- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Recent editorials from North Carolina newspapers:

July 28

News & Observer, Raleigh, on secrecy in administering the state’s death penalty:

When the government is putting someone to death in the name of the people, the people have a right to know how it is being done.

But in a macabre and all-too-quick march toward resumption of the death penalty in North Carolina, Republican lawmakers are doing all they can to restart executions stalled since 2006 with a measure now in negotiation between the House and Senate that would drop a requirement that doctors be present at executions. The legislation also would keep confidential the drugs to be used in lethal injection executions.

This is a horribly misguided idea. There have been executions in other states in which questionable combinations of drugs have had gruesome outcomes for the condemned. Do lawmakers think this secrecy, and taking doctors out of the process, makes the death penalty somehow more acceptable? It does not.

There has been no spike in crime since the death penalty was halted over legal disputes. The sole motivation for getting it started again seems to be a push from some politicians to get “justice” for the families of murder victims. But that’s not justice. It’s revenge, and that is not the job of the justice system.

The death penalty is the one penalty that can’t be corrected. And DNA testing has revealed that some inmates convicted of crimes that could have brought the death penalty have been innocent. Rather than put executions on a fast track, North Carolina should abandon them altogether.




July 29

News and Record, Greensboro, North Carolina, on the urban-rural economic gap:

Gov. Pat McCrory and some Republican state senators traded disparaging remarks recently, but the issue isn’t only personal.

The governor repeated criticism of a budget provision that shifts sales-tax revenue from urban to rural counties and threatened a veto. “Redistribution and hidden tax increases are liberal tax-and-spend principles of the past that simply don’t work,” he said. “More importantly, this bill will cripple the economic and trade centers of our state that power our economy.”

The plan’s architect, Sen. Harry Brown (R-Onslow), responded: “I can’t figure out if Pat thinks he is the governor of Charlotte or the mayor of North Carolina.”

Similar comments were made after McCrory criticized the legislature for dictating a new governing structure to Greensboro.

Another state senator, Tom Apodaca (R-Henderson), quipped, “The governor doesn’t play much of a role in anything.”

Actually, he should play a large role in addressing the growing divide between North Carolina’s rural and urban areas. While Republicans rule the political landscape unchallenged these days, there are widening fault lines within the GOP. These have to do with economic disparities.

As the former mayor of Charlotte, McCrory clearly represents the urban point of view. This puts him at odds with the rural and suburban Republicans who dominate the Senate and view cities as economic predators and strongholds of Democrats.

The proposal for shifting sales-tax revenue away from cities appeals to those Republicans. “We are reclaiming the dollars we are spending in Charlotte,” Sen. Tommy Tucker (R-Union) said earlier this month.

That kind of talk isn’t likely to win over the governor. Nor is his retort going to make peace.

“Instead of pursuing left-wing ideas that continually fail, it’s time for the General Assembly to get to work on job creation for all North Carolina,” he said.

The discussion comes in the midst of mixed economic reports for the state. While the country gained 233,000 jobs in June and saw the national unemployment rate fall to 5.3 percent, North Carolina’s rate rose to 5.8 percent with 4,000 jobs lost. In poorer counties, economic performance is dismal.

Those areas need help, and one way to provide it is to transfer wealth from stronger cities and counties. That’s not a remedy Republicans normally embrace.

Yet, Tucker has a point. Residents of outlying counties do much of their shopping in cities, paying sales taxes there. Is there a way to see that a fair share returns to help pay for schools and other services those residents deserve?

The governor argues that his proposals for infrastructure projects and greater economic development tools would help rural areas. The legislature should support those ideas and increase funding for public schools and community colleges.

Weakening cities is the wrong remedy. McCrory should not back down from defending them, even if he’s derided as the mayor of North Carolina.




July 27

Charlotte Observer on Boy Scouts of America ending ban on openly gay den leaders:

The Boy Scouts of America took action late Monday to end a ban on openly gay den leaders, scoutmasters and camp counselors.

The Scouts’ national executive board approved the change with about 79 percent of its voters expressing support. The move was unanimously approved by the Scouts’ executive committee in mid-July.

Given the groundswell of national support for gay rights, Scouts President Robert Gates, the nation’s former defense secretary, rightly declared in May that the group’s longstanding ban on gays in leadership positions was “an unsustainable position.”

He might well have been speaking to all of America’s conservative Christians, not just Boy Scouts supporters, when he added: “We must deal with the world as it is, not as we might wish it to be.”

As they move forward with their policy changes, the Boy Scouts will be taking a significant step in the right direction.

In a concession to churches, however, the group still plans to let church-based units choose adult leaders whose beliefs are consistent with their own. That doesn’t sit well with some gay rights advocates. Dashanne Stokes, an Eagle Scout and gay rights activist, wrote in The Advocate that the new policy is a PR-savvy half-measure. It does represent progress for gays, he said, but it lets local Scout groups keep discriminating while letting the national office off the hook legally.

“The new policy lets them have it both ways,” he wrote. “It’s a step forward for liberals and those of us who seek change but stops short of creating the kind of real change that would further alienate the BSA’s conservative core.”

Conservatives aren’t happy either. John Stemberger, a leader of the faith-based Trail Life USA youth program, told the Reuters news agency that the new policy will make it “even more challenging for a church to integrate a (Boy Scouts) unit” as part of its offerings.

The new policy isn’t perfect, but it is a compromise that allows opposing viewpoints to coexist beneath the same tent. That’s no small feat, given the deeply divergent, passionately held views on both sides of this debate.

Noted lawyer David Boies, who has threatened to sue the Boy Scouts over the gay leadership ban, told the New York Times he sees the Scouts’ latest policy change as “a way station on the road to full equality.”

Given the rising tide of support for gay rights and the recent Supreme Court ruling allowing all gays to marry, he’s likely right about that.

The Scouts’ organization made its name teaching wholesome life lessons and helping mold boys into model citizens. This situation offers an opportunity to show them what it means to live in peace - even when not in complete harmony - with one’s neighbors.



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