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22
You had to be here in the 1950s to appreciate how much Raleigh and Wake County have changed on the way to one million people. And, to this old-timer, it’s a much better place today.
 
We were poor, provincial, rural and racist to the core. Today we’re affluent, global in outlook, urban and suburban, and a much more tolerant place for all races, backgrounds and lifestyles.
 
It didn’t just happen. Some people – like my friends (and heroes) Tom Bradshaw, Wade Smith, Terry Sanford, Jim Hunt, John Winters and many, many others – made tough decisions that weren’t popular. But look where they got us. Ask yourself whether today’s leaders have the same combination of drive, vision and sheer guts.
 
When people hear I grew up in Raleigh, they often ask: “Inside or Outside the Beltline?” Well, I’m not OTB or ITB; I’m PB (pre-Beltline).
 
Before I started school, we lived in a new development called Northside, because it was on the northern edge of town. Today it’s the area around J.Y. Joyner School, near the car dealerships and fast-food shops along Wake Forest Road. We played in the woods around Crabtree Creek. It was nothing but country.
 
When we moved to west Raleigh, I went to Lacy School. It was a Raleigh City School even though it was outside the city limits, which ran along Brooks Avenue down the hill from our house. Wade Avenue ended at Dixie Trail. Just ended. You took Highway 70 to Durham and points west.
 
There was no North Hills, no Crabtree Valley. The only thing the same is that downtown is (again) booming. Back then, the only places to go shopping or to movies was downtown or Cameron Village.
 
Raleigh was smaller than Durham. But when RTP caught on, our city fathers had the sense to build middle-class neighborhoods to attract the new transplants. (We joked that it was called North Hills because everybody living there was from the North.) Then local leaders had the sense to merge the city and county schools and build the kind of schools that smart people coming to RTP wanted for their kids. Raleigh boomed, and Durham fell behind.
 
Of the numbers used by the N&O to show how much we’ve changed since 1960, perhaps the most striking is this: Then, of adults 25 and over, 12.7 percent had bachelor’s degrees. Today it’s 47.6 percent.
 
Then we were 74 percent white. Today it’s just over 61 percent. Then our rural population was almost 37 percent. Today it’s 6 percent.
 
Yes, this place is busier, more crowded and sometimes more maddening than it was then. A lot of people I grew up with will shake their heads and say, “It’s just not like it used to be here.”
 
They say that like it’s a bad thing.

 

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20
As much as I respect Rob Christensen and the political experts he talked with in today’s column, I disagree with their conclusion that the money spent in the U.S. Senate race has had “little effect.”
 
In fact, I think the ads by Senator Hagan – and on her behalf – have painted Thom Tillis into a corner that he will have trouble escaping.
 
Granted, the movement is small, because the electorate is so polarized. But the shift is small because the pool of swing voters is small.
 
The ads against Tillis – aided by what is happening in this never-ending legislative session – have successfully linked him with two of the most unpopular groups in politics today: the Tea Party and the legislature. And the damage gets worse every day the legislature stays in town.
 
Nor does it help that Tillis can’t get a bill through his own chamber.
 
Maybe he should try a new message: “I’m a leader in a dysfunctional legislature, so I’ll fit right in in Washington.”

 

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20

 

According to the Census Bureau, back in the fall of 2011 without knowing it we crossed a kind of Rubicon.
 
Back then – during the last quarter of 2011 – 101,716,000 people had full time jobs while 108,592,000 people were receiving payments from welfare programs and, if that sounds like skating across thin ice, there’s more to the picture: 101,439,000 people were receiving Social Security, Medicare and unemployment compensation.
 
When you eliminate the overlap between the two groups, according to the Census Bureau, the number of people receiving government benefits climbs to 151,014,000.
 
151,000,000 people receiving benefits. And 101,000,000 people working.
 
Can that last?

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19

 

About one minute after sitting down Sean launched off into a tirade saying the border children ought to all be shipped home – then he stopped and was asked, Suppose one of those children fled El Salvador (or wherever) because she’d been repeatedly gang-raped – would you send her home too?
 
He said, Absolutely. Yes. She broke the law.
 
Now if someone waved a magic wand and suddenly put the power in your hands to settle the fate of the border children would you ship them all home – knowing you could be sending one back into the arms of a rapist?
 
That’s a question conservatives don’t like to hear and there’s a similar question liberals don’t like to hear: Would you allow all the border children to stay, even if you knew you’d be letting a gang member who crossed the border to evade the law settle in America for the rest of his life?
 
Finding a victim fleeing terror means a Republican can’t say, They’re lawbreakers, send them all home, andfinding a gang member makes it harder for a liberal to say, Keep them all here.
 
This is a peculiar debate and the roadblock isn’t immigration or just immigration: It’s our odd (and near total) incapacity to address a not very complicated moral question except with black and white answers like ‘send them all away’ or ‘keep them all here.’

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19
Republicans strode up to the plate in Raleigh with big bats and high hopes, then whiffed on three straight pitches.
 
Strike one was teacher pay. Their top goal was to stop the bleeding on education. But their so-called pay raise was so full of holes, questions and confusion that nobody is satisfied, teachers are still mad and voters think the Governor and the legislature are anti-education.
 
Strike two was coal ash. They did nothing on the state’s biggest environmental crisis in decades. Nothing.
 
Strike three belonged to Governor McCrory alone. He stepped up to the plate to be the hero on coal ash after the legislature struck out. But he tied himself in ethical knots by wrongly reporting his Duke stock on his ethics statement.
 
How big a sin is this? Well, look at it this way: If Bev Perdue had done it, the legislature would have impeached her.
 
So McCrory is in hot water, Thom Tillis is lagging behind Senator Hagan, Senator Berger’s son lost his congressional primary and – notwithstanding the advantages of incumbency, fundraising and gerrymandering – Democrats may be looking at a good fall season.

 

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18

 

The battered and bedraggled Tea Partiers have been taking it on the chin – they’ve gotten pounded, losing races in Tennessee, Kansas, Texas, Kentucky, South Carolina and Mississippi so, now, the press is humming their funeral dirge while Washington Republicans are chortling the Tea Party’s headed for the elephant graveyard of political movements.
 
So is saying the Tea Party’s kaput a political canard, a media feeding frenzy or clear-eyed truth?
 
The Tea Partiers got whipped in six Senate primaries by sitting Republican Senators – but it’s also a fact nothing in politics is harder to do than defeat an anchored in place incumbent Senator or Congressman.
 
I can’t recall an incumbent Senator losing a Primary in North Carolina in forty years and there’re plenty of reasons why: An incumbent starts with millions in the bank while his Tea Party opponent starts out broke.
 
An incumbent starts out well known and well liked by Republican voters in a primary – while nobody ever heard of his Tea Party opponent.
 
An incumbent has campaign (and helpful Senate staffs) in place on day one while a Tea Partier starts out with a handful of folks who enjoy talking to one another on the Internet but have never been troubled with the grind of building a multi-million dollar campaign.
 
There are a handful of Super PACs lending Tea Partiers a helping hand but there are more – and, more important,  richer – Super PACs fully armed and anxious to ride to the rescue of incumbents.
 
An incumbent Senator’s not quite as secure in his job as a tenured professor at Chapel Hill but it’s close. So it’s no shock – and hardly a political trend – that Tea Partiers are losing to incumbents.
 
The Tea Party’s been whipped and its popularity’s been battered but saying it’s dead as a doornail is more political spin;--wait two years, until the Republican Presidential primaries, when there’s no incumbent, then if the Tea Party gets trounced, write its obituary.

 

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15

 

Thirteen years ago the terrorists blew up the World Trade Center and, since the terrorists lived in Afghanistan, we attacked Afghanistan.
 
The terrorists then moved to Pakistan but we kept right on attacking Afghanistan.
 
A decade later we killed the lead terrorist in Pakistan but we’re still fighting in Afghanistan.
 
In 2003 the ‘wise men’ said in order to whip the terrorists we needed to invade Iraq too, so we did and nineteen days later we’d whipped the Iraqi Army and taken Baghdad.
 
But no one (with the exception of General Colin Powell) told us our army might not be big enough to occupy a nation of 30 million people.
 
And no one certainly ever mentioned the dreaded word ‘draft.’
 
Eight years later we were still in Iraq and 96% of our causalities had happened after we whipped the Iraqi army.
 
It was the time for the inevitable skedaddle and, in 2011 , we got out of Iraq.
 
We also decided to give $200 million in guns to our friends the Kurds but the Maliki regime told us that wouldn’t do; they said we should give the guns to Iraq’s ‘official government’ which in turn would give them to the Kurds.
 
We did.
 
But the Maliki regime didn’t like the Kurds and didn’t give them the guns.
 
Then ISIS got up a head of steam, conquered western Iraq and captured an arms depot full of American guns. ISIS then took the guns and attacked the Kurds who had hardly any guns at all.
 
President Obama announced Maliki had gotten himself into this mess and he could get himself out.
 
Then the President sent 1,000 soldiers to Iraq.
 
Then he announced he was going to bomb ISIS.
 
So, now, we’re bombing ISIS to destroy the guns we gave the Iraqis.
 
Next the President announced he was not going to fight another war in Iraq and the House added we wouldn’t be in Iraq long.
 
Then, the next day, the President said we may be bombing Iraq for months.
 
So we’re bombing ISIS. But it’s not a war. We said we wouldn’t send soldiers. Then we did. We told Maliki he was on his own. Now we’re bailing him out. And we’ve armed the people we’re fighting against.
 
How much more muddled can this picture get?

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15
Governor McCrory’s blast at The N&O got him another day of the “blaring, top-of-the-fold” headlines he blasted. But this is just the beginning of the Coal Ash Saga. We soon will have a U.S. Attorney’s investigation and a fight over who pays: McCrory’s former boss, Duke Energy, or his current boss, the People of North Carolina.
 
McCrory protested that the N&O’s story Thursday “mischaracterized a misinterpretation of a very convoluted form.” It is not a convoluted form. Look for yourself here. In fact, it is just like your income taxes: You file them by April 15 for the prior year ending December 31.
 
Still, I believe Governor McCrory when he says, in effect, that it was incompetence, rather than a conspiracy. But it is breathtaking incompetence. It is hard to fathom how the Governor of North Carolina and his legal counsel misunderstood the form. Or why somebody on the Governor’s staff didn’t foresee the problem.
 
Here’s what former legislative counsel Gerry Cohen says (and remember, he was honored a couple of weeks ago by members of both parties for his reliability and integrity): “How could Bob Stephens have had a misunderstanding that the date of ownership of the stock was as of April 15, 2014, when the 2013 SEI CLEARLY says on the tip of page 2 that the date of stock ownership was to be as of December 31. Was the mistake that he only read page 1? Or missed the penalties provision at the end of the form, which states that it could be a violation of GS 138A-45? I know that the text of 138A-45 tells you that for a constitutional officer, it is malfeasance and punishable under GS 123-5.”
 
The “misstatement” is a small part of the Governor’s problem. As one TAPster noted, he says he sold the stock NOT because it was the right thing to do, but because his “integrity was being challenged” and he wanted to put “this thing to bed.” In other words, it’s about PR, not integrity.
 
Second, as WRAL reported, “McCrory has steadfastly refused to take a position on whether shareholders or customers should pay for it (the coal ash cleanup), saying that decision should be left up to the state Utilities Commission.”
 
That is a dodge. Democrats in the legislature tried to amend the coal ash bill so the Utilities Commission couldn’t let Duke pass the cleanup costs on to ratepayers. Republicans squashed that, and they will answer for it this fall. And Roy Cooper has taken a position exactly opposite of McCrory’s.
 
Finally, away from the cameras, the federal grand jury investigation rolls on. Wait for those blaring, top-of-the-fold headlines.

 

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14

 

Our President praised the President of Iraq and urged Iraq’s new Prime Minister-to-be to bring Iraqis together and ‘form an inclusive new government.’
 
Which sure sounds fine.
 
Except for one hitch.
 
In New York City ‘inclusive’ means bringing together diverse ethnic groups and minorities in homogenized harmony, but in Iraq it means getting your enemy alone in a room where you stick a knife in him.

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14
Well, looking back, it was bound to happen. 
 
First, John Boehner decided to sue Obama for not enforcing the Obamacare laws and most of the House Republicans went along on the theory even if they didn’t like Obamacare the laws are the laws and the President can’t just change one whenever it suits him.
 
Then never one to look a gift horse in the mouth, to turn the tables on Republicans, Obama rolled out a bevy of spokesmen who proclaimed, Boehner’s getting ready to impeach the President, which worked out fine for Obama and brought the Democrats a windfall of cash from agitated Obama supporters.
 
Of course, on the other hand, most people sloughed off the whole brouhaha as just one more example of political foolishness – except for one group of folks who devoutly hoped it was true: The Tea Partiers.
 
To them impeaching Obama sounded just fine. 
 
Next, right in the middle of the impeachment flap, Attorney General Roy Cooper stood up and announced he wasn’t going to lift a finger to fight the federal court ruling that could strike down North Carolina’s gay marriage ban.
 
Amendment One, Cooper said, was kaput.
 
And from there it was inevitable.
 
Impeachment was infectious.
 
So we shouldn’t have been surprised when a State Senator, speaking to his local Tea Party group, announced he wanted to impeach Attorney General Cooper, added the Republican leaders in Raleigh were just the folks to do it, and added the wheels were already in motion.
 
What State Senator Norm Sanderson missed was what struck him – and the Tea Partiers – as a grand idea didn’t look so grand elsewhere; his call to impeach Roy Cooper landed in the News and Observer with a dull, uncomfortable thud and the Senate Republican leadership, sensing a backfire, announced no one, nowhere, no how in the State Senate was planning to impeach Roy Cooper and, suddenly, Senator Sanderson vanished as if he’d been quarantined.

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Carter & Gary
 
Carter Wrenn
 
 
Gary Pearce
 
 
The Charlotte Observer says: “Carter Wrenn and Gary Pearce don’t see eye-to-eye on many issues. But they both love North Carolina and know its politics inside and out.”
 
Carter is a Republican. 
Gary is a Democrat.
 
They met in 1984, during the epic U.S. Senate battle between Jesse Helms and Jim Hunt. Carter worked for Helms and Gary, for Hunt.
 
Years later, they became friends. They even worked together on some nonpolitical clients.
 
They enjoy talking about politics. So they started this blog in 2005. 
 
They’re still talking. And they invite you to join the conversation.
 
 
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