Fans of Moore Square should mark Feb. 17, 5:30 p.m. in their calendars. That's when the city's Parks, Rec & Greenways Advisory Board meets to formally receive the new draft master plan and take public comment on it. The board meets at the Chavis Park Community Center, 505 MLK Jr. Blvd. The board is advisory, as its name says. Whatever it thinks, the final call is the City Council's on whether to accept the plan, change it or reject it.
The plan can be viewed here: 2011MSqMasterPlanDocument.pdf
it was developed by a landscape design firm, the Christopher Counts Studio, which emerged as the winner of a city-sponsored competition last year. The original CCS concept has been revised some — toned down, I'd say — as city officials worked on the details. But the central idea still stands, which is to vary the topography of Moore Square dramatically by creating an elevated, "tilted lawn" roughly in the center of the square.
The effect of the tilted lawn, I gather, is to create two distinct spaces within the square. The so-called central lawn — still flat — will be angled to the northwest, opening up to the Marbles Museum side (north) and the Blount Street side (west). It could be used for musical or other performances.
The tilted lawn — elevated — will serve to make a sort of "park within a park" for kids and families in the southeast quadrant, opening up to City Market. A small cafe and restrooms would be added in that quadrant.
A good idea? I think it is. In contrast to some prior ideas for Moore Square, which would've overwhelmed it with "facilities," the tilted-lawn concept allows a fundamental reshaping of the square without losing some of it. In fact, you could argue that it makes it, in a functional way, "bigger."
There's no stopping it, according to my very knowledgeable, don't-use-my-name source. The only question is whether the GOP bill will literally require every voter to present a photo ID at the polls? Or, if you don't have one, will alternative forms of identification — a phone bill, a utility bill — be allowed to demonstrate that you are the person you say you are and live where you say you do.
Republican legislators promised this one to their base as they campaigned for office last fall. The stated fear: Illegal immigrants are somehow registering to vote and voting using phony documents. The actual purpose: Like so many other voter-suppression tactics employed by the GOP over the years, this one is meant to discourage voting by folks who, for reasons of income or circumstance, don't have a current driver's license. That would be, as fliers circulated in the legislature today by Democracy NC point out:
* Older people in rest homes;
* Students in college;
* Renters (since they move more frequently);
* Women who've recently married and changed their names;
* People with disabilities who don't drive;
* People with low incomes who don't drive.
This list skews Democratic, which is why Republicans are pushing it. A requirement that you present a photo ID when voting would affect Republicans and Democrats alike, but the GOP knows that their voters — on average, more affluent and better educated — will deal with it more easily than the other side's voters.
In Indiana, the Republican legislature enacted a law in 2005 requiring voters to present a valid photo ID at the polls. Under the law, the state was to create a new kind of photo ID for non-drivers. It did, but the IDs weren't free unless you signed a statement avowing your poverty. And even so, you were required to present a valid birth certificate, and they aren't free.
Three justices of the U.S. Supreme Court (Breyer, Ginsburg, Souter) found, in the case of Crawford v. Marion County (Ind.) Election Board, that the Indiana statute was an unconstitutional burden on the right of every person to vote in federal elections free — under the 24th Amendment — from "any poll tax or other tax."
Unfortunately, the five conservative justices (Roberts, Scalia, Alito, Thomas, Kennedy) plus Justice Stevens on a bad day, voted to uphold the law.
Thus, there will be no LEGAL argument to be made if the Republicans in our legislature decide to go whole-hog for a photo ID-only law, i.e., an all-out voter-suppression law. And from what I was told, Gov. Perdue may not threaten to veto a photo ID-only law because it polls so well.
Never mind that, as Democracy NC points out, the likely Republican bill will exempt absentee ballots, which data show are more likely to be cast by registered Republicans. (And how would you enforce a Photo ID requirement for absentee ballots anyway?) Never mind that "[P]eople of color students, the elderly, people with disabilities and low-income citizens are less likely to have a driver's license.... The time and money used to get a photo ID is like a poll tax, a barrier long used to deny African-Americans the vote.
"The photo ID is a biased, modern-day power grab," Democracy NC says.
The one argument that could slow this speeding bullet down, however, is money. There is no machinery in place now to produce valid photo IDs for non-motorists. Establishing one — in enough places, moreover, that the Republicans can at least keep a straight face when arguing that the law isn't meant to disenfranchise anybody — will be costly.
The alternative would be to allow non-photo IDs of the sort that many non-drivers, though not all, would have. But even if utility bills are permitted, for example, that won't help people in rest homes, student or renters who don't pay their own utilities. How about a mail-in application for them, with their receipt of a mailed form sufficient proof of address?
This debate, I was told, begins tomorrow.
And it will move fast, according to Tillis, who said in his acceptance speech after winning the Speaker's post today that the GOP will set a rapid pace and aim to finish the '11 session by June 4. That would be fast.
Tillis brought his own, hand-crafted gavel, which he named "Ray" after a man who embodied all that was great in America, he said. That would be his father, Thomas Raymond Tillis, who was a faithful husband to his death, Thom Tillis said, and wasn't afraid to reach his belt to instill discipline in his children. Slamming it down with a zingy thud, Tillis added, "Don't make Ray mad." (It was a joke, I guess.)
I don't like piling on. If I were a field judge, guys diving helmet-first into a ball-carrier when he's flat on the ground would be thrown out of the game. So I hesitate to comment on the really stupid thing Congresswoman Renee Ellmers said — and did — when she decided to accept a taxpayer-funded health insurance policy. The N&O already let her have it this morning. By noon, the state Democratic Party was out with a blast ... quoting the N&O. Read 'em (Dems' statement is below the fold) and, if you voted for Ellmers, weep.
Here's my contribution: It's not too late, Ms. Ellmers, to announce that you made a mistake and want to rectify it by not accepting the gold-plated health care plan generously provided by taxpayers who — Ellmers says — have no right to an equivalent plan for themselves. In short, Just Walk Away Renee.
Think about it as you hum along with me. Ellmers could prove her humility — badly lacking in her statement that it's tough to get by on her $174K salary plus whatever her hubbie pulls in from his medical practice (hint: it's beaucoup).
"I screwed up," is all she'd have to say. "I said in my campaign that people don't have a right to health insurance, and though technically I do have a right to it as an exalted member of Congress, I can't in good conscience maintain that the government shouldn't subsidize health care and then turn around and let the government subsidize my health care. So I've decided to buy health insurance out of my own earnings — exactly what I told others to do when I was running for this office — and yes, I can afford to buy it since I'm loaded and my husband is too."
[Update: Lest we forget, here's what Ellmers said about health care in September, in an interview with the Clayton Star-News:
“I wish everybody could afford health insurance, but it’s got to be a priority in your life,” she said. “And over the last, well, going back to the Clinton administration, there’s the mind-set that health care should be free.”
She said she was opposed to having the government mandate that insurers must accept customers with pre-existing conditions.
“Let the private insurance companies decide how they’re going to handle the pre-existing conditions situation,” she said.
She also questioned whether all insurance customers should have to help pay for maternity care. The health-insurance industry typically considers pregnancy a pre-existing condition.
“Maternity coverage — that’s another one. … Should you have to pay for someone else’s [maternity care]? Maybe you’ve decided you’ve had your children, or maybe we have a 35-year-old female who’s had a hysterectomy. Should she have to pay maternity coverage? Maternity coverage is very costly,” Ellmers said.
She did say, however, that society had a responsibility to care for its neediest.
“We’ve got to take care of them. There’s a whole group of people that it is our responsibility to take care of — I don’t think anybody disputes that.”
From whatcha call "sources close to" the situation, I was told seven weeks ago that Nancy McFarlane, the District A City Council member, would be announcing her 2011 mayoral candidacy very soon. This is the kind of thing one might've breathlessly reported; but then, if it was true, she'd have announced very soon anyway, so what was the point?
Seven weeks later — i.e., beyond soon, let alone very soon — McFarlane hasn't announced. But yesterday, the postcard shown above arrived in my mailbox at home. Fyi, my home is not in District A. On its face, it's a personal message from N. M. encouraging everyone in Raleigh to "Shine!" this weekend when the NHL All-Star game comes to town. It's paid for by the Nancy McFarlane for City Council campaign. It features her campaign logo.
Is it mere public service? A move to boost McFarlane's standing in mayoral polls soon to be taken? (She's probably the least well-known Council member.) Or is it the prelim to an announcement that will now occur very soon?
I was wrong two years ago in saying that Charles Meeker wouldn't run for another term as mayor, so I won't say flatly that Charles Meeker won't run for still another term this year, as unlikely (if you've been watching him) as that seems at present.
If he doesn't, Meeker could support McFarlane, who's been a dependable ally. He could support at-large Councilors Mary-Ann Baldwin or Russ Stephenson, also dependable allies (except, in Stephenson's case, on the Lightner Center issue).
A complication for McFarlane is that she's a political independent, neither Republican nor Democrat. That could be an advantage if she gets in early and sews up support from both sides. It won't be, however, if a credible Democrat announces first, followed by a credible Republican. Fact is, most voters are partisan. It's non-voters who aren't. As Jim Hightower aptly said of politics, the middle-of-the-road is where you find yellow stripes and dead armadillos.
It'll be ugly if you don't push for a tax hike, is the message to Gov. Perdue from Together NC, a coalition of about 120 progressive-minded provider and advocacy organizations. In a letter described by its sponsors as "strongly worded," the coalition said Perdue must abandon her stated position that tax increases are "off my plate" as a means of helping to balance the 2011-12 state budget. Best estimates now are that, without any additional revenues — taxes — spending cuts of $3.7 billion will be needed to balance the budget. That means current spending levels would need to be slashed by about 17 percent.
"Exercise leadership on the budget and reject a job-killing, cuts-only approach," Together NC told Perdue.
“To pave a path to the future, you must take a balanced approach to our state’s fiscal crisis, which includes raising revenue,” the letter said. “And not just any revenue, but revenue solutions that are adequate, stable and fair.”
The full letter is on Together NC's website along with data on what would be cut if state spending were reduced across-the-board by 5%, 10% or 15%.
Perdue will have the first dance with the budget mess when she sends a 2011-12 plan to the General Assembly. But then the legislature takes over, dominated by new Republican majorities in both houses that seemingly are bent on cutting their way to budget balance — no tax hikes now or ever. (!) The GOP majorities are almost big enough — but not quite — to deny Perdue the chance to veto their budget should she choose to. In the House, however, there are just enough Democrats (52 to the GOP's 68) to sustain a Perdue veto IF she issues one and IF the Democrats all hang together. Then, too, perhaps a few Republicans could be found who don't thinking whacking K-12 school budgets or the community colleges or the UNC system is a good idea.
Gonna be quite a year.
Stephen Colbert gets it right about the Wake County schools, diversity and its reverse—"disintegration":
|The Colbert Report||Mon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c|
|The Word - Disintegration|
John Tedesco, who frequently speaks for the school board majority (or lately, for the majority minus Debra Goldman), often references Duncan's support for charter schools and other innovations as somehow supportive of Tedesco's anti-diversity opinions. They're not. Duncan offers them as methods to improve FAILING BIG-CITY SCHOOL SYSTEMS LIKE THE ONE HE USED TO LEAD IN CHICAGO.
Wake's schools, of course, are not a big-city system and are not failing — facts that never deter Tedesco, however, from claiming some policy kinship with the Secretary of Education.
Hopefully, Tedesco will refrain from doing so after this letter from Duncan to the Post:
America's strength has always been a function of its diversity, so it is troubling to see North Carolina's Wake County School Board taking steps to reverse a long-standing policy to promote racial diversity in its schools ["In N.C., a new battle on school integration," front page, Jan. 12]. The board's action has led to a complaint that has prompted an investigation by our Office for Civil Rights, but it should also prompt a conversation among educators, parents and students across America about our core values.
Those core values, embodied in our founding documents, subsequent amendments and court rulings, include equity and diversity in education and opportunity. In fact, on Monday we celebrate the life and leadership of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whose movement for racial equality inspired a nation and brought us closer to the more perfect union envisioned by our founders.
In an increasingly diverse society like ours, racial isolation is not a positive outcome for children of any color or background. School is where children learn to appreciate, respect and collaborate with people different from themselves. I respectfully urge school boards across America to fully consider the consequences before taking such action. This is no time to go backward.
Arne Duncan, Washington
The writer is U.S. education secretary.
The Lightner Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.
Update2:Per WRAL, Campbell's body will lie in repose at the Capitol on a day also dedicated to observing Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday. The conjunction of the two is fitting. In the evening, Campbell will be remembered in a memorial service at the Progress Energy Center:
Campbell will lie in repose in the State Capitol rotunda from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday.
A visitation will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. Friday in the Fletcher Opera Theater at the Progress Energy Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Raleigh. His funeral will be at noon Saturday at St. Ambrose Episcopal Church, 813 Darby St., followed by interment at Carolina Biblical Gardens in Garner.
Of interest: Gov. Perdue is one of the scheduled speakers at a Martin Luther King Day event at First Baptist Church on Friday at 12 noon. The church is at 101 S. Wilmington St., adjacent to the Capitol.
Update: Secretary of State Marshall's statement —
RALEIGH, N.C. — Secretary of State Elaine F. Marshall today issued a
statement regarding the death of former State Auditor Ralph Campbell:
“Ralph Campbell was a dear friend to all of us who served on the
Council of State with him. His good humor, guidance and leadership
benefitted not only us, but everyone in North Carolina. Ralph should be
remembered as both a great role model—the first and to this day only
African-American in our State’s history to be elected to statewide
executive office—and as a man who truly believed in building a better
society through his dedicated public service.”
Anthony Tata was a popular guest Thursday night at a dinner meeting of the Wake County Taxpayers Association. The conservative group, its ranks swelled to about 200 for the first public appearance of Wake’s new superintendent of schools, laughed at his jokes. (The most important criteria in the search process, Tata quipped, was that the choice “be non-controversial.”). When Tata said he likes bass fishing, they offered him directions to the best fishing holes. They nodded when Tata said that he comes from a family of educators. They cheered as he told them that 100 percent of the proceeds from his military action novels goes to help wounded veterans at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington. “I don’t keep a dime of that money for myself,” Tata declared.
There was just one thing Tata said that failed to meet with the group’s approval. Tata was asked — by someone who’s not a member — about the WCTA’s opposition to previous school bond issues, including its role in defeating a major bond referendum a decade ago. Tata acknowledged that the school system is way behind on building new schools to keep up with the county’s “exploding growth.” Within 90 days, he said, he expects to have a handle on how many more schools are needed and how much they’ll cost.
“And it’s a strategic vision thing, because you can’t continue to put a band-aid on it,” Tata continued. “You gotta make sure you get those dollars from somewhere.”
Dollars? All of a sudden every WCTA member seemed to be looking in his or her lap to see if their napkins were straight. The only sound in the room was the rustling of many fannies.
Update: Yup, Gov. Perdue just started her press conference by donning a red hat. She says Red Hat has committed to an additional 540 jobs here (above the current 2,500 — note: 690 in NC) in return for incentives the state extended in its campaign to keep the company here. The quality of the workforce, Perdue says, is the key to growing the state's economy. That and the incentives: "I did everything but make 'em a home-cooked meal," she says.
What incentives were offered? Perdue doesn't offer details, but does say that other states bid for the company and, like it or not, North Carolina would've lost Red Hat if it hadn't put cash on the table. (Commerce Secretary Keith Crisco says the value is roughly $18 million — over time and assuming the 540 jobs materialize.)
[Another Update: Perdue's press release puts the figure at up to $20 million. It's copied below the fold.]
Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst says the universities in the Triangle and Red Hat were prime factors in its decision to stay here as well as the low cost of living and the quality of life. But he adds that, "without the incentives, we would not have been able to stay here." He says Red Hat looked at Atlanta, Austin, Texas and Massachusetts, where it has other facilities.
Red Hat is located now on the NCSU Centennial Campus. Where, exactly, it will establish a permanent corporate headquarters hasn't been determined yet, Whitehurst says, but it will be in Wake County somewhere.
Perdue was asked about the merger of Duke Energy and Progress Energy. She didn't question it, but did say that with the combined company in a building phase, it would be appropriate for state officials to raise the issue of whether the mega-Duke/Progress Corp. should be moving faster toward renewable energy sources.