Tuesday, April 16, 2024

AppState Chancellor Resigns in the Middle of the Semester


AppState's PR office announced yesterday that Chancellor Sheri Everts is resigning. Her last day will be this coming Friday. 

It's a sudden and unprecedented leave-taking by an administrator who was reviled, high and low. Well, maybe not in the highest places in Raleigh, but most of the AppState faculty had come to distrust her. Along with the students. In recent weeks she had been the target of repeated campus protests.

North Carolina System President Peter Hans will announce an interim chancellor before April 19.

Back on April 3rd, The Appalachian student newspaper published an editorial complaining about Everts' ill-advised initiative to buy a big building in Hickory and expand the AppState campus to that satellite location. The editorial was prophetic about her jumping ship:

Have you ever heard the expression “jump ship”? When things are getting bad so you run to another thing to escape? How about the billionaires that are attempting to leave Earth and live on another planet because Earth is becoming a toxic wasteland? See the connections yet? Everts is jumping ship, running away from the problems she caused at App State.

She continues to ignore student complaints and push back, causing chaos on the main campus, while painting everything as good. Then, she continues to put money into the Hickory Campus, advertising it as though it is as good as App State, hoping to gain more money and more students, because App State’s main campus can not hold more students.

In its coverage of her resignation, the News&Observer was more comprehensive in detailing the push-back against her at AppState:

Everts’ time as chancellor was not without controversy. In August 2020, amid the then-ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the university’s Faculty Senate passed a vote of “no confidence” in Everts, citing a lack of competency, transparency and concern for the wellbeing of students. 

Everts was “frequently isolated from and unable to effectively communicate with faculty, and has failed in her basic tasks of strengthening institutional finances, providing goals, operating in a transparent fashion, embracing shared governance, and pulling the university community together in a common mission,” the faculty’s no-confidence resolution stated. 

More recently, Everts drew the ire of students and alumni for her decision to “upgrade” the university’s “expression tunnels” — officially, the Rivers Street tunnels — by removing the art, paint and other designs in the tunnels and adding brighter lighting and cameras to monitor the area. 

She also faced criticism by student groups, including the Appalachian State College Democrats, for a variety of actions they called “attacks on free speech and expression.”

Monday, April 15, 2024

The Difference Between New Mexico and North Carolina


The 2018 Farm Bill that President Trump signed into law legalizes the growing of hemp and the production of hemp products -- as opposed to marijuana, though both hemp and marijuana are essentially the same thing, cannabis plants, so the distinction in the law is almost invisible to a non-expert. The law mandates that legal hemp cannot contain more than 0.3% THC, the compound that gets you higher than a laundry line on a windy day. In North Carolina CBD oil and other products are legal under the Farm Bill, but clever scientists have learned how to extract Delta-8, Delta-9, and Delta-10 from hemp -- all still legal under the Farm Bill -- and Delta-9 especially can produce a high much like the high from straight marijuana. So for all practical purposes, in North Carolina recreational drugs are legal though our General Assembly still piously refuses to legalize marijuana even for medical treatment of debilitating illnesses. 

In New Mexico, where I am currently camping, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed the Cannabis Regulation Act into law in 2021. Adults are legally permitted to purchase and possess up to two ounces of marijuana and/or up to 16 grams of cannabis extract from licensed retailers. The law also permits adults to cultivate up to six mature plants for their own personal use. The personal use provisions took effect on June 29, 2021. Retail sales began in April 2022.

From all appearances, it's a thriving business, and New Mexico hasn't experienced any end-of-world after effects that are immediately apparent to the naked eye. New Mexico is decidedly blue. It voted for the Democratic presidential candidate in seven of the last eight presidential elections, including in 2020. Its state legislature has Democratic super majorities in both chambers, and all seven of its statewide executive officers including governor are Democrats.

Make of that what you will. North Carolina's law-making is firmly in the hands of some of the most conservative and self-serving politicians in the country, some of whom saw the dollar signs flashing over casino gambling but can't see any benefit in a green new deal.

Tuesday, April 09, 2024

All Hail the Arizona Supreme Court


Progressives do have their cracked pots, or crackpot ideas, but you can't beat the current crop of American conservatives for their new levels of lunacy.

The Arizona Supreme Court voted 4-2 today to restore a total abortion ban -- okay, almost total, but I see very little difference -- that was in effect from 1864, from well before Arizona was even a state of the union, but the Arizona Supremes have decided that the law is still in effect. The ban provides that "anyone who administers an abortion could face a mandatory prison sentence of two to five years. That ban could compel Arizona’s licensed abortion clinics to ramp down dramatically or shutter — though it’s unclear how the decision will be enforced."

Kris Mayes, the Arizona Attorney General, has already declared she won't be enforcing this wacko decision.

Meanwhile, abortion rights activists have apparently gathered enough signatures to get a guarantee of legal abortion on the November ballot as a citizen initiative. The voters who care about women's rights are going to be thoroughly stirred up in Arizona this year.

Meanwhile, Trump if twisting around his own axle trying to figure out how to temper his own promises -- not to mention performance of his boys (and girl) on the Supreme Court -- because someone has finally managed to convince him that his policies are sheer poison to American woman and their male friends. So he says it should be up to the states. His former BFF Lindsey Graham didn't like that at all and criticized him for giving up on being a hardliner on life, and Trump blasted Graham in turn as trying to single-handedly lose the election for Republicans.

These are truly bizarre times. And thanks to the Supremes' Dobbs decision, all Republican apple carts are currently upsidedown. Where they belong.

Friday, April 05, 2024

Money Isn't Everything But It Beats 2nd Place


Kudos to the youngest Democratic party chair in the nation. Anderson Clayton deserves much of the credit for excellent fundraising, as she has brought a new energy and a bright vision, and she seems downright indefatigable criss-crossing the state, holding events, cheering on the troops especially in formerly neglected counties where Democrats have in some cases just given up all hope.

Colin Campbell reported:

So far this election cycle, the state Democratic party has raised $5.26 million for its state and federal campaign accounts. The state Republican Party, meanwhile, has raised over $3.34 million across its accounts.

As of the latest campaign finance reports in February, the N.C. Democratic Party had $2.44 million on hand, while the NCGOP had $871,000.

This success is naturally driving MAGA mad. Anderson's personal mantra of "outwork, out-organize, outlast" has them rattled, and they are trying to tear her down. Someone even posted that she looked a lot older than 26, implying ... what? That she's a 50-year-old political ringer brought in to impersonate a vivacious and successful political organizer in her mid-20s who refuses to accept that the North Carolina Democratic Party was finished after the election of 2020. Suck it, GOP.

Clayton will be holding an April 14th fundraiser for the Watauga Democratic Party at Ski Mountain resort between Boone and Blowing Rock. You can get tickets to come see and hear her rousing message of rock-'em, sock-'em for 2024 here.

Thursday, April 04, 2024

Folwell Won't Endorse Robinson for Governor


NC Newsline Report:

State Treasurer Dale Folwell declined again on Tuesday to endorse Republican Lt. Governor Mark Robinson in North Carolina’s closely watched gubernatorial contest.

Folwell, who lost the GOP nomination race to Robinson in the March primary, has refused since that time to endorse Robinson in his general election showdown with the Democratic nominee, Attorney General Josh Stein. On a Tuesday call with reporters, Folwell reiterated that he won’t be doing so.

“I’ll say what I’ve said before,” Folwell said. “I’m not going to waste my vote going forward in my life on anyone.”

It’s up to the Republican nominee to prove himself to the voters why he’s the best person for the job, Folwell said.

Wednesday, April 03, 2024

Year of the Independent Candidate?


I was impressed when an Unaffiliated candidate for Watauga CoCommish, Jon Council, qualified to be on the November ballot as an independent. He was required to gather 4% of the registered voters in his district to meet the threshold. He got way more signatures than he needed.

Shelane Etchison

It's a much higher threshold for an Unaffiliated candidate seeking to run for a US House seat, but Shelane Etchison far exceeded her required 7,460 petition signatures to get on the ballot as an independent in the NC 9th Congressional District. She gathered over 12,000 signatures, which is actually damn impressive.

I first heard about Etchison from political analyst Thomas Mills, who also happens to be advising her campaign. I trust Mills's judgment in most things, and while Etchison is probably far more conservative than a lot of Democrats. But according to Mills, "she became disillusioned with a [Republican] party that espoused support for liberty and individual freedom but opposed women’s rights to reproductive health. Overturning Roe v Wade solidified her break with the GOP." Congressman Richard Hudson, the Republican incumbent in CD9, adheres to the current GOP orthodoxy on denying women their rights.

Mills breaks down the partisan makeup of CD9 as 35% Unaffiliated, 35% Republican, and 30% Democrat. The Democrat who filed against Hudson, Anson County probation officer Nigel Bristow, is a novice in his first run for office and on the surface of things the newly gerrymandered 9th CD looks pretty impossible for a Democrat, especially an unknown with little base support. It would take a sizable portion of the Democratic minority to abandon the Democrat candidate and support Etchison, even if she was able to motivate the great majority of the Unaffiliated voters in the district. Etchison might just pull that off. It's a district with Ft. Liberty, the former Ft. Bragg, with many active and retired military, and Etchison's biography, as portrayed by Mills, will impress many:

She was in high school when the country was attacked on 9/11 and felt called to serve. She joined ROTC in college and commissioned into the army in 2008. In 2011, she became one of twenty women attached to the 75th Ranger Regiment, providing support on direct combat operations in Afghanistan.

According to a Fox News report, “During the Afghanistan War, special operations forces hunted high-value Taliban and al-Qaeda targets. But the all-male teams weren't allowed to speak with women and children due to cultural norms, causing the U.S. and Afghan militaries to lose out on critical intelligence. As a result, the all-female Cultural Support Team was formed. Before long, the women proved themselves and won over not just the Rangers Etchison was embedded with, but top brass at the Pentagon.” Etchison also served in Iraq, Syria, and Turkey.


Friday, March 29, 2024

NC Senate and House Districts Targeted by the DLCC


The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC) was formed in 1992 by then Democratic National Committee Chair David Wilhelm to target and win races in state legislatures -- because Republican majorities in state legislatures were more than eager to gerrymander districts to their advantage and suppress the voters they didn't like. The DLCC brings with it money to targeted races but also some expertise in ground games, tactics, and overall strategy. NC board members on the DLCC, who no doubt influenced the targets below, are NC Senate leader Dan Blue and NC House leader Robert Reives.

The DLCC has announced its North Carolina targets for 2024. The goal: Break the Republican Supermajorities

Senate District 7, New Hanover Co.: Defeat Republican 4-term incumbent Michael Lee. Elect Democrat David Hill, a pediatrician. Civitas Partisan Index rates it R+2.

Senate District 11, Franklin, Nash, and Vance: Defeat Republican incumbent Lisa Barnes (in her 2nd term). Elect Democrat James Mercer who founded a non-profit to help kids and veterans. Civitas rates it D+1.

Senate District 13, Wake: Elect Democrat Lisa Grafstein, a labor and civil rights lawyer, who's running for an open seat against Republican Scott Lassiter. Civitas rates it D+1.

Senate District 18, Granville and Wake: Elect Democrat Terence Everitt, currently a member of the NC House, running for an open seat against Republican Ashlee Adams. Civitas rates it R+1.

Senate District 42, Mecklenburg: Elect Democrat Woodson Bradley, businesswoman and prolific volunteer, running for an open seat against Republican Stacie McGinn. Civitas rates it D+1.

House District 24, Nash and Wilson: Defeat 1st-term Republican Ken Fontenot. Elect Democrat Dante Pittman, an assistant town manager in Wilson, NC. Civitas rates it D+2.

House District 25, Nash: Defeat 1st-term Republican Allen Chesser. Elect Democrat Lorenza Wilkins, a non-profit activist. Civitas rates it D+2.

House District 32, Granville and Vance: Defeat 1st-term Republican Frank Sossamon. Elect Democrat Bryan Cohn, a member of the Oxford Board of Commissioners. Civitas rates it D+4.

Lindsey Prather

House District 35, Wake: Elect Democrat Evonne Hopkins, a family law specialist, who's running for an open seat against Republican Mike Schietzelt. Civitas rates it R+3.

House District 37, Wake: Defeat 2-term Republican incumbent Erin Pare. Elect Democrat Safiyah Jackson, an early childhood advocate. Civitas rates it R+3.

House District 73, Cabarrus: Help reelect 1st-term Democrat Diamond Staton-Williams, a registered nurse, running against Republican Jonathan Almond. Civitas rates it R+3.

House District 98, Mecklenburg: Elect Democrat Beth Helfrich, a career public school teacher, running for an open seat against Republican Melinda Bales. Civitas rates it R+1.

House District 105, Mecklenburg: Defeat Republican turncoat incumbent Tricia Cotham. Elect Democrat Nicole Sidman, who won a 3-way primary in March. Civitas rates it R+2.

House District 115, Buncombe: Help reelect 1st-term Democrat Lindsey Prather, public school educator, running against Republican Ruth Smith. Civitas rates it D+7.

Except for the one House seat in Buncombe County, it's plain to see that the DLCC writes off western North Carolina. You can't have everything. We can be thankful that the 50-state DLCC sees an opening for loosening the total power the NCGOP has over abortion rights and ballot access. I'll be digging into at least some of the personalities mentioned in the list above in the coming weeks/months.

Thursday, March 28, 2024

AppState Chancellor Under Fire for Suppressing the Queer Community on Campus


The Appalachian State University Graduate SGA has produced a string of accusations against Chancellor Sheri Everts alleging that she is behind the suppression of "Pride Week," the banning of drag shows on campus, and the actual firing of "at least four (4) Queer & Trans Staff and Faculty" without explanation (and presumably without cause). The document actually names names of those shown the door.

Other student groups have joined the out-cry against Everts (including the ASU College Democrats, which produced its own statement of solidarity). The student groups want Pride Week restored.

Aside from their condemnation of the AppState administration (principally Everts), the students don't raise the questions that immediately come to my mind ... that perhaps Everts is merely carrying water for the Republican-heavy Board of Trustees and the even-more-laden-with-cultural-conservatives Board of Governors, who have shown some eagerness for clamping down on what they consider the too-liberal university system. Everts has seemed all too willing to please those powers and not at all susceptible to the pleas and arguments of her own student body and faculty.

She's been highly unpopular on campus for a long time. The ASU Faculty Senate passed a "no confidence" resolution about her back in 2020, but nothing much about her style of authoritarian administration has changed.