- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Recent editorials from North Carolina newspapers:


Sept. 26

The Charlotte Observer on Charlotte police body cameras:

Ever since then-Chief Rodney Monroe successfully lobbied Charlotte’s City Council last year to spend $7 million on 1,400 new body cameras, there have been questions about whether the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department should dump its aging dashboard cameras.

Monroe envisioned body cameras eventually replacing dash cameras. The dash cameras, more than 650 of them as of late 2015, are too old to maintain and repair. Estimated cost for a new system: $5 million.

Considering the protests of the past week, the City Council should shelve any thoughts of ditching dash cameras.

Julie Eiselt, head of the council’s public safety committee, told The Observer’s Steve Harrison on Sunday that Chief Kerr Putney, who succeeded Monroe, is open to keeping the dash cameras.

Good. Public trust in CMPD has been battered on some fronts amidst the turmoil over the Keith Lamar Scott shooting. Transparency must be the department’s watch-word going forward, and dash camera footage provided the most informative video of Scott’s fatal encounter with officers.

The dash camera video, unlike the choppy body camera video, showed Scott at the precise moment police opened fire. It didn’t answer every question, but it provided at least a few key facts.

While the dash cam video doesn’t explicitly show whether Scott had a gun or a book in his hand, it does show officers repeatedly yelling at him to drop a gun. It shows Scott was backing up at the time he was shot. That’s valuable information.

At a time when social media can light unfounded rumors ablaze, even scraps of factual evidence can help people feel their way toward the truth. That’s important.

If that video had been quickly released to the public, would that have been enough to overcome the social media-fueled narrative of a black man gunned down by police while he was simply reading a book? Maybe, maybe not. Absent the dash cam video, would citizens be further from understanding the truth of what happened? Definitely.

“Anything that calms the public and gives the police another way to show them transparency is worth it,” council member Claire Fallon told the editorial board Monday.

Of course, the presence of video won’t necessarily guarantee that protests won’t erupt following the next police shooting.

And you won’t find $5 million or more hiding under the couch cushions over at the Government Center.

But consider this. The damage to Charlotte’s image and its soul over the past week has far exceeded the $5 million price tag for dash cameras.

Buy new dash video systems, City Council. We know it won’t be easy to come up with the money.

But at a time when we desperately need to rebuild public trust in CMPD, it’s a wise investment in the city’s future.




Sept. 26

The News & Observer of Raleigh on athletics at the University of North Carolina

In a four-part series last week, The News & Observer’s Dan Kane drew into one narrative his years of reporting on how bogus classes were created to help athletes at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. His sweeping account laid bare the failure of overseers to see and the reluctance of leaders to lead.

Kane’s scrutiny prompted the adoption of dozens of reforms - after millions of dollars were spent on an outside investigation and millions more on public relations trying to manage the story and protect UNC’s image. Now there is a chance for what could be a productive dialogue on all college sports, not just the problems in Chapel Hill.

Chapel Hill should lead the nation in this effort. It is, after all, a university that for most of its history in “big time” athletics has been cited as an example of “doing it right,” playing by the rules, demanding high academic standards, citing the high graduation rates of coaches such as the late Dean Smith.

The question Kane’s reporting raises has no definitive answer: Can rigorous academics and big-time athletics really mix? That’s a question that should be pondered by every school that participates in the top level of NCAA athletics. President after president, chancellor after chancellor, has tried to answer the question in the affirmative.

But it’s not that simple. To make that coexistence really work, major universities know what they need to do: 1. Curb the influence of television by not allowing their schedules to be dictated by TV networks; 2. Consider a return to the policy of not allowing freshmen to play varsity sports; 3. Restrain themselves in the building of stadiums and arenas; 4. Arrange for independent monitoring of the academic-athletics balance - or imbalance - on each campus and don’t leave it to the NCAA, which is a weak organization pressured to preserve a billion-dollar enterprise.

The response to most of these ideas is typically predictable: It’s too late. There’s too much money involved. All schools would have to cooperate, and they won’t. There are scandals, but they are relatively rare.

All are excuses for inaction. The truth is academic administrators would like to agree with at least some of those suggestions, but they understand that to become an advocate for anything that could be interpreted as “downsizing” or “de-emphasis” would put them at odds with powerful alums.

Reformers should not give up, no matter how many times they face the skepticism of those who say they’re not being “realistic.”




Sept. 25

The StarNews of Wilmington on House Bill 2:

So, what happens next?

When it comes to HB-2, we have two sides that have dug in, refused to budge and are complaining that the other side won’t compromise.

Gov. Pat McCrory and some leaders in the Republican-controlled legislature have said they’ll repeal the “bathroom bill” that’s made North Carolina a target of boycotts across the nation - but only if Charlotte first repeals its non-discrimination ordinance, which inspired HB-2 in the first place.

Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts and her supporters on the City Council aren’t budging. Technically, the ordinance is null and void, since HB-2 overrode it. Also, they regard repeal as, in effect, sanctioning discrimination against gays, lesbians and transgender people. For them, it’s a matter of principle.

So, McCrory declared to the Charlotte Rotary Club - and to anybody else who’ll listen - that it is now All Charlotte’s Fault. Don’t blame him.

In a tight re-election campaign, McCrory apparently figures he cannot back down without losing support of conservatives who consider LGBT civil rights an affront to their religious principles. So, he seems inclined to let the federal courts sort it all out.

That can take a long, long, long time.

Meanwhile, North Carolina is bleeding.

It’s intriguing to note that the biggest supporters of the HB-2 “compromise” have been business groups like the state’s Restaurant & Lodging Association and the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce. Their members are feeling the pain first, and hardest, as the NBA, the NCAA and dozens of non-athletic organizations pull their tournaments and conventions out of the state. Losses are so far estimated in the tens of millions.

There might have been grounds for maneuver. Some critics have claimed the Charlotte ordinance was long on ideals, but vague on details. There might have been reasonable grounds to start over and redraft the thing - which is most assuredly what the legislature needs to do with the badly drafted HB-2.

But “reasonable” is not a word in the current political vocabulary. In the current atmosphere, compromise is a synonym for weakness, cowardice and submission. (So much for those craven Founders compromising with each other to draft the Constitution).

The irony, of course - as several folks have pointed out - is that HB-2 is unenforceable. Nobody is going to pay for police to patrol the state’s restrooms for violations, conducting strip searches or whatever, to catch miscreants. It’s mostly a statement of principle - the principle that gays, lesbians and transgenders have no particular rights that North Carolina need respect.

Another irony: Republicans are going to the polls trying to argue that their tax cuts and deregulations of the past four years have jump-started North Carolina’s economy. Yet their principled stand is costing the state untold treasure in lost revenues and the fees from protracted court cases.

But that’s Charlotte’s fault, of course, because they won’t compromise there.

So pass the hot potato and empty your pockets. Looks like it’s going to be a long, cold winter.



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