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In our opinion: We didn't start the fire

“We didn’t start the fire,” crooned Billy Joel in his 1989 hit. Perhaps this would be a good catchphrase for Democrats in North Carolina, because we’re not responsible for the conflagration that threatens to consume our county and state. It’s MAGA Republicans who have kindled fires with their irresponsible statements and actions.

We don’t need to look far to find examples of the dumpster fires the GOP has lit. Starting at the top of the heap, Mark Robinson is at it again. In yet another banner quote, the GOP’s candidate for governor endorsed a claim that the theory of evolution is “demonic.” Hardly a believer in rational thought, Robinson has also called for the wholesale removal of science courses from elementary schools, and he asserts climate change is “junk science.”

The MAGA GOP in Raleigh is also at it again. In the time since the legislature began its “short session” on April 24, the majority party is considering several short-sighted proposals, including:

  • A bill now in the final stages of consideration that would expand the ill-advised education voucher program, giving even more tax money to rich folks to pay for tuitions at unaccountable or even non-existent private schools.

  • A change in an anti-mask law that prohibits people who use masks for health reasons from wearing them. Supporters of the revised law say no one wearing a mask to protect their health would be arrested. (Memo to GOP legislators: If that’s true, why change the law?)

Meanwhile, transparency seems to be a difficult concept for members of the Brunswick County School Board to grasp. In May, School Board members voted behind closed doors to spend more than $5 million on a building in Shallotte, which it intends to use for office space and storage of student records and school furniture. The School Board will need to spend additional funds to renovate the property.

Just a month ago, BCDP Chair Shelley Allen and BCDP member Dale Todd appeared before the Board to argue against a proposal — also engineered largely behind the scenes — to spend $1.5 million on new school surveillance equipment. At the time, one School Board member said privately it should have considered the proposal in public.

(Memo to the School Board: What else is being voted on behind closed doors?)

Also in Brunswick County, county commissioners changed their minds about a letter they voted to send to state legislators asking the county be included in General Assembly bills to eliminate “extraterritorial jurisdictions (ETJs) — the ability for towns like Southport and Leland to control development beyond their boundaries. The commissioners were concerned that county residents living near towns were not being treated fairly by the towns that exercised jurisdiction over their affairs. So instead of seeking amicable solutions, county commissioners simply asked their state legislators to eliminate ETJs. The towns were angry.

Then, the commissioners changed their minds, amending their letter by asking for an investigation into the “unintended consequences” of their request. Now, residents near town boundaries are angry.

(Memo to county commissioners: Consider a compact between towns and neighboring communities to jointly administer development near town boundaries.)

As the state GOP and its local equivalents mumble and stumble their way to flawed legislative policy, it’s well worth remembering we voters can end poor government by voting for new representatives come November. We didn’t start the fire, but we can put it out.


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