If he were a fighting liberal, I guess we'd love him: Sen. Richard Burr, who's no sure thing for re-election this year any way you slice it, nonetheless refuses every opportunity to re-present himself as a thinking person's moderate. Instead, he's a down-the-line conservative/partisan Republican, against everything the Obama Administration proposes no matter what.
The latest examples:
1) Burr is out with a statement that he'll vote no on the nomination of Elena Kagan to the U.S. Supreme Court. Remember when Republicans said President Bush had a right to have his right-wing judicial nominees approved because, well, he just did? That was so then, and this is now with a Democratic president who wasn't even born in the continental U.S.
2) And this morning, even as Senate Democrats managed to break the Republicans' filibuster of legislation to provide additional aid to the states for teachers jobs and Medicaid funds — $26 billion that the states, including North Carolina — desperately need, Burr voted no again. The vote on cloture (ending the filibuster) was 61-38, with Republicans Sens. Snowe and Collins, both from Maine, breaking from the GOP ranks to join the 58 Democrats and Joe Lieberman, whatever he is. (Pay no attention to the title of the bill; the operative phrase in the bill summary is "and other purposes."
Burr could've grabbed the opportunity to look reasonable by also breaking ranks on this bill that he might've said was too important for his home state to cast yet another partisan vote of NAY. But he didn't.
The vote on the $26 billion itself hasn't occurred yet. When it does, will Burr switch sides and try to claim the political middle? Not likely.
From Sen. Hagan:
WASHINGTON, D.C. — United States Senator Kay R. Hagan (D-NC) today supported a bipartisan bill that will send approximately $600 million to North Carolina. The bill does not add to the federal deficit and was fully paid for with a number of spending rescissions. The legislation extends increased Medicaid funding, also known as FMAP, to states through June 30, 2011. The bill passed a key procedural vote in the Senate with 61-38 votes, and is likely to be approved by the Senate in the near future.
The legislation means as much as $343 million in increased Medicaid funding for North Carolina. It also will provide nearly $300 million to NC for teachers, which is expected to save approximately 4,500 educator jobs.
“This funding will come to North Carolina at a crucial time for our state,” Hagan said. “In this tough economy, our state government’s budget is down to levels not seen since 1996-1997. The FMAP and education funding will give our state $600 million to maintain critical services and save approximately 4,500 educator jobs just before the school year starts. I have been working with my colleagues to ensure we pass this funding, and I was proud to support this bipartisan bill today.”
This year, Senator Hagan has signed two letters to Majority Leader Harry Reid asking for the FMAP extension.
It’s a metaphor for our times. Can we move forward together in Raleigh?
I believe we can with the aid of a unifying emblem that, with proper promotion, could also heal the nation.
[Update: I'm adding a well-done analysis by Wayne Pein of the problem on Hillsborough Street and his suggestion solution. He, too, trusts the sharrow, albeit in a different configuration: Raleigh_Hillsborough_Street.pdf
I asked Wayne how I should decribe him, occupationally speaking (e.g, he could be a bicycling dentist). A bicycling lorax, he said. ]
On Tuesday, the City Council was expected to approve an experiment: It calls for a single, 11-foot lane in each direction for the cars on Hillsborough Street (an earlier plan called for 10-foot car lanes); that leaves just five feet, not six, between the car lanes and the marked parking spaces on each side of the street.
That’s five feet, in other words, to be shared by bicycles and the open doors of any parked cars. Thus, the idea of having four-foot bike lanes is out the window, at least temporarily: Bicyclists fear being “doored” almost as much as they fear being run into by a car; riding with just 12 inches of clearance, they’d be doored daily.
So the new scheme, suggested by the state Department of Transportation, is not to mark the bike lanes. Simply stripe the car lanes and let the bicyclists figure out where to ride within the five-foot area remaining.
Because the DOT has the final say, Raleigh could do little but follow its lead, says Russ Stephenson, chair of the council’s public works committee. Thus his committee went along, but with the proviso that the car lanes be striped at first with tape, not paint. That way, Stephenson says, Raleigh can see whether the 11/5 split is working before applying the finishing touches.
Good idea. A lot of people, including Stephenson, think 10 feet for cars is enough, but DOT didn’t, and maybe they’re right. The point is, we’ll all learn how best to share the road and proceed from there. But to do so, I think we’re going to need more than just some white tape to guide us. We’re going to need a slew of sharrows.
Consider: Sharrows on the roadway (it’s a made-up word from Australia — out of share and arrow) are a sign to the motorist to give the bicyclist a fair shake. Give him his own lane where there’s room for one. Share your lane where there isn’t.
On Hillsborough Street, we’re going to need lots of sharrows in the spaces between the car lanes and the parking spaces. We’re also going to need them in the car lanes approaching the intersections and the roundabouts.
And it’s not just on Hillsborough Street. In the coming year, Raleigh will roll out bike lanes across the city, which means that soon, we’ll be resplendent with the sharing symbol that can help us solve so many other big problems.
* The high-speed rail problem? Trust the sharrow. Coming through the center of Raleigh, the trains should share the streets with everyone else. These are not bullet trains, after all. They’ll be—for the foreseeable future—the same old Amtrak trains that currently go to Washington at slowpoke speeds via Rocky Mount. They can get to Washington faster if they cut through the city, but that doesn’t mean they can’t share the corridor and slow down as they go by. Either that or spring for a system of overhead or tunneled tracks.
* The school assignment problem? Trust the sharrow. The Wake school system is a shared trust of the city and Wake County. It does not belong to the five-member majority currently in control of the nine-member school board. The majority should share its power with the four other members. If they did, they’d find that stability in student assignments—the majority’s goal—can exist in harmony with diversity in student populations.
At the national level, too, the sharrow can be our guide.
* The federal deficit problem? Trust the sharrow. As David Stockman, President Reagan’s first budget director, argued Sunday in The New York Times, the top 1 percent of Americans received two-thirds of the gain in national income during the 2002-06 economic “bubble”. Meanwhile, the Bush tax cuts reduced federal revenues to just 15 percent of gross domestic product, turning Clinton-era surpluses into huge budget deficits. With a bit more sharing by the rich, however, the deficits would shrink dramatically.
* Immigrants rights? Trust the sharrow. U.S. Sen. John Kyl, R-Arizona, is among the Republicans who want to repeal the part of the Fourteenth Amendment that confers citizenship on anyone born in this country. Really? We can’t share our country with our fellow Americans?
We’re just rusty when it comes to sharing, I think, too busy grabbing for our own selves to notice that things work better if and when we work together. Which is why it’s so much fun watching the traffic move through the roundabouts. Because everyone’s going in turn, no one has to stop for very long and we don’t need any red lights. So by sharing the road, we all get there faster.