NCDP Clips for Monday, February 16th, 2015

NCDP Clips for Monday, February 16th, 2015

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Tax-change renewal could hurt troubled homeowners in N.C. – (Charlotte Observer) — NC lawmakers are poised to renew a rule requiring homeowners to pay state income taxes on mortgage debt forgiven by lenders – a move that could cost some homeowners thousands of dollars in additional taxes.

The War on the War on Poverty (New Republic) — Ten years ago, fresh off his loss to Bush/Cheney as John Kerry’s running mate, John Edwards returned home to open a center on poverty at the University of North Carolina School of Law, his alma mater. Today, that move looks downright prescient: Ranked better than average in poverty in 2005, North Carolina has since experienced the greatest increase in concentrated poverty in the country. Charlotte has the worst upward mobility of America’s 50 biggest cities. In the east, hundreds of black agricultural towns are neglected and abandoned, and in the west, the Blue Ridge Mountains of Appalachia are suffering from a meth and prescription drug epidemic. … Later this month, the BOG will vote whether to close the Poverty Center, a goal of North Carolina Republicans since the day it was founded. “Its creation was an embarrassment from the beginning and everything done since does not disguise its political origins,” says John Hood, president of the John W. Pope Foundation, which “works to improve the well-being of the citizens of North Carolina and the nation through the advancement of individual freedom and personal responsibility.” The Pope Foundation’s chairman is Art Pope, a free-market philanthropist and friend of the Koch brothers. According to the Washington Post, the foundation steered over $55 million to conservative think-tanks and advocacy organizations including the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, the John Locke Foundation, and the Civitas Institute.

NC Justice Center to release report on state job incentives (AP) —A report showing that about 60 percent of all firms receiving awards from the state’s job development incentives program haven’t lived up to their promises of job creation, investment or wages. The report will be released today by the N.C. Justice Center as legislators and the governor start to debate on the program.

Barber Says America’s Political System Has Heart Problem (The Root) — Even though this year’s ninth annual march wasn’t as big as last year’s—one that The Nation’s Ari Berman reported as “the largest civil rights rally in the South since the Selma to Montgomery march in 1965”—organizers again brought together a diverse coalition of activists on a chilly Valentine’s Day to protest what movement leader and state NAACP president Rev. Dr. William Barber II described as the state’s—and the nation’s—“heart problem.”

N.C. Senate bill has more than fuel-tax changes (AP) — Foremost would be mandating the elimination of 500 full-time jobs in the state Transportation Department by March 1 or as soon as the bill becomes law.

University centers in budget crosshairs (Greensboro News & Record) — Buried deep within last year’s state budget, the instructions from the General Assembly looked clear enough.

Proposed N.C. bill on drones criticized as overbroad (AP) — House Bill 4 does not address the big-picture question with drones – the proper limits on monitoring and taking images of events, whether public or private.

Proposed move of state parks causes jitters (Coastal Review) — Although not as many headlines about sweeping changes in state government are expected during the current legislative session, one major proposal is already in the works. Officials with the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources, or DENR, and the Department of Cultural Resources say they are hammering out the details for transferring the state park system, the zoo, natural science museums, aquariums and Jennette’s Pier from DENR to Cultural Resources. Some worry that the protection of natural resources, the main mission of state parks, will get shortchanged if parks are moved to a state department more geared toward attracting customers.

Port projects prompt concerns about 170 foot concrete domes in residential area (Port City Daily) — It’s not Chester’s Mill—the fictional town trapped “Under the Dome” in the television series filmed here in Wilmington.

Website tracks campaign finance reports (Greensboro News & Record) — Here’s a bit of good news for open government advocates. Guilford County’s new website ( also comes with better access to campaign finance reports.

Cumberland to vote on incentives for poultry plant (AP) — The Cumberland County Board of Commissioners is voting on an incentives package for a $95 million chicken processing plant, but they may be too late.

Best Obama correction you’ll read (Washington Post) — He is actually not the Antichrist.

Dare County has one of highest overdose rates in N.C. (Norfolk Virginian-Pilot) — Dare County has one of highest rates of prescription drug overdoses in North Carolina as obsessive users find ways to get around rules intended to stop medicine misuse. "Addicts are some of the most creative people in the world," said Eddie Harper, an investigator with the Dare County Drug Task Force. He spoke during a public meeting last week in Nags Head.

More than half NC counties under winter storm warnings (AP) — More than half of North Carolina’s 100 counties are under a winter storm warning as snow, sleet and freezing rain are forecast to move into the state over the next couple of days.

NCDOT Crews Prepping Roads for Winter Weather TWCN-TV) — With a chance of snow in the forecast early this week, crews are prepping equipment and supplies to keep the roads safe and clear.

Highway Patrol Offers Driving Tips As Winter Weather Approaches (N.C. Political News) — With the potential of winter and the possibility that motorists may have to drive in inclement weather, the Highway Patrol is offering simple and safe driving tips. The weather in North Carolina is often times unpredictable and this time of year you never know when to expect black ice, snow, icy roads or a mixture of road conditions. The Highway Patrol is asking motorists to be prepared as the potential winter storm approaches.

N.C. Supreme Court considers status of private school vouchers (AP) — The court hears arguments Tuesday on a ruling last summer that the Opportunity Scholarships program violates the state constitution because religious schools can discriminate based on faith.

NC HBCUs struggle with finances, enrollment (WRAL-TV) — Continuing enrollment declines have led to tuition revenue losses in the millions for North Carolina’s HBCUs, forcing them to fight for survival.

Is the debate over education’s common core the wrong debate (EdNC) — In North Carolina and around the country, a heated debate is taking place over whether states should use what are called the Common Core standards. But it is the wrong debate. The more important debate is whether it is realistic to assume that all students, especially at the high school level, should be expected to reach the same standards.

U.S. Senate honors UNC coach Dean Smith (Charlotte Observer) — The U.S. Senate honored the life of UNC basketball coach Dean Smith on Friday. The Senate passed a resolution introduced by North Carolina Sens. Richard Burr and Thom Tillis, both Republicans, that paid tribute to the legendary coach who died this month.

Eric Guckian and James Ford Talk Education (EdNC) — Gov. Pat McCrory singled out many people for recognition during his state-of-the-state speech, but two of them stand out when it comes to the topic of education. Eric Guckian is the governor’s senior education advisor, and James Ford is North Carolina’s Teacher of the Year and a teacher at Garinger High School in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School System. We sat down with them prior to the state-of-the-state speech to talk about the state of our schools.

New Hanover’s first all-girls charter school receives approval (Port City Daily) — New Hanover County’s first all-girls public charter school is one step closer to opening following a unanimous vote of approval by the North Carolina Charter School Advisory Board

Pender disagreement ties up schools’ $1.3 million (Wilmington Star-News) — A disagreement is keeping commissioners from releasing $1.38 million to the district

Parents, teachers: ‘We’re not a D school’ (Asheville Citizen-Times) — If Amanda Cabe had to grade her children’s school, she’d give it an A. Her daughters attend Johnston Elementary in the Erwin district. “They enjoy coming to school,” Cabe said. “They have all kinds of activities to help them learn and to get them prepared for the next level in life.” But when North Carolina released grades recently for its more than 2,400 public schools, Johnston and three other Erwin district schools got an overall grade of D.

State system to grade schools needs revamping (Asheville Citizen-Times editorial) — Grading systems like this are used in more than a dozen other states, but it’s new to North Carolina. Proponents of the system say it’s a simple measure parents can use to judge school performance. Critics say it’s overly simplistic and can unfairly tar the reputation of one school that’s dealing with challenges another school may not be facing. The grades do matter and shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand.

New solar farm could crop up in Catawba County (Hickory Record) — It’s possible another swath of Catawba County countryside could soon be speckled with solar panels. Birdseye Renewable Energy, a Charlotte-based renewable energy company, applied to rezone more than 37 acres of land to build a new solar farm. The plot being considered is located at 2815 N.C. Highway 16 South.

The Love-Hate Relationship Between Utilities and Solar Energy (Motley Fool) — Depending on where you’re looking in the U.S., you may think utilities love or absolutely despise the solar industry. In one moment a utility is touting its green energy production or buying stakes in solar developers, like Edison International did when it invested part of $37 million in funding for Clean Power Finance in 2013 or Duke Energy did by buying a majority stake in REC Solar. The problem is that the next moment you hear about utilities driving states like Wisconsin, Indiana, Florida, and Arizona to fight solar energy.

Solar industry plots cooperative strategy (Indianapolis Business Journal) — Imagine seeing the price of gas drop 50 percent, then finding out you couldn’t take advantage because of a law that excluded drivers who lease their vehicles or whose fuel tank is on the wrong side. That’s pretty much the experience of most would-be solar energy users. The price of panels has plummeted in the last few years, but that doesn’t mean everyone who wants solar for their home or business can have it.

Collins looks to shepherd ElectriCities deal to fruition (Rocky Mount Telegram) — One of the key issues directly affecting residents of the Twin Counties during the 2015 session of the N.C. General Assembly is a pending deal between ElectriCities and Duke Progress Energy that will potentially lessen the financial burden of hefty utility bills that many residents receive each month.

Bring back NC’s historic preservation tax credit (Raleigh News & Observer) — Perhaps N.C. Republicans were so busy taking care of big business with various tax breaks last session they simply overlooked one tax credit with a number of real virtues. The historic preservation tax credit gave business people willing to invest in revitalizing historic sites another reason to do so.

Meeting with NAACP chief invites hope (Fayetteville Observer) — State Speaker of the House Tim Moore, a Kings Mountain Republican, met Wednesday with the Rev. William Barber. Rep. David Lewis, a Dunn Republican, also attended. … Both sides said the meeting was positive. Lewis suggests they can seek compromises to bring them closer together. That would also be a big step forward. Regardless, the people are better served when our leaders engage their critics in constructive conversation.

How to Force Prosecutors to Play Fair (New York Times) — While New Orleans is among the worst, it’s not alone in violating defendants’ right to exculpatory evidence. Federal and state prosecutors nationwide often fail to honor the Brady rule and are virtually never punished for it. Because Brady violations are by their nature often hidden, one partial fix would be to require prosecutors to turn over their criminal case files to the defense. Ohio and North Carolina have adopted versions of this approach.

Educators stress need for restored funding (Fayetteville Observer) — Cumberland County schools have an impressive track record of succeeding despite diminishing resources.

This time, Greensboro; who’s next? (Charlotte Observer) — You probably don’t care about the Greensboro City Council. But this one time, you should.

Investing In Our Courts (N.C. Political News column) — Everyday across North Carolina thousands of our citizens trek to the county seat to visit the courthouse to interact with our state’s judicial system. Whether it is to pay off a speeding ticket, collect on a bad check, get a divorce or settle a dispute in business court our citizens see the long dockets, the lack of personnel and an information-technology system that was built in the 1980s.

Dean Smith was a drum major for justice (Raleigh News & Observer column) — Patrick O’Neill: Carolina’s Dean Smith was a more interesting man than basketball coach. He stood up for causes such as the fighting the death penalty, anti-war efforts and civil rights.