Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Education leadership and illegal immigrants

Time was when such icons of N.C. public life and progressive politics as UNC President Emeritus Bill Friday and former Gov. Jim Hunt set a standard for Democratic politicians aspiring to higher office. In April 2005, Hunt and Friday and several legislators, including a few Republicans as well as Democrats, were proposing allowing illegal immigrants to attend public colleges in North Carolina at in-state tuition rates. Undocumented students who spent four years in and graduated from N.C. high schools, and who qualified academically for admission, could attend at in-state rates. There were some undocumented students attending some campuses at out-of-state rates, but no one seemed to know how many there were. The higher rates for out-of-stte tuition were thought to be a big barrier.

But then-Gov. Mike Easley said he thought federal law would prohibit their attending at in-state rates, though a number of other states allowed it, and after Rush Limbaugh ridiculed the idea, it died in the legislature.

Two years later, when the immigration debate had heated up somewhat, Easley offered another view: admitting illegal aliens to public colleges at out-of-state rates made sense because it at least didn't cost the state any money out of pocket and because it would give them some training to perform work if and when they became legalized citizens. Easley thought illegal immigrants ought to be required to go to school, in fact.

But in the 2008 election, the state Community College system changed its policy to bar illegal immigrants at any price. Among those driving the policy change was then-Lt. Gov. Bev Perdue, running for governor. She won election narrowly last fall.

After more than a year of study, the system's governing board last month reversed itself once again, voting to allow illegal immigrants to attend at out-of-state rates as long as they didn't take the place of any legal students. Still opposed to admitting illegal immigrants are Gov. Bev Perdue, as well as Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton, now a member of the community colleges board, though they haven't worked hard to keep them out. Still, illegal immigrants evidently won't be allowed to enroll before next fall, though.

Democrats such as Perdue and Dalton generally hold in high regard the views of a former education governor such as Jim Hunt or a lion of American higher education such as Bill Friday. But on the issue of illegal immigrants in public colleges, their view is more in line with Republicans in the legislature who hope to push legislation next year to prohibit the admission of undocumented students.

That puts Perdue and Dalton at odds with the 2005 views of Friday and Hunt on this one issue, and complicates their chances of becoming known as education governors, if they want to earn that recognition. But it's also worth noting this verity: Friday and Hunt don't have to run for re-election.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Perdue has 'no unique appeal' for women voters

Tom Jensen has thought about Rob Christensen's article in Sunday's papers about some grumbling among women about Gov. Bev Perdue's failure to appoint more women to top posts. Here's a link.

Thing is, Perdue owes women little -- at least not based on results in 2008, Jensen says. She didn't enjoy unusual support from women, he notes.

Here's Jensen's analysis:

I think the first thing that should be noted when talking about Perdue and women is that she actually was not the beneficiary of an unusual gender gap when she was elected last fall. Exit polls showed Perdue winning 52% of the female vote and 47% of the male vote. The gender gap was larger in both the Presidential race, where Barack Obama won 55% of the female vote and 43% of the male vote, and in the Senate race where Kay Hagan 55% of the female vote and 47% of the male vote.

So despite the fact that Perdue was the only woman running against a man at the top of the ticket last year, she actually earned a smaller percentage of the female vote than both Obama and Hagan.

That trend has continued in approval polling over the course of this year. In our July, August, and September polls Barack Obama averaged a 50% rating with women and a 43% rating with men for an average gender gap of 7 points. Perdue has averaged a 27% rating with women and a 25% rating with men for an average gender gap of just 2 points.

What does it all mean?

Perdue, despite her status as the state's first female Governor, has no unique appeal to women voters. She got few, if any, extra votes last fall from Republicans or independent women who wanted a woman in that office. Folks who would normally have voted Republican still did. And women aren't cutting Perdue any slack for the issues she's had during her first eight months as Governor, evaluating her more or less the same way men are.

It's certainly significant on paper that Perdue is the state's first woman Governor, but that seems to be having little impact on her overall political standing.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Remembering two crusading newspapermen

Two notable newspaper executives who made a big impact on North Carolina have died in the past week. One of them was the visionary Frank Batten of Norfolk, Va., who turned his family's interest in two Norfolk newspapers to fashion the Landmark Communications group, which since the early 1960s has included the Greensboro News & Record and its predecessor papers, the Greensboro Daily News and Greensboro Record. Batten's newspapers fought segregated schools in the 1950s -- and he later staked his company's and his fortunes on what once seemed like a risky venture -- a 24-hour service called the Weather Channel that was sold last year for about $3.5 billion. His obit is here.

Also passing away was the less-well known Horace Carter of Tabor City, whose decision more than half a century ago to take on the local Ku Klux Klan at a time it was raising hell, beating folks and threatening the peace in southeastern North Carolina, later won him a Pulitzer Prize. His obit is here. The courage of a small-town publisher in taking on the Klan must not be underestimated. It's one thing for a news organization with corporate support and a reputation for investigative journalism to mount such a campaign. It's quite another thing for the editor of a small paper to take on some of his mean-spirited neighbors to rid the community of a divisive and lawless force. Everything goes on the line.

I heard Carter speak several times and was always impressed by his plain approach -- and his willingness to share credit with others, including his business partner, Willard Cole, as well as the late N.C. newsman Jay Jenkins, who worked at various times for the News & Observer, the Charlotte Observer and the Winston-Salem Journal before joining then-UNC President Bill Friday as spokesman for the university system. I once heard Carter say that Jenkins -- whose son Jim is a fine editorial writer for the N&O today -- deserved the prize as much as anyone. Here's what Carter said in an oral interview at UNC Chapel Hill when he was asked about his newspaper's campaign against the Klan:

"I believe that if the newspapers hadn't said anything, hadn't even offered any crusade against this activity at all, I doubt seriously that it would ever have been broken. In the first place, I doubt if anybody would have talked; second, I doubt that the FBI would have ever gotten involved with it. I think it's one of the purposes that perhaps we served, to get enough attention focused on it that it did get the FBI interested. And if we hadn't, I don't believe the local law enforcement would have ever broken it.
"I think here might also be a time to say a good word for the Raleigh News and Observer, because I think as long as Willard and I were talking about it down here in the county and nobody else was saying much about it, that perhaps we would have had a hard time…in this campaign against the Ku Klux Klan, because they were a big newspaper with a big circulation. And they sent Jay Jenkins down here, who was working with the state editor at that time, and Jay did a lot of talking to Willard Cole and myself and came to some of the public meetings. And they publicized the Klan activities and the floggings with some big banner headlines on the front page, and I think this helped to get the FBI interested in it. They saw it as more than just any little small town/rural county problem, but that it could grow into a state and national problem."
Not many folks win a Pulitzer Prize. Even fewer small town editors get them. That Horace Carter was willing to share the credit with Jay Jenkins and the N&O tells you a lot about the character, and the values, of this small town editor.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The BBQ argument isn't just East v. Piedmont

Those of us who live in upland places such as the Piedmont may get the notion that the main argument over barbecue in North Carolina is about Eastern N.C. style -- that is, whole hog, with a dip made mostly from water and vinegar and spices -- versus the Piedmont style (pork shoulders, and some tomatoes [not tomatories, as errant fingers first wrote] in the sauce), and varying grades of Western style barbecue that I can't even accurately describe because there are so many of them, with varying levels of tomatoes in the sauce.

But in an exchange of e-mails the other day with my friend Sam Watts, a wise political policy analyst who hails from the mother-church-region for barbecue in Eastern N.C., I discovered a whole new range of argument -- over how to best cut up or otherwise liberate for human consumption what Dennis Rogers calls the "Holy Grub."

Sam, an Edgecombe County boy shown at the cooker, is an advocate of "Rocky Mount Rough Chop" -- far more desirable, he believes, than some of that barbecued mincemeat you get elswhere. I asked him to elaborate. Here's what he said:

I doubt that the term "Rocky Mount Rough Chop" has ever made it into any respectable publication. I grew up in Edgecombe and Nash Counties and "rough chop" is how we describe the compromise position between a "fine chop" that you put in a pan or an igloo cooler and take inside and serve on a table and pure "buzzard style," where you peel back the ribs and make everyone pull the meat themselves.

Used in conversation, it would be, "My cousin, he did a rough chop and left hit on the cooker for everyone to git some." It is my belief, after sampling some mighty fine swine from all over state, that rough chopping is more common the closer you get to Rocky Mount. Hence as the epicenter of the style, Rocky Mount deserves the naming rights.

I have attached pictures from a rough chop of a 120 pound hog from this summer. (It was here, but it was a family gathering with half the crowd being from Rocky Mount.) Essentially, it is a course (correction: coarse) cut barbeque served from the grill in the skin. You debone it, rough chop it, mix up the meat types, and sauce it.

The last thing I would ever want to do is to cause discord among the eastern N.C.-style barbeque eating community, because we have enough discord with folks from outside the region already. But, I like the Rocky Mount Rough Chop better than the more minced style that seems to have its epicenter around Wayne County and better than pure buzzard style, which is the probably the original format for the cuisine, for at least four reasons:

(1) Since you serve it from the grill, you can keep it warm more easily. Warm barbeque is good.

(2) When you de-bone it and cut it up, you increase the speed at which people can be served and you decrease the odds that when Aunt Minnie pulls some shoulder meat, she gets a knuckle bone on her plate.

(3) You get to mix up the types of meat on the hog to get the best of both ends on each plate.

(4) When you leave larger chunks, the pig itself brings a more to the flavor party rather than the barbeque being all about the sauce.

I intend no disrespect towards any of the other Eastern N.C. styles out there, but the RMRC is my preferred style. Hope all is well.


Monday, September 14, 2009

AG Cooper joins fight against OLF in N.C.

AG Cooper joins fight against OLF in N.C.

Reinforcing the adage that it's never too late to do the right thing, N.C. Attorney General Cooper, a Democrat, has backed U.S. Rep. Walter Jones, a Republican, in opposition to the Navy placing an outlying landing field in northeastern North Carolina. In a news release today Cooper's office said it would be difficult for the Navy to operate an OLF in this state because the state has reclaimed concurrent jurisdiction of land the Navy was eyeballing for a practice jet landing field. The General Assembly, which long ago ceded jurisdiction to the federal government for military bases, reclaimed jurisdiction in a recent legislative action, and Cooper's staff says the state will enforce that legislation.

Here's part of a news release the firm of French/West/Vaughan(not the N.C. Department of Justice, as this post originally said) put out today:

In a letter made public today, the North Carolina Department of Justice announced it will support northeastern North Carolinians in their fight against the Navy’s proposed Outlying Landing Field (OLF).

Sent to Rep. Walter Jones, R-Farmville, the department made clear it would enforce legislation by which N.C. retains concurrent jurisdiction of lands seized for an OLF in counties that do not have existing military bases. Sharing jurisdiction would allow those counties and the state to subject the Navy to a number of laws, including noise ordinances.

“Without full jurisdiction over property acquired for an OLF, it appears that the Navy would have difficulty in operating a military base,” wrote Chief Deputy Attorney General Grayson Kelley. “The Attorney General’s office will therefore continue to carefully monitor all legal issues related to the OLF siting process and be prepared to act as necessary to protect the economy and environment of eastern North Carolina.”

“I am grateful to Attorney General Roy Cooper for his commitment to protect the economic and environmental interests of Eastern North Carolina,” commented Rep. Jones. “I will continue to push for the removal of Hale’s Lake from the list of sites under consideration for the Navy’s Outlying Landing Field.”

"An amendment introduced by Jones and adopted by the U.S. House of Representatives, would prohibit the creation of an OLF at either the Hale’s Lake site in Camden County or the Sandbanks site in Gates County. Included within the annual National Defense Authorization Act, the provision will be debated in conference committee when Congress convenes from recess."

For years the Navy tried to site an OLF in Washington County near the Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, a proposal that turned out to be untenable because of the danger of collisions with large migratory waterfowl. At first only local residents, environmentalists and outdoors enthusiasts opposed it while politicians stayed away from the issue.

But in time a growing number of officeholders, including U.S. Sens. Richard Burr and Elizabeth Dole and later Gov. Mike Easley, formally opposed it.

The Navy abandoned the Washington County site but has been looking at several other N.C. sites not far from the Virginia border.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The 'Ox Meter' for Rep. Joe Wilson?

U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., surely became a household name across the land Wednesday night, though perhaps not in a way he'd prefer. He apologized for shouting "You lie!" at President Obama during the president's speech on health care reform in the U.S. House chamber at the Capitol.

Evidently Republicans and Democrats scalded Wilson with criticism of his town-hall style retort to the president in an institution where opposition-party lawmakers usually sit in deafening silence when they hear something from the presidential lips that they don't like.

Perhaps Wilson's outburst will prompt the leaders of the N.C. state Senate to think about a temporary interbasin transfer of an odd legislative award, from the Upper Neuse Basin in Raleigh to the Potomac Basin in Washington where Wilson works when he's not down home.

In Raleigh, Senate leaders sometimes present the "Ox Meter" -- a funny looking gizmo mounted on a wooden plaque, with chrome or stainless steel piping and big glass-front meter -- to a legislator who had just said something dumb. Or clueless. Or exceedingly long without much of a point. Or just plain outlandish.

Sen. A.B. Swindell, D-Nash, got the Ox Meter a few years ago for a long story he told about his mother's potato biscuits and the way she used to sew him into his flannel shirts before school every day.

The Ox Meter used to repose from time to time on the desk of former state Sen. Fountain Odom, D-Mecklenburg, who had a string of stories to tell about, and sometimes on, his colleagues and other folks in the leadership. Other senators have enjoyed, if that is the right word, possession of the Ox Meter from time to time.

Why is it called an Ox Meter? Dunno, exactly. Some think it's because the trophy is awarded to a particularly bull-headed lawmaker who likes to hear the sound of his own bellowing.

Others subscribe to the theory that "Ox" refers not to the animal but to the malodorous effluent the animal sometimes leaves behind.

Others think it refers to the old cliché about "dumb as an ox."

I don't know which of those accounts for the name. But it sure looks like the Ox Meter would be appropriate for the gentleman from South Carolina.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Russell Walker, children's advocate

I missed the obituary over the Labor Day weekend about the death of one of the strongest advocates for children in the General Assembly for nearly 20 years. Sen. Russell Walker, a Democrat from Asheboro in Randolph County, died Sept. 2 at Randolph Hospital and a memorial service was held Sunday in Asheboro. A lot of people who looked up to Walker may have missed the news, but he is worth remembering for any number of reasons. One of them is that he was a patriot in the best sense of the word. Born in Conetoe in Eastern North Carolina, his family moved to High Point and Russell took at job to help out at home during the Depression at a grocery story that later became part of the Big Bear chain. He was managing a Big Bear store in Asheboro when the Japanese attack occurred at Pearl Harbor; Walker volunteered for the Army Air Corps, predecessor to the U.S. Air Force, and joined the Aviation Cadets Program. He earned a commission and flew bombers and transports over the Himalayas during World War II. He listed that educational experience in the Aviation Cadets on his entry in guides to the legislature in the space where other lawmakers would note their college and university training. It said a lot about Walker.
Upon his return after the war he and two others launched a grocery business that became Food Line, later sold to Lowes Foods, and becaame a member of the Asheboro City Council. In 1974 at age 56 he ran for and won the first of 10 terms in the N.C. General Assembly, where he rose to power as a legislator known for his good judgment and breadth of experience. In time he became one of the key Senate budget writers, chairing committees on children and human resources and becoming a forceful advocate of the N.C. Zoological Park in his district. He was a moving force behind Gov. Jim Hunt's Smart Start program in the early 1990s. He also served as chairman of the state Democratic Party.
Walker was among a dwindling number of Americans who went off to war in the early 1940s, survived a brutal experience and came home to get on with the process of building a business, raising a family, serving in a series of public offices and taking part in an array of civic and charitable ventures in his community. He was the kind of man who made America, and North Carolina, what it is.

Sticking it to the governor's cabinet

I've covered a lot of press conferences in four decades of covering N.C. politics and I don't recall another like the one Gov. Bev Perdue had Tuesday afternoon. She brought much of her cabinet and other ranking state officials to promote the importance of getting seasonal flu shots for the upcoming season and to remind those deemed at-risk (children under 2, and pregnant women) to plan to get flu shots for the swine flu when the new H1N1 shots are available. For more information, go to The press conference included the spectacle of the governor getting the First Shot and two cabinet members, Secretary of Transportation Gene Conti and Secretary of Revenue Ken Lay peeling off their dress shirts to get theirs-- though they also wore tee shirts. I don't believe I've been at a press conference before where someone took off their shirts.

Perdue obviously enjoyed herself. She said she hoped to sometime be able to watch while the Capital Press Corps gets its shots. "It would be such fun," she noted, and speculated on the possibility of giving the shot herself to representatives of the news media who deserve getting the needle, too. Seems fair to me.

State officials aren't sure how many North Carolinians get flu shots annually. The number is rising, but it's probably less than 50 percent, they think. The first batch of H1N1 flu shots won't arrive for a while -- possibly in October, but testing is still going on. It’s not clear yet whether the expected 1 million doses will be enough for that many people, or whether people will need to get two doses, perhaps three weeks apart, meaning the number of initial shots available would serve only 500,000 people. But manufacturers will continue making the shots and more doses will be arriving as they are available.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Lost Colonists -- Cedar Island? Robeson County?

A column about an article in the N.C. Historical Review about The Lost Colony LINK prompted some e-mail from North Carolinians who, like many of us, are fascinated about what happened to the colonists more than 400 years ago. The article, by Prof. David La Vere at UNC Wilmington, argued that the dismissal of the Chowan River Dare Stone as a hoax in the early 1940s may have been hasty. The stone purported to be a record from Eleanor White Dare with a few clues to the fate of the colonists.

The column -- my wife referred to it as The Lost Column -- prompted these notes:

From a reader in Harkers Island: Local knowledge (being eastern Carteret County – Down East that you wrote about recently) believes that the “Lost Colony” was actually at Cedar Island. There is a book entitled “Riddle of the Lost Colony” published in the 50s that outlines this theory. I would be glad to mail you a copy if you are interested in exploring this theory. DNA would in fact solve the mystery ... We have some family lines that need to be tested as well.

From a Charlotte reader who describes himself as a Shawnee Native American:

If the mystery of the "lost colonists" is to be solved, the best approach to solving it would be to start with the Lumbee Indians living in Robeson County, N.C.

I find it interesting that many of the lost colonist surnames appear on the Lumbee rolls today. And what is also interesting is the fact that the Lumbee Indians were once the Croatoan Indians. The name that was carved on a tree where the lost colonists once lived before they "disappeared", was "Croatoa". A concidence? I think not!

I have always believed that where there is smoke, there must surely be embers of a fire.

However, solving this mystery will also spoil the long held "myth". Maybe holding onto the myth is more important to some scholars than actually solving this story.

I have also been told by Indian friends from Virginia that the Mattaponi Indians from that area, may also have taken in some of the lost colonists. DNA analysis will be the major factor in solving this hundreds of years old mystery.

I know with certainty that rock artifacts are very easily faked. They must be treated with suspicion. An uncle of mine makes stone arrowheads and spear points that cannot be distinguished from those made thousands of years ago. Unscrupulous people sell these modern made stone implements as "real" ancient artifacts. Fortunately, my uncle does not engage in this shady practice.

And from a Charlotte reader: I enjoyed your column this morning but I'm frustrated. Wanting to read La Vere's piece, I went to the website you printed but all I could (find) was the table of contents. Given my limited computer skills, I may have dome something wrong. Can you help? I'd sure like to read it.

Alas, the article itself is not online, but many libraries subscribe to the N.C. Historical Review if you don't want to subscribe to the journal itself. The address of the journal is and the phone number in Raleigh is (919)733-7442.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Opinion polls and political footballs

Public Policy Polling has more opinion poll results -- this time on which college football team will be best this year. There's no clear choice, but the top candidates, PPP says, are UNC Chapel Hill's Tar Heels and Appalachian State University's Mountaineers.

Here's Tom Jensen's analysis:

Public Policy Polling has conducted a lot of surveys on key North Carolina issues over the last eight years but we've never found as little consensus as we did on this one: there is simply no clear favorite for which school will have the best college football team in the state this year.

24% of respondents picked UNC but nipping right at its heels is the dark horse that has emerged from obscurity over the last decade to an amazing record of success: the mighty Mountaineers of Appalachian State are second with 23%.

In a statistical three way tie for third a little further back are NC State at 16%, East Carolina at 15%, and Wake Forest at 13%. Suffice it to say this poll was conducted before last night's debacle at Carter Finley. If we did the poll again this weekend State would perhaps be competing for the basement with Duke, which had 9%. But let's be honest, that's still a testament to the work David Cutcliffe has done turning the program around- would the Devils have pulled anywhere close to 9% two or three years ago?

The bunched up nature of these numbers is not surprising- Carolina, State, Wake, and ECU have all had their up years and their down years over the last decade, never achieving a consistent level of success and certainly not hitting elite status. App has, but at a lower level of competition.

Of course we have to tie this into politics somehow. Not surprisingly Carolina's lead expands to 36-25 among liberal voters- you know all those arrogant lefties in Chapel Hill had to pick the Tar Heels. But among independents Appalachian is first at 28%, followed by ECU at 19%, an indication those voters are looking beyond the football equivalent of the two party system, the ACC.

When it comes to who voters think will have the worst team in the state it's a landslide, the chances of anyone displacing Duke on that front about as good as the chances of a Republican getting elected to the legislature from Durham County. The Devils gets 40%, with Appalachian and ECU tied well behind at 17%.

Of course this is fun but public opinion never won a football game- now that we have last night's middle school scrimmage out of the way, let the games begin!

This analysis is also available on our blog:

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Spectator sports: Racin' and politickin'

My friend John Davis, a savvy political analyst and consultant, notes in his latest political report that Democrats are in the pole position as the 2010 political season begins Labor Day. Democrats control the legislature, the governor's office and the 10-member Council of State (though not the, as he puts it, "'nonpartisan' [wink wink] N.C. Supreme Court." But do pole sitters have the advantage?

Maybe not, he goes on. The long-time advantage of affluence in American elections may be on the wane, he posits. And the bad thing about being an incumbent is that when things go wrong, you get all the blame.

"Democrats in North Carolina are facing a litany of grievances that they will have to defend throughout the race, like their handling of the state budget crisis, which includes raising taxes by over $1 billion and making unpopular budget cuts like the loss of thousands of teachers and state employees and the closing of prisons, cuts that were deemed necessary by the same budget writers who approved a $25 million fishing pier. Can’t you hear that ad? "

And, he notes, there is this fact about pole positions and success:

A recent study of the 2,102 NASCAR races held between 1949 and 2005, shows that "the marginal probability that the pole-sitter wins a race has been steadily declining over time.”4\ Only 480 of the pole-sitters won those 2,102 races.
"Pole-sitters, beware."

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

At least one 'Bob' Hunter is running for Supreme Court

N.C. Court of Appeals Judge Bob Hunter is announcing his plans today to run for the N.C. Supreme Court next year. Hunter, a former member of the N.C. House of Representatives, has been a member of the Court of Appeals for 11 years and ran unsuccessfully for the Supreme Court in 2002 against incumbent Associate Justice Bob Orr, who has since retired from the court. Hunter, a native of Marion who represented the 49th House district for 18 years, is filing for the seat now held by incumbent Associate Justice Ed Brady.

Hunt launched his bid with an announcement Tuesday morning in Buncombe County and had other stops on his itinerary in Newton, Winston-Salem and Greensboro. He made note in his announcement that, if elected, he would be the only judge on the seven-member Supreme Court from the area west of Charlotte and Greensboro.

There may be some confusion in this race because there are two Bob Hunters on the N.C. Court of Appeals. The Bob Hunter running for Supreme Court is Robert C. "Bob" Hunter, who is a Democrat from McDowell County. The other is Robert N. "Bob" Hunter, a Republican from Greensboro in Guilford County who was elected to the Court of Appeals in the 2008 election.

Of course, N.C. appellate judicial elections are non-partisan and ballots do not indicate which political party a candidate is allied with. But the parties themselves usually try to make sure voters know of their political inclinations.