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14

The Right Honorable (and Colorful) Reverend William Barber (head of the local NAACP) has laid the political birch-wood to the Italians on the School Board again; the Reverend Barber, who’s been holding demonstrations and protests lampooning the Italians, climbed up on his soap-box at his latest protest and announced the Italians are taking Raleigh back to the 1950’s and the age of segregated water fountains.

 
That so inspired the Reverend Barber’s friend Reverend Mendez that he hopped up and said he agreed with Barber and it was clear what the demonstrators were fighting was something just plumb “extremely evil.” 
 
Reverend Mendez didn’t bother to explain why the Italians are extremely evil (as opposed to just wrong-headed) except to say they are ‘divisive’ – which is how the School Board must feel about Reverend Barber.
 
Next the prospect of battling the evil Italians got Reverend Barber’s aide-de-camp Reverend Chip Gateward (who last week called Italian School Board Chairman Ron Margiotta a “white racist”) so worked up he stood up waving a sign showing black and white water fountains and waxed eloquent saying there’s no way, no how, he’s sitting still while the Italian turn back the clock to the days of Jim Crow.
 
Finally the Reverend Michael Hunn – speaking on behalf of 50,000 Episcopalians – got up and explained how the story of the Good Samaritan and virtues of the ‘diversity’ (the former School Board’s policy that leads to busing which the Italians are ending) are the same. 
 
Why that’s so wasn’t clear either. 
 
As I get older I’m thinking a lot of politics is just plain social.  An excuse for folks to get together.  And that the brouhaha between the Reverends and the Italians is a good example. Of course, both sides wrap themselves up in ideology and talk about sacred causes and how they’re battling to save their version of Western Civilization – and, no doubt that is one reason folks are holding demonstrations.  But I’m beginning to think the greater reason may be they simply enjoy getting together.  At least, one thing is clear:  The three Reverends are having the time of their lives demonstrating and protesting and calling their enemies evil.
 

 




 

 

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14
Ever since Governor Perdue’s brief honeymoon ended, public polls have brought her nothing but bad news. So her advisers not surprisingly found a silver lining in Public Policy Polling’s numbers on her and the Highway Patrol.
 
But don’t get carried away.
 
Last week’s poll found that 67 percent of North Carolinians have a favorable opinion of the Patrol. But what would they say if the question were: “Do you approve or disapprove of Governor Perdue’s handling of problems in the Highway Patrol?”
 
Still, Perdue’s own numbers are ticking up.  Her ratings were 33 approve (up from 24 last fall), 47 disapprove.  That’s a net negative of 14 – better than the net negative of 30 last July.
 
Most of her gains have been with her Democratic base, which was mad at her at the end of last year’s legislature. This year’s session was better.
 
Still, she faces a tough road to reelection. Maybe the most crucial numbers for her are President Obama’s approval ratings.
 
Without Obama on the ballot – and the surge of voters he created – Perdue may not have won in 2008. She needs him to run strong in 2012.
 
She also needs Republicans to screw up.  And they might – especially if they get control of one or both legislative chambers.

 

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13
Democrats are worried about losing the State Senate this year – especially without Tony Rand to run their caucus campaigns.
 
After Democrats came within one seat of losing the Senate in 1994, Rand and Marc Basnight build a high-performance operation. They hired good people, did good polling and spent money based on cold-eyed calculations – not friendships.
 
Insiders say Rand was the decision-maker. He made the campaign machinery run, just like he made the legislative machinery run.
 
The climate is tough enough for Democrats this year – nationally and in the state. It’s no team for a team to be without a manager.

 

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12
According to a recent N&O headline, “Burr says oil ads won't ruffle feathers.”
 
Senator Burr has to say that. I doubt he believes it.
 
Two years ago, Elizabeth Dole’s campaign didn’t worry about independent ads attacking her. That’s why she’s former Senator Dole today.
 
The latest ad attacking Burr – showing an oil-soaked “Burr” being pulled out of the ocean – has the same touch as the rocking-chair ads that did in Dole. It’s funny, memorable and pointed.
 
Elaine Marshall will need a lot of those ads to beat Burr. And look for Burr to start spending some of his campaign stash soon – to inoculate himself and to attack Marshall.

 

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09
John Davis, late of NCFREE has an interesting take (one I like, obviously) on Jim Hunt in his recent report.
 
Davis says the Republican Party in North Carolina has failed to produce a political leader as skilled as Hunt. He identifies Hunt’s key strengths as pragmatism and persuasiveness.
 
Davis recounts his meeting with Hunt in 1985, when the just-out-of-office former governor went on and on and education reform:
 
“A half-hour later, the conversation had not wavered from the topic of education reform.  That’s when the thought occurred to me, ‘Damn, he really believes this stuff!’”
 

 

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08
Governor Perdue’s Highway Patrol news conference was better than it read. You can watch the whole thing here.
 
But she better hope her tough talk solves the Patrol’s problems. Because it obviously didn’t solve her media – and political – problems.
 
It’s never good when the Page 1 photos are of you, hands on hips, looking angry and of your press person cutting off questions.
 
The end wasn’t as abrupt as it seemed. By my count, Glover had answered five questions when Chrissy Pearson put her hand over the mike.
 
But Perdue and Colonel Glover made the classic mistake of blaming the media for reporting only the bad and not the good.
 
“It gets magnified in the media,” Glover said of the Patrol’s scandals.
 
Maybe BP should try that: “If the media didn’t harp on this spill, people wouldn’t be upset about it.”
 
The Governor also made one of those statements that in effect dared the media to prove her wrong: “I’ve never intervened in promotions.”
 
Her fundamental problem is that the media is suspicious of her friendship with Glover.
 
She told the press conference that, according to her staff, there were “audible gasps. People were stunned” when she laid down the law to the Patrol members.
 
But the media didn’t seem so impressed. So she and Glover are going to stay under the radar gun.
 

 

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07
It’s Reporter Versus Reporter. UNC-TV versus UNC Radio. And the best drama of the legislative session.
 
Senator Fletcher Hartsell’s inspired idea to subpoena UNC-TV’s unaired Alcoa story stirred up great mischief. It:
  • Put Alcoa in an unwelcome spotlight
  • Put UNC-TV in an unwelcome spotlight
  • Put a UNC radio reporter at odds with a UNC-TV.
UNC Radio’s Laura Leslie took UNC-TV reporter Eszter Vajda to task:

“Vajda claimed in her affidavit that she has decided to cooperate ‘without waiving my right to exercise my journalist’s privilege.’ That’s like deciding to have a car wreck without waiving your good driver’s discount.  You can’t have it both ways.”

Then Leslie zeroed in on Vajda’s bosses at the station:
 
“I'm still wondering how half-hour segments on local golf clubs, botanical gardens, and the AndyGriffithMuseum rated higher on UNC-TV's priority list than allegations of contamination in one of NC's most popular lakes.  The station had the resources to air all those segments in May, but nothing on Alcoa.  So help me out here.”
 
Plus, Leslie blasted UNC-TV for “(rolling) over in record time with barely a whimper” to the subpoena.
 
This year’s Press Corps Follies should be interesting.
 

 

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06
I heard that Jim Goodmon of WRAL was so incensed by the legislative subpoena of WUNC-TV that he called Erskine Bowles – and urged him to fight it.
 
Of course, given the just-completed state budget, UNC was in no position to defy the legislature.
 
Both UNC-TV and the First Amendment probably will survive.
 
But the flap dramatizes the tension between UNC-TV’s status as a tax-paid institution – and part of the public university system – and its news operation.
 
I wonder what PBS would do if Congress subpoenaed one of its unaired stories.

 

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02
Unless you happen to subscribe to the Asheville Citizen Times, you probably missed this article by columnist John Boyle about North Carolina Democratic Party Chairman David Young:
 
Citizens Times.com
May 27, 2010
 
Time for David Young to do the right thing
John Boyle
COLUMNIST
 
Really, David?  
 
I can’t believe how tone-deaf politicians can be.  
 
Earlier this week, David Young, the chairman of the N.C. Democratic Party and the owner of the Eden Glen Mobile Home Park in Weaverville said the orange-colored water he charges residents for is safe but “not pretty.” Oh, and for those who refused to pay the bills because the water is so nasty? The people who may want a word with the part owner after their water was cut off?  
 
“I don’t manage it (the mobile home park). …I’m just an investor there.” Young told our papers.  
 
Dear lord.  
 
You’re not just an investor, David; you’re the owner, along with your wife, Leigh. It’s on the legal papers.  
 
On Wednesday, I went out to the park, driving down the potholed road through old, rusting trailers. One resident, Renee Purvis, handed me a bottle of orange water she drew from her bath tap that morning, and I watched her draw a lighter-orange tinted bottle from the bathroom sink.  
 
It’s been that way for 10 years, although the color ebbs and flows, she said. She and her daughters, 9-year-old Megan and Hilda, 10, don’t drink the water.  
 
And, yes, they stopped paying the water and sewer bill, too – in her case, $106 for two months.  
 
“It’s never totally clear,” Purvis said of the water, standing near her rust-stained tub. “It’ll clear up maybe a little while, then it’s right back straight to muddy orange-brown.”  
 
In short, the water there is disgusting. Young and others say it’s just high iron content, but really, David, would you drink this junk? Would you want your children to bathe in it or wear clothes washed in it?  
 
Leslie Burnett and trailer-mate Draven Marco, who have five children in their trailer, just moved in about a month ago and weren’t told about the bad water.  
 
“At first I used some of the water to mix up formula, and my baby vomited profusely and didn’t stop until I started using bottled water,” Burnett said. “We’ve gotten rashes, boils, yeast infections. The ants die if they get in the bathtub and drink the water.”  
 
That’s more than “not pretty” David. That’s shameful.  
 
They all invited you to come live with them for a day and enjoy the fine water you provide.  
 
You and your wife are listed as the owners of the park since 2001, and residents say the water has been orange and nasty since then and even before. In 2008, you petitioned the state to start charging for this and were granted permission in January.  
They started getting bills in February – for water few human beings would use. People are supposed to pay $45 or $50 a month for orange water that stains their clothes and tube? Water they’re convinced sickens their children?  
 
David, residents of your mobile home park are so disgusted they’re not paying the water bills. Some opt to use raw creek water instead of the well water you provide.  
 
Yes, you. Not the management company or the water company you hire to separate you from the residents.  
 
You. This is your problem.  
 
You’ve been a politician for two decades, and you head the party that stakes a claim to helping the least affluent among us. And this is how you treat the people who live in your trailer park?  
 
Forget about the political flak you’re deservedly going to catch for this when you run for any other political office. What you’re doing to these people is just wrong.  
 
You didn’t return my call, and you weren’t in your office Wednesday afternoon, so I went to our archives for a quote. Back in 1998, when you ran for Congress against Charles Taylor, who had his own image problems related to his wife’s ownership of shabby housing, you said this: “People have this image of politicians padding our own pocketbooks and looking out for our own self-interests instead of theirs.”  
 
Oh, and this: “I enjoy finding ideas that will work to solve people’s problems. Put simply, I want to put my energies and abilities to work for the people of Western North Carolina.”  
 
Here’s an idea: Fix the water problem in your trailer park. A decade is long enough to find a solution and those people of Western North Carolina deserve better.  
 
This is the opinion of John Boyle. Contact him at jboyle@citizen-times.com, and read his blog at citizen-times.com/boyleitdown.  

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02
 
The proposed international port at Southport is headed for Davy Jones Locker. The money was cut from the budget, and Congressman Mike McIntyre came out in opposition.
 
A wise reader – and veteran Raleigh hand – believes there a lesson here: how to royally screw up a public-policy initiative.
 
His take:
 
“This was the GTP By The Sea, a classic example of bureaucrats finding an expensive solution for which no problem existed. They sold the state on the economic development benefits, which sounded good and everyone was on board. But once political and community leaders learned that the price was the disruption of an entire region (new roads and rail), threats to critical infrastructure (power plants and munitions facilities), and the impact on the coast (dredging, etc.) the support evaporated.”
 
Plus, the Ports Authority lost more than the project. It forfeited a huge amount of respect and trust.
 
The reader adds: “Our coastline isn’t even suitable for this kind of project. Hell, the pirates learned 400 years ago that North Carolina’s coast totally sucks for sailing ships.”
 

 

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