LEGISLATIVE PARTISANSHIP TRIUMPHS OVER REAL PROGRESS FOR NC: Their top priorities: Playing election-year politics; Pointless partisan jousting with the governor; Token headline-grabbing that could leave public health at risk; and Providing more places for people to carry concealed weapons. In the midst of a very real pandemic, what they are not about is working with Gov. Roy Cooper to beat the virus and plan for the future; to best position the state so it can rapidly recover when the opportunity becomes clear; or even to set examples for healthful behavior. Republicans who refuse to wear masks in the Legislative Building are acting like children. Their actions and the dangerous example they set, is helping, not slowing, the spread of COVID-19. They jeopardize our state and nation’s recovery from the ravages of the coronavirus. They need to grow up. Legislators should be heeding the advice of experts who know what they’re talking about rather than yahoos on social media spreading deadly falsehoods.
REOPENING UNC CAMPUSES RISKS HEALTH FOR "FINANCIAL VIABILITY": Like other North Carolina State University faculty members, I was happy to answer a survey early in the summer about how I’d prefer to teach my fall classes. I appreciated being asked. Apparently, the university didn’t appreciate the answers. Chancellor Randy Woodson’s next memo to faculty said “the amount of face-to-face instruction … is insufficient” and stressed the need to move in the “right direction.” This new email showed a noticeable change in tone from administrators’ earlier Covid-related ones. Previous communications had mostly struck themes of getting through the pandemic together, safely. High in this new memo, however, the chancellor emphasized the need to ensure “our financial viability.” Of this year’s education budget, outgoing UNC System interim President Bill Roper said, “No one at this point is talking about an actual cut,” as if that was some sort of victory for a system that lost 25 percent of its per-student state funding from 2008-2015. And while this year’s budget remains about the same as the last few years, the system lost an estimated $120 million in housing and dining service revenues due to the pandemic last semester alone. There’s a better approach. Instead of pressuring faculty to teach in person so students like my son will choose to live in dorms, the General Assembly needs to cover the lost revenue from food and housing until the pandemic is over. It would take the pressure off those of us in the university’s trenches who risk spreading or contracting COVID-19.
LEANDRO IS A MORAL IMPERATIVE AS MUCH AS A CONSTITUTIONAL REQUIREMENT: Two of the major systems the Leandro Action Plan is required to address are the financial system, how state funds are allocated to schools to meet student needs, and the accountability system, how the state, schools, and students are assessed and reported on making academic progress. These systems have been the subject of much discussion over the past few decades and with the required Leandro Action Plan they need to be moved front and center to substantial action by our state leaders. In addition, two essential school-based factors are at the core of each child, regardless of zip code, receiving a sound basic education. These are the availability, quality, and investments in both our teachers and principals, the two leading research-based factors in student achievement and school success. The Action Plan recognizes a key aspect of supporting our educators and students is the need to invest in whole child support by increased resources for school counselors, nurses, social workers, and psychologists, which are currently staffed below the national average. Today, perhaps more than ever before, the need for these professionals is paramount.
HERE'S HOW A NORMAL ADMINISTRATION WOULD HAVE HANDLED THE RUSSIAN BOUNTY INTEL: While the U.S. response would probably have varied among the presidents with whom we worked, something like the following would have emerged from most. The goal of any U.S. response would have been aimed at deterring the Russians. The president would have publicly said that the Russian bounties were unacceptable and must be stopped — and would have reinforced the message in a phone call with President Vladimir Putin, probably with a threat of issuing crippling sanctions if the Russians did not stop. The president also would have said privately to Putin (and then publicly) that any thought of admitting Russia into the Group of Seven was now over and that the decision to reduce U.S. forces in Germany was rescinded. In Afghanistan, the president would have ordered increased force-protection measures, a high priority on targeting the militants who received any bounties, and the targeting for capture and arrest of any Russian covert operatives in Afghanistan. If the bounties did not end as a result of the above steps, the president would impose the threatened sanctions and consider additional options, including increasing our military assistance to Ukraine and other front-line states facing Russian aggression, and even informing the Russian people about the destabilizing policies and corruption of its leadership. When we deploy U.S. servicemen and women into combat zones, every entity in our government has a moral responsibility to do everything it can to bring them home safely. That is what would have driven all of the administrations in which we served.
TRUMP'S RE-ELECTION MESSAGE IS WHITE GRIEVANCE: The president started this week by tweeting out a video that encapsulates the soul of his movement. In it, a man in The Villages, an affluent Florida retirement community, shouts, “White power!” at protesters from a golf cart bedecked with Trump signs. “Thank you to the great people of The Villages,” wrote Trump. Only after several hours and a panic among White House staffers did the president delete the tweet. His spokesman claimed he hadn’t heard his supporter’s extremely clear words. Trump, naturally, never disavowed them. And why would he? Republicans might act as if they don’t know why Trump’s fans are so unfailingly loyal. Some commentators spent the first year or two of his presidency dancing around the reason he was elected, spending so much time probing the “economic anxiety” of his base that the phrase came to stand for a type of willful political blindness. But Trump understands that he became a significant political figure by spreading the racist lie that Barack Obama was really born in Kenya. He launched his history-making presidential bid with a speech calling Mexican immigrants rapists and adopted a slogan, “America First,” previously associated with the raging anti-Semite Charles Lindbergh. Throughout the 2016 campaign, he won the invaluable prize of earned media with escalating racist provocations, which his supporters relished and which captivated cable news. And so last week, as if to prod that silent majority, Trump tweeted out videos of Black people assaulting white people. (“Where are the protesters?” he asked.) He has made a point of calling the coronavirus the “kung flu.” At a time when even Mississippi is removing Confederate imagery from its state flag, Trump has thrown himself into the protection of what he calls “our heritage.” He signed an executive order directing federal law enforcement to prosecute people who damage federal monuments — threatening them with up to 10 years in prison — and withholding funds from municipalities that don’t protect statues.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
MARY MCLELLAN: MY FAMILY OWNED SLAVES, TAKE DOWN THESE STATUES: My family tree is filled with Confederates. I’ve been researching my family history for almost 10 years, and you know what I find over and over? Slave holders. Whether they were new immigrants from Ireland, Scotland and England or established plantation owners, my white family members bought and sold human beings. They listed them in their property inventories, paid bounty hunters rewards to capture them if they ran away, and left them to other family members in their wills. Many of my ancestors fought for the Confederacy, and some gave their lives for it. I have no illusion, however, that they were fighting to protect a “gentler way of life.” There was nothing gentle about a life based on the unpaid labor of enslaved people. Don’t tell me statues erected during Jim Crow to remind Black people of their enslavers honor my ancestors’ history. History is meaningless if we don’t learn its lessons. We have to face our past, or we’re never going to make a better future for the generations to come. Tear the statues down.
REP. ALLISON DAHLE: MORE WORK NEEDS TO BE DONE FOR LGBTQ RIGHTS IN NC: On June 16, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling that presented one of the biggest milestones in the fight for LGBTQ equality: LGBTQ people can no longer be fired from their jobs based on sexual orientation or gender identity. As an openly LGBTQ legislator in the N.C. House, this ruling is highly personal for me. While we celebrate this monumental win, it’s also important for us to keep sight of the bigger picture: We still have massive gaps in our nondiscrimination laws for LGBTQ folks when it comes to housing, public places, federal programs and more. And, of course, in N.C. we still have HB 142, which broadly solidifies discrimination by forbidding cities from passing any non-discrimination ordinances until at least December 2020. I’m proud of North Carolina but we must keep working to ensure that our communities can live fully and authentically within every part of their lives.
CAROLINE TAYLOR: RIGHTS ALSO COME WITH RESPONSIBILITIES: It’s puzzling to read the viewpoints of those who believe that wearing face masks is an infringement of their constitutional rights. (“Face masks have become a divisive, partisan symbol,” June 28) I wonder if they have cherry-picked those portions of their civic education that they like and discarded the others. For every right, there is a corresponding duty. Our right to free speech carries with it a duty not to incite violence or harm others. Those who choose not to wear a face mask during this pandemic risk harming others because no one can be certain that they are virus-free, even if they have been tested. I have a right to express my opinion in this letter. I also have a duty not to harm others. Am I virus-free? I have no idea. That’s why I wear a mask.