Columns

Colin Campbell: Privatizing School Bus Safety

RALEIGH — Drivers who pass stopped school buses could get fined up to $1,000 under a bill that Gov. Roy Cooper signed on July 25 — but the hefty fine isn’t why legislators from both parties opposed the measure. The technology is similar to red-light cameras: Systems operated by a private company automatically take photos of offenders’ cars, and the…


Paul O’Connor: Looking For Ancestors

RALEIGH – Anyone who owns a Bible recording vital family dates is blessed in more than a religious sense. Knowing the names and important dates of one’s family members is a gift from previous generations. Now five months into a new hobby – more an obsession – I’m envious of those who enjoy a family record that says, definitively, that…


Colin Campbell: To Win the Legislature, Look to Rural Counties

RALEIGH — When Gov. Roy Cooper recently rolled out his new initiative to “Break The Majority” in the Republican-controlled legislature, his first interview wasn’t with a North Carolina news outlet. It was with POLITICO — the Washington-based magazine that’s a must-read for D.C. insiders. “Can Roy Cooper show Democrats how to win again?” the bold headline read. Cooper told the…


Paul O’Connor: Lottery Fantasies

RALEIGH – While the legislature debated the state lottery years ago, a veteran lobbyist dismissed my argument that it would amount to state-sponsored gambling. “Any fool knows that the odds of winning the lottery are so bad that you can’t call it gambling. It’s just fun.” More than a decade later, I see he was right. I’m never going to…


Colin Campbell: It’s Time to Raise Legislator Pay

RALEIGH — A fellow reporter and I tried recently to make a list of N.C. legislators who have traditional, 9-to-5 jobs. Our list was short. Few can balance the legislature’s grueling schedule with the demands of a boss and set hours. Imagine telling your supervisor that you won’t be available most weekdays for roughly half the year. You’d probably get…


Paul O’Connor: You Gotta Pay Your Bills

RALEIGH – The fiscal crises in two states have liberals and conservatives chortling in glee. Liberal Connecticut and conservative Kansas are both in fiscal trouble, so conservatives point northward and liberals midwestward and say, “We told you that doesn’t work.” Looking at the two states, I say they are living proof of my brilliant treatise, first published in 2014 but…


Paul O’Connor: The Dots Are Moving

RALEIGH – Ferrel Guillory, the former newsman and current UNC scholar, often lectures to journalists with slides that reporters have nicknamed “Dots, Dots, Dots.” Guillory starts with a fairly blank 19th century map of North Carolina. Using U.S. Census data, he notes population centers with black dots, creating a new map for every new data set, that is, every tenth…


Paul O’Connor: Coming Back To Haunt

RALEIGH – It can be fun to see how decisions made one day can come back to bite you a bit later. For example, think of how often a professional athlete, after being traded away, has returned to beat his old team. In North Carolina politics last week, we just saw such a butt biting, when the legislature overrode Gov….


Paul O’Connor: No Longer A Luxury

RALEIGH – As a boy, I barely knew an adult who didn’t smoke. My mother and her best friend smoked cigarettes at the kitchen table every afternoon. My dad didn’t smoke, but all his buddies did. After he died of lung cancer at age 50, Army pathologists said his lungs looked as if he had. My uncles all smoked manly…


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…