Tag Archive for education

Rick Bryson will represent we the people

Rick Bryson, candidate for Congress in North Carolina District 11.

Rick Bryson, candidate for Congress in North Carolina District 11.

This really is a first for me, announcing in public my support for a Congressional candidate.

I spent 30 years as a newspaper reporter, then six years running a nonprofit, so it was inappropriate for me to support candidates officially and openly.

But this year, I’m speaking up. We can’t allow the reign of the right-wing to continue, and Mark Meadows is about as far to the right as a person can get. Our option in 2014 was another candidate who stands far to the right on issues such as women’s rights, LGBTQ rights and true religious freedom (he is blatantly anti-Muslim).

This time, we have a chance to vote for someone who truly has decent human values. He believes, as I do, that anyone who works a 40-hour week should be able to pay their bills without government help. That means we need to raise the minimum wage to a living wage. If we do that, we won’t need to pay for food stamps or rent subsidies for people who work full-time.

Bryson believes that access to quality health care should be a basic human right and that we can’t allow the Affordable Care Act to be diminished; instead we need to add to its protections by making access to care universal. He points out that the pharmaceutical industry has four lobbyists for each member of Congress. I don’t imagine the health insurance industry is far behind.

Bryson wants to see more support for public education, not less. He wants an intelligent electorate with decent critical-thinking skills. That’s not what Mark Meadows wants; he has supported privatizing education.

We have become very adept at blaming the victim in this country by labeling people who need help as “takers,” but these people are left behind by bad public policy, and the corporate shills who sit in Congress now are only too happy to take more away from working people and give it to the super-wealthy by privatizing public programs like Social Security and Medicaid.

The people here in Western North Carolina have suffered the loss of thousands of good manufacturing jobs, many of them with union protections, which have been replaced with low-wage jobs. The state has been able to force workers into these jobs by cutting unemployment compensation to the bone and shortening its duration.

Rick Bryson proposes a project similar to the Research Triangle, but sprinkling it across Western North Carolina. He calls the plan Generation NOW. It would bring higher wage telecommunications, clean energy, bio-medicine, agribusiness, computer modeling, recreation, design, and other similar jobs to the region.

Anyone who knows me knows my most passionate issue is health care, but we can’t fix health care and nothing else.

I find Rick Bryson’s stands on all the issues to be reasonable and kind. He is intelligent and articulate, and he loves these mountain communities because he has deep, deep roots here. His family has been here for generations (Bryson City is named for them).

I can’t think of anyone who would represent the people of District 11 better than he will.

The best way any of us can help is to turn out on June 7 (early voting starts May 26) and vote in the primary. We can do this if we work together, and if we don’t, we stand to lose a lot more than an election in November.

 

Why I march

Here I am on the day of my second arrest, May 13, 2015. I'll be in Raleigh again on Saturday with tens of thousands of others who want a better life for people here in North Carolina.

Here I am on the day of my second arrest, May 13, 2015. I’ll be in Raleigh again on Saturday with tens of thousands of others who want a better life for people here in North Carolina.

This Saturday is the 10th annual Moral March in Raleigh, sponsored by the HKonJ Coalition.

HKonJ stands for Historic Thousands on Jones Street and originated as a march to remind elected officials that we stand together for sound public policies.

The Moral March and HKonJ are part of the Forward Together Moral Movement, a beautifully diverse effort to get our government to listen to reason and stop harming the people they were elected to represent.

We are young and old, Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist and atheist and agnostic; we are gay and straight, black, white, brown and mixed-race; we are immigrants and citizens liberal and conservative, men and women, students, professionals, laborers, executives and unemployed, we are people with and without disabilities, and out unity makes us strong.

When the Democrats led the General Assembly, they were’t perfect, but they would sit down and talk to us — and they would listen. They didn’t always do what we wanted, but they were open to discussion.

Then the Republicans took control and everything changed. Discussion wasn’t an option anymore. They came in and immediately began making bad policies — cutting funds for education, gutting unemployment insurance, denying access to health care by refusing to expand Medicaid, limiting women’s access to reproductive care, allowing our waterways to be polluted by Big Energy, increasing access to guns, cutting access to the vote, gerrymandering district lines and more.

I know first-hand what it is to lose someone I loved to bad public policy. My son died from lack of access to health care because our system cares more about profit than about human lives. I want to tell my son’s story to some of the people who are voting to deny a half million people access to health care. Others in the movement were or are unemployed, or affected by coal ash spills or are teachers who can’t make ends meet on their low salaries. Still others are fast-food workers who work two and three jobs and still can’t feed their families.

When we tried to make appointments to talk to them, most of our legislators ignored us. Those who did agree to meet with us individually were not open to listening.

We tried writing letters, but that didn’t do any good.

Meanwhile teachers began leaving the state in record numbers. People who lost jobs through no fault of their own — and who lost their access to health care in the process — had to take low-wage jobs, Many lost their homes. Worst of all, people died — and continue to die every day — because they can’t get access to health care.

So, we started going into the General Assembly Building to try and talk to legislators, as is our right under the North Carolina Constitution. We found the doors to the observation galleries locked. We stood in the rotunda and sang and prayed, and our legislators had us all arrested.

By the end of 2013, about 1,000 people had been arrested. In 2014, nearly all of us had all our charges dropped because we had been arrested for trespassing in a public building that was open. The charges of carrying signs (I only had this photo of my son) and chanting and loud singing were thrown out almost immediately as violations of our First Amendment rights.

Still, we had to go to Raleigh every month for court dates and we often were forced to sit in court all day, waiting for a call that didn’t come. I went seven times before my charges were dismissed on appeal. I was found guilty by a judge on my sixth trip.

In 2015, they waited for us to go into the building, then closed it and told us we had to leave. We stayed because we knew legislative leaders were in their offices and we wanted to speak to them. We were arrested again.

The Moral Movement has made a difference. Our voting rights lawsuits are making their way through the courts, and just last week, two Congressional districts were found to be illegal because they were drawn based on race.

We aren’t just protesting, though — we are educating people, and we are registering people to vote. Many of us have signed a pledge to register 50 new voters before Election Day.

This Moral March won’t involve any arrests; it is an opportunity for all of us to come together to ask out government to do what’s best for the people, not the bidding of corporate overlords.

We will march, we will sing, we will chant and we will hear the stories of people whose lives have been torn apart by the bad policies of this government.

Our theme is Our Time, Our Vote, and we’ll be talking about how to get a government that’s more in tune with the needs of the governed.

This is an important event for anyone who hopes for a better North Carolina.

 

 

It’s time to put up or shut up.

i voted

Early voting has begun here in North Carolina, and if the first day was any indication, it looks like we might have a good turnout this year.

That’s good news. In years with high turnout, the right-wing, corporate, anti-life candidates do poorly.

And this year, there’s a lot at stake, including the very existence of the Affordable Care Act, if the Republicans take the Senate. The House has voted 50 times to repeal it; if the Senate votes the same way, we’re in trouble.

I don’t know why any woman would vote for a candidate who would take away her right to make reproductive choices. This group has closed women’s health clinics across the country under the guise of being “pro-life.”  But if they’re really pro-life, why do they deny poor women cancer screenings?? Many of them are saying a business should have the right to fire a woman for taking birth control pills.

If you think this can’t become reality, think again. The Right has its Supreme Court in place. This is a court that has already said it’s OK for a boss to deny insurance coverage for birth control.

And that’s just one issue. Most of these people are bought and paid for by big business and the 1 percent. They want to abolish minimum wage. They want to abolish what’s left of our shredded safety net and our public education system.

These are the people who are trying to cut the number of people eligible to vote, and they’re attacking the people who most likely would vote against them — the poor, the elderly, people of color and college students.

Just look at the battle for keeping a polling place on the campus of Appalachian State in Boone, which has 18,000 students: http://billmoyers.com/2014/10/23/north-carolina-fights-take-voting-site-away-pesky-college-kids/.

They have reduced voting hours; they have cut early voting and eliminated Sunday voting (which is when many African-Americans voted); they have closed polling places and reduced the number of voting machines in places where people traditionally voted against them.

They have eliminated straight-party voting, which means it will take a few moments longer. That will make lines longer and reduce the number of people who can vote. They have made it easier for someone to challenge your vote. Even if you still get to vote, the challenge has taken time and slowed the line.

And what’s important about slowing the line is that, no matter how long the line is when the polls close on Election Day, the doors close one hour after the stated closing time. That means if you’re in line an hour and one minute after the polls are supposed to close, you don’t get to vote.

You won’t find long lines in wealthy polling places because the people who would stifle your voice have the majority of those votes in the bag.

This is why it’s so important that you vote and vote early. There are lines for early voting, but not nearly as long as the lines will be on Election Day.

The time is over for anyone to be uninterested in politics. You must become aware of what’s happening in the world around you. You must care enough about what’s happening in this country, and you must vote to keep our Democracy alive.

In Kansas, the Right, under the “leadership” of Sam Brownback, they have destroyed the state’s economy and Sen. Mitch McConnell has said he wants to make that a national priority.

Schools are being destroyed, food banks emptied, unemployment insurance all but eliminated. If this is your idea of what a successful society looks like, then go ahead and stay home. Otherwise, get your ass to the polls. Do it early. Do it today.

 

 

Attacks from every direction

Here I am waiting to be introduced at HKonJ 7 last weekend in Raleigh. The turnout for the event was about 10,000.

Here I am waiting to be introduced at HKonJ 7 last weekend in Raleigh. The turnout for the event was about 10,000.

No longer content to just badmouth and vilify hardworking Americans, it seems the right has started actively trying to kill them.

In NC, the legislature has voted to deny 600,000 people access to health care by refusing to expand Medicaid, even though it would bring down billions in federal dollars and create 25,000 jobs, not to mention save lives.

This move will mean more suffering among the more than half-million people who can’t gain access to health care. We’re talking about more heart attacks and strokes, more complications from diabetes — kidney failure, blindness, limb amputations — more advanced cancers, more intractable mental illnesses, more asthma emergencies … the list goes on.

The legislature’s choice of a twisted ideology over compassion and decency will increase medical costs and people will still suffer and die unnecessarily.

And if you’ve been unlucky enough to have your job shipped overseas, that’s too bad too because the legislature has voted to overhaul unemployment insurance by slashing benefits and the amount of time people are eligible to receive them. North Carolina now has the shortest compensation time in the country — in some cases just 12 weeks.

Not to mention that when people lose their jobs they also lose their health benefits, but our legislators don’t care about that.

My inbox is full of e-mails begging me to sign one petition or another to prevent the North Carolina GOP from de-funding education, raping the environment, rigging taxes so the rich pay less and the rest of us pay more, punishing workers for wanting to make a living wage, making a naked power grab by firing everyone on state regulatory commissions …

I can’t keep up with it all, and that’s just in North Carolina.

In Washington, the GOP is still refusing to cooperate with anything the President wants to do.

They’re filibustering against Chuck Hagel’s appointment as Secretary of Defense; they’re saying they’ll block a minimum wage increase, they’re slowing down gun safety laws, and the House GOP is still trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

I’m exhausted from e-mailing and calling and traveling to try and get these people to listen to reason about the Medicaid expansion, but I’m just met with a stone wall. My own representative doesn’t answer my e-mails, not does Gov. Pat McCrory.

McCrory did answer an e-mail from my friend, Eileen McMinn, though. He sent her a form e-mail asking if she would donate money to him.

They’re ignoring us, and I suppose they have reason to believe they can get away with it because we seem to be lying down and playing dead.

How many of us have e-mailed, called or snail-mailed our state representatives or governor over these issues? How about our federal representatives? Have we thanked the ones who are doing the right thing? I e-mailed Sen. Richard Burr, a Republican, to thank him for voting in favor of the Violence Against Women Act.

There’s a lot at stake here. You may not think you’ll ever need Medicaid, but if your job gets shipped overseas and you get just $350 a week for 12 weeks, what then? How long can you keep making house and car payments? What if you get sick on top of all that?

We are all at risk here, and we all need to take action. Democracy is participatory. If we don’t participate — and by that I mean becoming educated about the issues and voting according to our convictions — this is what we get.

If you don’t know who your representative is in the US House, visit www.hoismyrepresentative.com.

If you don’t know who your state senators or representatives are, you can visit www.ncleg.net or call your county’s board of elections.

If you’re one of those who say, “I’m just not interested in politics,” shame on you! You’re part of the reason we’re in this mess.

 

A mad dash to the right

The NC legislative session isn’t even finished yet and I feel like I’ve been run over by a truck. As the effects of this disastrous session begin to be felt across the state, I’m sure other North Carolinians will feel the same way.

Across the state, thousands of classroom personnel — teachers and teacher assistants, will lose their jobs, even though the Republican leadership denies it’s happening. As usual, if they say something isn’t real, then it must not be happening. That’s what you get when you live in your own little bubble where you don’t have to have compassion for anyone else.

Women who seek to end their pregnancies will have to listen to an anti-abortion lecture and wait 24 hours, even if they’re pregnant by an abusive partner who would beat the crap out of them if he found out. It’s as though we shouldn’t be allowed to make decisions about our own bodies unless the right agrees with those decisions.

The new “austerity” budget, which contains deep, deep cuts to education and health care programs, wasn’t about money, according to Rep. Tim Moffit, whose district includes Arden and Candler, “it’s about policy.”

Well, policy follows the money. Your priorities are where you put — or take away — the dollars, and it’s clear that this legislature prefers corporations to humans and right-wing “moral” values to compassion.

Medicaid will lose some of its “optional” services, such as specialized housing and other necessary services for people with severe disabilities. Instead of living in intermediate care facilities, they will be moved to nursing homes, where they won’t get the occupational, physical and speech therapy and other amenities that make their lives worth living. They’ll be warehoused.

People on Medicaid will lose their eye and hearing care. No glasses, no hearing aids.

I don’t see these things as optional, but the people in the North Carolina General Assembly do.

They have gutted environmental protections and made it harder for the state to collect taxes from corporations.

They have made it harder to vote, eliminating same-day registration, shortening early voting and requiring a photo ID from every voter. These measures affect poor and minority populations the most — those who would be most likely to vote against the right.

And if you get really pissed off and want to yell at one of these cads? Well, they’re trying to pass a law that allows them to carry guns into the legislative parking lot, so you don’t want to make them feel threatened.

But you don’t have to vote for them again. Remember this session come Election Day, and you might want to shoot an e-mail to your representative and senator to let him or her know you’ve been watching.

 

 

Midnight cowboys

The NC House met just after midnight to override Gov. Bev Perdue's budget; apparently, leaders were concerned the teachers coming to Raleigh today might be able to sway some votes.

The NC House met under cover of darkness in the wee hours of this morning to override Gov. Bev Perdue’s veto of their disastrous, immoral budget.

It’s likely they didn’t want to wait for the light of day because today is a teacher lobbying day in Raleigh, and they didn’t have to courage to talk to these dedicated educators and then go slash their budgets. They wanted the deed to be done already. I’m sure Republican leaders wanted to be certain no one was swayed by pleas and real stories of need from teachers.

So, with the Senate poised to override the veto, it looks like this immoral budget will be what we have to live with for the next two years.

Republicans are saying their budget is the same as the one Gov. Perdue proposed, but it’s far worse, with deeper cuts to early childhood education, our about-to-be-devastated  university and community college systems and to the social network. They’re cutting $60 million from the state’s mental health system, which is so bad already it’s under investigation by the US Justice Department.

There is no rationale for these kinds of cuts. We are not broke. The only thing I can think of is that our state legislators who voted for this thing have no compassion for their fellow human beings.

I mean, if we’re so broke, why does House Majority Leader Thom Tillis have the money to offer huge raises to his staff members? Tillis gave his legal counsel, Jason Kay, a $30,000 a year salary increase to $140,000, and a 25 percent raise of $30,000, to $150,000, to his chief of staff, Charles Thomas. Half the speaker’s staff got raises.

Tillis spoke in January of “shared sacrifice,” but I guess you only have to share in the sacrifice if you’re not Thom Tillis or one of his staff.

I’ve already e-mailed my state representative, Tim Moffitt, and told him I will remember his vote come Election Day. He has reponded with this:

“I’m sorry that you feel that way.  The cuts to education amount to .05% difference compared to the Governor’s budget.  That’s after an explosive growth of over 250% in the last 14 years with barely a move in the overall achievement levels of our children.  Sadly, money is not the issue as it is in most things, it’s policy.”

He is wrong, of course. Early childhood education programs were starting to make a difference; they are the only way children in poverty can catch up to their wealthier peers.

And education is not the only part of this budget that is immoral. The budget shreds what was left of the social safety net, especially for people who have mental illnesses and others who depend on Medicaid.  It cuts $60 million out of the budget for our state’s mental health system, which already is in such bad shape it’s being investigated by the US Justice Department. Please, if your representative voted for this budget, let him or her know how you feel, and let them know we’re coming for them in 2012.

Everybody loses

NC House Speaker Thom Tillis, R-Mecklenburg, released details of the proposed state budget on Tuesday evening.

If the North Carolina budget released by the GOP-led House last night were to become law, everyone would suffer. Here’s just a few of the cuts:

  • $2 billion in total cuts, including reductions in teen pregnancy prevention programs and adoption assistance and the elimination of a successful prison alternative program that actually saves the state money.
  • A 15 percent cut to the university system, which its leaders say would be devastating.
  • 8.8 percent cuts to schools that would include all teachers’ assistants in second-and third-grade classrooms, cuts to other administration and maintenance staffs and transportation. This is on top of a $304 million discretionary reduction built into the budget. That means the real size of the cut to public schools is 13.2 percent, nearly $1 billion.
  • The Smart Start pre-kindergarten program would lose about $37 million; More at Four would be cut by $30 million, losing space for more than 2,600 children.
  • Funding for senior centers would be reduced by 47 percent.
  • Community health grants would be cut by 23 percent. 
  • The state Department of Health and Human Services would have to cut its budget by almost 11 percent.
  • Mental health services would lose $37 million at a time when the US Justice Department is investigating its lack of ability to care for people.
  • Cuts to reimbursement rates for physicians in the state’s health insurance program for low-income children.
  • $58 million in increased court fees.
  • Less funding for domestic violence services.
  • Laying off 40 members of the State Capitol Police force.

That’s just some of the bad news. Greg Borom, who does advocacy with Children First/Communities in Schools of Buncombe County, ticked off some of the cuts this morning.

“Anything you care about in health, education or children’s services is at risk,” he said.

“There isn’t a classroom in the state that would be left untouched by the GOP’s job-killing budget,” Senate Minority Leader Martin Nesbitt said in a statement to WRAL in Raleigh. “From preschools to elementary schools to community colleges and universities, this proposal jeopardizes the very future of our state.”

Nesbitt, D-Buncombe, said lawmakers need to “stop trying to please the tea party.”

There’s been no talk about raising revenues. It seems not to matter if people would die in the streets because of these cuts — and be assured, some will.

It’s a cruel and punative budget proposal. The people who put together this budget obviously care nothing for the people of North Carolina.

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