LT.GOV. ROBINSON GOES TOO FAR WITH DIVISIVE REMARKS: It was arrogant, mean and un-American. It was the kind of divisive rhetoric that might come from dictators like Hungary’s Victor Orban – not someone who is the lieutenant governor of North Carolina. But tragically, uninformed, over-the-top, hurtful and inflammatory speech has become the norm for Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson. “Enemies” across the aisle? Democrats are NOT the “enemies” of Republicans or anyone else in this nation. Nor are Republicans. They are, as the cliché goes, the “loyal opposition.” “Socialist hellhole?” What is he talking about? Expressing concern for others, providing for their education and basic health needs regardless of where or how they live, who their parents might be or national origin, isn’t socialism. It is human decency. Robinson’s “Christian patriots” who “will own this nation and rule this nation.” Has he read AND UNDERSTOOD the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution?” Does he understand what the nation’s founders meant? No, he does not understand, and he doesn't want to understand. Like Orban, he is an authoritarian megalomaniac, and must be stopped.
THE CASE FOR FREE BUS FARES IN NC CITIES: North Carolina cities should recognize fare-free transit as a tool for fighting inequality. Studies have shown that affordable, accessible public transportation is a particularly strong predictor of social mobility — areas with insufficient access to transportation have the highest unemployment rates and the lowest incomes. One study from the JTL Urban Mobility Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that low-income individuals who received a fare subsidy took about 30% more trips on public transit than those who did not receive the subsidy. They also took more trips to health care and social services. Of course, the biggest obstacle to fare-free transit is the question of how to pay for it. Luckily, Raleigh and Charlotte have a successful model close to home: Chapel Hill’s transit system has operated fare-free for nearly 20 years. “Whether you have zero dollars in your pocket or a hundred dollars in your pocket, if you’re at the bus stop, we’re gonna stop, we’re gonna pick you up and we’re gonna take you where you need to go,” Chapel Hill Transit Director Brian Litchfield said. While transportation costs remain a significant expenditure for passengers, fare revenues only account for a minor percentage of overall public transit revenue in cities like Raleigh and Charlotte, where fares account for roughly 8% and 16% of revenue, respectively. Quoting myself from an annual budget hearing, where local anti-tax zealots had (once again) proposed we discontinue our $38,000 yearly participation in the Link Transit system: "We cannot solve all the socioeconomic challenges facing our poor families, but we can do this."
BUS DRIVER SICKOUT IS A SYMPTOM OF GREATER ILLNESS IN PUBLIC EDUCATION: Many families in Wake County discovered last Friday morning that their children did not have a bus driver to bring them to school. These families are worried about their own kids and others who may not have a ride to school. Many are feeling frustrated about the bus driver sickout, as well as other staffing shortages in their schools; and they are wanting to know who is responsible. Yet many, if not most, school districts in the state have raised bus driver pay and offered signing bonuses in the past many months. They have used federal COVID relief funds, local fund balances and other means to address COVID-related issues. These efforts, however, have not been enough. And Friday’s bus driver sickout is a symptom of a much bigger problem in North Carolina, which is a persistent and dire lack of state funding for our public schools. While we have been talking and reeling from the myriad crises brought on by the pandemic, we have often missed another crisis that has been building for many years. We have a funding crisis in North Carolina that is impacting every aspect of our children’s teaching and learning environments today. We did not get to this point because of the pandemic. We got here because year after year, we chose to underinvest in our public schools — and we engaged in actions that signaled an unwillingness to honor educators for the work they do. Conservatives love to talk about "failing" public schools, but they are the ones who are failing our public schools.
THE UNDERMINING OF OUR DEMOCRACY: I’m disturbed at the dishonesty of the Republicans’ arguments defending their practice of extreme gerrymandering. They claim that Democrats did the same thing. They claim that Democrats’ clustering in urban areas makes drawing fairer districts difficult. And they claim that they win more counties than Democrats. All of it’s bullshit. For most of the 20th century, North Carolina was largely a one-party state run by Democrats like the rest of the old Confederacy. The people they disenfranchised to hold those majorities were Black voters and they used poll taxes and literacy tests to do it. White Southerners started leaving the Democratic Party in the late 1940s over racial policies, beginning with Truman integrating the military and culminating with the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts signed into law by Democrat Lyndon Johnson, ending segregation and ensuring African Americans the right to vote. In 1971, just before the pivotal election that sent Jesse Helms to the U.S. Senate, the first Republican of the century to get elected to that body, 76% of North Carolinians were registered as Democrats and fewer than 21% Republicans. Still, Republicans held four of the state’s eleven Congressional seats, far out-representing their party registration. For the next 40 years of Democratic redistricting, Republicans held seats in Congress that roughly represented their numbers and influence in North Carolina. So no, the Democrats did not do it first. Not until the GOP redistricting after 2010 did we such distorted Congressional delegations. While gerrymandering may have existed, Republicans took it to unprecedented extremes after they took power in 2011. The biggest hit, though, is not the Democrats. It’s our democracy. Not since before the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act have we had so few competitive races. The party that claims competition is the best solution to everything from rising prices to education denies competition at the ballot box. Thomas is exactly right in his assessment. Before the 2010 gerrymander was put into place, Republicans were able to swing a district and achieve a near-parity, 7 D's and 6 R's representing NC in the U.S. House. If we (Democrats) were abusing the redistricting process as they claim, we were doing a piss-poor job of it.
THE GLASGOW CLIMATE SUMMIT HAS ALREADY ACHIEVED SUCCESS, BUT TIME IS RUNNING SHORT: The world has entered the decisive decade for confronting the climate crisis. This week’s global climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland, has already helped summon more ambition to face this emergency than the world has ever seen. In that regard, the summit has already achieved success. We can still avoid a catastrophe, but time is running short. On the plus side, countries representing almost 65 percent of global gross domestic product have stepped up to meet the goal of holding the rise in warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius since preindustrial times — what science tells us will prevent the most devastating impacts from warming. Those countries include the 27 that make up the European Union, Britain, Canada, South Korea, Japan and South Africa. India aims to build 450 gigawatts of renewable energy capacity by 2030 and the United States has agreed to partner with them in that effort. Major oil producers, including Russia and Saudi Arabia, are announcing stronger steps and zero emissions goals. And more than 100 nations representing 70 percent of the global economy have joined the pledge we initiated with the European Union to significantly reduce emissions of methane, a greenhouse gas far more potent than carbon dioxide. Reducing methane emissions is the single fastest option we have to slow warming. For its part, the United States rejoined the Paris climate agreement on President Biden’s first day in office. This spring, the president went even further, pledging to reduce our emissions in line with the 1.5 degree limit, and putting the United States on pace to meet the net-zero emissions deadline. But while we have made progress in averting runaway warming, more needs to be done. A sizable gap remains in cutting global carbon emissions by 45 percent by 2030, which is critical to put the world on a realistic path to reach the goal of net-zero emissions by 2050 and avoid calamity. Too many countries are still not doing enough. Unfortunately, no country or region can overcome the climate crisis alone. We have seen remarkable progress in just a matter of months, but we must all accelerate our efforts. This isn't just an environmental challenge, it is a political one as well. When politicians are replaced, promises made in the past mean less than nothing. Trump is proof of that. And even if they're not replaced, keeping their promises is sometimes impossible. We are both voters and consumers, and we need to leverage both of those characteristics to keep everybody on-track.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
SARAH CARRIER: THEY'RE DOING IT ON PURPOSE: The Nov. 1 Forum writer who complained about school bus drivers was misguided in her blame. The blame lies squarely on Republican legislators who refuse to fund education adequately. In the last decade our state has dropped from being a state with a respectable education system to one of the lowest states in teacher pay and student funding in the country. We have lost good teachers and administrators, and we’re losing staff and bus drivers. Republicans’ strategic effort do dismantle public education in North Carolina is damaging our state’s reputation and our state’s economy. Our children deserve better. The lack of funding and the vehement opposition to teaching real history prove one thing: Republicans don't want an educated voting public, because they will lose power. It really is that simple.
EILEEN HANSON-KELLY: MEDICAID EXPANSION IS A NO-BRAINER: Health care is a number one priority, especially during this pandemic. Yet 12% of Rowan County residents and 11% across the state, do not have health insurance. This could be remedied by North Carolina participating in Medicaid expansion, provided through the Affordable Care Act. This would cost North Carolina nothing for the first two years, and only 10% after that. Hospitals want this program, which would help especially in underserved rural areas. And they are willing to pay into future costs. However, the draft budget proposals the N.C. General Assembly and Gov. Roy Cooper are negotiating do not include Medicaid expansion. We are one of only 12 states that refuse this federal-funded opportunity to provide health care to over 600,000 North Carolinians, including many essential workers in our grocery stores or health care aides. The General Assembly says they can’t afford to give our communities what we need to thrive – expansion of health care, fully funding public education, decent and affordable housing and increases in unemployment compensation. Yet they propose eliminating corporate taxes. Meanwhile, our state has $8.6 billion just sitting in the bank, undesignated. That is our money, our tax dollars. This money should be used to meet the dire needs of our residents, not give more tax breaks to wealthy corporations who come here to avoid paying a livable wage to their workers. We deserve a state budget that represents all of us, not just a powerful few. I call on our representatives in Raleigh — Senator Carl Ford and Representatives Julia Howard, Harry Warren and Wayne Sasser as well as Gov. Roy Cooper to pass a budget that is for the people they represent.
AKILA RADHAKRISHNAN: THERE IS NO MIDDLE GROUND ON HUMAN RIGHTS, INCLUDING ABORTION RIGHTS: Aaron Tang’s Oct. 28 Thursday Opinion essay, “A view on abortion that originalists should embrace,” outlined a dangerous path forward for the Supreme Court that is in direct conflict with an internationally recognized fact: There is no “middle ground” on a human right. It is abundantly clear that the six-week and 15-week abortion bans before the court violate human rights outlined in treaties such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which the United States has ratified. In a 2018 “general comment” on the treaty, the U.N. Human Rights Committee made it clear that state parties, including the United States, may not “regulate pregnancy or abortion … in a manner that runs contrary to their duty to ensure that women and girls do not have to undertake unsafe abortions.” A decision to uphold either of these bans would put the United States out of compliance with its international legal obligations. Human rights, including abortion access, can’t be negotiated away for reasons of political acceptability. It’s time American legal observers of all stripes recognize this, and for judges to take this into account. Here is an in-depth assessment of the legal ramifications of the Treaty, as to how it would impact court proceedings in the U.S. Understand, this was ratified by a supermajority of the U.S. Senate, and certain "provisos" that were incorporated were based on already existing U.S. laws and legal decisions. Such as, we already allow abortions, so this part isn't "actionable." But that also means (I believe) that if we change our process, and no longer protect the right to choose, we would be in violation of said Treaty.