Columns

Paul O’Connor: What Goes Around…

RALEIGH – It was unclear if the dismissive remark was aimed at me or at my column of the day before. “Naïve,” the new Senate president pro tem, the late Sen. Henson Barnes, D-Wayne, said at the Senate chamber’s press table in January 1989. I didn’t take it personally but I do relish, years later, that the column correctly warned,…


Paul O’Connor: Would Tax Cut Be Permanent?

RALEIGH – It should come as no surprise to anyone that things are not always what they seem in politics. A state Senate-passed bill calling for a constitutional amendment to cap the personal income tax is one such thing. Should it pass the House, a hot debate of benefits and consequences would certainly precede a November 2018 referendum. Unfortunately, the…


Paul O’Connor: Losing A Colleague

RALEIGH –- My heart isn’t in this. A month ago, I walked away from this column, leaving it in the most capable hands of Mark Binker, a 43-year-old veteran old-school journalist who was as smart and dedicated as they come. Then Mark died Saturday morning. A great husband, a great dad, a terrific journalist. Gone. My words are inadequate to…


Mark Binker: A Bill That Should Make Newspaper Readers Take Notice

RALEIGH — Friends and readers — lawmakers here in Raleigh are taking a swipe at your local newspaper. Last week, Sen. Trudy Wade, R-Guilford, won committee approval for a bill that would let cities and counties bypass the daily broadsheet or weekly tabloid and post all sorts of public notices — from legal and estate ads to declarations about public…


Rob Christensen: Political Opposites Try Listening to Each Other

For the past year, some of North Carolina’s leading Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, left-wingers and right-wingers, tried something different. They talked to each other. And I don’t mean they trolled each other on the internet, calling each other pinkos or knuckle-draggers. Under the auspices of Duke University, 30 leaders met five times for all-day sessions featuring civil conversations…


Mark Binker: Some Bills Will Never Come Due

RALEIGH — One of the joys of growing up in the 1970s was rotting your brain with Saturday morning cartoons while rotting your teeth with sugary cereal. But darned if they didn’t sneak in some mental nutrition amongst the G.I. Joe ads, like the three-minute ditty on how a bill becomes a law. The cartoon fellow who sang, “I’m just…


Rob Christensen: The Wrong Way to Reform the Courts

This is the story of how two North Carolina legislatures approached court reform — one with prudent professionalism and the other with seat-of-the-pants politics. This is the 50th anniversary of a major overhaul of North Carolina’s court system, essentially creating the modern system of District Courts, Superior Courts and the N.C. Court of Appeals, all run by the newly created…


Mark Binker: Schoolyard Brawl Over Calendar Law Returns to Raleigh

RALEIGH — If you want to pick a fight at the General Assembly in no time flat, just say two little words: school calendar. Debates over a pair of recently vetted House bills that would send students back to their books by mid-August brought back memories of some of the most raucous legislative fights we scruffy media types can recall….


Rob Christensen: Turning Potholes Into Hot-Button Issues

During the middle of the last century, there was a reform effort in North Carolina to depoliticize municipal government, removing power from the old ward bosses and making city government more businesslike. That is when most cities instituted the council-manager form of government in an effort to place the day-to-day running of City Hall in the hands of trained professionals….


Mark Binker: Confirmation Conflict No Showstopper So Far

RALEIGH — It was supposed to be the best show in Raleigh without a cover charge or two-drink minimum. For the first time in North Carolina’s history, lawmakers would summon the folks a governor appointed to run his cabinet departments and pass judgment on whether they were fit to steer the ship of state. Of course, Gov. Roy Cooper noticed…