Category: Politics


dafce346-37f2-4437-b2d5-8c7ea2675208-protests_night2_005(Asheville Citizen-Times) A Confederate monument memorializing Zebulon Baird Vance towers 65 feet over Park Square in downtown Asheville.

The Buncombe County native it honors was North Carolina’s governor during the Civil War, a slave owner and a documented racist. For years, people have debated whether a tribute to him should hold such a prominent place in Asheville. Several ideas have been floated, ranging from providing historic contextualization at the monument to outright removal.

In response to widespread demonstrations and calls for racial justice, Confederate monuments are once again coming down in the South — both toppled by crowds and removed by officials’ design — in places like in Birmingham, Alabama; and Richmond, Virginia.

Read the full story by Mackenzie Wicker HERE>

2644006_web1_ap20126654056214(Charlotte Observer)  U.S. Sen. Richard Burr said Thursday he is temporarily stepping down from his post as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee amid an ongoing federal probe of stock sales he made shortly before the coronavirus pandemic hit the country.  “It’s a distraction to a committee that’s extremely important to the safety and security of the American people and a distraction to the members of that committee being asked questions about me, so I tried to eliminate that,” Burr told McClatchy on Thursday outside the Senate.

The announcement about the North Carolina Republican came the day after the FBI seized Burr’s cell phone in an investigation of the sales earlier this year. Asked about what happened with the FBI on Wednesday night, Burr did not give specifics. Burr, a member of the Senate’s health committee, sold up to $1.7 million in stocks in early and mid-February, according to a Senate disclosure that he filed. It came after he had received briefings about the status of the coronavirus, which had not yet made a large impact in the United States.

On Feb. 7, Burr co-wrote a column reassuring Americans that the the country was “better prepared than ever before to face emerging public health threats.” Later that month, he warned attendees at a private luncheon that the dangerous virus was “akin to the 1918 pandemic,” according to a recording first reported by NPR. Soon thereafter, ProPublica and the Center for Responsive Politics disclosed the stock sales.

Read the full report HERE>

Related archives:
(May 2020) Sen. Burr’s brother-in-law dumped stock the same day as Burr. Then the market crashed

(April 2020) Burr sold DC townhome to powerful lobbyist who had congressional business before him

(Sept 2016) NC senator who champions fossil fuels happened to get industry money for 20 years

(July 2016) US Sen. Richard Burr says 2016 will be his last run for elected office

spp6wa6dtbbjll2lgdgwpqd2wa(Raleigh News & Observer)  Raleigh’s police chief says the department is considering criminal charges against people who carried weapons through downtown in recent organized events — including a Saturday incident that left a Raleigh family fearful.

State law prohibits possessing a weapon while participating in or watching a protest, but nothing bars people from walking on a city sidewalk displaying firearms, Police Chief Cassandra Deck-Brown said in a statement released by the Police Department this week.

The gathering was organized and promoted on Facebook by a group called Blue Igloo, a likely nod to the word Boogaloo.  Boogaloo and other variations have become shorthand for a future civil war or violence against the government among some militia groups, white supremacists and fringe online organizations, according to the Anti-Defamation League and Network Contagion Research Institute, which released a report earlier this year about the term.

At least two demonstrators were wearing Hawaiian shirts — another Boogaloo symbol, according to multiple online sites — and one used the name “Duncan Lemp.” Lemp was a 21-year-old right-wing activist who was fatally shot by police in his home in Maryland in March. Anti-lockdown protesters in Wisconsin, Nebraska, Michigan, Tennessee and others have also given Lemp as their name, according to The Daily Beast.

Read the full report HERE>

o7tioye7qvbchccunk2v4p6m6y(Raleigh News & Observer) A dozen people walked through downtown Raleigh Saturday afternoon with weapons and flags on the first full day of North Carolina’s Phase 1 — when some coronavirus-related restrictions have been loosened. The protesters are seen in photos ordering sandwiches from Subway on Fayetteville Street. One is carrying an AT4 rocket launcher, with a sticker saying “inert” on it, slung over his back. The man also has two pistols in holsters on his waist.

Another person, who is wearing a scarf face covering, carries a pump-action shotgun. In another photo, a man is sitting with a shotgun propped on a Subway bench while he has a sandwich in his hand. He is wearing a face covering. And a fourth photo shows a man taking a selfie outside the shop while holding a .50-caliber wooden prop machine gun.

Read the full report HERE>

florence-95closed-1024x683-1(Carolina Journal)  The N.C. Department of Transportation overspent its budget by $742 million last year, a new state audit report shows.

The DOT is in hot water over poor money management, which, in 2019, sent its bank accounts plummeting close to a legally required cash floor. The department planned to spend $5.94 billion last year, but exceeded that amount by more than 12%, says a May report from State Auditor Beth Wood. Transportation officials overspent because they didn’t base their budget on actual cost estimates for projects. The department also failed to monitor or enforce its spending plan at DOT’s 14 highway divisions.

Operations and maintenance make up the largest part of that $742 million overspend, costing the department an extra $578 million. Construction projects cost DOT $124 million more than planned. Two miscellaneous categories make up the remaining $108 million.

Review the full feature HERE>

still0504_00001-e1588610995366(Raleigh News & Observer)  North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper signed a financial-relief package Monday, two days after state lawmakers unanimously approved it as a response to the coronavirus. The governor also said details about what he calls Phase One of his reopening plan will be announced by Wednesday.

The General Assembly passed two bills on Saturday — one about policy and one about funding — to spend $1.57 billion of federal funds coming to North Carolina for coronavirus relief. The state receives $3.5 billion in federal coronavirus money from the CARES Act.

Cooper signed the bills during a news conference Monday morning, accompanied by Senate leader Phil Berger, House Speaker Tim Moore, Senate Minority Leader Dan Blue and House Minority Leader Darren Jackson. Cooper, Blue and Jackson are Democrats; Berger and Moore are Republicans.

Read the full story HERE>

cd936a03-842a-4134-8199-f65e908bebde-greenesentencing_08282019_142(Asheville Citizen-Times) A former Buncombe contractor serving 37 months in prison for participating in a fraudulent kickback scheme with the county’s highest-appointed officials will serve significantly less time after a federal judge reduced his sentence.

His attorney, David Brown, told the Citizen Times that he hopes to get the former engineer out of prison altogether due to the risk of COVID-19.

Earlier this month, prison administrators denied Wiseman’s request for a compassionate release, Brown’s letter revealed. The attorney said Wiseman, who has Type II diabetes, is at high-risk in the Butner facility.

“Mr. Wiseman received an appropriate sentence of 37 months, but he did not receive a death sentence,” Brown said.

Read the complete report HERE>

f80c9389-c3bb-41c1-a728-2bfcc89987cf-large16x9_a3f25247069d4158be48517b6316f8a8large16x9_importedfromlakana(WLOS News 13) The North Carolina General Assembly began its annual session Tuesday by turning immediately to legislation to distribute COVID-19 federal relief funds, operating under unprecedented rules with social distancing in mind.

House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate leader Phil Berger gaveled in their floor sessions with about 20% the 170 legislators present, a contrast to full chambers on a traditional session’s first day. Absent lawmakers either were in their offices or working from home for now to avoid high-risk activities. A few on the floor wore face masks.

Even with in-person legislators scarce, hundreds of demonstrators angry with Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s extended statewide stay-at-home order greeted them as a large “ReopenNC” group rallied for a third Tuesday in a row.

Read the complete report HERE>

a867e117-e14c-41bf-b3db-3b3ea7c4da16-ab_tech_tax_celebration

Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College supporters cheer Nov. 8, 2011, after finding out voters narrowly passed the quarter-cent sales tax referendum. (Photo11: Citizen Times file)

(Asheville Citizen-Times) A deal passed in a split vote Tuesday night doesn’t seek to recover funding spent on what Chairman Brownie Newman called “frankly, poor decisions,” but it could move officials past a longstanding dispute over how to use money that was promised to fund new construction at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College and nothing more.

That’s despite the fact that Buncombe County transferred more than $15 million of the revenue to its own coffers and later used the money to pay employees, including corrupt administrators Greene and Jon Creighton, and to fund operational needs long before commissioners voted to expand the use of the tax.

Newman and commissioners Jasmine Beach-Ferrara and Amanda Edwards voted against the proposal Tuesday night.  Dissenting commissioners said the county should take more time to deliberate an official vote on the deal, which falls short of a $130 million plan for new construction that was pitched to voters during the 2011 referendum. They also acknowledged the handling of the tax has damaged relations between the county and A-B Tech — and the public.

Read the full report by Jennifer Bowman HERE>

Archive:

Voters were promised a sales tax would be for A-B Tech projects alone. That didn’t happen.

e4f13896-bc24-4501-8d0d-88cb0cce7be3-pjimage_2(Jennifer Bowman)  More than $400,000 of sales tax revenue that officials said would fund only new construction at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College instead was diverted to pay county employees, including corrupt administrators Wanda Greene and Jon Creighton.

Buncombe government also began using the revenue to pay for A-B Tech operations long before county commissioners decided to expand use of the tax.

Records released to the Citizen Times show none of the nearly $16 million transferred to the county’s own coffers was spent on capital projects. That amounts to about 20 percent of all revenue generated by the tax, a pot of money that community leaders promised would fund a $130 million building plan at A-B Tech when they pitched it to county voters almost eight years ago.

Read the full report by Jennifer Bowman HERE>

EXTRA COVERAGE:
Commissioners take up question of A-B Tech funding (Mountain XPress)