Thursday, September 30, 2010

Burr builds significant lead in two Senate race polls

Two recent polls on N.C.'s U.S. Senate race illustrate the steepness of the climb that N.C. Secretary of State Elaine Marshall faces in her bid to unseat incumbent Republican Richard Burr.

Public Policy Polling's latest survey has Burr with a lead of 13 points in a snapshot that shows Burr with 49 percent of the vote and Marshall at 36, while the Civitas Institute's latest shows Burr with a 20 point lead, with Burr holding 49 percent of the vote and Marshall 29 percent. (An earlier version of this post had incorrect numbers.)
PPP's Tom Jensen said in a news release that Burr has consolidated the Republican base. "He now has an 88-1 lead with voters in his own party compared to just 75-9 in late August. He's also increased his lead with independents from 20 points to 25 points and pushed his Democratic support from 16 percent to 20 percent.

"Burr had posted net negative approval numbers in every PPP poll from February through August but in the wake of this recent blitz he's now pushed them into positive territory at 47 percent approving and 38 percent disapproving. Burr has broken the previous record for his highest approval number in PPP's polling by a wide margin- the previous best was 42 percent in December of 2009.

"Marshall continues to be plagued by comparatively low name recognition. It's worth noting that among respondents who have an opinion of Marshall, whether it's positive or negative, she actually leads Burr 47-45. Those numbers suggest that if she was competitive with Burr resources wise this would be a toss up race," he said.

Burr has a lot more money than Marshall, which PPP says has let Burr have "almost complete control of the information flow to voters" despite the fact that Marshall "is one of the more well liked Senate candidates Democrats have across the country."

Meanwhile, Civitas Institute analyst Chris Hayes said his organization's latest poll showed Burr with a "commanding" lead particularly among unaffiliated voters, who support Burr by a 48 percent-21 percent margin.

“Marshall has been virtually non-existent in the media throughout the course of this election cycle,” said Hayes. “Burr’s dominance of the television airwaves has allowed him to expand his lead.”

“Marshall remains relatively unknown to the voters, even voters of her own party. This spells deep trouble for her,” added Hayes. “If she does not answer Burr on television soon, this race will quickly be over.”

To read more about the two polls, go to:

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Reader: 'Fox News like newspaper' on its way

Jack: Was just reading the comments you got on the Mosque, etc. Could not agree more with the letter writers.

Take a very critical look around your newspaper. How many true conservatives work on the editorial staff, the paper in general?

Probably zero. How would you feel if the tables were reversed and the editorial staff were made up of Cal Thomas, Walter Williams, Thomas Sowell, Peggy Noonan?

I honestly believe, if we could put together a Fox News like newspaper, the Observer would die in 6 months. How do I know this? Look at Air America against conservative radio shows. Complete bomb. CNN, MSNBC, etc against Fox News. Not even close. Why? Because we are a center/right country and we yearn for the truth and an unbiased news reporting apparatus.

I wrote to Taylor Batten a few months ago. His explanation was, these are the opinion pages. True enough, but you barely print the Consrvative views. Krugman shows up weekly, maybe more often. Walter Williams shows up semi-annually. Don't believe it. Go check.

I know I'm wasting my time because your motto is "All the left wing views we can find to print".

I'm working on getting that unbiased newspaper going and that is not a threat, it's a prmoise, and we'll save you a job, because we'll give all views, yours included.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Readers fire back on column about prejudice

Sunday's column on the proposed community center two blocks from the World Trade Center aroused the ire of several readers, who sent along criticisms and questions:

All I can say after reading your column today in the Observer is thank God there are other outlets that I can get opinions from. I challenge you to give the democratic ads the same scrutiny.

By the way, I am a lifelong Democrat, but no longer can find a single issue that aligns with my values.

Reply: Check out Saturday's blogpost on Democrats who won't admit error or apologize for running misleading ads at

One reader who did not include his address wrote:

Interesting OpEd. Fact question: Didn't the Imam plan to call the new center "Cordoba House"? If so, why? If he did and has since dropped the name, why?

I'm asking because I think I read about the name and it is the name of a significant Moslem conquest you referenced. If he had planned the name and dropped it you should have included that. If not, no problem. Thanks for listening.

Reply: The original name of the community center project was indeed Cordoba House. It was later changed to Park51.

Another reader, no address included, wrote:

Mr Betts, once again your article on the "Mosque" points out the current liberal view whereby facts are ignored in the debate. When you state the "Mosque" is not BY ground zero you ignore the fact that this proposed building site was damaged in the Muslim terrorist plane crashes on 9-11. You just brush aside that fact that landing gear from the crashing planes passed thru the roof of the Burlington Coat Building the same as if it had been a fired missile. And despite your argument to the contrary, the Cordoba mosque was called the "Grand Mosque" because of its significant Muslim location in Spain and the NY mosque started off with the name Cordoba Project.
And as a suggestion to the Muslims in the US seeking better relations in this country you could have added a comment for those announcing their program for improved relations to add at least one item to their list publicly and forcibly denouncing specific Muslim terrorist bombing around the world. No mention condemning these acts is listed.
As for Feisal Abdul Rauf, would it not be honest journalism to at least mention with his background info that he refused to stand for the National Anthem when playing basketball in the NBA and that he implies that the US carried some of the blame for the 9-11 Muslim terrorist attack.
No sir, most Americans do not agree with you and Renee Elmers is just reminding folks of the arrogance being displayed by local Muslims to force a confrontation when no confrontation would happen if the site was elsewhere.

A Charlotte reader wrote:

Jack, how is the NC race a plus for terrorists? What Western Civilization prejudice and intolerance caused the terrorists to bomb the NY World Trade Center then fly planes into the buildings and the Pentagon and into the Pennsylvania earth, bomb the USS Cole, embassies, the barracks in Saudi Arabia, night clubs, etc? What prejudice and intolerance causes "good" Muslims not to assimilate in European societies? What prejudice and intolerance bans the Bible and the Torah from certain countries? What happens to Muslim tolerance in countries where Muslims achieve the majority? What intolerance and prejudice burns within Muslim terrorists, supported by apathy of many of the "good" Muslims throughout the world, to destroy Western Civilization and replace it with Sharia Law? After WWII should the U.S. have allowed the Japanese to build a Shinto Shrine outside the gates of Pearl Harbor or should countries have allowed German peace memorials to be built outside the gates of Auschwitz, Sobibor, and Treblinka? Yes, "The toll of 9-11 continues to rise." But not as you write. It is the Muslim prejudice and intolerance that is revealing itself throughout the world that we have to fear.

Another Charlotte reader e-mailed:

My very left wing, Obama supporting, brother-in-law is a retired college professor. Prior to his retirement, he taught European History at a midsized university - for his entire working life! He knows his subject and he also knows Islam. He tells me, and anyone else that will listen, that it is, indeed, a muslim tradition to build a "celebratory mosque" at the site of great victories. Anyone who has actually read both the Koran and the Hadith knows that followers are commanded to conduct their business in a prescribed manner - and lying to promote Islam is part of their doctrine.
For reasons you might know but your readers don't, too many in "journalism" give Islam a pass. You and the rest ignore the oppression of Christians in countries where muslims have power; you ignore the complete failure of Rauf to condemn terrorism, he even refuses to acknowledge that Hamas is a terrorist organization when their own charter tells us that it is.
Instead of promoting discussion on the subject, you and many of your fellows resort to name calling and attacks on those who have studied the subject and speak out against it - including some truly moderate muslims.
You got one thing right. Someone is lying but it is not Renee Ellmers or her campaign; nor is it Robert Spencer or Steve Emerson or any of the others who correctly call this proposed building a victory mosque.

Another said:

I think you've leaned too far in the opposite direction over Ms. Ellmer's opposition to building an Islam anything too close to the 9-11 site.
Most Americans are aware that the mosques cited were not built immediately (less than 50 years) after Muslims took control of those cities, and, indeed, New York wasn't overtaken by Muslims - no, rather it's like a cat marking its territory by peeing on a wall.
Despite the 'paternal kindness' of the broadcast media in trying to keep the Muslim world's reaction to 9-11 as it happened (victorious celebrations of people flooding the streets burning American flags and cheering at big screens showing the destruction of the twin towers), most of us had access online to all this at the time or soon after, and it is that reaction that Feisal Abdul Rauf did not address - at the time or shortly thereafter. Not the terrorist act itself, but the fellow Muslims' reactions. Those are two extremely different things, and that difference is what most of us who don't want this mosque are reacting to, and what most of the bleeding-heart, can't-we-all-be-friends supporters just can't seem to get.
And, unfortunately, neither do you.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Why is it so hard for politicians to apologize?

Why is it so hard for politicians to admit they're wrong? And even harder for them to apologize?

I suspect they feel it might show weakness to voters if they apologize for doing something wrong. Maybe they think their opponents will capitalize on any apology and make a campaign issue out of it. Or maybe they're just so hardheaded, so full of the belief they can get away with anything, that they just refuse to say "I made a mistake" or "I apologize."

In North Carolina politics, it seemed to me the best way for Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper to end a dispute with a previous opponent was to admit his campaign ad was wrong or at least misleading and apologize to Republican Dan Boyce for the ad's assertion that Boyce's law firm was making an outrageous sum from a lawsuit it brought over the state's method of taxation. At one point Boyce would have settled the whole matter for a simple apology that it seemed to me he deserved. It would have been simple, cheap and quickly ended a lawsuit that ground on for eight years and for all I know still is tied up in court somewhere.

Now state Sen. A.B. Swindell, a Democrat, is refusing to retract, apologize for or admit any wrongdoing in his implication that his opponent this fall in a race in Wilson and Nash counties, Republican Buck Newton, is or was a druggie. In 1990, Newton was evidently mistakenly identified in a drug investigation in Watauga County and was to be charged on eight counts. News reports show that the charges were dismissed by a prosecutor after he learned of the mistake. The officer responsible for the mistake was later fired. But Newton's name remains on the public record as having been charged, and Swindell's campaign is spreading the word that he was once cited in the drug case. Swindell's justification for using that against Newton is that it's a matter of public record and he's telling only the truth as the record shows. But he does not include the complete public record information about an affidavit filed in court that there never was any evidence of  Newston's wrongdoing. None.

This is wrong. And it invites a continued low-level of political discourse in this state.

That's a pretty sleazy way to campaign against someone, because the implication is that, even if a mistake was made, Newton must have done something wrong to have even been charged. And Newton is justifiably hot about this -- angry enough to file a libel lawsuit against Swindell.

If Swindell has evidence that Newton sold or bought drugs, that's one thing. But to use a public record based on a mistake to defame a political opponent is pretty low. Swindell owes Newton and voters in his district an apology and a retraction. Given the usual practice of politics, I don't suppose an apology is forthcoming, but one certainly seems in order.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Woods' first U.S. course can't bury half-mile of N.C. trout stream

The Cliffs at High Carolina golf course project near Asheville has attracted a lot of attention, party because of its claim to be the first American golf course designed by Tiger Woods. Another is that it's a gorgeous site with stunning views and beautiful mountains.

But the Western North Carolina Alliance and Trout Unlimited were disturbed by one part of the Tiger Woods plan: burying more than a half-mile of headwater trout streams in one of the prettiest locations on Earth. The two groups engaged the Southern Environmental Law Center to challenge the plan to use extensive underground piping to cover up 3,132 linear feet of trout streams. The law center argued that burying that much free-flowing trout stream, when other alternatives are available, violated North Carolina law. The center's aim was not to stop the project, but to preserve as much of the open streams as possible.

Now Kathleen Sullivan of the SELC reports that an agreement signed today nearly halves the amount of trout stream footage to be buried in pipes or other structures, to 1,655 linear feet -- to less than a third of a mile. The agreement also means that the project developers will mitigate twice that amount of footage -- or the equivalent of 3,310 feet of stream footage. The SELC praised the developers of The Cliffs for their willingness to reconsider the loss of the open stream footage. For more on The Cliffs, see

The agreement reinforces state protections for streams, the SELC said, including these factors:

--Streams cannot be buried for a project if those impacts can be avoided through a better design.

-- Unavoidable impacts to quality mountain streams must be mitigated at a 2:1 ratio so that, for every area impacted, twice that area must be rehabilitated or restored elsewhere.

-- Developers must mitigate their impacts to streams by restoring streams. They cannot offset their mitigation burden by seeking credit for streams on their property that were not impacted by their development and are not otherwise at risk of being degraded.

In a news release, SELC senior attorney DJ Gerken said, “North Carolina’s mountain headwaters are so vital to aquatic life and downstream communities that they deserve the full protection of our laws. The redesign of the private golf course under this agreement significantly reduces the impact on our stream headwaters and ensures compensatory restoration to North Carolina for any unavoidable impacts to vital mountain streams.”

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Nine tough challenges facing nonprofits

Tthe N.C. Center for Nonprofits in Raleigh has done some important work over the years helping the state's nonprofit community deal with a host of issues -- everything from fundraising to staff development to strategic planning. Now it has some suggestions for nonprofit leaders, board members, staffers and supporters to chew over in this era of diminishing resources.

I've worked for a nonprofit and been a board member of a number of nonprofit organizations, and the center's advice is good -- though it will be tough to take for some entrenched nonprofits to implement. It recommends dealing with the fact that this is a new economy, it's here to stay whether you like it or not, you'd better get rid of the deadwood on your board, you're going to have to innovate, and you must find ways to show the public and your donors that you're operating in a transparent and above-board way.

Trisha Lester, vice president of the center, passes them along in a release Tuesday:

1. Accept and welcome the change. Things are not returning to the way they used to be. The faster organizations embrace this, the better off they will be.

2. Reassess board leadership. Resilient nonprofits are using this time to re-tool and build a board of directors that aligns with the organization’s future, not its past. Board members that are not actively engaged in the organization can be thanked for their service and rotated off the board.

3. Enhance collaboration. Nonprofits must revisit their current and prospective partnerships, choosing partners carefully to be sure they enhance their organizations’ impact and efficiency.

4. Plan for short-term strategies and potential scenarios. Remaining nimble and fluid is essential. The strongest nonprofits adapt by experimenting and revising as necessary – and by not holding anything sacred.

5. Seek continued innovation. For more than a century, nonprofits have been our society’s innovators in addressing needs in the community. Continued innovation is vital. Organizations that also apply innovative approaches to their own governance, management, and operations will likely be able to have more impact.

6. Connect and learn. It’s crucial in this environment to avoid working in a silo. Organizations are achieving this through professional networks and resources available to nonprofits.

7. Demonstrate results. Nonprofits must be able to show their communities what is different because of their work. This includes keeping donors informed of the impact of their support.

8. Speak up. Nonprofits have a responsibility to share what they know from their firsthand experience about what works – and does not work – in local communities. They can help policymakers address the root causes of problems. Policymakers cannot ignore a nonprofit sector that provides more than 400,000 jobs in North Carolina and puts $31 billion back into its economy each year.

9. Be accountable. Just following the law can be difficult with constant changes in the federal and state laws that govern nonprofits. As with all sectors of society, a handful of nonprofits doing the wrong things can damage the public’s view of all nonprofits

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Perdue elevates Harrison, again

Gov.Bev Perdue, rebuffed by the state's courts last year in her attempt to make former Cumberland County schools superintendent Bill Harrison the CEO of North Carolina's schools, has again elevated Harrison to a job that makes him one of the governor's most influential advisors and one of the state's most important policymakers on education.

Perdue said Wednesday that Harrison would not only oversee the state's handling of up to $400 million in federal "Race to the Top" funds to improves schools, but that he would also be chairman of a new Governor's Education Transformation Commission and that he will have a $90,000 salary paid for with the federal funds. The commission he chairs will provide guidance to the state's Career and College - Ready, Set, Go! program, her office said in a news release.

“Both Dr. Harrison and the commission will play an integral role in achieving the goal I have set for all schools in NC: That every child must graduate high school with what it really takes to succeed in a career, in college or in technical training,” said Perdue. “That’s the mission of the Ready, Set, Go! program.”

Last year Perdue hired Harrison with some fanfare to be head of the state's public schools, recommending him as chairman of the State Board of Education and giving him a handsome salary. But Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson -- who had appeared on the podium with Perdue and Harrison when his elevation was first announced -- sued on constitutional grounds, arguing that Perdue did not have the authority to put Harrison in charge of schools. Atkinson's office is one of 10 N.C. Council of State offices whose occupants are elected statewide. Perdue has sought to put Harrison in charge despite, renewing an old debate in this state about who's in charge of schools.  She won that case, but Harrison remained as chairman of the State Board of Education.

But the case really didn't answer a long-lingering question of who ought to be in charge of public schools -- and thus who ought to be accountable to the public.  Atkinson as Superintendent of Public Instruction at least nominally has that authority, but the legislature also regularly makes education policy by what it chooses to emphasize. And as Perdue proved in her appointment of Harrison to handle the "Race to the Top" money, it's the governor who commands public attention on education. 

Monday, September 13, 2010

Bev, Marc and Joe to Ray: No OLF, thanks

Just in case you thought the fight over the Navy's proposal to put an outlying landing field in northeastern North Carolina was over a long time ago, the governor and the legislative leadership are still fighting. Gov. Bev Perdue, Senate President Pro Tem Marc Basnight and House Speaker Joe Hackney have written Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus saying it shouldn't go anywhere in the state that doesn't want it.

The trio wrote they'd welcome an OLF in a community that wants it, but it would be hard to find one in Camden, Currituck or Gates counties, all of which have "clearly expressed" opposition to the landing field. So has the General Assembly.

"The procurement of an OLF in North Carolina must not be forced upon any community that has voiced its opposition to it, both as a matter of good public policy and applicable state law," they wrote.

One reason for that opposition is that the proposed landing field would bring a lot of noisy flights to the area with a lot of jobs that often come with a military installation. The outlying landing field would train jet pilots for aircraft carrier landings, and the Navy wants a relatively sparsely populated area that isn't too well lit at night to train those pilots.  I've long thought that if the Navy really wants it in this state, it will have to create a large number of jobs or somehow bring significant economic benefits to the local community.

The Navy first wanted to place its OLF in Washington and Beaufort counties near the Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, but withdrew that plan after a heated fight with local farmers over the loss of productive farmland and with conservationists and environmentalists over the likelihood of bird-aircraft collisions with large migratory waterfowl in the neighboring Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

6 of 10 N.C. congressional candidates flunk 'courage test'

Should you hire someone who won't answer questions? If you're hiring, you probably wouldn't give a job to someone who refused to tell you how he or she would do the job. But how about politics? There are a lot of candidates -- challengers and incumbents alike from both major parties -- who won't answer questions.

So says Project Vote Smart, a non-partisan organization whose founders include Republican Newt Gingrich and Democrat Michael Dukakis. It said nearly six out of 10 N.C. candidates won't answer a survey on where they stand -- but the organization has looked up the candidates' records and come up with the answers anyway. 

Those who have agreed to provide answers include Repbulican Sen. Richard Burr, Rep. Sue Myrick of the 9th District and Democratic Rep. Mel Watt of the 12th, the group said.

Among those who declined are Democratic Senate candidate Elaine Marshall, Republican Rep. Virginia Foxx of the 5th District and Republican Howard Coble of the 6th.

Here's part of a news release from the group:

North Carolina’s 2010 Political Courage Test results show fifty-eight percent (58%) of the congressional candidates refused to answer questions on the key issues facing the nation. So this year, using a surprise approach, Project Vote Smart has answered twelve major issue questions for them!

Now, regardless of a candidate’s willingness to respond to the Political Courage Test, voters can find out where all congressional candidates stand using the powerful, interactive tool VoteEasy ( VoteEasy is a brand new, cutting-edge tool that helps voters instantly identify the congressional candidates most like them on the issues the voters care about most.

For a look at the N.C. delegation, here's a link:

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

The SBI's Harnett County connection

In tapping former N.C. Court of Appeals Chief Judge Gerald Arnold to be interim director of the state SBI's troubled crime lab, Attorney General Roy Cooper is following a familiar path. When the SBI needs new leadership, get a Harnett County lawyer and former legislator from Lillington who graduated from East Carolina University. Well, sort of.

Arnold, a well-regarded lawyer, judge and administrator who retired a year ago from Lawyer's Mutual Insurance Company, will be running the forensic lab as well as making a legal review of the lab's divisions while an eight-member panel named by new SBI Director Greg McLeod makes a national search for a new crime lab director. Arnold likely won't be there long.

Arnold's selection was a good one for an agency with a badly tattered reputation, but he has his work cut out for him as defense lawyers and their clients challenge courtroom convictions that may have been reached in part because of with tainted evidence, tests or testimony.

Arnold has had an interesting career that includes a couple of terms in the N.C. House of Representatives. He practiced law in Lillington early in his career with Robert B. Morgan, also an East Carolina grad. Morgan would later serve in the legislature, become attorney general (overseeing, among other things, the SBI) and then was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1974. Defeated for reelection in 1980, Morgan returned to North Carolina and in 1985 became director of the SBI under Attorney General Lacy Thornburg, now a federal judge. Morgan was SBI director for seven years before returning to private practice.