Recent editorials from North Carolina newspapers:
The News & Observer of Raleigh on climate change:
Those coastal homeowners and developers in North Carolina who have their heads in the sand with regard to global warming and climate change have had a tough few days.
This weekend’s searing days are not in themselves evidence of a warming planet and the rising seas that will come with more heat. But the high temperatures are part of a worrisome trend. NASA scientists say 2016 looks like it will set a new mark for overall high temperatures, becoming the third year in a row of record warmth.
Global warming and climate change are trends that are getting harder and harder to deny. The heat of late and the heat to come point out again the foolishness of Republicans in simply revising state projections, backed up by data from scientists, that the ocean was going to be more than 3 feet higher on the coast by the end of this century. The GOP simply “revised” those projections to stop at 30 years, which shows a rise of only 8 inches. That’s comforting, of course, to coastal homeowners with an eye toward selling their properties and developers who hope to put up more condos and houses along the coast and go upscale with some properties already in existence. The reality that the coastal economy is going to feel a negative impact from rising sea levels is unpleasant, to be sure, but it is a reality that needs to be faced, not ignored.
The Winston-Salem Journal on needle exchange programs:
A new law to allow needle- and syringe-exchange programs is likely to save a significant number of lives. We commend the legislature for approving it and Gov. Pat McCrory for signing it into law.
The provision was included as part of the wrongheaded bill that mandates that public footage from law-enforcement body- and dashboard cams, paid for by taxpayers, is not public record. But we’re glad that a little bit of good comes from that bad bill.
The new law allows treatment programs to provide drug users with replacement needles and hypodermic syringes, as long as no public funds are used to purchase them, The Associated Press reported last week. Program volunteers, workers and participants would be immune from possible drug-related charges, and can refer people to addiction treatment programs and contribute to them.
Sharing needles often leads to infections and diseases, such as hepatitis C.
At least five needle-exchange programs already in the state serve more than 7,000 people a year, Tessie Castillo of the North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition told the AP. Brunswick County Sheriff John Ingram told the AP the programs increase public safety because needles are exchanged rather than being discarded in parks, streets and graveyards. Law enforcement officers and unsuspecting citizens have accidentally gotten stuck with discarded needles.
“Traditionally law enforcement approached it from ‘Arrest everyone and let the system sort it out,’ but that’s really not getting us anywhere,” Ingram told the AP. “Locking up users repeatedly is doing nothing but bog down our justice systems.”
Mike Page, a Wilmington social worker and former heroin addict, credits a needle exchange program with helping guide him toward recovery. It was through such a program in Arizona that he first built relationships with doctors and counselors who later guided him toward recovery. He told the AP that the exchange programs are a more sustainable way to encourage people to get clean than abstinence-based programs because they don’t shame addicts who are still using or may have relapsed.
North Carolina, like many states, is suffering a heroin epidemic that law enforcement officials say is reaching critical levels, the AP reported. Between 2010 and 2014, heroin overdose deaths in North Carolina increased fivefold to 253, and cases of hepatitis C have nearly tripled, according to state health data.
Gov. Pat McCrory told the AP that some conservative representatives objected to exchange programs, saying they only facilitate addictions.
“It’s not the politically correct thing to do, at least on my side of the aisle, but it’s the right thing to do,” McCrory said at the signing.
Whatever the reasons people get on heroin — whether peer pressure or seeking relief from mental or physical pain — it doesn’t take much to understand that a tough-love approach doesn’t work with everybody.
Allowing heroin addicts to survive in relative health until they’re ready to seek help makes sense. Needle- and syringe-exchange programs will surely help.
The Fayetteville Observer on the state’s economy:
The governor and many of his cabinet members are trumpeting this state’s economic resurgence as they head down the trail into what will be a hard-fought 2016 election.
And there’s no doubt that some of our numbers are good: Unemployment is falling steadily, even as jobs are created by new and expanding businesses and industries.
But what they’re not saying is important too: Most of that economic growth is limited to the Triangle and Charlotte, and growth outside those thriving centers is more anemic.
N.C. State University economist Mike Walden has long been the go-to guy for analysis of this state’s economic trends. He sends out twice-yearly reports on our economy that contain more precision and less politics than we get from elected leaders. His report earlier this month points out some worrisome problems.
Walden says overall economic growth is actually pretty slow. From 2002 to 2006, he says, our production of goods and services grew an average of 3.4 percent a year. Since the recession, from 2010 to 2015, the growth has been less than half that — 1.3 percent.
Walden notes that our population growth has slowed too, which is one of our problems, but perhaps not the biggest.
Across the nation, the economist says, middle-income jobs are going away — as they did here long ago, when the textile industry fled overseas. Job expansion is occurring in the low-paying service industries and in the lucrative “analytical and problem-solving occupations.” That latter kind of job isn’t growing much in North Carolina, save around the Triangle and Charlotte. In cities like Fayetteville, though — and especially across most of our rural areas — the only job growth is among the low-wage occupations.
Unfortunately, we’re the poster child for a troublesome national trend. As Walden put it, “North Carolina can be viewed as ‘ground zero’ for the seismic shifts that are happening in the economy.”
How does this state combat those shifts? It can start by making sure advanced technology — like “gigabit” internet service — is available across the state, especially in small towns. It can help cities and towns develop in ways that attract the “creative class” and the “knowledge industry.” And it can offer better support to the arts, culture and especially to education at every level, because that’s how we attract the high-paying industries we want, and how we produce the workers those industries need.
We used to do that in North Carolina. Time to get back to it.