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North Carolina editorial roundup

May 9, 2019

Recent editorials from North Carolina newspapers:

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May 8

The Charlotte Observer on the Carolina Hurricanes:

The Carolina Hurricanes are one playoff series away from the NHL Stanley Cup Finals, and they’re gathering up fans in the Triangle and across North Carolina. Although this seems like a fun thing, it’s apparently not a great thing. At least according to legendary Canadian hockey commentator Don Cherry, who last week dismissed the growing Hurricanes fan base as “front-runners.”

“Front-runners,” if you haven’t figured it out, is Canadian for “bandwagon fans.”

And Don Cherry is Canadian for “get off my lawn.”

OK. Penalty on the editorial board — two minutes for unnecessary roughness. But we don’t care. Ignore the grumpy Canadians, North Carolina. Embrace the bandwagon.

On Thursday, the Hurricanes are in Boston for Game 1 of the NHL’s Eastern Conference finals. Maybe you’ve been following every period of Carolina’s playoff march, or maybe this is your, um, Game 1 of the hockey season. No matter. This is sports. You pick a team. You cheer for a team. There are few things more eye-rolling than longtime fans who notice your jersey hasn’t been in the wash that much. Do we really need purity tests before we start high-fiving each other?

Cherry, as many hockey fans know, has a bit of recent history with the Hurricanes. In February, he criticized the players as a “bunch of jerks” for having the gall to enjoy wins with some inventive and interactive on-ice celebrations. The team smartly responded by making “bunch of jerks” t-shirts that immediately became best-sellers. Now, the phrase has turned into a brand of sorts as Carolina picks up new fans across the state with each series win.

And why not? These Hurricanes are a team everyone can root for — a refreshing change for some North Carolinians, especially in the Triangle, where choosing a sports allegiance between Duke, UNC and NC State is practically a prerequisite for residency. Not this month. The Hurricanes, who had endured the longest NHL playoff drought, are playing hockey as well as any NHL team right now under former player and captain Rod Brind’Amour. And what’s better, North Carolina, than to beat teams from New York and Boston in consecutive series?

That second part hasn’t happened yet, of course. But it could, and a win over Boston would be sweet for fans of the franchise who remember when the Bruins and Hartford Whalers were regional rivals before the latter moved to Raleigh in 1997. But you don’t have to be a longtime fan to invest in the fun. You don’t even have to know what a forecheck is. At its best, sports is a connective tissue, a chance for a bunch of athletes from different places to temporarily bring a community together when so much else pulls us apart. Don’t judge it. Don’t dismiss it, despite what you hear from someone even Canadians think is a loudmouth.

Yep, we said it. Back to the penalty box for us. Come on in, new Hurricane fans. There’s lots of room.

Online:

https://www.charlotteobserver.com/opinion/editorials/article230156974.html

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May 8

The Fayetteville Observer on redistricting:

We were hopeful that this would be the year North Carolina changed the way it does redistricting for congressional and General Assembly seats. After all, we’ve been slapped by the courts so many times we’ve lost count. We hold the dubious title of the state most likely to commit shameless and discriminatory gerrymandering. Our record is so bad that the U.S. Supreme Court, which has long been loathe to meddle in the politics of redistricting, decided to accept a North Carolina case.

Sometime between now and the end of the court’s term in June, we’ll get a ruling. We had hoped, meanwhile, that the prospect of court-ordered change would be sufficient to convince General Assembly leaders that it’s time to change our redistricting system. Whichever party is in the legislative minority here has long supported a move to a more independent redistricting system, insulated from the political pressures that essentially disenfranchise some voters and create districts that fail to provide full and fair representation for all voters. Even Senate leader Phil Berger was a strong voice for reform, when his Republican party was in the minority. He immediately flipped when he took charge of the Senate. So did the Democrats who had resisted change.

But this year, even some Republicans are pushing for reform, at least in the House. Rep. Chuck McGrady, a Henderson County Republican, has filed several redistricting-reform bills. One, which has 66 sponsors, would create an appointed commission to draw legislative maps. Legislators could approve or reject the maps, but couldn’t modify them. Another McGrady bill, with 65 sponsors, would approve a voter referendum to change the state constitution to have legislative staff draw the maps, subject to General Assembly approval.

Two Senate bills would amend the constitution to create appointed redistricting commissions that would have the last word on redrawn maps. That’s a solution that other states have adopted, one that best insulates process from political meddling. In all, there are half a dozen bills that address gerrymandering with significant changes in redistricting procedures.

The government-reform group Common Cause, which has sued the state over its redistricting practices, held a lobbying day Tuesday, pushing lawmakers to act on some of those bills. But so far, House and Senate leaders have kept the reform bills bottled up. They’re not, it appears, inclined to act on them. McGrady told a WRAL reporter that he believes House and Senate leaders are waiting to see how the U.S. Supreme Court rules on the challenges to redistricting in North Carolina and Maryland. During the court’s hearing on the suits last month, several of the conservative justices appeared hostile to the challenges. The court has long held that redistricting is an inherently political process and has refused, as a rule, to intervene. However, last year it let stand a lower court ruling that found one recent General Assembly legislative map to be racially discriminatory. That, along with multiple lower court rulings that struck down blatantly political redistricting efforts, led to some hope that the court would order new, less political, redistricting practices.

It’s also likely that some redistricting cases will end up before the N.C. Supreme Court as well. One way or another, there’s a strong possibility that gerrymandering will have a judicial comeuppance soon. Legislative leaders should be able to see that and let the debate over alternatives begin.

Online:

https://www.fayobserver.com/opinion/20190508/our-view-redistricting-reform-should-happen-this-year

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May 1

The News & Record of Greensboro on Amazon:

Godzilla needs distribution hubs.

As the behemoth seller of practically everything pursues next-day delivery as the norm for its spiraling Amazon Prime customer base, Amazon.com Inc. will need places to store, sort and ship all that stuff.

And that in turn should deliver hundreds of new jobs to the Triad. As BH Media’s Richard Craver reports, Amazon appears to be planning two Triad distribution centers, both in Guilford County.

Under a lease completed on July 26, the first would be located at a Kernersville industrial site and could cover as much as 1 million square feet. The second will be on 16.64 acres in Piedmont Corporate Park. The property, officially leased on April 16, falls within High Point’s city limits but has a Colfax address.

This area’s rail and road networks and Piedmont Triad International Airport probably helped its case. But the Triad also was in the right place at the right time. To ensure light-speed shipping Amazon needs a seamless and efficient chain of regional distribution centers. And this area represented a gap that needed filling. Keith Debbage, a professor of geography and sustainable tourism and hospitality at UNCG, noted a need for Amazon “to plug holes in its national network.”

“North Carolina has a more dispersed urban network relative to other Southern states, which made solving our distribution network more challenging,” Debbage told BH Media.

The Triad Business Park location alone could amount to as much as a $150 million capital investment and could employ as many as 953 people, with expected salaries of between $25,000 and $45,000 a year. But this work isn’t for anyone. The shifts may be as long as 12 hours and require some heavy lifting, as well as stamina. A single workday could involve as many as 12 miles of walking. HQ 2 this isn’t.

Even so, it’s good work, with a future. Though nothing is a given in an economy that often evolves faster than we keep up, with changing technology and consumer habits, Amazon has clout and staying power. Its lease for the Kernersville site is up to 40 years. The lease for the High Point-Colfax site is 10 years, with an option of up to 35 years.

We were similarly encouraged when Publix Super Markets Inc. chose a site in eastern Guilford County for a distribution center in 2018. Built on 350 acres on the edge of Greensboro’s city limits, that 1.8 million-square-foot facility was especially important to the Triad after a disappointing bid for a Toyota-Mazda auto plant fell short. Salaries are expected to average a good but not great $45,000 a year, with good benefits and working conditions.

The upshot of this good news is precious jobs from strong, reputable companies that pay a good living. But in an age of increasing automation, they also call for fewer workers.

If distribution centers are the potatoes, the kind of high-end jobs that are the meat on our economic menu are still fewer and farther between. While a game-changer like Toyota-Mazda eventually could and should choose the Triad, this area can do more to nurture startups and small businesses, especially in innovation and technology.

Don’t get us wrong; we love potatoes. But we wouldn’t mind a little steak to go along with them.

Online:

https://www.thetimesnews.com/opinion/20190507/editorial-nc-must-improve-hurricane-preparation