Columns

Paul O’Connor: We Pay, But Have No Say

RALEIGH — Decades from now, the most enduring and defining mark of this Republican legislature may well be charter schools. In 2011, Republicans came to power intent on lifting the 100-school cap that had existed since the mid-1990s. This school year, 168 charters operated in the state, educating more than 80,000 students, just over 5 percent of the state’s total…


Paul O’Connor: How Might Things Have Been Different

RALEIGH — Over the last four years, Republican legislators, fueled by veto-proof majorities in both houses, have refashioned the state’s tax code, voting laws, and its policies on education, the environment and social issues. After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that North Carolina’s legislative districts are unconstitutional and Gov. Roy Cooper’s called for a special redistricting session, it’s natural to…


Paul O’Connor: Security From What?

RALEIGH – On April 19, 1995, the day domestic extremists blew up the Alfred P. Murrah Building in Oklahoma City, news reporters were watching TV updates in the legislative press room. What was already a glum day turned gloomier when I observed that a design flaw in the Legislative Building made it susceptible to a similarly catastrophic terrorist attack. Twenty-two…


Paul O’Connor: A Rigged Game

RALEIGH — Imagine you’re running a match-play golf tournament. Your team will face another for a big cash prize, and you choose the course. The two teams have very different strengths, so you pick a course where your team is almost assured of winning 13 of the 18 holes. Furthermore, because you are running the tournament, you can change any…


Paul O’Connor: Firestorm Averted

RALEIGH — Some might find this column tasteless, but there is no denying that the unexpected need to replace a U.S. senator last week would have set off a political firestorm in Raleigh. On Wednesday morning, Sen. Thom Tillis collapsed while running a 5K race in Washington. Initial reports said he needed CPR as he was rushed to the hospital….


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…