GOV. MCCRORY’S BUDGET: WHAT’S IN IT?
By Cash Michaels
If there was a surprise in Gov. Pat McCrory’s first state budget released Wednesday, it was $10 million to help compensate the victims of the state’s forced sterilization program. A surprise because it was a project that former Democratic Gov. Beverly Perdue was committed to, and House Speaker Thom Tillis, a Republican, got passed in the House last year before the GOP-led state Senate turned its collective back, refusing to even take up the matter.
Will the Legislature, which even when Democrats were in control refused to compensate the eugenics victims, deny them again?
Indeed, how much of Gov. McCrory’s $20.6 billion – which gives state employees and teachers a one percent raise and puts more money in early childhood education – may already dead-on-arrival in the Republican General Assembly that has already made it clear that the poor will be getting the short end of the legislative stick, remains to be seen.
For instance, McCrory put more money in his budget to hire 1800 more teachers. Something state lawmakers may have a problem with given how they previously slashed $1 billion from the education budget.
The governor’s over 320-page budget proposal is chock full of the expected. He cuts $142 million from the UNC System, devotes $7.2 million to re-establish drug courts; and cuts the budget of the state Health and Human Services Dept. to help offset past cost overruns in the state’s Medicaid program.
McCrory also devoted $77 million for state information system upgrades, and $300 million for general maintenance and repairs to state buildings, with $50 million of that going to UNC System campuses.
But according to Alexandra Sirota, director of the NC Budget and Tax Center, the moderate Republican governor’s first budget, devised by conservative deputy budget director Art Pope, isn’t as bad as expected, though there are concerns.
“Governor McCrory released a budget …that falls short of returning us to pre-recession levels but does expand investments in critical areas,” Sirota said in a statement. “The budget assumes that available revenues will remain the same as collections under the current tax system. The Governor is therefore able to expand investments in certain areas by reducing spending in others, and relying on tuition increases and other fees.”
Sirota adds that McCrory doesn’t lay out much by way of tax reform, though he apparently signs off on the Legislature’s repeal of the estate tax, so how future revenues will be raised remains an open question if lawmakers go through with eliminating the personal and corporate income tax.
Published reports say legislators are looking to raise revenues by applying taxes on 130 services currently not taxed, thus shifting the burden to the state’s poor and middle-class.
McCrory’s budget raises tuition at UNC System schools for out-of-state students, but freezes it for in-state attendees.
Sirota does note that the governor fully funds Medicaid with an additional $575 million; invests $52 million in pre-kindergarten programs, allowing 5,000 additional at-risk children to enroll; and gives retirees a one percent cost of living increase in their benefits.
Democratic consultant Jeanne Milliken Bonds raised concerns about the big $142 million cut to the UNC System, which McCrory earlier criticized for relying to heavily on liberal arts education rather than vocational training. But he also cut the budget for the state’s community college system by $37 million as well, where most of that training takes place.
“Expect larger cuts from the [Republican] NC General Assembly,” Bonds says, adding that the governor’s cuts to the Rural Center and biotech were also “troubling.”
Bonds sees the Medicaid funding as “smoke and mirrors,” and says hospitals may file suit if approved.
The governor’s budget also repeals the NC Public Campaign Fund, which allows voters to check off funding for nonpartisan candidates like judges.
McCrory’s Center for Safer Schools, which he unveiled Tuesday in response to the December Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings, will be funded with $625,000, something Bonds calls “a redundancy” because ‘the program already existed under the old juvenile justice program established by former Gov. Jim Hunt.
“Smoke and mirrors for hiring people and putting out fluff,” Bonds said.
Other aspects of Gov. McCrory’s budget includes closing five prisons; eliminating two days per week at state historic sites, and not adding anymore debt.
McCrory was already behind the eight ball with social activists for signing GOP bills that slashed unemployment benefits and stopped the expansion of Medicaid to 500,000 more poor people in the state.
He is expected to also sign the repeal of the Earned Income Tax Credit, which benefits the working poor.
Reaction from Republican legislative leaders was welcoming.
"Gov. McCrory’s refreshing new leadership and hard work has produced a balanced budget proposal that exercises fiscal discipline and keeps state government spending within its means," Senate President Pro tem Sen. Phil Berger of Rockingham said in a statement. "His emphasis on paying off our debts and repairing our critical infrastructure reflects a vision and commitment to the long-term fiscal health of our state."
State House Speaker Thom Tillis of Mecklenburg County was just as pleased.
"Many aspects of Gov. McCrory’s budget are much-needed and long overdue, and I am especially glad to see the inclusion of the Eugenics Compensation Program," the GOP leader said.
Whether the state House will pass a eugenics compensation bill again, and whether the state Senate will reject it, again, remains to be seen.
Randy Voller, chairman of the NC Democratic Party, blasted the governor’s budget, and challenged him to stand up against what the Republican-led General assembly might do to it.
“What we’re seeing with this budget is the Republican Party’s continued commitment to austerity policies for North Carolina and for our nation. This is a status-quo budget that continues to tax the poor to feed the rich,” Voller advised. “When push comes to shove, will the Governor be able to stand up to this radical, reactionary legislature or will he continue to serve as their rubber stamp—as he has when it comes to slashing unemployment benefits, rejecting health care expansion and increasing taxes on our middle and low-income hardworking families?” Voller concluded.
TRIANGLE NEWS BRIEFS FOR 3-21-13
RALEIGH-APEX NAACP SPONSORS “SILENT MARCH” FOR VOTING RIGHTS SUNDAY
In commemoration of the 48th anniversary of the Bloody Sunday March to Selma, Alabama, the Raleigh-Apex Branch of the NAACP will sponsor a “Silent March for Voting Rights,” this Sunday, March 24. The march will depart Martin Street Baptist Church, 1001 East Martin Street in Raleigh, at 3 p.m., and march to the MLK Memorial Gardens. There will be silent prayer there, and return to Martin Street Baptist Church for a voters rally. Rev. Dr. William Barber, president of the NCNAACP, will be the keynote speaker at 4.pm. Dr. Earl C. Johnson is the pastor.
FORBES RANKS RALEIGH NUMBER ONE IN GROWTH
It should be no surprise that the number one metropolitan area in the nation for the fastest growth in the last year is North Carolina’s Capital City, Raleigh, according to Forbes Magazine. An analysis of US Census figures has Raleigh’s population at 1.2 million people, a jump of 47 percent since 2000. In the past five years, residents from across the state, and areas like Montgomery County, Maryland and Queens, NY have relocated to Wake County, the report says.
WAKE SCHOOL BOARD UPDATE
Former Wake School Board member Bill Fletcher was sworn-in Tuesday to finish out the unexpired term of Debra Goldman. In interviews, Fletcher, a Republican, made it clear that he did not approve of County Commission Board leaders seeking state legislation to takeover school system properties, or change school board elections so that Republicans could take back the board by 2014, thus shortening terms of board Democrats. Meanwhile the board adjusted the bell schedules for 17 schools including Walnut Creek Elementary, and set the dates on March 25, 26 and 27 for community input in the search for a new superintendent. Go to http://www.wcpss.net/superintendent-search/public-input.html for the complete schedule.
STATE NEWS BRIEFS FOR 3-21-13
LENOIR COUNTY BOARD OF ELECTIONS RESIGNS
[KINSTON] In an act of protest, all three members of the Lenoir County Board of Elections resigned Monday because the state elections board refused to approve the termination of the Lenoir County elections director. State BOE Executive Director Gary Bartlett said the tension between director Dana King and the Lenoir Board did not require her dismissal, though he did place her on probation until December 1. County leaders now must appoint three replacements by July 1st.
SENATE REPUBLICAN LEADER SEEKS TO END TEACHER TENURE
[RALEIGH] If state Senate President Pro tem Sen. Phil Berger has his way, teachers in North Carolina will no longer receive tenure, and will have to work harder for merit pay. Known as Senate Bill 361, Berger, a Republican from Rockingham, says this is part of the education reform overhaul he intends for North Carolina in an effort to boost student grades and teacher performance. Good teachers would get four-year contracts, not tenure, under Berger’s plan. Teachers not meeting the bill would receive smaller contracts. Teachers will be evaluated, and received bonuses if merited. There’s no doubt that Berger’s plan will pass the GOP-led Senate. How the state House, also led by Republicans, will handle it is yet to be seen.
TILLIS NOW SAYS FRAUD NOT KEY REASON FOR VOTER ID
[CHARLOTTE] NC House Speaker Thom Tillis (R- Mecklenburg) now says that despite his previous reasoning for the need for voter photo ID, that while, “there is some evidence of voter fraud, …that’s not the primary reason for doing this.” Tillis made that remark last Saturday on MSNBC when confront with proof that voter fraud in the state is virtually nonexistent. Tillis says people are concerned about the “risk of fraud” and voter ID would restore “confidence in government.” Critics say it is an attempt to suppress the votes of the poor and people of color. The House voter photo ID bill is expected to be introduced within the next two weeks.
JUDGE GEORGE R. GREENE SR.
JUDGE GEORGE GREENE, 82 DIES
By Cash Michaels
He was a historymaker as the first African-American ever to be elected to the Wake County District Court bench in 1974.
He was also a fierce civil rights advocate, and a rascally man who spoke his mind, no matter who didn’t like it.
But above all, Judge George R. Greene Sr. was known as a fair practitioner of the law who had a special place in his heart for the common man.
Judge Greene, who had retired from the Superior Court bench in 1995, died last Sunday at age 82.
Greene is a legend at the Wake County Courthouse, and many an attorney, like Geoff Simmons, knew him, liked him, and revered him.
“Judge Green called himself a ‘black red neck,’” attorney Simmons told The Carolinian. “Every year when he could, he would have a free cookout at his house for the community - black and white. He had country music and all kinds of refreshments. White people loved him as much as blacks because he did not see color. He was the first black to integrate the Wake County Bar Association. He loved being fair and creative He knew that District Court should not be that tough because you did not deal with felonies. He loved to go fishing and hunting. He was a good old boy.”
Born in 1930 in Nashville, NC, George Greene, the son of teachers, graduated Shaw University in the 1950’s and was the only African-American in his class at UNC – Chapel Hill Law School. He left law school to serve in the Korean War, coming back to graduate and pass the state bar in 1957.
In 1960, when black students at Shaw University and then St. Augustine’s College were being arrested for challenging Raleigh’s segregation laws, Greene, a noted civil rights attorney, represented them for free, noting the courage and sacrifice the young people exhibited.
“George Greene knew what discrimination was all about, and he knew he had to be a role model for young black lawyers,” attorney Simmons said. “He told me to never forget your roots but always try to build bridges. He was an icon. Some people thought he needed to be taken down a peg. But he never tried to get even. He told me that the best revenge was to love well. He taught me to always hold your head high and be of service and you will always be OK.
Greene remained in private practice until he was elected to Wake District Court in 1974, breaking the color barrier there. In 1988, Greene became a Superior Court judge.
Judge Greene’s style in the courtroom, by all accounts, was folksy and unconventional. He railed against the strict and stuffy protocols that the judiciary had customarily followed, preferring, instead to turn his sessions into true “people’s courts,” even to the point of saying provocative things from the bench, and leading the courtroom in Christmas carols.
It would be an understatement to say that Judge Greene’s colorful court performances rubbed some of his colleagues the wrong way. He was twice censured in 1991 and 1995 for harsh remarks during trials that, in the opinion of the state Supreme Court, made his, “…conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice that brings the judicial office into disrepute.”
But Judge Greene’s friends and supporters, like attorney Geoff Simmons, saw a man who said what he thought, and was willing to let the chips fall where they may.
“I tried a case before Judge Greene one time when a black bus driver was charge with kidnapping,” Simmons recalls. “A white female NC State student got on the wrong bus. The local CAT bus driver, a black fellow, would not let her get off at the Wolfline stop and called police, and he was charged with a felony.”
“The courtroom was packed with bus drivers and people from all over the city.
People thought the driver would go to jail and lose his job,” Simmons continued.
Judge Greene heard the evidence, and dismissed the case to the surprise of many. He said this was a case of overreaction. The bus driver is still driving for the city of Raleigh. He could have gone to jail if there had not been a judge like Judge Green. He was not afraid to do the right thing. He was a strong and good black man that never saw race, just the facts with compassion.”
Public viewing is scheduled for today, Thursday, March 21st, from 12 noon to 9 p.m. at Lea Funeral Home in Raleigh.
Public viewing is scheduled for today, Thursday, March 21st, from 12 noon to 9 p.m. at Lea Funeral Home in Raleigh.
Judge Greene’s funeral is planned for Friday, 12 noon at First Baptist Church, 101 South Wilmington Street in Raleigh. Visitation begins at 11 a.m. he will be buried at Hillcrest Cemetery on Garner Road in Raleigh.
Judge Greene is survived by his wife, Ruby Powell Greene, of the home; daughters, Ava Greene Bedden (Dana) of Irving, TX, Willa-Jo Michelle Greene of Beltsville, MD, and Karen Greene Braithwaite (Marcel) of New York, NY; son, George Royster Greene, Jr. of Raleigh; brother, Rolland Greene of Rural Hall, NC. He is also survived by five grandchildren: Daniel T. Davenport, Avanna D. Davenport, Diana T. Bedden, Georgia Marie Braithwaite and Tiberius C. Braithwaite.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made "In Memory of Judge George R. Greene" to Shaw University, Office of Institutional Advancement, 118 E. South St., Raleigh, NC 27601.
NNPA STORY - PERDUE HONORED NY NNPA FOUNDATION FOR PARDONING W-TEN
CASH IN THE APPLE
By Cash Michaels
ROLAND MARTIN OUT AT CNN – Big changes at CNN with new head honcho Jeff Zucker at the helm. He’s already found a graceful way of getting rid of one of the best journalists in the business, Soledad O’Brien.
Now CNN commentator Roland Martin, informed us this week that after six years, April 6th is his last day at the Cable News Network. Martin still has his TV1 show on Sunday mornings, his nationally syndicated column and his appearances on the Tom Joyner Morning Show, so he’s not hurting for work.
But CNN offered Martin the broadest audience possible, allowing him to share the stage with powerful political figures, so his brand has definitely taken a hit. That’s not6 to say an MSNBC or Fox News couldn’t pick Roland up, but unless they’re really hurting for a black commentator, it’s not likely to happen.
And yet, I could see MSNBC make room for Martin, given the excellent job they’ve done in bringing top black talkers onboard. Martin brings an audience with him, and MSNBC has made no secret that it wants to build on the tremendous African-American audience that it already has.
So who knows? I just hope that the folks at CNN know what they’re doing, for unless there’s a major news story every day, just changing faces isn’t enough to build ratings on.
We’ll keep pour eye on CNN’s progress, if any.
KEITH SETTLES – Reports are that Keith Olbermann has settled his $50 million lawsuit against former employer Current TV. The former host of MSNBC’s “Countdown” quit Current a year ago after he and management had a serious falling out. Previous to that, Keith spent ten years at MSNBC driving folks there crazy.
Reports now are because Keith can’t get a job right now (his legendary temper, despite his genius and high ratings, have made him radioactive), his attorneys used that as a bargaining chip to force the settlement.
Here’s the sad thing, Keith may not be on TV in a permanent job for some time, and that, indeed is sad, because he is a talented man and commentator. He’s doing some stints on the baseball cable channel, but essentially Keith is out of work.
I hope that changes. We missed him during the 2012 elections, and we need his commentary going forward.
So behave, Keith.
THE JOB – Since I’m big on documentaries, I strongly suggest, if you have Showtime, that you take time to watch, “The World According to Dick Cheney,” a riveting account of perhaps the most powerful vice president in this nation’s history.
And one of the most ruthless.
Of particular note is the part about how Cheney and his then “boss,” President George W. Bush, got us into the Iraq War exactly ten years ago this week.
The record is now very clear that Bush, Cheney, Dr. Condoleezza Rice, and the rest of the administration, lied past the point of no return to the American people and the world in order to get us into war with Iraq.
Even a man I admire greatly, then Secretary of State Colin Powell, went before the United Nations, and, with the CIA’s help, laid out lie after lie as “evidence” as to why we needed to attack Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
And so while the president of the United States and his crew were lying to the world, and the nation was preparing for war, what did we in the media do to hold the accountable?
Shamefully go along with it.
If we in the news business knew then what we know now, we certainly should have sounded the alarm. But instead, the major news operations in this nation, afraid of being tagged as unpatriotic by the country, took every dry bone that the Bush Administration threw to us, and ran as fast as we could to report it as honest news.
And none of it was true, except that innocent Iraqis and American soldiers were dying…for nothing.
That’s a strong statement, and in no way am I saying that the brave men and women, who wore the uniform and went into battle, did so without honor or bravery. All of them who served, and were either injured and killed, did so believing that they were stopping a foreign dictator from harming the world with, as their commander-in-chief told them, “weapons of mass destruction.”
They had no way of knowing that they were being lied to, and as a result, many did die, and were severely injured.
Certainly most of the blame lies with the Bush Administration. They constructed the deadly fairy tale, got Congress to sign off on it, and dared the media to prove them wrong, threatening to brand the media unpatriotic if they did.
And it is because of that that this nation’s media must also share a good deal of the blame as well.
With the exception of liberal talk show legend Phil Donahue, who was ultimately kicked off of MSNBC in 2003 because he was singlehandedly challenging George Bush’s war; and the Knight-Ridder News Service, which was cranking out stories calling into question the president’s reasoning for going to war with a country that posed no threat to us, no one else had the courage to look deeper.
It was journalistic malpractice of the highest order. Vice President Dick Cheney would go on NBC’s “Meet the Press” with the late Tim Russert, lying his crooked heart out about uranium from Niger being used to develop a nuclear bomb in Iraq, and the usually tough Russert allowed it to happen.
That’s one of the reasons why independent publications have exploded on the Internet. There is a blatant distrust of the establishment media for a whole host of reasons, but our failure to do our due diligence in reporting what was really going on in the lead up to the Iraq War stands out for its historic proportion, and astounding lack of courage.
It’s something we’ll never live down.
Nor should we.
FLIGHT – Finally, I got the time and the chance over the weekend to see Denzel Washington’s boffo Academy Award nominated performance in the movie “Flight.” The one thing that has always impressed me about D-Man is that he’s always looking to stretch his repertoire. He’s played cops, doctors, union soldiers and military men.
But his performance as a drunken drug addicted airline pilot in “Flight” is one of his most varied, bravest and tortured. His character, Whip Whitaker, is a profound liar who pulls off a miraculous landing of a crippled jet while he’s under the influence of drugs and alcohol. For the rest of the film, he’s running from authorities, and the truth about himself.
The film clearly is one of Denzel’s most controversial, and his decline into drunken and drug-induced stupor is played to the max.
The only problem with Denzel’s performance is that it had to happen the same year Daniel Day-Lewis portrayed President Abraham Lincoln in Steven Spielberg’s epic “Lincoln.” It would have been a major, though well-earned upset if Denzel beat Day-Lewis in the Best Actor Oscar category.
Instead, Denzel’s portrayal will go down through the ages as one of his greatest ever. At the young age of 60, D-Man has many, many more still in him.
That’s the most exciting part of all.
Make sure you tune in every Thursday afternoon at 4 p.m. for my talk radio show, ''Make It Happen'' on Power 750 WAUG-AM, or online at www.myWAUG.com. And read more about my thoughts and opinions exclusively at my blog, ‘The Cash Roc” (http://thecashroc.blogspot.com/2011/01/cash-roc-begins.html). I promise it will be interesting.
Cash in the Apple - honored as the Best Column Writing of 2006 by the National Newspaper Publishers Association. Columnist Cash Michaels was also honored by the NNPA for Best Feature Story Journalist of 2009, and was the recipient of the Raleigh-Apex NAACP’s President’s Award for Media Excellence in Sept. 2011.
Until next week, keep a smile on your face, GOD in your heart, and The Carolinian in your life. Bye, bye.