Recent editorials from North Carolina newspapers:
Fayetteville (North Carolina) Observer on state voting districts:
In district after district, from Congress to the General Assembly, many North Carolina voters will have little choice this fall. With districts carved out to be noncompetitive, incumbents face few challenges. The system doesn't ensure the integrity of the democratic process, though it does perpetuate the party in power.
"In free governments, the rulers are the servants and the people their superiors and sovereigns," Benjamin Franklin observed. But when each district is predetermined to follow a particular political course, it prevents true representation. When incumbents know they won't be held accountable, thanks to safe districts, it undermines the ability of We the People to hire and fire at our pleasure.
North Carolina is hardly the only place where gerrymandering is a problem. Florida voters were so fed up with it that they used their power of ballot amendments, something North Carolina voters don't have, to include a "Fair Districts" measure in the state constitution in 2010. On Thursday, a judge ruled that the Florida Legislature had ignored this law in creating the state's congressional map and two districts that demonstrated the most egregious appearance of gerrymandering are illegal. The ruling is shaking up the political scene in the Sunshine State, with fall races in doubt. The result could be chaotic.
There's an ongoing court challenge to the validity of North Carolina's district maps as well. In the absence of a similar rule banning the role of politics in creating districts, its success is hard to predict.
Legislators have several times recognized the mischief inherent in the state's redistricting process and pushed for reforms.
A bipartisan bill proposed last year could have embraced fairness for future redistricting. Rep. Paul Stam, a Wake County Republican, spearheaded the Nonpartisan Redistricting Process Bill, along with a group of sponsors from both sides of the aisle, including Rep. Rick Glazier, a Fayetteville Democrat. The measure passed the House on a first reading, but was then sent to committee where it seems to have died.
Given the mess being created by the court ruling in Florida, next year's legislative session would be a good time for lawmakers to make another attempt at bipartisan and fair districting reforms. Better it come from them soon than the courts later.
Winston-Salem (North Carolina) Journal on program for prisoners:
One day, most inmates will be released. The problem that's long plagued society is how to blend punishment with rehabilitation, to prepare the prisoners for productive lives on the outside - and break the cycle of many of them committing more crimes upon release and returning to prison.
One program that's putting a dent in the problem is Community Resource Councils, which, as The Asheville Citizen-Times recently reported, "work in partnership with prisons across North Carolina, not only to make inmates' daily existence behind bars more palatable, but to help equip them with tools to succeed when they are released into society."
We have similar programs in our area and we need more of them. As the story made clear, this is work that is both practical and right. Practical in the sense that it recognizes the huge cost of recidivism, both in terms of crime, prison costs and society supporting the families of many inmates; and humane in the sense of recognizing that as wrong as their crimes were, many of these criminals have something good down deep if the right volunteer could only bring it out.
These volunteers look at the big picture in serving inmates through educational programming, cultural opportunities, life-skills training, intellectual stimulation and simply connecting them with people from the outside world.
Craggy Superintendent Rick Terry said: "The members are very proactive and provide something to both the inmate population — which we are unable to — and also to my staff. While 'doing time' is hard on everyone involved, it's always good to see community members give of themselves and their time in the attempt to help our community."
Approximately 95 percent of Craggy's inmates will eventually be released at some point, he told the Asheville paper, and "the CRC members, with their programs, allow those inmates to see a different type of person who is willing to give of themselves for the betterment of all . Hopefully, this will assist them in their search for a better way of life," he said, "and help stop the return to prison."
More of these programs are needed. For all the right reasons.
News and Observer, Raleigh, North Carolina, on Obama leading to recovery:
President Barack Obama's political opponents doubtless won't take "yes" for an answer or acknowledge that his stewardship of the economy has been on track, but the June job figures are promising indeed. Some 288,000 jobs were added last month, and the nation's unemployment rate dropped to 6.1 percent.
The stock market shot up at the news, appropriately so.
And then came the White House budget office estimate that the 2014 federal deficit will drop to $583 billion this year, the lowest level since the president took office. The estimate was $66 billion less than the administration predicted earlier this year.
Certainly there's an element of "natural" recovery. But what if Obama hadn't pushed through "stimulus" spending and the saving of the automobile industry? Would the businesses helped have come back as quickly or at all?
And remember how those who blasted, and still blast, the Affordable Care Act as doomsday for the nation's economy said it would implode everything, slow recovery and cause the deficit to explode. None of those things happened. The deficit is dropping, and the ACA is working so well that some of the president's foes aren't even talking about it much anymore.
The president's critics intend to concede him nothing, not a successful health care reform program, not the rescue of the auto industry, not the economic recovery. Indeed, the McClatchy Washington Bureau (part of The News & Observer's parent company) reports that there's an impeachment movement against Obama. It's based on the fuzzy claims that his foreign policy actions, in particular the release of former Taliban leaders to recover an American soldier, constitute the "high crimes and misdemeanors" necessary to bring impeachment charges.
One would think impeachment advocates would have learned something from the campaign against President Bill Clinton, who was impeached for lying about his relationship with a White House intern. Clinton, who was most certainly wrong though not deserving of impeachment, left the White House with high approval ratings and likely could be elected president again if he were allowed to run.
For some reason, President Obama stirs in his critics a hatred not often seen even in partisan politics.