cook (Elizabeth City Daily Advance) -- Unique among local lawmakers, Republican stateb Sen. Bill Cook of Beaufort County isn’t talking – but only responding to media almost entirely by email, declining requests for direct interviews via phone.

Hagan Criticizes State Legislature (WUNC-FM) -- Democratic U.S. Senator Kay Hagan was in Raleigh Friday afternoon to discuss a bill she and others have introduced in the U.S. Senate that seeks to restore womens' access to employer-covered contraception. The bill was defeated this week but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says he plans to bring it up later this year. When Hagan was asked what she thinks of the North Carolina General Assembly's late efforts to put together a budget for this fiscal year, she was quick to bring up her own record as a former state senator:

Tillis, NC Republicans talk GOP campaign efforts (AP) — The U.S. Senate race is at the top of North Carolina's ballots this fall, and Republican nominee Thom Tillis is helping lead the GOP's charge to get out the vote.

Hagan says she's hopeful about contraception bill (AP) — North Carolina Sen. Kay Hagan said Friday that she is hopeful a federal bill requiring employers to offer contraception in their insurance plans can be resurrected in the U.S. Senate — despite a Supreme Court decision partially rejecting such coverage.

Breitbart.com ambushes Kay Hagan at Raleigh event (Breitbart.com) -- Friday in Raleigh, Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC) was at a re-election event with Planned Parenthood officials to discuss their next steps after the defeat of the bill she and others introduced in the U.S. Senate in an attempt to override the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby decision. Hagan refused to answer questions about the unaccompanied minors suffering through the unfolding humanitarian crisis on the U.S.-Mexico border, which is directly affecting women and children the most. Rape is so widespread in the trip across the border, this week Homeland Secretary Jeh Johnson said parents are giving their daughters birth control "in case they're raped along the way."

Examining the Mood of Voters Headed into this Year's Elections (Voter Update Magazine) -- How could voter attitudes shape this year's elections in North Carolina? And how are changing demographics changing politics in the state? For insight, we speak with Dr. Kenneth Fernandez, director of the Elon University Poll.

Tillis, Hagan debates set in September, October (Raleigh News & Observer) -- Two of the anticipated three debates between U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan and North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis have been nailed down: Sept. 3 and Oct. 7.

Wake GOP taps businessman for Senate race (WRAL-TV) -- Wake County Republicans have chosen local businessman John M. Alexander Jr. as their nominee for state Senate District 15.

SHORT SESSION, DAY 67; Overtime 19, $950,000
North Carolina's Legislative Hostage -Taking (National Law Journal) -- This has certainly been the week of legislative hostage-taking, unhappy people and bad feelings. Although the Senate made a mid-week budget offer to the House that looked promising, the House's lack of enthusiasm over it does not bode well for adjournment. Aside from the public meetings of the budget conferees most other conference committee reports are being prepared away from public's eye, and even those of some conferees. A conference committee report on criteria for NC's Adjutant General of the NC National Guard was later rejected by the House; it is very unusual to see a brokered agreement fail on a floor vote. Many bills which have received considerable debate and input during the session have now been yanked from floor calendars to wait it out in Rules Committees, or even Ways and Means. It is uncertain what they're waiting for to spring these bills loose. The House Rules Committee currently has about 130 bills parked and the Senate Rules Committee has roughly double that number. A new adjournment resolution ending the 2014 session was introduced with adjournment set for next Friday, July 26th but it's the third session-ending bill we've seen this summer.

Town hall tackles education as Common Core repealed (Carolina Public Press) -- Jackson County Schools Superintendent Dr. Michael Murray said teachers are the real casualties as North Carolina lawmakers move to eliminate Common Core academic standards. “The teachers have been going in this direction for two years,” Murray told a state government official during a town hall meeting at the Jackson County Republican Headquarters in Cashiers. “I just sent a letter to my teachers (and told them) ‘Please don’t panic.’ They are caught in the middle of this tug-of-war.” McMurray was among 25 people who heard an update on public education from Jamey Falkenbury, director of operations for the office of Lt. Gov. Dan Forest. Inundated by questions focusing on Common Core standards, teacher pay and teacher tenure, Forest asked Falkenbury to present similar meetings around the state. Other Western North Carolina stops this week included meetings in Macon, Transylvania and Polk counties.

Local officials unhappy with state plan to cut Common Core (Henderson Dispatch) -- A bill passed by the state legislature this week to roll back the Common Core standards is not popular with some Vance County representatives and school administrators. Vance County Schools superintendent said this is another example of the state not finishing what it began. “North Carolina has not completed any programs or course of study that it has started,” Ronald Gregory wrote in an email statement. “We did not complete the Basic Education Program (BEP). We did not complete the North Carolina Standard Course of Study, and now, we are not completing the Common Core. We should stop using children’s education as pawns for whichever legislative group is in power.”

Physicians worried about business as Medicaid discussion drag (Triangle Business Journal) -- As discussions of Medicaid reform drag on, physician groups are starting to fear the outcome, particularly as it relates to the business side of small practitioners. These small, independent practices can be seen very much like small businesses, with many of the same challenges any other small business in another industry. The N.C. Senate has proposed a Medicaid reform plan that would bring managed care organizations, possibly from outside the state, to manage the Medicaid population. Depending on how many of those organizations would ultimately enter the state, would place more of a regulatory burden on practices, something that would hit small practices especially hard.

N.C. Senate proposes incentive fund to lure manufacturing companies (Wilmington Star-News) -- A measure proposed by N.C. Senate Republicans would provide substantial new financial incentives that could help close deals to bring large manufacturing companies to the state. The proposal would create a Job Catalyst Fund that would provide state grants to local governments in their bids to attract large projects that create hundreds of jobs. “This is a closing fund that gives us some flexibility when we are in negotiations for significant projects,” N.C. Commerce Secretary Sharon Decker said Thursday. “When you get to the end of negotiations, you need flexibility.”

N.C. ranks only 21st for job creation in last 5 years (AP) -- Since the Great Recession officially ended in June 2009, the U.S. economy has generated 7.8 million jobs. But the gains haven't been spread evenly across the country. Some states have boomed. Others have struggled to add jobs. North Dakota, benefiting from an oil and gas drilling boom, has created nearly 98,000 jobs over the past five years, a 27 percent increase -- by far the best in the country. New Mexico, hard hit by federal spending cuts, is the only state that has lost jobs since the recession ended. State performance in job creation defies political categories. The big winners over the past five years include Republican-dominated red states such as Texas and Democratic-dominated blue ones such as California. Likewise, the laggards include red (Alabama, Arkansas) and blue (New Jersey, New Mexico) states.

Employers shed thousands of jobs in June; NC unemployment rate unchanged (WRAL-TV) -- Employers in North Carolina shed more than 5,000 jobs in June, but the state's unemployment rate remained steady at 6.4 percent, according to data released Friday by the state Department of Commerce.

NC workers with jobs drops while unemployment rate is flat at 6.4 percent (AP) — North Carolina's unemployment rate remained flat for June, as the number of people with full-time jobs slipped slightly from the prior month.

NC Unemployment Rate Unchanged Despite Job Loss (TWCN-TV) -- The NC Department of Commerce released its June unemployment numbers Friday morning which show the number of people employed in the state dropped more than 8,500 in the last month.

NC jobless rate remains at 6.4 percent (Raleigh News & Observer) -- North Carolina’s unemployment rate remained unchanged in June at 6.4 percent as the state experienced a large drop in government employment that economists attributed to the end of the school year.

Rep. Steinburg’s email contact list hacked (Elizabeth City Daily Advance) No, state Rep. Bob Steinburg was not in the Philippines today.

State 'disappointed' with Raleigh talking points in latest Dix offer (WRAL-TV) -- A lawyer for Gov. Pat McCrory says the administration is "disappointed" in Raleigh's most recent offer to buy the Dorothea Dix property, saying the Mayor Nancy McFarlane and others are ignoring the state's desire to hold on to a portion of the 307-acre campus for a new Department of Health and Human Services campus. "Given your most recent offer, it appears that, despite our best efforts to negotiate in good faith with the City, we seem to be moving further apart," McCrory general counsel Robert Stephens wrote in a letter dated July 18. "Our disappointment arises out of the fact that the City is now offering terms less favorable to the State than were contained in the April 2014 offer." Despite apparent frustration, Stephens includes in his letter a counter-offer to sell 243.95 acres to Raleigh for $44 million. He also included a second alternative, which would involve some property from the nearby N.C. State University campus. This second offer would culminate with the city acquiring nearly 282 acres for $53.7 million.

State offers to sell 244 acres at Dorothea Dix property (Raleigh News & Observer) -- Rejecting Raleigh’s latest offer to buy the Dorothea Dix property, state officials on Friday issued a new proposal to sell 244 acres of the former psychiatric hospital campus for $44.09 million. The offer was released by city officials Friday afternoon. The city’s latest offer – made on July 3 without being made public – had sought to buy the entire 308-acre property for $45 million. As the two sides close in on a price agreement, the new offer shows a key remaining disagreement: While city leaders want the entire property for a “destination park,” the state wants to keep 64 acres to house headquarters for the Department of Health and Human Services.

Wilmington Man Sentenced in Child Porn Case (FBI News Release) – U.S. Attorney Thomas G. Walker announced Chief U.S. District Judge James C. Dever, III, sentenced Michael Thomas Bassett, Jr., 33, of Portsmouth, Ohio, to 210 months’ imprisonment followed by 20 years’ supervised release. On April 16 Bassett pled guilty to receipt of child pornography. According to the investigation, law enforcement received a tip advising that an unknown individual had posted child pornography images on the social networking site known as Second Life. A subpoena was issued for subscriber information and the accountholder identified as Bassett, a registered sex offender from Wilmington, N.C. On Sept. 3, 2013, Bassett was arrested and his computer and multiple media storage devices seized. The computer and devices were examined and revealed a total of 8,950 images of child pornography.

Rally at NC capitol to protest violence in Gaza (AP) — A rally is scheduled for the state Capitol grounds in Raleigh to protest the continuing violence in Gaza.

CHCCS to reinstate teaching signing bonuses (Raleigh News & Observer) -- Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools system will offer $1,500 signing bonuses to its future hires – teachers in areas of math, science and exceptional children – to lure more to apply for those positions.

NC health officials urge vigilance for mosquitoes (AP) — Health officials in North Carolina want residents to remain diligent in protecting themselves from mosquito bites after Florida announced its first two locally acquired cases of chikungunya.

Three Triangle bridges among those rated 'substandard' by AAA (WRAL-TV) -- Three bridges in the Triangle are among the top 20 substandard bridges in North Carolina, according to a report released Friday by AAA Carolinas.

Two people charged in N.C. dinosaur hatchling heist (Washington Post) -- Baby duck-billed dinosaur replica has been safely returned.

HCL likely adding 1,237 jobs in Cary (Triangle Business Journal) -- Multiple sources say that Indian IT services company HCL Technologies likely is the mystery company behind a possible 1,237-job expansion in Cary.

Women wade into fly-fishing class in western NC (AP) — With a quick sweep of her fly rod, Linda Michael sent a fluorescent arc of line zipping through the air behind her head Wednesday.

UNC Charlotte garden shows off carnivorous plant (AP) — Hungry plants are waiting for the children of Charlotte.

Edward Mannon “Ed” Gore, Sr., 82, helped develop Sunset Beach (Port City Daily) -- Edward Mannon “Ed” Gore, Sr., of Sunset Beach, died peacefully in his sleep on July 16, 2014, at the age of 82. Mr. Gore worked with his father to develop Sunset Beach, initially helping to operate the dredge boats, tug boats, cranes and heavy earth-moving machinery and later assuming full responsibility for the entire operation after Mr. Gore and his wife purchased his parents’ interests in 1972. He served on the Sunset Beach Town Council for four decades. He was a co-founder of Sea Trail Plantation, contributing his development and business know-how to the group and later to his sons, Edward, Jr. and Greg, as they developed Ocean Ridge Plantation, which they sold in 2003. Funeral Service, 5229 Ocean Hwy W., Shallotte, NC 28470. The funeral will begin at 1 p.m. Monday, July 21, 2014, at Seaside United Methodist Church, 1300 Seaside Road SW, Sunset Beach NC 28468.

Solar Farms Taking Root In N.C. (Fayetteville Observer) -- Helen Livingston's family has owned a 300-acre farm near Maxton for generations. Now 45 acres of the land is covered with more than 26,000 dark solar panels, making it part of a growing movement to harvest electricity from the sun. Solar farms like Livingston's are cropping up all over North Carolina, shining rays of hope on economically depressed areas by bringing jobs, a constant stream of revenue and the potential to attract eco-friendly industry and economic investment. North Carolina has become a leader in the country in the growth of the farms, and Robeson County is near the top of the state in terms of solar capacity. Chris Dunbar, vice president of operations for Asheville-based FLS Energy, calls North Carolina the "East Coast hub" for solar energy. FLS is one of the companies with several solar projects across North Carolina. "If you want to talk to people who know about solar, you come to North Carolina," Dunbar said.

Iberdrola hopeful as it seeks power buyer (Elizabeth City Daily Advance) -- Iberdrola Renewables’ massive wind farm in Pasquotank and Perquimans counties is delayed but far from dead, a company official told Pasquotank County Commissioners this week.

Feds approve oil exploration off U.S. Eastern Coast (AP) — The Obama administration has sided with energy developers over environmentalists, approving the use of underwater blasts of sound to pinpoint oil and gas deposits in federal Atlantic Ocean waters. The regulatory decision is the first real step toward what could be an economic transformation in East Coast states, potentially creating a new energy infrastructure, thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in tax revenue. But it dismayed people who owe their livelihoods to fisheries and tourism, and activists said it stains President Barack Obama's environmental legacy.

McCrory applauds decision to open up coast to energy exploration (McCrory News Release) -- Gov. Pat McCrory released the following statement in the wake of President Barack Obama’s decision to open up the Eastern Seaboard for energy exploration through seismic testing. “We can finally begin to assess the amount of oil or gas that could be beneath the ocean floor after decades of waiting on the sidelines,” said Governor McCrory. “This is an important step in the right direction toward more jobs for North Carolina and our country, as well as greater energy independence for our nation. I would like to thank the Obama Administration for its decision to open up the Eastern Seaboard for seismic assessment.”

Finding oil with sound blasts, by the numbers (AP) -- The Obama administration on Friday approved using sonic air cannons to map offshore oil and gas in the Atlantic Ocean by measuring sound reverberating through waters shared by whales and other marine life.

Carolinas opinion mixed on offshore drilling (AP) — The Obama administration on Friday opened the Eastern Seaboard to offshore energy exploration, causing concern in the Carolinas about the effect on sea creatures and tourism but also raising the prospect of new jobs and revenue.

Report: Pipeline firms eye N.C. after Duke/Piedmont bid solicitation (Charlotte Business Journal) -- SNL Energy reports interested bidders for Duke Energy-Piedmont Natural Gas project in eastern N.C.

SolarBee experiment to deploy on Jordan Lake on Tuesday (Raleigh News & Observer) -- The Jordan Lake experiment begins with a splash on Tuesday. Crews next week will load 36 large machines into Jordan Lake.

Depleted NC butterfly population attributed to cold March (Raleigh News & Observer) -- Experts believe the butterfly population is down in much of the state because of an unseasonably cold March.

Oddest idea yet (Raleigh News & Observer) -- A Senate bill governing local sales-tax rates contains contradictory provisions and ought to go away for good.

NC House leaders out to punish Democrats in petty ways (Raleigh News & Observer) -- Really? This is what it has come to? Are Republicans so determined to get back at Democrats for all their past wrongs toward the GOP in the General Assembly that they’ll even stoop to cutting routine funding for a Democratic leader in the state House? Apparently so. … t’s absolutely true that Democrats sometimes treated Republicans with disrespect when they ran the General Assembly. And the political reality is that Democrats should have expected a measure of the same medicine when they lost their majority. But Republicans should be past those instincts at this point. They’re securely in charge and can afford, at the least, to grant Democrats the traditional rights of the minority party and its leaders.

National media misunderstands North Carolina (High Point Enterprise column) -- Occasionally, North Carolina is in the national news. Gov. Pat McCrory appeared on Fox Business News, specifically on Stuart Varney’s show. McCrory was then asked if he was running for president at some point in the future. The question didn’t throw the governor off and might have thrilled the man whose job approval is tepid. What an idea! McCrory replied: “I like being governor. … I like living right here in Raleigh. My other home is Charlotte, right now, where I was mayor for 14 years. Listen, we want North Carolina to be the role model on how to rebuild an economy.” McCrory touts his big victories. He touts the state’s improved unemployment rate as a success story. He believes John Hood’s embellished version of the state’s triumphs that recently ran in the Wall Street Journal. Gov. McCrory has the Mitt Romney syndrome; he believes his own propaganda.

Government takes money and spends it (New Bern Sun Journal) -- Adding salt to the wound is the state-imposed utility tax, which went from 3 percent to 7 percent as of July 1. The tax increase comes from Raleigh’s effort to protect a threatened minority (wealthy people and large corporations) and redistribute wealth (from the lower and middle classes to the wealthy). Gov. Pat McCrory takes credit for that. He got a 2 percent cut in individual income tax and even larger cut in corporate state income tax, and said “other taxes have gone up to make up the difference. It was tax reform with a move to more of a consumption-based tax. You pay tax on a newspaper now, lawyers have to pay tax, there are a host of other new or increased consumption taxes and we closed up a lot of loopholes.” Remember that the next time your Republican lawmakers say they cut your taxes.

Is early voting dispute really about race? (Fayetteville Observer column) -- A federal judge is pondering arguments made for and against a set of changes in voting procedure in North Carolina that Republican legislators pushed through the General Assembly last year.



Prevaricating Pat's poet predicament

The governor shouted with glee,
I'm sure you all will agree
When it's time to appoint,
I only anoint
A poet from the GOP!

McCrory is a great big phony.
He's entirely full of baloney.
To fill a position
He skips the cognition
And simply appoints a crony.

"I will have a priority on building relationships with the minority caucus. I want to put substance behind those campaign speeches." -- Thom Tillis, Nov. 5, 2014