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12
This blog is a tribute to my late father, Jim.
 
He was a printer all his life, first at Parker Brothers Newspapers in Ahoskie and then at The News & Observer. For many years, he was foreman of the N&O composing room.
 
Those were the days when newspapers were produced with hot metal type. Each column on each page had to be filled. On news pages, short items were used as filler. On advertising pages, especially the many classified-ad pages in those days before the Internet, the composing room used house ads promoting the paper.
 
On snow days, Dad would make up an alternative set of filler ads. They came in all type sizes, column widths and lengths. They all said the same thing: “Feed the Birds.”
 
When you opened your paper in the morning, you’d find them on every page. Sometimes two or three a page. “Feed the Birds.”
 
I like to think that millions of birds across Eastern North Carolina ate on those cold, snowy days because of Dad.
 
So this morning I stopped by Ace. Everybody else was in line with ice-melt and snow shovels. I got a big bag of bird seed. Tomorrow, when the ground is covered in white, we’ll throw out the seed. We’ll be rewarded with a colorful fluttering of wings. The dogs will go crazy at the door. The birds will thank Jim, and I’ll think of him.
 
Feed the birds.

 

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12
Jim Hunt still drives Republicans crazy. Governor McCrory and GOP leaders scheduled their pay-raise rollout in Jamestown just as Hunt’s Emerging Issues Forum was starting in Raleigh. They wanted to steal the spotlight. But they just spotlighted their own shortcomings.
 
Just as Hunt was saying ALL teachers should get a raise, McCrory & Co. were promising a raise to SOME teachers.
 
Some teachers may buy it. At first. But soon they’ll realize they’ve been had.
 
What kind of company would give a raise to its newest, rawest employees, but stiff its most experienced, capable people? Plus dump more duties and performance measures on them all. Plus treat them all with contempt and a total lack of respect.
 
The GOP plan is a political sham cooked up to deal with a political problem. It also looks like a thinly-veiled slap at NCAE, which has a lot of experienced, activist teachers.
 
Hunt’s Forum dove deep into what’s right and wrong with the teaching profession in North Carolina. What’s right is that we have a lot of great teachers, despite all we’ve done to run them off. What’s wrong is pay, first, and pay has to be raised significantly. But teachers also deserve respect and autonomy. They deserve a fair system of testing. They deserve to be heard in Raleigh.
 
They will never get that from McCrory and the GOP, even if they do get an election-year pay raise. Some of them, that is.

 

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11
It sure seems like Wallace Cheeves down in Greenville, South Carolina has had his share of ups and downs.
 
Right out of college, Cheeves went to work for the video ‘poker king’ of South Carolina. Then he went a step further and opened his own video poker company – which went out of business when South Carolina outlawed video poker.
 
Cheeves was nothing if not resourceful.
 
Next he set up a video sweepstakes company – but, before long, South Carolina put the kibosh on that too.
 
That led Cheeves to start another company to go into the riverboat gambling business in Georgetown and Colleton County, South Carolina – but then both communities banned riverboat gambling.
 
Still scrambling, Cheeves partnered with another company to put electronic bingo games in Alabama – but then Alabama confiscated their software and equipment in a raid on a bingo hall.
 
Unfazed, or at least undaunted, Cheeves partnered with a South Carolina Indian tribe to build a casino – but, true to form, South Carolina stopped him dead in his tracks again.
 
So Cheeves looked north to the rolling hills of Cleveland County in North Carolina and (after he proclaimed his casino was going to create a bonanza of 4,000 jobs) at last he got a Yes from the local politicians.
 
Then, before he could catch his breath and enjoy his good fortune, that Yes was followed by a No from every politician in Raleigh from Governor McCrory to Roy Cooper and 100 of 120 State House members.
 
A normal man might have given up. But Cheeves didn’t stop. He promptly hired three lobbyists and put them to work explaining the virtues of casinos to Raleigh politicians.
 
Still, somehow, all the pieces don’t seem to add up: We’ve got an Indian tribe that lives in South Carolina claiming they’re North Carolina Indians (or, at least, claiming they lived in North Carolina sometime back in the days before Columbus set foot in the New World) so they can build a casino here.  
And a lot of folks, or at least a lot of Raleigh politicians, are sort of dubious, too, about how a video poker mogul is going to create 4,000 jobs and turn into one of the biggest employers in North Carolina with one casino.

 

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11
Democrats should be feeling good today. Then Randy Voller comes along.
 
First, tens of thousands of people march in Raleigh. Their numbers show the depth of anger at Republicans in Raleigh – and the potential impact in November.
 
Then Governor McCrory and Republican legislative leaders reveal two things: They’re scared that voters will punish them for the damage they’ve done to teachers and public schools, and they have no clue what to do about it.
 
Then, as election filing begins, an all-star team of Democratic candidates runs onto the field, from Sarah Crawford in Wake-Franklin to Sue Counts in Watauga/Ashe.
 
But, then, Voller abruptly fires an ED who had begun to restore confidence in the party and apparently sets his mind on appointing to the post the most divisive, controversial figure he can find.
 
Thomas Mills may have the only logical explanation for Voller: “What if he’s a Republican plant?” A Manchurian chairman, if you will.
 
It may be that smart Democratic lawyers can figure a way to work around the party. It has pretty much been marginalized anyway. And maybe Republicans will get so fixated on making Chavis and William Barber the faces of the Democratic Party that they’ll forget about education.
 
But, as I’ve said before, the worst wounds in politics are self-inflicted. And this is a doozy.

 

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10
A long time long ago in the far away Kingdom of Columbialand  two tribes battled over control of Congress for years then one of the tribes (the Republicans) split into two smaller tribes: The Pachyderms and the Tea Partiers.
 
The Tea Partiers turned out to be an unusual tribe. They had a creed and they also had no doubt at all the highest virtue of all was to fight ferociously for spending cuts.
 
When it came to spending cuts, the Pachyderm Chief agreed with the Tea Partiers. Or, at least, he said he did. But, in practice, the Chief had discerned an odd quirk of human nature: He’d figured out that while almost everyone (meaning all the voters in Columbialand) liked spending cuts, as soon as the Tea Partiers cut a specific program everything turned upside down. For instance, if the Tea Partiers cut farm subsidies farmers were outraged and adamantly said, No. He’d seen the same thing happen over and over; whenever the Tea Partiers tried to cut funding for parks, or schools, or widget makers – someone always got mad.
 
Once when the Tea Partiers tried to cut defense spending it made defense contractors so mad they’d told  the Chief they wouldn’t give him another dollar – which caused the Chief a huge conundrum. Because what he loved (with the same passion the Tea Partiers loved that creed of theirs) was winning elections.
 
So the way the Chief saw it what the Tea Partiers were doing was just plain lunacy and, finally, one December morning when he’d had enough he declared war. He opened fire with both barrels, telling everyone who’d listen the Tea Partiers were crooks who were raising money (from the Republican faithful) to line their own pockets then he made a deal with his sworn enemies, the Obamacrats, and passed a budget that increased spending.

For one moment, it looked like the Chief had won a huge victory. But then he got a rude awakening. He found out what he’d really done was start a Civil War. And, worse still, he was the one in hot water. Out in the hinterlands the average Republican didn’t think any more of his deal with the Obamacrats than the Tea Partiers did.

 

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08
It’s a sure sign a politician is in trouble: He gets a new press secretary, communications director or whatever you call it. So Governor McCrory shipped Kim Genardo to Commerce and replaced her with Josh Ellis.
 
I know nothing about the inner workings of this Governor’s Office, nor about the performance of his communications office. I knew Kim and Josh as reporters, and both are capable professionals.
 
I’ve seen this movie. For eight years (1976-1984), I was Governor Hunt’s press secretary. Every Monday morning, he met with his Cabinet and staff. Every meeting, every Cabinet secretary reported on the wondrous work being done in their departments. The conclusion was always self-evident and unanimous: “We’re not getting our story out.” Guess who was to blame.
 
The more likely problem here is substance, not spin. Performance, not PR.
 
Witness the coincidental announcement that DHHS gave a $3 million sole-source contract to a Washington consulting firm to fix the administration’s Medicaid problems.
 
Note that the N&O asked for public records regarding the contract eight weeks ago. “After repeated requests, Gov. Pat McCrory’s office released two documents Thursday evening; the Department of Health and Human Services released some of its records Friday evening, after issuing a news release about the Alvarez & Marsal contract.”
 
Ah, “Friday evening,” the classic dumping time for bad news.
 
No wonder DHHS and McCrory didn’t want anybody to know: The contract pays “$473 an hour for each of three principals of the firm, $394 an hour for each of three consultants, $242 an hour each for two analysts and $84 an hour for an intern.”
 
DHHS may have to hire a couple more 24-year-olds at $85,000 per year to supervise all its no-bid, personal services, sweetheart contracts.
 
Get to work, Josh. Your in-box is full.

 

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07
This blog comes from a long-time, active Chamber member. I approve this message:
 
“There’s a political lesson for all of us in the needless maelstrom that has engulfed the Raleigh Chamber of Commerce: You get fleas or worse when you lie down with dogs and dog killers, and you can destroy your credibility in a flash of bad judgment and sloppy PR.
 
“The chamber has inexplicably invited convicted felon, dog abuser and pro football player Michael Vick to speak to an event honoring ‘champions.’ The chamber’s defense is that his story is about human failure and redemption … and the chamber apparently believes that going to prison for hurting and killing dogs is a life lesson for young people.
 
“Vick has retired from hooking up dogs to car batteries and returned to the comfortable life of multi-millionaire football player and after-dinner entertainer, so the chamber is counting on him to sell some tickets.
 
“But business leaders whose names adorn the chamber’s membership list count on the organization to advance their political agenda and to be taken seriously. Their tolerance – and silence – around this misguided speaking invitation is contributing to the erosion of the organization’s political credibility and effectiveness.”
 

 

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06
Your first reaction was probably the same as mine. Clay Aiken? The singer? For Congress?
 
Then I met him.  He’s the same person you meet in his announcement video.  He’s smart, serious and genuine. He clearly has thought deeply about policy matters. He has a unique voice that is a breath of fresh air in a polluted political climate. And he has a genuine empathy for people that he has demonstrated as a YMCA counselor, a special education teacher, a foundation leader and a UNICEF representative overseas.
 
He’s kind of like Opie Taylor would have turned out if he’d had a big voice. Except he’s tougher than he looks.
 
Republicans predictably pushed the rewind button on their political mud machine. The haters and the homophobes crept out of their Internet cellars. Have at it. Aiken’s campaign feeds off their fuel – and the public’s disgust with it.
 
For Democrats, there’s a choice between competing theories of the race.
 
Keith Crisco’s theory is that he can peel off Republican voters in Randolph County. He says he did it when he ran for county commissioner in 1992. He lost, but he ran ahead of Governor Hunt and President Clinton.
 
Aiken’s theory is that he can mobilize a new wave of new and young voters. He can inject new energy, reshape the electorate and shake up the race.
 
There is a new generation of voters – and leaders – rising in North Carolina. They are idealistic and driven to make a difference. They are connected and engaged. If Democrats win them now, they can win with them for a long time to come.
 
The question for Democrats is which path is right for the future. Which helps Kay Hagan most this year and helps candidates for governor and President in two years. I think the answer is obvious. That’s why I’m for Clay.

 

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03
When you’ve got bad news, get it out. It only gets worse with age.
 
Pat McCrory’s new-look DENR failed that test last week, at a time when people were watching closely how the  administration would react to its first environmental crisis.

When three million-plus gallons of untreated sewage spewed into the Haw River, DENR told the city it could delay public notification until the spill was stopped and the actual extent of the spill was known.
 
Didn’t thirsty citizens downstream have a right to know a river of sewage was heading their way?

Pipes break, spills happen, and no governor can prevent them all. But governors are judged by how they react to breaks and spills. DENR’s delay was a missed opportunity for McCrory’s team to show they are serious about protecting the environment and serving every citizen.

 

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02
Is this a “Groundhog Day” sequel? Republicans talking about impeachment? Is it 1998 again?
 
Dan Barkin had an intriguing article in the N&O about several Republican U.S. Senate candidates talking up impeaching President Obama. They fumed about Obama’s alleged high crimes and misdemeanors, not to mention being black, a Democrat and President anyway.
 
Democrats should hope that the Republicans beat this drum. And that Thom Tillis is forced to take a public stand. Tillis wasn’t at the Lake Norman Conservatives forum that Barkin went to; the Speaker routinely ducks Tea Party events.
 
The last time Republicans got riled up about impeachment was, of course, the last time a Democrat was President. That was Bill Clinton, and it all started with some unseemly and unpresidential behavior.
 
The Republicans got obsessed with Clinton’s sex life. Senators Jesse Helms and Lauch Faircloth got hot on the trail. Kenneth Starr launched an in-depth, full-blown (pardon the expressions) federal case.
 
Then-Speaker Newt Gingrich and Later-Briefly-Speaker Robert Livingstone demanded impeachment and denounced Clinton. Later, it turned that they were guilty of similarly sins at precisely the same time. No matter.
 
They saw impeachment as the road to control of Congress in 1998. Lauch Faircloth rode the same horse against John Edwards in North Carolina. Edwards ran as an exemplary family man (this was a long time ago, remember) who thought Washington had its priorities wrong.
 
The GOP strategy backfired. Voters cared more about their lives than Clinton’s sex life. Edwards beat Faircloth. Democrats gained congressional seats in Clinton’s last mid-term election. The impeachment drive fizzled, and both Gingrich and Livingstone left Congress in disgrace.
 
A rerun is just what Democrats need. And Tea Party Republicans are just crazy enough to make our wish come true.
 
Meanwhile: Where do you stand, Thom?

 

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Carter & Gary
 
Carter Wrenn
 
 
Gary Pearce
 
 
The Charlotte Observer says: “Carter Wrenn and Gary Pearce don’t see eye-to-eye on many issues. But they both love North Carolina and know its politics inside and out.”
 
Carter is a Republican. 
Gary is a Democrat.
 
They met in 1984, during the epic U.S. Senate battle between Jesse Helms and Jim Hunt. Carter worked for Helms and Gary, for Hunt.
 
Years later, they became friends. They even worked together on some nonpolitical clients.
 
They enjoy talking about politics. So they started this blog in 2005. 
 
They’re still talking. And they invite you to join the conversation.
 
 
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