Friday, April 30, 2010

Not everyone likes oysters

Several readers who probably like oysters a lot and who appreciate the attempts to recover oysters in North Carolina's sounds and rivers let me know about Sunday's column, but one reader from Wake Forest let me know he believes government has no business and no responsibility in restoring oyster reefs because it consumes tax dollars. And it's just a pork barrel project, he thinks.

JACK: (You write) ”But for my money, you won’t find a stimulus project that offers more.” The state is broke. The federal government is bankrupt and you RINO”S are thinking of more ways to spend the dollars that we do not have unless we borrow them and have our children pay it back. If its such a good deal why don’t you start a private fund to put up the money for this PORK project and make the money back by taxing oyster sales? Or better still let us know what budget item you would de-fund to fund this one.

Others liked the idea of the government partnering with non-profit organizations to tackle the probem.

A Charotte reader wrote:
I enjoyed your oyster piece today, and am pleased to see some stimulus money going toward fixing a broken ecosystem. Thanks for giving us some encouraging news.
But just providing more habitat isn’t going to solve the problem unless the other causes you mention are addressed. How about the sources of poor water quality? Where’s all that hog-waste going, if not to the sea? And what about the overfishing? Has there been any meaningful legislation or regulation to prevent it from happening again?

A Raleigh reader wrote:

I enjoyed your column on the oyster revival day before yesterday. I was talking to Danny Mason of Sea Level, one of my long-haul fishing buddies, who has been oystering most winters, who said he had one of his best winters yet. He stays mostly in Core Sound, I believe. One
of his major problems has been selling the oysters he catches.
He has had to rely on word of mouth to get customers to come to him.
This year he found a buyer about an hour away and has been selling to him. Hard to believe we can't find customers for North Carolina oysters. I was at the 42nd St. Oyster Bar in Raleigh a few years ago
and asked where they get their shrimp and oysters from. Louisiana!
They can't get them from North carolina sources in the quantities they need them.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Ridiculous Catch-22 in state lobbying law

If you saw Ben Niolet's eye-popping stories this week about a mind-boggling Catch-22 in state law that was designed to bring more transparency to state government but which actually blocks that transparency, you're already wondering whether the right hand in Raleigh knows what the left hand is doing. Here's a link to Ben's latest story in the Observer, which also appeared in the News & Observer in the state capital.

In a nutshell, the story says that former highly-rated lobbyist Don Beason is fighting a $111,000 fine imposed for a violation of the state lobbying law by the Secretary of State's office. By law that office enforces state law, and evidently it charged Beason several years ago with being paid with money from five undisclosed clients that was channeled through a New Jersey company. The scheme evidently was to hide the real employer of the lobbyist. Beason said he did nothing wrong and worked only for a properly registered client.

And while state law establishes a way to enforce requirements that lobbyists must register with the office and abide by state reporting requirements, it also prevents the state from disclosing any details of an investigation or the outcome of any action taken. We would not know about the fine that Beason is fighting at all if he were not fighting the fine before an administrative law judge. How many others have been sanctioned? None? Some? A lot? We don't know thanks to this baffling contradiction in state policy.

Secretary of State Elaine Marshall, who set up a commission to study state lobbying laws several years ago, which led to beefing up the state's laws, sought advice last year from the state attorney general's office to see if she could disclose information. Attorney General Roy Cooper's office examined the law and concluded that not only could Marshall not disclose anything about an investigation, but also could not say whether a lobbyist was sanctioned for a violation. That's because the General Assembly wrote the law in a way that restricts release of information about lobbying enforcement actions.

This is surely among the top 10 most ridiculous things I've heard of in my more than 33 years of covering Raleigh. The whole point of requiring lobbyists to register and to disclose what they spend to lobby is to allow the public to know who's trying to influence the passage or defeat of legislation.

And the whole point of beefing up penalties -- which once were a well-known joke in North Carolina -- was to improve compliance with lobbying laws. The theory was that lobbyists would not want to be judged as having not complied with state law, let alone pay a hefty fine.

But when the law prevents the public from knowing who has been found in violation of state lobbying law, there's no transparency, there's less incentive for lobbyists to comply with the law and the joke just gets worse.

You'll see in Ben's story that legislators are shocked -- SHOCKED! -- to learn that they didn't require public disclosure of at least the outcome of any sanctions levied against lobbyists. And maybe some legislators did not know that's what they were doing. Maybe legislative leaders in the rush to get other things done weren't quite aware that they had created this tomfool loophole in the law that protects lobbyists from being found out.

Maybe. And maybe thunder will curdle milk, too.

The ghost of Joseph Heller must be laughing its head off by now. Even novelist Heller couldn't have come up with such an absurd Catch-22.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Contest for 10 Natural Wonders of North Carolina

Land for Tomorrow, a group that has promoted conservation and environmental preservation in North Carolina, has a contest for everyone: What are the 10 Natural Wonders of North Carolina? The group is running an online contest to come up with the best list, and its judges will include former Govs. Jim Hunt and Jim Holshouser, former N.C. Supreme Court Justice Henry Frye and a host of celebrities that include author Charles Frazier, lawyer D.G. Martin, Grady-White boatbuilder Eddie Smith and former Tar Heel basketball great Eric Montross.

You can learn more about the contest at the Land for Tomorrow Facebook Page or at the group's website at

Drawing up these lists are fun. I drew up a list of seven natural wonders of the state in a 2006 blogpost and wound up with eight. Here's a link to that post.

The public will have until Thursday May 6 to nominate their favorite natural wonder or wonders, defined by contest organizers as "any landscape, natural feature, wildlife or plant life that is unique to North Carolina and should be considered among the state's greatest natural wonders." The panel will narrow the list to an undisclosed number and a popular online vote will determine the final list.

While the contest is running, prizes from N.C. vendors will be awarded each weekday -- including art, outdoors equipment and music, and a grand prize will be awarded at the end when the winners are announced May. 18.
Let's see, my new list would include Ocracoke's Silver Lake, the campus of Warren Wilson College, Pilot Mountain, Table Rock, Duke Gardens, the fall line on the Roanoke River where the rockfish swarm… say, wonder if there's a way to nominate a barbecue joint? And which one?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

New bipartisan effort on NC correction policy

State and local officials today announced an effort to use a "data-driven" approach to public safety policymaking that will save money on prisons and use it more wisely to prevent recidivism.

An interesting bipartisan coalition includes Gov. Bev Perdue, N.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Sarah Parker, Democratic and Republican leaders of the state House and Senate and local prosecutors such as Mecklenburg District Attorney Peter Gilchrist. They're working with the Council on State Governments, the Pew Center on the States and the U.S. Justice Department to figure out a better way to use public money to reduce spending on prison and still "hold offenders accountable for their actions."

Who knows -- this kind of bipartisanship might just pay off. In the current political atmospher, it's hard to remember the last time there was a bipartisan effort with the heads of all three branches of state government -- the governor, the chief justice, the speaker and president pro tempore and the minority leaders of both the House and Senate. Will wonders never cease?

It's part of a "justice reinvestment" approach developed by the Council of State Governments that aims to stop offenders from committing more crimes and sending the same inmates to prison time and time again. The hope is to help released inmates lead productive lives that keep them out of trouble and out of courts, jails and costly prison cells. That's a particular concern right now because the state's prison population has increased by more than one-fourth in the last decade and the Correction Department's budget has jumped by nearly half.

“By using a data-driven approach, we will get the information we need to ensure that every taxpayer dollar spent on corrections and other public safety measures has the greatest impact on crime,” Perdue said in a news release from her office. “It will also allow us to reinvest savings to reduce recidivism, in turn, reducing the additional prisons that may be needed over the next ten years.”

For more information about the justice reinvestment program, click here.

For text of the press release, click here.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Watchdog: Sending Poole, Easley to jail won't fix problem

Bob Hall, the persistent elections and ethics watchdog at Democracy North Carolina, applauds federal prosecutors' connecting the dots in the Ruffin Poole case. He's the former aide to Gov. Mike Easley who has just had 56 of 57 charges dropped against him in exchange for his agreeing to help prosecutors understand more about the performance of the governor and his associates. Poole will plead guilty to a single count and could go to jail for about five years, a remarkable turnaround from the blizzard of corruption charges he had faced, but it's clear the U.S. Attorney's office wanted his help in its investigation of Easley.

But Hall says people must understand that sending either of them to jail, or adopting tough new changes to campaign laws, won't solve the problem. As he put it, "New fundraising regulations or ethics reform will just add more limits to the current system; they do not offer an alternative supply of campaign money that could address the heart of the problem, which is: candidates tethered to the endless money chase. Throwing Poole and/or Easley in jail may feel good, but it won’t change the system in which they thrived."

Here's what Hall had to say:

In the court yesterday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Dennis Duffy made a point of connecting the dots between campaign fundraisers, political appointments and personal profiteering. He described how major donors to former Gov. Mike Easley’s campaign cozied up to Ruffin Poole, gained appointments and special access to state officials, and traded their political fundraising skills for enormous personal gain. “These guys were falling all over each other because of the value of these appointments,” Duffy said. He could have added: If you want less corruption, shrink the importance of private money in politics.

In plain truth, the current system of endless private fundraising for high public office is poisonous. The money chase nurtures a sinister, pay-to-play mentality. It corrupts officials desperate for campaign cash and enriches insiders at the expense of ordinary taxpayers. Good politicians and donors with a genuine interest in social policy are again and again tainted by the rotten apples that keep turning up in this toxic mix of access, cash and special privilege.

In their own defense as public officials, and in the name of public decency, elected leaders need to speak out more forcefully against this system and in favor of a dramatically different approach to campaign financing – one that puts the public in charge of elections and policy making. New fundraising regulations or ethics reform will just add more limits to the current system; they do not offer an alternative supply of campaign money that could address the heart of the problem, which is: candidates tethered to the endless money chase. Throwing Poole and/or Easley in jail may feel good, but it won’t change the system in which they thrived.

From marl to oysters in Pamlico Sound

If you're weary of bad news involving government programs that don't work, take some heart in the recent experiment at restoring oyster habitat in North Carolina's Pamlico Sound. By all accounts, it's working.
That's the assessment of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries, the nonprofit N.C. Coastal Federation, researchers at N.C. State University, the North Carolina Sea Grant program and researchers at UNC Wilmington.

Last year, these groups collaborated on an effort to restore oyster reefs in one of the first habitat restoration projects under the federal Recovery Act program. NOAA granted $5 million to the groups to pay for a collaborative effort that would physically rebuild the reefs in the sound that once was an amazingly abundant source of oysters. In the 19th century, there were so many oyster reefs that they were regarded as a menace to navigation. But in late 20th century the oysters were in significant decline thanks in part to overharvesting, poor water quality and other factors.

For years both the Coastal Federation and the Division of Marine Fisheries have worked at smaller projects to rebuild the reefs and to improve water quality so the oysters would have a chance to make a comeback. It's important because oysters not only provide food, they also act as aquatic filters capable of filtering something like 50 gallons of water per day.

In North Carolina, planners identified two sites to begin: A 22 acre site near Stumpy Point known as Crab Hole, not far from other Marine Fisheries efforts, and a 25-acre site within sight of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse about three miles west of Hatteras, called Clam Shoal. It's a fascinating story that involves trucking basketball-sized and football-sized limestone marl from a quarry in New Bern to a dock in Belhaven. There the stone is loaded aboard a barge, where Stevens Towing Co. tugboats push them out to the site in Pamlico Sound to a mooring near shallower water. From there, a small Stevens tug picks up the barge of marl and tows it to Clam Shoal. There a huge loader and a skid steer loader on another barge alongside pick up the stone and place it on the sound floor in cone-shaped mounds about 75 feet apart. Within a day, these structures attract fish; within months, they'll be covered with oyster spat. In a year or so, they'll be covered by healthy oysters in a bivalve sanctuary that won't be open to oyster harvesting, but will serve as a sort of nursery to boost oyster growth throughout the sound. A group of environmentalists, news writers and government officials watched the operation Monday in a 15-knot northwest breeze as the operation neared its completion.

Marine Fisheries officials say after many years of declines, oyster harvests have begun to increase, and inspections of new oyster reefs completed last fall show heavy concentrations of oysters growing on the new structures. The $5 million grant, which has provided something like 140 jobs at the quarry, the trucking company, the towing company and among others working on the project, runs out next month. The coalition of groups are hoping to find another source of funding, such as the N.C. Clean Water Management Trust Fund, to continue the progress toward remaking the oyster beds of Pamlico Sound. For oyster lovers, it would be an easy call, even in a difficult economic recovery: jobs, environmental restoration and protection and an edible delicacy like no other.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Obama v. Bush: Close call

If President Barack Obama and former President George W. Bush were running on the same ballot this year, it's would be a close fight. That's the conclusion of Public Policy Polling, which finds that about as many Americans would prefer to have Bush back in the White House as they would Obama, who has a slim edge.

Jensen notes that Democrats who plan to continue running against Bush as part of their platform probably should rethink that message. As unpopular as Bush was when he went out of office, Republican and conservative voters would prefer him to Obama. That's roughly the same proportion of Democrats who prefer Obama. Among independents, though it's a clearer choice for Obama.

The other day N.C. House Speaker Joe Hackney articulated at a party meeting in Orange County how Democrats here will shape their message. While Republicans have high hopes for capitalizing on Obama's unpopularity among conservatives and on Democratic corruption, Hackney says his party will portray Republicans as the party of "No."

Dome quoted Hackney as saying the other day, "If the Republicans won't cut, they won't tax, they won't govern." The speaker said Democrats had weathered a recession and protected education and have a positive story to tell while the Republican story had become one of saying 'no." "Let's take it to the polls and see if 'no, no, no' is what they want," Hackney said.

Read more here.

Meanwhile, here's PPP's analysis of the Obama-Bush story:

Americans are now pretty evenly divided about whether they would rather have Barack Obama or George W. Bush in the White House. 48% prefer Obama while 46% say they would rather have the old President back.
Bush had atrocious approval ratings for his final few years in office, particularly because he lost a lot of support from Republicans and conservative leaning independents. Those folks may not have liked him but they now say they would rather have him back than Obama. 87% of GOP voters now say they would prefer Bush, a number a good deal higher than Bush's approval rating within his party toward the tail end of his Presidency. Democrats predictably go for Obama by an 86/10 margin, and independents lean toward him as well by a 49/37 spread.
These numbers suggest some peril for Democrats in making Bush a focus of their messaging this fall. A lot of folks who contributed to the former President's low level of popularity now like Obama even less. Figuring out a way to make voters change their minds about the current President would be a much more effective strategy for Democrats than continuing to try to score points off the former one.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Basnight: Navy's "awful idea" for OLF is "WRONG"

Maybe it's just me, but I'm getting the idea that N.C. Senate President Marc Basnight doesn't like the Navy's handling of the search for an outlying landing field one little bit.

He's been opposing the Navy's plans to put an outlying landing field in Northeastern North Carolina for years. After the Navy abandoned its flawed plan to build the field in Washington and Beaufort counties near the Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge -- where its Super Hornet jets and their pilots would be subject to potential collisions with the large waterfowl that spend their winters in the area -- the Navy turned to other sites in Virginia and North Carolina. The list includes sites in Camden and Currituck counties -- and when Basnight, a Dare Democrat, longtime Senate leader and N.C. political power -- found out about a recent meeting between Navy brass and a few hand-picked guests in North Carolina, he and Rep. Bill Owens, D-Pasquotank, let loose a broadside at the Navy. They called the OLF plan "awful" and said the Navy's proposal for a North Carolina landing field to practice aircraft carrier landings was plain wrong.

For those keeping track of this saga, here's the text of the Basnight/Owen volley:

April 12, 2010
Admiral John C. Harvey, Jr.
Commander, US Fleet Forces Command
Fleet Public Affairs (N02P)
1562 Mitscher Ave., Suite 250
Norfolk, VA 23551-2487

Dear Admiral Harvey:

For almost a decade, small, rural communities in northeastern North Carolina have been
in an epic battle with the United States Navy over the destruction and elimination of their way of
life. These are not wealthy with the monetary riches that the area in which you live is
accustomed to, but they are rich in family, heritage and tradition – all foundations of our great
nation and our United States Navy.
Over this past decade, the impassioned pleas of these rural residents have fallen on deaf
ears in the offices of this country’s Navy. Continuously, the Navy has refused to respect the
wishes of our state’s residents and has instead continued to steam forward to a goal that is neither
needed wanted or needed: the construction of an outlying landing field in northeastern North
Both of us have supplied several reasonable alternatives to this abhorrent idea of an OLF
in our area. Countless times we have written with suggestions ranging from an off-shore
platform to a parallel runway at Cherry Point Air Station. Again, these ideas have fallen on deaf
Now we received word that you visited our great state to discuss this awful idea of an
OLF in northeastern North Carolina in a closed meeting with local residents. We must say, it is
very rare for a four-star admiral to visit our great state, and we, as well as the local governments,
wish we had a little notice. Instead, it seems as though Virginia business groups were invited,
but that locally elected officials were not. In our humble opinion, that does not go very far in
creating feelings of trust.
We both welcome you to share with the Hampton Roads business community that
northeastern North Carolina does not want and will not accept an outlying landing field in our
communities. We thought that message was made clear last year when the North Carolina
General Assembly unanimously passed legislation not ceding jurisdiction to an OLF in our area.

North Carolina is the proudest military state in our great nation. Our citizens have
proudly served since before the formation of our country and have given tens of thousands in the
protection of it. We are not against the Navy, but what is right is right and what is wrong is
wrong – and Admiral, an OLF in northeastern North Carolina is WRONG.
Please do not let this plea fall on deaf ears and do whatever it takes to remove both sites
in northeastern North Carolina from the OLF study.
Marc Basnight
Bill Owens

The stink over Chinese drywall

Sunday's column mentioned the widely reported misuse of coal fly ash in sulfur-bearing wallboard imported from China. Associated Press stories have repeated the assertion, but an official with National Gypsum in Charlotte says fly ash is not the problem with imported wallboard.

Gerard Carroll, senior vice president for manufacturing operations and engineering, says the problem with Chinese wallboard is that it contains naturally mined gypsum with a heavy concentration of sulfur. "It was produced from natural gypsum mined from a deposit in China that contained elemental sulfur. In certain environments the free sulfur reacts with ambient moisture and can cause the corrosion and other problems that have been reported. As far as I know, this situation of elemental sulfur contaminated gypsum ore is unique to China," Carroll said.

News reports for the last year or so have widely attributed the problem to misuse of coal ash in Chinese wallboard.

Reports, as the column noted, are that the wallboard, installed in Southeastern U.S. homes after Hurricane Katrina when domestic wallboard was harder to get, has sickened residents, degraded electrical wiring in homes across parts of the South and ruined the lives of many. The Consumer Product Safety Commission says the imported wallboard should be removed from U.S. homes.

Sunday's column also said, that U.S. producers of wallboard such as National Gypsum use some byproducts from stack emissions to produce calcium sulfate, the chemical name for gypsum, but they say they do not use fly ash in wallboard. The domestic wallboard has not caused problems.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Poll finds more support for N.C. campaign finance reform

The N.C. Center for Voter Education, which was instrumental several years ago in setting up the successful program for public funding of appellate judicial candidates who agree to fundraising and spending limits in political campaigns, is touting a new poll that shows increased support for campaign finance reform in N.C. elections.

Its results -- from the firm Public Policy Polling -- show support across the political spectrum because of a public perception that special interests control N.C. elections. Seven out of 10 voters favor reform; less than 1 supports the status quo.

And there's this: The poll found that Republicans are more likely than Democrats to support a major overhaul of the campaign finance system. That makes sense, because Democrats have controlled the General Assembly as well as most executive branch offices for so long that Republicans have a hard time making headway in a state that has become known for corruption.

Here's a grab from the Center's news release a little while ago:

"An overwhelming majority of North Carolina voters are concerned by the role of special interest money in state politics and support bold reforms to the campaign finance system, according to a new poll from the nonpartisan N.C. Center for Voter Education.

"According to the survey, 71 percent of voters favor a major overhaul to the state’s campaign finance system. Just 6 percent favor the status quo.

"The poll finds that concerns about the role of special interest money in North Carolina elections are held across party lines. Republican voters are slightly more likely than Democrats to support a major overhaul of the state’s campaign finance system, with 75 percent and 69 percent in favor of such a change, respectively.

“'Regardless of party affiliation, North Carolinians see the need to ensure that our democracy works for everyone,' says Damon Circosta, executive director of the N.C. Center for Voter Education. 'Good government is not a partisan issue. Republicans and Democrats alike are willing to support candidates who look for bold solutions to this problem.'

"In addition to supporting significant campaign finance reform, 54 percent of voters would favor a candidate whose campaign was funded by taxpayer money over a candidate whose campaign was funded by special interests. Just 20 percent would favor a candidate funded by special interests -- 26 percent are unsure.

"The survey finds that 67 percent of state voters believe the power of special interests has increased in the N.C. Legislature over the past decade. Eight in 10 believe that state lawmakers listen more to groups that fund their campaigns than to average voters."

For more, go to

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Alcoa and 'The Edge of the Storm?'

Carter Wrenn has seen it all in N.C. politics during his time as a Republican strategist working for the well-known (Sen. Jesse Helms and former Charlotte Mayor Richard Vinroot, for example) and the less-well-known, too. He's part of one of the most engaging blogs I follow about North Carolina politics at His blogging partner is Gary Pearce, a Democrat who has worked for, among many others, Jim Hunt and in 1998 John Edwards. Between these guys there's a couple of encyclopedias worth of experience and judgment.

I was particularly taken with Carter's blog last week about what's going on in local elections in Stanly County. He says it's a case where the recent Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission appears to have freed corporate interests to overwhelm political candidates without deep pockets. In a blogpost he headlined "The Edge of the Storm?" Carter notes that "we just got an example of what may be the front edge of the coming storm right here in North Carolina – down in Stanly County."

It's all about Stanly County commissioners opposing Alcoa's effort to get another license for its hydroelectric plants on the Yadkin River -- and how the company may be able to politically bury three commissioners running for re-election who had fought Alcoa and shown how the company had polluted the area back when companies dumped waste on the "back 40," as one company official put it. Carter wrote:

"Then last week, before the upcoming Primary where three of the Commissioners are seeking reelection, Alcoa launched an ad campaign using newspaper ads, billboards, mailings and the Internet to blast the Commissioners, saying they’ve been wasting taxpayers’ money…by, well, hiring scientists, lawyers and lobbyists to fight Alcoa.

"This is a pretty good example of what the “moaners” were worried about regarding the Supreme Court ruling. Alcoa’s an international behemoth conglomerate. Its Chairman is from Brazil, its President is from Germany, it’s partnered with the Chinese and its world headquarters is in Pittsburgh, old Andrew Mellon’s hometown. It smelts aluminum everywhere from Iceland to the Amazon Rainforest and its annual budget is bigger than the State of North Carolina’s – so what hope on earth do three local County Commissioners (who may raise $5000 in their entire campaigns) have of winning re-election if Alcoa with its $20 billion annual budget is dead-set on retiring them?"

Friday, April 02, 2010

Polling data still show favorable climate for GOP

It's still looking like 2010 could be a good year for the Republican Party in North Carolina, a new polls shows. Public Policy Polling -- which does work for Democratic candidates but which has high credibility because of its accuracy in assessing various races, says the atmosphere in this state remains favorable for the Grand Old Party. The situation is stable right now, and Barack Obama's disapproval rates bode well for Sen. Richard Burr's reelection campaign, the firm says.

That reinforces that conclusions of other pollsters and analysts that it's Republicans' election to lose. Not everyone is persuaded, of course. Some analysts think Republicans are overplaying their hand on opposition to the new health care reform bill, and that voters are much less interested in the Republican ideology than they are in electing people who will get things done. Of course, the GOP primary is a lot different from a general election in November, and a lot of things can change before then.

In any case, here's PPP analyst Tom Jennings's latest thoughts:

"Although plenty has happened in politics both nationally and in North Carolina over the last six months, there's been virtually no change in the major indicators that will predict what happens in this fall's elections.

"In September Republicans had a 43-42 lead on the generic legislative ballot. In March it was a 42-42 tie. The GOP continues to have its best chance since 1994 of reclaiming control of the General Assembly, thanks in particular to a continual strong advantage with independents. But Democrats are looking better here than they are in a lot of other states and still maintain a large degree of support.

"Feelings about Barack Obama will go a long way this fall toward determining both Richard Burr's fate and the balance of power in Raleigh, and his numbers are pretty static as well. In September his approval rating was 45% and now it's 46%. The prospects of North Carolina Democrats for this year took a nosedive over the course of last summer but the bleeding stopped in the fall and things have remained pretty much unchanged since then.

"In North Carolina's premier race for this year, Richard Burr's approval rating stood at 38% in September and is pretty much unchanged now at 35%. Burr's fate may end up being determined more by Obama's approval numbers than his own. If the majority of North Carolina voters continue to disapprove of the President, it's unlikely the state is going to elect a Democratic Senator this year. But if Obama gets back in positive territory or can just break even the prospects of the eventual Democratic nominee will be pretty good.

"Stability is the story in the North Carolina political landscape right now."

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Now the Navy has ticked off the schools supe

The U.S. Navy has tackled some formidable opponents in its long and glorious history, but it has now run afoul of the state's schoolmarm. Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson, who last year won a courtroom constitutional fight with the Perdue administration over who's in charge of the state's public schools, has vowed to, um, stand in the schoolhouse door over the Navy's consideration of plans to put a practice jet landing field near 10 schools in northeastern North Carolina. Khaner Walker with the PR agency French/West/Vaughan, sends along Atkinson's remarks following a meeting with representatives of Camden and Currituck counties Wednesday to discus the potential impact of an outlying landing field (OLF) on schools in that area:

“There are approximately 10 schools located less than three miles from the proposed site in Camden,” commented Atkinson. “The impact on these children and costs to soundproof the buildings will be severe. In addition, the loss of tax base will be crippling… An OLF would disrupt the learning of our children and harm northeastern North Carolina’s school systems. I will not remain silent and allow this to happen.”

The Navy wants to build a practice jet landing field for aircraft carrier pilot training, and need a place in a rural area that's dark enough to simulate nighttime landings on a carrier. It earlier targeted a site in Washington and Beaufort counties near the Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, but environmental and citizens groups challenged that plan in federal court and forced the Navy to look at new sites in Virginia and North Carolina that are not too far from the Navy's master jet base near Virginia Beach.