Al Gore Tours NC
Al Gore on 2-day tour of NC focusing on ‘ecological justice’
WNCT // WNCN // August 13, 2018
Summary: Former Vice President Al Gore and Reverend Dr. William Barber kicked off their two-day “Ecological Justice Organizing Tour” on Sunday in Wayne County. The duo is touring communities across the state that they say have been directly impacted by toxic waste contamination. “We all need clean air,” Gore said. “We all need clean water. We all need the jobs that can be created in our communities by shifting to solar and wind.” The pair started their tour on Sunday in Goldsboro. “North Carolina also doesn’t just have to be number one in basketball,” said Barber. “We can be number one in environmental justice.” In 2015 Duke Energy pleaded guilty to violating the Clean Water Act by illegally discharging pollution from coal-ash dumps at five North Carolina power plants. One of those plants is in Goldsboro. “For the longest, a lot of people were still drinking the water,” said Michael Thomas Carraway, who lives in Goldsboro and helped organize the Down East Coal Ash Coalition. “So, you got all these toxins floating in the water and especially around a plant, a lot of people live off of well water and so drinking, eating, bathing.” Gore said better water monitoring is needed. “We need policies and laws that require them to monitor what’s happening to the drinking water,” said Gore. “We need a requirement that they need to not just cover it on top, but cover it underneath so that it doesn’t continue leaching down into the groundwater and rivers and then we need to stop making so much of it.”
Legislative Power Grab Fires Up Ex-NC Governors
5 ex-North Carolina governors rebuke lawmakers on amendments
WRAL // Gary D. Robertson // August 13, 2018
Summary: North Carolina’s five living former governors delivered an extraordinary rebuke Monday to the Republican-dominated legislature for two constitutional amendments that lawmakers put on the fall ballot, saying they would shred gubernatorial power and government checks and balances if approved. The ex-governors — three Democrats and two Republicans — gathered for a rare appearance in the old Capitol, urging voters to defeat the two November ballot questions. Democrats Jim Hunt, Mike Easley and Beverly Perdue and Republicans Jim Martin and Pat McCrory served from 1977 through 2016. Some would appear to be unlikely allies. Perdue narrowly defeated McCrory in the 2008 gubernatorial election. “It would be a mistake to say this is a partisan fight between Republicans and Democrats. It’s worse — it’s legislators versus governor,” said Martin, governor from 1985 to 1993. Hunt, a four-term governor who left office in 2001, added the amendments are “really about whether or not a few politicians in the legislature will increase their power at the expense of the people of North Carolina.”
Courthouse News Service // Erika Williams // August 13, 2018
Summary: All living former North Carolina governors unified on Monday to protest two power-shifting constitutional amendments proposed by the General Assembly for the November ballot. If passed, the two amendments would transfer power of appointment from the governor to the state’s legislative branch. Former Governors Mike Easley, Jim Hunt, Jim Martin, Pat McCrory and Bev Perdue crossed party lines this morning to assemble at the old State Capitol Building in Raleigh for a press conference centered around their collective opposition to two of the six proposed ballot questions in the referendum. One of the contested amendments combines the Board of Elections and Ethics Committee and gives appointment authority to the Legislature over about 350 boards and commissions.
‘Don’t hijack our constitution,’ McCrory says as all 5 ex-governors blast power shift
Republican legislators violated a candidate’s constitutional rights, judge rules
N&O // Paul Specht // August 13, 2018
Summary: It usually takes a fancy event or a funeral for all five of North Carolina’s living former governors to convene. On Monday, they congregated at the old Capitol in downtown Raleigh to warn voters about a pair of proposed constitutional amendments that would weaken the governor’s office and shift power to the legislature. The proposals are two of six amendments scheduled for the ballot this fall. One of them would limit the governor’s authority to fill judicial vacancies. The other would grant the legislature — not the governor — the ability to set up a new state elections board and make appointments to state boards and commissions that have historically been made by the governor. Reporters from across the state huddled behind antique desks in the former House chambers as former governors Pat McCrory, Bev Perdue, Mike Easley, Jim Hunt and Jim Martin stood shoulder-to-shoulder behind a podium. Republicans Martin and McCrory offered some of the sharpest criticisms of the amendments’ Republican authors.
5 ex-North Carolina governors gather to oppose 2 amendments
ABC 11 // Jonah Kaplan // August 13, 2018
Summary: North Carolina’s five living former governors on Monday delivered an extraordinary rebuke of the Republican-dominated legislature for two constitutional amendments it put on fall ballots, saying they would shred gubernatorial power and government checks and balances if approved. The ex-governors – three Democrats and two Republicans who served a combined 40 years – gathered for a rare appearance in the old Capitol, urging voters to defeat the referendums, among the six that lawmakers are submitting to voters. Democrats Jim Hunt, Mike Easley and Beverly Perdue and Republicans Jim Martin and Pat McCrory served from 1977 through 2016. Some would appear to be unlikely allies. Perdue narrowly defeated McCrory in the 2008 gubernatorial election.
NC Supreme Court
N&O // Will Doran // August 13, 2018
Summary: A judge threw out a new state law Monday, ruling that it violated the constitutional rights of at least two politicians whose 2018 campaigns the law had targeted. Chris Anglin, a Republican candidate for a seat on the North Carolina Supreme Court, had sued the legislature along with Rebecca Edwards, a Democrat who is running to become a district court judge in Wake County. Earlier this summer, the legislature passed a new law that would have prevented Anglin or Edwards from being able to have their party affiliations on the ballot. They argued that the law unfairly targeted them because their competitors in this November’s elections would still have their own parties listed on the ballot. Anglin, who is believed to have been the main target of the new law, is one of two Republicans running for the Supreme Court seat against a single Democratic candidate.
Manning is in control already of the issues
Greensboro N&R // LTE // August 12, 2018
Summary: Congressional candidate Kathy Manning doesn’t speak in taglines or mottos or platitudes when she talks about the issues. Listening to her speak, you quickly realize that she’s already done a deep dive on the issues at hand. It’s as though she has already assumed this post, and she’s already working on solutions to problems she will be tasked with in office. She will hit the ground sprinting. There is an intensity there; it’s palpable. There’s excitement around her. She has my vote come November. She listens to the people around her, whoever shows up. She takes in what people say and she responds. You see a spark in her eye when she is gaining new information. She listens to people’s stories and asks for more details. She steadily gathers information. If you hear her speak more than once, you can tell she’s expanded on what she knows from the last time. Kathy has momentum. It’s unmistakable. It’s about the constituents. That’s her focus, that’s who she’ll be beholden to. She’s not taking big PAC money. She won’t get to D.C. owing favors to special interests. For her, it’s about service to the constituents of 13th Congressional District.
Voter fraud case offers no records
Rocky Mount Telegram // Lindell John Kay // August 12, 2018
Summary: Federal, state and local officials won’t reveal the party affiliation of a Nash County man sent to prison last week on charges of voter fraud. Roberto Hernandez-Cuarenta, 57, was sentenced to four months in prison on two counts of voting by an alien. He is a Mexican citizen who has lived legally in the United States for more than two decades. Prosecutors said Hernandez-Cuarenta voted in the 2012 and 2016 presidential elections. Hernandez-Cuarenta’s party affiliation wasn’t used in court so it won’t be released, said Don Connelly, public information officer for the U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District of North Carolina. It wasn’t immediately clear how prosecutors could win a successful conviction without entering into evidence Hernandez-Cuarenta’s voting record, which includes party affiliation. Hernandez-Cuarenta lives on U.S. 264A in Zebulon. A small portion of Zebulon sits within southern Nash County, where Hernandez-Cuarenta was registered to vote. Staff at the Nash County Board of Elections was unable to find Hernandez-Cuarenta’s voting records on Friday.
Patrick Ganonn, the public information officer for the State Board of Elections, said he couldn’t locate the records either.
An assault on minority voting continues in North Carolina
WAPO // Editorial Board // August 12, 2018
Summary: WHEN ELECTION officials in North Carolina audited the 2016 vote, they found 441 ballots had been cast by felons on probation or parole who voted despite a state law barring them from the polls until their sentences are complete. Those votes were illegal, but most state prosecutors sensibly declined to bring charges on the grounds that the offenders didn’t know the law, weren’t alerted to their ineligibility and didn’t realize they had done anything wrong. Not so in Alamance County, a small locality in the Piedmont where a dozen individuals convicted of felonies, nine of them African Americans, cast votes. There, the Republican district attorney, Pat Nadolski, has gone forward with prosecutions that reflect his own lack of judgment while reminding the nation of North Carolina’s recent poisonous racial history. In North Carolina, where 70 percent of the population is white, blacks represent a hugely disproportionate share of convicted felons and incarcerated people. African Americans make up more than two-thirds of the 441 citizens statewide identified as having voted illegally.
Voting Rights Advocates Used to Have an Ally in the Government. That’s Changing.
WAPO // Michael Wines // August 12, 2018
Summary: A new voter ID law could shut out many Native Americans from the polls in North Dakota. A strict rule on the collection of absentee ballots in Arizona is being challenged as a form of voter suppression. And officials in Georgia are scrubbing voters from registration rolls if their details do not exactly match other records, a practice that voting rights groups say unfairly targets minority voters. During the Obama administration, the Justice Department would often go to court to stop states from taking steps like those. But 18 months into President Trump’s term, there are signs of change: The department has launched no new efforts to roll back state restrictions on the ability to vote, and instead often sides with them. With support from the Justice Department under Mr. Obama, lawyers were steadily persuading federal courts to invalidate district boundaries in states like Alabama, Texas and Virginia that were drawn to reduce minority voters’ influence. Voter ID laws and other restrictions in North Carolina, Texas and other states were struck down with the department’s help. Some of those legal victories have already been undone. A federal court in Texas had found that the state intentionally crippled minority voting power when it drew new state legislative and congressional districts in 2011. The same court found that replacement maps the state drew also were discriminatory. But in the Supreme Court this year, the Justice Department argued that the new districts were legal, and the justices largely agreed.
What to expect from Tuesday’s EPA event on GenX, other chemicals
StarNews // Adam Wagner // August 12, 2018
Summary: In its effort to determine what steps to take on per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), the Environmental Protection Agency will visit Fayetteville on Tuesday. The all-day event will feature wide-ranging discussions, as well as a five-hour public comment period. North Carolina residents have been exposed to PFAS chemicals ranging from GenX in the Cape Fear River to PFOA in firefighting foam on military bases to PFOS in drinking water in Greensboro. Tuesday’s meeting represents a chance for governments and communities to help shape the EPA’s response to the contamination.
Protesters blame Chemours, DuPont for health problems
Fayetteville Observer // Michael Futch // August 11, 2018
Summary: “Give Us Clean Air and Water” read a handmade sign that Rebekah Cain Saenz held up by the side of the highway. Beside her, a fellow protester displayed the words “Stop Chemours” from an upright placard. Occasionally, a truck driver or motorist honked in support while barrelling by on N.C. 87 North. Eight people had gathered just after noon Saturday at the corner of N.C. 87 and County Line Road, which serves as the main entrance to the Fayetteville Works site. There, along the Cape Fear River, Chemours and DuPont are among the three companies that produce various products. Some of the products contain fluorochemical compounds, which research has shown can cause cancer and disrupt sexual development in lab animals. The health effects of one of these compounds, GenX, on humans remain controversial. Saenz, who is 30, is a stay-at-home mother who lives in Hope Mills. She’s no newcomer to this cause. She’s tied to it by family. “This is home to me. This is where I grew up,” Saenz said, referring to Pages Lake Road by Camp Dixie. “For over 100 years, my family has had a family farm in this community. I believe clean air and clean water are basic human rights, and I believe they have been taken away from us.”
Calling health care a right, most NC influencers say expand Medicaid, keep Obamacare
N&O // John Murawski // August 11, 2018
Summary: The soaring cost of health care, which leaves too many families without health insurance coverage or forces households to choose costly medical coverage over other necessities, is one of the biggest challenges facing the state, according to a survey of some of the state’s thought leaders. Among the 48 leaders who answered this week’s North Carolina Influencers survey, a consensus emerged that the inability of residents to afford health care is an economic impediment to local businesses and national prosperity, and a moral indictment of an affluent society. And a number of the influencers from a wide range of backgrounds — political, business, academic and faith communities — believe that health care is so important to the state and to the nation that it should be treated as a moral obligation for society to provide to its citizens. Some even went so far as to say that health care is a basic human right, implied in the U.S. Declaration of Independence affirmation that all people are endowed with the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
UNC’s obsession with secrecy is hurting it
N&O // Editorial Board // August 13, 2018
Summary: In Tom Fetzer’s defense of his recent actions as a member of the UNC Board of Governors, he was right about one matter: Secrecy is not paramount in the search for a new chancellor at one of our state universities. Fetzer, in a column published by The News & Observer, defended his involvement in the search for a new chancellor at Western Carolina University. In our view, his actions were meddlesome and indicative of the larger problem of some board members being too involved in campus matters. We agreed with some current and former board members that Fetzer’s handling of the matter did not represent good board governance. But we agree with an important point Fetzer made involving the misplaced and almost obsessive desire for secrecy when searching for the leader of one of our state universities. Fetzer noted that UNC President Margaret Spellings had been quoted recently as saying, “Confidentiality is paramount in the search process.’
Former UNC board members concerned about current board’s ‘bad governance’
WRAL // CBC Opinion // August 10, 2018
Summary: Good governance can take many shapes and forms, depending on the organization and circumstance, and is not always easy to see or detect. Bad governance is different – like many things, you know it when you see it. And what we saw at a recent meeting of the UNC Board of Governors was clearly bad governance.
- First, an individual board member took it upon himself to retain a third party to do a background check on the UNC President’s recommended candidate for Chancellor of Western Carolina University.
- Second, a committee chairperson allowed the unanimous recommendation of a candidate by her committee and her President to be overturned by the board without returning it to the President or the committee for their input and recommendation. This inappropriate action severely undermined both.
9 investigates: Duke Energy looks to recycle millions of tons of coal ash
WSOC // Brittney Johnson // August 13, 2018
Summary: Duke Energy is racing to meet a state mandate to recycle millions of tons of coal ash. For years. Channel 9 has covered the push to get the company to clean up coal ash, and Duke Energy’s attempts to raise customer rates to pay for it. Now, there’s new technology that some environmentalists say could solve the problem. Bill McMahan, CEO of Nu-Rock Technologies, is confident he has the solution. “Once this is in the market, people building houses and condos and all the rest would much rather be building with this,” McMahon said. Nu-Rock takes coal ash, the residue left after burning coal, and recycles it into bricks and pavers, and it does so using chemicals alone, no heat. North Carolina alone has more than 100 million tons of coal ash.
Our view: Rollback of mileage standards would be harmful
Winston-Salem Journal // Editorial Board // August 11, 2018
Summary: Rolling back federal limits on tailpipe emissions and mileage standards for cars is a bad idea that will do lasting damage. Wisely, attorneys general from 19 states — including North Carolina’s Josh Stein — and the District of Columbia are working together to block the Trump administration’s latest assault on the environment, health and ordinary consumers. A draft rule released by the federal Environmental Protection Agency would halt the considerable progress that’s being made under standards imposed during the Obama administration. Working with the automakers, the Obama administration devised an agreement for standards for model years through 2025. The standards were designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the consumption of oil. They also would have saved drivers money as they began to drive newer, more fuel-efficient vehicles. Early in 2017, the EPA’s review of how the plan was working found that the standards were realistic and automakers should be able to achieve those set for model years 2022 through 2025.
Western NC Mudslides Recovery
Polk County mudslides: Residents recover while FEMA deliberates
Blue Ridge Now // Derek Lacey // August 11, 2018
Summary: Rocks and trees have been cleared from the highway, and tons of dirt and debris have been trucked off from the area around Pam and Ron Ward’s home on Highway 176 in Tryon. But repairing the damage done by flooding and mudslides in May is far from over. As the Wards and their neighbors continue to dig themselves out, Polk County leaders wait for a disaster declaration that could mean federal funding to help with getting the county back to normal. N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper formally requested the declaration for 13 Western North Carolina counties in a letter to President Donald Trump in late July. Earlier this week, U.S. Sens. Richard Burr and Thom Tillis threw their weight behind the request, sending a letter to FEMA Administrator Brock Long in support of declaring a major disaster as a result of the rain, flooding and related damage the last two weeks of May.
N.C DMV Wait Times
There’s no excuse for these DMV lines
DMV seeks volunteers to help with long lines at driver’s license offices
N&O // Richard Stradling // August 13, 2018
Summary: The long lines at Division of Motor Vehicles driver’s license offices across the state have prompted the DMV to ask for volunteers — to hand out bottles of cold water to customers waiting in line. The DMV sent an email to all state Department of Transportation employees on Monday afternoon asking them to volunteer for four-hour shifts at driver’s license offices in North Carolina. It was sent on behalf of DMV Commissioner Torre Jessup, who acknowledged last week that customers at many DMV offices have been waiting for hours to see someone. “We need your help!” the email begins. “Commissioner Jessup is requesting volunteers to hand out water at the Driver License offices that are experiencing excessively long wait times and lines over the next four (4) weeks. It is four (4) hour shifts any day you can volunteer. “Providing GREAT customer service is our goal, and we need your help to achieve this mission,” the email continued. It concluded: “We appreciate everyone’s efforts as we try to improve customer service and wait times.”
N&O // Colin Campbell // August 10, 2018
Summary: If you haven’t been to the DMV lately, prepare to be unpleasantly surprised. Everyone’s favorite state agency has upped its game and now offers an even more hellish experience. I’m writing this column while sitting cross-legged on the floor at a DMV office. State leaders have been urging people to get their REAL ID well in advance of the October 2020 deadline when it’ll be required for air travel, so I’m trying to get mine. I’ve been told to expect a three-hour wait before employees can scan my four required identification documents and issue the ID. I ventured out to the Clayton location because it’s one of the DMV’s least busy offices. Other DMV customers have been forced to wait in long lines outside in the blazing August heat for nearly an entire day, according to Twitter posts. I basically won the lottery by getting an indoor spot on the floor. DMV officials are blaming the federal REAL ID requirement for the insane lines and waits, coupled with the usual summer traffic from teenagers looking to get their driver’s license before school starts.