Citizen
INDY Week columnist Bob Geary's Raleigh news & politics blog

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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Bike lanes on Hillsborough Street: √

Posted by on Sun, Jul 31, 2011 at 1:04 PM

Will Alphin, who led the effort to have bike lanes striped on the new Hillsborough Street, took the photo you see at right and sent this note to his friends on Facebook (including moi):

"[T]wo years since we first started turning the wheels to get a bike lane on the street adjacent to the highest percentage of cyclists in raleigh - they are down. watching over a hunderd motoroists drive down hillsborough street on the inaugural night of the lanes, not a single one slipped over the line into the cylce lane. this is gonna work. thanks to cyclists that pushed for this and the city council and staff that supported it. more please!"

I think he's right. Cyclists will have to be careful and ride close to the line to avoid being "doored," but they know that. And Clark Avenue is an option if all you're trying to do is go east-to-west.

Which just goes to show the truth of my email sig, "Progress Still Possible."

[Note that it isn't "Progress Is Easy."]

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Friday, July 29, 2011

ComeUnityNow, Saturday in City Plaza: "The hottest festival in town"

Posted by on Fri, Jul 29, 2011 at 10:43 AM

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No irony intended, I'm certain, when the ComeUnityNow folks billed their event in City Plaza tomorrow as "the hottest festival in town." it will be that, with temperatures forecast to go above 100 degrees. But it's Raleigh in July, so cool is not an option. And it's for a good cause — with proceeds going to people slammed by the April 16 tornado ...

... via nonprofits such as the Green Chair Project (recycled furnishings) and the Wake Interfaith Disaster Team.

The event is 10 am-10 pm on two blocks of Fayetteville Street and in City Plaza. Music, dancing, art. Two stages. Mostly free, but $10 VIP tickets will be sold to enter the area around the South Stage where the featured musical acts will perform. Donations for the cause will also be solicited. (There's a second VIP option, which is to buy a $20 card from 360Raleigh; it also entitles you to discounts at some Raleigh establishments.)

The key organizers of ComeUnityNow are volunteers — like Jim Bailey, executive director of BuildBridgesNow; Dan Nelson, founder of Streetlight Productions; and Mary Jane Clark, who needs no title — who put their heads together after the tornado and after the 2011 Raleigh Wide Open festival was cancelled by the City Council.

Try putting a street festival together in three months ... but they've done it with help from A-list sponsors like WRAL, Curtis Media Group (WPTF-680 etc.), the Raleigh Downtowner, and the Downtown Raleigh Alliance, plus some help with the bands from Deep South Entertainment.

It'll be hot, no question. Dress light, bring sunscreen ... and a donation.

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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Senate overrides Perdue veto of H854, anti-choice bill, because Stevens and Bingham duck the vote

Posted by on Thu, Jul 28, 2011 at 1:37 PM

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It takes a three-fifths majority to override a veto by the Governor. In the Senate, that would be 30 votes out of 50 if every senator is present. Today, the Senate did, indeed, override Gov. Perdue's veto of H854, the bill to interfere with a woman's right to choose whether to terminate a pregnancy. It did so by a 29-19 vote. All 29 votes in favor were from Republicans. The 19 Democratic senators all voted no.

That's right, 29 votes were sufficient for the override because two senators, Republicans Richard Stevens of Wake County and Stan Bingham of Davidson County, were absent. Bingham voted against the bill when it was first considered by the Senate in June. Stevens was listed then as present but not voting.

Stevens chose not to be in Raleigh for the special session. A call to his office to ask where he is went straight to voicemail. I've emailed the question to him as well.

[Update No. 2: Sen. Stevens responded to my email on Saturday. He said he was away on a long-planned trip. The session on redistricting — expanded to include override votes — was originally slated to take place two weeks earlier. Stevens said he was assured "my vote was not needed on any matter last week." Assured, that is, by the Senate GOP leadership. His vote wasn't needed to override Gov. Perdue's veto. It was needed by the pro-choice side to sustain her veto. Another "not voting" by Stevens, however, wouldn't have mattered — that's true. The rule is that a three-fifths vote of those present and voting is needed to override a veto, meaning that with 48 senators present, 29 votes were sufficient.]

[Update: 24 hours later, still no response from Stevens. He has the press room reserved at the General Assembly Monday morning, probably to talk about charter schools. Hope he didn't take the wrong week off — the General Assembly session ended on Thursday :) ]

Bingham is in Raleigh but left the chamber this morning with an "excused absence" — naturally, the Republican leadership was happy to excuse him, because if he'd been on the floor, either voting no or not voting, 29 votes out of 49 members present would've been short of the three-fifths requirement. But 29 out of 48 members present was just enough.

Bingham has been quoted as saying he voted his conscience the first time, but his choice today was not to buck the Republican caucus. What Stevens' view of this bill is, I don't know.

The bill is now law, with Perdue's veto overridden by the Senate and the House.

Reaction from Planned Parenthood:

Today’s vote reveals that some legislators care more about scoring political points than they do about protecting women’s rights and health. They are so extreme that they refused to even allow exceptions for rape, incest, or when something has gone terribly wrong with the pregnancy. We urge all North Carolinians who value reproductive rights and health to remember this vote in November of next year.

Planned Parenthood will take all necessary steps to reduce the negative impact this intrusive legislation will have on our patients. We will continue to provide compassionate, non-judgemental health services to women who need them.

***

The debate was straightforward, though exasperating for senators who think women have a right to choose whether to carry a pregnancy to term and should be permitted to make their decision without undue obstacles — especially the obstacle of a state government that says, don't do it. Or as Sen. Josh Stein, D-Wake, put it, a state government that steps in after the hard decision's been made and says, "No, no, little lady."

The bill dictates a tortuous process (relevant portions are copied below, or click on the link to the bill itself) by which a doctor must warn a patient about the risks of an abortion using the exact words the Republicans have written; insist that she consider alternatives; show her pictures designed to talk her out of it; make her look at the pictures or sign a statement that she chose not to; and at the end of it all send her home to think about it for at least 24 hours.

Opponents have labeled it the "Women Are Stupid Bill," but its official name is the "Women's Right to Know Act."

Sen. Warren Daniel, R-Burke, who spoke for the Republican majority, was candid about its purpose. Invoking "almighty God," Daniel said that if the obstacles the bill creates prevent a single abortion — "if it saves one life" — then it was the right thing for the legislature to do.

Daniel cited an estimate by the legislature's research division that the bill would result in 3,000 fewer abortions a year.

Sen. William Purcell, D-Scotland, who is a doctor, said it won't prevent any abortions. What it will do, he said, is cause women who've decided to terminate a pregnancy to seek out illegal providers or else try to self-induce abortion.

Coming on top of the Republicans' attacks on Planned Parenthood and women's health funding, Sen. Linda Garrou, D-Guilford, said, the passage of H854 amounts to "a serious, serious attack on women."

***

Excerpts of the bill are copied below.

Continue reading…

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Monday, July 25, 2011

"Beat the Reaper": The game show that's not quite as ridiculous as "Deal 4 the Debt Ceiling" (UPDATED)

Posted by on Mon, Jul 25, 2011 at 9:56 PM

illustration by Tyler Bergholz for the Independent Weekly
  • illustration by Tyler Bergholz for the Independent Weekly

Update, 9:45 p.m.: My reaction to Obama's speech? Once again, he confuses everyone by starting with why the deficits are so high when the subject is supposed to be the catastrophe if we don't increase the debt ceiling. Deficits and debt are not the same thing, and Obama is in this mess because he's allowed the GOP to hold the debt ceiling hostage to the unrelated subject of how to cut future deficits. As for Boehner, he responded with complete propaganda aided by total disdain for the facts. 100% B.S.

From this afternoon:

Pondering the situation in Washington, where all is madness, I found myself trying to remember the name of the Firesign Theater bit in which game-show contestants compete for prizes at the risk of their lives. "Beat the Reaper!" it was. (Thanks, Google.) You had 10 seconds to guess which fatal disease the host just injected into your arm. Fail ... and the antidote wouldn't have time to work. You think it's what? "Oh, I'm sorry, no, the correct answer is the Bubonic Plague. I'm afraid that you didn't ... Beat the Reaper."

And so it is with the current negotiations over whether to increase the nation's debt ceiling. Oh, I'm sorry, time's up, you've failed to increase the debt ceiling in the time allotted, so you've committed suicide as a nation. But thanks for playing!.

I mean, talk about funny. You make up a character, let's call him the President of the United States. Let's say that he actually decides to negotiate with Congress about whether to pay the nation's debts. Then let's make up some congressional "leaders," you know, idiot characters who actually don't want to pay the nation's debts because that'll show everybody — y'know, when the country's dead — that borrowing money was the devil's playground.

So now, let's start the clock while they negotiate — but the negotiations are about something else. Now, we have a humorous premise.

What should they negotiate about? Doesn't matter, how about the NBA lockout ... and if they can't put an NBA deal together in time, well, too bad but the nation's debts don't get paid, the country goes into default and you didn't Beat the Reaper.

Well, you say, you're just being stupid, because this isn't about something inconsequential like the NBA, it's about whether the nation will continue to borrow money in the future, or whether it will come to its senses and balance the federal budget the same as your household budget. (Wait a minute, you borrowed money to buy your house? And your car? And college tuitions? And your beach house? But I digress.)

And my answer is, as it was three months ago, the NBA lockout is just as relevant to the question of whether to increase the federal debt ceiling as the issue of future federal budgets. Which is to say, neither is relevant nor is anything else.

Because, and here's the point, the federal debt ceiling is about debts already incurred or being incurred in the current budget year — debts that must be paid.

There's no question about it, nothing to bargain about, nothing to trade for, nothing to deal away. The debt ceiling must be increased, and the debts must be paid.

To make the issue of paying the nation's debts subject to doing something else first is pure extortion.

Still, extortion happens. So out of a surfeit of caution, and in case anyone (read: any Congress) ever did try to put a gun to the nation's head and say, e.g., Unless the President does what we want about, uh, abortions, we'll refuse to raise the debt ceiling and the country will default on its debts, the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, Section 4, states plainly: "The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law ... shall not be questioned."

[Q: What's missing in the ellipsis? A: It's a clause stating, Don't even try to read the public debt as not including the costs of fighting the Civil War.]

The public debt shall not be questioned.

***

We have two debates going on in Washington right now. One is whether to pay the public debt already incurred. The second is what future budgets should be. The two are unrelated. That the congressional Republicans wanted the two things tied together — that they threatened to blow up the country if they didn't get their way on future spending — is irresponsible to the max. That President Obama entered into negotiations with them anyway — played "Beat the Reaper" with the nation's credit anyway — is just as bad and a failure to do his constitutional duty.

The question of the President's negotiating skills over budget issues can wait for another day. Suffice it say, he's down to his skivvies and the Republicans are still fully dressed.

The only saving grace will be if the President, finally refusing to let the Republicans pull his shorts down, invokes the 14th Amendment before next Tuesday and says, Boys (they're all boys in the GOP), I was never negotiating with you in the first place. It was all a parody designed to show how irresponsible you are. But thanks for playing ... Beat the Reaper!

***


Note: Alert readers may've noticed that in the original game-show format, the negotiations were about the NFL lockout. No sooner did I post it than, oops, NFL deal struck! So I quick changed all the NFL references to NBA.

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Friday, July 22, 2011

Roundup, Raleigh Republicans: All the news that's right to print

Posted by on Fri, Jul 22, 2011 at 3:33 PM

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We have a backlog of Republican campaign info to share. Summarizing: 1) Not one but two Republican mayoral candidates with the addition of Dr. Randall Williams this week; 2) The other, Billie Redmond, is out today with a list of her supporters, noteworthy mainly for the presence of Jim Goodmon, WRAL/Capitol Broadcasting chief, on it; 3) Just in case you thought school elections were non-partisan, District 3 candidate Heather Losurdo announced four endorsements today — the four Republican county commissioners; and 4) There's a Republican, Paul Fitts, running in the at-large City Council race vs. the two Democratic incumbents, Russ Stephenson and Mary-Ann Baldwin.

So without further —

1) Randall Williams.

He didn't include us on his press list Tuesday, nor does he have a campaign website yet as far as I can tell. So all I know about Dr. Randall Williams is what I read, which includes the fact that ex-Raleigh Mayor Tom Fetzer, fresh from his exploits as state GOP chair, is Williams' campaign adviser; Williams also "touts" the backing of Paul Coble, the Wake Commissioners chair, ex-Raleigh mayor and all-around right-winger from way back.

Preliminary conclusion: Williams is no moderate, in contrast to the seemingly centrist Republican Redmond.

Will the two Republicans split the Republican vote against City Councilor Nancy McFarlane, who's running for mayor as an unaffiliated candidate albeit with substantial Democratic support? Or will it be the case, as I hear discussed on the Democratic side, that the Williams candidacy allows Redmond to take the high road against McFarlane while Fetzer & Co. mount an attack on McFarlane's record as a close ally of outgoing Mayor Charles Meeker?

Two Republicans could be better than one in an election like this, where there's a runoff between the top two finishers if no one gets 50 percent of the vote on October 11. But that's usually true only if one of the two Republicans is a stalking horse for the other. If both are out to win — and both Williams and Redmond would seem to be in it to win it — they will hurt each other's ability to recruit campaign volunteers and raise money.

The basic facts of the Williams effort are reported here. His medical practice is online here, with a link to the N&O's "Tarheel of the Week" story about him. What does Williams look like? The best pictures I could find of him are here on the North Raleigh Rotary Club website. He's given to wearing pink bowties, I gather.

And a prominent Democrat told me this week that Williams delivered his wife's baby, and she thinks Randall is a sweetheart.


2) Billie Redmond.

Her "Leadership Committee (partial list)" follows below, with Goodmon, once a Republican but now an unaffiliated voter, the most interesting name. Goodmon's associated with progressive causes at the state level, not the least of which is his outspoken support for Gov. Bev Perdue, a Democrat, in her budget battles with the GOP-led General Assembly. In city politics, Goodmon kind of lost patience with Raleigh over the "Plensa Affair" and is focused instead on his/Capitol's development interests in Durham; Goodmon now lines up with Redmond, a centrist Republican with strong Chamber of Commerce ties, rather than with City Councilor Nancy McFarlane, whose unaffiliated->progressive posture would seem to be the closest to his own.

The Redmond Committee:

Sheila Ahler
Jim Anthony
Gwen and Dick Baker
Larry Barbour
Jennifer and Joe Bryan
Mary and Jack Clayton
Patsy and Fred Day
Donna and Claude Demby
Brenda and Ron Gibson
Ellen and Ben Goldstein
Michelle Rich Goode
Jim Goodmon
Wallace Green
Melissa and David Jessen
Darleen Johns
Gary Joyner
Mary Jane and Howie Jung
Caroline and Danny Kadis
Karen and Larry Kelly
Cynthia and Kenny Marshall
Barbara Mulkey
Diane and Bill Mullins
Laura and Chuck Neely
Linda and John Odom
Tom Oxholm
Classy and Jay Preston
Sherri and Willy Stewart
Pam and Jeff Stocks
Ashley and Andrew Techet
Val Valentine
Miliena and Don Walston
Royce and Michael Weeks


3) Heather Losurdo.

She's the Republican candidate in the District 3 Wake school board election, running against incumbent Kevin Hill and Jennifer Mansfield. Hill, a former teacher and principal (he's now on the faculty at NC State) is a registered Democrat who's never, at least to my knowledge, been politically active. Mansfield is an unaffiliated voter with no ties to a party. And then there's Losurdo, who has strong ties to the Republican Party.

From Losurdo: "My campaign is proud to announce the endorsement by these majority members of the Wake County Commission: Chairman Paul Coble ... Vice Chairman Phil Matthews ... Joe Bryan ... Tony Gurley." The four Republicans, in short, with the most conservative of the four listed 1-2.


4) Paul Fitts.

Fitts, per his website, looks at the Raleigh city budget and sees waste. In other self-reported news, he's a driven man. I don't recall ever meeting him, but perhaps he's attending the Council meetings I miss?

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Monday, July 18, 2011

Charging to a world of electric vehicles: "It's a gold rush"

Posted by on Mon, Jul 18, 2011 at 5:40 PM

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Tuesday night is "Public Night" at the Plug-In 2011 Conference & Exposition, the event at the Raleigh Convention Center for the EV — Electric Vehicles — industry. For $10, you can say you were there when your grandchildren ask, "Whatever happened to the gasoline-powered automobile?"

"Well, kids," you'll be able to say, "it was back in '11 when General Electric came out with an EV charging station in a box, and it sold at Lowe's for about $1,000.

"That's right, kids, one thousand dollars — it was the same year that the Republicans defaulted on the national debt, which as you know crashed our currency and forced the U.S. to begin using the Chinese yuan."

That's a joke :) — I hope.

***

But seriously, electric cars (you read it here first — first around here, anyway) could solve some big problems for the U.S., not to mention the world. Petroleum imports? Wars in the Middle East? Kiss them good-bye if we can run our cars on electricity, and the electricity comes from wind, solar and other renewable sources ... and we juice 'em up at night when power demands on the grid are low.

Electricity at current rates is far below gasoline — about 75 cents for the equivalent of a gallon's worth of power. Heck, put solar panels on your roof and a big battery in the garage and you'll really be happy motoring.

So the electric cars are here — the Chevy Volt, the Nissan Leaf, and many more — but what's missing is the charging stations. Sure, in theory you can plug your EV into a wall socket, but that's the power equivalent of filling your swimming pool with a garden hose. What you need is one of those Level-2 chargers, which will fire up your dead EV battery in about four hours.

And folks, that's what GE's "WattStation" is. (It's the hanging unit on the left in the picture.)

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The big announcement this afternoon was that GE is building the WattStation at its facility in Mebane, NC and will start selling them at Lowe's stores next month.

Lowe's stores in California, at first, then a national rollout.

Price: "About $1,000." These WattStation chargers hang on the wall, attached to a 240-volt outlet (like your dryer) or else hard-wired into your control panel.

(They're made in Mebane, and you're selling them first in California? I asked. Come back Wednesday, said the gang in the GE booth in unison, and we'll have an answer for you.)

Or, try my favorite product, the Plugless Power charger, a wireless Level-2 gizmo that shoots magnetic rays (I think that's what the guy said) from a pad on the floor of your garage into a module installed on your EV's chassis. Evatran, the company which makes them, is a spinoff from a company that makes transformers. It's looking for partners to test its product — at first, any company with Chevy Volts in its fleet.

***

Looking around the Plug-In 2011 show floor, charging stations for residential, office or retail-mall parking lot use are the next big thing, and the antidote to so-called "range anxiety." That is, will I be stranded if I'm driving around and my battery dies — how will I recharge it?

Answer: Most days, you won't have to until you get home; but on those days when you do, the electric utilities and local governments are putting in charging stations, as are malls, as are parking decks. And guess what?

AAA is also putting Level-2 and, for the few vehicles equipped to plug into them, Level-3 chargers onto its mobile rescue vehicles. Only a few so far, but AAA is committed, a spokesman said, to coming to your aid whatever size your battery problems come in. Right now, everybody's got a little battery and big ol' gas tank. In the future, big ol' batteries and little, if any, gas.

In this new venture, AAS is partnering with an outfit from California, Green Charge Networks. Its president, Ron Prosser, is in Raleigh showing off his own gear, including mobile charging stations equipped (some of them) with solar-panel arrays. He's looking for customers — say, a football stadium — that may need to charge lots of cars at the same time but intermittently.

The EV industry is in its infancy, Prosser said, with a lot of start-ups competing for the brass ring. Make that the gold ring — "It's a gold rush out there," a smiling Prosser told me.

That'd be sweet.

Public night Tuesday starts at 5:30. The exposition floor is open for a couple of hours, until 7:30, followed by a film, "Revenge of the Electric Car," and a panel discussion featuring Dan Neil, erstwhile writer for the N&O and later the Indy who went on to fame and a Pulitzer Prize for his nothing's-sacred style of auto journalism at The Los Angeles Times. I see he's now at The Wall Street Journal, working for Rupert Murdoch. (Don't hack me, Dan.)

The schedule is here.

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Thursday, July 14, 2011

GOP's new districts: Whacking up Wake (or, No soup for y'all)

Posted by on Thu, Jul 14, 2011 at 2:55 PM

Wake whacked into 11 N.C. House districts
  • Wake whacked into 11 N.C. House districts

Lord knows, I hesitate to do this. For one thing, the new legislative district maps squiggle all over the place, making them extremely difficult to read in terms of who exactly lives in which district — especially if you're squinting at a computer screen, as I am. This is where mistakes are made — thus, my apologies if I've made any.

(To check me out, click on this official legislative redistricting website — the key elements on it are the proposed Senate districts, the proposed House districts, and a nifty mapping tool, the District Map Viewer, for zooming in one or another of the maps.)

Then there's the whole distasteful quality of legislative redistricting. If ever there was a black art, the idea that legislators can draw their own districts, or even worse that the majority party of legislators can draw up districts for themselves and for the other party, is just evil incarnate.

I believe Sherlock Holmes produced a short monograph on the subject, and it drove him to cocaine. ("Moriarity!" he was heard to say. Or was it, "Nelson Dollar!?")

But here goes, the highlights, or lowlights if you will, of the Republicans' gerrymandering in Wake County:

1) No District for Joe Bryan?

Far be it from me to peer into the minds of my Republican friends, but it was my understanding that Bryan, longtime Wake commissioner and of late (if not always previously) a dutiful Republican conservative, wanted to run for the legislature. Well, there's a brand-new Senate district in Wake County — we're growing, don't you know — and the map-makers put it in East Wake, wrapping it around Dan Blue's majority-black Senate District 14.

Joe Bryans precinct 17-04 is in Dan Blues Senate District 14
  • Joe Bryan's precinct 17-04 is in Dan Blue's Senate District 14
The new Senate District 18 takes in Southeast Wake, East Wake, part of Northeast Wake and all of Franklin County. (See map at right: The dark area is District 18, the white area in Wake is District 14.)

When I first saw the new 18, I thought, this is perfect for our good friend Joe.

District 18 has a Democratic incumbent, Sen. Doug Berger of Franklin County, but it's been radically redrawn to be a Republican district, so much so that John Davis, the guru of this stuff, has Berger No. 1 on his list of endangered Senate Democrats.

But then I peered closely at the screen, zoomed in on District 18 at street level, and discovered that
it does not include Bryan's voting address, 206 Maplewood Ave., Knightdale, nor his voting precinct, 17-04.

Bryan's precinct, instead, is tucked into Blue's amoeba-shaped District 14, which will elect a Republican on the day hell freezes enough to put an NHL team there. (See map: 17-04 is oh, so close, but not in, District 18.)

So I waited for the new House district map to come out — maybe his fellow GOPs drew a district for Bryan in the House? But if they did, they did him no favor. Instead of putting his precinct 17-04 into the new House District 35, which is located in East Wake and is solidly Republican, they squiggled the lines around him again ... with the result that Bryan is still in House District 39.

District 39 skews Democratic (57-43 for Obama over McCain in '08), and is represented by the popular Rep. Darren Jackson, a Democrat.

Was it something he said? Or is Joe Bryan shopping for a new house?

2) House District 49, Where Are You? Ditto, HD 11?

The incumbent in House District 49 is Republican Glen Bradley of Youngsville (Franklin County). Bradley, Bradley, where have I heard that name?

But that was the old 49. The new House District 49 is in the middle of North Raleigh, dipping down to catch a bit of the North Hills area inside the Beltline. It's a swing district (Obama won it by a mere 285 votes), and it has no incumbent. I suspect there is a Republican aspirant waiting in the wings to run for this seat, but I can't think who it is.

Wake's growth results in two additional House districts, making a total of 11. Appropriately enough, the other new one is District 11, lost by Wayne County. No incumbent living there, either, but it's a solidly Democratic district in Cary-West Raleigh (Obama 62-36 percent over McCain), and it's looking for a progressive voice.

3) Progressive House Dems Without a Home?

Squinting closely, I observe that House District 34 wraps around District 49, packing Democratic voters as it goes. It's a classic gerrymander: Put all the Dems in District 34 (Obama, 64-35), and you create a potential Republican District 49 where there should be a pair of Democratic-leaning, but competitive districts.

And 'lo and behold, not only are Dem voters packed into 34, so are Democratic legislators: Rep. Grier Martin, the current District 34 incumbent, and Rep. Deborah Ross, the current District 38 incumbent, are packed (the term of art this year is "double-bunked") in the new 34.

But couldn't one of them move and run in the new District 11? Sure, but where does that leave Cary Rep. Jennifer Weiss, a third progressive Dem who was also gerrymandered out of her home district by the GOPs.

Weiss's District 35 was obliterated (see above, 35 is no longer based in Cary, it's over in East Wake), and she's now living in a redrawn District 41, where Republican Rep. Tom Murry is the incumbent. The new 41 is a Republican district, though if I were Murry, I wouldn't want to have to defend it against the hard-working, highly respected Jennifer Weiss.

Anyway, the new 11 is open for Democratic customers, and the obvious candidates for it would be Weiss or Ross, but they'd have to move. (I started to say, sell their houses, but in this market?)

4) A second African-American House District.

Rep. Deborah Ross, as I mentioned, is the current House District 38 incumbent. Ross is white, and the current 38 is racially mixed. Not so the new District 38, which is 54 percent African-American. And, to repeat, Ross's Boylan Avenue house isn't in it, she's been double-bunked in the new District 34 with Grier Martin.

Thus, Southeast/East Raleigh and East Wake are drawn so that African-American voters dominate in District 38 as well as in District 33, the current majority-minority district where Rep. Rosa Gill, a black Democrat, is the incumbent.

This is the Republican formula for success: Pack the African-American voters into a few districts, and thus remove them — and their Democratic voting habits — from all other nearby districts.

Gill's new District 33 is 59 percent African-American, with a 5-to-1 Democratic to Republican margin in registered voters. It went 82-17 for Obama over McCain. The new District 38 is 4-to-1 Democratic and went 78-22 for Obama.

But that means no Republican voters are "wasted" in these two districts that are conceded to the Democrats, as are Districts 11, 34 and — though it's less one-sided — 39. (District 39: 57-43 percent for Obama.)

5) Bottom Line: GOPs Gain Except in a Democratic Year.

In a county that is very closely divided politically, the Republicans have drawn the 11 House districts in Wake with the goal of winning them 6-5. Currently, with nine House seats, the Democrats have a 5-4 edge.

Currently, the four Senate seats split 2-2 (Dems Dan Blue and Josh Stein, GOPs Neal Hunt and Richard Stevens).

The new Senate map mainly serves to shore up Hunt's Republican district — not currently a safe seat, but it will be — by packing Democratic voters into the Blue (14) and Stein (16) districts.

District 18, a fifth Wake district which also swallows Franklin County, will be hard for Democrat Doug Berger to hold, and is there for the taking by an eastern Wake Republican.

John Tedesco, perhaps?

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Monday, July 11, 2011

Raleigh Council to hear alt.rail.transit.route options for DTR

Posted by on Mon, Jul 11, 2011 at 2:08 PM

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Remember the flyover bridges? The railroad tunnels? They are, if not gone forever, at least off the table for now as Light-Rail Transit Plan 2.0 takes shape for DTR (Downtown Raleigh).

A good time to take it all in — or have your say — would be Aug. 1, when the City Council conducts a workshop and public hearing on the two alternative routes that are on the table as Triangle Transit (TTA) moves ahead with the process of once again applying for federal aid.

The two alternatives are called D6 and D6A:

* Under D6, the light-rail line would follow the main rail corridor from the Fairgrounds through NCSU to Charlie Goodnight's; from there, it would depart the corridor and run on West Morgan Street, turn north on Harrington Street and continue until it connects with the CSX rail corridor near the intersection of Harrington and Lane streets. A "State Government" station would be located between Lane and North streets.

The D6 route is shown on this Triangle Transit-generated map of the various alternatives it studied (and though D6A wasn't one of them, you can see by the map how it would work as well):

LRTalternativesOriginalpdf.pdf

D6A is depicted in this map linked to by the Downtown Living Advocates:

LightRailD6A_routepdf.pdf

* Under D6A, the light-rail line would run on West Morgan Street all the way to the Capitol; the eastbound/northbound cars would turn north on Wilmington Street and run to the CSX corridor; going the other way, the southbound/westbound cars would come from the CSX corridor and go south on Salisbury Street — on the other side of the Capitol — to Hillsborough Street, turn west and go a couple of blocks to Harrington before turning south again and connecting to West Morgan.

Thus, under D6A, West Morgan between Charlie Goodnight's and Harrington Street would need two sets of tracks — one on the south side of West Morgan heading for the Capitol, and the other on the north side of West Morgan heading for Charlie Goodnight's and the main rail corridor.

***

The D6A map is showing four stations in DTF — one at Goodnight's, one at a Union Station stop in the Warehouse District, one on Harrington Street near Lane Street and one at or near Peace Street. All four, it should be said, are highly conceptual given that the D6A alignment is a late-starter in the TTA planning process and hasn't really been vetted the way D6 and other earlier alignments were.

D6A is a new idea proposed by the city's Passenger Rail Task Force, which has formally recommended it to the Council.

City staff prefer D6, according to this good writeup on the Downtown Living Advocates website.

Finally, the city's public affairs staff put out a press release this morning announcing the workshop/hearing and explaining the PRTF's D6A proposal:

Members of the City’s Passenger Rail Task Force will appear at the workshop to discuss with the City Council their proposal for the planned light rail system. The public hearing will give residents an opportunity to comment on the task force’s recommendations.

The Passenger Rail Task Force is recommending the City Council approve the D6a route, a hybrid route that uses parts of two alternative routes studied by Triangle Transit. The D6a route would better serve Downtown workers, especially state government employees, according to task force members who support the route. The task force also is recommending the light rail system use light rail transit railcars electrically powered by overhead wires.

A Union Station would serve as a hub for the planned light rail system as well as for commuter trains and Downtown bus service, coordinating both local and regional transit service providers in a single multi-modal transit facility. City staff is currently working with the North Carolina Department of Transportation on evaluating the suitability of a building at 510 W. Martin Street as a site for the Union Station. The City’s $40 million transportation bond issue that will be on the Oct. 11 ballot for voter approval includes $3 million for the Union Station proposal.

Going east and north, the D6a route proposed by the Passenger Rail Task Force would diverge from the North Carolina Railroad (NCRR) rail corridor and proceed east along West Morgan Street. It would pass the north edge of the planned Union Station area at the West Morgan Street bridge over the railroad tracks in the Boylan Wye. The route would then continue east to Union Square where it would turn north onto Wilmington Street until it joined the CSX rail corridor.

Going south and west, the proposed D6a route would diverge from the CSX rail corridor to follow Salisbury Street going south. It would turn west onto Hillsborough Street, then south onto Harrington Street and finally west to rejoin West Morgan Street, passing the north edge of the Union Station area at the West Morgan Street bridge over the railroad tracks in the Boylan Wye. The route would continue west to join the NCRR rail corridor on West Morgan Street.

The D6a route would have two light rail tracks on West Morgan Street from near Hillsborough Street to Harrington Street —- one track for eastbound light rail transit railcars and one track for westbound railcars. The railcars in both directions would operate in conjunction with vehicular traffic on this section of West Morgan Street.

Council members appointed the 11-member Passenger Rail Task Force to advise them on several specific issues related to the future provision of passenger rail service to Raleigh, be it locally, regionally, or long-distance.

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Thursday, July 7, 2011

Planned Parenthood files suit in federal court vs. General Assembly funding ban

Posted by on Thu, Jul 7, 2011 at 1:10 PM

Breaking news: "Planned Parenthood of Central North Carolina (PPCNC) filed suit today in federal district court in Greensboro seeking to prevent the enforcement of the Planned Parenthood defunding amendment passed as part of the North Carolina budget during the 2011 legislative session. The North Carolina legislature passed a state budget that denies Planned Parenthood state and federal funds used to subsidize family planning services and provide teen pregnancy prevention programs, despite a veto by Governor Bev Perdue."

Planned Parenthood maintains that excluding it from eligibility to even apply for state funding to provide health services that the state is prepared to pay for (with state and federal funds) and that Planned Parenthood is well-qualified to offer —and that low-income people are entitled to receive — violates the U.S. Constitution.

***

So of late we've been consulting our copy of the Constitution in response to one or another of the Republican Party's "legal innovations."

Innovation 1: Default on the country's debts. 14th Amendment sez: Don't default on the nation's debts. Innovation 2: You can't mandate that people have health insurance. Article 1 sez: Congress has the power to regulate commerce. And so on. Don't get me started on Republican abuses of the filibuster in violation of Article 1 ("each Senator shall have one Vote").

And in North Carolina we have innovations like the new congressional districts map rolled out by our Republican-led General Assembly, which should violate something in the Constitution — or perhaps the Republicans here are simply misreading Article IV, Section 4 ("The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government" ...).

That's a joke.

What's not a joke is the provision of the new state budget, passed by the Republicans over Gov. Perdue's veto, which singles out Planned Parenthood — by name, and uniquely — as ineligible to apply for state funding to provide health services. Health services, it must be said, that Planned Parenthood has long provided with state funds and with no questions raised about the quality of its performance.

Services which are not abortion services, by the way, though abortion services are every bit as legal in America — last time I looked at the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling regarding our rights of privacy under the 9th Amendment — as the services that are in question here, which are related to family planning, women's health and teen pregnancy prevention.

Pregnancy prevention.

So way down at the bottom of Article 1, in Section 10, is a list of things the states cannot do. (It's part of the original document; other things the states cannot do, like deny the equal protection of their laws to every citizen, were added by the post-Civil War amendments.)

One of the things listed in Section 10, after the words "No State shall ...":

... "Pass any Bill of Attainder" ....

It's on the no-can-do list along with no Titles of Nobility, Letters of Marque or Reprisal, Ex Post Facto laws ... stuff the Kings of Europe used to do routinely back when "the Law" was little more than whatever his Highness put on a parchment.

And what exactly is a Bill of Attainder?

It's the government — in this case, the government of a state — singling out someone or some group for punishment without evidence of wrongdoing and without a trial. Here's a bit of the legalese about it, extracted from this authoritative FindLaw article, specifically regarding Article 1, Section 10:

The clause thus prohibits all legislative acts, ''no matter what their form, that apply either to named individuals or to easily ascertainable members of a group in such a way as to inflict punishment on them without a judicial trial. . . .''

Singling out Planned Parenthood for punishment — for exclusion, that is, from even applying for state funds for which Planned Parenthood is rather uniquely well-qualified — would seem to be exactly the sort of Bill of Attainder that the Constitution explicitly prohibits.

Nonetheless, attacking Planned Parenthood's very existence has gotten to be an article of faith on the Republican right in the same way that being against taxes is — thus, Planned Parenthood is fighting for its constitutional rights in Indiana and Kansas as well as in North Carolina.

Last week, Planned Parenthood persuaded a federal judge in Indiana to issue a preliminary injunction against a GOP-initiated funding ban there, pending a full hearing.

***

Here's the full press release from Planned Parenthood of Central NC:


Planned Parenthood of Central North Carolina (PPCNC) filed suit today in federal district court in Greensboro seeking to prevent the enforcement of the Planned Parenthood defunding amendment passed as part of the North Carolina budget during the 2011 legislative session. The North Carolina legislature passed a state budget that denies Planned Parenthood state and federal funds used to subsidize family planning services and provide teen pregnancy prevention programs, despite a veto by Governor Bev Perdue.

“This budget may target Planned Parenthood, but the men, women and teens of North Carolina are the ultimate victims of this discriminatory legislation,” said Janet Colm, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Central North Carolina. “This is the first time in North Carolina’s history that a single health care provider has been carved out in the budget and banned from applying for competitive grants from the state.”

Planned Parenthood of Central North Carolina is arguing that the defunding amendment, which singles out Planned Parenthood as the only organization ineligible to continue to receive these family planning funds in North Carolina, violates federal law and the constitutional rights of Planned Parenthood.

Planned Parenthood of Central North Carolina is being represented by Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA), as well as attorneys from WilmerHale and Raleigh-based lawyer Jack Nichols, in the lawsuit against the state.

“As we have done in Indiana and Kansas, we have filed this litigation to protect our ability to provide these vital health care services to the men, women, and teens who rely on us,” said PPFA Senior Staff Attorney Helene Krasnoff. “This budget provision, like in those other states, is contrary to federal law, impermissibly penalizes Planned Parenthood, and has the effect of restricting North Carolinians’ access to health care.”

In the fiscal year that ended in June 30, 2011, PPCNC provided family planning and reproductive health exams to almost 7,000 women, which included 1,221 pap smears and 1,206 breast exams. In addition, this past fiscal year, PPCNC provided approximately 8,289 tests for sexually transmitted infections, as well as other medical services, including 57 colposcopies to detect cervical cancer following an abnormal Pap test.

Roughly 70% of the women and men served by Planned Parenthood of Central NC lack the health insurance to cover their care. Many patients would have nowhere else to turn for quality affordable care. In addition, the restriction further stretches North Carolina’s already over-burdened health care system. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, North Carolina has the 7th highest shortage of primary care providers in the country.

North Carolina has the 14th highest teen pregnancy rate in the country, and teen childbearing costs North Carolina taxpayers more than $392 million each year. By eliminating Planned Parenthood as a subsidized family planning provider, patients may be forced to delay life saving cancer screenings and family planning services. Furthermore, teens in Cumberland County will be at even greater risk of unplanned pregnancy.

Currently, Planned Parenthood receives approximately $212,000 in federal and state grants and programs. These funds are used only to provide preventive healthcare services such as breast and cervical cancer screenings, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections, teen pregnancy prevention, and affordable contraception. None of these funds are used to provide abortions.

In a recent survey, 57% of North Carolina voters opposed the effort by the North Carolina House to prohibit state funding to Planned Parenthood.

“Not only is this bill bad policy, but it’s also bad politics,” added Colm. “We hope the court will work to protect the people we serve, and will ensure that Planned Parenthood can continue to receive state and federal funding to assist us in providing critical health services to North Carolina women, men, and teens.”

###

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AP: Feds investigating Wake jail's treatment of immigrant detainees

Posted by on Thu, Jul 7, 2011 at 10:15 AM

jailbarsjpg.jpg
The Associated Press is reporting an investigation by the civil rights unit of the Department of Homeland Security. The probe is in response to a complaint by the N.C. chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union alleging that people detained in the Wake County jail on suspicion of being illegal immigrants were mistreated.

According to the AP:

The agency's civil rights chief sent a letter last month announcing the probe to the North Carolina chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU had coordinated a group of 57 complaints from people detained at the jail in 2009 and 2010.

The complaints include allegations that people were called racial slurs, not informed of their rights and forced to sign their names to documents.

The article quotes Phyllis Stephens, who is Wake Sheriff Donnie Harrison's spokesperson, as declining comment until they've seen the letter.


Read more: http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/article/AP-Newsbreak-Feds-probe-Wake-jail-on-immigration-1456006.php#ixzz1RQbGBCK6

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