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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
It was unusual summer – first Governor McCrory reared back and threw a punch at the old Bull Mooses, then he threw another, and another.
 
Back in May, when he’d sent his budget over to the Senate, the Bull Mooses had unceremoniously dumped it in the waste bin, just as they had the year before, but this time instead of folding his tent the Governor let fly saying even if the Senate Leaders – like Phil Berger and Bob Rucho – were Republicans they sure reminded him of Marc Basnight and Harry Reid.
 
Of course some folks said that sounded like a fit of pique but it’s a cold hard fact most Republican Senators serve in Republican Districts and the most popular Republican in the state calling them Democrats was serious business.
 
Then, in July, as punches were flying and  it looked like the Governor was about to get some R-E-S-P-E-C-T at last, at a press conference a newspaper reporter asked him what troubled him most about this session of the legislature and he said his one disappointment was the Senate hadn’t passed his puppy mill bill.
 
We all love puppies but it was an unfortunate answer.
One minute the Governor was sounding as tough as John Wayne and the next he was sounding like Wally Cox and, sadly, R-E-S-P-E-C-T flew right out the window.

 

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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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06
There was a history program on Frontline the other night about the war in Iraq and the first part was about the foibles of George Bush and Dick Cheney but I did learn something new: How General David Petraeus came up with the novel idea of buying off the opposition to the Maliki regime by paying 100,000 Sunnis $400 million in cold hard cash so they’d fight alongside rather than against the Americans.
 
After that, it was hard to fault Obama for wanting out of Iraq.  
 
But, it turned out, Obama didn’t fare much better than Bush. Granted, he had the misfortune of being President when the inevitable skedaddle took place but before, during, and after the Marines left Iraq he sounded and looked like a President waiting for a bad play to end so he could skedaddle back to the White House.
 
Next, after Frontline, the World News came on and it got worse: There in all his glory was Vladimir Putin looking tough as nails followed by Obama sounding articulate (as always) but looking  like a school boy who’d just had the misfortune of running head-on into the meanest bully on the playground.
 
Failed stimulus plans and Obamacare websites crashing are troubling problems but when you see the President of the United States face to face with a foreign varmint – and the varmint’s the one saying, Go ahead.  Make my day – a deep-seated, bone-crushing anxiety takes root.

 

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05
The Governor lined his cabinet secretaries up in a row, sat down behind a table, clenched his fist, looked straight into the cameras and said there’d been tough, tense negotiations but he’d threatened a few vetoes and everyone had come around so, to his way of thinking, the budget was fine.
 
Since May, when the Governor sent his budget over to the Senate, he’d had to deal with one brouhaha after another.
 
The ole Bull Mooses had dumped his budget in the trash can, passed their own budget and sent it to the House.
 
The House then dumped the Senate budget in the trash can and passed its own budget.
 
The Senate then let fly telling the House it looked like the legislature would be in town till Christmas, figuring sometime between now and November Thom Tillis was going to decide to leave Raleigh to campaign against Kay Hagan.
 
Next the Governor said the Republican Senate leaders reminded him of Marc Basnight and Harry Reid – which bruised Phil Berger and Bob Rucho’s feelings – and added he’d veto any budget that raised teachers’ salaries more than 6%.
 
The Bull Mooses promptly went over to the House and said they’d agree to a budget that raised salaries 7% and the House, abandoning its ally the Governor, said, Deal.
 
The Governor then announced the legislature hadn’t really passed a 7% pay raise – it was a 5.5% raise (if you didn’t include longevity pay which teachers were already getting) – and declared victory.
 
Meantime, at the same time the brawl was going on, the Senate’s popularly dropped and, perhaps coincidentally, Phil Berger, Jr.’s lead vanished in a tough runoff election for Congress in Greensboro. Thom Tillis fell behind Kay Hagan in the polls. And a poll by a conservative group said Pat McCrory is trailing Roy Cooper. So at the end of the day the real winners may turn out to be Democrats.

 

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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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04
A long-time veteran of the Legislative Building, one who looks at both parties with a critical eye, offers this critique of the end of the not-so-short session.
 
“Legislative Republicans treated each other last week just like they’ve treated the state’s citizens for the last two years: with meanness, impatience, and a lack of caring, respect and statesmanship.
 
“The multiple procedural failures also highlighted a desperate leadership void and lack of knowledge about how to govern. The inability to adjourn the session in an organized fashion left the process in turmoil, with no one exactly sure what’s going on. A civilized adjournment requires some communication between the House and Senate, and that apparently just doesn’t happen anymore, especially with a distracted Speaker.
 
“Meanwhile, the House and Senate lobbed hand grenades at each other over the coal ash legislation. It’s unclear whether the failure of this legislation was incompetence, a conspiracy or a last-minute desire to protect a large GOP financial contributor. None of it makes sense when House members tried to amend a conference report. Everyone knows you can’t do that.
 
“This mess would be laughable except for the dire consequences to the state.”

 

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04
The mention of the phrase ‘public schools’ conjures up a vision of nurturing teachers and faithful laboring principals but it turns out ‘Big Education’ is a kingdom teeming with ‘Big Players’ from teachers’ unions to textbook publishers to testing companies all battling for promotions, contracts and a bigger piece of the billions spent on public education – the warring camps fall into four tribes:
 
The Advocates for Social Justice are a tribe of dyed-in-the-wool multiculturalists tracing their genealogy back to a fearsome place: The 1960s Counter-Culture. They see our education system as the ill-bred progeny of capitalist exploitation, are determined to free the next generation from the shackles of our Western heritage and believe our public schools have a sacred duty to lead a crusade to cure the wrongs of social injustice.
 
The Human Potentials are against memorization, drill, rote learning, structure, discipline and routine.  This tribe believes open (and unstructured) classrooms are a step on the road to enlightenment and, more than anything else, believe schools must nurture students and build their self-esteem so they flower and fulfill their human potential. 
 
The Traditionalists favor all the things the Human Potentialists see as wicked: They’re for phonics, memorization, flash cards and teaching the virtues of Western Civilization.
 
The final group, the Structuralists, see our schools as antiquated. As an out of date monopoly. And an albatross. To them future lies in charter schools, vouchers, school choice and tuition tax credits. Their spiritual godfather is Milton Friedman.
 
‘Big Education,’ like big health care in Washington, turns out to be a swamp filled with special interests, so next time you see the teachers' union whacking a state legislator remember: You may really be watching a Structuralist slamming a Human Potentialist who’s trying to get his (or her) hands on more of ‘Big Education’s billions.

 

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01
It may still be unclear what this legislature did, but it’s very clear how they did it: with remarkable bile, bitterness and backstabbing among the forces of McCrory, Tillis and Berger.
 
Oddly, there wasn’t the usual simultaneous adjournment, with members from both houses sharing smiles and handshakes at the end. The Senate passed its budget and left town. The House was left to clean up. (And the state was left with no plan to clean up coal ash.)
 
The once-united troika of Governor, House and Senate fell apart this year. One Republican even said the Senate pushed for the so-called 7 percent pay raise just to put up a number that McCrory had said he would veto, challenging him to put up or back down.
 
Then there was the Governor comparing Berger to Marc Basnight, Tony Rand and even Harry Reid. Plus the obvious glee that McCrory and Tillis allies took in the defeat of Berger Jr.’s congressional race – and their possible involvement in that defeat.
 
In return, there was the Senate’s very public and pointed killing of the puppy-mill bill that was a pet project (so to speak) of the Governor and First Lady.
 
Certainly Democrats fought with each other when they held those positions. Jim Hunt had Jimmy Green, for Pete’s sake. But Republicans took it to a new level this year.
 
Democrats can’t be happy with what the session did. But they can learn to like the political damage it did to Tillis’ Senate candidacy, the issues they now have for the 2014 and 2016 elections and the prospect of more GOP division ahead.

 

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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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