Sunday News: From the Editorial pages

BUDGET AMENDMENT AIMED TO PUT BLACK SENATORS IN THEIR PLACE: Angered at some legislators’ efforts to amend their budget dictates, Sen. Brent Jackson, a hog farmer from Sampson County, and the Senate leadership shifted hundreds of thousands of dollars away from schools in poor areas of the state to non-education programs in areas largely represented by Republicans. It was a spiteful act aimed to put Democrats, particularly African-American senators, in their place. It strips $316,600 from early college high schools in Northampton and Washington counties and prohibits using state funds to support a summer science, math and technology program in the area. This action will, according to state Sen. Erica Smith-Ingram, shut the program down. There is no shading of the truth here. This astonishing act of unvarnished racism is more reminiscent of 1917 North Carolina than 2017! It was about punishing those uppity black legislators in the Senate because they stood up and opposed the Senate leadership’s budget.

SENATOR HISE WANTS TO KICK 133,000 PEOPLE OFF FOOD STAMPS JUST BECAUSE: This session of the North Carolina General Assembly isn’t over, but it’s a safe bet that Sen. Ralph Hise of Mitchell County will be awarded the sorry prize for legislation that is most cruel to men, women and children in need. His budget provision, tucked into the budget but admirably unearthed by N.C. Policy Watch, a liberal advocacy group, would change the eligibility for the federally funded Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. Funding for the program is federal. No state tax money is involved. But Hise says he wants to change the eligibility requirements to make the program more fair. That will mean 133,000 people, including children, will lose food stamps. This is a despicable, just-plain-mean action from an underachieving senator who’s following the Republican tradition of sticking it to the poor and defenseless.

WILL BURR STEP UP OR BE A FOOTNOTE? Burr should be in the forefront assuring Americans that inquiries into foreign -- in this case Russian – meddling in the presidential election is being pursued forcefully, thoroughly and without influence from President Donald Trump’s administration. Burr’s bear-hugging embrace of Trump during the campaign have left some less than convinced he’ll be enthusiastic in pursuit of answers to serious questions raised so far. Whatever thread of credibility there may be inside Washington’s beltway about Burr’s investigation, it gets frayed very quickly outside, where an overwhelming majority of Americans don’t think Congress is up to the job. North Carolina’s Sen. Richard Burr has yet to show he’s got the right stuff and is up to the task. It is time for him to step up. Since he’s not seeking re-election he’s free to transcend the petty partisanship gripping Congress and assure the nation that its leaders have a priority on security and the truth.

WE'RE STILL LEAVING THE WOUNDED ON THE BATTLEFIELD: Thousands of troops suffering from post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury and related conditions have been separated from the military for misconduct, the Government Accountability Office reported last week. In a recent four-year period, the GAO said, about 60,000 troops were separated despite being diagnosed with conditions that could cause the misconduct. More than 13,000 of them received less than honorable discharges, which meant they were no longer eligible for treatment from the Department of Veterans Affairs. While the Pentagon has objected to the study, saying it is flawed, those numbers are big enough to suggest that there’s a serious deficiency in the ways our military services are screening and treating service members for these disorders.

PUTTING THE TILLIS AMBULANCE RIDE TO THE HOSPITAL IN PERSPECTIVE: We were very pleased to see that Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina was in good health and spirits this week after collapsing at a road race Wednesday in Washington. We also were glad that, for the most part, people were able to put political considerations aside and wish him well during his health scare. Some of those people also inquired politely about the ambulance ride Tillis got to the hospital from the side of the road that morning. How much, they asked, would that trip cost someone who wasn’t covered by insurance? That $1,000-plus would be a significant financial and emotional burden – and that doesn’t include the probability of another big bill from the hospital, even for a short stay like the one Tillis thankfully had.

TRUST IS NOT ENOUGH: CHAPEL HILL'S HOUSING DILEMMA: By many measures, the program has been a success. Since the first purchase was completed in the year 2000, 252 homes in Orange County have come under the Home Trust’s portfolio of affordable housing. You can find – but hardly recognize – low-cost homes in such impressive residential projects as Meadowmont (48 affordable homes), Vineyard Square (30 homes), Larkspur (13 houses) and Greenbridge condominiums (15 units). Everyone I talked to had praise for the Home Trust program and its record of seeding affordability into new developments. But they also said that record – 252 affordable units in 17 years – is a drop in the bucket in terms of the need in the community. Ultimately, said Parker, it will come down to what the community is willing to invest to support affordability.
“If we want affordable housing, we have to put money into it,” he said. “We have to recognize that it requires all of us, not just developers, to provide methods of subsidization.”


STEVE BERG: TRUMP'S COMPETENCY QUESTIONED: Regarding the May 18 news article “Mueller to lead Russia inquiry as special counsel”: The newly appointed special prosecutor will oversee the federal investigation into allegations Russia and President Donald Trump’s campaign collaborated to influence the 2016 presidential election. There is a bigger question not being addressed: How qualified is Trump to be president? When is Congress going to address Trump’s competency and ability to govern?

DAVID WILSON: PRESIDENT TRUMP LOSES TRUST, CONFIDENCE: Those of us who opposed Donald Trump during the last presidential campaign spoke privately and publicly about Trump’s low character and obvious ulterior motives. Trump’s conduct since taking office has borne out these very legitimate concerns. Now these chickens have come to roost in multiple instances, not the least of which is Trump’s summary dismissal of FBI Director Comey. It was becoming increasingly worrisome to Trump and some of his band of similar characters that Comey was going to bark up the right tree. So Trump just relieved the FBI director and the threat was over. Or was it? Let us, as a nation of outraged citizens who love democracy, our Constitution and a sense of right and wrong never stop with our insistence that Trump has totally lost our trust and confidence and must resign. Post haste.

SHARON MCDONALD: PRESIDENT IS PUBLIC SERVANT: Regarding the May 16 news article “Trump revealed highly classified information to top Russian officials”: In his life before the White House, President Donald Trump was a CEO in the business world. Perhaps his numerous inexplicable and troubling actions in the Oval Office stem from his view that the United States is a large company, of which he is the CEO. This would mean that he considers himself totally in charge – he is the boss and can do whatever he chooses – and the rest of America works for him. In fact, it is exactly the opposite. Trump is an elected public servant and he works for the rest of America. Unless that is a concept that he is able to grasp soon, the United States will continue to be immersed in the current chaotic reality show.