Civitas Review

Arne Duncan's big brain cramp is instructive


He stepped in it. Big Time. That's what U.S.Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is realizing a  few days after saying some of the pushback on Common Core was coming from "white suburban moms who — all of a sudden  – their child isn't as brilliant as they thought they were, and their school isn't quite as good as they thought they were."

His remarks have set social media ablaze and even spawned the founding of a new group, Mothers Against Duncan (M.A.D.).  Yesterday Valerie Strauss, education columnist at the Washington Post listed an open letter from Ali Gordon,  titled "White Suburban Mom Responds to Arne Duncan.

Gordon's comments confirm a few things I had long thought:

1. Those who developed Common Core, have no idea of the problems it is creating in the lives of students and their parents.

2. The opposition to Common Core is broad and deep and defies political categories.

3. Don't mess with a mother's children.

One of Gordon's last paragraphs' is particularly poignant.

 The rest of the country is watching what we ‘suburban moms’ do now, so thanks for the shout out. One more thing you should know about me — I’m incredibly stubborn. I assure you, I won’t back down. I will not stop advocating for my children. I will not let you, or Commissioner King experiment with my child’s education because Bill Gates has lots of money to throw away. He said himself it would take a decade to see if his “education stuff” works. My kids don’t have a decade to waste on your hunches or his money.

Well said.   Although we have differences on politics, we both know Common Core is not good for our kids. Welcome to the fray, Ali.


Therapist Explains Mental Illness, Mental Health System


The Civitas Institute has written extensively about the problem of untreated severe mental illness in North Carolina. But what is severe mental illness? We sat down with Elizabeth Lynn Gupton (MS, LPC), a therapist  with more than 20 years of experience in mental health.

Gupton explained the difficulties of treating schizophrenia: "When a person has schizophrenia, it's very insidious and it's difficult to treat because your brain tells you you don't have it sometimes. It says everybody else has the problem."

As a mental health professional, Gupton witnessed the transition from county-managed mental health services to managed "community care" in 2001. She says the reforms have been harmful for people with severe mental illness: "I'm saddened. And I'm embarrassed that I'm a provider. I was meant to work at a local mental health center, and I was meant to have the same clients for a long time, and I was meant to make sure that no harm comes to them, and there's not a setting that I can do that in anymore."

Stay tuned to Civitas to learn more about addressing the gaps in our mental health system.

Additions to Transportation


Last week, a panel of national experts assembled in Raleigh to discuss the possibility of bringing a light rail or rapid-bus system to the county. The panel advised county commissioners to proceed with caution.

A rapid-bus system is aimed to combine the capacity and speed of a light rail or metro system with the flexibility, cost and simplicity of a bus system. Lightrails (or subway or metros) can be found in many large urban areas such as New York, Washington D.C. and Atlanta. These require certain things in order to run, such as steel-tracked fixed guideways that would add extra costs to this type of project.

"What we found were the (bus) ridership numbers are fairly low," Clarence Marsella, former general manager and chief executive officer of the Denver Regional Transportation District, told county leaders. Adding rail typically increases ridership 30 percent, he said, so 30 percent of an already low number doesn't justify the high cost of rail.

The panel recommended that Wake County approach local and regional transit gradually, first with enhanced bus service, then rail down the line.

In a recent interview with On the Record’s David Crabtree, Secretary of Transportation Tony Tata discussed an expansion of public transportation. Tata explained that $12 million was being taken from the Fortify Project (I-40/440 Rebuild Project) to give to public transportation with the Triangle Transit Authority. That money would be used to transport people from areas like Holly Springs, Cary and Garner to and from downtown Raleigh. Tata said DOT wanted to focus on major retail spots where the agency could also lease parking. This would give people is these areas an alternative in order to avoid the congestion between these smaller towns and downtown.

A rail system may be a future need, but spending millions on a project right now, that experts say isn’t needed, seems like a waste. DOT is working to come up with alternative solutions without going to the extreme of adding a lightrail system in Wake County. Only time will tell if these will be acceptable solutions or if DOT will have to move towards a lightrail system (or other alternative) in order to ease the congestion.

When no one person knows all the laws in North Carolina, is state law too extensive?


Several weeks ago Civitas co-sponsored an event that brought together lawyers, legislators, and other professionals in the criminal justice industry.

Jim Copland is the Director of the Center for Legal Policy at the Manhattan Institute, where his work focuses on litigation reform. Copland introduced the speakers, as well as set the stage for the event. He noted

In recent years, a coalition of groups across the political spectrum has looked to reform “overcriminalization,” the trend in which the criminal law has been dramatically expanded and increasingly used to punish conduct that violates regulatory imperatives but is neither self-evidently wrong nor understood to be a crime.

Much of the reform effort has focused on federal law, and Washington, D.C., but most criminal law remains at the state level. Therefore, the Manhattan Institute’s Center for Legal Policy, in cooperation with various state and national partners, has begun looking at certain states’ criminal justice systems: New York, Illinois, Ohio, and now North Carolina.

This event launching our North Carolina efforts was co-sponsored by the John Locke Foundation, Civitas, and the NC Institute for Constitutional Law, as well as national partners The Federalist Society, The Heritage Foundation, and Right on Crime. North Carolina Supreme Court Justice Paul Martin Newby framed the discussion with a keynote address, and an engaging panel discussion followed, featuring Jeanette Doran (executive director of the NC Institute for Constitutional Law), Josh Howard (founder and partner of the law firm Gammon, Howard, and Zeszotarski), and Jeffrey Welty (a professor at the UNC School of Government).

This engaging discussion offers significant insights into how overcriminalization has taken root in the Tar Heel State, and it offers a blue print for reform for the state’s energized public leadership.

When no one person knows all the laws in North Carolina, is state law too extensive?  The discussion on the issue of overcriminalization is being brought to the table.

Obamacare 'Success Story': "You Guys Really Screwed Me Over"


This story from CNN speaks for itself. Some snippets:

Washington state resident Jessica Sanford was bursting with pride when President Obama mentioned her story during a Rose Garden event on health care reform last month at the White House.

"Who wouldn't?" Sanford asks. "I'm a nobody really to have him mention my story."

Back in October, Sanford had written a letter to the White House to share her good news. The 48-year-old single mother of a teenage son diagnosed with ADHD had just purchased what she considered to be affordable insurance on the Washington state exchange.


But then, after Obama mentioned her story, Sanford started having problems. Sanford said she received another letter informing her the Washington state health exchange had miscalculated her eligibility for a tax credit.

In other words, her monthly insurance bill had shot up from $198 a month (she had initially said $169 a month to the White House but she switched plans) to $280 a month for the same "gold" plan offered by the state exchange.

Ooops. But that wasn't the end of Sanford's story. After more letters from the state exchange, Sanford's 'best' option was a high deductible "bronze" plan that would have cost her $324/mo. – with no subsidies. She decided that she couldn't afford the plan, and will continue to go without insurance. Sanford took her frustrations to her Facebook page:

"Wow. You guys really screwed me over," Sanford wrote. "Now I have been priced out and will not be able to afford the plans you offer. But, I get to pay $95 and up for not having health insurance. I am so incredibly disappointed and saddened. You majorly screwed up."

Recall that Civitas continues to collect and publish Obamacare horror stories from across North Carolina at