Editorial Roundup: North Carolina

Charlotte Observer. June 15, 2021.

Editorial: Severe flooding is destroying NC towns, ruining lives. These bills would change that

North Carolina is in urgent need of flood prevention legislation. Increasingly, rural communities are bearing the brunt of severe flooding events but lack the resources, funding or capacity to recover from past floods or plan for future ones.

From hurricanes and tropical storms to powerful thunderstorms, extreme weather is becoming more prevalent in the state and subsequently, so is severe flooding.

State legislators need to take action now and consider policy solutions such as the Disaster Relief and Mitigation Act of 2021 and the Flood Resiliency and Prevention Act.

North Carolina needs a flood resilience blueprint that details a proactive approach to mitigation. Flooding demands state investment in effective solutions that leverage federal dollars and support local implementation. Thankfully, North Carolina can build on best practices in other states, such as Louisiana and Iowa.

Residents, businesses, farmers and other landowners have first-hand knowledge of local flooding issues and insights into solutions. Engaging and equipping them is essential, yet too often these communities don’t have access to the funding or technical expertise needed to develop resilience projects. A robust NC Resilient Communities Program will provide support to develop shovel-ready projects and allow N.C. to compete more effectively for federal dollars.

North Carolina must reinvigorate state-level programs and resources designed to fund competitive, private sector mitigation and restoration projects.

The new Natural Infrastructure Flood Mitigation program within the Division of Mitigation Services will use watershed studies to identify local flooding threats and then contract with private restoration companies to more quickly and effectively construct flood reduction projects. It’s a program that can, if funded, put boots on the ground in short order and create much needed jobs.

With another hurricane season upon us, the time to act is now. We urge N.C. legislators to protect our most vulnerable communities by supporting and passing the Disaster Mitigation and Relief Act and the Flood Resiliency and Prevention Act.

NC SURCHARGE ON EVS IS UNFAIR

Drivers of electric vehicles may have felt a bit smug recently as owners of traditional cars scrambled to find fuel during the gas shortage related to the Colonial Pipeline cyberattack.

But sadly, North Carolina is one of the few states that punishes EV ownership rather than incentivize it. All of us who own EVs are undoubtedly surprised when we register our vehicle in North Carolina and have to pay a surcharge of $130 — assessed annually.

Some might argue that EVs don’t contribute to state infrastructure improvements through fuel taxes, which raises the issue of how EV drivers can pay their fair share. But a little math shows a huge discrepancy. My 2013 Nissan Leaf has a range of 80 miles, and no EV owner wants to consistently end trips with less than 15 miles left in the battery. (It’s called “range anxiety.”) So, many EVs are just used for short trips.

From 2016-2020, we drove our EV an average of 5,160 miles annually. Dividing the $130 registration surcharge by those miles equals 2.5 cents per mile. The gas tax on a gallon of fuel is 36.1 cents. Simple division shows that we are paying the same “fuel taxes” as a vehicle that gets 14 miles per gallon. We drive an EV, not an RV!

Some EVs have longer ranges, and driving habits vary. But a one-size-fits-all EV registration surcharge is clearly unfair and unwise.

Other options include taxing electricity that is used to charge EVs, and some states are exploring self-reporting of annual mileage. In North Carolina, where we require annual inspections, reporting the mileage to a centralized system to determine an EV mileage tax would be trivial.

Experimenting with these options would be much better policy to position ourselves for a time when, hopefully, we won’t be so dependent on the Colonial Pipeline.

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Winston-Salem Journal. June 14, 2021.

Editorial: Arts against racism

One might expect “Our Time: A Conversation in Black and White,” a play performed last weekend at the Milton Rhodes Center for the Arts, to generate some discomfort, as artistic endeavors about controversial topics often do. But criticism of the play came from a surprising direction following the opening night’s production.

The play, written and produced by Lynn Felder (a former features editor at the Journal), depicts a fictitious meeting between a Black civil rights activist and a white supporter of the Confederate monument that once stood in downtown Winston-Salem. They argue, snipe, fight and somehow find a way to express a little compassion toward each other.

Oh, if only it were that easy. No doubt the play’s resolution is simplistic. Probably unrealistic.

But local activist groups Hate Out of Winston and Winston-Salem Democratic Socialists of America found even more to dislike. Their leaders claim that the play whitewashes local history about the removal of the Confederate monument, the Journal’s Fran Daniel reported Saturday.

“It’s not that we don’t respect art, but we don’t respect art that promotes white supremacy,” said Miranda Jones, who spoke on behalf of Hate Out of Winston.

The mind boggles. It’s absurd to think that the play promotes white supremacy.

It does promote conversation, which requires listening, even to people who we consider offensive and wrong.

And it promotes kindness.

“The conflict between white supremacists and the community members that rallied against the statue is not a ‘misunderstanding,’ nor is it a conflict that can be resolved by conversation. We reject this framing, as well as any framing that calls on us to ‘just get along.’ The call for mutual understanding with neo-Confederates and their sympathizers is, at best, naïve and, at worst, an attempt to uphold the status quo and distract attention from important efforts,” the activist groups said in a statement.

We agree that, when reaching for justice, more than conversation is required.

But conversation must be the starting point. Starting with condemnation repeats the sin of discrimination.

Some today hesitate to broach sensitive topics like race for fear of embarrassment or unintentional offense — so their questions remain unanswered and distortions grow.

That’s all the more reason Felder should be praised — for her courage in presenting a dialogue and for her empathy, finding the humanity of each character in the play — the humanity that exists in each of us.

Jones said that Felder didn’t reach out to activists who worked to bring the statue down.

The removal of the statue was a major accomplishment for its prime mover, Hate Out of Winston, and a gift to our city. We’re grateful for the organization’s leadership.

But though she may not have placed a call to Hate Out of Winston, Felder did speak to faith leaders, various Black artists and leaders of cultural art organizations, including Triad Cultural Arts and Delta Arts Center.

“To develop dialogue, I interviewed both liberals and conservatives, both Black and white,” Felder told the Journal.

The sad fact is that many who want to find resolutions to racial injustice are going to have to do so without the benefit of Hate Out of Winston’s guidance. This one organization can’t be the gatekeeper for every conversation.

In response to the criticism, Felder said: “I am in awe of the hard and important work that Hate Out of Winston is doing in the community. I wish I had reached out to them to talk about the play. I am trying to educate myself and to put myself in the service of justice, peace, equality and equity. I want to know what I can do to further the cause of getting the Hate Out of Winston.”

That’s a very gracious response, and one that we hope will lead to further discussion.

The Arts Council leadership should also be commended for confronting racial issues through its support of this play and its support of exhibits like “When the Revolution Comes” and “Black Culture Pop-Up Museum,” which open on Thursday at the Milton Rhodes Center for the Arts.

As legislators across the nation seek to make it illegal to teach some concepts that are essential to our racial dialogue, we count on our artists, our intellectuals and our local civil rights organizations to promote the conversation.

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