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20
The Governor sent a letter to Thom Tillis and Phil Berger taking the legislature to task for asking for an independent audit of the Department of Health and Human Services.
 
Then the next day, when the Governor needed it least, the News and Observer reported that when DHHS’ new computer didn’t work the Department got into such a tizzy the number of mistakes it made processing food stamp claims quadrupled and it paid out $440,000 in excess benefits.
 
Here’s how government works: DHHS spends a hundred  or so million dollars on a computer program, it  doesn’t work, the department makes four times more mistakes than it did the year before and pays out $440,000 in excess benefits – and the Governor tells the legislature an audit’s a waste of time.


 

 

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19
Pat McCrory had one of those days.
             
First, a typist switched an ‘h’ for an ‘f’ so he sent out a press release announcing a Wilmington company was ‘firing’ 1300 new workers instead of ‘hiring’ 1300 workers.
 
Then a passing photographer snapped a photo of the Governor with his arm draped across Rep. Tim Moore’s shoulder and sent it sailing across the Internet – which sure looked like the Governor  was diving into the middle of the Speaker’s race – which left him backpedaling, saying it wasn’t so.
 
Then, piling Pelion on Ossa, the Governor sued Senator Phil Berger – which is like walking into a grizzly bears cage and whopping him on the nose.
 
Sometime between now and next June Berger and the Senate are going to vote on a budget which includes the Governor’s salary and how many staff the Governor has and right now it’s even money by next summer the Governor will be down to one part-time assistant and won’t have a penny to pay the lawyer he just hired to sue Phil Berger (and Thom Tillis).
 
So why would the Governor pick a fight with Phil Berger (and Thom Tillis)?
           
He says last session the legislature set up three Independent Commissions (on coal ash, fracking and Medicaid) but didn’t give him all the appointments to the Commissions. Instead the legislature gave him some and kept some for itself which, according to the Governor, is downright unconstitutional.  
 
Phil Berger answered the Governor’s charge pretty simply, saying if he thought the laws were unconstitutional he should have vetoed them which he hadn’t.
 
It’s hard to figure out: The Governor’s fighting Phil Berger over control of the Coal Ash Commission. Think about that: If you were Governor and the legislature said it wanted to own two thirds the biggest tarbaby in North Carolina you’d hardly  be able to believe your luck – you’d say, Sure, in fact, if you want, you can have it all.
 
But Pat McCrory wants to own the whole tarbaby.           


 

 

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29
A pollster will usually ask voters: Would you say you 1) Always vote Democratic, 2) Usually vote Democratic, 3) Always vote Republican, 4) Usually vote Republican or 5) would you say you split your ticket and vote for about as many Republicans as Democrats?
 
Down at the Editorial Board (not in the news room) at the News and Observer the boys have gone 5 for 5 in the local Congressional Races – picking five Democrats and not a single Republican.  
 
They also went 4 for 4 in the County Commissioners races – picking 4 Democrats.  
 
And they endorsed Lorrin Freeman, the Democrat in the District Attorney’s race.
 
Then they went 12 of 12 – endorsing 12 Democrats in the State House races.
 
They did endorse one Republican – Sheriff Donnie Harrison – in a backhanded way, spending most of their editorial explaining what Donnie had done wrong and praising his opponent.
 
At any rate, one thing’s clear: Whoever’s doing the picking down at the N&O Editorial Board isn’t a ticket splitter.

 

 

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24
 
 
36% Approve
46% Disapprove
 
The WRAL Poll painted a bleak picture  of a Governor caught between a rock and a hard place.  As Mark Binker wrote, only a little over a third of the voters approve of the job Governor McCrory is doing.
 
But worse news lurked beneath the surface.
 
These days you see polarized groups of voters everywhere. Left, right, up, down, Republican, Democrat; everyone is mad at someone and can’t wait to vote ‘em out of office: Republicans don’t like Obama so they’re voting against Kay Hagan. Democrats don’t like the state legislature so they’re voting against Thom Tillis.
 
But, buried in the crosstabs of WRAL’s poll, two pitfalls lie in wait for Pat McCrory. Consider the Governor’s job approval rating among Republicans:

    Approve 64%
    Disapprove 22%
 
Almost a quarter of the Republicans believe Governor McCrory is doing a poor job. That doesn’t mean they won’t vote for him but whoever heard of a Republican winning a statewide election without winning 90% plus of the Republican vote.
 
One last statistic: The Governor needs half the Independents vote for him to win. Here’re the numbers:
  
Independent Voters
Pat McCrory Approve: 33%
Pat McCrory Disapprove: 46%

 

 

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20
The paper’s print-edition changes were up for discussion at breakfast. Jim likes it: “That’s how I used to read the paper: front page first, then local and state news and Under the Dome. Now they’re all right there at the front.”
 
Gil’s not so happy. “My wife and I used to divvy up the front section and the local section. Now we have to fight over one section.”
 
But Patty nailed the real issue: “Why didn’t they just come out and say they did it to save money?”
 
In the time-honored tradition of editors talking to readers, John Drescher said the change “gives us more flexibility to use our space better” and “we’ll get the news to you in whichever form you prefer.”
 
Well, that’s not the entire explanation. The N&O is fighting incredible economic headwinds – and a plunge in print ads. They should be upfront about that, just as they would press somebody in government or business for more.
 
In truth, Drescher & Co. aren’t giving themselves enough credit. Because they’re still giving us great journalism despite the challenges. Take the Page One story about a chain for-profit charter schools getting millions of our tax dollars, which ran the day the new format debuted. The story came from Pro Publica, which calls itself “an independent, non-profit newsroom.” That’s a smart partnership when resources are overstretched and the staff is overworked.

In the months and years ahead, we’ll see more independent, nonprofit groups filling the gaps in subjects where newspapers have cut back, like education and politics.
 
In the meantime, good for the N&O for being creative. Good for them for still producing in-house investigative journalism like Mandy Locke’s Contract to Cheat series. And good for them for still delivering a print edition to our driveways when we could see exactly the same thing on our computers and tablets and save us all money.
 
Just give us the story straight. We get it, and we appreciate it.

 

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15
Months ago, back when she started her campaign, Kay Hagan faced a knotty problem: She was going to get the Democratic base vote; her opponent was going to get the Republican base vote; but the Swing Voters didn’t like President Obama and, so, were on track to vote Hagan out of office.
 
Now, theoretically, Hagan could have rolled up her sleeves and gone to work to make Obama popular but, as a practical matter, Obama’s popularity was beyond Hagan’s control.
 
Hagan could also have tried to distance herself from Obama – Democratic candidates had been doing that for years. But after voting for Obamacare that looked dicey too.
 
Which left one alternative: Hagan could go to work to get the Swing Voters who disliked Obama to dislike Thom Tillis even more.
 
Then she might just win.
 
To be continued …

 

 

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14
I miss Jamie. I miss her smile, her laugh and the parties she threw. This campaign season, I’ve missed her political smarts and fundraising skills. A lot of candidates could have used her.
 
So this weekend I’ll join a lot of people – many who knew her and miss her and many who didn’t know her but were moved by her – at the Jamie Kirk Hahn Foundation’s Weekend of Purpose. You’re invited too, to Saturday’s day of service, that night’s celebration and Sunday’s brunch at Poole’s. Get information and tickets here.
 
The Foundation has wisely begun a strategic planning process for the future, but – as Jamie would have it – hasn’t waited to get to work. Established just a year ago, it’s already having an impact, without spending much of the money it has raised.
 
That has happened through its Raleigh Food Corridor campaign; the Gathering for Good series; the Second Saturday celebrations of food, entrepreneurs and policy; and service projects with the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle, Raleigh City Farm, Activate Good, and the NC Fair Share Community Development Corporation.
 
Most important, it's making good on the promise to mobilize an Army of Jamies, led by her husband Nation, Executive Director Alexis Trost and an extraordinary board that includes Jamie’s parents and leaders like Joyce Fitzpatrick, Chris Sgro and Ken Lewis.
 
Coming less than three weeks before a big election, the celebration is a reminder that the work of helping people and building North Carolina doesn’t just happen in campaigns or in government.
 
As she did in her too-short life, Jamie Kirk Hahn is still inspiring people to do great things.

 

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22
You had to be here in the 1950s to appreciate how much Raleigh and Wake County have changed on the way to one million people. And, to this old-timer, it’s a much better place today.
 
We were poor, provincial, rural and racist to the core. Today we’re affluent, global in outlook, urban and suburban, and a much more tolerant place for all races, backgrounds and lifestyles.
 
It didn’t just happen. Some people – like my friends (and heroes) Tom Bradshaw, Wade Smith, Terry Sanford, Jim Hunt, John Winters and many, many others – made tough decisions that weren’t popular. But look where they got us. Ask yourself whether today’s leaders have the same combination of drive, vision and sheer guts.
 
When people hear I grew up in Raleigh, they often ask: “Inside or Outside the Beltline?” Well, I’m not OTB or ITB; I’m PB (pre-Beltline).
 
Before I started school, we lived in a new development called Northside, because it was on the northern edge of town. Today it’s the area around J.Y. Joyner School, near the car dealerships and fast-food shops along Wake Forest Road. We played in the woods around Crabtree Creek. It was nothing but country.
 
When we moved to west Raleigh, I went to Lacy School. It was a Raleigh City School even though it was outside the city limits, which ran along Brooks Avenue down the hill from our house. Wade Avenue ended at Dixie Trail. Just ended. You took Highway 70 to Durham and points west.
 
There was no North Hills, no Crabtree Valley. The only thing the same is that downtown is (again) booming. Back then, the only places to go shopping or to movies was downtown or Cameron Village.
 
Raleigh was smaller than Durham. But when RTP caught on, our city fathers had the sense to build middle-class neighborhoods to attract the new transplants. (We joked that it was called North Hills because everybody living there was from the North.) Then local leaders had the sense to merge the city and county schools and build the kind of schools that smart people coming to RTP wanted for their kids. Raleigh boomed, and Durham fell behind.
 
Of the numbers used by the N&O to show how much we’ve changed since 1960, perhaps the most striking is this: Then, of adults 25 and over, 12.7 percent had bachelor’s degrees. Today it’s 47.6 percent.
 
Then we were 74 percent white. Today it’s just over 61 percent. Then our rural population was almost 37 percent. Today it’s 6 percent.
 
Yes, this place is busier, more crowded and sometimes more maddening than it was then. A lot of people I grew up with will shake their heads and say, “It’s just not like it used to be here.”
 
They say that like it’s a bad thing.

 

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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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