Sunday News: DEQ WTF? edition


NC's new environmental regulator is polarizing figure (Raleigh News & Observer) -- In his short tenure as Secretary of the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality, Donald van Der Vaart, the engineer with a law degree has wasted no time in promoting his conservative brand of environmentalism. Within two weeks of taking the top job at the state’s environmental agency, he jettisoned a pair of GOP deputies, including a former state legislator who became a key aid to the state House speaker. He’s launched a campaign for nuclear energy, even though the agency he oversees has little say in which power plants are built in North Carolina while regularly casting doubts about the benefits of wind, solar and other forms of renewable energy despite his boss’s (Gov. Pat McCrory) positions supporting them.

VIVA trial update: Affidavits as escape valves

Kelly Fetty has been keeping score:

On June 18 the North Carolina General Assembly passed new legislation adding a "reasonable impediment" affidavit to VIVA. Like South Carolina's Act R54, the affidavit allowed voters to claim a reasonable impediment kept them from getting a photo ID and entitled them to a provisional ballot.

The sudden change to the law, just three weeks before the start of court proceedings, prompted the Plaintiffs to ask Judge Schroeder to drop claims against the ID provision from the trial.

This affidavit has nothing to do with helping people vote, and everything to do with helping Republicans prop up their un-Democratic attack on voting rights. Unfortunately, it appears Judge Schroeder is more than willing to give them the benefit of the doubt:

Saturday News: Pay-to-prison edition


FBI investigating McCrory-involved deal on prison contract with Charlotte pal, campaign donor (Raleigh News & Observer/Charlotte Observer) -- Last fall, Gov. Pat McCrory personally intervened on behalf of a friend and major political donor who wanted to renew $3 million in private prison contracts over the objections of McCrory’s top prison officials. Charlotte developer Graeme Keith got extension of $3 million-a-year maintenance deal. The FBI has interviewed Keith Corp. and state officials in at least two departments.

The costly impact of Republican governing

Shifting burdens down to the local level:

Tax cuts and tax shifts. Business accounting depends on actually balancing revenues and expenses. Not so for our governor and legislature. Budgeting is a shell game to them. Cuts to state taxes and programs simply shift the costs to property taxes and sales taxes with 80 percent of us paying more.

As a candidate for local municipal office, I've had to familiarize myself with small-town budgeting. In many ways it's more complicated than a 750 page state budget, because you just don't have as many "baskets" of money to shift around. That was the case even before the General Assembly rolled up their sleeves and got serious about smothering local governments, and now the word "complicated" just doesn't cover it anymore. And it's not just a lack of respect for municipal governments; These steps are intended to bring hardship to the citizenry, because they will very likely strike out against local council members as a result, and not their Legislative representatives. Resulting in a wave of (even more) business-friendly local governments, ready, willing, and able to surrender their responsibilities to the private sector. While it is very clever, it is also the antithesis of Democracy. More painful cost-shifts:

Friday News: Justice for $ale edition

N.C. Supreme Court race drove big spending (Raleigh News & Observer) -- North Carolina was second in U.S. for spending on judicial elections in 2014

N.C. No. 2 in judicial election spending, report says (Triangle Business Journal) - North Carolina was second only to Michigan in the total amount spent on judicial elections during the most recent election cycle.

Campaign update: Missing yard signs and yellow journalism

Five days remaining, until an unknown yet statistically tiny percent of our Town's voters will choose their government. When the dust settled after the initial filing period, and I realized all three incumbents whose seats were up for grabs were intent on keeping those seats, I knew I was in for an uphill climb. All three of these guys had been through multiple (successful) campaigns, and were well-known, at least to the small group of stalwart voters that turn out for these local elections. That being said, I honestly do not know what to expect come Tuesday. Somebody once told me, "When they start to steal your signs, that means they're afraid you might be getting some of their votes." But I'm pretty sure the person that told me that had lost 2-3 elections in the past. So there's that. :)

Carolina Rising to the apex of political corruption

Doug Clark speaks to the problem:

If you or I give more than $50 to a candidate's campaign, our name, address and occupation must be reported and available for public scrutiny. The idea behind that level of accountability is that people should know who's trying to influence our government.

Yet it's no concern of anyone who gives $5 million — or $5 billion, for that matter — to one of these independent, nonpolitical organizations for exactly the same purpose of electing a candidate.

It's hard to believe people haven't taken to the streets to demand the identity of the wealthy ghost who wrote a check for almost $5 million to get Tillis elected, or that they aren't screaming at Tillis himself. People rant and rave about how politicians are bought and paid for, but they watch a television ad "paid for by Carolina Rising" and then go out and vote for the candidate this mystery group tells them to. Yes, our two-party system is partly to blame for that logical disconnect, but those voters should still be curious. And every time they see one of these ads, the curiosity should grow:

Thursday News: Probing Meadows edition


Group seeks ethics probe of Meadows (Asheville Citizen-Times) -- The American Democracy Legal Fund is requesting a congressional ethics investigation of 11th District U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows, R-Jackson, saying he did not do enough about sexual harassment allegations against a former chief of staff and that severance payments to the staffer violated House rules.

Christensen on Spellings: "Nothing to see here, folks."

Another round of false equivalencies and historic rationalizations:

But if you look at the backgrounds of past UNC presidents, you will find they are diverse lot – businessmen and college administrators, liberals and conservatives. None have had a Ph.D. Several have been deeply involved in politics. Few had any classroom teaching experience.

When the UNC Board of Governors or their predecessors have searched for a new president, they have not looked for one particular model. Undoubtedly some of the skepticism about Spellings is political. Much of the left feels about George W. Bush about the way the right feels about Barack Obama. Anybody closely associated with either man is immediately suspect by those who hold opposing views.

Once again, Rob puts forward the theory that public opinion is based mostly on a "shallow" analysis of a person or policy, and if only we had his vast experience keeping score in the political arena we could grasp the truths that elude us. And once again, he fails to mention the most damning characteristics of the subject in question: Her history of leading the largest and most disreputable conglomeration of for-profit online universities in the country, which have bilked students and parents out of billions in tuition over the years, and her openly bigoted stance dealing with LGBT rights. Both of those characteristics set her widely apart from previous Presidents of the UNC System, and both should have been dis-qualifiers for the job. Once again, Rob, politics is not a sport, where you compare earned run averages or free-throw percentages. It has a real-world impact on the lives of the people of our state, and Margaret Spellings has the potential to do great harm to the tens of thousands trying to reach their potential via the UNC System. They are the ones who need to be given a chance, not her.

Wednesday News: Poor, pitiful Pat edition


McCrory criticized in TV ad for shale gas exploration (AP) — A coalition of environmental groups is on television again, criticizing Gov. Pat McCrory for signing bills into law designed to encourage a type of shale gas exploration in North Carolina called fracking.

NC Governor's Mansion Site of Persistent Protests (TWCN-TV) -- Hispanic residents and their supporters have been protesting outside the North Carolina governor's mansion most evenings this month in hopes of persuading Pat McCrory to veto a bill still on his desk from the General Assembly session.


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