- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Recent editorials from North Carolina newspapers:

Sept. 1

News and Observer, Raleigh, North Carolina, on tax credit helping historic preservation:

North Carolina’s historic preservation tax credit has been a valuable asset to the state, enticing developers and residents to restore historic old buildings and homes to the tune of $1.5 billion in investment since 1998. It’s estimated to have contributed more than $124 million annually to the state’s gross domestic product. Some 2,200 jobs a year are created thanks to the incentive as well.

These properties - such as the American Tobacco Campus in Durham - can be prohibitively expensive to restore and might otherwise simply fall down.

Republicans in the state Senate, focused on tax reform that helps only the wealthy and business, just don’t like the idea of giving tax breaks to certain other groups. So with their blinders on, they’re doing away with the tax credit for historic preservation.

It is utter foolishness that will result in lots of historic properties disappearing forever.

What if that had been allowed to happen at the old American Tobacco site? Thanks to a large investment from Capitol Broadcasting’s Jim Goodmon of Raleigh, it became a mix of offices, retail, restaurants and residences that today is the face of the Bull City.

Myrick Howard lives there. He’s president of Preservation North Carolina, a group that is a major advocate of the tax incentive program.

American Tobacco of today, he said, “has changed Durham’s self-image.” He’s right.

The Oakwood neighborhood in Raleigh, rundown not that many years ago, now has spectacularly refurbished Victorian homes. The Loray Cotton Mill in Gastonia, in the state’s foothills, is opening this fall with a mixture of commercial and residential space, something that would have been unthinkable years ago and without the tax incentive.

Says Howard of the incentive program: “This has helped the quality of life in so many cities and towns across North Carolina.”

How does hard-core ideology help that quality of life?




Sept. 2

The Herald-Sun, Durham, North Carolina, on resisting the job killers:

You’ve probably heard a lot from many members of the General Assembly about “job killers.” That’s a popular phrase to throw at any one who wants to spare the environment from needless destruction or peg taxes to a level that will ensure the services and schools the public expects.

So it seems ironic that some of those same members are behind move that truly could stifle job growth. It’s a move we’ve decried before, one we hoped had died in the last legislative session, but one that continues to be a goal for legislators from outside the state’s major cities, including Durham and its Triangle neighbors - Raleigh, Chapel Hill, Cary and others.

There are those on Jones Street that think that the way to help rural economies is to penalize the urban areas. That’s a self-defeating idea.

Julie White, executive director of the N. C. Metropolitan Mayors Coalition, warned that rural legislators are likely to continue to take aim at cities, as they did with an ultimately failed effort to limit Wake County’s ability to levy local-option sales taxes for both education and transit.

Their motives revolved “around the idea of impairing investment in our urban centers while empowering investment in our rural areas, as though the success of the rural investment would be impacted more positively through the hampering of the urban economy,” White wrote.

But that move overlooks a reality of 21st-century life: Our largest cities are among the strongest drivers of economic growth. That is certainly apparent in the Triangle. Both Durham and Raleigh are expected to be among the top five metro areas in economic growth over the next 15 years.

Many jobs created here will benefit residents of less urban areas. And many of the companies providing those jobs will go elsewhere if our urban areas become less welcoming. The companies want to be in or near a metro area, and our willing it to be different won’t make it so, as Commerce Secretary Sharon Decker pointed out last week.

Roughly one in three workers in the Triangle commutes to a job outside their county of residence, reflecting the willingness to drive a distance for a job. Many are part of the familiar Durham-RTP-Raleigh traffic scrum, but many come from farther afield.

“Draw a 60-mile drive-shed around your cities, around your cities, and you’ve got over 80 to 90 percent of the state in commuting distance” of a metro area, White noted.

Granted, there are environmental downsides to that picture, but it is a realistic one.

Companies want to come to cities, for the amenities, culture and vitality. People are willing to drive there. Let’s not kill those jobs.




August 28

Winston-Salem Journal, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, on refugees:

Refugees fleeing violence and oppression sometimes wind up on our shores. They’ve come to America because of our reputation as a safe refuge from tyranny and as a land of freedom - and to North Carolina at the invitation of family members, government agencies and advocates who welcome them with open arms. Many are eager to assimilate and are earning good reputations as hard, flexible workers. This is a symbiotic relationship we should celebrate.

The Journal recently ran the series “Fleeing Syria: Stories of exile” by former Journal reporter Phoebe Zerwick, who is now an associate professor of the practice of journalism at Wake Forest University. The first part of the series, anticipating Syrian refugees who will land here, illuminated the lives of refugees from other countries who are already here.

Firas Aljumaily came from Baghdad, where his life was threatened because he worked for the U.S. Army. Muhanad Azzawi came from Iraq with family members - his sister’s life was threatened because she worked with a U.S. refugee agency. They both work at EFI in High Point.

Danya Yadago came with her family from Tel Isqof, a Christian town in northern Iraq, where they were persecuted for being evangelicals. She is now a student at Salem College and works at Panera Bread and a Christian bookstore. Her father works at Forsyth Medical Center and takes English at Forsyth Technical Community College. Her brother works at a hotel and her two younger sisters are in school.

These individuals and many others have found successful lives here because of the assistance they’ve received from Americans - government workers, employers, volunteers and sponsors.

EFI makes architectural glass and aluminum. Twenty-one of its current 68 workers are refugees; their backgrounds vary from farm workers to college professors. The work is not easy or pleasant, but the refugees are willing to do it; they’re also reliable and stick around.

“I will almost always call World Relief (a refugee relief agency) first,” Jeanne Clary, the company’s human resources director, told Zerwick. “The reasoning for that is we’ve gone through the newspaper; we’ve done the advertising online. We take applications all day, every day, and what I get is they want to make a lot of money or they only want to work certain hours or their work history.”

Friendly Arabic Church, a Christian church in Kernersville, started working with Iraqi refugees in 2009, and helps Muslim and Christian refugees relocate.

“Most of us at Friendly Arabic Church came, one way or another, as refugees - economic refugees or driven out because of civil wars or persecution of Christians,” church pastor Salim Andraos told Zerwick.

According to data collected by the Refugee Processing Center, 1,834 refugees had settled in North Carolina between October 2013 and June 2014, making North Carolina one of the top 12 states for refugee resettlement, Zerwick reported. “Frankly, North Carolina has been a very good state for us,” Larry Bartlett, director of refugee admissions at the State Department, told Zerwick.

The refugees talked to Zerwick about some of the challenges involved in relocating - naturally, they miss their homes and family members. Aljumaily’s wife and young children are still in Baghdad. Public transportation is not as accessible. It can be difficult to make ends meet.

But they also find rewards, some as simple as a less restrictive society that allows them to wear shorts in warm weather - more importantly, being able to live free from the threat of death.

With threats around the world, we can’t help but feel proud that the U.S., and our corner of it, North Carolina, can help these families relocate and live free. They come ready to contribute to our society - and ready to tell others of their welcome here. They will make America stronger.



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