Thursday, January 29, 2009

Poking a stick at the 'Democrat Party'

Sen. Phil Berger of Rockingham County, the Senate Republican leader, is a well-liked, respected and thoughtful legislator. I think he has had some good ideas, including some proposals that would make the Senate's debates friendlier to members of his party and some Democrats, too. Among other things, he proposed altering an arcane rule on calling the question that has caught senators by surprise more than once -- in effect ending debate on an entire bill instead of just on one part. But Democrats rule the roost in the Senate. With 30 of the 50 Senate seats, Democrats call the shots.

Berger is understandably frustrated by this. The minority always is, and Senate Republicans have been in the minority since the crust of the earth cooled. I don't blame them for feeling run over. I would too.

After Wednesday's opening session, when Democrats rejected proposed Republican rules changes, Berger let fire with a complaint about partisanship and the need for bipartisanship. No quibble there.

But the language Berger used illustrates a problem for his party. He, like many Republicans, likes to call it the "Democrat Party," not the Democratic Party, and refer to their colleagus as "Democrat senators," not "Democratic senators." They deliberately ignore the fact that the formal, legal, actual name of the organization is "Democratic Party." Democrats do, of course, use "Democrat" as a noun; they do not use "Democrat" improperly as an adjective.

"The ungrammatical conversion of the noun 'Democrat' to an adjective was the brainchild of Republican partisans, presumably an attempt to deny the opposing party the claim to being 'democratic' -- or in the words of New Yorker magazine senior editor Hendrik Hertzberg, 'to deny the enemy the positive connotations of its chosen appellation,'" notes the Web site Media matters. "In the early 1990s, apparently due largely to the urging of then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) and Republican pollster Frank Luntz, the use of the word 'Democrat' as an adjective became near-universal among Republicans."

The Web site also notes that President Warren Harding liked to call it the "Democrat Party" and so did U.S. Sen. Joe McCarthy R-WI, who, Hertzber wrote,"made it a regular part of his arsenal of insults."

In his Wednesday news release, Berget put himself in the logically challenged position of beginning, "Now is the time for a bipartisan effort to remake North Carolina's government from the ground up. Democrat Senator Marc Basnight's speech…."

And later, referring to the rejection of rules changes, Berger said, "Unfortunately, this failure indicates a continuation of past practices in which Democrat leaders dictate the operations of an extremely partisan Senate from behind closed doors."

Berger's right about the need for bipartisanship. But as long as he and his colleagues continue to deliberately misuse the name of the opposition party in such a high-schoolish way, it's hard to see how Democrats would feel much reason to change their ways. It probably only reinforces the Democrats' view that Republicans are only going to play political games, and so the Grand Old Party's legitimate gripes can simply be ignored.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Basnight kids Manning: 'Not one of our favorites'

Sen. Marc Basnight, D-Dare, was elected to an unprecedented ninth consecutive term as president pro tempore of the state Senate. That has long been an influential position, but under Basnight it has become among the most powerful posts in state government, sometimes overshadowing the governorship because the legislative leadership can frustrate the desires of the chief executive and push through other initiatives.

During today's selection as the 148th General Assembly convened, Republicans in the Senate offered their leader, Sen. Phil Berger of Rockingham County, as an alternative to Basnight. The ensuing vote fell largely but not entirely along party lines, with Cabarrus Republican Sen. Fletcher Hartsell and Wake Republican Sen. Richard Stevens casting ballots for Basnight. But Berger quickly moved to make the vote unanimous, a recognition of the fact that Democrats have the votes in the 50-member Senate (30 Democrats to 20 Republicans). It also helped maintain a spirit of good feeling on opening day, rarely a time for overt partisanship on either side.

Basnight, who loves to gently rib his colleagues from time to time, was sworn in by Wake Superior Court Judge Howard Manning, a veteran judge who has presided over the long-running Leandro schools case for so long no one can remember when he wasn't supervising it. Manning is a highly respected Republican judge whose rulings in the Leandro case have pressed the state to do a better job providing students with a sound basic education. Manning has not ordered lawmakers to spend more money, but his rulings have pressed the state to put adequate resources, teachers and principals into every school -- and that, of course, has a financial impact.

So moments after being sworn in, Basnight told the Senate he wanted to extend "special thanks to Judge Manning, who is not one of our favorites, but he is a personal friend."

Everybody laughed pretty hard at that one, because a lot of legislators on both sides regard Manning as a good judge who had had an impossible job trying to bring order out of the chaos of the Leandro case. Basnight looked Manning up after the session adjourned so he could get his photograph taken, and when a writer told of plans to blog on the "not one of our favorites" remark, Basnight put up a mock howl of dismay.

For the record, Manning has ordered that every child have a competent teacher, every school have a competent principal and every child get the resources needed to get a sound basic education. It's a noble goal that goes unmet.

Next up: Manning has a hearing in his courtroom next week to gauge further progress toward the goal, upheld by the N.C. Supreme Court five years ago.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Kerr Scott played hardball over Charlotte road

David Henderson of Charlotte, son of a federal judge, was a member of the N.C. General Assembly when Gov. Kerr Scott, father of the late Gov. Bob Scott, was in office from 1949-1953. Henderson saw a column of mine mentioning the Scott family's willingness to tackle outrageous ideas, and he sent along an anecdote demonstrating that the Scotts liked to play hardball as well. Here's Henderson's note:

"Bob 's daddy, the Hon. Kerr Scott, was not above 'outrageous' ideas. When I was in the Assembly in '51, he sent a messenger to direct me to vote against the Powell Bill (which called for a diversion of Highway funds from Scott's rural roads program to city streets. Being from Charlotte, I sent him, a 'non-compliance' reply. He then sent word that if I did not comply, he would 'close down construction of Independence Blvd.' I didn't yield and he DID stop construction.

"Later, when my dad D.E. (Zeke) Henderson came off the federal bench, Scott wanted to appoint him a Superior Court judge. Dad declined, and Scott sent a telegram which I remember distinctly. 'I never can get a Henderson to do what I want when I want it. (signed) Kerr.'"

Monday, January 26, 2009

Will this fix 'dysfunctional' schools?

Gov. Bev Perdue has announced plans to change the way the state's public schools are governed, including the resignation of longtime State Board of Education Chairman Howard Lee and the naming of Cumberland County Schools Superintendent Bill Harrison to the State Board of Education. She wants the board to name Harrison chairman of the board as well as to create the job of Chief Executive Officer of the state's public schools system.
She also said she has asked Lee to serve as Executive Director of the N.C. Education Cabinet, a newly created job she hopes will reinvigorate the work of the cabinet, which includes the heads of the N.C. Community College System, the University of North Carolina system and the N.C. Independent Colleges and Universities. Perdue also announced she has asked N.C. Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson -- who is elected statewide -- to lead a Blue Ribbon Task Force on Career Development and Workforce Issues.
Perdue's announcement was made in front of a group that included Lee, Atkinson and Scott Ralls, president of the community college system, Erskine Bowles, president of the UNC system, and Hope Williams, president of the Independent Colleges and Universities, as a show of support for the changes.
The timing is interesting. On Tuesday, a new report from the General Assembly's Program Evaluation Division will recommend changes in public schools governance because the current system is "dysfunctional, confusing and in need of change."
The state Constitution creates the elected post of Superintendent of Public Instruction, but also gives the job of running schools to the State Board of Education -- and in practice the board lately has pretty much ignored the superintendent and gone its own way.
"The current hybrid situation does not work," the legislature's report concludes. This two-headed system -- with policy and operations accountability spread here and there -- has caused all sorts of problems, but legislators have not found a way to resolve it.
Perdue's may not resolve it either, although she believes her method will resolve lines of authority and make it clear that, as she put it, “The buck stops with me.” That's one reason she had a number of education leaders present to lend their support for the new arrangement. The point was that these education leaders are on record as supporting the new arrangement.
I don’t think this announcement will halt the questions about how our system of governance works, but Perdue is right about this: The legislature hasn’t acted. I don’t know if the legislature can act, given its difficulty coming to grips with what clearly has been a problem for the last quarter-century. Perdue said it would take 18 months or two years for the legislature to amend the Constitution and set up a statewide referendum, and she wanted to move quickly and fix the problem. “It’s up to the General Assembly and others to deal with the Constitutional question,” said. She added that for herself, the changes she proposes answer the question about lines of responsibility for schools.

An honest lobbyist

A negative stereotype of legislative lobbyists probably has to do with a oily, fast-talking huckster out to sell a bill of goods to the unwary -- or to those who just want the campaign contributions lobbyists use to raise for them and can still advise their clients where to send contributions.

And then there was Roger Bone, widely regarded as a top lobbyist in the N.C. General Assembly. Bone, who died Sunday at age 69 just two days after his former boss, former Gov. Bob Scott, also died, was not just well liked. He was regarded as an honest man who told legislators the truth.

A lot of lobbyists in Raleigh are regarded as honest, and the best ones tell only the truth.

But it is a mark of who Roger Bone was that people regarded him as an honest person despite the fact he had a federal rap on his record.

Bone, a farm equipment dealer for International Harvester, had been a member of the 1979 and 1981 General Assemblies, but did not seek a third term. One reason may have been that he was about to be charged in a check-kiting scheme that, prosecutors later said, he had engaged in only in an effort to keep his farm equipment business afloat. He made restitution and served five years probation for that offense, then in 1985 worked for then-House Speaker Liston Ramsey before being hired by Scott, by then president of the N.C. Community College system, as a legislative lobbyist.

In time he became a general lobbyist at the legislature, and in the N.C. Center for Public Policy's annual rankings of most influential lobbyists, he moved up this year from among the top three or four to the No. 1 spot. He represented, among other things, hog farmers, nursing homes and tobacco interests.

Bone was also a funny man. David Rice, a former newsman with the Winston-Salem Journal who now works for a Raleigh law firm that provides lobbying services, recalls one of Bone's quips:" 'If you could teach hogs to smoke and then put 'em in rest homes, all my clients would be happy!' I took it as evidence that no matter how much controversy his clients encountered or how ardently they felt about their own causes, Roger never took himself too seriously -- and that humility made him that much more effective both as a lobbyist and as a human being."

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Gov. Bob Scott: No lawyers on my staff

Fred Morrison, former legal counsel to the late Gov. Bob Scott and now an Administrative Law Judge with the Office of Administrative Hearings in Raleigh, saw a Friday blog where I noted that Scott loved to ribs folks. He also liked to kid Morrison, who has been a lawyer for a long time as well as a faithful family friend.

Morrison wrote Saturday morning in an e-mail, "In his campaign for governor in 1968, he promised that he would have no lawyers on his staff -- which is the reason he gave later justifying hiring me!"

Friday, January 23, 2009

Former Gov. Bob Scott has died

Former Gov. Bob Scott, who served from 1969-73 and who got the legislature to adopt the state's first cigarette tax and who pushed for restructuring of higher education in a move that led to creation of the present UNC system, has died, according to longtime family friend Fred Morrison, who served as Scott's legal counsel. Scott had been in Alamance Hospice for several days after spending time at Alamance Hospital.
Scott was the son of former Gov. Kerr Scott, whose upset victory over establishment Democrats in 1948 had changed North Carolina politics in major ways. The elder Scott, later a U.S. senator, represented the "branchhead boys" -- ordinary folks, farmers and other rural residents who live way up at the heads of branches and creeks and who had to endure muddy dirt roads to try to get their crops to market.
Bob Scott was somewhat more conservative than his father, but still liked to shake up the establishment and seemed to revel in firing darts at those in charge. He attempted to make a political comeback against Gov. Jim Hunt in 1980 and lost badly in the primary, but later became head of the N.C. Community College system and did much to represent that system's interests in the legislature. His later days were not happy ones. His daughter, Meg Scott Phipps, was elected commissioner of agriculture but later went to federal prison for several years in a scandal over campaign contributions. The last years of his life Scott had to use an oxygen mask to help him breathe, surely an annoyance for an active fellow who was used to going where he liked and doing what he wanted to do.
Scott was a lot of fun to cover. He was the first governor I covered after graduating from college -- I still remember the long sideburns he sported shortly after taking office -- and later he chaired the Appalachian Regional Commission in Washington during Jimmy Carter's presidency. Scott liked a good joke and he loved ribbing his friends and his adversaries. Whenever I saw him he'd grin and drawl, "Well, here comes the coarser element."

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Offshore energy panel on the mark

You never know how well special study commissions will perform in Raleigh, but at first look, the Offshore Energy Exploration Study Committee named by Senate President Pro Tem Marc Basnight and House Speaker Joe Hackney has good leadership for a difficult job.

The co-chairs will be Jim Leutze, former chancellor at UNC Wilmington and a frequent spokesman on coastal and other environmental issues, and Doug Rader, chief ocean scientist at Environmental Defense. Both hold PhDs, and there's brain power among the rest of the committee as well. It includes former state Rep. Ed Holmes of Chatham County, Jane Smith Patterson and Rob Young, head of the Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines at Western Carolina University way up in Cullowhee.

Their job will be to look at the "economic, environmental and other impacts" of energy exploration off the N.C. coastline, Basnight's and Hackney's offices said in a news release. The U.S. Minerals Management Service is eyeing granting exploratory leases off our coastline and somebody surely needs to take a hard look at what might happen.

But here's a caution: Remember that study commissions often turn up a lot of information but don't always come up with a firm conclusion on what to do. The 21st Century Transportation Committee came up with some interesting options for funding infrastructure and other transportation needs, but not a recommendation for prioritizing its solutions.

Similarly, a study commission pondering how to deal with the outcome of a hurricane catastrophe failed to come up with a consensus Wednesday on how to deal with a state insurance plan that might not fully cover the damage from a terrible storm. The panel, the N&O reported this morning, will leave it up to the General Assembly to decide what to do.

While the General Assembly doesn't always take the advice, or all the advice of study commissions when they do make cogent recommendations, legislators need the best information they can get and the best policy choices, too.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Tobacco's man in D.C. dies at 84

Horace Kornegay, the former U.S. Representative from Greensboro who went on to be one of the most powerful lobbyists in Washington as head of the Tobacco Institute, has died at age 84. Rob Christensen of the News & Observer has an online piece on it here.
Kornegay was my congressman when I was growing up in Greensboro and becoming more aware of politics in the 1960s. He was one of a generation of Americans who grew up in the Great Depression, went off to serve in Europe in World War II and came back to North Carolina after the war to finish college, go to law school and build a career. A native of Asheville and graduate of Wake Forest, he was a popular local prosecutor in the 1950s whose nickname was "Dag" after the comic strip character Dagwood Bumstead. A Democrat, he went to Washington the year John Kennedy was sworn in and stepped down from the 6th District seat in 1969, when he became a vice president and later president and chairman of the Tobacco Institute, the cigarette manufacturer's lobby,until 1986. As Christensen notes in his story, Sen. Teddy Kennedy, D-Mass., regarded the tobacco lobby as the most powerful in Washington.
But tobacco's decline was already visible even before Kornegay became a lobbyist for tobacco. In 1964, the Surgeon General's report linking smoking and adverse health consequences touched off a long and sometimes rancorous public debate over tobacco. Today there aren't many folks still arguing that smoking is benign. In the N.C. General Assembly this year, there will be attempts to ban smoking in more public places, or at least give local governments more power to do so.
His daughter Kathy Kornegay married Jack Cozort, former legal counsel of Gov. Jim Hunt and a former judge of the N.C. Court of Appeals, who himself is a lobbyist in Raleigh where he is in private practice.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The guv hits the snowy streets

It's snowing to beat the band in Raleigh -- Looks like about 4 inches on the ground and more coming, the TV weather folks forecast. And here's a sight: The governor of North Carolina is out on the streets to visit with DOT crews spreading salt and plowing roads. Now, it's not unusual to see a governor out and about after a major hurricane or other natural disaster, but unusual to see the governor out and on TV -- deliberately being seen and heard -- in a snowstorm. Being a hands-on, on-site manager was a promise of Gov. Bev Perdue's election campaign, and she and her Secretary of Transportation, Eugene Conti, were out and about talking to the DOT troops this morning. It seems as though we've seen more of the governor in the 10 days she's been in office that we saw of her predecessor over the last year, though that's surely not the case. Still, the new governor seems to relish public appearances in a way that Mike Easley never did.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Myrick seat competitive in 2010?

Tom Jensen of Public Policy Polling analyzes North Carolina's Congressional delegation to fathom which races might be competitive next time around, and concludes that five members of the N.C. delegation may be vulnerable to a challenge in 2010. Of the five, four are Democrats -- Mike McIntyre in the 3rd, Heath Shuler in the 11th, Bobby Etheridge in the 2nd and freshman Larry Kissell in the 8th. The lone Republican race that might be competitive is the 9th District seat, held by Rep. Sue Myrick of Charlotte. Here's a link to his analysis.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Perdue takes control

Successful politicians use the powers granted to them to deal with crises and make change -- and sometimes they ask for more power to do what they've promised voters. When Gov. Jim Hunt was first took office in 1977, one of his initiatives was to crack down on crime. But Hunt discovered that members of the N.C. Parole Commission, which decides which inmates would get out of prison and which ones would stay, didn't serve at the pleasure of the governor and he couldn't replace the members immediately. So he came up with a quick fix. He abolished the old parole commission and created a new one -- with the power for the governor to appoint new members. Problem solved.
Now Gov. Bev Perdue has assumed office, and she's facing the same dilemma -- how to use the power she has and what new powers she might use to do what she proposes to do. Monday morning, she got right down to it, issuing six "change orders" that are, for example meant to provide more online sunshine on how the state operates, create a task force to develop an endowment for gubernatorial campaigns, improve performance at state agencies and schedule gubernatorial town halls across the state.
Two others would also directly deal with power. Perdue asked the Board of Transportation to cede authority over road projects to the secretary of transportation and his professional staff, and also directed board members to affirm in writing before every meeting that they have no financial interest in any matters before them. If board members don't follow the state's ethics laws and her directives, including presumably the one directing them to give up the power to vote on road projects, they'll be subject to dismissal.
In the legislature there may indeed be some support for revising the role of the Board of Transportation, but this will also be seen by some legislators as taking power from one place -- the board -- and concentrating that in the governor's hands, through her secretary of transportation and other management appointees. Whether that's good or bad is an entirely different question, but it would strengthen the governor's hand -- a process legislators have viewed dimly since the days of the Royal Governors.
Perdue also signed an executive order establishing the Budget Reform and Accountability Commission to come up with proposals for "using tax dollars in the most effective and efficient way possible." This will be a tougher sell. She wants the commission to come up with budgetary reforms that lawmakers would have to vote either up or down, though of course she cannot force the legislature to do so. It will be a matter of persuasion, and she recognizes that fact. It would be a good way to insure that her agenda would get considered by the legislature and that there would be a clear vote one way or another, but it's also likely to face legislative opposition. Lawmakers don't like having to make up-or-down choices on issues that they cannot first amend, tinker with or improve. We may hear quite a lot about the separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

What difference did black vote make? A lot

In the 2008 election, black turnout in North Carolina was well above what it normally is -- perhaps 23 percent, above the African American proportion of the N.C. population, around 21-22 percent and well above 2004 turnout of around 18-19 percent.

Now Public Policy Polling has calculated which races the heavy black turnout made a real difference in, and it's interesting: Without the heavy black turnout, Obama would not have won the presidential race in North Carolina. If it was at 2004 levels, McCain would have won here by 3 percent. And Republican Pat McCrory might have won the governor's race instead of losing to Bev Perdue. Might have, mind you; PPP's Tom Jensen says it would have been close, but the Charlottean might have taken the race by a single percentage point.

In other races, Kay Hagan would still have beaten Elizabeth Dole -- which Jensen says ought to encourage Democrats thinking of challenging Republican incumbent Sen. Richard Burr in 2010. Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton would have won without the heavy turnout, too and so would others in Council of State races. Here's a link to his analysis in these races, part of a larger online analysis. Fascinating stuff. The full report is here.

Jensen wrote:
"Obviously there’s no way Barack Obama could have taken North Carolina if there had been normal black turnout but he still would have done considerably better than John Kerry or Al Gore did in the state. That speaks to two things: first, that changes in the voting patterns of white voters did play a key role in Obama’s North Carolina victory and second, that it was not just the quantity of the black vote that played an important role in his victory in the state but also that African Americans voted monolithically Democratic to a greater extent than they had in previous elections. The difference between a Democratic candidate winning the black vote 95-5 and 85-15 is worth at least 200,000 votes in North Carolina, enough to change the results of both the Presidential and Gubernatorial contests in the state."

Will Emerging Issues Forum sell out again?

When former Gov. Jim Hunt recently paid a call on the Wells Fargo CEO in California, he was surprised to learn that Well Fargo executives didn't realize North Carolina was the fourth-fastest growing state in the nation. Or that within the foreseeable future it would become the seventh largest state. Hunt quickly concluded that was because Wells Fargo hadn't really been on the hunt to purchase Wachovia. That deal "just fell into their lap" because of the crisis in the financial industry, he told reporters in his law firm's office Monday afternoon.
Had Wells initiated that purchase, Hunt went on, it would have done its research and known that North Carolina's growth was so robust, he said. Wells Fargo would also have known that North Carolina's growth could present similar problems to the gridlock Hunt experienced on California freeways, he said -- and that puts special focus on the upcoming Emerging Issues Forum Feb. 9 and 10 in Raleigh. Its topic will be infrastructure generally -- including but not limited to transportation. Its topic: "Changing Landscapes: Building the Good Growth State."
Hunt created the forum more than two decades to exploring upcoming issues; several years ago it developed into the Emerging Issues Institute, a think tank (or think-and-do tank, as the institute likes to say) that that not only amasses a world of information on issues, but also seeks to build a consensus for action and produce results. Last year's forum on energy issues was a sellout, and chances are good that this year's -- to be held at the new Raleigh Convention Center in downtown Raleigh -- will be as well.
The good new for those who cannot attend is that the institute will not only stream audio, but also video of the keynote speakers. They include U.S. Sen.Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., who will speak on the national infrastructure initiative, Ken Livingstone, former mayor of London, and David Brooks, New York Times columnist. You can find more about the program and how to register at the institute's Web site,

Monday, January 12, 2009

Easley's curious final order: Keep e-mails

In one of his last acts in office, Gov. Mike Easley signed an executive order Friday that requires state agencies to retain copies of e-mails for at least 10 years, prohibits state employees from deleting copies of e-mail messages "sent or received in the course of conducting State business" for at least 24 hours so that agencies can make a daily backup record of those e-mails, and advises executive branch employees to treat all e-mail messages sent or received though state e-mail accounts as public records, subject to disclosure under the public records law.

Easley's order was signed on his last full day in office. Newly-installed Gov. Bev Perdue has planned to issue her own e-mail order Monday but held off so she and her staff would study the Easley order.

It was interesting that Easley took this particular time and way to issue an e-mail order. Last spring he appointed an E-mail Records Review Panel after news reports showed he and his administration had allowed state employees to exercise some judgment about deleting certain emails.

That panel did not go as far as public advocates and news media executives recommended. The panel recommended keeping e-mails for five years, and did not materially alter the policy allowing workers to delete e-mails that they thought had nothing substantive to do with official business.

Easley's executive order doubles the length of time e-mails must be kept and seemed to treat all e-mails sent or received as public records. And it seems to warn everyone that any e-mail sent or received on a government account would be subject to public release regardless of content.

But in one curious sentence that seemed to offer a bit of a loophole to state employees, Easley ordered, "Executive Branch employees shall not delete in a 24-hour period any e-mail messages sent or received in the course of conducting State business." Did that mean they could delete e-mails sent or received but which were not part of "conducting State business"?

Maybe, maybe not, but that's something that Perdue could clearly and easily fix by amending the sentence and reissuing the order over her name.

Another question: Why did Easley wait until the end of his administration to issue this order? Why not last summer, when it might have done his image some good? Or was he simply waiting until the last minute so his administration would not have to comply with it?

N.C. history addicts, beware this Web site

f you're addicted to North Carolina history, you've probably already got this Web site bookmarked. It's the blog (North Carolina Miscellany) of the folks at the North Carolina Collection at Wilson Library at UNC Chapel Hill, and there's always something interesting going up.

Right now, the folks there have been posting their favorite campaign handbills and other ephemera from the most recent campaign. There's some hilarious stuff -- including Democratic ad that aims to reinforce the impression that former U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole didn't spend a lot of time in the state -- it shows a bloodhound supposedly sniffing for her tracks.

Another funny one is a Republican ad that portrays illegal immigrants strolling into North Carolina beneath a caption saying, "Bev Perdue is Rolling Out the Red Carpet for Illegal Immigrants."

The website has invited people to send in notable handbills and other mailings to save for posterity.

Warning: the North Carolina Miscellany Web site can be habit-forming.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Inaugural: Beautiful day, short speech

Former Lt. Gov. Bev Perdue became the 73rd governor of North Carolina -- and the state's first female chief executive -- at about 11:12 a.m. today on one of the prettiest inaugural days in modern state history. Her inaugural address was relative short compared to many of them, short on new ideas and initiatives, but taking note of the state's economic and education concerns. She wants more accountability and more innovation, especially in science and green technology. It was hard to tell from her remarks what she plans to do, although she has previously set forth more specifically the things she wants to work on, including strong new ethics standards, higher expectations and better performance from state government.

The honorables were introduced by Eva Clayton, who was the first black woman to become a member of Congress from North Carolina, and she amused some and horrified others with her butchery of the names of several, including Perdue's husband Bob Eaves (Evis, she first pronounced it, though later she went out of her way to correct that), Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry (she pronounced it Cherry, not Cher-ee), and Supreme Court Justice Patricia Timmons-Goodson (Timmonson-Goodson, it sounded like).

And the poem written by Andy Griffith's wife and delivered by the beloved actor himself was not up to the standard of Andy's usual writers, though it was well received. Ol' Andy delivered it with his usual gusto.

The F-15 flyover at the end of the national anthem sung by Fayetteville's John Bellamy was impressive, as was the 440th Army National Guard Band, the 19-gun salute by Marines from the U.S. Marine Corps Base at Camp Lejeune, and Caitlin Cary's singing of "America the Beautiful.".

This was the 8th or 9th gubernatorial inauguration I've covered, and the loveliest day of any. Usually they're cold and sometimes nasty days, uncomfortable for the audience and for those being sworn in. Today was just flat gorgeous -- and perhaps a good omen for this administration.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Easley to Berry: Help poultry workers

Gov. Mike Easley urged Commissioner of Labor Cherie Berry to fill vacant posts authorized by the legislature and help boost worker safety at poultry plants on one of his last days as governor. Shortly after his last Council of State meeting ended Tuesday morning, Easley approached Berry and spoke a few words. Berry's office declined to say what Easley said, or what she said in response, if anything. "That was a private conversation initiated by Gov. Easley," said Berry's spokesperson, Dolores Quesenberry, who suggested asking the governor what he said.
Easley spokesman Seth Effron asked the governor and said Easley said he told Berry, "Please fill these positions. These people (at the chicken plants) need your help."
Berry has come under fire for not doing more to boost worker safety at poultry plants and at other N.C. workplaces. She was reelected last fall to a third term as commissioner of labor.

For Perdue, courage, patience and wisdom -- she'll need it

(revised 3:26 p.m.)
Friday morning's Inaugural Prayer Service with Governor-elect Beverly Eaves Perdue and the Council of State was a lively, inspirational affair. Held in Raleigh's First Baptist Church just off Union Square, which some folks call Capital Square, it was jammed-packed with the governor and her family, elected members of the Council of State including Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton and other members from both parties, newly-named members of Perdue's cabinet, a host of other politicians and even a sprinkling of the news media.
The church is one of two First Baptist Churches, one on each side of Union Square. The one where the inaugural prayer service was held used to be called First Baptist Church (Colored) in an earlier time. Both both churches started out as one in 1812 with both black and white members. Later in the 19th century, black members of First Baptist Church created a new First Baptist Church and that's how both churches have the same name. New Secretary of Commerce Keith Crisco of Asheboro was a little late because he went to the other First Baptist Church first.
The service featured the singing of the N.C. State Employees Choir and the participation of Dr. Dumas Harshaw, minister at First Baptist, the Rev. Gregory Moss of Charlotte's Saint Paul Missionary Baptist Church, Rabbi Lucy Dinner of Temple Beth Or in Raleigh, the Right Rev. Richard Thompson, presiding prelate of the Eastern N.C. Episcopal District of the A.M.E. Zion Church of North Carolina, Dr. Michael Blackwell, president of Baptist Children's Homes of North Carolina (and a native of Gastonia and a former journalist), and Rev. J.J. Wilkins of Wake Chapel Church in Raleigh.
There were prayers of Thanksgiving, for Wisdom and Humility, for Courage and Compassion, for Leadership and a prayer of Blessing. It was a well-planned service with lovely music, and moments of humor.
Blackwell, who is blessed with a resonant voice, a puckish sense of humor and good political instincts (he has counseled a number of North Carolina politicians, elected and otherwise), prayed for Perdue and her administration thusly:
"Bless her, O Lord. Grant unto her special gifts: the patience of Job, the courage of Moses, and the wisdom of Solomon, for she shall surely need them all."

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Perdue: Named a Republican, married one, too

When Governor-elect Bev Perdue announced the appointment of former state Rep. Lanier Cansler, a Republican from Buncombe County, to be her secretary of health and human services the other day, the press corps made quick note of the fact that Perdue, a Democrat, was naming a Republican to her cabinet.

In days past, when a Democratic governor appointed a Republican to a state post, it was front-page news in a lot of places. Things have changed since then, and while the political parties are often at direct odds with deep divisions, this appointment drew far less attention for bipartisanship than it did for the fact that Cansler is (A) regarded as pretty well qualified to run a difficult department and (B) encumbered by the fact that he has been registered as a lobbyist for several businesses that do work for his new department, and thus has a potential conflict of interest. Perdue noted that she and Cansler had talked about that possible conflict and said he would be "100 percent owned by the people of North Carolina."

As for the fact that she was appointing a Republican, however, Perdue dismissed the suggestion there was anything unusual about it. She said Cansler's political party was "not a litmus test, otherwise Bob and I would not be married."

The reference was to her husband, Bob Eaves of Chapel Hill, a Republican.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

N.C. Republicans need a new chairman

State Republican Chair Linda Daves has announced she won't seek another term as head of the N.C. Republican Party when her term ends in June. She says she's proud of what the party has accomplished, though it is hard to find much for Republicans to be happy about in the wake of the 2008 election debacle.
There's a little bit of jockeying among the party faithful to see who might succeed her, and some evidence that former state Sen. Fred Smith of Johnston County might be interested. If ever a political party needed a bright, energetic executive to rekindle interest in the GOP and present a cogent message to voters the party hasn't been drawing, it's the N.C. Republican Party.
What the party needs is a central figure who can galvanize the troops, attract new members, get the fund-raising flowing again and boost candidate recruiting in a party that until recently had a tough time coming up with good candidates in gubernatorial elections. I think the party had good candidates in the 2008 election for governor, and wound up nominating its best shot at the governorship in a long time, Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory. But the party needs someone who can rebuild the organization, its stable of potential candidates and prospects for ballot-box wins in the future.
This might not be a bad time for the right person to resurrect the party. With Democrats in charge in Washington -- including the White House and Congress -- and a lingering recession taking its toll, it may not be too long before disgruntlement sets in if Democratic efforts to boost the economy don't show results. .

Here's a press release from the state GOP on Daves' decision:
RALEIGH—Chairman Linda Daves, North Carolina Republican Party, released the following statement today.
"Serving as the Chairman of the North Carolina Republican Party has been a great honor. The ability to serve the interests of the people of North Carolina has been one of the great privileges of my life. The best part of this job has been the ability to meet the many diverse people who make up the fabric of our state. I have spent many years working alongside dedicated, hardworking Republicans in North Carolina as a grassroots activist. It is these good people who make up the heart and soul of our party. Having the ability to see their commitment to making our state the best that it can be has given me renewed hope for our future each day.
I am proud of what Republicans have been able to accomplish together for the people of North Carolina over the last two years. The fruit of the labor associated with party building takes time to grow.
I think it is good and healthy for an organization to have fresh, new leadership periodically. At the conclusion of my term in June, I will step aside and allow someone else the honor and responsibility of guiding this party into the future. I am an activist and I will continue my work with candidates and Republican leaders across North Carolina to ensure our progress forward and to advocate for conservative fiscal and social policies. Between now and June, when a new chairman will be elected, I will continue to work diligently with our activists and other party leaders to assess our strengths and weaknesses and to begin the process of rebuilding."
The North Carolina Republican Party will elect a new chairman at the 2009 NCGOP Convention held June 12-14 in Raleigh.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

An admiring look at Speaker Hackney

Governing magazine, a monthly publication in Washington, D.C. written for state and local officials, usually writes about issues, trends and problems state and local governments face. A notable exception is its current issue, which includes an admiring portrait of N.C. Speaker of the House Joe Hackney, D-Orange, who will be serving his 15th term when the General Assembly convenes Jan. 28. The profile, written by Alan Greenblatt, is in several ways pretty perceptive about the way Hackney works. He's a good listener. He's hard to read. He has opened the House to more input from Republicans. And while he has not pushed a broad policy agenda in the House, preferring to work on key items he feels strongly about and letting other issues rise or fall on their merits, he has also quietly seen to it that bills he thought would not be good public policy have gone to committees where they would not emerge. Here's a link to the article, headlined, "Reformer in Power."

Monday, January 05, 2009

Is ride over for the DOT board?

Governor-elect Bev Perdue's appointment of Gene Conti as secretary of transportation -- long rumored but not made public until her news conference this morning -- is part of a distinct effort to signal that things will be different at the Department of Transportation. It may be an end to the ride that let members of the N.C. Board of Transportation channel highway projects to their home towns.
Conti is a former assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of Transportation and also was chief deputy secretary at the N.C. Department of Transportation for two years early in the Easley administration. More recently he has been vice chair of the N.C. Global TransPark Authority. He also holds a PhD in anthropology from Duke University.
What makes this appointment interesting is that Perdue ignored the advice of Senate President Pro Tem Marc Basnight, who publicly called for the appointment of DOT board member Lanny Wilson of Wilmington, who has raised money for politicians including Perdue, to be secretary of transportation. And she also chose not to appoint state Sen. Clark Jenkins, D-Edgecombe, who was among those whose names were bandied about for the job. This is one good way to declare her independence from the Senate, where she was a member and over which she has presided the past eight years.
More significant to me is Perdue's call for a dramatic change in the way the N.C. Board of Transportation operates. She wants to make it strictly a long-range planning board and take it out of the business of making regular decisions on highway and other transportation projects. It will require some statutory changes to accomplish this, but Perdue plans to issue an executive order next Monday starting this process and to make it clear to appointees that decisions belong with Conti and the department's professional staff. She'll also require board members to sign a tough new ethics policy.
If Perdue can manage this, and fight off any uproar that develops in the legislature because of unhappiness over ending the longtime connection between contributing money and landing a board of transportation appointment that enables board members to steer transportation projects where they like, she will have made a real contribution to ending the pay-to-play tradition in Raleigh.

Friday, January 02, 2009

A No OLF organizer in need of help

Those who worked against the Navy's plan to put a jet aircraft practice landing field near the Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge may remember the human dynamo who helped wage the campaign to dissuade the Navy from its first choice. Doris Morris was one of a handful of local residents who organized the long campaign to convince the Navy that putting the airfield in Washington County, where large migratory waterfowl would pose a threat to pilots and aircraft, was a bad idea. Her efforts, and those of many others, succeeded when the Navy announced last year it would seek a new site.
Last fall, Doris Morris was badly injured in an automobile accident. She survived the accident but spent months in the hospital and only recently went home to recuperate. Now, in the spirit of all those gatherings to raise money and plot strategy that opponents of the outlying landing field held while the campaign was going on, residents of the Plymouth area are planning a fundraiser to help Doris Morris' family deal with the financial cost of this ordeal. Here's a note from Jennifer Skvarla about the plans -- and an address where Doris' friends can send a donation.
Subject: Attention NoOLF; fundraiser for Doris Morris
Happy New Year to all!
As we ponder the many blessing that the Lord has bestowed upon us this past year we also look forward to 2009.
January 2008: The Navy officially removed all five sites for their OLF. A truly magnificent feat due to our strong faith and trust in God as well as our perseverance. There isn't a day that goes by that I do not thank God for restoring peace to our land. When I see the birds feeding in the farm fields I cannot help but realize there is truly a natural order of things in the world.
January 2009: After a horrific car accident God granted us another blessing by healing our good friend Doris. Doris spent over a hundred days in ICU alone and she is currently at home working to regain her strength so that she can continue God's work. During her recuperation she is being diligently watched over by her family.
Since August the month of Doris' accident many people have inquired about what they could do to help. Recently it has been decided, in order for Doris and her family to get "over the hump" financially, the ladies of First Christian Church of Plymouth and the NoOLF family are having a fundraiser at the church on Thursday, January 8th at 5:00pm - until.
The event will be a soup and sandwich supper similar to the many we had during our NoOLF battle. This dinner also gives us a wonderful opportunity to help Doris as well as for the NoOLF family to come together once again and break bread.
Please schedule to attend. Takeouts will be available.
Donations will be taken at the door or if you cannot attend you may ear mark a check for Doris and send it to:
First Christian Church
509 E. Main Street
Plymouth, NC 27963
If you have any questions, feel free to call me, 252-943-7544
Jennifer Skvarla