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Entries for 'Gary Pearce'

19
Republicans strode up to the plate in Raleigh with big bats and high hopes, then whiffed on three straight pitches.
 
Strike one was teacher pay. Their top goal was to stop the bleeding on education. But their so-called pay raise was so full of holes, questions and confusion that nobody is satisfied, teachers are still mad and voters think the Governor and the legislature are anti-education.
 
Strike two was coal ash. They did nothing on the state’s biggest environmental crisis in decades. Nothing.
 
Strike three belonged to Governor McCrory alone. He stepped up to the plate to be the hero on coal ash after the legislature struck out. But he tied himself in ethical knots by wrongly reporting his Duke stock on his ethics statement.
 
How big a sin is this? Well, look at it this way: If Bev Perdue had done it, the legislature would have impeached her.
 
So McCrory is in hot water, Thom Tillis is lagging behind Senator Hagan, Senator Berger’s son lost his congressional primary and – notwithstanding the advantages of incumbency, fundraising and gerrymandering – Democrats may be looking at a good fall season.

 

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15
Governor McCrory’s blast at The N&O got him another day of the “blaring, top-of-the-fold” headlines he blasted. But this is just the beginning of the Coal Ash Saga. We soon will have a U.S. Attorney’s investigation and a fight over who pays: McCrory’s former boss, Duke Energy, or his current boss, the People of North Carolina.
 
McCrory protested that the N&O’s story Thursday “mischaracterized a misinterpretation of a very convoluted form.” It is not a convoluted form. Look for yourself here. In fact, it is just like your income taxes: You file them by April 15 for the prior year ending December 31.
 
Still, I believe Governor McCrory when he says, in effect, that it was incompetence, rather than a conspiracy. But it is breathtaking incompetence. It is hard to fathom how the Governor of North Carolina and his legal counsel misunderstood the form. Or why somebody on the Governor’s staff didn’t foresee the problem.
 
Here’s what former legislative counsel Gerry Cohen says (and remember, he was honored a couple of weeks ago by members of both parties for his reliability and integrity): “How could Bob Stephens have had a misunderstanding that the date of ownership of the stock was as of April 15, 2014, when the 2013 SEI CLEARLY says on the tip of page 2 that the date of stock ownership was to be as of December 31. Was the mistake that he only read page 1? Or missed the penalties provision at the end of the form, which states that it could be a violation of GS 138A-45? I know that the text of 138A-45 tells you that for a constitutional officer, it is malfeasance and punishable under GS 123-5.”
 
The “misstatement” is a small part of the Governor’s problem. As one TAPster noted, he says he sold the stock NOT because it was the right thing to do, but because his “integrity was being challenged” and he wanted to put “this thing to bed.” In other words, it’s about PR, not integrity.
 
Second, as WRAL reported, “McCrory has steadfastly refused to take a position on whether shareholders or customers should pay for it (the coal ash cleanup), saying that decision should be left up to the state Utilities Commission.”
 
That is a dodge. Democrats in the legislature tried to amend the coal ash bill so the Utilities Commission couldn’t let Duke pass the cleanup costs on to ratepayers. Republicans squashed that, and they will answer for it this fall. And Roy Cooper has taken a position exactly opposite of McCrory’s.
 
Finally, away from the cameras, the federal grand jury investigation rolls on. Wait for those blaring, top-of-the-fold headlines.

 

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14
Long after Watergate brought him down (40 years ago this month), Richard Nixon told David Frost: “I gave them a sword, and they stuck it in and they twisted it with relish.”
 
Now, Governor McCrory’s actions on coal ash don’t begin to approach Nixon’s on Watergate. But he has given his enemies a sword tipped with toxic political poison, and they will stick it in and twist it with relish.
 
Today’s N&O story (“McCrory misstated Duke Energy holdings, sold stock after coal-ash spill”) and McCrory’s inexplicable mishandling of the stock issue remind us of a cruel law of the political jungle: The worst wounds are self-inflicted. And this one could be deep and lasting.
 
First, the story renews questions about the political competence of McCrory and his team. Second, it comes just as public anger is growing over whether ratepayers will pay for the cleanup – and the very same day the legislature returns to Raleigh to again do nothing about the issue. And third, it looks like the media has concluded it didn’t give McCrory adequate scrutiny in 2012, which means that the scrutiny – and suspicion – will grow between now and 2016.
 
Just as Nixon could have lanced the Watergate boil early, McCrory could have turned this story around early. Here is what he should have said right after the spill in February:
 
“This is a serious problem, and it will require serious action. I will not let my career at Duke Energy keep me from carrying out my responsibilities to North Carolina. So I am immediately divesting myself of all my Duke stock, and I will be open, forthcoming and transparent as I deal with this matter.” He should have reported exactly how much stock he sold and how much it was worth.
 
Or, as a TAPster emailed today: “The bigger question in his latest mess is why he still owned Duke stock after he was sworn in as governor? That means he was a stockholder when he appointed utilities commissioners and made other decisions that impacted the company and its earnings. How can any reasonable person think that is ok?”
 
If he had sold the stock, McCrory could have made one thing perfectly clear (as Nixon would have said): Coal ash has been piling up for 30 years, under Democratic and Republican governors. The state approved that disposal method because it kept electric rates down and helped North Carolina bring in industry and jobs. McCrory didn’t need to be heavy-handed in making the point, because it’s a fair point and an indisputable fact. He then could be the hero who cleans up the mess.
 
But no.
 
His legal counsel twice prepared – and McCrory twice signed – ethics statements that failed to disclose the stock. McCrory’s counsel gamely takes the blame and says he misunderstood the forms. You can examine the forms and reach your own conclusion, but they clearly say you are to report all holdings over $10,000 as of December 31 of the previous year. And when the Governor signed the forms he knew what he owned and when he owned it.
 
Clearly, the N&O believes it was misled. The story said: “The News & Observer has sought for weeks to clarify the timing of McCrory’s sale, and McCrory’s office had said there was nothing new. On July 10, for example, (Josh) Ellis wrote in an email message that ‘the governor has complied with all disclosure requirements.’ That changed late Wednesday with the new filing and follow-up interviews with Ellis.”
 
Ellis, the Governor’s spokesman, didn’t help his boss’ case by trying to pass the blame beyond the counsel: “The stock was sold in response to repeated public requests via the media and to stop the constant, unfounded challenges of the governor’s character.”
 
Ellis struck the same chord in a statement May 1: “As public records have shown since April 15, the governor is not a shareholder of Duke Energy. This eliminates the often repeated, ridiculous and false, partisan left-wing attacks challenging the intent of our decisions and policies.”
 
No, it doesn’t eliminate them. It invites more. It dares the media to double down on its McCrory scrutiny. And it makes it harder for the Governor to push back. 

 

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13
Rob Christensen’s column about Tom Bradshaw accurately captures one of the most remarkable people I’ve met through 44 years in newspapers and politics.
 
My first encounter with Bradshaw was much like Christensen’s. Tom was the “boy mayor” of Raleigh, and I was a cub reporter at The N&O. City government was my beat, just as it was Rob’s later; that’s where new reporters started. I was assigned to write a Tar Heel of the Week profile on Tom. And I first experienced the hurricane of energy, intensity and enthusiasm that Tom still brings to life and work.
 
Bradshaw is like a hero out of a Horatio Alger story: an underprivileged kid who worked his way to the top in business, government and civic life – yet never forgot where he came from and how other people deserved the same opportunities to succeed.
 
Rob’s portrait of Tom is spot-on. He also asks the question Tom gets every day: Why do this at this point in your life?
 
Good question, and Tom has a good answer. Read Rob’s column and go to Tom’s website to learn more - and to help him.

 

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12
My first thought when I read that The News & Observer is 120 years old was, “Holy cow, that’s old.” My second thought was, “Hold the coffee, I’ve been reading the paper for HALF ITS LIFE!”
 
My dad moved to Raleigh to work in the N&O composing room when I was a year old. It’s a morning paper, so he worked nights, often getting home near or after midnight. I liked waiting up for him, or waking up when he got home. The newspaper that he brought home literally hot off the presses, with ink that came off in your hands, was probably one of the first things I read as a boy. It was neat to read the news hours before everybody else did.
 
Fifty years ago next summer, I went to work in the N&O newsroom as a teenaged copyboy. I spent 10 years working there, until I joined Jim Hunt’s first campaign for Governor. I learned to write fast and short; to edit copy, lay out pages and write headlines; to cover politicians and bureaucrats. I learned to, as my mentor Bob Brooks told me, “ask ‘em the hard questions.”
 
(I remember when the news about the Jeffrey MacDonald family murders broke. When told that MacDonald claimed it was a gang of hippies, Brooks said gruffly, “He did it. It’s always the husband.”)
 
In that decade I was lucky to work with two generations of remarkable writers, reporters, editors and publishers, some living today, some gone: Pat Stith, Roy Parker Jr., Claude Sitton, Ferrel Guillory, Florence King, David Zucchino, Leslie Wayne, Jack Aulis, Rick Nichols, Peggy Payne, Al May, Woodrow Price, Grady Jefferys, Karen Tam, John Coit, Charlie and Russell Clay, Rob Christensen, Frank Daniels Jr., Sam Ragan, on and on.
 
The talent pool today is just as deep, even if the ranks have thinned. Today, as always, I can read the N&O and know that smart people who aren’t easily fooled are driving to get to the truth of things.
 
It helps, surely, that I like the paper’s editorial stands. If the editorials reeked of Fox News, my blood pressure would probably be as high every morning as the Republicans and conservatives who get apoplectic about it.
 
It has been a good and faithful friend for all these long years. I wish it many more. I’d hate the thought of a morning – or a world – without The News & Observer.

 

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11
Over lunch Mickey and Minnie were talking about Governor McCrory’s statement last week on the influx of child immigrants from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.
 
Mickey was outraged. “McCrory must figure he’s losing the education debate. So he decided to bash child immigrants!” He noted that the N&O said McCrory’s remarks were “tinged with election-year politics.” He thundered, “’Tinged’, my foot. They were dripping with demagoguery.”
 
But Minnie saw it differently: “Look, 1,200 of these children have already come to North Carolina. And more are on their way. Right now, we’re barely able to take care of the people here. Our schools are overcrowded, and our health care system is overwhelmed. Who knows what kind of health, social and developmental issues these children have?”
 
Both Mickey and Minnie are Democrats. They are compassionate people. But their discussion shows how politically divisive and morally and practically vexing this issue is when you step away from the knee-jerk politics.
 
Our hearts tell us to take care of these children, the way religious charities are doing in our state right now. But our heads worry over our ability to take care of them.
 
In the end, one fact in the story jumped out at both Mickey and Minnie. A refugee group in Raleigh that has helped 130 unaccompanied minors reported that 95 percent of the girls in their program were raped before they came to the U.S.
 
Mickey shook his head sadly. “And we’re going to send them back?”

 

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Posted in: General, Issues
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07
Some sharp-eyed TAPsters were struck by this photo of Governor McCrory signing the state budget today.
 
One noted, “Legislators are usually jockeying to get in a bill-signing photo.”
 
Not today. Apparently, only two legislators were on hand: Sen. Neal Hunt, who is not running again, and Rep. Nelson Dollar, who represents a heavily gerrymandered district. No Speaker Tillis, no Senator Berger.
 
One TAPster said that every other person in the picture works for the Governor, including Art Pope.
 
You are invited to offer your own interpretation.

 

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07
Yesterday I quoted at length from Senator Jeff Jackson’s speech on the legislature’s budget process. Today we learn what a prophet “the new kid” was.
 
Jackson said on the floor last week, “Folks, if you weren’t allowed to see this budget until this morning, I don’t see how you can vote on it in good conscience. You can’t possibly know what’s in here.  You can’t possibly know the intended effects of this budget, let alone the unintended effects.”
 
Today we learn that, in fact, they didn’t know what was in the budget. Even some Republican leaders didn’t know. They didn’t know that a major policy change on education spending was slipped secretly into the budget. It means that the state will no longer automatically pay for growth in public school enrollment.
 
Maybe there’s an argument to be made for that change. But it wasn’t made. It wasn’t debated. It wasn’t mentioned, even to members in the majority party.
 
For Democrats this election year, this legislature is the gift that keeps on giving. Maybe they’ll stay in session all the way to November.

 

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06
You should read the speech below – or even better, watch the video – (A) if you despair about politics today, (B) if you yearn for a fresh new voice in politics or (C) if you’re a Democrat wondering where the next crop of legislative leaders, Governors and U.S. Senators is coming from.
 
It’s newly appointed Senator Jeff Jackson of Charlotte, a 31-year-old former assistant district attorney who was named to replace Dan Clodfelter in May, speaking on the budget last week.The transcript, edited slightly for length, follows:
 
At 8 a.m. I came into my office and a new budget was on my desk. Now it’s 4 and I’m being asked to vote on it.
 
This is a plan to spend $21 billion of taxpayer money, and no one in the minority party was permitted to see it until this morning.  I suspect there are several members of the majority who weren’t permitted to see it until this morning.  The truth is, only a small handful of people had ever seen this budget before it landed on our desks this morning.
 
Folks, if you weren’t allowed to see this budget until this morning, I don’t see how you can vote on it in good conscience. You can’t possibly know what’s in here.  You can’t possibly know the intended effects of this budget, let alone the unintended effects.
 
Most people don’t know this, but Democrats were completely excluded from the budget-making process. Well, like it or not, we represent millions of North Carolinians. By excluding us, you exclude all of them. You’re telling millions of people that you don’t care what their representative has to say. And at the same exact time, you’re telling those folks to trust your judgment, trust your priorities and trust this budget.
 
What you’re really telling folks is that, when it comes to setting priorities for this state, you don’t need to hear from half its citizens. No negotiation, no give and take, no exchange of ideas, no true competition among ideas, no collaboration, no conversation, no listening to each other, no learning from each other.
 
This isn’t a budget; this is an ultimatum being delivered to millions of people across the state….
 
And I know what you’re going to say. I can see you reaching for the microphones. You’re going to say: the Democrats did it worse. And you’re right, you’re absolutely right. About that historical fact, you’re right. But in carrying on this legacy, you’re wrong. You’ve mislearned all of those lessons. Being in power means having the power to change things for the better. This isn’t just the way it works. This isn’t just the way it’s always worked. It’s wrong. And maybe it takes the new kid to tell you that, but so be it….
 
Let’s call it what it is. This is payback. And payback doesn’t make good policy. Revenge is something we’re supposed to rise above. Our mothers taught us that. If you truly believe in the strength of your ideas, let’s have a real debate. If you truly believe that your vision is the way forward for this state, then allow a perspective other than your own.
 
I’ve gotten to know almost all of you. I respect all of you. This budget process is beneath you. It’s beneath our state. Instead of propping up this sad tradition, we should end it. The pendulum will swing back. It’s only a matter of time. Let part of your legacy be that you broke this sad tradition.

 

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05
A year ago I didn’t know anything about food deserts and food insecurity. I’ve learned, thanks to my dedicated young friends at the Jamie Kirk Hahn Foundation and at the Interfaith Food Shuttle – and WRAL’s eye-opening special HungerFreeNC.
 
A big problem right here in Raleigh is that low-income families don’t have access to grocery stores and can’t get healthy foods, fresh fruits and vegetables.
 
Now there’s a ray of hope in Southeast Raleigh. And it comes from none other than the Prince of Darkness himself, Art Pope.
 
Pope’s Variety Wholesalers bought a shut-down Kroger property on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in Southeast Raleigh. Pope says the space will have a Roses store and a separate grocery, something community leaders have wanted since the Kroger closed last year.
 
“It is a way to serve our community,” Pope said.
 
So here’s a tip of the TAP hat to Art.
 
Which leads to what may be a foolishly hopeful thought. Suppose Pope and some of the young (or not-so-young) activists on food issues were to sit down together. Maybe break bread downtown at Van Nolintha’s Bida Manda or at one of Ashley Christensen’s great restaurants. And talk about how they might somehow work together on this problem.
 
No doubt some of my progressive Democratic friends will have heart lock at the very thought. But I’m reminded of the Baptist minister who was a dedicated opponent of the state lottery. Then a member of his congregation won $1 million in the lottery and said he would give a tenth of his winnings to the church. A pious worshipper asked the minister if he would take the tainted money.
 
He replied, “Indeed I will. That money has done the work of the Devil long enough. It’s time it did the work of the Lord.”
 
Amen, brother.

 

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