Recent editorials from North Carolina newspapers:

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Dec. 28

Winston Salem-Journal and The Greensboro News & Record on the Christmas Day bombing in Nashville, Tennessee:

Many local residents have a soft spot for the unique music and accompanying history that have been generated for generations in Nashville, Tenn. It’s the home of the Grand Ole Opry and many entertainment icons — not all of them purely practitioners of the country genre. It’s also an exciting destination aside from the music — a cosmopolitan city that has seen much economic and cultural growth over the past few decades.

So as we learned about the destructive bomb that was detonated there on Christmas Day, our hearts went out to Music City U.S.A.

Around 1:22 a.m. on Christmas morning, Anthony Warner, 63, parked his RV on Second Avenue North, a downtown Nashville street in a block filled with restaurants, music venues, bars and clothing stores. Through loudspeakers, he played Petula Clark’s 1964 hit song “Downtown.”

Several hours later, a pre-recorded warning from the RV said “that a potential bomb would detonate in 15 minutes,” according to Nashville police.

A police officer happened to be on the scene, responding to a report of gunfire. He called for backup and he and his fellow officers began knocking on doors and evacuating the area.

Just before dawn, the RV exploded. The blast lit up the sky and flung debris for blocks. Videos posted online showed considerable property damage, including one building with its front wall completely shattered and a window in an apartment several blocks away damaged by shrapnel.

Three people were hospitalized with minor injuries. One officer on the scene was knocked down by the explosion and another suffered temporary hearing loss.

Afterward, local, state and federal investigators scoured the area. Tennessee Highway Patrol officers found a vehicle identification number for the RV among the rubble, which helped the police identify Warner, along with his remains, scattered throughout the wreckage.

So far, police say he acted alone. His motive is unknown.

We’re grateful that no one else was killed and we join others in praising the police who responded to the threat by approaching the danger rather than running away.

We’ll likely learn more about Warner, but right now we know little beyond the bare facts that he was an electrician and an information technology contractor.

Neighbors described him as “quiet” and “a nice guy.”

Some are debating how to define the incident: domestic terrorism? Suicide bombing?

As we write, there seems to be no intent to terrorize for any ideological purpose. But officials have called the act a suicide mission.

“These pieces of information will help us understand the suspect’s motives,” Douglas Korneski, the special agent in charge of the FBI field office in Memphis, said. “None of those answers will ever be enough for those who have been affected by this event.”

Whatever motive is found, whatever label it carries, we’re not beyond feeling shocked that such a thing could happen.

Just a decade ago, Nashville and surrounding areas were hit by a devastating flood, the likes of which the city had never seen before. Homes and businesses were destroyed and lives were lost.

Then, Nashville rebuilt.

Like our communities, Nashville and its industries have been affected harshly by COVID-19. Beloved country music pioneer Charley Pride died Dec. 12, a victim of COVID. We can’t help wishing that he and those around him had taken better precautions.

There will always be tragedies like this, and we will always try to make sense of them. Some will become clear over time; others will remain mysteries. Still, we go on with our lives.

The events in Nashville are a reminder of the commonality we have with people in other parts of the country — and, perhaps, with a sense of gratitude that we have been spared from such tragedies.

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Dec. 27

The Greensboro News & Record on an upcoming mayoral race in Greensboro, North Carolina:

Not always, but too often, City Council elections in Greensboro happen quietly, like the proverbial tree that falls in the woods.

Some of us don’t even notice.

Small wonder.

The fields of candidates can be wildly uneven and uncompetitive.

Some people seem to decide to run on a whim, without much thought or reflection or knowledge of the issues.

So when the voters speak, they do so in a whisper.

Fifteen percent of eligible voters bothered to weigh in in 2017.

In the primary, only 8.5% of eligible voters turned out, meaning 91.5% stayed home.

And that was an improvement. In 2015, only 3.82% of voters showed in the primary.

But 2021 may be different.

In what portends to be an unusually spirited campaign (we can always hope), at least two very strong and well-qualified candidates will vie for the mayor’s seat in Greensboro in 2021.

Two-term incumbent City Council member Justin Outling will challenge the sitting mayor, Nancy Vaughan, who has served since 2013 and has spent a total of 17 years on the council as mayor, and before that, as a council member.

Other candidates may well join the field. But we are all but guaranteed a competitive mayoral race even if no one else enters.

Both Outling and Vaughan are experienced and capable candidates. They understand the issues and the workings of city government.

Both are familiar and comfortable with diverse constituencies throughout the city.

Outling, who is partner in the prominent Brooks Pierce law firm, was direct and pointed in a news release Dec. 17 that announced his candidacy.


“Our city’s mayoral leadership has lacked a coherent, inclusive vision that engages all parts of our community to attract and retain more and better paying jobs, expand opportunity and provide public safety for all,” he said in the release. “I’ve seen too much emphasis on reactive, short-term thinking, prioritizing day-to-day politics, symbolism and quick fixes over long-term success.”

As for the mayor, “My energy and attention are focused on the very real issues of this year and not on a political campaign for next year,” she said in a text message to the News & Record’s Richard Barron.

Much attention rightly — and unavoidably — has been focused on what has and has not happened in Washington in 2020.

But it bears repeating that city councils tend to have more impact on day-to-day lives than Congress or a president.

So while other things have been going on in the world politically, our more immediate community has its own share of important concerns.

- Strained police-community relations.

- The local impact of COVID-19 on businesses and the economy.

- The city’s record-breaking homicide rate in 2020.

- The affordable housing crisis, which is a problem in many communities but especially acute here.

- The high poverty rate and disparate rates development in various parts of the city.

- And a possible 2021 bond referendum that would raise money to address some of those issues, including housing and policing resources.

Vaughan seems bullish on the idea, Outling more cautious.

Let the debate begin.

If it seems as if it’s been a long time since we’ve had a city election, it’s because it has been.

Effective in 2017, terms were extended from two years to four years.

As for closely contested mayoral elections, it has been a while, too.

Vaughan defeated the Rev. Diane Moffett, a first-time candidate, with 67% of the vote in 2017.

In 2015, she beat another first-timer, Devin King, with 88% of the vote.

What an Outling-Vaughan match-up more resembles is Vaughan’s first race for mayor in 2013.

That year, the tables were reversed, with Vaughan playing the role of the upstart council member challenging a sitting mayor in Robbie Perkins.

Vaughan beat Perkins with nearly 60% of the vote, though turnout still was lackluster at only 16.5%.

Even if an incumbent has served well, she needs competition.

The early plotlines certainly are interesting.

For instance, Vaughan has built solid support in the city’s Black community, where she has been visible and active over the years. But Outling would be the first Black man to be mayor if he were to win. Also, among those who have endorsed Outling’s candidacy are former N.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Henry Frye and his wife Shirley, two of the most prominent figures not only in the African American community, but all of Greensboro.

All this buzz, and the filing period for candidate has not even begun.

It has been easy in a presidential election to lose sight of city issues and politics.

But the problems and opportunities the next council will confront will be significant.

While all politics may be local, city elections hit you where you live.

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Dec. 17

The News & Observer and The Charlotte Observer on Gov. Roy Cooper not releasing records about incentives North Carolina previously offered Apple:

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper continues to insist that he and other state officials are unable to release a page of records related to incentives the state offered to land an Apple campus in Research Triangle Park two years ago. That’s right — 2018.

The governor’s office and state commerce department tell the News & Observer’s Tyler Dukes that recruitment of Apple remains an “open project” — a designation officials are still using to deny records requests.

We’re not sure if Cooper is trying to avoid the controversy that sometimes follows states revealing how much they’re willing to open their pockets for a new business. We don’t know if there’s actually a viable new Apple project that North Carolina is negotiating. It doesn’t matter. Cooper’s records dodge is a lame attempt to skirt open records laws.

Some background: More than two years ago, North Carolina was in the running for the huge Apple prize that would’ve brought thousands of high-paying jobs, not to mention millions in investment and the kind of branding states covet. That December, however, Apple announced that its new campus would land in Austin, not North Carolina.

It’s possible North Carolina is now in the running for a campus similar to the one that Texas snagged; just weeks after the Austin announcement, a firm with connections to Apple purchased 280 acres worth of tracts in RTP. If there is a new project, then incentives surrounding that bid can and should remain secret for now.

But the old bid is over. North Carolina lost. The public should get to see how much our money the governor offered.

“The law seems to be pretty clear that once a project is no longer viable, the interest in privacy or confidentiality subsides,” said Brooks Fuller, director of the N.C. Open Government Coalition at Elon University, told The News & Observer.

We understand that incentives are uncomfortable. Some think they’re a bad overpay for corporations that already have healthy bottom lines, and that cities and states bidding against each other benefits no one but the company being wooed. Others believe incentives are a necessary if sometimes distasteful part of luring the businesses and talent that help cities and states thrive. We’re somewhat in the latter camp, with the caveat that incentives should be offered responsibly — which is something the public should get to evaluate.

That doesn’t always go smoothly. Last year, Amazon canceled its plans to build a corporate campus in the New York City borough of Queens after lawmakers and activists protested giving $3 billion in government incentives to a wealthy company that took anti-union stances. (Raleigh and Charlotte were among the dozens of cities and counties that also bid on Amazon’s “second headquarters.”)

Would North Carolina’s Apple incentives prompt similar grumbling? We don’t know, but Cooper would be far from the first public official who wants to avoid bad headlines and fodder for political opponents.

We’re troubled, however, at a pattern of the governor being too close to the vest with information that should be public. In 2018, Cooper was unnecessarily reticent about questions surrounding the state’s $58 million agreement with the developers of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, and more recently, the governor’s office and Department of Health and Human Services were slow to respond to multiple requests for records, data and policies involving COVID-19 and nursing homes, which had seen a surge of infections. Some of those requests still haven’t been filled.

Such secrecy doesn’t serve the public, whether it’s the president’s tax returns or North Carolina’s bid for a big business prize. N.C. lawmakers should close the open records loophole the governor thinks he has regarding Apple, and Cooper should stop hiding information the public deserves to see.

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