Archive for North Carolina

Another day in Wake County Superior Court yesterday in the case of “Moffitt v. Asheville,” Judge Howard Manning Jr. presiding. Rep. Tim Moffitt and Rep. Chuck McGrady, R-Henderson were on hand for the hearing in the lawsuit challenging Moffitt’s “Regionalization of Public Utilities” law that forcibly transfers control of Asheville’s water system to a new regional authority.

Much hinges on whether or not Moffitt’s bill was deliberately written to evade the state’s constitutional ban in Article 2, Sec. 24 on enacting local legislation “relating to health, sanitation, and the abatement of nuisances.” Asheville activist Barry Summers was there to remind attendees — graphically — not of the water system’s history, but of the legislation’s.

While both McGrady and Moffitt watched the proceedings in court, Asheville’s attorney Dan Clodfelter disagreed with the state’s assertion that the bill was not local in nature. An attorney with the Charlotte-based law firm Moore and Van Allen, Clodfelter himself served as a state senator until last month, when he was named the mayor of Charlotte.

The bill does not specifically name the city of Asheville. But Clodfelter said it was clear that was lawmakers’ intent, rather than creating a statewide bill with a general set of principles to administer.

“Our constitution says what it says,” Manning said, indicating that the constitutional question was the crux of the case. Expect an appeal, however Manning rules.

Moffitt v. Asheville is a style of legal shenanigans we have seen emerge over the last decade from Wall Street to Jones Street to Pennsylvania Avenue. That is, to push the limits of the law to the breaking point and beyond, to knowingly step over the line and — using the law itself for cover — to arrogantly dare anyone to push back. If no one does, or if they do and fail, those who twist the law to their own ends succeed, and the boundary between the legal and the criminal moves again, and not in the direction of the public good. Rinse, repeat. Thus, torture becomes “enhanced interrogation,” fraudulent securities become top-rated investments, and public investments in schools, water systems, highways and airports slowly become the private wealth of oligarchs. Like watching an accident in which everything goes into slow motion, it is happening before our very eyes. Because it transpires in remote meeting rooms under color of law, we the people are not supposed to notice.

(Original post has been corrected. Rep. Nathan Ramsey was not in attendance Friday, but was cited in reporting as an original sponsor of the water bill.)

May
23

Friday Open Thread

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Friday, yes, but not without a little Moral Monday.

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May
22

Snip, Snip Here

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Snip, snip here
Snip, snip there
We serve the brothers Koch
That’s why we slash without a care
In the merry old land of Pope

This was the headline two weeks ago, as the governor’s structural deficit began to bite:

Budget disaster of gigantic proportions looms over North Carolina

Justifying the NCGOP’s ongoing war on cities, of course:

House approves tax on e-cigarettes and caps tax on local businesses

The $100 cap on local privilege taxes pitted supporters who wanted to cut the taxes on businesses against critics who worried about the millions that some cities and towns would lose for essential services, such as police, fire and public recreation.

And more, of course:

NCCAT, NC’s premier professional development center for teachers, faces the chopping block

I never put this in a front page post, so to repeat a comment from last June:

What we’re seeing is an extension of the GOP’s “defund the left” strategy of undermining the largest concentrations of manpower and funding that support Democrats. First they went after private-sector unions, then public-sector unions, and teachers, firefighters, trial lawyers, etc. Then with Voter ID they attacked seniors, college students and minorities.

Now, in NC they’re attacking cities. That’s where the large concentrations of Democratic votes are. So they are working to weaken them economically and politically. They’ve taken away control of Asheville’s airport. They’re working on Charlotte’s. They’ve forced district County Commission elections on Buncombe and will do the same with Asheville City Council. Collectively, Republicans in Raleigh are hoping to weaken the D’s hold and render the city irrelevant in future state and local elections. And with redistricting, they’ve isolated Asheville in House 114 and won’t even bother running candidates for now.

They’ve legislatively taken Asheville’s water system to blow a huge hole in the city budget, leaving the city with two choices: cut services or raise taxes. Prices for water and sewer will likely rise. After a couple of cycles, Republicans will be running candidates who blame the city’s troubles troubles on “mismanagement and waste” by Democrats and counting on voters to forget by then who precipitated the crisis in the first place.

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May
13

PAC Ad Tags Thom Tillis

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With the primaries over, North Carolina’s U.S. Senate race pits incumbent Democrat Sen. Kay Hagan against NC House Speaker Rep. Thom Tillis. In this His record presents a target-rich environment

Senate Majority PAC went immediately after NC House Speaker Rep. Thom Tillis last week, filming its first post-primary ad at Tillis’ victory party on Tuesday and releasing it Friday. Tillis clinched the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate and will face incumbent Democrat Sen. Kay Hagan in the fall.

Senate Majority PAC is spending $850,000 to air the ad for two weeks statewide on broadcast and cable stations. It brings the outside group’s total spending to $4.4 million in the North Carolina Senate race, adding to ads it aired earlier this year to boost Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan and attack Tillis.

Thomas Mills at Politics NC blog calls the ad “ballsy.”

It’s a great spot. The narrator is approachable and is talking to the audience, not at them. The concept is creative, attention-grabbing, and unique. The message is strong and begins to define Tillis’ “conservative revolution.” The legislature is too conservative for this purple state and Tillis needs to own his actions.

If Tillis doesn’t, someone else us ready to do it for him.

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(Cross-posted from Thomas Mills’ Politics North Carolina.)

Guest blogger Gerrick Brenner is Executive Director of Progress NC .

How many Republican state lawmakers does it take to defend the GOP’s cuts to our public schools?  Apparently at a town hall meeting in his own district, House Rep. Tim Moffitt of Buncombe County knew he could not do it alone.

There was Moffitt Thursday night in a high school gym that was packed with about a thousand parents, teachers, and students.  They wanted answers on repeated decisions in Raleigh to cut public schools.  Many of these folks were Moffitt’s constituents. It was a chance for Moffitt to speak directly to voters on the hotest issue in state politics – public education. Instead, Moffitt brought in other seemingly anonymous GOP lawmakers from 150 miles away for help.  But Moffitt’s bullpen only made matters worse.

Virtually no one in this Asheville gym had ever heard of House Reps. Bill Brawley of Mecklenburg or Craig Horn of Union Counties.  No one had ever seen their names on a Buncombe County ballot.  But there they were, trying to carry water for Moffitt in front of an audience that was clearly agitated to hear Brawley claim the GOP had passed the largest education budget in state history.  People groaned. Brawley started lecturing in a condescending tone reserved only for politicians who don’t really care because they are speaking to someone else’s voters. No one was buying it. Some started heckling.

Rep. Horn came next and explained he was Chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Education.  People were more interested in cuts to their children’s classrooms than the politician’s job title.  Horn rolled out a now familiar accounting claim that North Carolina is actually 10th in the nation in education spending if you don’t count local dollars. People shook their heads, and Horn finally admitted on some of the GOP decisions on education funding:  “We screwed up.  We’re going to fix it.”

Most in attendance had to wonder, “Just who are these guys?  Where did they come?  And why isn’t our own Representative leading this conversation on our public schools.”  Moffitt, of course, is the lawmaker who once said in a legislative committee in Raleigh:  “I’m very suspect of early childhood education.  I’m very suspect of education in general.”  This time, he hoped to import some politicians who are more seasoned at talking about schools.  Instead, all three looked like the GOP is out of answers.

Other local Republican lawmakers spoke after Moffitt, but they too sounded almost apologetic in the high school gym.  

Yes, Republicans will likely offer some kind of teacher pay raise in the short session, which starts this week.  But it’s likely too little and too late.  Their tax cuts have dug a $445M budget hole.  Any miserly one-time pay raise they offer for teachers will make hardly a dent in North Carolina’s embarrassing ranking of 46th in the nation in teacher pay.  And if lawmakers like Moffitt need to wheel in other politicians to explain the cuts to public schools, the voters and media will quickly come to see that the folks they send to Raleigh are not really engaged in a top priority. 

NC facing $445M revenue shortfall

RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina government now faces a $445 million revenue shortfall when the fiscal year ends June 30, state budget analysts estimated Friday, raising more hurdles to Republicans’ efforts to give pay raises to all teachers and state employees.

In fact, Gov. Pat McCrory may already have created a structural deficit.

Rachel Maddow last night explored how Kansas’s massive tax cut has not worked out so well, either. That — “surprise” — if you cut out all the revenue, it leaves a big hole in the state’s budget for funding needful things like the public schools mandated by the state constitution. And — “surprise” — citizens in deep-red Kansas are not so keen on the GOP agenda now that they’re saddled with it. Looking on from next door, neighboring Missouri is thinking the same thing, Maddow reports. In addition, Gov. Sam Brownback’s miracle cure for the Kansas economy seems to have created a structural deficit.

Brownback’s biggest cheerleader is a Missouri version of North Carolina’s Art Pope.

May
05

PAC Attack on Robin Hudson

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NC Supreme Court Justice Robin Hudson is running in the nonpartisan primary tomorrow against two Republicans. Maybe you haven’t seen the attack ads running on TV against Hudson, but Republican former Charlotte Mayor Richard Vinroot has. He sent an email to the Charlotte Observer editorial board to protest. The board writes,

The ad is so offensive that Vinroot, a diehard Republican, said he will protest it by voting for the Democrat Hudson – and only Hudson. Though voters can cast ballots for two of the three candidates in the race, neither of the other two will get Vinroot’s vote on Tuesday, though they’re both fellow Republicans.

At issue is a vote by Hudson in a ruling where the justices split 4-3 on a law involving sex offenders. Dissenters including Hudson considered the law unconstitutional because it could be considered punishment applied retroactively to those convicted before the law passed. The ad portrays her constitutional dissent as coddling child predators.

Neither of Hudson’s opponents has publicly disavowed the ad.

The ad comes from Justice for All NC, a conservative super PAC. Chris Kromm of the Institute for Southern Studies describes the PAC as little more than a bank account traceable to a UPS mailbox in a strip mall.

Due to a loophole in North Carolina campaign finance law, Justice for All NC won’t have to file a detailed report about how much money it’s raised and spent for the recent attack ads until July. However, a Facing South analysis of TV advertising records as of May 2 shows that Justice for All NC has been spent more than $586,000 buying ad time for the Hudson attacks on more than a dozen TV stations across the state — part of more than $1 million that’s been spent on just the Hudson race by candidates and outside groups.

According to the Observer, the group funded “entirely by the Republican State Leadership Committee in Washington” includes among its big contributors Duke Energy, Blue Cross Blue Shield and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Chris Kromm has more details on the money and the people behind it here.

For those who have not yet voted, your chance to reply comes at the ballot box tomorrow.

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May
01

Good News Week

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Over at Digby’s place, David Atkins ponders what precipitates civilizational collapse:

The free market isn’t a genius system that will lead to utopia. If we continue going at this rate, the free market in fossil fuels and modern big ag will wind up destroying civilization as we know it.

David is responding to a report by the World Health Organization. As we approach the post-antibiotics era, “common infections and minor injuries can kill … a very real possibility for the twenty-first century,” according to the report’s foreword. According to Nature online,

There is nothing hopeful in the WHO’s report, which pulls together data from 129 member states to show extensive resistance to antimicrobial agents in every region of the world. Overuse of antibiotics in agriculture — to promote livestock growth — and in hospitals quickly leads to proliferation of drug-resistant bacteria, which then spread via human travel and poor sanitation practices.

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There are a lot of self-described patriots in this country who really don’t much like this country. (I mean the real one, not their imaginary one.) Jon Stewart pointed out how the gun-toting militiamen surrounding Cliven “I don’t recognize the United States government as even existing” Bundy could at least have created their own flag instead of waving the flag of the government they don’t recognize.

North Carolina Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, Dr. Greg Brannon, may or may not be a self-described patriot, but he’s endorsed by Tea Party Patriots (of the Bundy kind?). He’s quoted as saying this about discussing guns after the Sandy Hook shootings:

“Senator Hagan says we got to have a nice debate and discussion (about gun control) about what to do. See that’s called a democracy which is actually socialism which is called majority rule.”

Perhaps Brannon napped through civics class? He doesn’t seem to approve of democracy, of majority rule, yet he’s hoping to be elected to the United States Senate by a majority. Because that’s how elections work in the real America. How they work in the Tea Party’s fantasy one is anybody’s guess.

Certain fringe types love to correct you if you call America a democracy. It’s a republic, non-elite patriots insist as pedantically as condescendingly. Perhaps because republic sounds like Republican, and because that word has better mouth feel than anything sounding like Democrat. But for your Bircher, as the sign suggests, it’s more than that. Democracy isn’t just majority rule; it’s mob rule. And, oh, they fear it.

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Buncombe County, North Carolina residents who filed suit after finding their well water contaminated by chemicals from a CTS Corp. facility shuttered in 1986 will argue their case before the Supreme Court on April 23 (video clip from March 18). The U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of 23 local citizens last year. CTS appealed.

At issue is whether the suit should be dismissed because of the lateness in filing the case. The pollution dates back decades. Community activist, Tate MacQueen, is among those leading the fight.

Because of the way North Carolina law is written, the Asheville residents may have no legal recourse. CTS shut down that plant and sold the property in 1987. A state statute cuts off a company’s liability 10 years after its last contaminating act, meaning the deadline for filing claims came and went in 1997. MacQueen’s heads-up letter arrived in 2008.

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