Monday, December 20, 2010

Burr's curious, welcome reversal on DADT

We never thought we'd see the day when Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., would vote to repeal the military's discriminatory "don't ask, don't tell" policy. The nation's ninth most conservative senator, as ranked by the National Journal, declared "No one can get to the right of me" when he announced his re-election campaign.

Yet there he was on Saturday, among a handful of Republicans siding with Democrats to allow gays to serve openly in the military. He said he recognized how society has changed and that "this policy is outdated." Good for him for being on the right side of history.

Still, it was a puzzling vote because Burr has consistently said now is not the time to change the policy. Even more puzzling: He still says that. "I remain convinced that the timing of this change is wrong," he said after the vote. Given that he voted against cloture Saturday morning, why the sudden change later in the day?

-- Posted by the Observer editorial board

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Marriage wanes for N.C. working class?

Here's an intriguing report. A new study by the National Marriage Project finds 44 percent of those with high school diplomas but no college degrees now have children without being married. That's more than triple what it was in the 1970s. And it's not mostly teen mothers; half of those nonmarital births were to couples living together.

It's also not mostly people living in big northern cities. According to the report, it's the same among communities that make up the bedrock of the American middle class — small-town Maine, the working-class suburbs of southern Ohio, the farmlands of rural Arkansas, and the factory towns of North Carolina. Data reveal a consistent story: Divorce is high, nonmarital childbearing is spreading, and marital bliss is in increasingly short supply.

The 2010 issue of The State of Our Unions, "When Marriage Disappears: The Retreat from Marriage in Middle America," concludes that in Middle America, marriage is in trouble.
Data indicate that trends in nonmarital childbearing, divorce, and marital quality in Middle America increasingly resemble those of the poor, where marriage is fragile and weak.

However, among the highly educated and affluent, marriage is stable and appears to be getting even stronger. In the early 1980s, only 2 percent of babies born to highly educated mothers were born outside of marriage, compared to 13 percent of babies born to moderately educated mothers and 33 percent of babies born to mothers who were the least educated. In the late 2000s, only 6 percent of babies born to highly educated mothers were born outside of marriage, compared to 44 percent of babies born to moderately educated mothers and 54 percent of babies born to the least-educated mothers.

"When Marriage Disappears" finds that shifts in marriage attitudes, increases in unemployment, and declines in religious attendance are among the trends driving the retreat from marriage in Middle America. These findings were released this week by the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia and the Center for Marriage and Families at the Institute for American Values.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Backroom dealing at county commission?

Sounds like an attempted coup is in the works at the Mecklenburg County board of commissioners. If it happens, Chairman Jennifer Roberts, a Democrat, could lose the gavel.

Roberts, a Democrat, was the top vote-getter in last month's election and thus stands to be chairman. But that's tradition, not law.

Word is that fellow Democrat Harold Cogdell is making his own effort to be chairman. He would probably need to secure Republican votes to make that happen. Democrats control the board by a 5-4 margin.

Roberts posted this on her Facebook account today: "The voters of Mecklenburg have indicated their continued support for me as top vote getter. Harold Cogdell will come round to realize that now is not the time for a personal power play."

She added: "It is time for the County Commission to focus on service, and the needs of the community. It is not time to be divisive and to succumb to personal ambition and backroom deal making that does not serve those who elected us."

In an e-mail to the Observer this morning, Roberts said she and Cogdell "trust and understand each other." But she also referred to "budget promises" being made as part of "back room conversation."

Cogdell could not be immediately reached for comment. One possibility: Cogdell is promising to vote for a revenue-neutral tax rate as part of next year's revaluation, and to make Republican Jim Pendergraph the vice chair. That might win him the four Republican votes which, with his own, would be enough to seize the chairmanship.

It all makes for captivating political intrigue, but also perhaps more than that. Cogdell and the Republicans could be cutting deals on not raising next year's tax rate. That would contradict Cogdell's campaign pledge not to make promises on the tax rate before he knew how exactly the budget numbers were shaping up.
We're not casting a vote on who should be chairman, but in this volatile economy, it's not smart to be locking in your budget vote almost seven months before the budget takes effect.

-- Posted by the Observer editorial board