Backroom meetings for our backwoods folk

If secretive meetings are a mainstay of Republicans in Raleigh, perhaps it's because they learned their lessons from the good ol' boys running the show in many of North Carolina's western-most counties. That seems like a reasonable conclusion to draw from this solid piece of investigative reporting from Carolina Public Press.

In the 15 counties where closed session numbers were made available, boards of commissioners held a total of 294 closed sessions, the investigation showed. Only fragments of these back-room conversations ultimately go public, in procedures that seem arbitrary at times, our investigation of county board meetings found. For 75 percent of the closed meetings, the minutes remain sealed and away from public scrutiny.

There are some legitimate reasons for closed meetings, reasons which must be announced in advance of the closed meeting. But judging from this article, many county commissioners seem to think that what they do is none of the public's business. Hence the steady stream of graft, back-scratching, favoritism, and nepotism that comes from secret discussions.

NC Republicans targeting metro voters

Raleigh and Charlotte about to be "blessed" with a nauseating PR campaign:

For Republicans, Mecklenburg and Wake are more than North Carolina’s most populous counties. They’re windows into the future of state politics. That’s why the N.C. Republican Party last week launched what it calls “Project Listen,” a concerted effort designed to improve the party’s brand in the state’s biggest counties.

“That’s the place to start,” says GOP strategist Paul Shumaker. “This is just a first step in what needs to be an ongoing process for the Republican Party to remain a competitive, viable force.”

Apparently Shumaker has stumbled upon a new cash cow to milk, at least until his Republican funders realize they would have to actually change their behavior (radically) to woo urban voters. And that's not even taking into consideration the GOP's current attempt to punish Wake County for electing all Democrats to the County Commission. And to kick off a "Project Listen" campaign by refusing to allow a debate about a public referendum is so laughably ironic, I'm afraid to type anything more about it for fear it will throw the entire Interwebs into a logic loop.

Daily dose: McCrory administration failing the sunshine test

SUNSHINE WEEK 2015

Requests for NC public records result in long waits, fees (AP) -- In July 2013, the office of Gov. Pat McCrory announced the sudden resignation his public safety secretary after only six months on the job. The statement said Kieran Shanahan was leaving to spend more time with his wife and focus on his law firm, but persistent whispers around the state capital suggested there was more to the story. In response, The Associated Press filed a public records request that September for emails Shanahan sent or received while secretary. Nearly 19 months later, AP is still waiting. So far, the N.C. Department of Public Safety has managed to produce about 500 of Shanahan's emails, including the automated updates from his spam filter. But about 2,600 emails remain, waiting to be cleared for release.
http://www.wral.com/requests-for-nc-public-records-result-in-long-waits-fees/14512199/

Dana Cope's fall from grace continues

Leaving sweat stains on his proper shirts:

The News & Observer independently obtained additional records of Cope’s spending. They show he used a SEANC credit card last fall for purchases from a luxury tour company, a North Hills art gallery, a Texas purveyor of upscale Western wear and a London clothier.

Those sorts of expenditures have prompted Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman to ask investigators to broaden their inquiry into Cope’s spending. In addition, SEANC is working to claw back a severance payment given to Cope when he resigned.

Don't have much sympathy for SEANC's efforts to "claw back" (love that terminology, by the way) whatever size pile of money they gave Cope when he exited the stage. They had ample evidence he had sunk his claws into a lot of Association funds for personal use in recent years, so throwing more money at him was inappropriate at best. Here's some of that personal use:

Daily dose: Traitor sent to military prison edition

Tillis visits U.S. Naval Station at Guantanamo Bay (WTVD-TV) -- North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis said he supports keeping Guantanamo Bay open after a visit to Cuba. Tillis is one of five first-year Republican Senators on the Senate Armed Services Committee to make the trip to the prison camp.
http://abc11.com/politics/tillis-visits-us-naval-station-at-guantanamo-bay/557504/

After visit, Tillis says keep Guantanamo Bay prison (McClatchy Newspapers) -- Sen. Thom Tillis was in Cuba on Friday to visit the prison camp at the U.S. Navy base in Guantanamo Bay – and afterward he said the facility should remain open.
http://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/politics-columns-blogs/under-the-dome/article14...

Hager enlarges his third-world tyrant portfolio

Taking away power from local authorities:

Rep. Mike Hager, the House Majority Leader, is the latest big government conservative to try to strip power from local governments and give it to the legislature. Hager introduced a bill that would take away local appointments to the Isothermal Community College Board of Trustees and give them to the General Assembly. It’s a pure power grab. Nobody on the board of trustees was aware Hager was going to introduce the bill and nobody asked him to file it.

Republicans say they’re just doing what Democrats did. That’s a lame excuse even if it was true. But it’s not.

Trying to dig out nuggets of truth from the GOP's rhetoric is like panning for gold on the Great Plains. A lot of hard work and frustration and nothing to show for it. The truth about this story will probably involve one local conservative with an axe to grind, and that's good enough for Mike Hager and many of his bent colleagues.

Daily dose: Public Instruction with no public input edition

SUPERINTENDENT OF PUBLIC INSTRUCTION; Out you go? (EdNC) -- One bill filed this session would scrap the position of Superintendent of Public Instruction and the State Board of Education, and replace them with a Secretary of Education appointed by the governor. “You want one spokesman for the schools,” Republican Sen. Jerry Tillman said. “Right now, you got the state elected School Superintendent, State Board trying to run it, you got the legislature trying to run it, you got the governor trying to run it with his advisor. You can’t run the schools like that.”
https://www.ednc.org/2015/03/13/lawmaker-to-atkinson-out-you-go/

A PEP for NCGA

It wasn't too long ago that we were hearing teachers cannot be trusted to assess the progress of their students and we needed all kinds of tests run by outside businesses (at big expense) to see how our kids were doing in school. It is so nice to see Sen. Jerry Tillman has a newfound trust in our teachers:

“The good teachers are doing informal assessments all the time, and they already know what they’re doing…"

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