The Opinion Shop

June 6, 2014

Letters to the Editor: Russia, Gov. Pat McCrory, budget shortfall, Benghazi, Gene Nichol, gas prices, race, fracking, unemployment, Dix property

These letters were not published in the print edition but deserve a look.

These letters were not published in the print edition but deserve a look.


In Russia, Vladimir Putin plans his next geopolitical chess move. In Ukraine, Jews wonder whether Russians will accuse them of siding with the Ukrainians or whether Ukrainians will suspect them of favoring the Russians. All over the world terrorists plot fresh acts of murder and mayhem.

Meanwhile, in America we obsess over an octogenarian team owner’s private remarks and a professional athlete’s very public kiss. Have we lost our sense of proportion?

Rob Ahlin



Recently I saw three white-paneled trucks across the street from my home. For all I know the men who arrived in those trucks were emptying my neighbor’s home of all things valuable.

This isn’t the first time I’ve wondered why there is no requirement for business vehicles to display name, type of business, location and phone number. The first time was when, as a law enforcement officer, I worked a case that featured a kidnapper who snatched his victim in an unmarked white-paneled truck.

We have friends who have had valuables carried out of their home by persons who had arrived in unmarked trucks. Any police officer with more than a month on the job will tell you it happens often. I know felons are clever about such things as dummy names and false phone numbers. However, a neighbor who notices unexpected panel trucks across the street could call the number or look up the company on a computer without having to confront the truck’s occupants.

Nothing is perfect, but requiring business information on trucks presumably appearing for legal enterprise seems a useful step in the right direction.

Einar Bohlin

Wake Forest


Gov. Pat McCrory and State Budget Director Art Pope made their bed; it’s a shame that we’re the ones who have to sleep in it. I’m talking, of course, about the $445 million budget shortfall that is wreaking havoc on our state’s finances and portends poorly for the governor’s most recent $21 billion proposal.

The shortfall comes as a byproduct of failed policies by the Governor. To wit: the tax cuts for the wealthiest residents of the state who were also able to shift income around in order to game the system. Because of these tax cuts, the state saw an inadequate amount of revenue for this fiscal year. Worse, this came as the governor once again approved cuts to public education.

But how to clean up the mess McCrory and Pope made? Through further cuts to education, naturally. McCrory has asked the UNC system, along with numerous other state agencies to scale back at least 5 percent in their budgets. This is part of a dip into “reversion” funds, an irresponsible solution to a problem McCrory and Pope manufactured. All this while making no plans to halt further tax cuts for the wealthy, which are set to take place in January.

Another alarming aspect of this situation is the handling of Medicaid. McCrory estimates that the state may come up to $70 million short on the health care program this fiscal year. Others in the General Assembly think it may be even higher. Yet, the governor still has not opted for the Medicaid expansion offered in the Affordable Care Act, even if it could save the state up to $3 billion. The governor is in no place to be refusing health care to North Carolinians while furthering his own economically irresponsible policies.

McCrory and Pope’s most recent budget proposal finally includes raises for teachers and state employees. And while this is long overdue, they continue to slash education funding while demanding money back from the state’s universities and other agencies.

Making budgets that are unable to cover all the state’s bills while giving tax breaks to wealthy friends is irresponsible governance, something both parties in the General Assembly should stand against.

So indeed, the governor and Pope have made their bed. Unfortunately, their failed policies and stubborn incompetence leave us looking for money stashed in the mattress.

State Rep. Elect Cecil Brockman

High Point

The writer, a Democrat, represents N.C. District 60. The length limit was waived.


Thank you for the May 20 letter “ Clearly a cover-up” on the Benghazi “cover-up.” It convinced me to finally write about the misinformation, disinformation and vitriol dispensed by the Fox News network, which is actually the Fox propaganda network.

The letter-writer has obviously fallen hook, line and sinker for its distortions. I watch Fox, MSNBC, CNN, ABC, CBS and NBC, too. The only reason there is little news about Benghazi, except on Fox, is because there is none. And the only conspiracy is the one formulated by the extreme right to delegitimize the Obama presidency and now Hillary Clinton’s potential candidacy.

Fox is practicing the same thing with its obsession over the IRS “scandal” and Obamacare, and now it’s implying that the president and Clinton are responsible for the kidnapping in of the school girls in Nigeria.

Roger Ailes, the president of Fox News, is on the record as saying he would do anything in his power to defeat President Obama in 2012, and it looks as if he is on mission to defeat Clinton in 2016 if she runs.

Rhonda Crutchfield



In his May 25 Point of View “ Imagine a White People’s Party,” Gene Nichol blames the perceived whiteness of the North Carolina Republican party for its policies that, he claimed, target blacks. Nichol complains that voting restrictions largely target blacks.

He must believe that there is some inherent racial characteristic – genetic or cultural he doesn’t say – that blacks possess that makes it uniquely difficult for them to obtain photo ID cards or to vote on (or near) Election Day. He complained that black voters are being packed into gerrymandered legislative districts. I thought the racist approach was to spread black voters into diverse districts to dilute their votes, making it impossible for them to elect representatives of their choice.

Nichol claimed that a vote for Republicans is a vote for racial supremacy and exclusion. It’s not enough for Democrats to argue the merits of the issues. They must disparage the humanity of their opponents. Meanwhile, Democratic politicians have driven virtually every inner city in the country into ruin, while under a Democratic president poverty and inequality are on the rise while economic growth is anemic.

But I disagree with Nichol’s policy recommendations so I must be a racist.

Howard Ellis

Wake Forest


Why are gas prices so high in Raleigh? I have seen prices from $3.56 to $3.75 in this area. However, in Richmond, Va., recently gas could be purchased for $3.19. I know oil companies have price zones, but this is ridiculous! More toll roads and bond issues because we don’t have the funds? Where are the funds going?

William Goulding



It’s hard to believe that Jon Huntsman is actually a Republican given his May 9 column “ Climate change and an obtuse GOP.”

Despite readily observable evidence that the planet is behaving oddly almost everywhere, the recent National Climate Assessment was immediately branded as “alarmist” by most of Huntsman’s political colleagues. Apparently, they would like us to believe that merely speaking the words “climate change” will precipitate an economic Armageddon. That will not occur.

However, what will occur if our political processes remain frozen is that the financial and human cost of dealing with sea level rise, coastal flooding, weird weather in general and other surprises will only increase the longer we pretend that nothing is happening. We won’t stop burning fossil fuels any time soon because, at the moment, we have no practical alternatives.

What we can and must do is determine what a post-carbon world might look like and begin planning for that. At the same time, we must adapt our communities and their supporting infrastructures so that they remain functional and productive regardless of what the future holds. This is not alarmist, it’s the sort of pragmatic common sense I’d like to see in Raleigh and Washington.

Richard G. Little



The N.C. Senate bill on fracking raises interesting legal issues that have not been thought out by the asinine rush to pass it. Shielding “trade secrets” and making it unlawful to reveal them not only violates First Amendment protection but also leads to bizarre outcomes.

Other states, such as Colorado perhaps, have to reveal or file on record the chemicals used (without specifying proportions). So if someone in N.C. publicizes the content of a drilling company’s contents that is public in Colorado, will he be jailed or fined? Good luck on having visitors from Colorado and elsewhere visit and be interviewed!

A true litmus test for our legislators is perhaps to add one drop of fracking fluid from their favorite company to their glasses before their final vote and then count how many actually drink from their glasses. Let them put their vote where their mouths are if they are honest enough!

Raja Khalifah



Regarding the May 5 news article “ Schools to discuss policy on zeros”: I suggest the schools adopt a 0 to 10 grading policy, with 5 being average and the numbers above being progressively better, and the numbers below being for progressively poorer work down to 1, and 0 being for work not turned in. Perhaps a 2 or 3 might be the lowest passing grade.

This policy would not doom students who miss an assignment or two. It would just slightly lower their average grade. I’m sure this scale could then be converted to letter grades, even to a “percentage” grade if absolutely needed: 2 converts to 60 percent, 3 to 65 percent and upward to 10 converts to 100 percent.

Jeanne Romeo

Holly Springs


The Coastal Resources Commission and an associated panel of scientists are preparing to establish an official sea-level prediction, which will be used to draft policies to preserve coastal lands. As someone who spent many childhood holidays in the Outer Banks, I heartily support this effort and the May 15 news article detailing their work, “ State begins sea-level forecast.”

In the wake of last week’s National Climate Assessment, it is evident that up-to-date information and strict regulations are needed to protect North Carolina’s coastal lands, which are especially susceptible to the effects of climate change. In addition, the question of climate change and its effects on sea level is clearly a scientific one that must be considered separately from any other state interests.

Rather than confounding science with economic or political issues, legislators should recognize that climate change is real, that it is causing the sea to rise and that it will be devastating for all facets of coastal life if it is left unaddressed. North Carolina’s legislature has a responsibility to confront the problem of climate change, so that future generations are able to enjoy the coast and create memories as I did.

Teresa Rosenberger



Regarding the May 15 news story “ Church goes green for God”: As a former pastor of Highland United Methodist Church, I was delighted to read of its continuing efforts at leadership in tying theology and life together through community gardening and lessened energy use.

This 60-year-old congregation has an encouraging track record of making its facilities available to community groups, such as NAMI, various 12-step programs, the Interfaith Hospitality Network and others who take the Great Commandment seriously to love God and neighbor.

May its current leadership in “going green” be a model for other congregations.

Charles Michael Smith



In the May 11 news article “ Board members met with lobbyist on fracking rules,” the writer said MEC chairman Jim Womack “is willing to talk with ... private sector representatives who want those discussions to stay private.”

“They want to meet privately because there are a lot of sensitive issues they have to deal with (when) their business interests are on the line,” Womack said. “So, that’s just the way things are done.” Exactly so and exactly the inherent problem!

Womack and vice chairman George Howard see nothing wrong with doing the bidding of Halliburton and other oil and gas companies. Indeed, as reported before and often, there is overwhelming evidence of flagrant conflicts of interest on the MEC in the name of George Howard and Ray Covington. Each could stand to gain financially if fracking comes to our area.

Equally disturbing is the cavalier disregard for public health and safety. The regulations written do not adequately protect against water contamination, risk of earthquakes (because of proximity to the Shearon Harris nuclear facilities) and the release of toxic chemicals into air, water and farmlands.

David Streifford



The May 9 news article “ Latest Dix offer: $51.26M” stated the latest Dorothea Dix city-state negotiations include about seven acres of Governor Morehead School for the Blind land as part of the deal. As long as the integrity of the school’s projected needs is preserved and the right parties from the city, county, state and school agree on the property in question and a fair price, this would seem doable.

As a prerequisite, the proceeds from the sale of this slice of land should be reserved for much-needed maintenance and upgrades to the GMS property. GMS already shares its property with the Wake Young Women’s Leadership Academy and Pullen Park for overflow parking. These arrangements have been good for all concerned.

Bruno Toffolo



Regarding the May 27 letter “ Jobless stress” that was based on retired Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton’s May 10 Point of View, “ Easing one burden for military families,” on public school standards:

I first met Eaton in 1968 when we were cadets at West Point. I have always admired him for the great character he displayed that summer when his father, an Air Force pilot, went missing in action in Southeast Asia.

Knowing this fact, it makes the letter-writer’s comments about the stress of unemployment seem a little trite. The timing was also bad, the letter appearing as it did a day after Memorial Day.

Floyd Whitney

Chapel Hill


I believe Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki has been blindsided by his subordinates. Throughout his illustrious Army career, he has been able to count on one thing in particular – the obedience of his subordinates from his staff down to the lowest-ranking soldier under his command. Now he is in command of a bunch of bureaucrats who have proven they are entirely capable of disobeying regulations (orders), lying to their bosses and falsifying records to suit their own agendas and raking in their ill-gotten gains in “bonuses.”

Here’s a suggestion: How about bringing in some of those veterans, officers and non-commissioned alike, especially the unemployed, to take over the administration of the VA. What a concept – veterans caring for veterans!

I also believe that Shinseki should not be fired but allowed to fix this problem, rooting out all those self-serving bureaucrats and organizing the VA as an organization for veterans, run by veterans. Then, and only then, he should be allowed to quietly retire.

Paul Williams


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