Saturday News: Aiding and abetting treason


TILLIS VOTES TO BLOCK PROBE INTO JAN 6TH INSURRECTION: Senate Republicans blocked the creation of a commission Friday that would investigate the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, using the filibuster to prevent a vote on the legislation. North Carolina Republican Sen. Thom Tillis voted not to end debate, a procedural vote that ends consideration of the underlying bill. Fellow Republican Sen. Richard Burr was not present to vote, one of 11 senators who did not vote. Burr was in North Carolina due to an unavoidable conflict, according to a spokesperson Friday. Supporters needed 60 votes to move to the legislation in the Senate. Six Republicans voted in support of the commission, but the 54-35 tally did not reach the needed threshold. It was the first GOP filibuster since Democrats gained control of the Senate in January.

BERGER DENIES INVOLVEMENT IN HANNAH-JONES TENURE DECISION: Berger acknowledged discussing Hannah-Jones' hire with UNC System leadership after the UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees declined to take up her tenure approval, which is often a rubber stamp vote after a recommendation from faculty and university leadership. Berger said Hannah-Jones' name “may have come up” as part of other discussions he had with UNC President Peter Hans and UNC Board of Governors Chairman Randy Ramsey. “But I wouldn't say that I said anything to the effect of, ‘You ought to do this. You ought to do that,’” Berger said. “[It was] just, 'What's the status?’” Berger also said he didn’t press trustees or UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz on Hannah-Jones’ hire. “Have I called (Board of Trustees Chairman) Richard Stevens and said, 'Richard, you need to do this or that'? No, I have not done that,” Berger said. “I've not talked to Guskiewicz. I've not talked to Stevens." Stevens and Guskiewicz, along with all other Board of Trustees members, declined interview requests through the university’s media relations office. Individual trustees also didn't return direct phone and email messages left for them this week, both before and after attorneys for Hannah-Jones announced they were “evaluating all available legal recourse …. including possibly initiating a federal action against UNC.”

BILL (HB829) WOULD BLOCK MUNICIPALITIES FROM REGULATING AIRBNB SHORT-TERM RENTALS: In September, a judge invoked a 2019 statewide law when striking down Wilmington's short-term rental rules. And this month, legislation making its way through the General Assembly has grabbed the attention of official in other tourism hotspots. This bill, House Bill 829, could bring about a “sea change” in the way North Carolina cities regulate vacation rentals said Asheville city attorney Brad Branham. "We are watching it, concerned with it, and paying close attention," he said. Some North Carolina homeowners rely on renting out rooms to supplement their incomes; others own numerous units as investment assets. The rentals - made easily accessible throughphone apps - can help funnel tourism dollars into communities, however residents have also derided the rental platforms for introducing noisy neighbors while eating into the local housing stock. As cities set regulations, the short-term rental industry revved up its lobbying efforts against them. In the mid-2010s, Airbnb hired the North Carolina-based public relations firm Targeted Persuasion to convince local officials to ease restrictions in Raleigh and Asheville. "There is a push by certain short-term rental platforms to try to remove the power from local governments to regulate short-term rentals," said Ulrik Binzer, whose company Host Compliance helps a half-dozen North Carolina municipalities monitor rentals and enforce their regulations.

IDAHO GOVERNOR RESCINDS ANTI-MASK ORDER GIVEN BY LT. GOVERNOR WHILE HE WAS OUT OF STATE: Idaho’s Republican governor, Brad Little, rescinded an executive order Friday canceling mask mandates that his second-in-command issued this week while he was away at a conference, calling it an “abuse of power.” “I do not like petty politics. I do not like political stunts over the rule of law,” Little said in a statement. “However, the significant consequences of the Lt. Governor’s flimsy executive order require me to clean up a mess.” It was the latest clash in a pandemic-long feud between Little and Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin, also a Republican, over public-health measures designed to protect Idahoans from the coronavirus. McGeachin, who recently announced that she is running for governor, has spent months criticizing Little’s response to the crisis as too heavy-handed. Last year, she appeared in a conservative think-tank’s video that suggested that the pandemic may not be real, and in March attended a protest at the Idaho Capitol in Boise where people were burning masks. With Little attending a Republican Governors Association meeting in Nashville this week, McGeachin escalated the conflict. On Thursday, she signed the order barring mask mandates, saying it was intended “to protect the rights and liberties of individuals and businesses” in Idaho. You're right, this sounds exactly like something Mark Robinson would try to do.

BIG OIL UNDER PRESSURE FROM COURTS AND SHAREHOLDERS TO CUT CARBON EMISSIONS: The most dramatic turning point came in the Netherlands, where a court instructed Royal Dutch Shell, the largest private oil trader in the world and by far the largest company in the Netherlands itself, that it must sharply cut greenhouse gas emissions from all its global operations this decade. It was the first time a court ordered a private company to, in effect, change its business practice on climate grounds. The symbolism was inescapable: The Netherlands, famously built on land reclaimed from the sea, faces the immediate threat from a warming climate caused by the burning of Shell’s own products — oil and gas. In another example this week, at the annual shareholder meeting of Exxon Mobil, the biggest American oil company, the message was framed sharply in terms of profits: A tiny new hedge fund led an investor rebellion to diversify away from oil and gas — or risk hurting investors and the bottom line. Chevron’s shareholders voted to tell the company to reduce not only its own emissions, but also, remarkably, the emissions produced by customers who burn its oil and gasoline. And in Australia, a judge warned the government that a proposed coal mine expansion, a project challenged by eight teenagers and an 86-year-old nun, would need to ensure that it wouldn’t harm the health of the country’s children. The timing was significant. This week scientists also concluded that, in the next five years, the average global temperature will at least temporarily spike beyond a dangerous threshold, climbing more than 1.5 degrees Celsius, or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit, warmer than in pre-industrial times. Avoiding that threshold is the main objective of the Paris Accord, the landmark global climate agreement among the nations of the world to fight climate change.



About that short-term rentals thing...

It's not just big cities that would be affected. A couple of years ago my small town (7,500 pop) was forced to craft our own ordinance, after citizens complained about "strangers" walking in the neighborhood. 2 of the 3 complaints filed had to do with AirBnB guests taking a stroll, and one of those occurred at 2:30 in the morning because the renters were having a party at said house.

Anyway, we took about six months to craft a compromise ordinance, very similar to Asheville's, which limited the number of guests and requires a "custodial" presence: the owner of the house must live there, and be present during the rental period. In other words, no "whole home" short-term rentals, but homeowners could still rent out a couple rooms and generate some income from it.

Of course that just made everybody mad for one reason or another; those who didn't want AirBnB at all, and those who wanted total freedom for property owners to do whatever they felt like. Welcome to local government, it's exhausting.

But if this bill becomes law, such compromises will no longer be allowed, and "party houses" will be popping up all over the place. Like this one recently in Guilford County:

Loud music, hundreds of people and vehicles bumper to bumper on both sides of Old Julian Road in Guilford County was an unusual sight for neighbors over the weekend.

The crowd got so large on Saturday people in the community called 911 with concerns about the noise and traffic.

“It’s like a lot of cars speeding by blasting music,” said one 911 caller. “It’s just so much commotion, this is normally a quiet, private neighborhood.”

Hundreds of people were headed to a house party at 3500 Old Julian Road, a 7,000-square-foot rental property on more than 100 acres. The house was listed on Airbnb and VRBO, Vacation Rental By Owner, for $350 a night with a two-night minimum stay. According to house rules on the listing, no more than 14 people are allowed and events are not permitted.

I doubt very seriously the Guilford County Commissioners would try to regulate these rentals. But they should be allowed the authority to do so, nonetheless.

That turned into a rant.

I will spare you folks from reading another one tomorrow in the editorial roundup...