Sunday, July 20, 2014 - 4:05pm

If you can make it, please turn out to support the folks struggling with this man-made catastrophe:

Concerned citizens in south Asheville and the greater Buncombe County area are invited to attend an informational meeting about the contaminated CTS site on Tuesday, July 29th at the T.C. Roberson High School auditorium from 6:00 to 7:30 PM. This meeting, entitled “The Road to Cleanup,” will provide the latest technical information on the contamination at the CTS site, outline steps necessary for immediate cleanup action, and allow a forum for residents to ask questions of technical experts and the EPA. The meeting is hosted by POWER Action Group, an Asheville-based non-profit advocating for a comprehensive cleanup at the contaminated CTS of Asheville Superfund site.

One drawback to the focus of regional news outlets is people in the Triangle are often unaware of what's happening in the mountains, or vice-versa. One of our long-standing goals at BlueNC is to shorten the distance between regions, to bring our readers stories they might miss from their local paper. And this is a big one:

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Sunday, July 20, 2014 - 12:14pm

Denying the blatantly obvious:

“He drives the budgetary policy goals of the administration,” said one Republican lobbyist in town who spoke on the condition of anonymity in order not to anger either man. “The governor yields to Art. His real power, his influence in state government, is really having that turf all to himself.”

“My job, my role, my goal is not to influence and direct the governor,” Pope said emphatically. “My job is to analyze, to provide advice, facts, what the alternatives are. I present the information, and the governor decides.” McCrory said Pope defers to him, while often catching mistakes in the calculations made by state departments and legislative staffers. “We need more nerds like him in state government,” McCrory said.

The proper term is "wonk." Somebody who can explain how Senator Palpatine subverted the Republic's form of government is a nerd. But you know, Pope isn't just a wonk, either. A wonk usually writes or translates legislation for somebody else, without putting his or her influential twist on the language. That should be called "wanking." Making Art Pope a wanker.

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Saturday, July 19, 2014 - 10:59am

The only thing trickling down is the tax burden:

Adding salt to the wound is the state-imposed utility tax, which went from 3 percent to 7 percent as of July 1. The tax increase comes from Raleigh’s effort to protect a threatened minority (wealthy people and large corporations) and redistribute wealth (from the lower and middle classes to the wealthy).

Gov. Pat McCrory takes credit for that. He got a 2 percent cut in individual income tax and even larger cut in corporate state income tax, and said “other taxes have gone up to make up the difference. It was tax reform with a move to more of a consumption-based tax. You pay tax on a newspaper now, lawyers have to pay tax, there are a host of other new or increased consumption taxes and we closed up a lot of loopholes.”

Remember that the next time your Republican lawmakers say they cut your taxes.

Even if they do remember most of the Republicans' base is afflicted with the "Democrats did it too!" method of rationalization. And usually they're screaming that from under the bus their heroes have placed them.

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Friday, July 18, 2014 - 9:50am

Minority voters are impacted the most by NC's voter suppression laws:

While there is no dispute that “the overt racism of the 1960s is largely a thing of the past,” it is also true that in far too many places affected by the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision voiding a critical section of the Voting Rights Act, racial discrimination continues to flourish.

One of the indignities of discrimination is the insistence on simply reducing it to “feelings.” But it is a matter of fact, not perception, that all of North Carolina’s voting provisions disproportionately affect racial minorities. Whether local officials are “shocked” by allegations of racial motives is beside the point.

Exactly. It doesn't (or shouldn't) matter if the intent of the law was to marginalize minority voters, and it also shouldn't matter if that intent can be proved legally. The facts on the ground are what matters, and those facts are disenfranchising a segment of our voting population. And it shouldn't be a partisan debate. These are Constitutional rights we're talking about, no matter how much propaganda and twisting is being done by those who would limit those rights for others.

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Thursday, July 17, 2014 - 10:35am

If this is what they call "success," one would hate to see them fail:

Since the operation began on May 6, approximately 2,500 tons of coal ash and river sediment have been removed from this location. Crews and equipment were staged at Abreu-Grogan Park in Danville for the past three months.

The company previously completed removal of ash and sediment from water treatment facilities in Danville and South Boston, as well as from locations in the river at the Dan River Steam Station and Town Creek, two miles downstream from the plant. More than 500 tons of coal ash and river sediment were removed from these areas.

Do the math. A low-end estimate on the spill had some 39,000 tons of ash released, and this combined 3,000 tons removed included an unknown quantity of non-ash sediment. What's left in the river could be closer to 95%. And the General Assembly wants to give Duke Energy "more flexibility" in the cleanup/relocation of all the other coal ash ponds?

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Wednesday, July 16, 2014 - 2:33pm

Don't write this race off yet, folks:

Josh Brannon breezed his way through a Democratic second primary on Tuesday, earning the right to go head-to-head with Republican U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx in the 5th Congressional District race this fall. Brannon will have an uphill battle this fall in the heavily Republican district. Foxx was first elected to the U.S. House in 2004 and has soared to a win every two years.

“We’re not going to be able to outspend her. That’s clear. So we’re just going to have to run a campaign that gets our message out in ways other than big media,” Brannon said.

He has campaigned on the theme of taking money out of politics.

Yes, we've heard this song before, but this guy is incredibly easy to like. We've been friends on Facebook for several weeks now, and I had no idea he was in a runoff race with another Democrat. Think about that, especially in light of the ugliness surrounding the Berger/Walker competition. Josh has been steadily campaigning against Foxx, and has developed some very powerful messaging. It's going to be a tough race, and the PACs may be a little shy of helping, but that doesn't mean you can't help #OUTFOXX:

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Wednesday, July 16, 2014 - 10:36am

Making a mess of cleaning up a mess:

“The Senate bill was weak to begin with,” said Kemp Burdette, Riverkeeper with Cape Fear River Watch, “it got even weaker in the House.” The legislation, he said, still does not spell out how DENR and the new coal ash commission should evaluate the sites.

Burdette toured the ash ponds at Duke’s Chatham County plant at the other end of the Cape Fear River on Friday and said the ponds should have been on the high priority list from the outset. The site did make the list briefly, after a coalition of Democrats and Sandhills Republicans won a vote on an amendment to add it to the priority list. The win was later overturned after House leaders intervened. Burdette said given what he saw on Friday, taking the Cape Fear ponds off the list seemed wrong.

“It looks pretty bad,” he said. “There are multiple seeps. The ponds are leaking. All five of [the ponds’ dams] are ranked as high hazard and they are arguably the most dangerous in the state.”

Common sense and science don't stand a chance when politics intervenes.

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Tuesday, July 15, 2014 - 4:09pm

Eliciting another toddler-like temper tantrum from Jay DeLancy:

Early Monday morning July 14th Wake County Elections Director Cherie Poucher listened to a strange request on her voice mail. Jay DeLancy of the Voter Integrity Project wanted to use a county polling place today, Tuesday July 15th, run-off primary election day, for a photo-shoot with a number of masked people lined up attempting to vote as unidentified voters. DeLancy claimed he had cleared it with the precinct chief judge and wanted the Wake Board’s approval. The precinct chief judge in question is Denise Stetter who is also communications director for the Voter Integrity project. What they were conspiring to do would have been a violation of at least two North Carolina laws.

To put it in the quaint vernacular, "That boy ain't right." If all he really wanted was a photoshoot, he could have easily mocked-up a polling place, with a few tables and a few senior citizens sitting at them. But this is something more. Either he was planning for the masked men to intimidate voters, or he might have been angling to get that precinct in trouble with his "proof." Whatever the case, it doesn't have a damned thing to do with integrity, and neither does he:

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Tuesday, July 15, 2014 - 9:56am

Once again, the dreaded "R" word comes into play:

His chamber's a star chamber, where the elite decide who to punish.

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