- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Recent editorials from North Carolina newspapers:


July 4

The Fayetteville Observer on moving city elections to even years:

Rep. Paul Stam is pushing a bill that would move North Carolina’s municipal elections from odd-numbered to even years.

Easy for him - the powerful Apex Republican leader isn’t seeking re-election this year. He can watch the chaos from the comfort of retirement.

As a state League of Municipalities leader said in a news release, “It is a recipe for unintended consequences.”

Indeed. The even-year ballots are already crowded, with everything from county offices to judgeships to General Assembly seats to Congress. Adding another slew of local officials to the ballot - and to the campaign trail - and we’ve got guaranteed voter confusion.

There’s merit in discussion about whether City Council terms should be two or four years, and how the elections should be conducted. But that should be up to the municipalities, not the General Assembly.

This legislation only declares lawmakers’ “intention” to move the election to even years, starting in 2020. Let’s leave it alone and let the cities and towns use the odd years to capture the voters’ attention and make decisions about their governance - as long as lawmakers in Raleigh are still willing to let them do that.




July 3

The StarNews of Wilmington on payments to eugenics victims:

Between 1929 and 1974, the state of North Carolina sterilized around 7,600 people whom it deemed unfit for parenting.

Other states had similar eugenics programs, but most discontinued them after World War II because it so resembled Nazi Germany’s push to create a pure master race.

Not so in North Carolina, where 70 percent of those involuntary sterilizations were performed after World War II.

The involuntary sterilization program was aimed at eliminating babies from people judged by a N.C. Eugenics Board to be feeble-minded or somehow defective. The bulk of them - nearly 3,000 - were carried out in the 1950s.

It wasn’t until 2003 that the law was struck from the books.

And that’s just the ones officially sanctioned by the state. Many more were sterilized under county eugenics programs.

Most were girls and women. The majority were white, except from 1960 to 1968 when more non-white citizens were sterilized, according to the N.C. Justice for Sterilization Victims Foundation.

Most were poor women. Others, some as young as 10 years old, were sterilized for reasons such as not getting along with schoolmates or being promiscuous.

Elaine Riddick was sterilized at age 14 after she gave birth to a child after being raped.

Junius Wilson was a deaf man who grew up in Castle Hayne. Largely unable to communicate, he was charged with attempted rape in the 1920s, judged insane and committed to the State Hospital for the Colored Insane in Goldsboro. He was castrated in his sixth year at the hospital, now named Cherry Hospital.

He lived out his final years a “free man” in a cottage on hospital grounds, and died in 2001.

Elnora Mills’ reproductive organs were removed without her knowledge or consent during an appendectomy in 1967. The Brunswick County woman had suffered a nervous breakdown and spent a month in a mental hospital in Goldsboro.

She didn’t find out about the procedure until 1969, when she was married. Her husband cried when they found out what had been done to her.

In 2012, the StarNews reported that she would receive about $50,000.

She’s still waiting for the final payment from the state, after receiving payments in 2014 and 2015.

The General Assembly has set aside $10 million to compensate about 220 victims it has identified.

Victims of county-level eugenics programs also want to be compensated. That case - denied by the Court of Appeals but possibly headed for the state Supreme Court - is holding up determination of the amount eugenics victims like Mills will be paid.

Mills, now a widow living on $600 a month in Social Security benefits, believes the $10 million should go to victims of the state program. She contends that if the court rules against the state in the county-level cases, that compensation should come from other sources.

These victims are dying off.

The state of North Carolina has violated and mutilated these people. It’s not enough to apologize, as Gov. Mike Easley did in 2002.

It’s an outrage for our state to continue to dither and delay and discuss. A settlement should be paid to Mills and the other victims as quickly as possible.

Shame on any legislator or state official who doesn’t do everything he or she can to make that happen.




July 5

The News & Observer of Raleigh on state lawmakers:

North Carolina’s state lawmakers wrapped up the legislative short session on schedule and made it home in time for Fourth of July celebrations. Give the Republican leadership credit for applying their less-is-more theory to one subject in which it is welcome - the length of sessions.

After that, credit gets harder to allocate. Facing an election year, Republican lawmakers finally doled out a few dollars to the neglected ranks of teachers, state employees and state retirees. Raising pay and cost of living allowances is basic maintenance for most legislatures in a stable economy, but this one treats tending to its fiscal responsibilities as if it were an act of munificence or a historic investment in education. So be it. At least slight increases are coming to current and retired state employees.

The Republican leadership was unable to control its nervous twitch to cut taxes despite aching needs for expanded state services. Faced with complaints that previous tax cuts have favored the wealthy, lawmakers raised the state’s standard tax deduction by $1,000 for single filers and $2,000 for married couples. Most taxpayers will save a few dollars per week, a savings that’s likely to be eaten up by the expansion of the sales tax to include a range of services, including car repairs. This is the so-called middle-income tax cut that would be better called a mirage.

On coal ash disposal, the legislature agreed to cap leaky storage ponds at half of the state’s power plants and provide municipal drinking water to nearby residents who are on wells. That closure plan - which will go forward with no scientific assessment of the risks of leaving the coal ash in place - will save Duke Energy millions of dollars in cleanup costs. Seven remaining sites are slated for full excavation under previous legislation and court settlements involving three sites.

On the other big issue - an issue of the legislature’s creation, HB2 - lawmakers tweaked the law to allow workplace discrimination lawsuits to be filed in state courts but failed to repeal the anti-LGBT law that has cost the state millions of dollars in lost business and stained the state’s reputation.

Some of the best news out of this session was what the legislature couldn’t muster the votes to pass. A proposal for a constitutional amendment capping the state’s income tax at 5.5 percent failed as did an attempt to curtail wind farming in Eastern North Carolina.

The legislature is gone until January of 2017, but the damage of what has been done will continue. Now it’s time for campaigning and elections. It’s time for North Carolinians to decide whether they want more legislative sessions like this one and those of recent years, or whether it’s time for North Carolina to get back to being a light and a leader again.



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