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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

N.C. State reaffirms position as Triangle's leading college for general bigotry

Posted by on Tue, Mar 26, 2013 at 3:19 PM

Update, March 27: O'Rear lost his bid for Student Body President, coming in third with 12 percent of the vote.

Just when racism at Duke and misogyny at Carolina were making me feel like my alma mater NC State might one day have a shot at the crown for "Triangle’s Most Progressive University," this bullshit happens.

Dwayne O’Rear—husky lover of huskies and racist homophobe—is running for Student Body President.

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Technician, in one extraordinarily long paragraph, describes some social media interactions of The Bro’s Choice for President.


In Nov. 2010, O’Rear saw two gay people embracing each other and kissing in the Brickyard, which he posted on Facebook about, exclaiming, “helllllllllll no!!!” He also once offered advice “to the cute girls always with the gay guy: get yourself a real man.” In April 2011, he stated President Barack Obama is a Muslim, Islam is a “false religion” and no one likes Muslims. On this same Facebook post, he called another commenter with a Muslim name a “raghead” and told him to “go blow yourself up like your cousins do lmfao!” Last month, he tweeted during an N.C. State basketball game, “Why is there a female commentator covering our game @espn?”

Nice one, Dwayne. Way to empower bigoted white dudes everywhere that they too can run for Student Body President.

Despite the fact O’Rear might actually be tapping into a sizable Good Ol’ Boy constituency at NC State, his comments have not been well-received.

A Technician editorial asked him to drop out of the race and called his views "ignorant and morally questionable."

Check out this epicly uninformed exchange:

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Good call, Yousef. You can’t reason with straight, white men, who recognize they no longer exclusively control the United States.

You can read an entire reddit thread here, which includes plenty more gems from O’Rear.

O'Rear's explanation is twofold.

First, he claims many of his friends have access to his Facebook account and that he is not responsible for the majority of the posts. It's unclear whether this explanation will actually distance him from his core constituency, as well as the rest of the NCSU campus.

Second, O’Rear and his former campaign manager admit that O’Rear really was a racist asshole a couple of years ago, but that he's better now (head explodes).

Here's what Alex Canoutas, who resigned as campaign manager, told O'Rear, according to Technician.


“I just told him ‘It’s over, dude. You need to protect your image and reputation at this school. You need to apologize to get people not to think so lowly of you anymore. If you don’t say anything it’s like you’re standing by those views and you still have them. I’ve been your buddy since freshman year, and I know that’s how you were then, but that’s not how you are now, so you’ve just got to issue a heartfelt apology to let people know that.’”

NC State votes for its new Student Body President today. Don't forget to vote, bros.

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    Dwayne O'Rear: reformed homophobe for Student Body President

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Thursday, March 21, 2013

Raleigh Chamber comes down against county commission

Posted by on Thu, Mar 21, 2013 at 5:17 PM

In defending county commissioner’s hostile takeover of school ownership, commission chair Joe Bryan recently told INDY Week that the measure had widespread support, going back years.

He was quick to say the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce had pushed such a proposal in the mid-2000’s—as if the Chamber’s blessing signals that all reasonable people should agree.

But yesterday, the Raleigh Chamber’s endorsment didn’t mean quite as much to Bryan.

The Chamber wants both bills that have come as a result of the commissioner’s legislative agenda—one that would redraw Wake County school board districts and another that would transfer school ownership to the commissioners—to be quashed.

Bryan’s response: “It’s a little late in the day for the Chamber, and they’re not presenting much,” Bryan told the News and Observer.

How convenient.

In a February interview with INDY Week, Bryan put far more stock in the Chamber’s opinion.

“If you look back to 2006, I think it was the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce that said commissioners should have the authority to build, own, and maintain the schools,” Bryan said. “These views are generally representative of the business community and also the education community.”

I’ve interviewed Bryan twice in the past month about the county commission’s legislative agenda regarding the school board, which many have called a “power play.”

On both occasions, he earnestly defended the agenda as nothing more than good policy.

Bryan argues that it makes sense for county commissioners to own the schools, since county commissioners have to ask for tax dollars. Fair enough.

He also argues that people in Wake County deserve to be able to vote in more than one school board race. That also makes sense, even though the gerrymandered districts that legislators have come up with do not.

The point that Bryan wouldn’t take on is that regardless of whether or not the measures are good policy in a vacuum, the political reality of Wake County also comes into play.

Political reality number one: the county commissioners and school board members, more or less, hate each other.

Any time one body asks the legislature to change the power dynamic between the two boards, without getting the other board’s agreement, that amounts to a sort of power grab, no matter how pure your intentions.

Political reality two: several key issues, which don’t factor into Bryan’s arguments, indirectly hang in the balance. The school board is currently working on a new student assignment plan and both boards are supposed to agree on a new construction bond.

One of the bills, as I have previously written about, has the potential to completely upend the new assignment plan. That’s something the business and education communities in Wake County can almost undoubtedly agree on: more student assignment chaos.

Let’s be clear on another point. The Chamber is a very moderate organization, and doesn’t always come down on the side of the Democratic-controlled school board. The Chamber, for instance, was vehemenently opposed to former superintendent Tony Tata’s firing.

Bryan’s “good policy” argument is somewhat compelling. But when he cites an organization or disavows it based on whatever suits his agenda—well, that sounds more like politics.

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    Joe Bryan has cited the Raleigh Chamber when defending his school board agenda, but now the Chamber wants the school board legislation squashed

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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

North Carolina: No Medicaid dollars for undocumented mental health

Posted by on Wed, Mar 20, 2013 at 1:12 PM

Addendum: It seems that Cardinal Innovation's approach on mental health care for the undocumented community is not unique.

N.C. Department of Health and Human Services spokeswoman Julie Henry notified INDY Week after its print deadline Tuesday that undocumented immigrants are only eligible for emergency service coverage under Medicaid rule, echoing the comments of Cardinal leaders in today's story. That indicates managed care organizations such as Cardinal—which is charged with dispensing public dollars for mental health treatment—are following the rule statewide to deny Medicaid reimbursements to providers treating mental illness among undocumented residents.

Today's story investigates the impacts of the policy on the undocumented community and general public health—in particular, the impacts on nonprofits such as El Futuro that provide mental health services for the undocumented and Latino population. An El Futuro board member argues that the rule is stressing nonprofit finances and may clash with federal laws that order healthcare providers to offer services regardless of citizenship.

It is unclear whether federal law requires a denial for undocumented reimbursements. Medicaid is a joint spending venture primarily paid for by the federal government, but many North Carolina lawmakers have been targeting Medicaid for cuts since state spending peaked at higher than $3 billion in 2009.

Cardinal Innovations serves a 15-county region in the state that includes Orange and Chatham counties.

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    Undocumented immigrants are only eligible for emergency service coverage under Medicaid rule, according to DHHS spokesperson.

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Thursday, March 14, 2013

Legislature wants to renege on Dix park deal

Posted by on Thu, Mar 14, 2013 at 4:01 PM

Apparently, when you sign a contract with the State of North Carolina, the ink never dries.

In December, then-Gov. Bev Perdue and the North Carolina Council of State voted to lease Dorothea Dix campus to the City of Raleigh for 99 years, so the city could create a massive public park.

But on Thursday, several lawmakers (none of whom represent the Triangle) introduced a bill that would rescind the deal.

“It would be a sad day if the word of the State of North Carolina has become worthless,” Raleigh City Councilor Bonner Gaylord wrote to INDY Week in an email.

Mayor Nancy McFarlane said she was “shocked.”

“So many people saw this as such a positive step moving forward,” said McFarlane. “It took nine years to get it done. To think about all that hard work it took to get us to a great place is heartbreaking, actually.”

McFarlane said Dix Visionaries, one of the many groups that banded together to preserve the park, have pledged to raise $3 million from local businesses to support designing the new park.

She said much of the money has already been raised. “Not acknowledging the contract is a scary thing to tell the private sector, which is willing to step up and give money.”

McFarlane said the city’s attorney is examing the legislation to determine the legality of rescinding the lease.

Until the bill has been reviewed by the city’s legal team, it’s unclear what the City Council’s next step will be.

According to WRAL, officials from Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger’s office said the bill would:

• Direct the state Department of Administration to re-lease a portion of the Dorothea Dix campus to Raleigh at fair market value, allowing the city to move forward with its vision of a world-class park for residents and visitors.

• Designate proceeds from the new lease agreement will fund mental health programs in the state.

• Preserve a portion of the property to house the consolidation of 2,500 DHHS employees on-site, saving North Carolina taxpayers the expense of moving them elsewhere.

• Instruct DOA and DHHS to study recommended uses for the remainder of the property identified in the 2007 State Government Facilities Master Plan and report their findings to the General Assembly by March 2014.

• Maintain the purpose for the property outlined in the original deed from 1848, which said the land was to be used for the benefit of North Carolinians with mental illness.

“I’m kind of speechless,” said McFarlane. “The City of Raleigh entered into a contract with the State of North Carolina, and that contract is signed and sealed, and so it is our assumption that is a binding contract.”

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    Apparently, when you sign a contract with the State of North Carolina, the ink never dries.

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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The slow, painful road to voter ID

Posted by on Wed, Mar 13, 2013 at 8:59 AM

Let the perfunctory public hearings begin.

On Tuesday, lawmakers in Raleigh listened to more than 100 speakers debate the pros and cons of a law that would require North Carolinians to produce a photo ID on Election Day.

Detractors say that requiring an ID to vote will disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of low-income, minority and elderly voters. But supporters of the measure say that producing an identification card is commonplace in today’s society and should be required at the polls.

Some have even suggested that voter fraud is a widespread problem, but little evidence has directly backed up that claim.

WRAL has a good round up of the comments made at the hearing.

But it’s unlikely that all the familiar arguments rolled out during yesterday’s 4-hour public hearing will have an impact. A voter ID bill has been inevitable since Republicans gained control of the legislature and the governor’s mansion last November.

GOP lawmakers passed a voter ID bill in 2011 but it was vetoed by then-Governor Bev Perdue.

It’s unclear exactly what the new bill will look like, but it will likely emerge by the end of the month.

Next on tap are two House committee meetings—the first of which will be held today at 1 p.m.—featuring expert testimony.

The public hearing and committee meetings help Republicans create the appearance of what they call a “slow and deliberate” process.

And while it’s unlikely the public hearing and expert testimony will serve no higher purpose than allowing the community to vent, sources close to the issue suggest GOP lawmakers are indeed being very deliberate in attempting to ensure the final legislation will not be struck down by a higher court.

They went to similar pains during the redistricting process in 2011.

As testament to their shrewd lawmaking, top Republicans have indicated that a state-issued ID will likely be provided free-of-charge as part of the new legislation. Requiring people to pay for the ID would likely be fodder for a legal challenge.

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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Cities could be banned from regulating greenhouse gases

Posted by on Tue, Mar 12, 2013 at 3:09 PM

Currently, no municipalities or counties in North Carolina directly attempt to regulate greenhouse gases. And a bill that stalled in a Senate committee today would ensure they never do.

Senate bill 171 would block municipalities from creating any “rule or ordinance that regulates greenhouse gas emissions or limits human activity for the purpose of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

While that language seems clear enough, it’s deeply unclear exactly what this bill would impact.

For instance, some municipalities have measures that regulate “energy efficiency” but don’t directly reference greenhouse gas. One such ordinance in Chapel Hill requires developers who want to rezone a building to make that building 20 percent more energy efficient.

In mid-February, Raleigh’s City Council agreed to craft measures that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the capital city. However, the council didn’t put a time line on creating the new rules, which aren’t yet in place.

Several other cities including Durham already encourage the reduction of greenhouse gases in the community through goals and incentives. However, they don’t make reducing greenhouse gases obligatory.

In its current langauge, the bill presumably wouldn’t effect such measures.

Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill also have internal policies that limit the use of greenhouse gases by the city governments, themselves. Chapel Hill’s is the most ambitious policy and seeks to cut the use of greenhouse gases by 60 percent by 2050.

Cities could keep those internal programs as long as they refer to them as policies, rather than a “rule or ordinance,” according to one legislative aide who has worked on the bill.

The bill stalled at the request of one of its co-sponsors, Sen. Brent Jackson (R-Johnston).

“When it comes to regulations, most think we’re overregulated to start with,” says Jackson.

But Jackson is also conflicted. While he doesn’t want to see additional greenhouse gas restrictions in North Carolina, he is wary of telling local governments what to do—a political faux pas for Republicans who claim to support small government.

North Carolina Sierra Club director Molly Diggins calls the bill in its current form “yet another anti-science, anti-local control measure.”

However, officials in Jackson’s office say the bill is likely to undergo significant changes before it reemerges in committee.

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