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

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Friday, June 29, 2012

Virtually dead: Judge rejects company's bid for online NC charter school

Posted by on Fri, Jun 29, 2012 at 3:54 PM

If you've been following the efforts of the very profitable K12 Inc. (we talked about them in this story) to open a virtual charter school for students in North Carolina — ostensibly it would be a school "based" in Cabarrus County, but in (virtual) reality the school would've consisted of online courses only, plus some tellers to cash the checks — it's been blocked by Superior Court Judge Abe Jones:


Sarah Ovaska's been covering this — start here; and for more, check the links listed at the end.

K12 maintained that the State Board of Education missed its chance to review its charter application when the SBOE decided not to entertain any virtual charters before it put some rules in place for them. Oddly, a state administrative review judge agreed.

Abe Jones ruled, properly I'd say, that the SBOE's actions were tantamount to rejecting K12's application:


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Bad budget: Perdue will give GOP's work the old veto — for 20 reasons

Posted by on Fri, Jun 29, 2012 at 11:50 AM

Gov. Perdue held a press conference this morning and announced that she will indeed send the General Assembly's budget back at them. The Republican-led G.A. has the option of:

1) Negotiating with the governor — and truly, her requests have been on the very small side in terms of dollars (but, as in the eugenics issue, sometimes the point isn't the sheer dollars) — or,

2) Taking their ball and going home — because, remember, the budget enacted a year ago is for two years, and what's before the body now is a bill to amend that two-year plan.

If the legislature's Republican leaders choose to quit for the year, leaving last year's budget in place, it would be "politics at its worst," according to Together NC, a progressive coalition. Their statement is below.

[It occurs to me to add that going home would not just be politics at its worst, it would stupid politics. Read Perdue's list of 20 budget issues. It's a roadmap for Democratic candidates in the fall. Now consider that Perdue is willing to accept their budget if the Republicans simply address a couple of her 20 issues and put another $100 million in the pot — which is available from current revenues and which would be a drop in the bucket of about 0.5% extra for a $20 billion plan. In other words, act like you're reasonable, and you disarm the Democrats. Makes sense to me ... but then I don't exactly think like your typical N.C. Republican.]

Perdue set out 20 ways the Republicans failed. Read 'em and weep.

***

Perdue issued a statement today about the budget's missing compensation for victims of forced sterilization —

RALEIGH – Announcing her intentions to veto the N.C. General Assembly’s budget, Gov. Bev Perdue today called on legislators to continue working to benefit citizens of North Carolina. She repeated her support for providing compensation to surviving victims of the state’s former forced sterilization initiative.

“They failed to take action on a bipartisan plan to compensate the verified living victims of the state’s former Eugenics Board program – which as, you know, involuntarily sterilized North Carolinians in the 20th century,” Gov. Perdue said. “It’s not a lot of money but a tremendous move for the state.

“We can’t change the terrible things that happened to so many of these vulnerable citizens in North Carolina. But I believe it’s long past time for us to take responsibility as a people for our state’s mistakes, and to show North Carolinians and the world that we do not tolerate violations of basic human rights.”

Gov. Perdue’s original budget designated $10.3 million to compensate verified victims and provide continued funding of the N.C. Justice for Sterilization Victims Foundation. This week, she urged a compromise of $5 million. At this time, it is unclear if lawmakers intend to provide funding to the N.C. Department of Administration for continued operation of the Foundation or require DOA to find dollars from existing programs.
While more than 30 states at one time operated eugenics programs, North Carolina implemented the most aggressive program and had been poised to become the first to provide financial compensation to verified victims. Last Wednesday, the Foundation suspended intake of new victim verification. Because its original 2009 allocation of non-recurring funding will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, it has been preparing to shut down on Saturday.

The House approved legislation earlier this month that reflected Gov. Bev Perdue’s call to pay $50,000 lump sum compensation to living victims, as well as funding for the Foundation’s continued operation and expanded outreach.

To date, the Foundation has confirmed matches with archived eugenics records to 161 individuals in 57 counties, including 146 living victims. Foundation Executive Director Charmaine Fuller Cooper said the increase reflects discovery of cases in which multiple siblings and entire families were sterilized. For data reported by the county in which a procedure occurred, visit http://www.doa.nc.gov/media/releases/showrelease.asp?id=0001-20JUN12.

Fuller Cooper noted that time is not on the side of aging victims. An updated estimate from the N.C. State Center for Health Statistics earlier this month revised down the number of likely living victims from about 1,500 to 2,000 to about 1,350 to 1,800.

Here's the statement from Together NC —

RALEIGH (June 29, 2012) — We support Governor Perdue’s decision to use her veto to negotiate a better budget for North Carolina. To be clear, the budget passed by the General Assembly last week falls far short of what is needed to restore investments in education, health care and public safety.

Now, the ball is in the legislature’s court. If they are unable to override the veto, legislative leaders can decide to work with the Governor to negotiate a compromise budget or they can leave town without approving revisions to the 2012-13 state budget.

We believe that it is the legislature’s responsibility to remain in Raleigh and to negotiate a compromise with the Governor. If legislators adjourn without revising the approved 2012-13 state budget, they will be responsible for the ensuing cuts to public schools and Medicaid. Such a refusal to negotiate would be politics at its worst.

And here's most of the statement from the N.C. Budget & Tax Center, part of the progressive N.C. Justice Center —

As the Governor mentioned, this budget fails to make adequate investments in the education of our children, well-being of our seniors and safety of our environment, all while keeping in place an ineffective tax break for wealthy North Carolinians.

There are better choices available to policymakers. Limiting the tax break passed last year to target small businesses is one option that would make greater reinvestment in our schools or Medicaid possible. The worst decision the General Assembly could make now is to not consider and work towards a better budget and go home. The result would be a budget that:

* Requires schools to return more than half a billion dollars a year in state funding
* Leaves the Medicaid program underfunded by more than a quarter of a billion dollars, impacting thousands of vulnerable North Carolinians' access to necessary medical care
* Continues to under-invest in the highway and road infrastructure necessary for our state's economy

It is critical that policymakers come together to work towards implementing a budget that takes into account the needs of our community and the means we have to support those needs. Leaving Raleigh without making an effort to develop a better budget will ignore the wishes of all North Carolinians who seek leadership that is focused on a better future for all.

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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Perdue vetoes GOP bill gutting Racial Justice Act

Posted by on Thu, Jun 28, 2012 at 6:04 PM

Gov. Bev Perdue acted today to protect the Racial Justice Act from the GOP-led General Assembly's effort to gut it. The ACLU of NC is out with a reminder that the fate of the veto hangs on whether three House Democrats (Brisson, Hill and Owens — see below) will stand with her or — as they did when the measure was on the floor — with the Republicans.

First, from the Governor's Office:

Governor Vetoes Senate Bill 416
Senate Bill 416, “An Act To Amend Death Penalty Procedures”

“As long as I am Governor, I will fight to make sure the death penalty stays on the books in North Carolina. But it has to be carried out fairly – free of prejudice.

Three years ago, North Carolina took steps to achieve this result by passing the Racial Justice Act. In response to the enactment of this historic law, our State has rightfully received national acclaim for taking a positive and long overdue step to make sure racism does not infect the way the death penalty is administered.

Last year, Republicans in the General Assembly tried — and failed — to take North Carolina backwards by passing a bill that would have undone the Racial Justice Act. This year’s Senate Bill 416 is not a “compromise bill”; it guts the Racial Justice Act and renders it meaningless.

Several months ago, a North Carolina superior court judge ruling on a claim brought under the Racial Justice Act determined that racial discrimination occurred in death penalty trials across the State over a multi-year period. The judge’s findings should trouble everyone who is committed to a justice system based on fairness, integrity, and equal protection under the law. Faced with these findings, the Republican majority in the General Assembly could have tried to strengthen our efforts to fix the flaws in our system. Instead, they chose to turn a blind eye to the problem and eviscerate the Racial Justice Act. Willfully ignoring the pernicious effects of discrimination will not make those problems go away.

It is simply unacceptable for racial prejudice to play a role in the imposition of the death penalty in North Carolina.”

And from the ACLU of NC —

Gov. Bev Perdue has just vetoed SB 416, a bill that would gut the historic Racial Justice Act.

Please help preserve the Racial Justice Act by contacting the legislators listed below and urging them to sustain the governor's veto of SB 416!

SB 416 would effectively repeal the Racial Justice Act, which allows death-row inmates to appeal their sentences and receive life without parole if they can prove that race was a significant factor in their sentence.

Please help preserve the Racial Justice Act by contacting the legislators listed below and urging them to sustain the governor's veto of SB 416!

Rep. William D. Brisson (D-Bladen, Cumberland) 919-733-5772 or William.Brisson@ncleg.net

Rep. Dewey L. Hill (D-Brunswick, Columbus) 919-733-5830 or Dewey.Hill@ncleg.net

Rep. Bill Owens (D-Camden, Currituck, Pasquotank, Tyrrell) 919-733-0010 or Bill.Owens@ncleg.net

SB 416 has been advertised as an amendment to the Racial Justice Act, but in reality it would effectively repeal the Racial Justice Act by requiring courts to ignore mountains of statistical evidence showing racial bias in the capital punishment system that sentenced a defendant unless he also had evidence of a smoking gun - like a racist statement or associational membership by the prosecutor.

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Read the Court's opinion(s): Obamacare upheld by 5-4 vote

Posted by on Thu, Jun 28, 2012 at 12:55 PM

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, survived the Supreme Court today by the narrowest of margins. In fact, five justices out of nine found that Congress does not have the power to mandate health-insurance coverage under the Commerce Clause. However, four justices said it does have that power, and Chief Justice Roberts made it five in favor by declaring that Obamacare is a tax measure, not (strictly) an effort to regulate commerce, and is constitutional on that basis.

Here's a link to the decision and the various opinions if you care to dive in.

***

And the reactions are, uh, mixed. Here's two, one from the progressive N.C. Justice Center saluting the decision, and the second from The Heartland Institute, which denounces it in terms you might want to reserve for a military takeover of the government — if, that is, the takeover is announced.

From the N.C. Justice Center:

Supreme Court upheld one of the greatest expansions of health care security in U.S. history

RALEIGH (June 28, 2012) — Today the U.S. Supreme Court upheld one of the greatest expansions of health care security in the nation’s history. The Affordable Care Act, passed by our elected representatives after extensive debate, will extend health insurance to 32 million Americans. It is now important to redouble our efforts to educate seniors and young people and small businesses about the benefits of health reform.

We also must move forward with full implementation in North Carolina in a way that best protects the interests of consumers. North Carolina’s economy as a whole – including our state’s hospitals, doctors, small businesses, and local employers – will benefit greatly from a new influx of Medicaid funds from the federal government. By investing in the health of our population we will contain the long-term growth in health care costs.

This endorsement of health reform by our nation’s highest court shows that Congress operated well within its constitutional authority in requiring that Americans who can afford insurance purchase a policy. The worst practices of the insurance industry – denying coverage due to pre-existing conditions, charging women more than men for the same policy, dropping coverage when someone gets sick – will soon be relegated to the rubbish heap of history.

The time when everyone – young and old, rich and poor – will have access to decent health services is near. As a consumer advocacy organization that has worked for more than 20 years to expand quality, affordable health care to all North Carolinians, we are elated by this decision.

And from The Heartland Institute's Maureen Martin:

“Today’s decision will go down in infamy. It marks the moment when we all lost our freedom because the Supreme Court drew a road map to guide those dedicated to imposing a totalitarian, statist government on the American people.

“The majority opinion on the individual mandate, authored by Chief Justice Roberts, held that, so long as failure to comply with a government directive is penalized by something ‘reasonably’ called a tax, Congress can force Americans to buy anything. It can force Americans to do something, indeed anything, like eat broccoli. It can force Americans not to do something, like not be obese. Or even not sing the Star Spangled Banner. All of this would be lawful under this ruling today.

“There is no limit on the evil coming, unless we amend our Constitution. A dark day for America, indeed.”

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No school vouchers bill this year: Advocates throw in the towel

Posted by on Thu, Jun 28, 2012 at 12:28 PM

House Majority Leader Paul Stam's bill to support private schools with public funds — a.k.a. vouchers — won't be law any time soon. Despite his high status in the Republican Party, Stam couldn't get his plan funded in the state budget, and his efforts to get the bill enacted separately are apparently at an end today as the current "short" legislative session heads to a close.

Stam's bill failed, on an 11-11 vote, to win the House Finance Committee's approval this morning. I read that he filed a minority report and might try to bring the report to the House floor for a vote. But just now, Darrell Allison, of Parents for Educational Freedom in NC, the leading advocacy group for Stam's plan, told his supporters that the bill, House Bill 1104, is dead for this year.

Here's the message Allison sent:


“Being defeated is often a temporary condition. Giving up is what makes it permanent.”
- Marilyn vos Savant, American columnist and author


Dear Supporter,

I am encouraged by this quote after thinking about the thousands of poor children who will suffer through another year of being in schools that are not meeting their academic needs due to the N.C. Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit Program being held up this legislative session.

Unfortunately, the measure failed this morning in the House Finance Committee by a 11-11 vote. While the vote was even, the opportunity to overcome this stalemate and move this measure forward will not happen this legislative session.

Many thought this program would not make it very far in the legislative process. Others tried to demonize the measure as an effort to destroy our traditional public schools. Despite these obstacles, I want to say that YOUR voices were clearly heard at the General Assembly - from the more than 1,200 of you that rallied and marched at the General Assembly last month to over 7,200 supporters that contacted legislators in support of this measure over the past few weeks.

For your efforts, I would like to personally thank you for standing up for low-income children across North Carolina. You provided them with a voice during the legislative process. This idea of allowing low-income families the ability to access quality educational options is one that will not go away and must not be pushed aside any longer. We must think about the hundreds of thousands of poor students that are failing state tests every year and how their parents are unable to afford the resources they need.

These children and families are the reasons why we must not give up. We must channel our disappointment into action as we work towards making the N.C. Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit Program a reality for North Carolina’s children next year.

We must also remember that the disappointments of today will only prepare us for the victories of tomorrow!

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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Fate of Racial Justice Act likely hangs on three House Democrats

Posted by on Tue, Jun 26, 2012 at 12:59 PM

Gov. Bev Perdue is expected to veto Senate Bill 416, which essentially guts the historic Racial Justice Act. According to the ACLU of North Carolina:

The North Carolina House and Senate have approved a bill that would effectively repeal the Racial Justice Act, which allows death-row inmates to appeal their sentences and receive life without parole if they can prove that race was a significant factor in their sentence.

Whether Perdue's veto will be upheld in the House (it won't be in the Senate, apparently) seems to depend on getting three House Democrats who voted for SB-416 to turn around and vote no on an override.

The ACLU, the Carolina Justice Policy Center and the N.C. Coalition for a Moratorium are sending around nearly identical alerts this afternoon about the urgency of contacting Democrats William Brisson, Dewey Hill and Bill Owens. Here's how it came across from George Reed at the N.C. Council of Churches:

The fate of the Racial Justice Act probably rests with the three representatives listed below. The Governor's veto could come at any time and the override vote could happen shortly thereafter, so please don't delay in making these contacts, and make the contacts even if you are not a constituent of any of the three. Thanks.

George

—————————————————————-

We need your help!

Five of the Democrats in the House of Representative sided with those who say that 20 years of discrimination against African American jurors is no longer enough to prove racial discrimination in death penalty cases.

You know that's wrong, and it guts the Racial Justice Act!

Click here to email Rep. Brisson, Rep. Hill, and Rep. Owens, and ask them to support the Racial Justice Act by voting to sustain a veto of S 416.

William.Brisson@ncleg.net
Dewey.Hill@ncleg.net
Bill.Owens@ncleg.net

Have an extra minute? Follow up with a call to each of the three Representatives.

Rep. William D. Brisson: 919-733-5772
Rep. Dewey L. Hill: 919-733-5830
Rep. Bill Owens: 919-733-0010

Thanks for your continued support of the Racial Justice Act!

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Friday, June 22, 2012

Raleigh 5th-graders rock a music video winner. About algebra.

Posted by on Fri, Jun 22, 2012 at 10:00 AM

The kids at Pleasant Union do math
  • The kids at Pleasant Union do math

What's the secret sauce that'll lift our public schools to better results? I think the recipe contains getting kids on their feet more ... and encouraging them to work in groups, helping each other so everyone does better.

Working alone is tedious; and, if your parents can't help, it's so much harder.

Groups are fun. Presenting as part of a group is fun and a real-world skill that can take you far.

Why shouldn't learning be fun?

Anyway, I love seeing stuff like this. (h/t: Mike Charbonneau at the Wake schools office.) It's a music video produced by a 5th-grade class at Pleasant Union Elementary School — in North Raleigh— and it won the grand prize in a competition with an interesting back story, about which more below. But first:

***

So the contest involved teachers and their students making music videos using one of many lyrics written by a guy who works at N.C. State.

He's Dr. Lodge McCammon, who's in the College of Education, and he writes "curriculum-based" songs about various subjects from social studies to, in this case, algebra.

Jeffrey Collins had his 5th-grade class do the one about deciding on the order of operations in an algebraic equation. Think about it: How important is getting the order of operations right in your life?

The "Dr. Lodge Video Challenge" was sponsored by a for-profit company, Discovery Education. It sells digital content to schools, so don't confuse it with a philanthropy. On the other hand, no reason to assume that because it makes money, it isn't producing good material.

I've excerpted the company's press release below.

Continue reading…

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    Think about it: How important is getting the order of operations right in your life?

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Thursday, June 21, 2012

N.C. House District 35 race: It's not for a seat on the Wake school board, and yet —

Posted by on Thu, Jun 21, 2012 at 1:33 PM

With redistricting, N.C. House District 35 is essentially new and wide open, with no incumbent in residence. The Republican nominee is Chris Malone, who lives in Wake Forest and is currently a member of the Wake County school board — one of the four who remain from the erstwhile Margiotta Majority. (Now, with ex-board chair Ron Margiotta ousted, they could be known as the Malone Minority.) The Democratic nominee is former Wake school board member Lori Millberg, who lives in Wendell and who served before Margiotta & his Republican mates took control in 2009.

I just looked at the stats: District 35 is 37% registered Democrats and 37% registered Republicans, with a handful of Libertarians and the rest unaffiliated.

Should be a close contest, maybe turning on which candidate mounts the more motivated, better-organized campaign?

Which is all by way of introducing Millberg's campaign manager, Michael Evans.

Yes, he's the Michael Evans who was chief spokesman for the Wake school system when Millberg was in the majority. Evans was replaced when Margiotta's Republicans brought in Tony Tata as superintendent.

This just in from the Millberg campaign:

Millberg Names Campaign Manager for N.C. House Race

(June 21, 2012)— Lori Millberg, candidate for N.C. House District 35 today announced the addition of Michael Evans as Campaign Manager.

Evans who has 28 years of public relations, marketing and communications management experience served as Chief Communications Officer for the Wake County Public School System from 2002 until 2011. Millberg worked with Evans during her tenure on the Wake County Board of Education.

“I am thrilled to have Michael join my campaign team,” Millberg said. “His communications and organizational experience, and understanding of Wake County will be invaluable as I continue my work for the citizens of Wake County and House District 35.”

In this role, Evans will work directly with Millberg and her campaign team organizing and managing the day-to-day operations of her race to the N.C. House of Representatives for District 35. The N.C. House District 35 is a new district that encompasses parts of Northern, Northeastern and Eastern Wake County. The District also includes the towns of Rolesville, Wake Forest, and parts of Knightdale, Wendell, and Zebulon.


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Monday, June 18, 2012

Today: Transit advocates want Wake Commissioners to give 1/2-cent tax a chance (w/ an update: "Fails")

Posted by on Mon, Jun 18, 2012 at 9:03 AM

[Update, 6/19: Here are a few paragraphs from a story I wrote today for this week's Indy

First and foremost, Wake County will not vote in November on a ½-cent sales tax increase for transit, the only funding mechanism provided for local governments by the General Assembly. Wake County’s Republican-led Board of Commissioners continues to block the vote. Orange County voters will get to decide the question this fall. Durham voters approved the ½-cent tax last year; the county is waiting for one of its two Triangle partners to join it.

But the Wake board not only won’t allow the public to vote, it has refused to even listen to the transit plan put together—at its direction—by County Manager David Cooke and David King, general manager of the Triangle Transit Authority, working with Wake’s 12 municipal governments.

“Nah,” was Wake Commissioners Chair Paul Coble’s dismissive response when a Democratic member, Erv Portman, asked two weeks ago that the Cooke-King plan, on the shelf all year, be presented to the board in a work session this month.

On Monday, Portman made an impassioned argument in favor of at least discussing the plan in coming weeks—and scheduling a public hearing—while there’s still time to consider whether to place the sales-tax increase on the ballot this fall. Portman’s two fellow Democrats, Betty Lou Ward and James West, agreed, saying Wake’s voters have a right to decide on the plan—and the tax.

They were outvoted by the four Republican members, however. None of the Republicans said anything until Coble, after the 4-3 vote, delivered a one-word epitaph: “Fails.”

Coble’s word was the last, dispiriting one in a meeting that began five hours earlier and was dominated by dozens of citizens who spoke during the public comment period, pleading with or demanding that the commissioners allow the 1/2-cent tax to go to referendum.

By the time the commissioners voted, after first considering a landfill permit and other routine business, most of the citizens were gone.

“The Wake transit plan has been on the table since last November,” the Capital Area Friends of Transit, a citizens group, complained in a statement the next day, “yet the board majority has blatantly stalled it, refusing to put this to a vote or referendum of the people.”

***

The original post is below —

Transit advocates are planning to be at the Wake County Board of Commissioners meeting today (2 p.m., Wake Courthouse) asking them to put the 1/2-cent sales tax for transit on the November ballot. (A statement from Capital Area Friends of Transit is appended below.) Is there any chance that will happen?

But that's not the right question just yet. The better question — because it's the only one with a chance of getting a positive response — is whether the Commissioners will listen to and actually consider the Wake plan developed by the Triangle Transit Authority and their own county manager, David Cooke.

If Cooke is allowed to present the plan in the next several weeks, it could start a process by which one or more of the four Republican commissioners begins to think about the benefits of transit, not just the costs.

No guarantee of that, of course; and in fact, the more likely outcome is that Cooke presents (or doesn't) and the Republican opposition remains unchanged.

But it seems to me a certainty that, if pushed to say, today, if they'll allow the 1/2-cent tax to go to referendum in 2012, the Republicans' answer will be no. A flat, final no.

Commissioners Chair Paul Coble is already dug in on the question. If he stays dug in, it forces Tony Gurley, Joe Bryan and Phil Matthews to either back him up or go against him — and they won't go against him.

On the other hand, it would be reasonable for Coble to move to a position of "let the voters decide ... let's get it over with." In fact, I can imagine Coble wanting to do just that, if the advocates back off just a bit and ask, not for a referendum, but simply a report, with a public hearing and process of genuine consideration to follow about whether to go to referendum this year.

***

Two reasons why I think the Coble-GOP majority might want to allow a vote this year:

1) 2012 is the year when a transit referendum in Wake is least likely to amp up progressive voter turnout and threaten Republican candidates running on the same ballot. If the vote is pushed back to 2013, it would presumably be held in October, coincidental with the traditionally low-turnout Raleigh and Cary elections and school board elections in districts where the Republicans will expect to win — but not if there's an increased turnout of Democrats supporting transit.

Then in 2014, the four Republican commissioners themselves are up for re-election.

2012, on the other hand, promises to be a big turnout year for Democrats regardless of a transit referendum because it's a presidential election year and the Obama campaign is going all-out in Wake County. The three Wake Commissioners seats on the ballot are already held by Democrats, so the Republicans will retain control when they lose them, as they will.

The Republicans won't be worse off, in other words. Except if they hate transit that much.

2) After the July 17 runoff elections, Tony Gurley may well be the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor. Until the runoff, the chances Gurley will vote to put a transit tax on the ballot — emphasis on the word tax — are zero. It just can't happen while he's running in a statewide Republican primary. But after the runoff, if he wins, Gurley will surely want to appeal to independent voters. And what better way than to take the very reasonable position that transit has its virtues and anyway, the General Assembly said the voters should decide on the 1/2-cent, so by golly, independent-thinking Tony Gurley is going to let them!

***

A lovely theory, I know, especially regarding Gurley. "It's probably wishful thinking" to believe he'd ever vote for a November referendum, he told me on Friday. Transit's important, he added, but other priorities rank higher for him, and we're in a recession.

Still, Gurley said, if the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce asked him to back a referendum because the transit plan would be good for business in Wake County, "I would think about it. It doesn't cost me anything to think about it."

***

As for the Chamber, CEO Harvey Schmitt has been telling transit advocates — as he did in an email one shared with me — that his organization is pro-transit (though it has no formal position on the David Cooke/TTA plan). But, as Schmitt also wrote:

"... it is our considered opinion that the Board of Commission majority will not be swayed by pressure to take action at this point in time and indeed shows of force will be responded to by reactions that will make it harder to succeed."

In other words, Gurley can — and does — point to "lukewarm" support for a November referendum from the Chamber ... and the Chamber says its lukewarm is because Gurley, Coble & Co. won't be swayed whatever they do.

Remember, if a referendum is held, it falls mainly to the Chamber to raise the money for a pro-transit campaign, which will be much harder to do if the Republican Party is united in opposition. Ideally, a referendum would have bipartisan support. Failing that, it would have enough support that the other side doesn't fight it.

I talked with Schmitt late Friday afternoon. He wants to "de-escalate" the debate, he said. "My hope is that we can get through this in a way that we can continue the conversation [about transit]. We should have that conversation."

That'd be my hope as well. I know from experience that very few people are well-informed about what's in the transit plan and what they'd be getting for their 1/2-cent. For all the focus on light-rail routes, the truth is the plan is mostly buses. Commuter buses and commuter trains to carry people into and out of Raleigh-Cary-RTP for work. It shouldn't really be controversial.

Call me naive, but it seems like if Cooke made his presentation in the next three weeks, and a public hearing were held in July to air the costs and benefits of the plan, and if Gurley wins his runoff, then a consensus might form by early August around the idea that transit would be good for business, and building a transit system over the next decade in Wake County could be a major jobs-producer for Raleigh and its suburbs.

August is late for a referendum campaign to begin. But if it follows on a consensus-building process that begins today, it needn't be too late. (I've changed this sentence on reflection — I said late August initially, but with early voting, I think the schedule moves up some.)

***

Continue reading…

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Friday, June 15, 2012

RT: DREAM'ers gain with Obama immigration move

Posted by on Fri, Jun 15, 2012 at 10:45 AM


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