Civitas Review

UNC BOG – Move Ahead With Center Review


A University of North Carolina Board of Governor’s working group has spent months reviewing more than 225 centers in the UNC system. Looking to cut $15 million from a budget, the UNC centers are often times duplicative or highly politically partisan in nature. The working group has now whittled their list down to 34 centers that have been moved to the final review phase for either consolidation, funding cuts or elimination.

Civitas has written in the past about these UNC centers. A particular standout of the centers left in the final phase is the Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity. The organization first founded by John Edwards and now run by full time liberal activist and part time UNC law professor Gene Nichol (1 class taught each semester for over $200,000 salary).

In 2013, through a public records request, we discovered that the UNC Poverty Center held restricted "invitation only" conferences in 2011 and 2013. Both conferences were held to plan and implement a partisan left-wing lobbying and advocacy campaign. Most of the attendees were people and organizations that were members of the Blueprint NC "eviscerate" network, the "Out-of -Control Network" and Moral Monday organizers which were pushing a blatantly partisan agenda.

Our October 2013 request was met by foot-dragging and a firestorm of political outrage from the UNC law school and its allies. A group of liberal professors led by Nancy MacLean (Duke) compared us to Nazis, newspapers across the state accused Civitas of intimidation, and the university did everything possible to stonewall our request. At the time, we were mystified by the sudden liberal opposition to transparent government, but after reviewing the results of our request, it now seems clear why there was so much push-back from Gene Nichol, the Poverty Center’s director, and his friends – they wanted to hide what should have been public knowledge.

In September of 2013, UNC faculty at the Poverty Center began planning a conference that would ultimately be titled “Poverty, Partnerships, and the Public Good.” At Nichol’s direction, the Poverty Center began soliciting participants and invitees for the conference. Dan Gerlach of the Golden LEAF Foundation expressed concern about the political tone of the invitation: “I would be cautious about attending given my Board makeup if this turns into a political fight against the current regime.” In his response, Nichol reassured Gerlach that there would be no such “political fight.” But in correspondence with Tim Tyson, a Duke Professor, Nichol’s tone changed sharply. Tyson wrote that he would “come holler at the panel … [and] tell folks … [to] run McCrony[sic]-Pope over with the Steamroller of Love.” Nichol responded: “[T]hanks my brother. I do want you to yell a little bit. Or maybe a lot.”

The March 28, 2011 conference was entitled: “A North Carolina Summit: Progress and Economic Justice in a Time of Crisis” and was just as partisan as the 2013 Conference. Speaker after speaker, elected officials and other political activists railed against the legislative majority and conservative groups in general.

Evidence gathered from public records requests of the UNC Poverty Center suggest the organization held invitation only, partisan conferences in violation of University Policy and was involved in a partisan left-wing lobbying and advocacy campaign.  The November 2013 conference included 28 members of Blueprint NC “eviscerate network”, 6 members of the Out of Control Network and 2 members associated with the Moral Monday. Control Network and 2 members associated with the Moral Monday. This record warrants the inclusion of the Poverty Center in the ongoing review of all UNC centers by the Board of Governors. It also should serve as a warning of how these centers often serve the narrow advocacy interests of a select few and do not really serve as centers of education and research in keeping with the mission of a public university.

A recent OpEd by Jane Shaw and Jenna Ashley Robinson from the John William Pope Center for Higher Education makes a compelling case for moving ahead with the review.

NC Commerce Officials: We Need Larger Bribes for Corporate Cronies


This lengthy Charlotte Observer article looks at some of the behind-the-scenes dealings between state "economic developers" and major corporations. In short, the government agents attempting to bribe big companies to come to NC by offering them taxpayer handouts and tax exemptions not offered to other companies. In particular, the article focuses on the competition NC faces from our neighbors to the south for some recent development deals.

• To win a new plant being built by the Keer Group, a Chinese textile company, South Carolina dangled an incentives package 10 times larger than North Carolina’s, the emails show. “SC is working them hard,” April Kappler of the N.C. Commerce Department wrote in an email before a visit with the company.


But it became clear that corporate income and franchise taxes in North Carolina “were significantly higher than the competing locations,” Fleetwood, of the commerce department, wrote in an email. Giti estimated that the potential cost of taxes, minus incentives, was $172 million over 26 years in North Carolina. That was more than 10 times the $14 million in the lowest cost state, which she didn’t identify.

I'm sure this article had left-wingers like the Budget & Tax Center once again confused, because they attempted to tell us in 2013 that "taxes don't matter" to corporate investment decisions. Obviously, taxes matter – they matter a great deal.

Instead of getting caught up in bidding wars with other states to land the latest big fish, a much better approach would be to eliminate state personal and corporate income taxes. What better tax incentive package would there be than that?

5 Key Factors on Fracking Rules


If you want a more accurate picture of energy development in NC than the mainstream media provide, check out this story in NC Capitol Connection.

Let’s look at five key factors.

  1. Is NC rushing headfirst into hydraulic fracturing?

The opposite is true: the Tar Heel State has dragged its feet on the process, also known as fracking. States such as North Dakota and Pennsylvania developed their shale resources years ago and have raked in billions from energy development, while NC has dawdled.

  1. Is the current rules process hurried?

Some media reports imply the Rules Review Commission is going too fast on approving rules. Let’s look at the process, rather than trying to set some arbitrary time scheme. For example, discussion on just open-air pits garnered 2,800 comments. There has been extensive debate of the rules. And the General Assembly will then review them again. If the process seems to have moved with more urgency than many government endeavors, that may because many government activities move at a snail’s pace.

  1. Is the fact that 13 rules missed a deadline significant?

In every project, especially in government work, deadlines get missed. The 13 rules will be discussed by the panel in a couple of weeks.

  1. What about three rules that commission counsel Amanda Reeder said might merit more review?

She clearly and frankly stated that as an attorney she was no expert in the field, but that she thought the rules merited further review. It sounds as if she wanted to err on the side of caution.

That’s fine, but discussion of the rules indicated they fell within industry standards. Moreover, two of the rules strengthened precautions. The third increased the length of the permitting process. That if anything would seemingly make the regulations stronger.

  1. Is the commission trying to do away with regulation?

The commission has so far moved 107 new regulations on to the legislature for approval. If all 13 of the added rules are OK’d in January, that means the commission will have put forward 120 new regulations.

To sum up: Beware of the subtle spin the mainstream media put on news, especially topics such as energy development.

NC to Join 32 Other States That Don't Fund Driver's Ed


Wake County school leaders (and likely school leaders across the state) are up in arms about the state's elimination of funding for driver's ed programs.

Wake County school leaders warned Tuesday that the state’s elimination of funding for driver’s education could endanger public safety and will lead to higher costs for parents and taxpayers to fund the required program. After the fiscal year ends in June, the General Assembly plans to phase out the $26 million it now provides for driver’s education. But the state is still requiring school systems to offer the program. The school board made restoration of state funding for driver’s education one of the items for state lawmakers’ consideration when the General Assembly reconvenes in January. “I’m suggesting the legislature honor the bargain struck after the Depression, where the state funds the operation of the schools,” school board member Bill Fletcher said.

Left out of the article, however, was an answer to the question: do other state governments fund drivers ed programs?
The answer: not many.
This 2010 Program Evaluation Division report provides the relevant info:

North Carolina is one of eight states that fully fund driver education; it is the only state which funds the program from its state highway fund and does not have a dedicated revenue source for this purpose. Of the other 42 states, 10 provide partial funding and 32 do not fund their program at all.

Arizona ESAs worth a very close look


I've  written before about Education Savings Accounts (ESA) and why North Carolina ought to consider  developing a program (see here). In June, Florida saw the light and  joined Arizona and became the second state  to offer ESAs. The video talks about the benefits of the Arizona ESA program. ESAs work. They give parents control over their child's education. Best of all, ESAs allow children to attend the school that best fits their needs. ESAs make sense. All the more reason to hope that North Carolina becomes  the third state to offer ESAs.