Sunday News: From the Editorial pages


STOP EFFORTS TO MICRO-MANAGE VOTER TURNOUT: Republicans see advantage to limiting participation – whether it is when polling places are open and voting closes, what it takes for voters to identify themselves or the ways voters can cast their ballots. They’ve even admitted it in court – including during arguments recently before the U.S. Supreme Court. Michael Carvin, a lawyer for the Arizona Republican Party, said the state’s voting restrictions were aimed at giving the GOP an advantage over Democrats. “Politics is a zero-sum game,” he said. Doing away with the state’s restrictive law – limiting out-of-precinct voting – “puts us at a competitive disadvantage relative to Democrats,” he confessed. “It’s the difference between winning an election 50-49 and losing an election 51 to 50.” Republicans are pushing legislation that generally sets narrower limits on when those who qualify can register, how and when those voters can cast ballots and get them counted.

A "RED FLAG" GUN LAW WOULD SAVE LIVES. WILL NC DO THE RIGHT THING THIS TIME?: The law would allow a family member, a current or former spouse or partner, law enforcement or a health-care provider to request an extreme risk protection order (ERPO), a court order similar to those issued in domestic violence cases. The ERPO would allow guns to be temporarily confiscated from someone deemed a danger to themselves or others. A court hearing in which all involved parties can participate would determine whether the order is to be lifted or extended. The wisdom of this process is obvious. The U.S. is awash in guns and shootings ranging from domestic violence to mass shootings represent what Biden called an “epidemic” and “a national embarrassment.” Recent mass shootings in Atlanta, Boulder, Col., and Rock Hill, S.C., called fresh attention to gun violence. But red flag laws have their greatest effect on more commonplace types of gun violence, domestic violence and suicide, which accounts for the majority of U.S. gun deaths. There’s every reason to think North Carolinians would be better off if family members, police and the courts had more authority to intervene when people with guns appear to be an immediate danger to themselves or others. Republicans in other states have supported red flag laws. North Carolina Republicans should, too.

MCCONNELL TO BUSINESS: SHOW US THE MONEY, THEN GO AWAY: “My warning, if you will, to corporate America is to stay out of politics. It’s not what you’re designed for," he said during a news conference later in Kentucky. “This is an issue that the big corporations in America, Major League Baseball being one of the biggest, should stay out of.” Those comments couldn’t contrast more sharply with McConnell’s own words, previously, in defense of corporations involvement in politics – particularly in the form of cash contributions and in defense of the famous “Citizens United” Supreme Court decision. "All Citizens United basically did was to level the playing field for corporate America … and say you like a media company can... independently express your views about anything in this country. Why shouldn't everybody be free to do that?" Adding, "For too long, some in this country have been deprived of full participation in the political process ... the Constitution protects their right to express themselves about political candidates and issues.” McConnell’s fine with taking the corporate campaign money, but if they dare to take a stand contrary to McConnell’s they’d best shut up or watch out. The problem here is McConnell and the off-the-charts election manipulations of his allies – not the businesses that are speaking up about it.

BEING BLACK IN AMERICA IS EXHAUSTING: There is no one way to be Black in America, but there is one way we live while Black in America. No matter our gender, age or socioeconomic status, we are viewed as threats. As a result, we live under siege. Oh, we do a good job of hiding the stress of it all. But know this: Every Black person you know goes through some form of mental calculus before they start their day. And then that calculus is adjusted depending on the locations and circumstances in which we find ourselves at any given time. My mother taught me the first few pieces of this calculus when I was a kid. Don’t run in public. Don’t run in public with anything in your hands. Don’t talk back to the police. As I got older, that calculus grew in length and psychological weight. In 1999, Amadou Diallo was killed by plainclothes New York City police officers in a hail of 41 bullets. They thought he had a gun. Instead, it was his wallet. I switched from a silver money clip to a regular wallet after that for fear of the reaction to a glint of metal by police. My cellphone cover is always a vibrant color so no one thinks I’m carrying a gun. I never pull out my keys in public until I absolutely have to. Someone might think I’m carrying a knife. At night, I always walk down well-lit streets with lots of foot traffic. Far too many automatically deem Black people in dark spaces as suspicious. Whenever I leave my apartment, especially if I go on a head-cleansing walk, I always have three things in my pocket: my driver’s license, health insurance card and Washington Post business card with my husband’s cellphone number and message to call him in an emergency. You know how you might stop and admire a nice house? I don’t do that. My admiration is done on the move. You know how you might take a look inside a sweet car parked on the street? I look from a distance. And as I consider buying a car, my interior color selection will hue toward tan. The better for the police to see inside in case I get stopped for driving a nice car or whatever, which is why my dream of driving across country will remain a dream.

THE BLUE WALL OF SILENCE IS CRACKING: It’s no small thing that several Minneapolis police officers, including Chief Medaria Arradondo, took the stand against Mr. Chauvin in his trial over the death of George Floyd. Fourteen officers in the same department signed an open letter last year saying Mr. Chauvin “failed as a human and stripped George Floyd of his dignity and life.” Maybe these acts of courage are isolated — mere dents in a wall that is institutional and pervasive. It will take far more than a few cops in a nation-shattering case of racist murder-by-authority to do structural damage to that edifice. Cops protecting bad cops is ingrained in the system. Many officers feel that only a brother or sister in blue knows the peril they face — and has their backs. That’s true to an extent. But people in far more dangerous lines of work certainly don’t share this attitude. Too many police officers act as if being the face of the law makes them above the law. Smashing the blue wall is one thing that has to happen to fix the lethal flaws in modern law enforcement. Another will be just as hard, if not more so: acknowledging that racism, like the code of silence, runs deep in police ranks. Defunding the police is not the answer. It’s an absurd idea. A wave of violence and chaos quickly overwhelmed an area declared police-free in Seattle, where I live, last summer. Among the victims were several people of color. “Two African-American men are dead,” said the city’s police chief at the time, Carmen Best, “at a place where they claim to be working for Black Lives Matter.” Reinventing the police, a far better idea, got a start in New Orleans in 2016, with a program that teaches officers to intervene when they see fellow officers doing something bad. It’s about to get another go in Maryland, now that lawmakers just overrode a veto and passed sweeping police reform legislation. We need every cop to wear a body camera. We need to curb the power of police unions, the biggest protectors of the blue wall. And we need officers of all stripes to back the words of those 14 in Minneapolis. They said, “This is not who we are.” Now prove it.


REP. NASIF MAJEED: PASSING HATE CRIMES LEGISLATION IS IMPORTANT: Recent widespread coverage of hate crimes against Asian Americans has turned the daily discrimination into a mainstream conversation. Recognizing the dangers facing so many of our neighbors, several of my N.C. General Assembly colleagues and I introduced The Hate Crime Prevention Act. Many of the ideas in this bill are not new, but this time there is a new component: restorative justice. If the victim of a hate crime agrees, offenders would be given an opportunity to own up to their acts and undergo remediation. Hate is a terrible legacy, both for the victims of hate crimes and those who harbor it. This aspect of the law moves us past punishment toward deeper understanding of inherited bigotry, systemic biases, and puts a piece of healing on the record.

ELIZABETH UNDERWOOD: RURAL BROADBAND IS A CRITICAL NEED: According to the N.C. Department of Information Technology and the Pew Research Center (2015) seven out of 10 teachers nationwide give homework assignments that require the internet. Yet, an estimated 5 million households with school-age children lack access to the internet, often due to the absence of rural broadband infrastructure. Lack of rural broadband is contributing to younger generations leaving rural N.C. for better opportunities. Out-migration impacts our workforce, often eliminating rural N.C. areas from consideration by companies seeking expansion and relocation destinations. That’s why the N.C. Economic Development Association is advocating aggressively for broadband solutions that ensure businesses, residents and students across the state have access to the ever-increasing global economy. Just as digital educational resources help prepare students for sustainable careers, telehealth applications have the potential to improve healthcare access for rural patients and save lives. I suffered a COVID-19 infection in February. Thanks to telemedicine and broadband access, I was able to access my doctor virtually three times for my asthma-stricken lungs without exposing an emergency room or doctor’s office. Rural America needs this option. The American Rescue Plan is extending massive federal resources to states and communities for broadband, with additional appropriations likely when Congress passes an infrastructure bill. Lack of broadband is a solvable problem. The time is now. NCEDA and other organizations are urging governing entities to create a bold, specific plan with American Rescue Plan allocations designated for connectivity.

JOYCE ROTHCHILD: TRANSGENDER BILLS FORCE DOCTORS TO DEFY HIPPOCRATIC OATH: Doctors take a Hippocratic oath to do no harm. North Carolina legislators have no such obligation. Case in point: Pending Senate Bill 514 (Youth Health Protection Act) would require the medical profession to abide by laws that could cause severe harm to transgender teens under age 21. Many of them are currently in the throes of hormone therapy and would suffer severe physical and emotional consequences. Has North Carolina’s Republican-led legislature not learned anything from the HB2 fiasco? I urge our legislature to stop this very pointed discrimination and focus on improving the lives of all North Carolinians.



The looming loss of local control

I'm beginning to feel like Sisyphus in my opposition to this massive rewrite of zoning laws in North Carolina.

Understand, I consider myself a proponent of affordable housing, and support many of the features in this bill (such as multiplexes and accessory dwelling units). But I cannot (in good conscience) sit idly by while local control is stripped away from municipal governments and the citizens who have elected them. You should also understand, this bill would make my life much easier if it became law.

As Planning Board Chairman for the last 5 years or so, I have presided over countless rezoning meetings where citizens have (sometimes in very large numbers) adamantly opposed proposed developments, and I and my board have been exposed to insult and innuendo so many times I have lost count. In the last year I have been sorely tempted to walk away from this (unpaid) burden, and I still may do that. Life is too short to be unnecessarily exposed to that kind of treatment on a regular basis.

But here's the thing: Democracy is messy. It's not supposed to be easy. You can't take away the rights of one group to satisfy the needs (or wants) of another. Citizens should at least have a voice in how their neighborhoods are developed, but if this law passes, there won't even be a hearing for them to exercise that voice. Fait accompli.

If this was being done solely to create more middle housing, as the sponsors claim, I might be tempted to support it. Or at least not actively oppose it. But it's not. Republicans and their Free Market allies are backing this bill for one reason: to take away authority from local governments. If they genuinely cared about affordable housing we would have seen some evidence of this over the years. That evidence does not exist.

For those tempted to support it in spite of that undemocratic, anti-government motive, because it also provides some things you want, just remember the last four years. Americans elected a bigoted, sexist, narcissistic, compulsive liar, and many ignored those things because he would also do xyz.

Like many of my friends on the left, I called those people hypocrites for ignoring Trump's myriad shortcomings. Don't be a hypocrite on this zoning bill. Don't let the GOP use affordable housing as a ruse to strip local governments of power, and give a blank check to developers to build whatever they want with zero oversight.