Recent editorials from North Carolina newspapers:
The Charlotte Observer on candidates inciting fear:
It would be refreshing to hear these words come from the lips of one of the candidates vying to become Charlotte’s next mayor, or any of the city’s leaders:
“No one truly knows why the crime rate falls when it does or why it rises. The country’s best researchers and criminologists did not forecast the decades-long drop in crime we’ve experienced since the 1990s. In fact, some argued crime would only worsen and alluded to an army of ‘super predator’ teen criminals who would multiply and make our streets virtual warzones. The experts don’t know why the opposite happened. They can’t say if a recent uptick in crime in some major cities is the end of that trend or a blip in an otherwise historic trend that has led to one of the safest periods in American history. The best we can do is keep hard after determined criminals; deter as many would-be criminals as possible; keep trying to understand the complex set of factors that leads to someone deciding to break the law; implement policies we have reason to believe might work; ditch ones that don’t show promise after they’ve been given adequate time to be implemented and tested; and make sure the police are fully supported — but also fully held accountable when they step over the line.”
Instead, we are treated, once again, to the age-old political game of empty rhetoric designed not to rationally face a complex issue, but to gin up fear and win the votes of the afraid. True leaders inspire us to become our best selves, not to cowardly follow the person who sounds toughest because they are willing to sound off on simple solutions that have little chance to improve things.
Kenny Smith’s ad shouting “crime is out of control” in Charlotte doesn’t help, because crime is not out of control, even though a recent rise must be tackled head on and not ignored — but tackled rationally, not rashly. Neither does jockeying by the mayor and City Council members about who really supports the police and who doesn’t. A police officer’s declaration that CMPD officers act tentatively for fear of criticism (the “Ferguson effect”) has only further muddied the waters.
Crime, particularly the violent variety, has long been used to manipulate the public’s feelings. When that manipulation has been most effective, it has led to policies that have created more problems than they have solved. That’s what happened in the ’90s with the doubling-down on the war on drugs and bipartisan implementation of mandatory minimum sentencing that helped explode the prison population and harmed the most vulnerable families. It also led to an extra financial burden on taxpayers whose wages were barely keeping pace with inflation. Only in recent years have states, many in the South, rethought those policies because they were busting budgets.
We need clear-headed thinking on an issue as serious as violent crime. Charlotte leaders, you can do better. For the sake of us all, you must.
Asheville Citizen-Times on safe child care:
Safe and affordable child care will remain out of reach for many until we consider such care to be an entitlement and support it on that basis.
The vacancy rate at licensed care centers in Buncombe County hovers around 1 percent and the wait for infants can be three months to a year. That leaves many mothers the options of quitting work and using an unregulated care center.
As the county’s population grows, the availability of licensed care has decreased. The number of licensed in-home providers has fallen from 51 to 26 since January 2005. At the same time, the number of care centers has fallen from 126 to 108.
One factor is economic pressure, especially on the smaller in-home centers. “While families pay a lot of money for child care, providing child care is also expensive,” said Susan Perry-Manning of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. “It’s a volatile business market; it’s really hard to make your business work financially.”
A bigger issue, many operators say, is overregulation. They fear the new licensing requirements, such as additional training and more thorough home inspections, threaten their right to privacy and will be expensive and challenging to implement.
“Day cares are dropping like flies, and it is only going to get worse,” Kathy Tolar, who runs Kathy’s Kiddie Land in Swannanoa, told operators who had gathered to discuss their problems. “The main thing is if we don’t have a resolution to the situation, child care homes will not open.
“Parents will be unable to work for a lack of child care, which will cause a major impact on the economy, and illegal day care will be in abundance with no state supervision,” she said.
Home child care providers struggle to stay in business
A particular irritant is new requirements that all of a home used for child care, even areas where the children do not go, be inspected. “It’s an invasion of privacy and it’s a violation of Fourth Amendment rights,” said Tolar. “We have a business in our homes, but at the end of the day, it is still our home.”
We can understand her frustration. On the other hand, the use of other areas in an in-home center could affect the children. Inspectors once discovered a provider operating a meth lab in the basement, Perry-Manning said. In another case, a family had a downstairs club that served alcohol to adults.
Regulations should be examined on a regular basis, and those that are needlessly excessive should be rolled back. Another issue is zoning rules that unfairly restrict centers, especially in-home centers. But safety must be foremost, and if that drives up costs, so be it.
There is, however, a larger problem. Care costs from $100 to $1,000 a week, which already puts it beyond the means of many people. We are deluding ourselves if we pretend that many children are not either housed in unlicensed centers or left alone. As the shortage of licensed centers worsens, so will this neglect.
Once upon a time, wives stayed home with their children. If they had to work, other relatives were available to provide care. Today, with most wives working because they must and families scattered around the land, child care is a necessity.
“For us to keep a good system of family day care homes, we may need to rethink the way we support the work that they do,” said Sheila Hoyle, executive director of Southwestern Child Development Commission. “We want to offer as many options for parents as we can.”
The goal must be safe and affordable care for all children. We owe them no less.
The News & Observer of Raleigh on Gov. Roy Cooper seeking early elections:
Gov. Roy Cooper is taking it to the General Assembly when it comes to insisting on an early election using new legislative district maps that will pass muster with courts as constitutionally proper.
That’s more than can be said for current maps that have been rejected by the courts, including to some degree by the U.S. Supreme Court, which saw unconstitutional racial gerrymandering in the maps. But Republican legislative leaders, who made a partisan hash of drawing district lines after the 2010 census — using racial gerrymanders that packed African-American voters into a few districts and thus strengthened Republican control in others — want to delay things as long as they can. That’s outrageous. If more elections are held with districts that are unconstitutional, that would be an affront to democracy itself.
The battle over districts has dragged on for too long as Republican legislative leaders don’t want to admit they drew maps with all the skill of a kindergarten class finger painting, though with less common sense and with hard partisan objectives.
Pat McCrory, the weak Republican governor whom Cooper dispatched after one ineffective term, didn’t stand in the way of lawmakers, of course.
But Cooper, a former lawmaker and a politician of skill, has put GOP lawmakers right where they belong: on the spot.
The governor is in effect taking his case to the people and saying to the GOP majority on Jones Street: OK, the courts say you’re wrong. Do you simply intend to ignore the separation of powers and to thumb your nose at the courts?
Republican lawmakers have it in their power to draw new districts and to do it quickly, though perhaps not with the partisan advantage they created for themselves with the districts rejected by the courts. That said, some partisanship is expected in redistricting, so they likely could easily retain an advantage even with districts that were more fair, and sensible.
Alas, that’s not good enough. Apparently, Republicans aren’t really all that confident about their performance in the eyes of the public since the GOP took control of the legislature in 2011. Because, after all, they seem unable to draw districts that would produce a fair fight; they want the fix to be in.
It’s true, of course, that when Democrats were in charge they loved to give themselves an advantage in drawing districts. That wasn’t right, but they didn’t do this partisan poison-pill operation to the extreme the Republicans have done it.
Cooper’s pretty clear as to how best to settle the dispute: Let’s have decent lines, and then let’s allow the people to make the final decision. There is no viable GOP answer for that, not that logic will stop the Republican leadership.