Tuesday News: Rhetorical pistols at dawn

MCFARLANE AND FRANCIS TRADE JABS IN RUNUP TO RUNOFF: Mayor Nancy McFarlane has spent much of her re-election campaign defending the city’s excitement for Dix Park and park spending in general. The city purchased the 308-acre Dix property from the state in 2014 for $52 million and plans to transform the land, home to buildings that used to serve a psychiatric hospital, into a destination park people could walk to from downtown Raleigh. Charles Francis, who’s running against McFarlane in the Nov. 7 runoff, has said the city should focus its energy on meeting the city’s more basic needs by fixing roads and providing more affordable housing. “That’s been the real conflict I’ve had with these pseudo-liberal Democrats,” Francis once told the N&O. “What’s important to them is bike lanes and parks and that kind of thing. What we have in mind is more basic.” In response, McFarlane’s campaign recently circulated a mailer that says Francis “vows to slash funding for parks and open space.”

DONALD VAN DER VAART JOINS OTHER IDIOTS ON EPA ADVISORY BOARD: Among the new appointees is Donald van der Vaart, who served as secretary of the Department of Environmental Quality under former Republican Gov. Pat McCrory. Under van der Vaart, North Carolina sued the federal government over the Clean Power Plan, which sought to limit pollution from power plants, and an expansion of the Clean Water Act. He also backed restrictions on solar farms and pushed more incentives to expand nuclear energy in the state. The new chairman of the Science Advisory Board is Michael Honeycutt, a toxicologist at the Texas Board of Environmental Quality who has fought against stricter ozone standards and helped relax chemical regulations in Texas. Other new members include Larry Monroe, a former executive at Southern Company, an Alabama gas and electric firm; Merlin Lindstrom of Phillips 66, a Texas fuel company; Robert Merritt, a retired executive from petrochemical firm Total; and Kimberly White of the American Chemistry Council, the most prominent trade association for chemical manufacturers.

VR SYSTEMS WINS ANOTHER COURT RULING OVER POTENTIALLY FAULTY ELECTION SOFTWARE: With only hours to go before Tuesday's municipal elections, a trial judge has turned away North Carolina's effort to avoid using the polling-place software of a company targeted by Russian hackers last year. Lawyers for the state elections board said the Election Day poll book software that VR Systems provides to nearly 30 of North Carolina's 100 counties hasn't been officially certified. VR Systems persuaded an administrative law judge last Friday to side with the Florida-based company, which says the software remains approved under the original certification it obtained eight years ago, in October 2009. The election board's staff is still investigating what they call the malfunctioning of the e-books at five Durham County precincts in November 2016, which led officials to abandon the electronic system, issue paper ballots and extend voting hours. It's unknown how many voters may have given up.

TRUMP MAKES PREDICTABLE "GOOD GUY WITH A GUN" COMMENT ABOUT TEXAS CHURCH MASSACRE: President Donald Trump says tougher gun laws would not have prevented a mass shooting at a south Texas church, arguing that more restrictions might have led to more casualties. Trump spoke at a news conference in South Korea Tuesday where he was asked about "extreme vetting" for gun purchases. Trump said: "If you did what you're suggesting, there would have been no difference three days ago and you might not have had that very brave person who happens to have a gun or a rifle in his trunk." As he did following last month's Las Vegas massacre of 58 people, Trump pushed back against the question, calling it a "situation that probably shouldn't be discussed too much" and noted that he was "in the heart of South Korea." Trump added that if the Good Samaritan didn't have a gun, "instead of having 26 dead, you would have had hundreds more dead."

AMID DISTRACTIONS, CONGRESSIONAL REPUBLICANS MOVE FORWARD WITH TAX CUT NONSENSE: The chairman of the House Ways and Means committee warned of a “monumental challenge” ahead Monday as his panel began work on far-reaching GOP tax legislation that would slash corporate rates and add $1.5 trillion to the nation’s ballooning debt. The bill represents the top legislative goal for President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans eyeing tough midterm elections next year. As Democrats slammed the legislation as a giveaway to the rich, Rep. Kevin Brady asserted that his bill would increase wages and take-home pay for the middle class while simplifying a loophole-ridden tax code. “This is our moment to make transformational tax reform a reality,” Brady said as his panel opened what promises to be a multiday session to amend the legislation and ultimately send it to the full House by week’s end. Leaders hope to pass it through the House by Thanksgiving. The committee’s top Democrat, Richard Neal of Massachusetts, countered that the bill “puts the well-connected first while forcing millions of American families to watch while their taxes go up.” He complained that Republicans crafted it in private without input from Democrats.