I have very recently felt compelled to throw water on the raging fire of criticism that has been directed at our Governor over at The Dome, as it seems that virtually any story about him lately inspires a feeding frenzy of contempt and vitriol.
Aside from the fact that he's a Democrat and we're knee-deep in an election year, his casual dismissal by people within the Party itself is troubling to me, because it shows that we are prone to disruption by sensationalism and either refuse to recognize or can't see the progressive traits that he has. I'm going to mention a few of these in this diary, but I encourage you to take an honest look yourselves and see what you can find about his administration that you can find positive.
Regardless of your political leanings, one of the things that we can (almost) all agree on is the oft-used observation, "Education is the key." Whether it's the "key" to a reduction in crime, social and economic stability, understanding the positive and negative potentials in public policy so that our votes are more effective, etc., we can all agree that education is one of the most important issues we have.
With that in mind, I find it hard to understand how the NEA's recent award to Governor Easley has been met with indifference on the Left and outright derision on the Right.
"Public school transformation happens at the local and state levels," said NEA President Weaver. "Gov. Easley recognizes that when developing and implementing education policies, teachers must have a seat at the table. NEA is proud to present this award to Gov. Easley. The 'America's Greatest Education Governor Award' recognizes leaders like Easley for embracing the basic right of every child to have access to a great public school."
Elected governor of North Carolina in 2000 and reelected in 2004, Easley's commitment to education includes three hallmark initiatives: the highly successful More at Four program, the state's first academic preK program for at-risk four-year-olds; the award-winning N.C. Learn and Earn initiative, which allows high school students to jump-start their college education through 42 Learn and Earn high schools located on community college or university campuses; and EARN grants, which have allowed approximately 25,000 students from low- and moderate-income families to receive up to $8,000 of financial aid over two years.
Just like our Governor, the NEA is not perfect. Like any association, it is prone to influence and misplaced priorities. But this association and its over three million members have vastly improved our education system(s) nationwide, and for our Governor to be recognized in this fashion is a tribute to not only him, but the people who put him in office, as well.
Here's a link to a fat pdf I recently posted over at The Dome defending the effectiveness of the Governor's More At Four pre-k program.
Governor Easley also chose to tackle another extremely critical (and hard to fix) issue, but a lot of his efforts in this area have gone virtually unnoticed, except for those who have attacked him for it.
North Carolina is in the middle of a persistent and potentially devastating drought, and the governor has been working on both public awareness campaigns as well as attempts to address the problem through legislation:
Looks can be deceiving. Although our planet seems full of water, only 2.5 percent is freshwater. And only one quarter of that 2.5 percent is available to us for consumption and use, the rest is in the form of glacial ice and snow. Put another way, if all the Earth’s water was in an 18-liter water cooler bottle, the available freshwater would only fill three teaspoons.
Over the last few years in North Carolina, we have begun to experience growing pressure on our water resources. The state’s rapidly increasing population in some areas, paired with persistently below average rainfall, continue to intensify the issue.
Water has historically been an under-valued and under-priced resource, despite being absolutely critical to our survival. But more and more, we are seeing the importance of water and possibilities for conservation.
While very few folks complaign about efforts to "educate the public", it's a totally different story when government begins to take action steps it deems are necessary to solve problems. As I'm sure you've read lately, many folks who have private wells (or those who hate government intervention) have been fighting efforts by the Governor and the DENR to regulate their water usage. Hat tip to our lovely and capable Radio Girl for talking about this:
Governor Easley and conservation groups had called for stringent statewide standards for water use reduction in extreme drought. The initial proposal also included incentives for farmers to report their water use, along with restrictions barring private well users from watering their lawns when public system users face similar bans.
Guess which of the above recommendations made it into the committee substitute? Yep, that'd be none.
This is not a new issue, and Governor Easley is not the first of our leaders to try to get a handle on it. Back in the early 1990's legislation was passed mandating a statewide water system planning/evaluation be performed. We now have reams of information on this subject, and it's long past time to act. Governor Easley knows this, which is why he's been pushing the issue against overwhelming opposition.
And he's been doing so for some time now. From 2005:
The Governor is asking all citizens to minimize nonessential water use and adhere to water restrictions in their local communities.
Citizens can conserve water by adopting the following tips:
• Use dishwashers only when they are full. Washing dishes by hand (without the tap running) saves about 25 gallons.
• Adjust the water level on clothes washing machines, if possible. Wash full loads only if not adjustable.
• Irrigate your lawn between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m. to prevent water loss through evaporation.
• Water your lawn only when it shows signs of wilt. Grass that springs back when stepped on does not need water.
• Install drip irrigation systems close to the roots of your plants.
• Limit residential vehicle washing.
The N.C. Drought Management Advisory Council issued an advisory Thursday listing 21 counties, including Orange, Durham and Wake, as moving into "severe drought" conditions.
A press release from Gov. Mike Easley's office stated, "Streamflows are low and the lack of significant rainfall for the month of March in central North Carolina will make it one of the driest in nearly 80 years."
Gov. Mike Easley on Thursday called for increased regional collaboration among state offices to organize meetings at which communities hardest hit by the drought can discuss water conservation and strategies for identifying supplemental water sources.
The collaborative effort was announced as much of central North Carolina is experiencing the most severe drought conditions, according to a federal report released Thursday.
“Many communities are suffering the effects of one of the worst droughts we have ever seen,” Easley said. “At least one community is already hauling water by truck from other sources, and several other towns may need to seek supplemental water sources soon."
Easley said regional cooperation is needed to make sure all residents will have ample water for everyday needs such as drinking, public health and safety.
And later in 2007:
Gov. Mike Easley today announced a four-point program, including the adoption of water conservation pricing, to address the state’s deepening drought. The governor said it was everyone’s patriotic duty to conserve and called on local water systems to enforce a fee system to penalize those who are excessive water users with significantly greater water bills. He called on citizens in most water systems to increase their conservation effort to at least 30 percent, and 40 percent for those in the hardest-hit communities.
''The price of that additional water should cost significantly more than the minimum amount that people need to get by,'' Easley said. ''I hope people will understand that they have to conserve and the water bill will be one more reminder that it has to be done.''
In addition to his call for conservation-based water billing, the governor also announced he is: convening a conference with the state's hardest-hit water systems to make sure they are fully prepared and have effective drought emergency plans in place; bringing all drought information together on the Internet at www.ncdrought.org; and charging the Drought Management Advisory Council to provide him with a regular detailed assessment of the progress of the drought should he need to exercise his emergency powers.
The governor will bring 30 of the state's worst hit water systems together on Monday, Jan. 14 in Greensboro to review the status of these systems. Those at the conference will also review what their plans are if the drought deepens and make sure they have reserve sources of water available. In addition, those water systems that need assistance from the state will be able to make sure they get the help they need to have effective emergency plans in place.
And just a few weeks ago:
What seemed to be one of the worst droughts North Carolina had ever seen, starting with water shortages last summer, turned out to be just the start of an unfortunate environmental trend that the governor's office says might be alleviated, in part, with legislation.
Gov. Mike Easley sent one of his chief spokesmen, Deputy Press Secretary Seth Effron, to UNC on Tuesday to explain the proposed bill and press the N.C. General Assembly to take action.
Effron discussed the bill's key provisions, which include the registration of large industrial water withdrawals and transfers.
The bill also would prohibit communities from charging less for increased water usage and require them to develop water shortage plans involving water audits.
Incentives are part of the package for those who follow the guidelines.
"If communities met certain restrictions, they would receive a better opportunity to receive safe water loans from the state and tax breaks for big businesses that traditionally use a lot of water but choose to cut down," Effron said.
I know I've harped on this longer than you would care to read, but I think it's important that we not ignore efforts by the Governor to address this unbelievably complex issue.
In some ways, our Governor has been behaving like the lame duck that he is. But he's also been fighting for some pretty important things as his tenure winds down, and he deserves credit for that.