- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Recent editorials from North Carolina newspapers:

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Feb. 1



The Greensboro News & Record on proposed changes to social studies instruction in public schools:

Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, a resident of Greensboro, home of the Feb. 1, 1960, Woolworth sit-ins, wants you to know that racism no longer exists.

As Black History Month was only days away, Robinson, a Black man, felt moved to make that decree at a state Board of Education meeting last week.

“The system of government that we have in this nation is not systematically racist. In fact, it is not racist at all,” Robinson said of proposed new standards for social studies instruction in public schools that would include discussion of some chapters of America’s past and present that have routinely been underrepresented.

How else, Robinson said, could he have been elected as the state’s first Black lieutenant governor and Barack Obama as the first Black president - twice?

We’ll see Robinson’s examples and raise him a few more: Two Black men are chancellors of UNC System campuses in Greensboro. The police chief is Black, as is the county sheriff, the chairman of the county commissioners and the school superintendent. The state has had two Black chief justices of its Supreme Court, one of them Greensboro’s Henry Frye.

All are clear and laudable signs of progress. In fact, we agree with Robinson that this is the greatest country on Earth.

And yet … also in his home county, the largest health provider has acknowledged racial bias in medical care and pledged to address it. (The N.C. Healthcare Association, which represents all 130 hospitals in the state, sees “persistent racism” as a statewide problem.) The young people who struggle most in our schools are students of color. Nationally, the threat of violent white extremism is on the rise.

Which is to say, for all its goodness, America also has made some mistakes and bad choices. And it has discriminated, often by design, with government complicity.

And pretending those things don’t exist in what we teach in our classrooms is not only dishonest, it’s harmful and shortsighted.

Yet some Republican board members see it as anti-American to take an unflinching and inclusive accounting of both this nation’s triumphs and its blemishes in North Carolina’s new K-12 social studies standards.

As reported last week in The News & Observer of Raleigh, state Board of Education member Amy White, a former social studies teacher, said the proposed revisions contradict what America stands for. “While I think some of the revisions have been helpful, I still see an agenda that is anti-American, anti-capitalism, anti-democracy,” White said.

State Superintendent Catherine Truitt cited the “explicit language.” Terms (cover your eyes and ears) such as “systemic racism,” “systemic discrimination” and “gender identity.”

A current social studies teacher from Cumberland County disagreed.

“By having these standards, that means that every one of our kids in every classroom in North Carolina is going to get the same standardized social studies education with those multiple viewpoints and those multiple perspectives included,” said Maureen Stover, who is advising the board on the standards.

Stover was the 2020 North Carolina Teacher of the Year and is among four finalists for National Teacher of the Year.

As for America’s missteps, we are not even a year removed from the death of George Floyd under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer. Both Republicans and Democrats have acknowledged the disproportionate toll mass incarceration has taken on people of color, and they addressed it in the 2018 First Step Act. As for the past …

- Government-sanctioned, forced sterilization of some North Carolinians lasted into the 1970s.

- The Tuskegee experiments in Alabama (1932-1972) intentionally allowed Black sharecroppers with syphilis to go untreated. Conducted by the U.S. Public Health Service, the study resulted in more than 100 deaths from the disease or from complications related to it.

- The Wilmington insurrection in 1898 not only was aided and abetted by government leaders and the media - it was allowed to happen by the federal government, without consequence for either the mob or the instigators.

- The federal government’s redlining practices denied loans and housing opportunities for African American borrowers and created much of today’s racial wealth gap.

These are only a few examples, all of them, arguably, examples of “systemic racism.”

Yes, there are also many other examples of America’s grit and inventiveness and generosity. And those stories should be told as well. But they already are.

There is no shame in an honest accounting. There is, in fact, honor in it.

America’s body of work as a nation of ideas and ideals is envied throughout the world. A part of that greatness should be a willingness to embrace an ideal that we haven’t yet achieved - what the founders called the quest for “a more perfect union.”

But that requires first acknowledging that we are an imperfect union.

And that, unless we’re willing to learn from our past … well you know the rest.

Online: https://greensboro.com/

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Jan. 31

The Salisbury Post on a proposed bill that would allow local counties to choose whether to put public notices in newspapers or on a county website:

Rep. Harry Warren just doesn’t get it.

When he personally resumed Republican legislators’ crusade against local newspapers and the public’s right to know last week, Warren attempted to skirt a gubernatorial veto by cramming as many counties as he could into the definition of a local bill, proposed that citizens go searching for public notices instead of receiving them in a centralized place, gave local governments a no-brainer financial choice and ignored the negative effects his proposal would have on business. That it’s one of the first bills he introduced this legislative session proves his priorities.

Warren’s bill gives counties the ability to pass an ordinance and choose whether to put public notices in newspapers or on their websites. Instead, the notices would go on a county’s website for free or a fee. The compromise, apparently, is that he’s not forcing governments to remove notices from newspapers, as bills have in the past.

Warren knows a statewide bill wouldn’t make it into law. Even if it passed by both bodies of the legislature in party-line votes, Gov. Roy Cooper would have his veto pen ready and a statement something like the one he authored in response to a similar 2017 bill.

“Legislation that enacts retribution on the media threatens a free and open press, which is fundamental to our democracy,” Cooper wrote in a veto message.

Even if it fits the official definition, how “local” is a bill that includes 14 counties that stretch from the mountains to the coast and affects roughly 1.5 million North Carolinians?

House Bill 35 includes Cabarrus, Catawba, Currituck, Davidson, Forsyth, Haywood, Jackson, Montgomery, Richmond, Rockingham, Rowan, Rutherford, Stanly and Swain counties. It includes the 12th-smallest county (Swain) the fourth-largest (Forsyth) and lots in between. It will create a patchwork approach to public and legal notices.

To be clear, the most significant problem with Warren’s bill is that it will make it harder for the public to find out what’s going on in their community.

Never mind if you don’t have internet access at home or high-speed broadband isn’t available in your area. If Warren has his way, you may need to find a way to access a yet-to-be-created section of the county’s website to find out about the Dollar General moving next door. Rowan County residents may need to stay constantly tuned to the county’s website to find out far enough in advance about the solar farm that’s going to cover hundreds of acres and cut down a small forest in western Rowan County, a proposal that fizzled in 2019. How about spreading sludge from wastewater in Charlotte across farm fields in southeastern Rowan County, as was proposed in 2014?

You can count on the Post to write about the Dollar General, solar farm and sludge proposals, but that doesn’t change the government’s duty to tell the public what it’s doing in the medium that will reach the largest number of people.

Newspapers are charged with carrying out a public service by publishing government notices, are paid for that service and remain the best way to reach a large percent of the public. This month, the Salisbury Post’s website is on track to reach 1.4 million views, with more than 1 million unique page views. Last year, it saw about 17 million page views and 13.2 million unique page views. The Salisbury Post’s print edition as well as newspapers across the state remain the most complete package of community news, sports and other information that you can get about for $1 two days per weekday and a couple bucks on Sunday. If you subscribe, the Post provides five editions per week, two of which are delivered to your email inbox, and a cheaper per-issue price.

Can Warren prove that an obscure section of the county’s website will even reach a couple thousand eyeballs a year?

Whether or not readers look at public notices online or in a printed newspaper, each edition reaches thousands of homes every day - each with the opportunity to read what’s going on in their community. Notices are available online, too, and via a statewide website maintained by the N.C. Press Association.

Government cannot only make public notices available on a website for people who are interested.

At its core, the Salisbury Post is a local business in Salisbury’s historic downtown that employs people who provide news and information and serves as the best method for local businesses to reach potential customers without internet and social media algorithms getting in the way. For Warren, new government regulations are just tough luck.

“Any business when confronted with a challenge like this has to learn how to conform and adjust to changes,” Warren told Salisbury Post reporter Natalie Anderson in a story published today on 1A.

To be fair, Warren’s bill may not lead to changes in every county covered in his bill, but there’s no realistic choice when one option puts notices on a county website for free or a low cost.

The choice is made easier when local governments have a standoffish relationship with their local newspaper.

Warren’s bill, which will do nothing to expand the audience for public notices, will be a significant revenue loss for some newspapers in the state, potentially forcing some to close. It will be a small footnote on county balance sheets - tens of thousands of dollars in Rowan County in a budget of more than $150 million. For some counties, it might even generate revenue.

How many newspapers are locally owned anyway, Warren asked in Anderson’s news story, forgetting the people employed by newspapers like the Post live here. Many are his constituents. Whether the owner of the newspaper lives in town has no bearing on the public’s right to know. Boone Newspapers, of which the Post is an affiliate, draws its name from the family who’s run it from the start and continues to do so. For much of its history, the Post was owned by another family, the Hurleys.

Surely, Warren finds value in family run businesses.

Warren and his colleagues will be enticed to stick it to “the liberal media” without realizing newspapers in the counties he’s targeting employ people with diverse viewpoints, including conservative ones.

Communities are already suffering from deep divisions about basic facts. Without major changes and an honest embrace of opposing viewpoints, Warren is proposing a bad bill that will further tear at the community fabric in 14 counties.

Community-minded Republicans, Gov. Roy Cooper and Democrats must speak out against this blatant attack on North Carolinians and their local news. This is not a local bill. It’s a disguised attempt to start the state down a slippery slope.

Online: https://www.salisburypost.com/

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Jan. 28

The News & Observer and The Charlotte Observer on District 11 U.S. House member Madison Cawthorn:

We’re all for public officials being attentive to the “public” part of their title. It’s good for everyone when elected representatives explain what they’re doing and why they’re doing it. But on behalf of a whole lot of North Carolinians, we have a request regarding one of those officials:

Can someone please keep Madison Cawthorn away from the cameras? And the microphones? And really, most situations in which he publicly tries to turn words into meaningful thoughts?

The first-term, District 11 U.S. House member has been an embarrassment to the institution, to his party, and to his state. In the last month alone, he:

- Helped incite the U.S. Capitol invasion with a Jan. 6 speech that lied about election fraud and stoked anger, then less than 24 hours later said the president’s election falsehoods played a role in the riot while claiming his own, similar election lies weren’t a factor. Cawthorn wasn’t alone in that kind of whiplash-inducing pivot, but he was the only lawmaker calling for unity after Jan. 6 who also sold “Cry more, lib” T-shirts on his web site. (He later removed the listing.)

- Faced questions about claims that he was a legitimate candidate for the 2020 Paralympic Games. Cawthorn has suggested so more than once, including telling a Christian podcast host that “I had an opportunity for the Paralympics for track and field.” This is not accurate, as The Nation reported, and it’s an insult to the Paralympic athletes who invest their time and effort to compete at an elite level.

- Typed this actual sentence in a Jan. 19 email to Republican colleagues obtained by TIME: “I have built my staff around comms rather than legislation.” That commitment to messaging, rather than understanding and participating in legislating, might have been something that interested his constituents before they voted to send him to Congress.

- Struggled through an excruciating interview with CNN’s Pamela Brown in which he finally acknowledged Joe Biden’s legitimate victory yet continued to allege that states subverted the U.S. Constitution in changing election rules. That’s not true, and when Brown noted that election rules also were changed in North Carolina, Cawthorn said he wasn’t aware of those changes. Either Cawthorn inexplicably doesn’t know what’s going on his home state, or he lied. (The latter is very possible given Cawthorn’s volatile relationship with the truth. During his campaign, he created the impression that he was headed to the U.S. Naval Academy before an accident left him partially paralyzed. The reality: Cawthorn was rejected by the Naval Academy before his accident.)

Cawthorn’s strategy for these kinds of mishaps? It’s apparently to keep doing interviews, which results in more head-shaking headlines and national ridicule. It’s why the North Carolina freshman is on the medal stand for worst new member of Congress. It’s also why at least one prominent supporter has expressed regret, and why Republicans are surely not looking forward to two years of cringing.

It’s difficult to feel sorry for GOP leaders, however, including those in North Carolina. Cawthorn is a creation of their making, a product of legislative gerrymandering his state’s Republicans engaged after their 2010 victory in the N.C. House and Senate. Those maps resulted in some of the most gerrymandered districts in history, and even after courts intervened for fairer maps, a Republican is still all but assured to win in NC-11.

As has happened in districts across the country, such gerrymandering squeezes out moderates who thoughtfully consider the center. That leads to awful candidates and elected officials, and as lawmakers embark on a new round of map drawing in 2021, they should keep Cawthorn in mind. It might be nice to get easy election wins, but it’s not good for your party or the people you’re supposed to serve.

Online: https://www.newsobserver.com/ & https://www.charlotteobserver.com/

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