Leading from the Left

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Rep. Jackson Speaks Out

On Monday evening I logged into the audio stream from the NC State House. I wanted to listen to the debate about the school bullying bill, a bill I'd followed for nearly 3 years, and a bill I knew would go a long way towards protecting gay and lesbian students in our public classrooms. I went online knowing I'd hear some things from from the right wing that would be appalling and, yes, hurtful.

But what I didn't expect to hear was a freshmen legislator speak passionately and brilliantly about love. Rep. Darren Jackson (D-Wake), who was sworn in only weeks ago to fill a vacancy, spoke about bullying, about hate, about unfairness and about pain. And what came through, what came from his heart, went far beyond that. I won't try to paraphrase his remarks here; you can read them for yourselves. But it was as fine a speech as I've ever heard on the floor of the NC General Assembly. It brought a tear to my eye then and did again today when I read it in the Independent, reprinted in its entirety.

Rep. Jackson is a great example of the kind of leader we need more of in the NC General Assembly. Wake County is lucky to have him.

UNC Hospital Expansion

There is a good article in this week's News of Orange about the possible construction of new UNC-affiliated hospital in Hillsborough. From an economic development standpoint, and from the standpoint of meeting the healthcare needs of residents of central Orange County, this is an very exciting possibility.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Being Against Marriage Equality: Bad for NC Economy

This article highlights the potential losses to NC's economy because we're an anti-equality state.

You've probably heard before about the specific economic losses for local businesses when gay couples wed in New England. Caterers, hoteliers, florists, wedding planners and so forth are all denied lucrative business when couples leave our state to exchange their vows in a state that welcomes them.

While that's part, a significant part of our ecomonic loss, there is more. I'm referring to the lost opportunities when our state's best educated and most highly skilled workers--like the former Raleigh residents in this article--move to other, pro-equality states. Leaving NC creates a loss for our economy, a brain drain, all because a class of people are treated with respect in one region of the country but not here in our own state.

Equal marriage isn't just about marriage for gays and lesbians. Equality is about preserving the diversity that makes our local economy vibrant and strong.

The Case for Reform

If this article doesn't make you believe our prison system is in need of reform, you have no soul. No one deserves to be treated the way this man was. Regardless of any real or alledged malevolent action on his part, he did not deserve to be beaten like a dog by state employees.

Governor Perdue should demand the resignation the prison guards who were on duty at the time and their supervisors. It's clear the facts are being covered up. We should not stand aside and ignore a cover up and/or the violence inflicted by state employees upon a resident of North Carolina--even a resident in prison.

She also should fire Alvin Keller, NC's Secretary of Corrections. He suggests that the prisoner may have injured himself in a fall. For Pete's Sake. That defies reason. An individual in Mr. Keller's position should be seeking the truth in this matter, not making suggestions that defy common sense. The Governor should take action and do so now.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Six Down, 44 to Go

New Hampshire today became the 6th state to legalize marriage equality. Hats off to the Granite State where they lived up to their motto: "Live Free or Die."

Commissioners Postpone Action on Global Warming

Last night the Orange County Board of Commissioners had an opportunity to prohibit new drive thru windows. Why would we be interested in banning drive thru windows? Many folks view them as a necessary convenience of early 21st century life.

There are two reasons to consider prohibiting them (an action, by the way, that Carrboro took over a decade ago). First, we talk a good game about walkability; the county's new comprehensive plan calls for building a more walkable, pedestrian-friendly community. Yet,our planning regulations all too often create the exact opposite. Drive thru windows, by any reasonable definition, do not promote the pedestrian-friendly development our comprehensive plan calls for.

But the even more important reason to prohibit drive-thru windows is to reduce air pollution and to take our community's first steps towards addressing a global warming. When we're campaigning, we local elected officials make all sorts of promises about the need to address global warming and how we'll do our part. But for the most part the rhetoric hasn't been followed up with action.

Here's a fact I stumbled across when doing some research in the subject of idling cars. When a car idles for an hour, it emits nearly 4 lbs of CO2. Of course, we don't idle our cars for an hour at any one time. But add up how many cars are idling in line at a fastfood restaurant the next time you drive past or at the bank. It all adds up, my friends, and it adds up quickly.

Prohibiting new drive thrue windows (existing ones are grandfathered in and will not be closed down) would be one small but important step toward reducing our contribution to global warming.

Unfortunately, the motion to ban them failed at last night's County Commisioner meeting on a 3-4 vote. Bernadette Pellisier, Alice Gordon and I all voted for the ordinance. After the vote failed, Commissioner Jacobs moved to discuss the matter again in the fall and requested additional information. He may eventually vote for a ban, so the battle is not yet lost.

I fully realize that prohibiting new drive-thru windows will be controversial with many of our constituents. And it may not be a politically easy step to take. But if we are serious about addressing global warming, if our campaign rhetoric means anything, then act we must. Agreed, this is small step that will have only an incremental effect. But it would be a start.

Let's get started and stop talking.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Me: Choir; Krugman: Preaching

Here's the latest insightful analysis from Paul Krugman. Well worth a read.

At last folks are starting to examine the genesis of this economic crisis. Until we understand when and where it all started to go wrong--that is, at what point the US started to dismantle safe-guards put in place in the Great Depression, safe-guards designed to protect our economy--we'll not be able to make informed decisions to get ourselves out of this mess.