Friday, February 27, 2009
Thursday, February 26, 2009
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
New Blood, New Voices
We elected an 18 year old precinct chair, Matt Hughes! A senior at Cedar Ridge High School, Matt is Student Body president and will be attending UNC-CH in the fall. Only minutes after getting elected chair, Matt was already introducing resolutions on issues he cared about: voting rights for residents of US territories, the job responsibilities of the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, and the county's property revaluations. He did a stellar job explaining the issues and defending his position.
It's heartwarming to see a fresh face and new voice entering Democratic Party politics. Every political organization needs new energy to bubble up from the grassroots. It keeps us on the top of our game.
Monday, February 16, 2009
One constituent sent this op-ed to me. It was thought-provoking and worthy of sharing with you all here on my blog. While I don't agree with all of this writer's positions, he makes a very strong case for pausing and reevaluating where we are. And while his arguments focus on the county tax rate, the same points could be made about municipal tax rates which have also risen exponentially.
As I've stated before in this space, I believe the county commissioners should not raise taxes this year. Indeed, we should adopt a revenue neutral rate--that is, lower the tax rate to reflect the increased values people are seeing since the revaluation.
The Orange County Commissioners, in consultation with the two school boards and our own staff, have come up with a list of shovel ready projects that may be appropriate for stimulus funds. But, as Chris points out, there needs are great and their may not be enough money to fund many of these projects. For example, Medicaid needs alone will eat up an enormous portion of the funds the state receives from the federal treasury.
Time will tell how much money we get here on the local level; but it is safe to say our needs far outweigh the available funds.
Saturday, February 14, 2009
Poverty in Appalachia
And until Mexicans started arriving in the early 1990's, there was a black side of town and a white side of town. Segregation, de facto though no longer de jure, hadn't really been wiped out during the Civil Rights era. It simply hunkered down and kept it's mouth shut. Latino immigrants are starting to blur racial lines that have been cemented in for four centuries.
I remember riding past the homes of the poor, wondering what life was like on the inside. Some of them were no more than shacks: tar paper, plywood, rusty tin roofs, occassionally a piece of corrugated tin nailed to the side of a house to cover a hole, smoke billowing from the chimney ("was this their only heat source?").
Poverty in Eastern North Carolina is something we lived with; it simply was. I've heard that if you sliced North Carolina off at I-95, then the eastern counties would be the poorest state in the nation. I believe that.
My memories of those days bubbled up last night and this morning after watching a great piece last night on ABC about poverty in Appalachia. Nothing had prepared me for what Diane Sawyer reported during her hour long 20/20 documentary last night. Much of what I thought I knew about poverty in the South, poverty in America, flew out the window.
I woke up this morning haunted by the images of teeth rotted out by Mountain Dew, drug-addicted mothers, parents walking 8 miles each way every day to study for their GED, the young football star illegally digging coal along the side of the highway so he could keep his family warm, the same star sleeping in his car so he could attend a better high school, the shacks and lack of food, the lack of hope, ever-present drugs and crime.
Sawyer's piece is disturbing. She shows us a side of America we like to think doesn't exist; poverty of the magnitude that could only occur somewhere else--in third world countries, 'over there.' Sawyer reminds us that we have alot of work to do closer to home.
We here in North Carolina need to re-commit to fighting poverty in our portion of Appalachia. While the Sawyer piece focused on the hills of Eastern Kentucky, many of the same stories could be told in western NC. When we drive through the mountains, we see natural beauty. But hidden under that beauty, in the hollers and in the hills, is something ugly and wretched--poverty and hopelessness.
We can do better.