North Carolina editorial roundup
Recent editorials from North Carolina newspapers:
The Charlotte Observer on the 2020 Republican National Convention:
Vice President Mike Pence came to Charlotte this week for a 2020 Republican National Convention kickoff event. The visit was a reminder of the discomfort many feel in this progressive city about the 2020 RNC — an uneasiness so deep that Mayor Vi Lyles said last summer that she wouldn’t give a welcoming speech at the convention.
We think she should. Here’s what she could say:
As the mayor of this beautiful city, I’d like to welcome the Republican National Convention to Charlotte. We’re a Southern city, so we know a little about how to host a party. By the time you leave, I think you’ll understand why 100 people a day decide that they want to stay in Charlotte a lot longer than a week.
But today I want to ask you a question: Why are you here?
We think there are a lot of good reasons. The RNC chose Charlotte because we’re a growing city, a vibrant city with much to do and see. Like many cities, that growth and vibrancy is rooted in our diversity. Charlotte is a city of different faiths, different ethnicities and, yes, different ways of looking at life. It’s something we welcome.
One of the things I cherish about Charlotte is its blend of immigrants, old and new, who help our economy, add to our worldview and simply make this place more interesting. You’ll experience that richness in ways big and small during your time here, including where you eat. This is not just a town of meat-and-threes, but a city where descendents of Greece and the Caribbean, of Africa and South America bring their food, work ethic and culture to the rest of us.
But these days, your party and your president don’t seem very interested in those contributions. The GOP’s policies, including those involving legal immigrants, seek to exclude many of the people we embrace and value as neighbors.
Similarly, your party and your president have advocated for policies and laws that would treat members of the LGBTQ community as something lesser. In our city, they are not only welcome, but vital, and we believe they should be protected from the pain of public discrimination.
So I ask again: Why are you here?
You could have gone to one of the many lovely rural communities that share Republican values, but you didn’t. I’m sure it doesn’t hurt that our light rail line makes Charlotte pretty easy to navigate for a big city, or that our greenways and green space offer different ways to enjoy Charlotte’s beauty. We believe that to do great things, you need public investment in infrastructure and industry and, critically, in education. I’m pleased to say that many corporate CEOs who call Charlotte home agree with those principles. It’s possible to be both pro-business and pro-people.
Make no mistake, Charlotte is far from a perfect city. We struggle with crime, with inequity in schools and uneven economic opportunity. But we strive to understand the roots of our flaws, and we want to take on the hard work to correct them. Most importantly, we believe that everyone has a role in doing so, and that everyone benefits.
I know many of you here today might feel differently, and that’s OK. If you ever have the pleasure of attending one of our City Council meetings, you’d see that our diverse voices often don’t agree. We’re a city that grapples with where we’ve been and where we’re going. But we know we don’t want to go backward, and we don’t fear all the colors of change.
So ask yourself: Why are you here, this week, in Charlotte? The food, the culture, the energy — so many of the things you find appealing about our city are rooted in the people and principles you fight against. I don’t expect a week here to change your mind, but I hope that as we welcome you to our city, you can welcome us, too. Our future, together, will be better for it.
The News & Observer of Raleigh on state budget:
A state budget is a spending plan, but the proposal the state Senate’s Republican majority presented Tuesday is better described as an anti-spending plan. It is an unalloyed version of Senate leader Phil Berger’s iron-rule of government: Cut taxes and spend the absolute minimum. If there’s any cash left over, stuff it into a reserve fund and call it prudence.
The total proposed two-year Senate budget comes in at $23.9 billion, almost comically teetering on the dreaded edge of $24 billion, a line the frugal senators could not be brought to cross. By contrast, Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s proposed budget calls for $25.2 billion in state spending with no new taxes. The NC Budget & Tax Center estimates that if state spending was at the 45-year average level — about 6 percent of the state’s economy — the state budget would now be about $29 billion.
For Berger, those differences are simply the gap between Democrats freely spending other peoples’ money and his disciplined approach of spending the least possible in order to cut taxes. At a Tuesday news conference at the Legislative Building, Berger stood flanked by his caucus members and declared that, “This budget continues the policies that brought about our North Carolina success story.”
But the proposed budget testifies against that sweeping claim. If austerity and tax cuts are driving North Carolina’s success, why does the budget call for boosting teacher pay by 3.5 percent over two years? It’s because the reality has become undeniable — especially with an election year coming: North Carolina’s teachers have been underpaid since Republicans took control of the General Assembly in 2011. (The governor’s budget calls for a pay raise of 9.1 percent over two years.)
Why do Senate Republicans now want to give teachers $300 a year for school supplies and spend another $12 million on textbooks and digital resources? It’s because teachers have been outfitting their classrooms at their own expense and schools have been lacking for textbooks and other basic resources.
Why is there an sudden boost in pay for state corrections officers? Because the state prisons have been chronically underfunded. Some have officer vacancy rates of over 20 percent and officers are required to work overtime to fill the gap.
Why does the Senate proposal ask for a 5 percent pay raise for state employees over the next two years? It’s because the legislature paid for its past tax cuts in part by allowing state pay to lose ground to inflation.
Why would the Senate budget allot $4.5 million to recruit medical doctors, dentists and nurses to rural areas and $15 million to expand broadband in rural areas? It’s because the much of rural North Carolina is not sharing in the “North Carolina success story.” The state’s urban-rural divide is growing under policies that stress tax cuts over investment in economic development.
The most significant aspect of the Senate Republicans’ budget is what it lacks: funding to expand Medicaid. Thirty-seven other states have seen the value of accepting billions of federal dollars to expand Medicaid. In North Carolina expansion could create an estimated 40,000 jobs and provide health insurance for 500,000 people.
The governor will likely veto any budget bill that lacks Medicaid expansion. Then the haggling will begin. But the Senate’s opening bid suggests North Carolina will face another year of getting less than it needs. But such a condition, by the Senate Republicans’ reckoning, is the price of success.
The News & Record of Greensboro on a confederate statue at UNC-Chapel Hill
Give Harry Smith credit for being willing to do his homework and change his mind.
Smith, the usually outspoken and politically conservative chairman of the University of North Carolina Board of Governors, emerged from a recent board meeting and told reporters that his thinking about what to do about the “Silent Sam” statue has “evolved.”
He no longer favors restoring that Confederate monument to its prominent post on the UNC Chapel Hill campus.
Maybe being on the UNC board has helped to educate him.
Smith’s new stance is a welcome change in the controversy that’s roiled over Silent Sam — a controversy that already has contributed to the resignations of two top administrators, UNC System President Margaret Spellings and Carol Folt, who was the chancellor at Chapel Hill.
Both resigned amid the acrimonious debate about what to do after protesters knocked down Silent Sam last August.
The Board of Governors told Folt and the UNC-Chapel Hill trustees to figure out what to do with the toppled statue.
Trying to come up with a reasonable plan was nearly impossible, however, because the Republican-dominated state legislature had passed a law in 2015 that basically forbids the removal of such monuments from public spaces, unless they are relocated to a similarly prominent and accessible spot.
With their hands effectively tied, the trustees’ solution was anything but reasonable. They proposed building a $5.3 million UNC history museum on campus, ensconcing Silent Sam in it, and paying big bucks for security to protect the statue.
The Board of Governors said no and called for a new plan. We’re still waiting to see that.
Smith, along with a number of other conservative members of the board, had been in favor of restoring Sam to its original location.
That would only have led to more outrage, and likely more violence.
It’s now widely understood that the statue was erected during the Jim Crow era as a monument not to Civil War dead but to racial oppression. It’s unacceptable for it to have a place of honor on any campus.
Some supporters of putting Silent Sam back argue that doing so would be a statement against “mob” rule and political correctness. In reality, putting Sam back up would be commemorating a much worse kind of mob rule.
At his news conference, Smith said that his original opinion in favor of putting Silent Sam back where it had been was “probably quick and uneducated.”
He’s right about that.
Smith went on to say, commendably, that since then he’s gone out of his way to talk to a lot of people whose opinions he values, and that those discussions have shown him what was wrong with his first impulse.
Smith said he now thinks the right path is to take plenty of time to make the right decision.
Giving legislators time and impetus to change the law would be a great idea.
One good approach would be to put Silent Sam in a corner of an existing museum, with an explanation about what the monument meant and why it’s no longer on the Chapel Hill campus.
It could be useful to learn from our troubled history.
Meanwhile, good for Chairman Smith for being willing to investigate, think more deeply about this issue and admit when he’s been wrong.