North Carolina Still Without Budget, But I-77 Express Lanes in Charlotte Open

Here is my warning to North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper and the Legislature’s leadership: when you finish your work and fail to finish the basic business of state government in the United States of America, which is to adopt a budget for the state, voters feel vengeful. Specifically, they start to feel that “throw the bums out” may be necessary. This feeling impacts the leaders of both chambers of the state legislature and the governor, but it impacts the executive branch leadership, the governor, the most. After all, the buck stops here—at the governor’s desk, first and foremost. Just hear the sound of this: I hope that when the Legislature reconvenes in January, I hope they can adopt, with the governor’s consent, a spending plan for the current fiscal year. I know, I know, it is truly sad.

I commend the Democratic Governor, Roy Cooper, for taking all of his principled stands. Expanding Medicaid to cover the working poor, still possible under the Obamacare law, is a truly noble ideal. So, also, are granting teacher pay raises that amount to a significant percentage and annual increases. Nonetheless, the NC State Legislature was unwilling to grant either of these. They offered absolutely nothing on Medicaid expansion, and a notable compromise on teacher pay raises that could have saved face, if agreed-upon. No such compromise was available from the Governor’s office, however. Hence, we are left, this year, with nothing. No compromises, and ultimately, no NC State budget this year. We are left with, essentially, only paralysis. Total dysfunction in the halls of Raleigh. It is too bad.

North Carolina State Capitol Building
North Carolina State Capitol Building, Raleigh, NC, by JillLang, http://www.istockphoto.com

On the bright side, one past hold-up in North Carolina state politics has been resolved. The I-77 express lanes/toll lanes leading from Charlotte to the North have opened. Former Governor Pat McCrory was right, on his radio show, that this highway project helped to cost him the election for Governor. Now, under the next Governor’s watch, the I-77 lanes are open. This marks the completion of the project, one that promises to address and relieve some of the perennial congestion plaguing this road. It was wholly unpopular, but it has finished, and it is, finally, open. Therefore, despite popular opinion, the highway has been improved, and the notorious congestion will have been addressed, and hopefully, somewhat substantially relieved. State government has enacted a solution to address the problem of congestion on this important expressway. State leadership did something, and finished it.

Charlotte Skyline Sketch
Charlotte, NC, by chimpyk

The I-77 political open sore will no longer hurt the Governor. The failure to reach any agreement with state legislative leaders can hurt the Governor, however. I encourage compromise, and enacting a state budget for North Carolina. Standing up for noble ideas is all well and good, after all, but doing the state’s business is, I think, more important. I do not send out a call to “throw the bums out;” rather, I call on our good state leadership to come to their senses, to compromise, and to adopt a state budget.

You can do better than what you have done.

—Nicholas Patti

Charlotte, NC

Letter to Editor, on the 9th District

Letter to Editor, New York Times (12/10/2018, unpublished):

In response to “Winner Says He Backs Revote, if Inquiry Finds Fraud” (New York Times, December 8, 2018, p. A11):

December 10, 2018—Although the investigation of election fraud should continue by the North Carolina State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement regarding the 9th District for the U.S. House, in and around Charlotte, NC, the Board should publish its results soon after their evidentiary hearing on or before December 21. They should certify the election results, also, at that time.

A quick glance at the numbers: Republican Mark Harris won by 905 votes in the general, yet he only received 420 absentee votes from Bladen County, as opposed to 258 such votes in the County in question by his Democratic opponent, Dan McCready, according to The Charlotte Observer (12/6/2018, p. 1A.) Similarly, in the primary, Mr. Harris won by 828 votes, overall, and only received 437 absentee votes in the County, according to The New York Times (12/8/2010, p. A11) and The Charlotte Observer (12/6/2018, p. 1A).

These numbers do not undermine the election of Mr. Harris. However, those responsible for the fraud should be criminally prosecuted.

—Nicholas Patti, Charlotte, NC

 

Mid-term Post-election Recap

November 10, 2018—After all the divisive, rancorous rhetoric of the campaign, the mid-term election delivered a win for all involved—and some notable losses.

Our illustrious leader, President Donald Trump, scored big, for example, by holding the Senate. Impeachment is now officially off-the-table, due, in large part, to his vigorous campaigning for Republican Senate candidates. This means that when President Trump travels to Moscow for a love-summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and declares, “there was no collusion,” no one can correct him. Trump has support among a significant voting bloc of the American public, and his brand was triumphant. He is vindicated in the Senate.

The night was not a total wash-out for the Democrats, either, however. In a significant rebuke to President Trump, Democrats retook the U.S. House of Representatives. Democratic Rep. Nancy Pelosi is due to retake the speaker’s gavel, and Republicans everywhere are chagrined, to say the least. Democrats everywhere are heartened by their return to power in the U.S. House, as expected during the campaign. If their previously-hyped “blue wave”did not deliver a total Democratic takeover of the U.S. Congress this election, it was strong enough, at least, to account for one chamber of power, the House. They and their voters sent a clear rebuke to President Trump, and they won a significant victory. That victory includes subpoena power, just in case President Trump steps too far out-of-line.

U.S. Congress, Washington, DC
© Alisonh29 | www. stockfreeimages.com

So, the mid-terms delivered mixed results. There was a win for both parties, and a loss. Does this spell bipartisanship? Or, paralysis, due to a woefully divided government? Only time will tell.

In the American political grain, after all, 2020 starts in 2019. Only time will tell.

Washington Monument, Washington, DC
© Pgangler | www. stockfreeimages.com

In North Carolina, a similar dynamic could be seen at work. In every closely-contested race for the U.S. House in North Carolina, counting three, Republicans won. North Carolina is sending back a Congressional delegation that remains 10-3, Republican-led, unchanged in-full from before the election. In this way, the State of North Carolina bucked the national trend. Whereas nationally, Democrats re-took the House, in North Carolina, the delegation did not change, and Republicans held on to every single House seat, including all three of the toss-up districts. This outcome represents a clear victory for Republicans in North Carolina. These headline races were watched closely across the State, and Republicans won all three close contests to keep every single U.S. House seat, previously held before the election.

In another victory for the Republican party in North Carolina, the voter ID amendment passed. Now, the State is no longer finished with the requirement to show photo ID to vote; it is now a part of the State Constitution as an amendment. Also, the income tax limit amendment passed, another victory for NC Republicans, as well as the crime victims’ amendment and the hunting and fishing amendment. NC Republicans were behind all of these amendments, and they won; Republicans will now change the statutes in State law, to follow.

The last two amendments failed, but the Republican party was split on those two amendments. Republican governors, including recent, former Gov. Pat McCrory, opposed these last two amendments, as did former Democratic governors, as well. Those two were the amendments on judicial appointments, and the make-up of the State elections board. Those two amendments would have diluted the power of the office of Governor, and shifted it to the legislature. Those failed.

The State congressional delegation and the four amendments that passed, notably, the photo ID amendment, represented victories for the Republican party in North Carolina. In these areas, Republicans won in North Carolina.

In other areas of government and the election results in North Carolina, Republicans lost, and Democrats won. Democrats won by taking enough seats in the State legislature to remove the Republican supermajority there. This means NC State Republicans can no longer readily over-ride vetoes by the Democratic Governor, Roy Cooper. Democrats won these seats in the State legislature by taking urban and suburban districts in Mecklenburg County, and other urban areas of the State. Removing the Republican supermajority was a major electoral goal for NC Democrats, and the Democrats achieved this goal in North Carolina.

Another significant area of victory for Democrats in North Carolina was right here at home in Mecklenburg County, comprising the city of Charlotte, and suburbs. There was a “blue wave” in Mecklenburg County. Democrats won all seats on the County Commission, defeating three Republicans in previously Republican districts, and the at-large, Republican candidate. The Republican, minority opposition on the County Commission is now gone; the body is now entirely Democrat.

In addition, NC Democrats swept the state delegation from the Mecklenburg County area, leaving only one, or maybe, two Republicans standing. The suburbs had been reliably Republican, but the voting shifted in this election toward the Democrats. Repeated across urban areas in North Carolina, this spelled the end of the Republican supermajority in Raleigh.

The victory here for Democrats was in Mecklenburg County itself, and in urban areas across the State, reflected in the outcome of the Democratic gains in the State legislature. Republicans did hold on to their majority in the legislature, but they lost their supermajority. Removing the supermajority was the Democrats’ goal. They achieved this, and swept across Mecklenburg County.

NC Democrats could take home a victory on these counts. Therefore, both parties in North Carolina, similar to the national trend, won some, and lost some. The politics of the United States is divided, and resulted in divided government, as a result. North Carolina is known as a purple state, and similar to national politics, both parties could take away victories, and chalk up some substantial losses.

A divided body politic in the United States led to a more divided government, with trends going this way and that, in the recent election. Similarly, in North Carolina, true to its “purple state” identity, both parties could cite victories, and defeats at the ballot box. The main irony in this comparison is that North Carolina bucked the national trend in the election for the U.S. House, showing North Carolina as a red state, in this regard. Republicans won in contests for the U.S. House in North Carolina, bucking the national trend toward Democrats, yet Democrats in the State still made significant gains in the State legislature. Hence, North Carolina is still a “purple state,” with a unique identity in the broader body politic of the United States, itself. Both national parties will continue to concentrate efforts, therefore, in this State, since either party could still win here, in future elections.

North Carolina State Capitol Building,
Raleigh, NC, by JillLang, http://www.istockphoto.com

One little victory for President Donald Trump in North Carolina is that both U.S. House candidates that he rallied for, in a recent campaign rally this election season, held in Charlotte, NC, both won. In a year in which the President just lost control of the House in Washington, it is notable and comforting to him, perhaps, that the two House Republican candidates he personally campaigned for here, both won.

Perhaps, President Trump and national Republicans will cherish this silver lining here in Charlotte, when it comes to their losses nationally in these mid-terms for the U.S. House. Perhaps, these national Republicans, and the President, will appreciate the two Republican U.S. House Representatives from the Charlotte region, both of whom President Trump personally campaigned for, here in Charlotte, when they hold the party convention here in 2020.

It’s all peace-and-love, and all kumbaya for the Republicans here in Charlotte and nationally, but do not let anyone ask the actual U.S. House Representative for the district that actually covers the city of Charlotte. Democratic Rep. Alma Adams, a newly re-elected Democratic incumbent in a no-contest district, the 12th, may disagree. She just cruised to re-election, and she actually represents the city of Charlotte, itself. Not even President Trump dared campaign against her in the 12th. In true Charlotte style, however, and consistent with the state of North Carolina, the two nearby districts (which include South Charlotte, also) both went red. Charlotte will host the 2020 Republican convention, and can champion notable, Republican wins for the House. Democratic Rep Alma Adams, however, will remain silent. Also, she will remain in office.

I feel thankful that we had this recent mid-term election. It is a very good thing that we have periodic checks on power in this country via regular, national elections. It helps to re-align our elected leaders with the will of the people on a regular, frequent basis. Especially with this president, President Trump, we need to check on his level of support among the people in this country. He tends to veer off into never-never-land in his rhetoric, especially during the campaigns, and we need to check if he is actually representing any of the American people, still. It turns out, he is. President Trump and his party, the Republican Party, still command broad, popular support, or they would not have held on to the Senate. Meanwhile, the American people expressed growing opposition to the President and his party. Hence, the Democrats returned to the majority in the House, which is the chamber of Congress more closely aligned to the people, by direct population numbers, and less-so on geographic coverage and equal, geographic representation.

Opposition to the President is growing in the United States of America, but he still retains broad support. In the true spirit of American democracy, we are already looking forward to the next national election, 2020, for the Presidency, itself. Let us just hope there is enough peace, in the interim, to allow for good governance, and not simply paralysis.

—Nicholas Patti,  Charlotte, NC

 

My sources for this article are The Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, NC: in print and on-line, Nov. 6, 7, and 8, 2018).