Editorial Roundup: North Carolina

Charlotte Observer. Oct. 25, 2021.

Editorial: New, troubling questions about Madison Cawthorn and Jan. 6

Followers of former President Donald Trump have found one conspiracy theory they don’t like: That some Republican members of Congress may have had deeper roles in plans and events that led to the storming of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

One reason they don’t like it is that — unlike the bizarre theories of QAnon, the baseless notions of rampant voter fraud and suspicions about COVID vaccines — the concern that members of Congress may have had a hand in efforts to overturn the election appears to be backed by evidence.

Rolling Stone reported on Sunday that two organizers of the Jan. 6 protests have told congressional investigators that “multiple members of Congress were intimately involved in planning both Trump’s efforts to overturn his election loss and the Jan. 6 events that turned violent.”

Rolling Stone said the organizers, speaking anonymously, named seven Republican members of Congress who joined, either directly or through their staffers, in the effort to overturn the election. Republican North Carolina Rep. Madison Cawthorn was among those named.

Cawthorn spokesman Luke Ball dismissed the report on Monday, saying, “These anonymous accusations are complete garbage. Neither the congressman nor his staff had advance knowledge of what transpired at the Capitol on January 6th or participated in any alleged ‘planning process.’”

That Cawthorn was named is hardly a surprise. He spoke at the Jan. 6 rally near the White House where he said, “The Democrats, with all the fraud they have done in this election, the Republicans, hiding and not fighting, they are trying to silence your voice.”

Since then, Cawthorn has suggested that another contested election may require taking up arms. “When tyranny becomes law, rebellion becomes your duty,” he told a Republican group.

Cawthorn’s remarks are not the only embarrassment for North Carolina. The Rolling Stone report also suggests deep involvement in the Jan. 6 events by White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, a former Republican congressman who preceded Cawthorn in North Carolina’s 11th District. And then there is the shameless behavior of Republican members of the state’s congressional delegation, who opposed formation of the select committee investigating the Jan. 6 events.

Republican links to the Capitol attack are not limited to Republicans in Washington. ProPublica reported last week that at least two Republican members of the North Carolina General Assembly are members of the Oath Keepers, a militant group whose members were among the instigators of the Jan. 6 violence. Meanwhile, WRAL reported that Gaston County Republican Donnie Loftis — the Republicans’ choice to replace the late state Rep. Dana Bumgardner — joined the “Stop the Steal Rally” outside the Capitol on Jan. 6. He was close enough that he “got gassed three times,” according to what WRAL said is a since-deleted Loftis Facebook post.

Anyone who truly cares about democracy knows it is threatened by the authoritarian instincts of Trump and his followers, and by Republicans who are too timid to stand against that threat. Elected officials like Cawthorn are not simply zealots or cranks. They are the start of what could become an anti-democratic wave that would have a white and wealthy minority preside over the nation against the popular will.

The Rolling Stone report adds new urgency to the work of the House select committee investigating who and what drove the events of Jan. 6, and what must be done to end the smoldering danger to our democracy.

Even one of the organizers of the Jan. 6 rally now realizes that urgency. They told Rolling Stone: “The reason I’m talking to the committee and the reason it’s so important is that — despite Republicans refusing to participate … this commission’s all we got as far as being able to uncover the truth about what happened at the Capitol that day. It’s clear that a lot of bad actors set out to cause chaos.”

Now the committee must uncover who those bad actors are — and how many of them are from North Carolina.

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Winston-Salem Journal. Oct. 23, 2021.

Editorial: Grassroots action deserves support

The violence that has affected youth in some of the forgotten corners of our city, much of it exacerbated by easy access to firearms, has not affected most of us in a personal way.

We read about it and it sounds like something from a cable TV drama set in Baltimore.

But for the people who experience it, it’s real and it’s tragic. Lives lost to gun violence are adjacent to lives lost to poverty, to a dearth of opportunity and hope, to a scarcity of family stability and community resources to promote better ways of living.

Those factors have contributed to the 29 homicides that have occurred in Winston-Salem so far this year, many of the victims young men under 40.

Like 35-year-old Te’Ore Eugene Terry, shot on Feb. 14.

And Jaheim Davis, 18, who was killed in July.

And 15-year-old William Miller Jr., the Mount Tabor High School student who was fatally shot on Sept. 1.

These deaths leave further victims in their wake, including their parents, who mourn for the rest of their lives, and other children who must live with the dread that they may be next.

Schools can only do so much. Police can only do so much.

Newspaper editorials can do even less.

But the people who live there and are willing — the community leaders, the teachers and coaches, the mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters — they can do something. They might just save their communities.

And their chances grow if the rest of us offer them support.

A rally organized last Sunday at Blum Park by the Women’s Gun Violence Prevention Coalition showcased a handful of community leaders and organizations that are stepping up to put “boots on the ground” in an effort to reach young people and direct them away from violence.

Participants included representatives of Lit City, a youth development initiative, and other organizations such as Authoring Action, Action 4 Equity, New Life/Nueva Vida, Enough is Enough and 10,000 Fearless of Winston-Salem.

Tricia McManus, the superintendent of Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools, was there also, as well as Forsyth County Commissioner Fleming El-Amin, both prepared to listen, learn and act.

They’re just a few of those who are working on solutions and who are also asking Winston-Salem and Forsyth County to boost their support in the form of grant money.

Forsyth County now has access to $56 million from the American Rescue Plan Act, part of the $350 billion doled out earlier this year at the height of the pandemic, but not yet spent. It’s “once-in-a-generation” money intended to help us recover from the worst economic effects of the pandemic.

There’s a firm case to be made that the pandemic has contributed to increased violence, domestic and other forms, in our community. Considering the fear and uncertainty associated with COVID, accompanied by the loss of some economic opportunities, that shouldn’t be surprising.

Many of the groups that are applying for grant money to assist their efforts have not only experience and expertise, but the trust of the community. They’ve just been short on funds.

“Our anchor institutions are very important, but the grassroots groups have programs but don’t have the resources or capacity to do the work to make an impact,” Nakida McDaniel with the Women’s Gun Violence Prevention Coalition told the Journal’s Lisa O’Donnell last week. “They can make change but not an impact. That’s why it’s important to have them involved. They resonate with people on the ground. And they’re the ones who can turn it around. We have to figure out a way for people who do this work to get funded and paid.”

“Young boys are dying. You got the numbers. Give us the tools,” David Villada, the founder and director of nonprofit New Life/Nueva Vida, told county commissioners earlier this month.

Many of these groups have been active for years, mentoring young people, providing them with recreational activities and educational resources as well as food and clothing. But those resources are limited.

And the needs are many — these organizations will be competing with plenty of others for access to the ARPA funds.

It’s important for commissioners to vet the organizations, to verify their capabilities and effectiveness.

But it’s hard to imagine a more worthy cause than saving the lives we know will be lost if someone doesn’t intervene. Organizations that can save children from lives of violence and destitution deserve our support.

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Greensboro News & Record. Oct. 24, 2021.

Editorial: The city’s COVID policy stops at Tanger’s steps

Effective Nov. 1, city of Greensboro employees either will have to be vaccinated against COVID infection or submit to weekly COVID tests.

Also, even if a worker has been vaccinated, he or she will also be required to be tested if that person has had “a close exposure” or is “experiencing symptoms,” the city announced last week in a news release.

“The City of Greensboro has a duty to provide and maintain a workplace that is free of known hazards for our employees,” city Human Resources Director Jamiah Waterman said in the release. “This policy is to help protect the health of our employees and the community at large.”

Yeah, but ...

Apparently the city walks that talk only so far as the front steps of the Steven Tanger Center for the Performing Arts.

The Tanger, which the city jointly paid for with private donors and now operates, allows individual acts to determine whether tests or vaccinations will be required for entry.

The venue does, however, require that audiences wear masks during performances, as ordered by the Guilford County Board of Health. But judging from reports from a number of patrons, that rule is not enforced strictly.

Some patrons say they have sold their tickets to the Tanger’s first touring Broadway show, “Wicked” (which does not require vaccinations or tests), rather than risk their health.

Others say they have been disappointed when fellow audience members remove their masks and, in some cases, keep them off even after being reminded to put them on by Tanger staff.

In an Oct. 17 column in the News & Record, a Tanger patron noted his concern when nearby audience members removed their masks, not only for himself and his wife, but for their 8-year-old daughter. “Although my wife and I are both fully vaccinated against COVID, my daughter has not yet had the opportunity to be,” UNCG professor Wayne Journell wrote.

Meanwhile, the City Council, whose meetings are now open to limited public audiences — provided they wear masks — has said little about the Tanger issue. The city and the Tanger’s management appear to be keeping their heads low, hoping to ride out this issue rather than make a fuss about it.

In other words, the city seems more willing to weather criticism from patrons who are concerned about COVID threats than to hear from the possibly more vocal ones who are defying the rules. And there are more than a few. By late September the county had received more than 300 complaints about mask violations, most in big-box stores and grocery stores.

City leaders also are doubtlessly aware of the fervor anti-mask, anti-vaccination and anti-critical race theory forces have displayed in private businesses and at school board meetings throughout the country.

At Tuesday’s Guilford County Board of Education meeting, Chairwoman Deena Hayes-Greene spoke of a threatening letter, mailed to her home, that warned her “that American patriots are watching you” that “they have many boots on the ground and for me to be smart and wise.”

Hayes-Greene, by the way, is no stranger to tense school board meetings about redistricting and other hotly contested issues. “But there is something that is going on that is terribly concerning right now,” she said.

So, it’s understandable that the Tanger staff would prefer to avoid delays and disruptions that could result from stricter enforcement.

But this is a public health issue, and the Tanger could have avoided all of this at the outset by simply requiring vaccinations or recent tests for all attendees, as the Carolina Theatre in Greensboro, the Durham Performing Arts Center and even N.C. A&T at its home football games already have done for many thousands.

That said, make no mistake, we should welcome the new vaccine policy for city workers. It is both prudent and fair.

Like everything that’s COVID-related, such mandates are not without controversies of their own.

In Raleigh, 53 police officers, 48 firefighters and 17 other city employees plan to fight that city’s requirement in court. In Charlotte, police and firefighters have co-signed a letter protesting such a policy.

But as there are (once again) glimmers of fairer skies on the COVID horizon, the city is right to be safe rather than sorry.

Even as it nods and winks at the big fat asterisk it has attached to the Tanger Center.

END