Sunday News: From the Editorial pages


IT'S TIME TO IMPLEMENT SOLUTIONS TO BRING QUALITY EDUCATION TO ALL NC STUDENTS: The order outlines in seven clear – and now indisputable -- points what needs to be done. It also provides a series of deadlines for the state to demonstrate compliance. The first will be two months from now. That will be a month before the opening of the General Assembly’s “short” session. Judge Lee will have the opportunity to determine if the state is moving properly in the agreed-upon direction. Then the General Assembly will need to pass the laws to fulfill the order. And all North Carolinians will be able to watch to see if their legislators provide the means to be sure every child gets access to the quality education our State Constitution is supposed to guarantee. It has been a quarter-century since North Carolina declared that, as the judge put it, “every child in North Carolina have the opportunity to receive a sound basic education in a public school.”

CLOSE THE GAP FOR MENTAL HEALTH AND OPIOID USE DISORDERS: Access to BH services is critical to successfully fighting the opioid crisis that has ravaged North Carolina. Almost half of those presenting in North Carolina hospital emergency departments for an opioid overdose are uninsured. By closing the Medicaid coverage gap, many individuals who are uninsured today would have access to proven treatments and rehabilitation. Medicaid-funded treatment can return productive individuals to their families and communities and offset a variety of expensive societal costs related to this cruel epidemic. While the issue of Medicaid expansion has become a political football, Alliance views the matter as a simple access to care issue. Enhancing Medicaid coverage means that more North Carolinians could tap into critical BH treatments, primary care and medications. This builds stronger, healthier, safer communities for us all. States that have boosted Medicaid coverage have experienced increases in access to care, declines in uninsured ED visits, and a variety of other positive economic impacts. North Carolina is only as strong as its citizens. If people have access to the healthcare treatment they need, they will have better overall health, fewer chronic physical illnesses, and the ability to contribute positively to their communities. Closing this coverage gap would be a game-changer for hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians.

A PREDICTABLE PARTISAN POT-SHOT FROM A SUBSERVIENT UNC BOARD: The public relations mavens for the board and the legislative leadership may be in danger of dislocating elbows with self-congratulatory pats on the back for such a PR coup – garnering front-page newspaper coverage and top-of-the-broadcast television news accounts. Reports displayed a furrowed-browed and concerned UNC President Bill Roper and Board Chair Randy Ramsey castigating those who they said merely offered “platitudes” of support. They called for passage of the legislature’s budget. Hardly mentioned, if at all, was Roper, Ramsey and the entire board’s literal fealty to their legislative overlords. More than support for an inadequate budget it was a blatant partisan potshot at Gov. Roy Cooper and the Democrats in the legislature -- by the Republican UNC Board -- who have been pressing for GREATER resources for education – including UNC. While this all may not qualify as fake news, it certainly did little to fully inform North Carolinians about the REAL issues concerning the financial health and well-being of the University of North Carolina system.

TRUMP WANTS YOU TO THINK "EVERYONE DOES IT." NO, THEY DON'T: Trump isn’t being impeached for letting political considerations guide his decision-making on China or Israel, gun control or immigration — though he obviously is. All presidents consider the political ramifications of every major move, and that’s perfectly legitimate. Trump is being impeached because there was no public purpose for his Ukraine policy. It was not in the interest of the United States to hold up military aid to force Ukraine to announce an investigation of former vice president Joe Biden. It was only in the interest of the Trump campaign. Trump defenders claim that Trump was promoting U.S. interests by demanding an investigation of corruption. But we know this is false. The word “corruption” was not mentioned in either of Trump’s two calls with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Biden’s name, however, was mentioned three times in the July 25 call. Foreign Service officer David Holmes testified under oath that Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union and a major Trump donor, told him that Trump “did not give a s--- about Ukraine” and only cared about “big stuff” that benefited him personally “like the Biden investigation.” The president’s corrupt motive is further confirmed by three damning facts. First, the Ukraine inquiry was being pursued by his personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, not by the Justice Department. Second, Trump held up military aid even after the Pentagon had already certified that Ukraine was fighting corruption, And, third, as Sondland testified, Trump made clear that he only wanted an investigation of Biden announced — he didn’t care whether it was actually completed.

TRUMP IS ABUSING HIS TARIFF POWER, TOO: Granted, the auto tariff story isn’t as vile as the Ukraine story, and it poses less of a direct threat to a fair election. But it’s recognizably part of the same syndrome: abuse of presidential power, contempt for the rule of law, and dishonesty about motivations. Some background: U.S. tariffs — taxes on imports — are normally set the same way we set other taxes, through legislation that must pass Congress and then be signed by the president. The law does, however, give the president discretion to impose temporary tariffs under certain circumstances, for example to give U.S. industries a breathing space in the face of sudden import surges, to counter foreign export subsidies or to protect national security (Section 232). And so it was that in 2018 the Trump administration announced that it was beginning a Section 232 investigation of auto imports, especially from Europe and Japan. Every trade expert I know considered the notion that German or Japanese cars constitute a threat to national security absurd. Nonetheless, in 2019 a report from the Commerce Department concluded that auto imports do, indeed, endanger national security. What was the basis for this conclusion? Well, we don’t actually know — because the Trump administration has refused to release the report. Beyond that, it appears that Trump tried to use the threat of auto tariffs to bludgeon European nations into backing him up in his confrontation with Iran. This is, by the way, a clear violation both of U.S. law, which does not give the president discretion to impose tariffs for reasons unrelated to economics, and of our international agreements, which prohibit this kind of bullying.


ROBERT GROVE: DAN FOREST'S ACCUSATIONS AGAINST PLANNED PARENTHOOD ARE ABSURD: Lt. Gov. Dan Forest’s assertion that Planned Parenthood was created to destroy the black race is absurd and hypocritical, at best. If he is so concerned about the plight of blacks, he should focus on the intentional and systematic efforts to repress minorities and poor people fostered by his own party. They include efforts such as voter suppression and gerrymandering; tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy while ignoring support for a living wage; dismantling public education through a lack of funding and under the guise of school choice, vouchers and charter schools; denying Medicaid expansion; and unfair imprisonment via a biased criminal justice and bail bond system. These are a few of the injustices where Forest could actually make a difference if he chooses to. I hope he will consider them worthy of his time, effort and influence.

MIMI KESSLER: DURHAM OFFICIALS NEED TO SHOW COMPASSION FOR MCDOUGALD RESIDENTS: I have been appalled by what’s going on at Durham Housing Authority properties. Shame on every elected official going back decades for keeping silent on the lack of maintenance. I was doubly shocked by the lack of compassion Mayor Steve Schewel Tuesday night at the City Council meeting. Representatives of those in genuine crisis were put off in the most condescending manner. The mayor said the meeting agenda did not include them and said he would speak to them after the meeting. They were understandably upset; this is a crisis! The mayor may have “moved on” from the crisis phase, but these families have not. They are living in hotels with children week-after-week with poor options for nutrition, no place for the children to play, and no idea when it will end. They need answers to their questions — real answers, or at least better explanation for why it is taking so long.

MARK GERBER: U.S. SENATE IS STARTING TO LOOK LIKE RUSSIA'S LEGISLATIVE BODIES: Our current government, thanks to the esteemed U.S. Senate, is not much different than Russia’s. Donald J. Trump’s impeachment trial is no different from Vladimir Putin being tried in Russia. The verdict is known before the trial begins. Like our government legislature, the Russian congress has two bodies: the State Duma (lower house) and the Federation Council (upper house). Imagine Putin being tried in the Duma. Do you think the opposition would be allowed to present witnesses to crimes that Putin was accused of? Putin’s cronies would make sure the result was exactly what Putin demanded. That’s correct, Republican senators. When, according to Trump, he shoots someone on Fifth Avenue, I would expect you to line up behind our president and profess his innocence. So now our government is having an impeachment trial without witnesses. How can any trial be considered anything close to fair without witnesses? Can anything be more absurd, or more appropriately, scary sad? Mitch McConnell and all the crony Republican senators who blindly follow President Trump, congratulations on emulating Russia.



From the dark side

This week's loser is Terry Stoops for his misguided attack on Leandro:

One of the more troubling aspects of Leandro is that representatives from the General Assembly are not represented in the courtroom and do not participate formally in the proceedings. The legislature supports public education through its constitutionally defined authority over the state budget process. As such, the General Assembly should be an active participant in the process rather than a passive observer of the machinations of the school district plaintiffs and the N.C. Attorney General’s Office/State Board of Education defendants.

Leandro ended up in the NC Supreme Court because all efforts to encourage proper funding from the Legislature failed. The General Assembly caused Leandro, and has no business sitting at the table to discuss modifications of it.

To his credit, Lee hopes to “obtain the support necessary from the General Assembly and other public institutions” going forward. But lawmakers’ willingness to collaborate will depend on the nature of the consent orders issued in April. If Lee signs off on consent orders designed to strongarm lawmakers into following a specific fiscal, regulatory, and programmatic agenda, then legislative leaders may balk at the court’s actions. That’s why he should counsel the plaintiffs and defendants to demonstrate restraint and prudence in their draft orders. As my colleague Mitch Kokai points out, the appropriate role for the WestEd report and associated court orders would be to guide lawmakers when they begin revising the state budget in April.

"Guide" lawmakers? Hah! The Governor submits a budget proposal every year, and Republicans in the General Assembly hardly even read it, much less use it as a guide in their deliberations. What makes you think they would give any deeper consideration to non-binding "recommendations" from WestEd?

Unfortunately, Lee failed to exercise reasonable caution in his uncritical acceptance of the WestEd report. It’s not enough that the plaintiffs and defendants are satisfied with the report findings and recommendations. If fully adopted, WestEd recommendations would require the state to spend an additional $8 billion in taxpayer money over the next eight years, so their fondness for the report is no mystery.

Again, you're trying to insert Legislators as equal partners in the case, which they're not. If the judge had ruled against something both sides in a dispute agreed on, he would be exercising the same radical approach that conservatives whine about daily.

Nevertheless, WestEd produced a flawed study that precluded research-based policy options available to lawmakers and state education officials. It also fails to address ways to use existing resources in more productive ways. Simply pouring money into a system that may be misallocating resources does not address the underlying structural deficiencies in the system itself.

You want to talk about misallocating resources? How about annual GOP tax cuts which have deeply eroded state revenues? Or piling $3+ Billion into a "Rainy Day Fund" that doesn't even help out when flooding actually does occur?

Moreover, WestEd recommendations such as eliminating local funding for charter schools are based on complaints from public school officials, rather than research and best practices. WestEd researchers chose to focus on a short timeframe for data trends and comparisons, rather than assess inputs and outcomes since the start of the lawsuit in 1994. And don’t get me started on their failure to make demographic and cost-of-living adjustments when comparing North Carolina to other states.

Oh, that last part is rich. Republicans in the General Assembly have perpetually mischaracterized teacher pay by ignoring inflation, and by using local supplements from wealthy counties to jack up the average incomes state-wide.

Don't talk to me about bad research and questionable results, we've been seeing it constantly since the GOP took over the Legislature in 2011. And I'm fairly certain they got a lot of that from JLF and Civitas sources.

When, according to Trump, he

When, according to Trump, he shoots someone on Fifth Avenue, I would expect you to line up behind our president and profess his innocence.

It's been quipped recently that Trump could shoot someone on the Senate floor while they're in session and he'd still be acquitted 53-47, unless he shot a Republican senator. Then the vote would be 52-47.