Tag Archives: north carolina

North Carolina’s Literary Capital

It seems that Hillsborough, NC is where the writers want to be:

At Christmastime each year, Michael Malone, a longtime TV writer, and Allan Gurganus, a bestselling novelist, put on a production of “A Christmas Carol” at an Episcopal church in Hillsborough, N.C. Mr. Gurganus plays Scrooge, and Mr. Malone plays nearly all the other characters. Jill McCorkle, another bestselling novelist, holds the record for perfect attendance.

In fact, more than two dozen of their fellow writers live in Hillsborough, population 6,087, where government meetings are held in the “town barn,” and the Wooden Nickel serves up fried green tomatoes. “Under the Tuscan Sun” author Frances Mayes lives in a 4,500-square-foot Federalist farm house here, and David Payne, author of the Southern saga “Back to Wando Passo,” lives in a renovated former clubhouse for local businessmen in the town’s historic district…

So what is it that draws writers to this small Southern town? Mr. Malone says it speaks to the nature of a writer’s work. Hillsborough allows writers to be at once isolated and close to friends and peers; while intensely focused on their next book or script, they still belong to a community that hosts barbecue festivals and a cemetery walking tour.

“Writers can get very isolated,” said Mr. Malone. “This is a real community. This is a real town, and it’s been a real town since the mid-18th century. That is the stuff of fiction.”

This tight-knit feel is attracting others to Hillsborough, said local Coldwell Banker real-estate agent Tom Sievert, driving up home prices. The median sales price in Hillsborough was $238,000 in July, up 25% from five years earlier, according to Triangle Multiple Listing Services.

“While we have this mecca for the authors, you’ll see them in front of Cup A Joe just having a cup of coffee. They’re just members of the community,” said Mr. Sievert. “I think that’s what drives people here. It’s a real friendly town.”

By the way, I highly recommend you read any of Malone’s books. They are great, entertaining reads and I particularly enjoyed Handling Sin, Time’s Witness and Uncivil Seasons.

West Forsyth High School Receives Accolades

The high school that all three of my kids attended (youngest is about to graduate) is one of the best in NC and in the top 400 in the nation according to US News & World Report:

West Forsyth High School ranks #2 and Lucy Ragsdale High ranks #6 in North Carolina, according to the publication.

In the 2014 rankings, 34 North Carolina schools received silver medals and 61 received bronze medals. The only two schools that earned gold medals were Green Hope High in Cary and West Forsyth High in Clemmons.

According to the publication, at West Forsyth High School “students have the opportunity to take Advanced Placement® course work and exams. The AP participation rate at West Forsyth High is 61 percent. The student body makeup is 51 percent male and 49 percent female, and the total minority enrollment is 32 percent. West Forsyth High is 1 of 15 high schools in the Forsyth County Schools.”

Amendment One Advocate Taking on Tillis for Republican Senatorial Nomination

There's an interesting article at Atlantic.com about the Rev. Mark Harris' run for the Republican nomination for the Senate seat currently held by Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan.  Rev. Harris was instrumental in getting Amendment One passed and is looking to use the same grassroots organization he used in that fight to boost his Senate run:

Now Harris is attempting to unseat Hagan in the Senate, vying to win the Republican nomination with assistance from his band of grassroots allies. He announced his Senate candidacy this month, and has the potential to give state Senate House Speaker Thom Tillis a serious challenge in the Republican primary.

Harris has sent early signals that he'll build his Senate campaign infrastructure out of that same grassroots organization that fought against gay marriage. He has already brought on Republican activist Mary Frances Forrester, who spearheaded the Amendment One campaign, and Rachel Lee Brady, who worked for the pro-Amendment One group Vote Marriage NC. That could be helpful in injecting cash into the relatively unknown first-time candidate's campaign and could help propel Harris to the Republican nomination…

The article goes to point out why the state-wide fight for Hagan's seat might not be as easy as the Amendment One results would seem to indicate:

Amendment One was on the ballot during last year's May primary, when there were no competitive statewide contests, not the general election when the presidential campaign and a heated gubernatorial race boosted turnout. As is typical of primary elections, the electorate was much older and much more conservative than in a typical general election, but the excitement around Amendment One exacerbated those differences. Over three-quarters of voters in the primary election were over the age of 50, according to Lake Research Partners, a Democratic polling organization that worked with same-sex marriage proponents during the primary. That electorate was "enormously" helpful in getting Amendment One passed, pollster Celinda Lake said, and could be a boon to Harris in getting through the Republican primary.

The Democrats are going to be in a dogfight to retain control of the Senate so you can expect to see lots of national money injected into this campaign since Sen. Hagan's seat is seen as one of the most closely contested in the country. Things are gonna get interesting around here in the very near future.

Interesting Times

It sometimes takes living in interesting times to make you realize that boring is vastly underrated. The Great Housing Bubble followed by the Great Recession have caused many of us to live through some interesting times, and the reaction by our elected leaders to the fallout of those interesting times has led to even more interesting times.

Here in North Carolina we're starting to get national attention for the way our state leaders are reacting to the aftermath of the recession. The state is a perfect storm of economic hardship and political sea change that makes it a perfect political story on a national level. Unfortunately at the root of those stories is the suffering of real people, some of whom are our friends and neighbors, and the ideological response of the newly dominant political party to the economic reality that those people represent.

Lots of ink has been spilled about new conservative policies that have been put in place this legislative term and the Moral Monday protests that were prompted by those policies.  Quite frankly it's a complicated issue, and in defense of both sides of the arguments it should be noted that they almost certainly feel their way is the best way to address the whole of the problem, but from the point of view of those of us who are neighbors and friends of the very folks who are directly affected now by these policies it's hard to swallow the big picture economic arguments while they suffer.

Probably the best thing I've read about this issue is something a friend linked to on Facebook that addresses the Moral Monday protesters and why their protests are righteous even if you disagree with some of their specific remedies/arguments:

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me…The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” (Matthew 25:35-36, 40)

God is far bigger than a single political party. There are many paths and policies for addressing poverty, reforming our broken immigration system, responding to climate change, and healing the racial divides that continue in our society. But what we cannot accept, nor allow, is for our own leaders to willfully exacerbate our problems and directly harm people who are already suffering — to sacrifice the common good to their own ideological agendas. In such moments and times, people of faith must speak out — not for the sake of politics, but because the beauty and simplicity of the gospel demands it. (Emphasis mine)

For those of us whose faith compels us to do everything we can to help the unemployed, hungry, homeless, etc. we cannot ignore the long-term economic policies that can lead to those states. We must acknowledge that there are many different ways to address the underlying sociological and economic issues that are the root of those problems. We must be ready to admit that perhaps some conservative ideals might be the way to go, or that perhaps some government-led initiatives truly are the only hammer that will work on that nail.  But, and this the crux of the argument for me, it doesn't matter which path is best if people get seriously hurt during the journey. It is our moral imperative to make sure that the least of us is cared for, and if our journey has to take a little longer or follow a crooked path, i.e. involves ideological comprises in order for us to be able to help carry those who need help, then so be it. 

Young Adults and Obamacare

We've all heard our fill about Obamacare, but because it is so complex most of us don't have a clue what's going to happen as its implementation kicks into gear next year. That's beginning to change as all kinds of research is being done and reports on the results of that research starts to hit the news.

Earlier this week we saw plenty of coverage of the Rand Corporation's analysis of the 14 states that have opted not to implement the Medicaid expansions called for in Obamacare, and the projections aren't good for those states which include North Carolina. Now comes this fascinating interview with the executive director of Young Invincibles, a group that studies young adults' role in health reform. The interview is about how young adults view health insurance and the likelihood that they will opt in to Obamacare, which everyone seems to agree is a critical factor in the success of the program. Here are the most interesting tidbits:

About 19 million young adults 18 to 34 lack health insurance. Our polling shows that less than 5 percent of young people choose not to have it. The number one reason they don’t have it is the cost. Most young people don’t qualify for Medicaid right now even if they have very low incomes because most states just don’t give childless adults Medicaid. That’s one of the biggest changes under Obamacare. If every state expanded Medicaid, about 8 million would qualify for Medicaid. Another 9 million would qualify for subsidies because they make less than 400 percent of poverty.

So then 17 of the 19 million uninsured young people are, in theory, eligible for either subsidies or Medicaid under Obamacare?

That’s right. It’s a pretty phenomenal percentage. So if we do our jobs right, young people will be one of the biggest winners in the health-care law…

 But the cost does matter. So is Obamacare actually going to make insurance affordable for this group? Or will it make insurance more expensive for young, healthy people by making it easier for sicker, older people to buy insurance without getting discriminated against? 

The first important point is the huge percentage of unemployed young people who get access to either subsidies or Medicaid. So you saw in California that many young people will end up having insurance options that cost them less than $100 or less than $50 simply because their income is low enough to qualify for subsidies. For someone making $20,000 a year, they’re going to have to pay $40 a month for health insurance. That’s a very good deal. And in a state like California, there are also millions of young people who qualify for Medicaid.

Now we’ve identified a population between 300 percent and 400 percent of the federal poverty level that’s going to have more problems. The subsidies aren’t that rich for them, and so whether to buy is a tougher question. They’ll have financial strain. They have financial strain now. That’s why they’re uninsured. If you’re just getting by, then $200 a month can be a lot. That’s where education can be key. It can still make good financial sense to be covered because there are real risks. But I think, in general, it will be a good enough deal to sign up. We saw that in Massachusetts where youth uninsurance dropped in half in the first year…

So given all the issues of implementation and the political opposition to the law and the difficulties in various states and the early information about premiums, where do you think this will end up in 2014 and 2015? Do you think young people will sign up or stay away?

I’m pretty hopeful, in part because the experience in Massachusetts showed this model can work. But it will play out differently in different states. A state like California is following the playbook. They’ll do a big promotional campaign. They’re investing in on-the-ground outreach and education. They’re expanding Medicaid so really low-income folks will qualify for health insurance. So I could see it being a huge success in a state like that. But not every state will do that. An important point for young people is that some of the states with the highest rates of youth uninsurance are in the south and some of those states aren’t expanding Medicaid or building their own exchanges. My fear is what happens in those states. So I could see some states coming out and looking much better than other states.

As a father of three children a couple of years away from entering the working world and as a resident of North Carolina, one of those southern states not "following the playbook", that last paragraph truly worries me.