Op-Ed: Solar farms a way to ease economic struggles in rural NC

In which I preach from my digital soapbox:

One of the most difficult issues facing lawmakers and rural advocates is how to bring some level of prosperity back to areas that used to have textile mills and lucrative tobacco farms. Our consumer-based economy, which generates so much revenue in densely populated regions, fails miserably where populations aren’t so dense. And the very thing that makes these areas attractive to many who live there, the lack of bustling crowds and traffic jams, is the very thing that’s killing them.

I'm going to ask a favor of you dear readers. No, it's not money for some critical cause or organization (not this time, anyway), I just want you to click through and read the article. The N&O graciously published this piece in a timely fashion, and the number of reads or hits might encourage them publish more in the future. But here's a little more before you go:

Tuesday News: NC GOP "trust issues" edition


North Carolina GOP in hot water (Politico) -- TAR HEEL STATE PARTY TROUBLES -- The North Carolina Republican Party has a lot on the line in 2016 - a battleground state in a presidential yea, one of the tightest governor's races in the country, and an incumbent senator to protect. But GOP leaders and the state party Chairman Hasan Harnett are struggling with trust issues, or as one Republican familiar with these discussions put it: "[Harnett] will tell you one thing, and then two days later, he'll do a complete 180 on it." This summer, the party lost its executive director, and within weeks, lost its interim executive director, too. Without one, there is more chatter that the Republican National Committee might run its money through a county party, instead of the state, like former Sen. Kay Hagan did in 2014 when the state's Democratic Party was in turmoil.

GOP puts tax reform back in the Budget

And crams it down the throats of Legislators who haven't seen it yet:

“With the tax reform package within the budget, the Special Provisions will run to over 500 pages,” McGrady wrote on Facebook Sunday.

Senate leaders announced Monday morning that they’ll hold the first vote on Tuesday – meaning rank-and-file senators will have only one day to read a complex spending bill that spans 500 pages.

Really? You've been given an additional 2 1/2 months to dick around compose the Budget, but you're only giving duly elected representatives of the people less than 24 hours to study it before casting their votes? Just on principle alone that deserves a whole bunch of "Nay" votes and a Veto, but I'm sure the long knives are coming partially out of their scabbards to force Republican puppets to stay on their strings. What a frickin' circus.

Tim Moore: Speaker for Cleveland County

Driving back home with a trunk full of pork:

The speaker, a lawyer from the Cleveland County town of Kings Mountain, has slipped some nice items into the state budget now under consideration. There’s the grant for water and sewer infrastructure, to go to towns under 12,000 people. Kings Mountain has 10,000.

Then there’s the $200,000 grant for the American Legion World Series, which has an annual baseball tournament in the Cleveland County seat of Shelby. The region has a long and grand history with American Legion baseball.

He's not just a lawyer "from" Cleveland County, he is the lawyer for Cleveland County. On the payroll, with an employment contract shielded from public scrutiny via personnel records confidentiality rules, or some such nonsense. Why do I say it's nonsense? Because he's currently the most powerful lawmaker in the NC House of Representatives, and we need to know if his County contract encourages him to wield undue influence in his State government position. It ain't rocket science, it's Ethics 101. And he appears to be failing miserably.

Monday News: Greensboro feels the Bern edition

Sanders revs up N.C. crowd during Southern swing (AP) — Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders told a North Carolina crowd Sunday night that young people — particularly blacks and other minorities — are being devastated by high unemployment stemming from an inequitable economy and erosion of voting rights engineered by Republicans. Wrapping up a weekend campaign swing through the South, the independent Vermont senator told a raucous meeting hall and an overflow crowd totaling more than 9,000 people "to join the political revolution" of his upstart campaign based less on big money and more on equality.

Sanders emphasizes diversity at Greensboro campaign stop (Greensboro News & Record) -- Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders was greeted by a rapturous crowd of around 9,000 at the Greensboro Coliseum Special Events Center on Sunday night.

No respite for weary environmental advocates

A real shift in public opinion or wishful thinking?

In recent elections, North Carolina voters have teetered between red and blue. But the only green in the mix was the color of money, not environmental concern - or even basic awareness.

This state has the gift of a magnificent natural environment, but most voters take it for granted, seldom worrying about issues like water or air quality. That may be changing. Environmental issues have become serious political issues, especially in the past year.

The operative word there is "may" be changing, but I believe even that is a reach. Yes, there have been some high-profile environmental problems that surfaced (or leaked just below the surface) in the past year and a half, but it doesn't automatically follow that a larger chunk of the public has become concerned. I've watched these numbers since 2007, and the percentage of people who list the environment as their top issue has remained around 3 percent, just like in this Gallup poll covering 2015. Yes, that's a national poll and not targeted on NC voters, but it is hard numbers vs speculation of what should happen:

Sunday News: Confused Republicans floundering edition


Fish wars swirl around NC’s diminishing southern flounder (Raleigh News & Observer) -- These days the southern flounder is making waves that reach all the way to the state capital, pitting recreational anglers against commercial operators, setting a regulatory commission’s members against one another and their staff, and prompting legislators to wade into a controversy that is the territory of the executive branch. Accusations of political threats and retaliation abound.

The eminent domain faux-Libertarians don't want to talk about

When for-profit energy companies take your land:

Property owners in Henderson and Polk counties are learning about the limits on their rights to control the property they own and to control what happens to the hillside they view from their back porch.

When electric power lines and pipelines are needed for the public use and benefit, the state of North Carolina grants private companies the right to condemn the property necessary for their projects. So when Duke Energy provides a case that the increasing use of electricity in Western North Carolina justifies the installation of a new power line from South Carolina leading up to Asheville, they are granted the ability to condemn the property along a selected route for the transmission line.

While the issue of government exercising eminent domain to secure land for the general public's transportation and utility needs is complex, and not suited to across-the-board declarations of right or wrong, the hypocrisy of "property rights" advocates on the right is neither complex nor justifiable. If elected officials overreach they can be removed from office, but the general public has no recourse when corporations are granted the power to take property. And when those conquests result in profits, the perpetrators are usually rewarded, sometimes to the tune of millions in salary and stock options. True Libertarians would be horrified by that, but corporate puppets wearing a Libertarian mask? Crickets.

Saturday News: Walter gets mixed up edition


Prospect of fed government shutdown grows (The Hill) - The prospect of a second government shutdown in two years is growing as House conservatives pledge to oppose any funding measure that includes money for Planned Parenthood. GOP leaders face a familiar problem. Walter Jones (R-N.C.), a conservative, sounded a similar theme. “I’ve seen too many times up here that a threat of a shutdown is why you compromise your principles, and I am sick and tired of compromising my principles,” he said.


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