Wednesday News: Losing the best and brightest

SUSAN KING, UNC'S DEAN OF JOURNALISM, IS STEPPING DOWN: Susan King announced that this will be her last year as dean in her weekly email newsletter to journalism faculty. “I believe after 10 years a new dean will bring fresh eyes, additional perspective and new energy to our school,” King wrote. The news comes on the heels of journalist Nikole-Hannah Jones’s tenure controversy that placed the UNC-CH journalism school in the national spotlight earlier this summer. King, 74, said she never intended to stay on as dean for more than a decade, but plans to return as a tenured faculty member after a leave. “Media — journalism, public relations and advertising — are in a state of great change,” she wrote, noting that it is not the same world or business that it was in 2012 when she arrived on campus. Can't say I blame her, but damn.

DAVID LEWIS GETS A LIGHT SLAP ON THE WRIST FOR BILKING DONORS: After admitting to financial crimes like not paying taxes — as part of a scheme to take hundreds of thousands of dollars from his political supporters for his own personal use — a powerful North Carolina politician will avoid prison. Instead of prison time, prosecutors say, former GOP Rep. David Lewis will have to pay a $1,000 fine and avoid getting in trouble again for the next two years. The News & Observer previously reported that he could have faced up to 30 years in prison if he had gone to trial and lost. Lewis, a Republican from Harnett County, served in the N.C. General Assembly from 2003 to 2020. He was one of the state’s top-ranking lawmakers until his guilty plea and resignation, which both happened on the same day a year ago. Prosecutors wrote in one court filing that Lewis “violated the trust of his donors, voters and constituents when he used his campaign funds for personal and business expenses” — but that they gave him credit for eventually admitting it and taking responsibility. Whooptie fuckin' doo. He took responsibility for his crimes. I'm sure that's great comfort to the 30,000+ black men behind bars in NC.

NC REPUBLICANS CRAM BUDGET WITH CONTROVERSIAL POLICY ISSUES: The North Carolina House voted last week to make school teachers post all of their course materials online, to strip the governor of some of his emergency powers and to keep cities from protecting trees on private property. What do all these things have in common? None of them was a separate bill the House considered last week. They were all policy measures inserted, along with many others, into a 671-page budget bill otherwise meant to lay out billions of dollars in state spending plans. Some of the policy ideas in the proposed budget have bounced around the state legislature for years without passing. Others never got a committee hearing this year as a single-issue bill. Some, including the measure limiting his emergency powers, Gov. Roy Cooper has indicated he won't sign. And yet 9 House Dems voted for this garbage. Come on.

INCOMING NC DEQ SECRETARY SEEMS OKAY WITH NATURAL GAS: North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper's latest pick for environment secretary completed a largely favorable confirmation hearing Tuesday, weeks after Republicans rejected his earlier choice because they said her responses on natural gas issues were lacking. Elizabeth Biser, previously a legislative lobbyist and environmental policy adviser, told a Senate committee that she aligns herself with Cooper's energy strategy to locate a mix of fuel sources “that are clean, affordable and available.” She said it's up to the state Utilities Commission to decide what that mix should be. “Certainly natural gas is part of that mix," Biser said. "But I’m not coming in here with some predetermined mix of what I think that should be.” The federal government signs off on the actual operating permits for pipelines, while DEQ largely deals with details, such as how they cross bodies of water. Biser said her agency will act based on whether they meet rules and regulations under which it operates, and not on energy preferences. “I’m not in the business of making policy out of permitting,” she told the Senate Agriculture, Energy and Environment Committee during the 90-minute hearing. I'll wait and see before making any judgments on this nomination.

PROUD BOY WHO THREATENED RAPHAEL WARNOCK PLEADS GUILTY, MAY GET 15 YEARS: Hours before the special Senate runoff in Georgia was called for the Rev. Raphael G. Warnock (D) in the early hours on Jan. 6, Eduard Florea went on the conservative social media platform Parler and wrote: “Warnock is going to have a hard time casting votes for communist policies when he’s swinging with the … fish.” In a later post, he wrote in reference to Warnock: “Dead men can’t pass [expletive] laws.” Now, Florea is facing up to 15 years in prison for making those threats, prosecutors announced Monday. The 41-year-old from Queens pleaded guilty to one count of transmitting threats to injure and one count of possessing ammunition after having been convicted of a felony. Florea’s online threats came Jan. 6 after Warnock and Jon Ossoff (D) narrowly won Senate seats in special runoffs in Georgia. The same day, hoards of President Donald Trump’s supporters showed up to the U.S. Capitol as Congress met to certify Joe Biden’s electoral win. In addition to making threatening comments about Warnock on Jan. 6, Florea had also written on Parler about going to Washington to incite violence. “The time for peace and civility is over,” he wrote on the app. “Guns cleaned loaded … got a bunch of guys all armed and ready to deploy … we are just waiting for the word,” he wrote, according to an indictment.