Sunday News: From the Editorial pages


JUDGE SHOULDN'T NEED TO ORDER LEGISLATURE TO DO THE RIGHT THING ON LEANDRO: The General Assembly has the opportunity to act responsibly and move now to pass a budget that fully funds the court-ordered remedial education program. It is past time to end the legislative leadership's protracted and childish obstinance. The school-yard taunts and insults of the judge and misleading insinuations about the consensus remedial program are undignified and must stop. North Carolina, for nearly a quarter century, has denied its children a fundamental right promised to them. A sound, reasonable and consensus approach to remedy that has been worked out by the parties in the lawsuit. Legislative leaders have a simple choice. They can stand with the children of our state, give each one access to a brighter future that won’t just uplift individuals but our entire state. Or they can continue to stoop to name-calling, misrepresentation and political game-playing. But that is a losing proposition. There is no partisan side in this issue. One of the (many) flaws in GOP leadership of the Legislature is their primary goal of cutting taxes every year. They see that as the best way to remain in power, and it leads them by the nose when Budget season rolls around.

NC'S DOMESTIC VIOLENCE LAW EXCLUDES LGBTQ SURVIVORS. THAT MUST CHANGE: As a queer woman, this is deeply personal to me. Members of the LGBTQ community are disproportionately victims of violent crime and often face higher levels of domestic violence. Yet state law defines domestic violence according to the relationship between parties, including “persons of opposite-sex who are in a dating relationship or have been.” That outright excludes same-sex and queer couples who are not currently or previously married or in the same household. For example, a Lethality Assessment would not be conducted by officers on scene, documenting past abuse. This is crucial for determining the risks survivors may face and the support they need. Defendants would also not be eligible to be held without bond for up to 48 hours while victims get to safety. If the case is not flagged as a domestic violence incident it is unlikely it would be assigned to a prosecutor with experience in these matters. Furthermore, survivors may not be connected with local nonprofits or advocacy groups that can help with immediate safety planning or shelter. Last year, an N.C. Appeals Court panel correctly ruled that domestic violence protective orders cannot be denied just because the applicant is in a same-sex relationship. But state law wasn’t updated to reflect the ruling. This means jurisdictions unconcerned with or unaware of the ruling may continue to deny LGBTQ survivors this critical safety provision. Bolding mine, because that is what happens (or doesn't happen) when one branch of government is scornful of another.

NEW ENERGY LAW IS NOT AS "TRANSFORMATIVE" AS MANY ARE CLAIMING: There is not adequate cushioning of low-income ratepayers from the impact of rate increases – leaving the poorest consumers in jeopardy. The multi-year rate-setting, critics say, gives Duke Energy nearly the authority of the Commission that’s supposed to be the regulator. Wind energy generation isn’t mentioned – either onshore or offshore. North Carolina is estimated to have the best offshore wind energy resource on the east coast. Legislative leaders have sought, at various times, to block the development of offshore wind energy. While there have been leases allowed for offshore wind development off Kitty Hawk, President Donald Trump ordered a 10-year ban on offshore wind leases starting July 2022. There are current efforts to reverse Trump’s order. There is no mandate for achieving the carbon dioxide emissions reductions – so a future Utilities Commission, a legislatively-ordered change or even Duke Energy – could diminish or even do away with the effort. What this legislation does make clear is that it will be up to the state Utilities Commission – and those who appoint those commissioners – to determine the extent to which the most ambitious goals in HB 951 are pursued and achieved. North Carolina’s direction toward a clean energy future – and one that protects all utility consumers – is not even close to a determined march. This latest move is just a step in the right direction but could easily be knocked off path unless Cooper and other clean and fair energy advocates remain vigilant and press to expand renewables and protect all consumers. As to wind energy, I would once again (highly) recommend locating the turbines in the Albemarle and/or Pamlico Sounds. They are mostly shallows, which would require a fraction of the structure truly off-coast turbines would, and the construction wouldn't disrupt shipping or whales. Is it windy enough? If you ask that you haven't been on a boat or ferry in the Sounds. Note: Windburn is even more painful than sunburn.

CONGRESSMAN DAVID PRICE'S RETIREMENT HIGHLIGHTS THE CONUNDRUM OF PUBLIC SERVICE IN THE MODERN ERA: Throughout his career, the sober and professorial Price has remained a progressive policy wonk who avoided even the whiff of scandal at all times and earnestly sought to improve the lives of all Americans – particularly the most vulnerable. Never a grandstander or media hog like so many of his colleagues, Price worked mostly behind the scenes as a voice for sound public investments and center-left policies on issues ranging from foreign policy and environmental protection to civil rights and combating gun violence. If there’s been a knock on Price, it’s been that he lacked charisma and oratory skills – the kind of readily evident fire in the belly that might have propelled him to greater political heights and, perhaps, brought home more political bacon for his home state. If that’s the worst that can be said about a politician – particularly one who’s served more than a third of a century in the same office – that person is clearly doing a lot of things right. Indeed, as Price looks forward to his retirement 15 months hence, it’s probably worth noting just how rare politicians like him are and how difficult modern circumstances make it for them to rise and have an impact. David listens, and he absorbs what he's hearing. To say that is rare is an understatement. Those who worship populist demagogues would likely consider that meek or weak, but it is just the opposite. It reflects an understanding that sound, genuine solutions require a mix of organic and rational approaches, more data as opposed to less, and it takes an exceptional individual to both grasp and utilize such a concept. Needless to say, David's retirement will leave a void in Congress nearly impossible to fill.

NO ISSUE IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN VOTING RIGHTS: Equal access to voting is an American bedrock. It may not matter much in Russia or Saudi Arabia, China or Cuba. It matters here and now. And our country has gone through hell to reach this point. It took a bloody Civil War to win freedom for enslaved Black people. The Constitution required changes by amendments. Throngs marched. Many were bloodied. People died. The right to reach the ballot box came hard. Harder still to keep it. That is what the struggle is all about today. Don’t be fooled. Closing polling locations is not a matter of conserving real estate. Purging voting rolls is not done in pursuit of tidy paperwork. Limiting vote-by-mail isn’t aimed at giving postal workers a break. And none of these voting restrictions are about “election integrity.” Unnecessarily long voting lines and disappearing drop-off ballot boxes are as helpful to the aims of today’s voting rights opponents as the noose and cross-burnings were to the violent voting-rights foes of yesteryear. So the response of all concerned about preserving our democracy must be to push back against McConnell and his henchmen even harder. At issue for the Senate, White House and nation is as it has always been when the question turns to fulfilling America’s basic promise: Shall a willful minority be allowed to prevent democracy from working? We have a moral obligation to collectively shout “No,” and then act, by all means necessary, to overcome that Republican impediment and fulfill the precious right to vote. Anything less spells abdication. As Colbert King alluded to above, this voting rights bill is not happening in a vacuum. Republicans across the country are pushing the envelope on suppressing the votes of African-Americans, and the only sure and effective remedy must be Federal in nature. It's a travesty that this is required in 2021, but here we are.


DIANE SHREENAN: OUR SCHOOLS ARE IN DESPERATE NEED OF FUNDING: Under the GOP leadership of Sen. Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore, the N.C. legislature has no business deciding what’s being taught in North Carolina and how. We have a State Board of Education to make those decisions, along with teacher input. As a volunteer in Franklin County, I work with kindergartners who need extra help. They don’t know the alphabet and the basics every child should know upon entering elementary school. The lack of funding for classroom aides is another strike against the General Assembly. Legislators are responsible for funding the education system, period. Quit shortchanging our children. Do your moral and legal responsibility — increase school funding to $1.7 billion over the next two years. I fully support N.C. Superior Court Judge David Lee in his efforts to force the hands of lawmakers to enforce the Leandro case and provide a sound basic education for every child in North Carolina.

RENEE RAUCH: "SEXUAL PREFERENCE" IS AN OUTMODED CONCEPT, STOP USING IT: Please stop using the term “sexual preference,” as the editorial board did in “Lt. governor’s rants about fake issues do real harm,” (Oct. 13 Editorial). I prefer chocolate over vanilla. I prefer The New York Times over The Herald-Sun. It is not a preference. Preference implies choice. Ask any LGBTQ person, and I believe they would tell you that they didn’t wake up one day and “choose” to be LGBTQ. I got into a protracted debate with a church lady a few years ago about this (I am straight, but an ally), and it took me close to a half-hour to convince her romantic attraction is extremely complicated, and cannot be "selected" like a menu item. When she finally (grudgingly) admitted as much, she then played the other card, "You don't have to act on it." In other words, freedom is only available to those who conform. When I said that, she glared at me and said I was twisting her words, and stalked off. But we both knew I was right.

PATRICE BROWN: MARK ROBINSON IS NOT FIT TO SERVE: In his online bio on the state government website, Lt Gov. Mark Robinson claims: “He looks forward to working for all North Carolinians to make their lives better, and to help continue to lead the state to new heights.” How does an individual who calls LGBTQ North Carolinians “filth” work for “all North Carolinians”? These two things cannot co-exist. According to the Brookings Institute, “Incendiary rhetoric from political leaders against their political opponents, minority groups, and other targets is often quickly magnified.” If you preach intolerance and hate, it can lead to violence against a community that is already marginalized. Any individual who does not treat others equally should not be the N.C. lieutenant governor. Such an individual has no place in government of any form, from the very top down to a county clerk.



"Equity" is not a new concept

A true student of history knows this, but many others ascribe to a "linear" idealism when it comes to the rights of women and minorities. It's important to understand the difference, if we are to preserve whatever progress we are able to achieve.

Ancient Rome is a prime example, where quite possibly the birth of organized labor began. The Collegia was an extremely powerful and respected class of organizations, most of them open to all comers, even slaves in some cases. And just like now, the wealthy opposed many of these groups, passing laws and Imperial edicts to control and minimize their influence. Even the military had its own versions, which more than once changed the direction and character of the city-state and Empire. So the next time somebody tells you that Rome was not a democracy in the classic sense, don't leave that low fruit just hanging there. Collective bargaining is not just an "aspect" of democracy, it is a critical element.

Many like to attribute the origin of democracy to the Greeks, but that is mostly an artifact of philosophers. In reality, most Greek city-states were male-dominated, and males from the upper crust of society at that. Only about 5% of the population(s) were allowed in governing positions, however enlightened those leaders were. That is not democracy, it is aristocracy, which I believe explains why so many of today's "philosophers" adore ancient Greece so much. A razor-thin veneer of democratic principles, as opposed to the real thing.

Another good example of ancient progressives are the Vikings. No, not the Vikings that white supremacists fetishize about, such as the Identity Evropa fan-boys. The real Vikings treated their women with a lot more respect and trust, welcoming them to both the battlefield and the business world. They had property rights that American women did not achieve until the mid-20th Century, and if you tried to violate those rights, banishment was the best you could hope for. If you survived her blade.

I mention these things not to discourage, to highlight the things that we've lost; but to demonstrate that the desire for an equitable society has always been around, and it has always been opposed by those who would lose wealth, prestige, and power, if equity were to succeed. And probably the most important takeaway from this: That second group is a distinct minority.

We allow them to exert such an inequitable influence over our affairs, meaning we can disallow it.