Tag Archives: north carolina

He Made Me Hit Him!

When I was a kid I had a terrible habit of slugging my younger brother. Granted it usually followed him tormenting me and me warning him that if he didn’t stop I was going to hit him. Despite my warnings he would continue to needle and annoy me until I passed the boiling point and slugged him; then he’d crumble to the ground in agony and scream for my mother. Sometimes I knew I’d truly hurt him, but many times he definitely hit the emote button to maximize the punishment he knew I was going to get.

When my Mom arrived on the scene a couple of things happened. First she’d ask, “What happened.” Then, as soon as I started explaining with, “I hit him, but he started it…” she’d cut me off and say something to the effect of, “I don’t care what he said or did, there’s no excuse for hitting him. You’re older and bigger than he is, so there’s just no excuse.” Later, after doling out my punishment, she’d ask me why I continued to let him sucker me in like that and why I couldn’t learn to just ignore him? I didn’t have an easy answer, but deep down I knew she was right.

Why this trip down memory lane? Well, I was reading about the NC’s republican leadership saying they’d entertain the idea of repealing HB2 if Charlotte would repeal it’s bathroom ordinance, and it reminded me of me and my brother. They’re claiming that Charlotte passing its bathroom ordinance forced them to pass a law that not only negated the ordinance, but also removed the ability for municipalities to enact employment bias protections more stringent than the state’s, or for employees to sue employers in state court for wrongful termination. In other words the legislature, and governor, did the equivalent of beating the snot out of Charlotte because the city council stuck its tongue out at them.

Here’s what’s being floated by the republicans:

North Carolina’s two top legislative leaders put their weight behind a proposed repeal of House Bill 2 Sunday night, but only if the Charlotte City Council repeals its own transgender nondiscrimination ordinance first…

The joint statement issued on behalf of House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger is both the clearest sign yet that the General Assembly could backtrack on the controversial law and an effort to pressure the Charlotte City Council in accepting at least some of the responsibility for a months-long fracas over the measure…

“If the Charlotte City Council had not passed its ordinance in the first place, the North Carolina General Assembly would not have called itself back into session to pass HB 2 in response,” the legislative leaders’ statement reads. “Consequently, although our respective caucuses have not met or taken an official position, we believe that, if the Charlotte City Council rescinds its ordinance, there would be support in our caucuses to return state law to where it was pre-HB 2.”

Simply put I think the Charlotte city council would be nuts to cave on this. First, because they don’t gain anything by conceding and second, because the legislature has yet to explain why they can’t repeal the parts of the bill that had nothing to do with the bathroom ordinance.

What the republicans don’t want anyone to pay attention to is Part IV of HB2. Here’s what it says:

PART IV. SEVERABILITY 31 SECTION 4. If any provision of this act or its application is held invalid, the invalidity does not affect other provisions or applications of this act that can be given effect without the invalid provisions or application, and to this end the provisions of this act are severable. If any provision of this act is temporarily or permanently restrained or enjoined by judicial order, this act shall be enforced as though such restrained or enjoined provisions had not been adopted, provided that whenever such temporary or permanent restraining order or injunction is stayed, dissolved, or otherwise ceases to have effect, such provisions shall have full force and effect.

So, if I’m Charlotte my reply is that at a minimum the legislature needs to repeal parts II and III of HB2 before we’ll discuss anything. Even then I think Charlotte’s city council would be dumb to even entertain the idea of repealing the ordinance – after all it’s the legislature and governor who are over a barrel right now – but at least the conversation would be about the specific bathroom bill and not the constraints on local municipalities to provide added employment protections for the LGBT community if they so desired.

How do the legislators and governor not get that to everyone else in the world who isn’t from their camp they look like how I did to my Mom way back when. Even if Charlotte passed the ordinance with the specific intention of provoking them, how could they be so stupid as to get suckered into overreacting and getting themselves sent into economic timeout?

My excuse is that I was 12, but what’s theirs?

Perception IS Reality

In the ongoing North Carolina saga that is the aftermath of the state legislature’s passage of HB2, it has become clear people are still people. Essentially, people who support the bill focus on the parts they agree with – namely the “bathroom bill” portion – and seem perfectly willing to ignore or minimize the parts that they may or may not agree with if they bothered to look past the headlines related to the bathroom-related stuff. On the other hand opponents of the bill focus on the discriminatory aspects of the bill and the egregious rollback of employees’ rights to sue for wrongful termination -rightly so in my opinion – yet they also minimize the feelings of people confronted with the confusing spectrum of human sexuality and gender and belittle as “ignorant” those who don’t know the difference. In other words, our state legislature has drawn a big red line on either side of which the citizens of the state are lining up.

One real rub here is that there are many people who hate the bill, but don’t want to admit that sharing a restroom with a transgender person gives them pause. Given enough time to think about it they probably realize that they already have and just didn’t know it, but the fear of the unknown and different is something that must be addressed and it does no good to belittle those who have those fears.

Another issue is that a certain percentage of the backlash against the bill is coming from people and institutions from outside the state, so people who support it are able to fall back on the old “we’re not going to let those California liberals (or Yankee, or whatever other pejorative) tell us how to live our lives, so they can take their business elsewhere” argument or, even better, the “those people are hypocrites because they still do business in <fill in the blank place with some hot-button issue>” tack. When these people hear that yet another performer is cancelling a North Carolina gig, or another conference is cancelling and moving to another state, or another company is halting expansion plans for the state, they shrug it off as inconsequential or hypocritical. Yet, you can be dead certain that if Charlotte’s bathroom ordinance that was supposedly the justification for HB2 was in place and a Christian rock band cancelled a show there, then they would instantly invoke the right of the band not to violate its principles and decry the lost economic impact due to the ordinance. Hypocrisy, meet thyself.

So here’s the deal – both sides have their perceptions of the issue and so each has its own version of reality. What the supporters of the bill will have to reconcile themselves with is the reality that their perception, and thus their version of reality, is out of step with much of the rest of the country. You know what? That’s their right, but when some of them wake up one day and are unemployed because the state has lost so much business because it is out of step with the rest of the country then they will have a whole new reality to face and that might change their perception of what IS important to worry about and what’s maybe a red herring of an issue that’s been used to screw them over.

The Impact of Malgovernance

*Disclaimer – this piece is my opinion alone and does not reflect the beliefs of any other person or organization with which I’m affiliated.*

Last week I wrote about the way in which the North Carolina legislature enacted the controversial HB2. Since then the controversy and noise swirling around the new law has escalated greatly, with the supporters of the law squatting behind a defensive shield that focuses on the “shiny object” portion of the law; the part that focuses on the rollback of Charlotte’s ordinance regarding transgender bathroom usage. And if you ever doubted it was about politics, in the process of defending law they also attack attorney general Roy Cooper, who is running against incumbent Republican governor Pat McCrory. From Sen. Phil Berger’s Facebook page:

CLICK THE LINK AND SIGN YOUR NAME: I have never seen a campaign as vicious and dishonest as the radical left’s assault on Pat McCrory over the bathroom safety bill. Unlike Roy Cooper, Gov. McCrory courageously did his job and protected the people of North Carolina by signing this common sense law that keeps grown men out of the same bathroom and locker room as little girls. Will you please share StandwithMcCrory.com with your friends and ask them to sign their names in support of Governor McCrory to fight back against the left’s shameful smear campaign?

Now, this stuff is pretty predictable. Of course the backers of the new law are going to run a PR campaign that focuses on the titillating aspects of the bill, simplifies and sensationalizes it with the zero reality-based evidence that it will help protect anyone from anything except their own boogeyman fears, and gets their political base all hot and bothered. Fine, we knew that would happen, but we also knew that there would be an uproar from the rest of the “liberal” world and it was quick in coming, in ways large and small. Here’s just a sampling:

So how are the law’s backers reacting? One editorial in the Charlotte paper captured it perfectly: Republicans’ Schoolyard Reaction to PayPal. This kind of stuff works beautifully with the hard-right’s true believers, and it is definitely part of their strategy – as misguided as some of us might think it is – to give McCrory an issue to go after Cooper with and to distract from the other parts of the law that actually impact far more North Carolinians.

What, you ask, could impact us more than who gets to use the restroom? Well, the one part of the law that has gotten the least attention and yet could directly impact far more of us than anything, is the elimination of a person to sue for wrongful termination in state court if they are fired. That’s a big deal, as explained in this article:

By prohibiting the state Equal Employment Practices Act as the basis for civil action, Noble said, “this law has essentially eliminated state law sanctions for employers, who can now fire its employees … with no state law consequences.”

N.C. House and Senate Republican legislative leaders emphasized during debate over the bill that North Carolinians have a “far more robust” federal court option for filing discrimination lawsuits.

Noble disagrees with the “robust” suggestion, saying that filing a complaint in federal court is twice as costly as state court, more time-consuming in terms of logistical requirements, and likely to have a longer period before a decision…

Legislators say there is a state remedy in that complaints could be investigated and mediated by the N.C. Human Relations Commission.

However, Noble said that commission has focused “on resolving housing discrimination complaints for private persons and improving community relations.”

“The commission simply does not address employment discrimination complaints against private employers … because its authority is expressly limited to receiving, investigating and trying to mutually resolve such complaints,” she said.

The commission also does not receive reoccurring financing from the legislature.

Federal remedies for compensatory and punitive damages are capped according to employer size, ranging from a combined $50,000 to $200,000. In state court, Noble said, there is no cap on compensatory damages, and punitive damages can be worth up to three times the compensatory damage award.

Federal claims must be filed first with the EEOC, whose due diligence obligations often serve to weed out the majority of lawsuits before they reach federal court.

Noble and Rainey said the EEOC tends to take more than six months to recommend whether to pursue a federal court filing, in part because its three North Carolina offices typically are understaffed. By comparison, Kennedy said it is not uncommon for a discrimination case filed in state court to be completed within eight to 12 months.

Seriously, you have to admire the effectiveness of their campaign to this point because no one is talking about it and it directly affects every working person in the state. But, by all means, you go right ahead and focus on who’s using that bathroom and argue about whether or not the new law does any good in protecting someone while they’re taking a squat, while those in the economic development trenches try to figure out how break through all this noise when recruiting businesses and while our various convention and visitor bureaus try to figure out how to keep event organizers from running to more welcoming venues. Think that’s not an issue? Well, here’s a little tidbit I came across on an online network for association professionals:

Topic: Addressing concerns about having our meeting in North Carolina this year

Dear All:

We are having our annual meeting in 6 months in a state that recently passed a law that revokes certain local anti-discrimination ordinances. ($*&*#%!!!!) When we were contacted by the media, we re-iterated our stance on equality (see below). Today we received an inquiry from someone for whom we have no record in our any of our systems asking how we will protect the civil rights of attendees. We have no idea if they are truly a new potential attendee or exhibitor, from the media (though they should identify themselves as media), or from an advocacy group. This got me thinking that we could face protesters or other issues if the courts don’t resolve the situation before this fall.

Has anyone else faced a similar situation?  What should we do and what should we ask the CVB to do, proactively, to reassure our organization, our attendees and exhibitors, etc? 

Believe me when I tell you that there are so many places someone can take a conference or show that there’s no reason they even consider opening themselves up to this kind of hassle, no matter who is behind it. If you’re a supporter of the law, at least the part that’s getting all the noise, and are beating the drum for state leadership to stand strong in the face of “liberal media/activists” then please understand that while you’re more than welcome to your opinion you are also obligated to accept the consequences of that support. You can try to say that it’s the “liberals'” fault for losing that business, that they’re creating a false perception, but here’s the deal: peoples’ perception IS their reality and the perception that you have created is one of being unwelcoming, bigoted and small minded. In today’s business environment that’s a death notice.

Cool Recognition for Some Greensboro Folks

The excerpt below is from a press release from Gov. McCrory’s office announcing the 2016 North Carolina Heritage Award winners. Many folks in Greensboro are familiar with the Montagnard community, but it’s probably a safe bet that folks outside of Greensboro would be surprised to learn about how large the community actually is. I need to make a note to myself to try and see some of the work of the award recipients – it really looks stunning.

H Jue Nie and H Ngach Rahlan

Calling themselves Dega, more Vietnamese Montagnards settled in North Carolina than in any other state, due to their fellowship with Special Forces units during the Vietnam War. Dega weavers H Jue Nie and H Ngach Rahlan of Greensboro mastered the ancient spinning, dying and weaving traditions of their people while growing up in the central highlands of Vietnam. Once a part of every highland woman’s knowledge and practice, women wove to clothe their families, decorate homes and altars, and to keep everyone warm at night. Originally Montagnard weavers grew their own cotton, spun their thread by hand, and used dyes from the indigo plant and other natural sources. Decorative elements such as beads were once made from plant materials that grew in their rice fields. War and displacement has reduced the numbers of skilled weavers remaining in Vietnam. H Jue Nie and H Ngach Rahlan moved to Greensboro 20 years ago, bringing their backstrap looms and an immeasurable knowledge of the designs and techniques that make their weaving traditions unique.

Explore the work:

Montagnard Weaving: The Women
Backstrap Weavers

Montagnard Weaving: Overview
Backstrap Weavers

Montagnard Weaving: BacksStrap Loom
Backstrap Weavers

From Tobacco to Tech

The New York Times covers the revitalization of Winston-Salem’s downtown over the past 15-20 years, with a particular focus on the Wake Forest Innovation Quarter that started in 1986 when RJ Reynolds moved operations out of downtown, and then really picked up steam 5-10 years:

Wake Forest Innovation Quarter, rising on a 145-acre parcel on the developing east side of this midsize Carolina city, is a partnership between the city and state, Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, Wake Forest University and Wexford Science and Technology, the Baltimore-based primary developer. The development, initially named the Piedmont Triad Research Park, was once the site of a cigarette manufacturing plant owned by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco.

The irony of the Innovation Quarter’s focus on data analysis, biotech health research and medical education is not lost on the project’s developers. Neither is the design emphasis on light and air.

Skylights and spacious interior atriums open the dark, early 20th-century, multistory concrete factory buildings. The $517.5 million development also features new construction to house state-of-the art biomedical laboratories and classrooms. In all, the Innovation Quarter encompasses 2.5 million square feet of office, laboratory, classroom and residential space in 16 buildings surrounding an urban square.

But as those of us who live here know, the Innovation Quarter is just the largest piece of what has been an ongoing rebuilding puzzle for the Camel City:

From 1875, when Richard Joshua Reynolds founded the company that bore his name, through most of the 20th century, Winston-Salem moved with the rhythm of the tobacco harvest and the shifting domestic market for cigarette sales. During World War II, 15,000 people worked in the buildings the company owned on the city’s east side.

What remains of that economy and culture are sturdy structures being converted to new uses. The R.J. Reynolds Art Deco 21-story headquarters, designed by William F. Lamb and opened in 1929, is said to have been a model for the Empire State Building, completed in 1931. Later this year, at a cost of $60 million, the first seven floors of the Reynolds Building will open as a 211-room Kimpton Hotel. The other floors will have 150 residences.

The hotel development, said Mayor Allen Joines, was influenced by the Wake Forest project, two blocks away. The city, he said, is intent on forming medicine, information management and biotechnology into a new brand for Winston-Salem. “Since 2000, we’ve had $1.2 billion in real estate investment in our downtown,” Mayor Joines said. “The Innovation Quarter has been a big part of why that’s happened.” (Emphasis mine)

It’s nice to see that the remarkable transformation of Winston-Salem is getting noticed in other parts of the country, and it really has been something to behold. The combination of public-private initiatives, the transition from an “old” economy to a “new” economy, and the evolution of a sleepy (really dead) downtown social scene to one that is brimming with great restaurants, theaters, art institutions, etc. is something that could and probably will be studied by cities that find themselves in similar situations to Winston-Salem’s a generation ago.

Sure we still have a long way to go. We still suffer from underemployment in this area, high rates of food insecurity in homes and other major socio-economic challenges that need to be addressed, but we’re definitely in much better shape than we were when I moved here with my family ten years ago. If you aren’t from around here then I recommend you come check it out.

A Tale of Two States

The weekend edition of The Wall Street Journal had an article about the burgeoning film industry in Georgia that is likely to make the folks in the film industry here in North Carolina cringe:

ATLANTA—The film industry here has hit the big time, thanks to generous tax credits that have made Georgia one of the top states for movie and television production behind California and New York.

But the growth of what many call “Y’allywood” is being threatened by a shortage of makeup artists and costume and set designers—the rank and file of film and television crews…

In fiscal year 2013, film and television production budgets in Georgia totaled $933.9 million, according to the Georgia Department of Economic Development.

While some states have turned away from incentives, arguing that they hurt budgets, Georgia’s Republican-dominated legislature strongly supports them. Georgia offers film and TV projects transferable tax credits for 20% of production costs, plus an additional 10% if the project agrees to display the state’s promotional logo in its credits. The incentives apply for all workers on a set, whether they are Georgia residents or not.

North Carolina is one of the states that has turned away from incentives, with the state legislature failing to pass the legislation that would have renewed them in 2014. The Hollywood Reporter has a detailed story describing the issue and the probable effect:

One big reason the North Carolina incentive legislation failed is because the Koch Brothers-backed nonprofit Americans for Prosperity bought radio commercials as the debate that slammed film incentives was going on. The ads were part of a larger campaign to eliminate a range of state-funded development programs.

“The money coming in from the outside has hurt the North Carolina programs for business development,” said Rep. Susi Hamilton, a Democrat who fought to retain incentives. “The Americans for Prosperity spent a lot of money to try and end the program and unfortunately they have the ear or our leadership and appear to be successful.”

Hamilton, however, doesn’t believe this means other Southern states will follow suit. In fact, she sees the opposite happening as North Carolina stands to lose more than 4,000 good jobs.

“The implications for other states,” says Hamilton, “particularly in the Southeast, are that they are going to pick up the work that otherwise would have come to North Carolina. That’s good news for the other states.”

Griffin says the irony is that there has been an influx of work into North Carolina in the past three or four years, and 2014 could be a record year.

Hamilton estimates that, in 2013, $360 million was directly spent by productions, while the state paid out $62 million in incentives. And that doesn’t count millions more spent on services and by workers who have moved to the state for jobs that pay an average of more than $65,000 per year.

The article also points out that the legislature did pass a grant program for the film industry, but because of the way it was structured it is “nearly useless.”

As tempting as it is to see everything as black and white, to assume that all Republicans or all Democrats see things the same way, it’s situations like this that reveal how varied the views within a political party can be. Republicans are in charge in both Georgia and North Carolina, but they obviously take very different stances on economic incentives. The folks in the North Carolina film industry are likely to lose out because of it.