TURMOIL AT ECU IS PROFILE OF UNC SYSTEM'S DYSFUNCTION: East Carolina University has 28,650 undergraduate and graduate students – 540 in the schools of medicine and dentistry. There are 2,075 full and part-time faculty – not to mention hundreds of administrators and staff. It should be recognized as a world-class institution of higher education – and certainly has nearly all the ingredients. Instead it has emerged as the portrait of disfunction in higher education – from the mismanagement of the UNC Board of Governors who oversee the system to the local ECU Board of Trustees and the dizzying revolving door in the chancellor’s office – three occupants in the last eight months. The UNC board is micromanaging the actions of its president and chancellors. The current legal mess over the disposition of Silent Sam is the latest example. They transform manageable problems into a chaotic crisis.
VOTING HAS STARTED. EXPRESS YOURSELF!: Republicans and Democrats are selecting their party’s nominees for offices from president to local county commissioner. Unaffiliated voters also can participate. They’ll just choose which party’s primary to participate in at the polling place. Voting is still easy – for now. If you’re already registered to vote, you DO NOT need to provide photo identification to cast a ballot. Not registered yet? No problem. Voter registration is available at the one-stop early voting sites. To register, you MUST provide proof of residence – a state driver license that includes a home address or another government or college-issued ID card that indicates home residence; or a copy of a utility bill, pay check or a government document that shows a voter’s name and address. The mechanics of voting are one thing. Making informed choices – determining the key issues and knowing where candidates stand on those issues – is how to make sure a vote makes a difference.
TRUMP'S MESSAGE AT THE NATIONAL PRAYER BREAKFAST: BASH YOUR ENEMIES: The principal speaker at our 68th nonpartisan National Prayer Breakfast was Arthur Brooks, former president of the American Enterprise Institute and professor at the Harvard Business School. Brooks said: “To start us on a path of new thinking about our cultural crisis, I want to turn to the words of the ultimate original thinker, history’s greatest social entrepreneur, my personal Lord and Savior, Jesus. Here’s what he said, as recorded in the Gospel of St. Matthew: ‘You have heard it said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” Love your enemies. When Donald Trump took the podium, immediately after Brooks, he began by saying: “Arthur, I don’t know if I agree with you… I don’t know if Arthur is going to like what I’m going to say” — as he mocked a central premise of the Sermon on the Mount. Howls of laughter spread through the crowd. The president then proceeded to lash out at his adversaries — “very dishonest and corrupt people,” who have “badly hurt our nation.” Trump offered special scorn for Sen. Mitt Romney: “I don’t like people who use their faith as justification for doing what they know is wrong.” And House Speaker Nancy Pelosi: “Nor do I like people who say ‘I’ll pray for you,’ when I know that is not so.” He next lavished praise on the “wonderful, inspiring faith” of Mike Pence — who beamed at the president’s side, untroubled by his boss’s dissing of Jesus. The Washington Post’s conservative columnist Michael Gerson expressed heartbreak that attendees “cheered and whistled Trump’s bitterness and vindictiveness” — attracted to the “least Christian elements of his appeal, anger and cruelty.”
PROGRESSIVES AND MODERATES: DON'T DESTROY EACH OTHER: Progressives and moderates need to realize that at this moment in history, they share a commitment to what public life can achieve and the hope that government can be decent again. They reject overt appeals to racism that have been Trump’s calling card and an approach to politics based on dividing the nation. Together, they long for a politics focused on freedom, fairness and the future. What should bring moderates and progressives together is an idea put forward long ago by the late social thinker Michael Harrington: “visionary gradualism.” The phrase captures an insight from each side of their debate: Progressives are right that reforms unhinged from larger purposes are typically ephemeral. But a vision disconnected from first steps and early successes can shrivel up and die. Vision and incremental change are not opposites. In our nation’s history, the two have reinforced each other — for example, in protecting the environment, achieving social security for the elderly and assistance to the unemployed, protecting civil rights, and expanding health insurance coverage. This lesson will apply for any new Democratic president, no matter which wing of the party she or he represents. Obama’s crack at balance brought him criticism from both right and left. Many among the wealthy condemned him as a socialist who did not appreciate the heroism of entrepreneurs (whom he had in fact helped rescue). Progressives saw his administration as more interested in nursing Wall Street back to health than in curtailing its excesses. The financial sector emerged as powerful as ever and, in the Trump years, began the process of dismantling the reforms Obama had signed into law and the regulations he had put in place. Obama was caught in the middle of all this — “middle” being the appropriate word in many respects.
THE PRESIDENT TAKES A CAMPAIGN DONATION FROM THE PENTAGON: That “big, beautiful wall” President Trump never tires of carrying on about is becoming one of the most expensive campaign stunts ever. It is a potentially unconstitutional one as well, as the Defense Department prepares to divert more billions of dollars authorized by Congress from a variety of weapons programs to generate bragging rights for Mr. Trump’s re-election campaign. On Thursday, the Pentagon formally notified Congress that it would divert $3.8 billion to the Department of Homeland Security to build about 177 miles of fencing along the Mexican border. That will bring to nearly $10 billion what the administration has taken from defense accounts for wall construction, after a skeptical Congress authorized only $1.375 billion. Lawmakers from both parties have assailed the White House’s raids on military funds as violating Congress’s constitutionally mandated power of the purse. “This latest effort to steal congressionally appropriated military funding undermines our national security and the separation of powers enshrined in our Constitution,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leaders, said in a joint statement on Thursday. It may well be that the $738 billion military budget for 2020 is too big, and that skimming a few billion off the top won’t affect American security. That misses the principle. The power of the purse belongs to Congress, and the lawmakers should decide how America’s wealth is spent. Despite its bitter divisions, Congress has repeatedly concluded that the wall Mr. Trump wants to build is a waste of money.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
CHARLIE BOARD: MY SON DIED AT AGE 31 OF AN OVERDOSE. MEDICAID EXPANSION COULD HAVE SAVED HIS LIFE: Two years ago on Feb 19 my son Will was taken from us by an opioid overdose at age 31. There is never any single place to lay blame for such a tragedy, but in Will’s case the lack of access to any form of treatment was a factor. Most of his adult life Will worked multiple jobs, 40-50 hours a week or more, but he didn’t have access to health insurance after he aged off our plan. In 38 states he would’ve been covered by the ACA Medicaid expansion and had access to the treatment he needed. In North Carolina he did not. A study released in January found that Medicaid expansion prevented more than 8,000 opioid deaths nationally in just three years. The GOP legislature continues to block it here out of partisan spite and an ideological preference to cruelly abandon the less fortunate among us. They offer no rational justification for their decision, which in effect closes rural hospitals and increases death and suffering among the citizens they’re supposed to serve. It’s long past time to join most of the nation in prioritizing the lives and health of citizens over hyper-partisan litmus tests. Expand Medicaid now.
BETTY WILLIAMSON: AFFORDABLE HOUSING IS NOT BEING BUILT IN RALEIGH: I’ve lived in my home since 1992 and made updates and additions. It’s a one-story home perfect for a family or single person. Over the past five years, I’ve watched as duplexes near me were razed and replaced with homes costing $750,000 and up. The recent tax valuation has increased the value of my land by 61% while my house has decreased in value by 48%. For people on a fixed income, this type of disproportionate increase makes their homes a target for speculative real estate companies, developers and builders. I’ve gotten a steady stream of predatory mailers offering cash offers, no closing costs, etc. With all the tear-downs in my area, I’ve yet to see one replaced with a home that was considered affordable, and all the new homes are larger in square footage and height than the home they replaced. Raleigh needs to listen to all citizens, not just those who are developing it out of the price range of a majority of residents
MARK TURNER: A REQUIEM FOR CACS: Amid concerns that rapid growth was distancing city leaders from the community, Raleigh launched its Citizens Advisory Councils. For 46 years, CACs were a forum where citizens and government officials could exchange information and concerns until Raleigh City Council abruptly ended this decades-long partnership in a vote that demonstrated a shocking lack of transparency and good governance. Much has been made of the (merely advisory) role played by CACs in rezoning cases but CACs were so much more. CACs stepped in when neighbors needed help, organized school supplies drives, and provided a forum where wary neighbors met with Raleigh Police officers to build connections, and the list goes on. It didn’t matter who you were, if you were a resident your voice counted. All other city advisory boards get their direction from the top; work must first be approved by the City Council. In this model, how do we ensure citizen concerns are adequately addressed? Who’s doing the listening and who’s doing the talking? Absent the independence of CACs, community engagement quickly devolves into a one-way conversation. The partnership is no more. CACs had their challenges, but they also represented one of the most basic forms of democracy: neighbors coming together to work things out. We will be hard-pressed to do better.