Four big waste management corporations – three from out of state – want to put waste dumps of the Mount Everest variety in eastern North Carolina. Then they want to haul garbage here from other states. Each of the dumps is near the coast. One is in the middle of a flood plain.
It seems odd that not one leading politician has raised a voice against making North Carolina the home of New York’s garbage. But none had. Until Senator Basnight spoke out. Senator Basnight has sponsored legislation to pass a moratorium to stop the four dumps.
When I read about his proposal in the newspaper, I thought, Well, what politician in his right mind is going to vote against that?
It turns out, for one, Speaker of the House Jim Black is against it.
Speaker Black’s reasoning is unusual. He’s not saying he’s against the Basnight moratorium outright. Instead, he says he’s against it for a ‘technical’ reason. Because Basnight put his ‘moratorium’ in the State Budget as a ‘special provision.’ Speaker Black says there’s no place for ‘special provisions’ in the budget anymore. He told the press:
“You all have promoted sunshine. I’m trying to do things differently around here.”
But, in fact, this isn’t ‘sunshine,’ it’s more of the same old business as usual in the State House.
There are no less than a dozen lobbyists working for the corporations who want to build these dumps. One is Davis Horne, Governor Easley’s campaign treasurer. How much difference is there between Speaker Black’s finance director, Meredith Norris, lobbying for a lottery company and Governor Easley’s treasurer/fundraiser lobbying for a trash dump company that is trying to get state environmental permits?
Even though Black says he’s fighting for ‘sunshine,’ when you think about it he’s the one going along with the lobbyists and Basnight’s the one telling them no.
Here’s a little speculation based on the political scuttlebutt going around the state legislature. One of these dumps is to be built in the tiny hamlet of Navassa in Brunswick County. Navassa has a population of 479 people. 86% of its citizens are African Americans. The town used to be in the District of Representative Thomas Wright – one of the leaders of the Black Caucus in the State House.
According to the scuttlebutt Wright supported Navassa annexing the land to build the dump in Brunswick County over the objections of almost all its neighbors. (10,000 homeowners have formed a coalition opposing the dump and the County Commissioners passed a resolution opposing it.)
Today, the leaders of the Black Caucus in the House are opposing Basnight’s moratorium. And with all the scandals besieging Black, he’s not about to tell a powerful group of House legislators no.
Ronald Reagan once said, “Looking at backstage politics is like looking at civilization with its pants down.” This is backstage politics at its worst. Out-of-state trash companies pick four small, poor, rural North Carolina counties for huge waste dumps. They hire a battalion of lobbyists to grease the skids in Raleigh and wire up the governor, the State House and State Senate. And it worked, except for Marc Basnight.
If Speaker Black really means it when he says he objects to Basnight’s moratorium because it is a ‘special provision’ there is a simple way for him to solve that problem. He can immediately pass the moratorium as a stand-alone bill in the House. Then, he can send the bill to the Senate, where my guess is Marc Basnight will pass it in a heartbeat.
Then the Speaker can join Senator Basnight in saying no to the lobbyists. Which only leaves one question. Where does Governor Easley stand? Is he in favor of a moratorium, or not?
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