LEGISLATIVE EFFORTS TO GIVE GOP UPPER HAND ONLY GAIN ELECTION CONFUSION: The continuing efforts by the Republican leadership to push a heavy thumb on the elections process -- through significant changes in the way the state Board of Elections was composed -- were rushed into law. There was no investigation as to the need for the changes or how they’d make the elections process work better for voters or candidates. The only justifications were it would enshrine Republican Party domination of the election process and they had the votes to do it. Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, has rightly challenged the law. Even setting aside any legitimate questions as to the very need for the changes, there are significant questions as to whether the legislature acted within its authority and if the laws are constitutional. The state’s courts are the appropriate forum to address these very real issues.
AS TRIANGLE DRIFTS, A GROWTH TSUNAMI LOOMS: Wake Up Wake County, the advocacy group that promotes careful development in one of the nation’s fastest growing counties, held a seminar last week at WakeMed. It took place in the hospital’s conference center, but maybe it should have been in the Emergency Room. When it comes to growth, the Triangle is in serious condition. Advocates and county and municipal officials turned out for the seminar titled: “Our future: Growing smart with housing and transit.” The keynote speaker was Chris Zimmerman, an economist and former Arlington County, Va., elected official who is now with the organization Smart Growth America. Between the slides and hopeful talk of well-designed growth, it was hard to stifle a sense of gloom. Transit boosters, local officials and planners are trying to get ready for the people to come, but the truth is Wake County and the Triangle aren’t ready and may never be.
WHY WE'RE EASILY SEDUCED BY FALSE NEWS: What if the scourge of false news on the internet is not the result of Russian operatives or partisan zealots or computer-controlled bots? What if the main problem is us? People are the principal culprits, according to a new study examining the flow of stories on Twitter. And people, the study’s authors also say, prefer false news. As a result, false news travels faster, farther and deeper through the social network than true news. The researchers, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, found that those patterns applied to every subject they studied, not only politics and urban legends, but also business, science and technology. Software robots can accelerate the spread of false stories. But the MIT researchers, using software to identify and weed out bots, found that with or without the bots, the results were essentially the same.“It’s sort of disheartening at first to realize how much we humans are responsible,” said Sinan Aral, a professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management and an author of the study. “It’s not really the robots that are to blame.”
KEEP THE RULES IN PLACE FOR COAL ASH STORAGE: The storage and disposal of coal ash still poses serious problems. There will be such problems until all existing coal-ash ponds are cleaned up, and new issues are likely to arise as long as Duke Energy and other utilities operate coal-fired power plants — which, given the current administration’s emphasis on promoting fossil fuels rather than cleaner energy, could be for many, many more years. So it comes as bad news that the Trump administration is rewriting the rules that the Obama administration came up with in 2015 after the spill that belched gray sludge down more than 70 miles of the Dan River in North Carolina and southern Virginia. This accident that spewed arsenic, copper, lead, mercury and other toxic metals into the Dan made national news. But, as residents of a number of North Carolina communities know, the harm can be less visible and dramatic, as leaks from storage ponds contaminate ground water and wells that are used for drinking water.
CRIME REFORM IS A BIPARTISAN ISSUE: Despite the partisanship that has paralyzed Washington on so many issues, some Democrats and Republicans in the U.S. Senate have come together around the proposition that America imprisons too many people for too long and that the burden of incarceration disproportionately falls on racial minorities. Ominously, however, the enlightened legislation they have produced is opposed by the Trump Justice Department. The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act approved by a bipartisan vote in the Judiciary Committee would reduce some mandatory minimum sentences, create a new “safety valve” that would allow judges to sentence some low-level drug offenders to less time than required by existing mandatory minimums and reduce a “three-strike” penalty for some repeat offenders from life imprisonment to 25 years. It also would make retroactive a 2010 law that reduced the disparity in sentencing between crack and powder cocaine, a distinction that disproportionately punished African Americans.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
CATHRINE EVANS: MORE WORK NEEDED ON EDUCATION FUNDING: Regarding “Why North Carolina thinks $200 per K-3 teacher will help all kids learn to read” (Mar. 8): As a parent and elementary educator, $200 is frankly pretty much nothing. Using your numbers, $200 spread over the number of kids in an average K-3 classroom works out to just over $9 a kid – let’s all celebrate.North Carolina, once a shining beacon in education, now ranks 40th. There’s a bunch of things in the way of educating our children and $9 a kid is not going to fix it. When will those that have chosen to govern and steer the populace actually take their duties as stewards seriously? It seems not through this effort. Legislators should try to remember, those children they are throwing crumbs at will be the adults taking care of them sooner than they think. It is not only their future at stake, it’s yours and all those you love and might actually care about. We can’t build a wall high enough to keep out the undereducated – they are already among us.
TR BOWDEN: THE ODDS DON'T MATTER IF IT HAPPENS TO YOU: One of your regular contributors recently stated that 99.9-plus percent of schools in the United States have never witnessed a murder. I wonder how the parents of the students killed in Parkland, Fla., would respond to that. I wonder how the parents of the 20 6-year-olds killed in Newtown, Conn., would respond to that. I wonder how the parents of the students killed at Virginia Tech would respond. I have been told that the odds are .0006 percent for such an event. But I say that, for all the parents affected, the odds are 100 percent.
CHARLIE KEETON: MOMENTUM?: John Hood, chairman of the John Locke Foundation, opined that “Republicans are gaining momentum in NC” (Mar. 2) and listed three things proving this: money, maps and momentum. For North Carolinians in general, two are terrible and one is nonsense. Money. Since when is it a good thing when elected officials work for whoever tosses them the most cash instead of working for their constituents? Money in politics is one of the basic problems we have today, many of our politicians have sold their souls for a dollar and sold their constituents down the river for dimes. Maps. The gerrymandered maps Republicans inflicted upon North Carolinians have stolen more votes and rigged more elections than anyone, anywhere thought possible. I doubt seriously if any North Carolina voter thinks rigged elections are a good thing; apparently the courts don’t think so either and have overturned gerrymandered maps, much to the Republicans’ dismay. Momentum. Merely saying you have momentum doesn’t make it true. I would point to the fact that this election cycle, there are no uncontested races unlike many races in the past. It is clear that the momentum and excitement are not with the Republicans this year; the just-completed Texas primaries are clear evidence of that.