Worried that John Tedesco of Wake County school board fame (or infame, as the case may be) was out of work? Fear not — he has new a gig fronting for the North Carolina Center for Education Reform.
(Correction: The Center for Education Reform is a different animal — my mistake for linking to it when it popped up in a quick google.)
Here's the link to the apparently brand-new N.C. Center for Education Reform.
Conservative donors, attendez-vous:
The North Carolina Center for Education Reform (NCCER) is proud to announce the selection of our new President and CEO, Mr. John Tedesco. As our efforts continue to expand our mission, Mr. Tedesco is seen as the experienced leader capable of driving our vision to success. NCCER is committed to being a catalyst to empower, innovate, and transform education on behalf of the children of North Carolina. Mr. Tedesco has been described by reporters as one who has “done his homework” and stands as a “transformative force” - we at NCCER most certainly agree and are honored to welcome him.
In North Carolina nearly 1.5 million children are served in our K-�12 educational systems. In these systems nearly 30% of our youth drop out, and nearly 50% for our minority children (some local systems and schools do much worse). Nearly two-�thirds of NC students who do graduate and go on to one of our community colleges must have extensive remediation. Our 3rd grade reading levels remain far below our desired results. NC ranks #4 in America in suspensions and our school to prison pipeline remains strong. Our children can no longer wait for the slow evolution of education in NC - they need a revolution.
John Tedesco is a proven public sector leader. Over the past 12 years he has served as a Director of Program Services for a national educational foundation, a Director of Development with major universities and regional non-profits, a City Manager, and a Chief Development Officer for Big Brothers Big Sisters. He earned his Bachelors Degree in Political Science concentrating on Public Administration at Thiel College in Greenville, PA. Mr. Tedesco has served on numerous volunteer boards impacting positive community change and scholarship. In 2008, Mr. Tedesco was named a Goodmon Fellow by Leadership Triangle.
John Tedesco is a passionate advocate for educational reform. During his tenure with Big Brothers Big Sisters he helped expand School-�Based Mentoring programs and is credited with establishing state partnerships to launch the North Carolina Mentoring Children of Prisoners Initiative. In 2009, Mr. Tedesco was elected to the Wake County Board of Education leading the largest school system in North Carolina and the 18th largest in America with 144,000 students, 163 schools, 18,000 employees and a $1.5 billion budget. He has been a direct force for student achievement personally pushing advanced rigor, new data systems, increased participation in advanced mathematics for all students, expansion of themed academies for STEM and Global Studies, and the creation of both the Economically Disadvantaged Student Performance Task Force and four Renaissance Schools.
Again, we proudly welcome Mr. John Tedesco to lead our efforts at NCCER as a non-partisan not-�for-�profit organization committed to producing measurable results for all students in North Carolina. His expertise and passion in education, non-profit management and development will serve as a spark to create a powerful transformation of education in North Carolina. Additional inquiries may call 919-822-2170 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to reach Ms. Debra Mills, Board Secretary and Office Administrator.
If you've seen the ads, it's not Mississippi.
Mississippi will spend more on public schools than we do.
It's not South Carolina. (Really? Not even with Nikki Haley in the Gov's Office?)
Together NC coalition leaders just sent a letter of apology to South Carolina for their mockery back when our state was never gonna be like their state.
So our all-but-adopted state budget, when the Senate Republicans are finished overriding Gov. Bev Perdue's veto, will drop us to 49th out of 50 states in taxpayer support for K-12 schools. Which I've read over and over in progressive cyber-circles, and begs the question —
The answer is ...
I'm guessing I've read a thousand. Really. These guys have run some seriously bad bills. So many that the S308's and the H42's all start to run together.
But ask yourself, what really sticks in my mind when I consider the Republican-led legislature in action?
If you're like me, it's Thom Tillis paying his House staff $150K a year (the Governor makes less) and handing out raises while teachers assistants and preschool leaders are tossed out on the street.
Oh, and two old fools in the Senate careening around like maniacs or — and maybe this is worse — lying about their prowess when they crank up their engines.
Which brings me to TellTillis.com.
Check it out.
They're cutting the hell out of the budget. Maybe while they're at it, they could cut the crap?
Or maybe they should just cut the cake and tell us to eat it.
Which we can do — eat cake, that is — tomorrow at 11 on the mall behind the Legislative Building.
It's courtesy of the Together NC coalition, which isn't feeling real good about the chances of Gov. Perdue's budget veto being sustained:
WHO: Together NC
WHAT: Farewell to Old North Carolina Party
WHEN: Wednesday, June 15, 11 a.m.
WHERE: Halifax Mall at the General Assembly Building, 16 W. Jones Street, Raleigh
RALEIGH (June 14, 2011) — Join Together NC as they bid farewell to some of North Carolina’s most beloved, valuable public structures before they are sent on their way by the passing of the state budget.
Enjoy a slice of cake and sign the farewell card to public investments such as North Carolina’s public education system, natural resources, and health systems. Don’t miss out on your pink slip party favors, too.
Cake will be served from 11:00 a.m. until noon at the Halifax Mall by the General Assembly Building in Raleigh. The program will begin at 11:15.
[Update 4: 6/13: Public Policy Polling finds one-third of voters are undecided, but otherwise, Perdue's veto is the popular choice; even the Republican electorate is puzzling over the GOP position ... while Dems and UNAs — unaffilateds — are with the Gov.]
The rest is from Sunday —
[Update 3: Question about those five Democrats? She's talked to them, had them to the mansion, hopes some — or some Republicans — will now come to her aid. Question about the GOP budget, didn't they meet you halfway? Not true, Perdue says. This budget will cause "generational damage" — to Smart Start and little kids, to universities by losing key faculty. Back to you, GOP.]
[Update 2: I'm not seeing this online, but it is on WRAL TV in a box. Perdue says she "cautioned" legislative leaders about the damage their budget would cause. My budget cut deeply, she says. Theirs cuts more — too much. It's ideologically driven, "rips at the classroom," and sends the wrong message to the public/business about whether North Carolina is a responsible state any more. Budgets reflect our values. I will not put my name on a plan that so blatantly ignores ours. Therefore, I am going to walk to this table and veto this budget bill. Which she does. First budget veto in N.C. history.]
[Update 1: A note on the budget while we wait. The difference between the Governor's budget proposal and the Republican budget produced by the General Assembly is nominally just $230 million or so — $19.9 billion vs. a little less than $19.7 billion. But the actual difference in spending on education, Medicaid and other programs is about $580 million, according to the N.C. Budget & Tax Center. Why is the actual spending difference more than the nominal difference? Two major factors: 1) the Republicans' budget includes $200 million from a highway trust fund that isn't normally included in state budget calculations — and isn't included in the Governor's budget; 2) The Republican budget does better in terms of state pension fund contributions than Perdue's budget — the GOP "spends" about $140 million more in this category, which is good in the sense of long-term fiscal integrity but doesn't help in terms of program funding for 2011-12.]
The Governor's Office just announced at 4 p.m. press conference at the Capitol. Gov. Perdue will announce her decision on the budget. WRAL will cover it live online at wral.com. (I plan to watch it online and, assuming a good feed, will update along.)
Is there any doubt what she'll do? Having cast her differences with the Republicans as a fight for the heart and soul of the state, and releasing a letter from 27 business leaders on Friday saying North Carolina must do better by our educational system than what the Republicans have on the table so far, Perdue really must stamp her veto on the thing even knowing the General Assembly may quickly override it.
Or, not? The Senate's GOP majority is veto-proof (31-19), but the House GOP majority (68-52) isn't. Five House Democrats voted with the Republicans to pass the budget, which gave them one vote to spare toward the magic 72 votes (three-fifths) needed for an override.
Will all five Dems hold firm in the face of a veto? I don't know ... I don't know them, and I'm not close to what's going on right now ... but I can readily imagine two or more of them saying, well, you know, it's one thing to vote for a budget, and it's another to override the Governor — maybe she has a point? maybe we should hear her out? Maybe there's a friend of mine who should be a judge?
You know, just saying.
True, the Republicans are holding the threat of redistricting over these conservative Democrats whose districts, if re-jiggered, would be hard to hold against a Republican election challenge. On the other hand, there are some things in a life that a politician wants more than continuing in a legislative office. Things like — well, you can fill in that blank for yourself.
On Friday, State Democratic Party Chair David Parker — Perdue's guy — issued a statement about the budget. He titled it "Our Moral Obligation," and went on to say that a 3/4th's of 1-cent sales tax is a small price to pay:
Here’s a question for you: which is more valuable to you: educating North Carolina’s children or saving ¾ of one cent on sales tax?
That is the essence of the current debate over the Republican Legislature’s budget that they have sent to our Governor, Beverly Perdue.
I don't think there's much mystery what's coming today. Going forward, if the legislature overrides a veto, Perdue enters the upcoming election year — a "year" that's already underway — with a big, very clear issue with which to confront her Republican opponent. If there's no override, and negotiations ensue, it's a clear win for a suddenly stronger governor.
Perdue's office sent her official veto statement. It's copied below.
I wrote a column in this week's Indy about the challenges to public education in Wake County and North Carolina. At The News & Observer, one of their blogger-reporters picked it up, characterizing it as "firing shots" at the Blue plan for student assignment in Wake. Whereupon I heard from several people who asked, "I thought you were for the Blue plan?"
The short answer is, I am. So far, anyway. I fired no "shots" at the Blue plan. I did raise questions about it because it's clear to me, as I said in the column, that the Blue plan is what we have to work with — it's what Superintendent Tony Tata intends to recommend to the Wake school board on June 21, and unless there's a mutiny by the board majority, it's what the board will endorse.
Even if I preferred the Green Plan, which I don't for reasons I'll explain below, it's not really on the table. If it were, I'd raise similar questions about it. In fact, the whole point of the column is that both plans, as well as the education wars at the General Assembly, are rooted in a pretty toxic political environment that makes progress — well, my motto is, it's still possible. But it's not getting any easier.
Given the realities of the moment, Tata's Blue option is about as good as we could've hoped for — in concept. The task now is to make sure that when it's put into action, it works as well as it can.
The fact is, I've started and discarded several blog posts on the subject of the Blue plan vs. the Green plan. All of them lacked conviction, however, which as William Butler Yeats famously said is disastrous whenever chaos is at hand, the center is coming apart and "the worst are full of passionate intensity."
My problem? Blue vs. Green is far from a clear-cut choice.
I've got great conviction, though, when it comes to believing that our public schools are the linchpin if we're ever going to live up to our national creed — that all persons are created equal, with unalienable rights to life, liberty and happiness, and that is to "secure these rights [that] Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed."
That's why Governments are instituted. That's why governments going back to the Pilgrims in Massachusetts instituted public ("common") schools.
Kids from all backgrounds attending schools together is, to me, an ideal. You sit beside a kid whose parents are poor and yours are well-off and you can't help thinking, Is this fair? Should something be done to make us more equal? That's how it starts ... democracy, that is. That's how, in Yeats' terms, the center is strengthened.
That's what my column was about. We've never really achieved equal educational opportunity in this country. We've segregated our kids by race, and then when the U.S. Supreme Court struck that down, we started segregating them by income—in well-off suburban schools and impoverished inner-city schools. Still, the trend since the mid-20th century was in the direction of greater equality, more mixing, more diversity and a higher degree of fairness to all.
It was the trend, that is, as long as the American economy was growing and more people were sharing in its bounty. But since 2000 — since 9/11, the Bush recession, tax cuts for the rich, the Wall Street Meltdown and now, the Great Recession — the economy isn't growing and people, consequently, are pulling back.
Unwilling to share more equally in what they perceive is a shrinking American Pie, folks lately are in a hoarding mode. They want what's theirs, never mind anyone else. And there's no George Bailey to persuade them that if only they'd share and share alike, everybody would be better off.
And as they retrench, parents want their own schools for their own kids. Charter schools if they can get them. Regular public schools if they can't — but if they have be regular schools, they should be charter-like in the sense that they give "my" children a leg up over "other" children whose educational needs may be greater, but I can't be concerned about them just now.
This, at its core, is what the great debate in Wake over student assignment policies is about. The "old" diversity supporters (the N&O loves to label them old) were the George Baileys of the county, telling people that if they'd give a little to support a
strong Building & Loan a strong school system, every school would benefit and every child too. This required some degree of personal sacrifice, however, in the sense that not every child could attend the exact school the parents wanted them to attend. Some were asked to move to another school to enhance the overall mix.
A "neighborhood schools" model, on the other hand, will result in "good" schools and "bad" schools, and I don't really think I need to spell out why that is. But in the Great Recession, as folks pull back and insist on getting theirs, many in the "good" neighborhoods are listening, not to George Bailey, but to Mr. Potter, who wants them to pull
their money their children out of the venerable Building & Loan the venerable county system. Remember Potter's advice: Do be afraid; and, Don't let yourself get mixed up with those "losers" from the wrong side of town.
So now to the question of Blue vs. Green: Which will be better in terms of maintaining a healthy mix (aka, diversity) of students in every school?
Which will better at staving off the creation of high-poverty schools in low-income neighborhoods, in particular the low-income neighborhoods of Raleigh?
At first blush, the answer is as Jim Martin, a member of the Great Schools in Wake (GSIW) coalition, said at the public forum at Athens Drive HS last week: Either plan could work well if executed well and given sufficient resources.
If you've read this far, I'd assume you know what the Blue and Green plans are, at least in outline form. If not, GSIW has a short description in its newsletter. For more detail, go to the Wake County Public School System's special website.
GSIW, in a statement last week, analyzed both plans and concluded, based on what we know now, that the Green plan "offers the best chance to get it right."
For a year and a half, GSIW has stood strong against the worst inclinations of the new school board majority and in favor of a strong school system that serves all children well. I have the greatest respect for its leaders and, for that matter, I can't think of any members I wouldn't say the same about. That said, I'm aware that not every GSIW member is pro-Green. Some are pro-Blue. I've talked to several of each persuasion. I've been back and forth on my own initial preference for Blue.
The way I see it, the Green plan is probably the better one if it's in the hands of a school board committed to equal opportunity and a strong school system. In the hands of a board itching to deliver "neighborhood schools" to the suburbs, though, and unconcerned about whether high-poverty schools are left behind in Raleigh, the Green plan is a big ol' hammer just waiting to be pounded.
Supporters of the Green plan think it's much like the traditional assignment policy, only it's an improved version that would eliminate the problem of some kids being reassigned multiple times in the space of a few years. Also, every student would be offered a "base" school assignment with the option of shifting from a traditional-calendar school to a year-round school if they preferred — or vice versa. No more problems with the dreaded "MYR" (mandatory year-round assignments, which while rare were headline-grabbbers).
All true, but the Green Plan is not as good as the traditional policy in one critical respect. Under the old policy, some "nodes" (geographic units) were shifted to maintain diverse student populations in all schools. The nodes are known commodities in terms of family incomes. (That is, the number of students in each node who are eligible, because of low family income, for a free or reduced lunch is an exact, known figure.) Thus, using nodes and the F&R data made it easy to see whether socioeconomic balance was being maintained from year to year. [N.B. I said it was easy to see: Exploding growth in Wake made it easy to see that socioeconomic balance was not being maintained in every school; on the other hand, correcting that problem by moving nodes was never easy.]
In the Green Plan, however, the goal isn't to balance student populations by income levels. It's to balance them by student achievement: No school is supposed to fall 10 percent or more below the system average in terms of overall student proficiency. (The 10 percent would be measured by End-of-Course testing and the like.)
But here's the thing: You're only going to know that a school is slipping — i.e., has become a "bad" school — after the fact. Indeed, if I read the Green plan right, it would be three years before a school, having slipped behind, would be deemed to "need" more high-achieving students.
Well, guess what? Parents of high-achieving students are not going to sit by quietly while their kids are assigned to demonstrably "bad" schools. They are going to lobby the hell out of the school board to get their way. And this Wake school board majority (I'm thinking now of Donald Rumsfeld's observation that you go to war with the
school board army you have, not the army you want) has already shown itself very willing to move nodes in ways that decrease diversity but satisfy their supporters in the suburbs.
Maybe the 2011 elections will produce a sweep of all five seats by GSIW-friendly, diversity-friendly, good school system-friendly candidates, in which case a new 5-4 board majority would be able to wield the Green plan responsibly. But number one, I wouldn't count on a sweep. Even if pro-diversity candidates hold the four seats they have now, winning that fifth one away from Ron Margiotta in Southwest Wake isn't going to be easy. And even in the event of a sweep, the politics of school assignment were changed dramatically in the '09 elections for the simple reason that the demographics of the county have changed: The tremendous population growth at the outer edges of the county means the balance of voting power is now and for the foreseeable future in the 'burbs.
In short, I don't think we need an assignment policy that swings wildly with the latest election returns but which is ultimately going to reflect the voting strength of the suburbs.
I think, instead, we need to find a middle ground that protects the system while also honoring as much as possible the wishes of suburban parents for schools that, if not right up the street, are at least not an hour's bus ride away — and aren't subject to continual reassignment.
Enter the Blue plan.
Following the '09 elections, leaders at the Wake Education Partnership and the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce recognized that the county was in danger of coming apart over student assignments ... and that if it did, it would be a very bad thing for Wake's and Raleigh's reputations as up-and-coming places of enlightenment in the New South economy.
Indeed, the pitched warfare between Margiotta's ham-handed majority and defenders of a strong system has made national headlines, and not in a good way. The other day, national data came out showing Wake County 3rd from the top in graduation results among the nation's 50 largest school districts. The only better ones, in Montgomery County, MD and Fairfax County, VA, spend far more — 40-50% more per student — than Wake does. Wake's system is strong. But you'd never know that listening to Margiotta or his board consigliere, John Tedesco. To hear them tell it, they were riding to the rescue of failing schools.
Searching for that middle ground, WEP and the GRCC brought in a Cambridge, MA consultant, Michael Alves, who specializes in controlled-choice assignment plans. Alves drew one up for Wake and presented it in February.
In the meantime, the school board majority hired a new superintendent, Tony Tata, who prior to arrival was suspect in progressive circles for saying good things abouit Sarah Palin, but who has since planted himself squarely in the political middle on the assignment issue by all but endorsing the Blue plan — which is modeled on the Alves plan.
The Blue plan is a controlled-choice plan. Parents get a list of schools to choose from, but they're not guaranteed that their children will be admitted to their first choice or even their second choice. Most, though, will get what they want if what they want is a school not far from home.
To avoid the problem of high-poverty schools in Raleigh's poorest neighborhoods, the magnet schools would be retained and presumably would continue to draw suburban kids by choice and "base" kids — by choice now rather than by assignment — in roughly the same numbers as currently. If that is indeed the case, then 9,000 other "base" kids for whom there's no room in the magnets will need seats designated for them in other schools that are not in low-income neighborhoods.
Tata's Blue plan promises that "a set percentage of seats" will be reserved in such schools for kids coming from the low-income neighborhoods. The "set percentage" is undefined. It needs to be defined.
In fact, Tata's worried aloud about creating a "splash zone" of schools just outside the high-poverty neighborhoods if too many of the kids coming from them decide they don't want to travel very far. He's pledging that every such student will be offered the choice of a "high-achieving" school somewhere — achievement, once again, being defined as students doing well on tests. A big worry in the GSIW ranks is that too many kids will pass up that choice because their parents won't be as engaged in the choice process as, say, the archetypal suburban soccer mom-parent.
Avoiding a splash zone, designating enough seats in good schools for kids from low-income neighborhoods, and encouraging them to choose the good schools — even to the point of making such choices the default for them — is all critical to making the Blue plan work. The good news is, I'm not the only one saying this. Tata is saying it too.
Ultimately, whether the Blue plan produces sufficient balance will depend on the "control" aspect of controlled-choice. A formula will be developed using proximity to a school, whether your siblings go to the school, and the student's level of achievement (or, for entering kindergarteners, a proxy based on the educational attainments of the neighborhood) as factors for deciding who gets their first-choice school, who gets their second-choice and so on.
The weighting for each factor in the formula is key. Proximity and stability can't be allowed to simply trump student achievement in every case or else Wake's schools will quickly become unbalanced — and the ones with too many "bad" students won't be on anybody's choice list.
The weighting in the formula will be subject to tinkering by the school board, yes. But in the first instance, it will be a staff product — Tata and his staff will recommend it, and they'll be the ones to use it.
Tata has smartly called upon the school staff he inherited to develop the Blue plan, the Green plan and some others that didn't "make the cut." This is a staff that prides itself on being part of one of the best school systems in the country, a level of quality reached in good measure because of their long-standing commitment to balance and diversity.
From what I observe, Tata trusts them and they seem to trust him to keep the system strong and, I would add, assure that Tony Tata's first school leadership gig is a winning one.
Bottom line, I expect the Blue plan to be staff-directed to a much greater extent than the Green plan would be. For years, we've watched school boards move "nodes" — the "old" boards did it with good intentions, while this board's intentions were, uh, different — but the point is, if you want to create pure neighborhood schools, a node system is the simplest way to do it.
In contrast, a properly constructed controlled-choice plan will put control in Tata's hands, for better or worse. I'm thinking it'll be better.
I put a call in to Redmond this morning and sent her an email. [Update: I just talked to her — 4 p.m. — and she confirmed, she is considering it, called it "a daunting decision" that she hasn't made as yet.] Wake GOP Chair Susan Bryant did respond to say she has no comment yet. I'll update as needed. I know this much, McFarlane's supporters are taking the idea seriously. They were before, but some more bells went off yesterday when it was announced during the City Council session that Redmond was removing her name from consideration for one of the Council-appointed seats on the very plum-ish Centennial (RBC Arena) Authority.
The filing period for City Council elections begins July 25. Election Day is October 11. (Ditto for Wake Board of Education seats.) I've been hearing that Tea Party candidates are preparing to run for one or more Council seats, and it's entirely possible a TP Republican will run for mayor, Redmond or no Redmond.
Thus far, no Democrats are considering a mayoral run — that I know of. Seth Keel, one of the students active in N.C. HEAT on the pro-diversity side of the Wake school board debate, says he'll announce his candidacy soon. But he told me the other day he isn't 18 yet and won't be by December, when a new mayor would take office. So if I understand the law correctly, he's not eligible to hold the office and would therefore not be listed on the ballot. Which doesn't mean he can't launch a campaign.
McFarlane, owner with her husband of MedPro Rx, a pharmaceutical services business, is an unaffiliated voter with a good deal of Democratic support and, because of her centrist views and business background, some Republican backers as well.
Redmond is a Chamber of Commerce-style Republican (not a TP type, that is), and in the parlance of "pro-neighborhoods" or "pro-developers" candidates she's the latter. She's wired in the Raleigh business community; for example, Redmond completed 10 years on the WakeMed board in May, and she was board chair for the last two while Bill Atkinson cooked up his Rex Hospital takeover bid.
Here's a bio of Redmond from the Wake County government website (she was on a county advisory committee):
Billie J. Redmond is President of Coldwell Banker Commercial TradeMark Properties, Inc., a Raleigh based property management, leasing and brokerage services company. She is a native of North Carolina and attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, majoring in business. Ms. Redmond is married and has three children.
She worked with Edward Weck and Company, Research Triangle Park, in the International Marketing Division. Ms. Redmond then joined with Don Walston and Alton Smith of Howard Perry & Walston Realty to form a commercial real estate company. Ms. Redmond acquired a majority of the ownership in 1994 and changed the name of the company to TradeMark Properties. In June 2003, TradeMark joined the national affiliation network of Coldwell Banker Commercial and is the largest woman-owned affiliate in the network. TradeMark Properties represents a variety of asset and facility management clients, with Ms. Redmond maintaining the corporate relationship directly with Coldwell Banker Howard Perry & Walston, the City of Raleigh, Centrex Properties and Plaza Associates.
In 1998, she was named the Top Woman in Business in the Triangle, to the Business Leader Impact list in 1999, the Top 25 Women-Owned Businesses in North Carolina, was named Tar Heel of the Week by The News & Observer in 2002, and named a Woman Extraordinaire in 2004 by Business Leader magazine.
Ms. Redmond serves in several community efforts. She served as the 2002—2004 Chair of the Board of Directors of the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce, an unprecedented extended term. She serves on the Executive Committee of Communities in Schools of Wake County, Research Triangle Regional Partnership, Kids’n Communities Foundation, WakeMed Hospital system, and Paragon Bank. In 2002—2003, Ms. Redmond served on the Fayetteville Street Revisioning Committee and continues to serve on the Convention Center Steering Committee. She was previously a Board of Directors member for Triangle Family Services, North Carolina State University Humanities and Social Sciences Board, the Board of Directors of Wake Education Partnership, Habitat for Humanity Board Development committee, YWCA Board Development committee, CIAA steering committee and President of the Board of Directors for The Women’s Center. She is a member of the Triangle Commercial Real Estate Women chapter. Billie is a member of Pleasant Grove United Church of Christ and Bible Study Fellowship.
The Republicans have tried to tie Perdue's hands in the budget fight — the subject of our cover story this week — by linking the jobless benefits bill to their budget bill — Either you agree to our budget, they've told Perdue, or we'll make the jobless suffer.
Today, she told them — again — where to put that stuff.
[UPDATE, 3 P.M.: If you wondered why a handful of House Democrats may abandon Perdue on the budget and side with the Republicans, here's a hint: The Republicans can redistrict them right out of office. As GOP Minority Leader Paul (Skip) Stam was heard to say today by, among others, the Greensboro News & Record.]
[UPDATE, 4:30 P.M.: Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger responds for the GOP: “We have directed our nonpartisan staff to study whether the governor’s act is legal. We hope that, in a desperate effort to claim credit for what’s going to occur because of the bipartisan budget, she is not putting the benefits of tens of thousands of unemployed North Carolinians at risk by using a questionable legal gimmick. If she really thinks this is appropriate, she shamefully did nothing for seven weeks.]
[UPDATE, 5:15 P.M.: The N&O writeup about the GOP's screwup with their microphone — and Perdue's response to it — is a must-read.]
I have no idea if the governor has the actual legal authority to do what she did. But until a court tells her she doesn't, the jobless benefits will go out — as they should. Or wait, will the Republicans really go to court to argue that people entitled to unemployment benefits shouldn't get them until the budget fight is settled?
Is Perdue's action legal? Who knows.
Is it the right thing? Yes.
Here's Perdue's statement (a copy of the executive order follows below):
“For weeks, I have been trying to work with the Republican legislative leaders to get them to do the right thing: send me a clean bill to extend the unemployment benefits for 47,000 North Carolinians who have lost their jobs. But instead of acting responsibly on this matter, the Republican legislature has repeatedly refused to send me such a bill. Instead, they have persistently attempted to use our unemployed workers as hostages by tying the extension of their benefits to my acceptance of budget bills that would inflict severe and unnecessary cuts to our schools and other essential programs.
Meanwhile, thousands of North Carolina families are running out of money and options. I hear from them all over the state. They visit my website and Facebook page to beg for help.
One woman called my office recently. She has a background in accounting and has been looking for work for months. Because she lost her benefits she and her daughter can no longer stay in their apartment. They have nowhere to put their belongings so they will also lose everything that they can’t carry to the homeless shelter.
Sadly, this story is not unique. The people I hear from say they can’t keep the lights on. Banks are ready to foreclose.
And yet, the Republicans in the legislature stubbornly cling to their political games. Just yesterday, they voted down a measure to separate this issue from their budget. Enough is enough. They continue to use desperate people as leverage to extort my support for an ideologically-driven budget that needlessly cuts millions from our public schools and inflicts millions of dollars more in damage to our universities, pre-school programs, community colleges, job creation efforts and vital health care services. I will not stand for it and I will not sit by idly as the legislature continues to play these games and deny the jobless the unemployment benefits they need.
Let me remind you that the extension of unemployment benefits for the unemployed costs the state of North Carolina nothing; the benefits are paid for entirely with federal funds.
Every week we deny these benefits is another week that we keep $11 million of federal funds from flowing into our economy. This money would pay for things like groceries, rent and clothing and help small businesses who sell these items or collect that rent.
North Carolina cannot wait any longer for the legislature to do what they should have done more than a month ago. Today, I am issuing an executive order extending federal unemployment benefits to these 47,000 North Carolinians. Republican leaders in the General Assembly have been unwilling to take the necessary steps to extend these benefits, and no doubt they will attempt to interfere with this action. But I, for one, believe these people are entitled to and need these federal funds, and the Republican-controlled legislature needs to stop using the unemployed as pawns.”
Here's the executive order:
The feds, as widely advertised for a week, got a grand jury to indict former presidential candidate John Edwards. The official charge is that he violated campaign finance laws. The real charge: He lied while he was a candidate about a fact that the voters had a right to know — that his mistress was pregnant with his child.
Here's the indictment for those interested in reading it:
The six-count indictment was obtained by U.S. Attorney George Holding, a Republican appointee based in Raleigh, and the criminal division of the U.S. Justice Department in Washington. This is what Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer of the criminal division said about it:
Mr. Edwards is alleged to have accepted more than $900,000 in an effort to conceal from the public facts that he believed would harm his candidacy." As this indictment shows, we will not permit candidates for high office to abuse their special ability to access the coffers of their political supporters to circumvent our election laws. Our campaign finance system is designed to preserve the integrity of democratic elections....
Person C and Person D in the indictment are Johnny's wealthy backers, heiress Bunny Mellon and lawyer Fred Baron. They shoveled money to support Rielle Hunter, Edwards' mistress, through Edwards' campaign aide Andrew Young.
They did so, the indictment argues, to help Edwards cover up a lie that went to the heart of his campaign. He claimed to be a solid family man and devoted husband to his wife, Elizabeth. He wasn't.
Edwards could've paid Rielle Hunter's expenses himself, of course. But then Elizabeth might've found out about her — and Johnny was lying to her too.
As many others have remarked, it's a bit of a legal stretch to say that wealthy folks can't do personal favors for a candidate who's running for public office. If Person C and Person D had paid for Edwards' vacations, for example, or "paid" him as a lawyer for the use of his name on the door ("Hi, I'm Fred Baron, of the firm of Baron & Edwards"), I don't believe any legal questions would be raised.
But Person C and Person D weren't buying trinkets for Johnny, they were buying him a campaign story — and a false one.
Edwards is reportedly heading for a federal court in Winston-Salem this afternoon to plead not guilty to the indictment. But you know what, I don't think even Johnny Edwards in his prime could get a jury to sympathize with John Edwards now.
WRAL is reportingthat Jim Neal, a candidate for U.S. Senate in the 2008 Democratic primary, was one of three pro-gay rights demonstrators arrested today at the General Assembly. They went on the House floor while the chamber was in session and called for "liberty and justice for all" — whereupon they were removed.
Neal was among the speakers at a rally earlier outside the legislative building. The rally was sponsored by a California-based group called Get Equal with a new N.C. state chapter. (The rally started late and I needed to leave, so I didn't hear Neal speak. About 200 people attended.)
[Update, 7:20 p.m.: Get Equal NC just issued a press release. I've copied it below.]
Equality NC members were also on hand distributing literature in opposition to the proposed DOMA constitutional amendment — Senate Bill 106/House Bill 777. The amendment wouldn't change existing N.C. law, but it would write prejudice into the state constitution — if the voters approve it. But first, three-fifths of the members of both houses of the General Assembly must vote for it. (Gov. Bev Perdue cannot veto a proposed constitutional amendment.)
I see on ENC's website that its executive director, Ian Palmquist, tweeted something about today's action:
"While we share the protesters' passion for equal rights, we cannot condone today's disruption of the House session."
According to the General Assembly's website and ENC, Senate Bill 106 has 23 sponsors, all Republicans. In the Senate, 30 our of the total 50 votes would be needed for approval. House Bill 777, which is nearly identical, has 66 sponsors, 60 Republicans and six Democrats. In the House, 72 votes out of the total 120 would be needed for approval.
From Get Equal NC:
Local North Carolina LGBT Activists Arrested at State Capitol
2008 U.S Senate Candidate Jim Neal, Angel Chandler, and Mary Counce and Disrupt Legislative Session in Protest of Anti-Gay Bill
RALEIGH, NC - Following GetEQUAL NC’s — a direct action lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization; "Rally in Raleigh" today — an event to protest the anti-gay Senate Bill 106 — local gay activists were arrested for disrupting the legislative session in progress when they demanded full legal recognition for LGBT North Carolinians. Activists included Angel Chandler of GetEQUAL NC, the North Carolina chapter of the national organization GetEQUAL, Chandler's partner, Mary Counce; and 2008 U.S. Senate candidate James Neal. Shortly after entering the chamber, the activists began chanting "Liberty and Justice for All in North Carolina." The activists were immediately taken into custody by police and are currently being booked and charged with “disorderly conduct and trespassing”.
Earlier in the afternoon, hundreds of North Carolinians attended the "Rally in Raleigh" organized by GetEQUAL NC and local activist Jonathan Green. The rally focused on SB106, the discriminatory bill that would put an amendment on the 2012 ballot that would prevent private businesses and municipalities in NC from offering domestic partnership insurance benefits, and invalidate Domestic Partnership Registries in the three cities in NC that offer them (Chapel Hill, Asheville and Carrboro). The authors of the bill included North Carolina State Senators James Forrester, Jerry W. Tillman, and Dan Soucek.
"Rally in Raleigh" Speakers included:
• Cecil Bothwell, Asheville City Councilman, author, & US Congressional Candidate for NC 11th District 2012
• Janet Owen, Co-Chair Interfaith Voice of Winston-Salem
• Chelsea Sayre, GetEQUAL NC
• James Neal, Businessman and openly gay 2008 Democratic primary candidate for U.S. Senate
• Pam Spaulding, Pam’s House Blend
• Jonathan Green, Sexuality And Gender Alliance
• Angel Chandler, GetEQUAL NC
GetEQUAL's Executive Director, Robin McGehee, responded to the arrests, "GetEQUAL issued a call to the President today to stand up for full LGBT equality, and we're proud to support LGBT North Carolinians in issuing the same call to their state elected officials. As North Carolina gears up to host the Democratic National Convention next year, we hope that the state will be moving toward fully recognizing the dignity and equality of LGBT North Carolinians, rather than trying to further enshrine discrimination in the state constitution. North Carolina residents deserve better than the legalized discrimination that this bill promises."
Updates on the condition, charges, and penalties assessed to the three activists will be available via GetEQUAL's social networks (see below) and via GetEQUAL NC's website, www.getequalnc.org.
GetEQUAL is a national, direct action lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization. Emphasizing direct action and people power, the mission of GetEQUAL is to empower the LGBT community and its allies to take action to demand full legal and social equality, and to hold accountable those who stand in the way. For more information on GetEQUAL, please visit: http://www.getequal.org. You can follow GetEQUAL on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/getequal, on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/GetEQUAL, or on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/getequal.
The 31st national congress of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom is underway in Chapel Hill on the UNC-CH campus and runs through Sunday.
It hits high gear tomorrow — Friday — when the Rev. William Barber, head of the state NAACP, gives the keynote. On Saturday, The Whistleblower, a film starring Rachel Weisz and Vanessa Redgrave, will be shown in special pre-release. (it's scheduled to premiere in August.)
Both events are at the Hanes Art Center and are open to the public.
Also free & participatory: A special vigil for peace and freedom Saturday afternoon in the usual Chapel Hill spot — Peace and Justice Plaza on Franklin Street. (The old post office.) Starts at 1:45. Bring a sign! Your favorite Triangle "Raging Grannies" will be joined by RG's from many of the other U.S. branches of WILPF.
The Whistleblower is a powerful new drama chronicling the true story of the American woman who brought to light the sexual atrocities being perpetrated in Bosnia. The film, which is due for U.S. release in August, stars Rachel Weisz and Vanessa Redgrave. The screening will be followed by a Q & A session with Rees and Donna Bickford, Director of the Carolina Women’s Center, who will speak about the growing problem of human trafficking here in the United States.
Details can be found on the Triangle WILPF website. (Follow the links at the bottom of the page for campus maps.)
Daily admission tickets to the Congress are available at costs between $10 and $35. A Friday ticket will get you in for a 12 noon address by Kathy Kelly, head of Voices for Creative Nonviolence, about her recent travels in Afghanistan. For information, see the website or call 919-370-4114.