North Carolina editorial roundup


Recent editorials from North Carolina newspapers:

Nov. 12

Winston-Salem Journal on the state education-governance system:

Sometimes it's better to be lucky than wise.

North Carolina's convoluted education-governance system just got a significant reform, probably more out of partisan chicanery than policy wisdom.

Gov.-elect Pat McCrory and his Republican allies will control the State Board of Education early in his first term, something that would not have happened for at least four years had it not been for a blatantly partisan move by the 2011 General Assembly.

Of the board's 13 members, 11 serve eight-year terms after being appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Legislature. In 2011, the GOP-led Legislature refused to confirm Gov. Bev Perdue's second group of appointees, thus extending the terms of three members originally appointed by former Gov. Mike Easley. McCrory can replace those three members as soon as he is inaugurated.

Additionally, McCrory can appoint three more members on March 31, giving him six appointees less than three months into office. He will get two more appointments on March 31, 2015. Other changes should give the GOP control of the board.

If Perdue had not been denied members, McCrory would have had to wait until March 31, 2017, in his second term, if he were to win it, before gaining board control.

That would have been ridiculous. We elect a governor, in large part, to be our leader on education and yet McCrory would have gone a full term without having his people control the very board that runs our schools. Given the partisan divide that exists between the departing Democrats and the new administration, that would have been a recipe for educational chaos.

The Legislature may have simply lucked into this major improvement in school governance, but it's a change for the best. Now the Legislature should amend the State Board appointments schedule to assure that all new governors enjoy the same authority in the future, ending the political games that surrounded this process.



Nov. 9

The Reflector of Greenville on state GOP:

Amid the national gains posted by the Democratic Party, North Carolina stood out for its Republican Party, which swept to control of both the legislative and executive branches for the first time since the 19th century. That group, led by Governor-elect Pat McCrory, widened its margins in both chambers of the General Assembly to take a decisive hold on the reins of government.

North Carolina voters grew justifiably tired of the corruption and ineptitude of Democratic leaders, which stand as a looming threat for the GOP as it assumes full control in Raleigh. The problems facing this state are too great to avoid the tough decisions and there will be no patience for the type of scandal, secrecy and iron-fisted rule that previous regimes felt was their entitlement.

Four years ago, Beverly Perdue rode the coattails of President Barack Obama to a slim victory over former Charlotte Mayor McCrory. The ambitious and charismatic Republican seemingly never left the campaign trail, using his loss as a motivation to remain engaged in public issues and traveling across the state to build an impressive and successful organization.

That work paid off election night as McCrory captured the winning margin in 77 of North Carolina's 100 counties, cruising to a win that was never really in doubt. With him came a legion of new Republican lawmakers, building the majorities won in impressive fashion two years earlier. That new class includes two new representatives for Pitt County, Brian Brown in District 9 and Susan Martin in District 8.

Yet, with that victory and control of government comes great responsibility. The state's economy continues to flounder, as much by its inability to restore jobs lost in textiles, manufacturing and agriculture as to the national recession that began in 2007. Rebuilding that foundation will require a great deal of heavy lifting and innovative solutions. It will also necessitate the reform of the state's antiquated tax code.

While Republicans are likely to advance the cause of limited government, there is a great deal of investment desperately needed from the mountains to the coast. Schools, roads, mental health and other social services continue to need funding and have been struggling for years. Even as the new governor and his party's leadership work to reduce the tax burden, they must not turn their backs on those pressing public needs. ...



Nov. 12

The News & Observer of Raleigh on the E. coli outbreak:

For all their allure, in recent years petting zoos at agricultural fairs have caused too much pain and sorrow for too many youngsters and their families in this state. Unless and until there's a completely reliable method of assuring that no young child will contract E. coli-related illnesses at fairs' petting zoos, the operations, popular as they are, should be prohibited.

The latest evidence comes from Cleveland County. As detailed in a report from The Charlotte Observer, a petting zoo at the fair in Shelby has now been determined to be "the focal point" of the E. coli outbreak that took the life of 2-year-old Gage Lefevers of Gastonia and sickened 105 others last month, according to health officials. This despite the fact that the General Assembly, following a horrific E. coli episode traced to a petting zoo at the 2004 State Fair in Raleigh, passed legislation requiring permits for animal-contact facilities at fairs and mandating precautions such as hand-washing stations.

No doubt "Aedin's Law" (named for then-2-year-old Aedin Gray of Carrboro, who survived a life-threatening kidney illness traced to the State Fair petting zoo) was well-meant. But according to the state public health veterinarian, there's no evidence that the 2005 law wasn't followed in Cleveland County.

Officials are still puzzling out what went wrong, but here's a common sense conclusion: In these settings, such close contact between very young children and animals such as sheep and goats — and sometimes, inevitably, their feces (where the illness-causing pathogens lurk) — can lead to serious consequences.

The story quoted a mother as saying "Unless you've been through this, you don't know how serious it is." Given the nature of the illnesses involved, the health risks, with their potentially lifelong consequences, are unacceptable.

Too bad, because children and animals are natural companions and because animal husbandry remains important to North Carolina and its future. So keep alive the great tradition of American agricultural fairs — but bid their petting zoos farewell.


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