North Carolina editorial roundup
Recent editorials from North Carolina newspapers:
The Fayetteville Observer on expanding Medicaid:
After North Carolina lawmakers were sworn in for a new two-year term Jan. 9, their leaders had some unusually conciliatory words to share with House and Senate members.
Senate leader Phil Berger said he’s “hopeful now that we can put political battles behind us and find common ground in advancing our shared interest in helping North Carolina continue to grow and prosper.” Berger, who has successfully stomped and bulldozed Democrats since Republicans took over the General Assembly in the 2010 election, acknowledged that he no longer has a veto-proof majority and needs Democrats’ votes to get things done. “I, for one, extend a hand to legislative Democrats and to Governor Cooper,” he said. “Let’s work together in good faith and let’s find those places where sometimes-elusive common ground exists.”
Speaker Tim Moore was singing from the same hymnal ...
Amazing the difference an election can make. Unfortunately, all the lawmakers went home after the speeches and won’t return until the end of this month ... We’ll have to wait until then to see if Berger and Moore were serious and if members of both parties will heed their advice. ...
There are plenty of places where a new spirit of bipartisanship and cooperation can pay dividends ...
But perhaps the most important gain of all would be the expansion of the state’s Medicaid system to offer health care coverage to the “working poor.” That was one of the foundational pieces of the Affordable Care Act, but the Republican majority refused to consider it, despite the fact that it would cost the state somewhere between little and nothing. Most of the funding will come from Washington, although the state runs the program.
There was legitimate reason for caution about expansion in the first couple of years after Obamacare became law. Our Medicaid system was a shambles, plagued by jaw-dropping budget overruns that erupted annually. But some good management and program changes have brought order to that chaos and the program has been on an even keel for several years now. It could easily be expanded to cover some of this state’s neediest residents, which would bring billions of federal dollars into the state, shore up the finances of our health care providers and help them expand, and stop the financial drain on our hospitals, which must treat uninsured patients anyway and often have to absorb the cost.
Winston-Salem Journal on the 9th District race where the results haven’t been certified and an absentee ballot fraud investigation continues:
The 116th U.S. Congress is well under way, but a bit short-handed, thanks to the vacant seat that represents North Carolina’s 9th House District. That’s because of election irregularities — and ensuing complications — that prevented our state’s elections board from certifying the results. The situation is so bad that the U.S. House of Representatives is poised to get involved.
Our inability to settle the matter ourselves is a bad look for North Carolina.
To recap: Immediately following the election, which found Republican Mark Harris, a native of Winston-Salem, ahead of Democrat Dan McCready by 905 votes, the nine members of the state Board of Elections — four Democrats, four Republicans and one unaffiliated voter — voted unanimously against certifying the election results because of what it called “numerous irregularities” and “concerted fraudulent activities” involving traditional mail-in absentee ballots cast in Bladen and Robeson counties. Numerous claims arose that Leslie McCrae Dowless, a consultant working on behalf of Republican Mark Harris’s campaign, coordinated an effort to illegally collect (and, perhaps, destroy) absentee ballots.
Harris claims to have no knowledge of any wrongdoing on Dowless’ part.
The story then took more twists and turns.
The elections board intended to investigate further, but was dissolved on Dec. 28 by state judges who declared its makeup unconstitutional. Gov. Roy Cooper tried to establish a temporary elections board to investigate matters, but Republicans declined to appoint GOP members.
Harris filed a lawsuit, claiming that since the disbanded elections board was unconstitutional, its investigation into the alleged ballot fraud was invalid and he should be declared the winner.
But even if the court did so, Democratic leaders in the U.S. House have said they won’t allow Harris to take office because of the ongoing investigation. And last week, the head of the House Administration Committee sent a letter to N.C. elections officials asking them to preserve all original notes, recordings or documents used in investigating the allegations of ballot fraud.
As if all this weren’t enough, we’ve learned that the state elections board alerted the U.S. Justice Department to suspected efforts to manipulate elections results through absentee ballots back in 2016. It’s unclear how the Justice Department responded. But this shows that the alleged corruption reaches further than one man in one election.
This is a nasty vine that needs to be rooted out.
It also shouldn’t be forgotten that Republicans have enthusiastically pushed their unsubstantiated myth of rampant voter fraud at the polls — though they were less enthusiastic when evidence of election fraud by absentee ballot surfaced.
All of these shenanigans weaken the public’s faith in our elections — which some operatives may find politically useful, but do our state a distinct disservice.
In light of the substantial allegations and the political maneuvering, the best idea put forth has been for the revived elections board — it’s expected to begin on Jan. 31 — to order a new election. Both Democrats and Republicans have expressed their support — though Democrats are opposed to running a new primary, which would give Republicans an opportunity to nominate a candidate without Harris’ obvious baggage.
Either way, sometimes nothing works as well as a do-over. A new election, before the U.S. House takes matters into its hands, seems to be the best solution so far to this mishmash of corruption and confusion.
The Charlotte Observer on the removal of the remnants of a Confederate statue at University of North Carolina’s flagship school:
Carol Folt did some toppling of her own Monday. In a burst of surprising leadership, the UNC-Chapel Hill chancellor ordered the pedestal that once held Silent Sam to be removed from its campus spot. She also stepped down before the UNC Board of Governors could wave goodbye first.
It was an act of defiance that many on campus feel was overdue from Folt. It also was a departure that leaves UNC without a Chapel Hill chancellor or permanent system president, and with a board of governors that made life difficult for each.
Perhaps most of all, Folt’s decision was an acknowledgment of what we’ve long known about the Silent Sam controversy: There is likely no middle ground. Folt had tried to craft a compromise location for Sam, but as many have long understood about civil rights — and simply what is right — there is little room for compromising. There is only declaring what side you come down on.
The protesters who toppled Silent Sam back in August knew that. In a way, Folt’s decision Monday was similar to their act of civil disobedience. She knows her bosses on the conservative Board of Governors want Silent Sam to stand again, but she decided that that not only would be untenable on any campus she leads, but wrong for UNC even when she’s gone.
As with any form of disobedience, however, there is a price. Folt decided to pay it in advance.
That leaves UNC at a critical moment, without a permanent system president or chancellor on its flagship campus. Both Folt and Margaret Spellings, who announced in October she was resigned as UNC president, were capable administrators, but both spent too much time parrying a politicized board that was unable to stick to traditional board roles such as strategy and financial oversight. Will that same board be able to recruit dynamic leaders who can restore the once-spotless reputation that made UNC the envy of other state systems? Does the board even want that type of leader?
We’ll likely see clues in the coming days. If board members insist on finding a place on campus for Silent Sam — against the wishes of students, faculty, trustees and a now lame-duck chancellor — we will know they continue to value micromanaging and disruptive politics over stable leadership and system health. Prospective chancellors and presidents will know the same.
We’re not encouraged by the board’s response Monday — a statement saying Folt’s unauthorized decision on the pedestal “undermines and insults the Board’s goal to operate with class and dignity.” That’s often the first line of defense for the status quo — that if people go about asking for change the appropriate way, maybe it will come. But too often, change needs more of a nudge.
On Monday, Folt decided she would deliver that to the Board of Governors. Maybe she resigned because she knew she was going to be fired for her decision. Maybe she waited to make that decision until she was ready to resign. That they came together, however, is a sign she knew the career implications of taking such a stand. It was the right declaration for Carol Folt to make, but it’s a bad sign indeed for UNC.