The president nominates a congressman to lead a national
housing finance agency. A majority of the Senate supports the nomination. The
Thursday, October 31, 2013
The president nominates a congressman to lead a national
housing finance agency. A majority of the Senate supports the nomination. The
It has come to our attention, belatedly, that mayoral candidate Patrick Cannon provided inaccurate information in a column he wrote for last Sunday's Charlotte Observer.
The Observer editorial board invited both Cannon, a Democrat, and opponent Edwin Peacock, a Republican, to write for Sunday's Viewpoint page, making the case for why each is the stronger candidate. (You can find those pieces here and here.)
Cannon wrote: "As the top vote getter in the last four at-large City Council elections, I have also served as mayor pro tem, which provided me with a close look at the office of mayor and on many occasions the opportunity to assume some of the mayoral duties and obligations."
One big problem, as the Business Journal's Erik Spanberg first noted: Cannon was not the top vote getter in the last four at-large City Council elections. Not even close.
He was the leading vote getter in the most recent election, in 2011. He finished second to Susan Burgess in 2009, did not run in 2007 or 2005, finished first in 2003 and finished third in 2001. So whether Cannon was talking about the last four elections, as he said, or the last four elections that he participated in, either way he was not the top vote getter all four times. He was the top vote getter two times at best.
We should have caught the error and are sorry we didn't.
Spanberg quotes from a statement Cannon issued late Wednesday: "In my attempt to meet a tight deadline, it seems two thoughts were combined. I've been Mayor Pro Tem for four terms, 2001, 2003, 2009, 2011 (counting when I assumed the role after Susan Burgess' passing). And, I was the top vote getter in the last at-large election. My apologies for the confusion."
Neither Cannon nor his campaign brought the error to the Observer's attention either before it was published or after Spanberg questioned them about it. "It must be a slow news cycle if people are looking to nitpick stories like that," Cannon's campaign
manager spokesperson, Colleen Brannan, said in a voice mail to us after we asked about it. Either that, or we and our readers value accuracy.
As for the tight deadline: We invited Cannon to write his piece on Oct. 16. It was published Oct. 27.
-- Taylor Batten
Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Everyone has known Republican Edwin Peacock faces a tough climb to defy Charlotte's demographics and defeat Democrat Patrick Cannon for mayor. Now early voting statistics put some meat on that idea.
About 6,300 votes had been cast through Monday. About 60 percent of those have been cast by Democrats, about 22 percent by Republicans and about 18 percent by unaffiliated voters. About half the votes have been cast by black voters, though they make up only 37 percent of the electorate.
It's common for Democratic candidates to fare better in early voting and then see their support shrink a bit on Election Day:
- In the 2009 mayoral race, Democrat Anthony Foxx won 55 percent of the early votes and 50 percent of Election Day votes.
- In the 2011 mayoral race, Foxx won 76 percent of the early votes and 65 percent of Election Day votes.
- In 2012, President Obama won 67 percent of the early votes in Mecklenburg County, but only 56 percent of Election Day votes.
-- Taylor Batten
Thursday, October 24, 2013
Ben Horack has lived in Charlotte most of his adult life. He was the senior member of Horack Talley, a prominent law firm. Now he's 96 and living in the Southminster Retirement Community. He is amused and frustrated by Congress's ineptitude. So much so that he has taken to verse to decry their inability to govern.
The rhyming and meter are unique, but he captures a sentiment that readers might appreciate. Without further ado, Mr. Horack's poem:
Thursday, October 17, 2013
Observer reporter Ann Doss Helms wrote in today's paper about a potential walkout by N.C. public school teachers to protest low pay and an array of other policies emanating from the legislature. "We want more respect for teachers," organizers write on their Facebook page.
But a walkout could backfire severely. Teachers have a good case to make, but leaving innocent students alone in their classrooms is not the best way to make it.
Katelyn Stukenberg is a 7th grade Language Arts teacher at Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools. She has helped organize a group of teachers called Policy Bridge, which advocates for an elevation of the teaching profession.
She sent the Observer her thoughts about the state of teaching in North Carolina today, and why a walkout would be a bad move. She warns that North Carolina could suffer "a mass exodus" of teachers in the next year if they aren't treated better by the legislature. She makes a good case that a walkout is not the best way to make that happen. Let us -- and her -- know what you think.
Wednesday, October 16, 2013
House GOP members are meeting behind closed doors at 3 p.m. to discuss accepting the Senate-prepared plan to end the unwise government shutdown and increase the debt ceiling before potential harm results. Here are a couple of closer to home events you might have missed as our faux adult national lawmakers played cat and mouse with each other and flirted with hobbling our financial security.
N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper, a Democrat, is firmly setting his sights on the governor's mansion with a column in the liberal Huffington Post on Tuesday. The item called, "North Carolina: Threatening Fifty Years of Progress in Ten Months" praises Democratic political leadership of the past, particularly that of former governors Terry Sanford and Jim Hunt, and lambastes current Republican leadership, though Cooper doesn't mention first-term Republican Gov. Pat McCrory by name.
Cooper writes: "Today, the emphasis on economic growth, public education and innovative change that has distinguished North Carolina for fifty years has reached a sudden end. For the first time since Reconstruction, North Carolina has a General Assembly and governorship controlled by the extreme factions of the Republican Party, and their legislative super majority means their power is unchecked. In ten short months, they have set out to deliberately and systematically undo fifty years of progress. It's as if the Tea Party created its own playground of extremist fantasies.
Tax giveaways for the top 1 percent instead of real tax breaks for working North Carolina families. An end to childcare tax credits. Election law changes that make it harder for North Carolinians to register and vote. Overcrowded classrooms for public school teachers and layoffs for teacher assistants to fund private school voucher programs. University and community college funding slashed, leading to an exodus of talented faculty. A gutting of unemployment benefits when our economy is barely getting back on its feet. And a refusal to accept federal Medicaid dollars that would expand healthcare for working people, as well as for seniors in nursing homes and assisted living. This is not the North Carolina that any of us recognize. "
Sounds like his 2016 campaign platform for N.C. governor.
Lots of chatter is going on about why Charlotte's State Rep. Ruth Samuelson is looking to end her political career - at least for now. Samuelson, a key GOP lawmaker who had been a top contender for N.C. House Speaker, announced Tuesday she wouldn't be seeking reelection in 2014. She noted that "there have been several private sector opportunities develop for me since the session adjourned that tap into some lifelong passions of mine. Coupled with a growing family and exciting opportunities with my church community, now is the time to set the stage for a great second half of my life."
Samuelson will leave accomplishing many of her goals - sponsoring much of the controversial conservative agenda including the stringent voter ID bill, limiting access to abortion services, and creating a regional and still-being litigated Charlotte airport commission.
Samuelson seemed often stunned at the criticism she got from many of her home-town constituents on many of her stands. At a recent forum at Central Piedmont Community College, she and other lawmakers got booed more than cheered. Those kind of reactions might have had nothing to do with her seemingly sudden decision, but they possibly made it easier.
Back to Congress and the debt ceiling for a moment. I blogged last week about North Carolina U.S. Sen. Richard Burr who was quoted in the New York Times saying that failing to raise the debt limit wouldn't be so bad because the money saved by shutting down the government and furloughing federal workers can be applied to paying those obligations. Politico reports he also downplayed the consequences of the debt default with this astonishing statement: "I am not as concerned as the president is on the debt ceiling, because the only people buying our bonds right now is the Federal Reserve. So it’s like scaring ourselves.” Politico rightly notes that the "statement ignores that nearly $6 trillion - almost half of outstanding debt held by the public - is owned by foreign governments, including $2.4 trillion by China and Japan alone. Both of those nations [last week] warned the United States against doing anything that would put these massive investments at risk."
- Fannie Flono
Thursday, October 10, 2013
Ellen Holloway knows the federal government's partial shutdown has created victims with bigger problems. Still, she, her husband and kids would sure like their family dog back.
|Hope Holloway, with Eiffel|
Ellen and her husband, Allen, moved their family from Charlotte to England last month as Allen pursues a master's degree at the University of Reading. It was a big move for their 8-year-old daughter, Hope, and 7-year-old son, Connor, and leaving the family dog behind was never an option. Eiffel, a 3-year-old English Springer Spaniel, is a member of the family, and like a sibling to Hope and Connor. She would be a great comfort for the children amid such tremendous change.
It turns out that shipping a dog to the United Kingdom requires following a very specific process over a 10-day period. The vet has to see her exactly nine days before the flight. Then a vet with the U.S. Department of Agriculture has to sign the paperwork and send it back to the family's vet. She has to arrive in England within 10 days of seeing the vet and after being given a de-wormer three days before.
The Holloways researched all that and followed the rules to a T. "Eiffel's paperwork was literally the next on the desk to be signed when the shutdown began," Ellen says by email from Reading. Eiffel's trip was cancelled the day before she was to fly.
"Telling the kids, who had been counting down the days from 14 to 1, wasn't easy," Ellen says. "We can't even restart the count -- we don't know how long it will be. They cried and can't understand why this is happening ... or when she'll finally arrive."
So now the kids come home to their strange new house in a foreign country, and Eiffel is not there to greet them. All because Congress can't get its act together.
"The only silver lining?" Ellen says. "I now have a sure-fire method to end bickering among the Holloway siblings: remind them that they are doing exactly the same as 'the politicians' and the bickering quickly subsides. Even school children don't want to be caught acting like that!"
Hope and Connor made a video asking Congress and President Obama to please end the shutdown so they could have their beloved Eiffel back. Watch it below.
-- Taylor Batten (h/t to Peter St. Onge)
Wednesday, October 9, 2013
He said in one speech quoted in the Hendersonville Times and reprinted in the Raleigh News and Observer that he told his wife Brooke this: "Tonight, I want you to go to the ATM machine, and I want you to draw out everything it will let you take. And I want you to tomorrow, and I want you to go Sunday. I was convinced on Friday night that if you put a plastic card in an ATM machine the last thing you were going to get was cash."
His comments were lampooned by some and led to this explanation to Charlotte's WFAE radio station, quoted the Huffington Post: "Absolutely I'd do it [again]. The exact situation we were faced with was a freeze bank to bank. And as I stated, my attempt was to make sure my wife had enough cash at home to make it through the next week."
If only he could have a fraction of that kind of concern - without the knee jerk, dangerous and misguided notion of advocating a run on banks, of course - and apply it to Congress' crisis-inducing government shutdown and flirtation with not raising the debt ceiling and causing a U.S. default. A lot of people around the country are worried they won't have "enough cash to make it through the week." The irresponsible actions of Congress on the shutdown have already pushed some citizens into that position.
A non-profit stepped in Wednesday to help restore death benefits for military families that were cutoff by the ongoing government shutdown, according to USA Today. The nonprofit Fisher House Foundation said they'd fill in the gap and don't want to be paid back though the Pentagon said it will. The House did vote 425-0 Wednesday to restore a $100,000 death gratuity to family and other lost benefits to veterans' families, but the Senate has not taken action.
Tuesday, October 8, 2013
For those who might be applauding the slimming effects of the federal government shutdown, some harsh reality: The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services is temporarily halting benefits for a program that helps low-income pregnant women and new moms buy healthy food if their families are facing "nutrition risk."
From DHHS this afternoon:
Due to the federal shutdown, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, also known as the WIC program, will discontinue issuing benefits at close of business on . Approximately 80 percent of eligible clients already have been issued food benefits for the month of October. DHHS has determined that federal WIC funds available to the state will be sufficient to cover WIC vouchers already issued for the month of October, but not sufficient to issue additional vouchers.DHHS, in a letter today, also is telling some providers that it is issuing a Stop Work order on their contracts - meaning there are no funds to pay them, due to the shutdown.
WIC clients should keep their nutrition appointments and continue redeeming October vouchers and WIC vendors should continue normal operations to accept existing vouchers. The Department will continue to monitor the daily availability of federal funds and will announce changes if they become necessary.
"Some of our most vulnerable citizens, pregnant and breastfeeding women, infants and young children, will be affected by the interruption of WIC services due to the federal shutdown," said DHHS Secretary Aldona Wos.
Meanwhile, moments ago, U.S. House Speaker called President Barack Obama's proposal of a short-term "clean resolution" to get the government funded again "unconditional surrender" for Republicans.
Peter St. Onge
It's common political practice for incoming administrations to tout how good of a job they will do by first explaining how bad of a job their predecessors did. But the incoming administration of N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory might have taken the practice too far in trying to paint the state's Medicaid program as broken, according to an investigation published today by North Carolina Health News.
Documents show that Department of Health and Human Services officials deleted key information in the department's response to State Auditor Beth Wood's audit of the Medicaid program under previous governor Bev Perdue. That audit from Wood had alleged high adminstrative costs and budget overruns in the state Medicaid program. The initial response refuting those allegations was written by outgoing Perdue officials.
The edits, done by DHHS Secretary Aldona Wos and Medicaid head Carol Steckel, include removing whole paragraphs and evidence that North Carolina's administrative costs are lower than most states, rather than 30 percent higher, as McCrory administration officials have contended publicly, Health News reports.
Another example: Steckel removed paragraphs explaining that CommunityCare of North Carolina - a much-lauded network of physicians, pharmacists and health departments - had been studied by two national groups that found cost savings. Instead, Steckel inserted language casting doubt on the program.
The DHHS documents, including the edits, are available online at North Carolina Health News, a not-for-profit news organization founded by Rose Hoban, who reported on health care for six years for North Carolina Public Radio.
In a January news conference, with McCrory standing behind her, Wood said North Carolina was spending significantly more on administrative costs than most states. That criticism helped McCrory and Wos characterize the Medicaid program as "broken," which they used as justification to turn down a federal expansion of Medicaid that could have helped a half million North Carolinians.
Of course, if the state's Medicaid program isn't "broken," McCrory might have a more difficult time justifying the Medicaid privatization he's proposing.
DHHS spokesman Ricky Diaz told North Carolina Health News that DHHS officials "stand by our final responses to the audit." That's not good enough. Wos needs to justify the specific deletions made to the audit response and explain why they removed critical information that might have painted our state's Medicaid program in a far different light.
Peter St. Onge
Monday, October 7, 2013
Beginning this week, Charlotte Douglas International Airport officials will offer you the courtesy of letting you know your car is being searched.
The only reason they're fessing up, of course, is because they got caught.
According to a WCNC/Observer report over the weekend, airport employees have been searching valet-parked cars for the past year and a half without the consent or knowledge of car owners. The reason we know now? When one traveler was paying her valet bill inside at the airport last week, she noticed through the window an employee with a flashlight looking through her trunk.
Update, 4:45 p.m.: Interim Aviation Director Brent Cagle told the editorial board Monday that the airport will suspend curbside valet parking – along with what he called the “visual inspections” –for 5-10 days until officials can determine the best way to notify travelers about the practice. Cagle, who became interim aviation director in July and was hired by Charlotte Douglas last year, was not involved in enacting the policy. But, he said Monday: “We understand now that we should have done a better job.”
The searches were part of the airport's security plan. Each U.S. airport is responsible for submitting such plans to the Transportation Safety Administration, according to the TSA's Bob Burns, who addressed the issue on an agency blog in July. The TSA approves the plans, but no TSA agents participate in car searches, Burns said.
Not all airports handle the searches the same way, according to Mother Jones magazine, which wrote on the issue in July. At the Minneapolis-St. Paul, Boston and Nashville airports, the searches are done with the car's owner present and consenting. But the search issue first popped up earlier this year because of one airport in Rochester, N.Y., where a woman returning from a trip found a placard on her car windshield saying her car had been searched.
The searches thus far would seem to be a violation of the Fourth Amendment, which says the government can't search without suspicion. But Indiana University law professor Fred H. Cate says maybe not. "The Supreme Court has made an exception to searching items that you've voluntarily given to someone else - like a car," he told Mother Jones.
The key may be notification. If a sign is present at the valet check-in letting you know your car may be searched, you are likely offering consent by choosing to park there, anyway. But you have to know first, and Charlotte Douglas officials waited a year and a half too long to give travelers that information.
Make no mistake - the searches themselves can be a legitimate security tool involving cars that are parked close to airport terminals. But there doesn't seem to be a valid security reason for keeping customers in the dark. Rather, it seems more like an arrogance we're seeing too often in government lately - that as long as you're doing something in the interest of public safety, the public doesn't necessarily need to know about it.
Peter St. Onge