Civitas Review

The 'Good Motives Defense' Offered by UNC Law Chief

1
Apr
16

Jack Boger

Jack Boger

In the latest development in Civitas' quest to pry public records out of the University of North Carolina, Dean Jack Boger of the UNC Law School was recently quoted as saying:

“The open records act permits citizens and institutions to request such records without clarifying what their motives are,” says Boger. “I think some within the university — I’m probably one of them – think there ought to be some sort of statutory restraint placed on that capacity. You could bring a university to its knees by simply asking every one of its 1,200 faculty members to ‘give me your last six weeks of emails,’ and have it all sorted through.”

Boger's latest comments appeared in a newspaper story about professor Gene Nichol, head of the Poverty Center at the UNC Law School, and the Civitas Institute's fight to see some of the emails Nichol produced while serving as a public employee at the offices of a public institution.

It's astonishing that the dean of a law school thinks that "motives" should restrain the rights of the people to know what their employees are doing. But of course motives can excuse everything, or nothing.

How could any statute define "good motives" for a records request? Who would decide which motives were good enough? The agency stonewalling the records request?

Moreover, liberals always want their good motives and fine intentions to excuse any blunders, crimes or catastrophes their policies inflict on innocent people.

That's why state law says that no one needs a reason for seeking or getting public records. We are the public. Public institutions — from the local dog catcher to the University of North Carolina — report to us. We are their bosses. If your boss wants to see what you've been doing in your job, don't you think he has a right to know? Well, that's also our right to know. People at UNC work for us; they report to us; and if they don't want to tell us what they are doing or show us documents they produce on their jobs, they need to seek employment with a private employer.

Most important, Dean Borger doesn't grasp what open records laws are all about. “We don’t live in a society in which people can decide they don’t like what a professor says or believes in a university, and simply take them out of it,” he says in that article. “That’s why we have tenure. That’s why we have very strong protection for academic freedom.”

The good dean is of course dodging the point. A records request is not a termination notice. It is a request for a public employee to produce documents he or she has produced during the course of work on the public's behalf.

Our requests could be meant to laud the Poverty Center's work. After all, if it has found a way to end poverty, all of us would like to hear it.

So, why is Dean Borger so worried about records requests? He raises the specter of anxious citizens bringing UNC to its knees with a flurry of records requests. Well, it would also be a problem if alien invaders landed in Chapel Hill, but that hasn't happened yet either.

Could he be worried about what would happen if too much was known about how the UNC Law School uses the public's money and resources? And does the dean's attitude color the school's response to the clear letter of the open records law?

Art Pope Discusses Benefits of Tax Reform

Apr
16

State budget director Art Pope (whose family foundation is Civitas' primary benefactor) penned an article in the N&O discussing the benefits of last year's tax reform legislation. The article highlights how the tax reform enables North Carolinians to keep more of their hard-earned money. Some highlights:

Tax reform began in 2011, when the General Assembly reduced the state sales tax rate by 17 percent, from a state rate of 5.75 percent to 4.75 percent. Tax reform continued in 2013, when McCrory and the legislature simplified the personal income tax – taking rates ranging from 6 percent to 7.75 percent to a single flat rate of 5.8 percent. They also passed a higher standard deduction starting in 2014 and a flat personal income tax rate of 5.75 percent in 2015.

As a result of lower personal income tax rates, a higher standard deduction and more accurate payroll withholding tables, most employees will see on average a 20 percent reduction in state taxes withheld from their paychecks. A large sample of over 75,000 state employees in all income ranges saw the average state tax withheld drop from 5.6 percent in 2013 to 4.5 percent in February and January. This is the equivalent to a 1.1 percent more in take-home pay.

….

Look at your own paycheck. You’ll discover that the state is withholding fewer taxes, so your take home pay is higher. More importantly, there are tens of thousands of more North Carolinians earning paychecks today than there were in January 2013 when McCrory and his administration took office.

Teacher Compensation Report: A Start

Apr
16

On Monday the Educator Effectiveness and Compensation Task Force issued its final report.  Critics  have chided the Committee  for stopping short of endorsing specific pay increases for teachers, but that was not the goal of the Committee.   Those decisions can and should only be made when North Carolina knows what its budget will look like and what money it will have to spend.  Getting teacher pay right  is a complex issue ( For more see Teacher Pay: A Problem Money Can't Fix) and involves more than just throwing money at a problem. The Task Force raised a lot of important issues and traced the outlines of the challenges North Carolina faces. It's a good first step in a long process.

New ALEC Analysis: Tax Reform Boosts NC's Economic Outlook

Apr
15

Today not only marks tax day, but also the release of the 7th Edition of Rich States, Poor States; an annual publication co-authored by economists Arthur Laffer and Stephen Moore and produced by the American Legislative Exchange Council. The book "analyzes the effects of current state fiscal policies within each state and ranks the states according to their potential for economic growth."

Thanks largely to last year's tax reform legislation, North Carolina's economic outlook ranking in the book shot up from 22nd to 6th. The climb in rankings was the largest of any state this year.

Gov. McCrory spoke at a press conference this afternoon to highlight the positive impact last year's tax reform is having across the state. According to a press release from his office:

“Whether you are a police officer in Fayetteville, a teacher in Charlotte, a hospital nurse in Carteret County, or truck driver in Reidsville, many North Carolinians are seeing more money in their paychecks thanks to the historic tax reform we crafted and signed into law,” said Governor McCrory. “Not only does this help working families across our state, it also puts North Carolina in a much more competitive position to attract new businesses.”

Does the media know what is really going on?

Apr
14

Turning to ABC11, the headline you see is “Capital Punishment back before the North Carolina Supreme Court.” Yes, this case has something to do with capital punishment, but the real news was that the North Carolina Supreme Court was hearing today oral arguments about the Racial Justice Act.  The Racial Justice Act has to do with convicted murderers who have been found guilty and are looking for escape the death sentence by saying race played a role in their case.

Those in Support of the Racial Justice Act with Media

Those in Support of the Racial Justice Act with Media

While the headline may be misleading, there is a vital question most media outlets have left out: "What about the victims?"

Victim's families not being interviewed by media

Victim's families not being interviewed by media

After the North Carolina Supreme Court was finished hearing the oral arguments, the sight outside was interesting. On one side the media was interviewing only those who want believe that the Racial Justice Act was a good piece of legislation; the second picture was that of the victims’ families who have been waiting for closure on their loved ones cases for 17-plus years. Is the media listening only to those arguing for murderers? Shouldn’t journalists be hearing from both sides when reporting?