The Follies

The Follies

- in Fitzsimon File

follies-mask228McCrory and the politics of fear

Gov. Pat McCrory appears to be all in on creating fear of Syrian refugees that he can exploit for political gain.

As Taylor Batten with the Charlotte Observer pointed out in a recent editorial, McCrory was asked last Friday about possible security problems with the refugees coming to the state and his office brushed aside any concerns, pointing out that “prior to being given refugee status, an extensive security screening is conducted on each individual.”

By Monday, after the Paris attacks, McCrory had changed his tune and joined a chorus of Republican governors demanding that Obama Administration stop allowing the Syrian refugees into the country.

It’s worth noting that France still plans to accept the refugees.

McCrory’s office has issued four press releases in the last few days talking tough about the refugees and his campaign has sent out at least one fundraising appeal bragging about his tough talk. So much for it not being about politics.

And if all that wasn’t offensive enough, after saying he didn’t have enough information from the federal government about the screening of refugees, McCrory blew off a conference call with the White House that provided more details because he had to catch a plane to Las Vegas for the Republican Governors Association meeting.

McCrory apparently couldn’t be bothered with rescheduling a flight to hear the details about the screening of refugees that he asked for only two days earlier.

But his office did manage to issue another press release saying the assurances given by the White House on the call weren’t enough. The release didn’t mention that McCrory missed the call to fly to Las Vegas.

Sadly, McCrory’s likely opponent in the 2016 election, Attorney General Roy Cooper, couldn’t muster the courage to stand up to the politically-inspired appeals to fear. Cooper issued a statement this week essentially agreeing with McCrory about the refugees. Not much moral leadership in North Carolina these days.

Senator Brown’s playing Perry Mason

Speaking of Gov. McCrory, the legislative hearings this week into the pay to play scandal in his administration didn’t produce any new startling information.

McCrory’s Secretary of Public Safety Frank Perry repeated his statement that Graeme Keith Sr., a donor to McCrory’s campaign, mentioned his political contributions several times while trying to convince the administration to renew his $3 million prison maintenance contract.

The contract was ultimately renewed, thanks largely to the efforts of McCrory’s State Budget Director Lee Roberts. Perry still thinks that was a mistake but doesn’t think the administration acted improperly.

Apparently it’s ok to renew a state contract of a donor who keeps mentioning the money he has contributed to the governor’s campaign.

The most interesting part of the hearing surrounded the repeated questions asked by Senate Majority Leader Harry Brown about a memo written by a DPS official summarizing the meeting called by McCrory so Keith could talk to administration officials about his contract.

The memo, which was first revealed in the initial stories about the scandal in the Raleigh News & Observer and the Charlotte Observer, said that McCrory convened the meeting and then turned things over to Keith who said that he had given money to politicians and expected something in return.

Brown seemed obsessed with discrediting the memo, pointing out that it was not written on official department letterhead and asking if there were computer records of it. At one point Brown asked Perry if it was possible that the memo was written a few weeks ago, more than a year after the meeting.

Perry reminded Brown that was impossible since the memo was released months ago in response to a public records request. And then Perry confirmed what the memo said, that Keith had mentioned his political donations. So much for Brown’s wild conspiracy theories.

Also interesting was that prison director David Guice has still not spoken publicly about the scandal. The N&O reported that Guice raised questions about the initial meeting with McCrory and Keith but the administration has prohibited Guice from talking to the media and he did not appear at this week’s legislative hearing.

It makes you wonder why McCrory’s staff is so worried about Guice giving his side of the story.

More reaction to draconian school grading system

Another school system is having problems with the state’s stigmatizing A-F grading system for public schools. The New Bern Sun Journal reports that members of the Craven County Board of Education reluctantly approved plans for three elementary schools that have been designated as low performing.

The grades are based on a formula that relies heavily on test scores instead of growth, making it almost impossible for low-income schools to earn a high grade. Instead, low-income schools and the students and teachers in them are branded as failures.

The Sun-Journal reported that during a work session about the grades and plans for the three schools that “board members and administrators made emotional pleas concerning the process. In addition, school-based administrators could be seen wiping tears from their faces as the board discussed approving the plans.”

That’s what the philosophy of the folks currently in charge in Raleigh is doing to folks trying to help children across North Carolina, branding them failures and making them wipe tears from their faces.

And it’s not an accident, given Senator Bob Rucho’s quote this week about the point of the draconian and punitive grading system.

“What it was always designed to be is to show that the (public school) system has failed and we’re out fixing it,” Rucho said.

Fixing it by punishing administrators and teachers who work at low-income schools, no matter how much their students improve. No wonder they are distraught.