- Associated Press
Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Recent editorials from North Carolina newspapers:

Dec. 3


(Greensboro) News & Record on a recent study that raises concerns for residents of North Carolina’s rural communities:

A recent study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention raises important concerns for residents of North Carolina’s rural communities.

It found that these residents are seeing more deaths from potentially preventable chronic diseases and unintentional injury than their urban counterparts.

Forty-one percent of North Carolina’s residents - about 4 million people - live in rural areas.

“It’s obviously disturbing, given the fact that we’re not just seeing disparities,” Maggie Sauer, director of the state’s Office of Rural Health, told the nonprofit North Carolina Health News in November.

“We’re seeing higher numbers of people in rural communities who are suffering and dying at a higher rate than some of our other communities.”

The CDC looked specifically at five leading causes of death - cancer, chronic lung disease, stroke, heart disease and unintentional injuries, including fatal drug overdoses - and found the risks increased in rural communities. The gap has been growing over the last decade, and increases even more for minority populations.

This won’t be surprising to many. We’ve known for some time that our rural areas have higher rates of drug and alcohol use, suicide and teen births.

Among the challenges facing our rural neighbors that make the picture more dire are the opioid crisis - exacerbated by decreased economic opportunities - lack of health insurance and the closing of rural medical facilities, which often creates medical deserts that lack convenient access to adequate health care.

Eleven rural hospitals in North Carolina have closed since 2005, according to UNC-Chapel Hill’s Sheps Center for Health Policy Research.

People without health insurance are much less likely to receive preventative care and more likely to skip procedures that could detect disease.

“If you don’t have access you’re not gonna get your prostate checked, you’re not gonna get your PSA done, you’re not gonna get that mammogram if you have a lump,” Pamela Tripp, CEO of CommWell Health, said.

It’s in light of these facts that the state Senate is sitting on Medicaid expansion, which could extend health coverage to an estimated 600,000 North Carolinians. Medicaid expansion also could help struggling rural hospitals survive.

There is hope for our rural neighbors, in the form of innovations such as telemedicine and telepsychiatry.

And some rural communities have learned how to pull together. Alleghany, Henderson and Madison counties have instituted programs that emphasize primary care that have won praise from researchers.

“The real asset that rural communities have is partnership, is collaboration, (and a) cultural philosophy about helping your neighbor,” Sauer said.

A lot is made of the rural/urban divide, especially when it comes to politics. But we’re not unaware of the benefits of life in the more rural counties that surround us.

We have no desire to see our neighbors suffer, and every reason to want their health concerns to be treated seriously - and urgently.

In many cases, this very well could be a matter of life and death.

Online: https://www.greensboro.com/

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Dec. 3

The Fayetteville Observer on the approval of new map of U.S. congressional districts for the 2020 election in North Carolina:

Finally, in time for the 2020 election, our state has a map for U.S. Congressional races that Republicans, the courts and at least some Democrats agree are fair.

It took the better part of 10 years to get to this point. Unconstitutional maps for both state legislative and U.S. congressional district maps are part of what we call the “lost decade” for voting rights in North Carolina.

Last week, a three-judge panel approved maps drawn up in November by the Republican majority in the General Assembly to replace maps previously deemed in violation of the state constitution. The prior maps were found to be an illegal partisan gerrymander, i.e., they were drawn specifically to almost guarantee Republicans would win 10 seats to Democrats’ three seats for U.S. Congress, despite the parties being close to equal in the popular vote in recent elections.

The new maps still give the GOP the advantage - a plausible split would yield eight Republicans and five Democrats. The N.C. Democratic Party in a statement said the maps were another Republican attempt to “run out the clock on fair maps, denying justice to North Carolina voters and forcing our state to go another election using undemocratic district lines.”

But plaintiffs in the case, the National Redistricting Foundation, led by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, will not challenge the judges’ decision, which means the maps will stand for 2020.

It is very likely they will be good for just one cycle. Next year is a Census year; the party that emerges the winner in the state races will get the opportunity in 2021 to draw maps to cover the ensuing 10 years for both the N.C. General Assembly and U.S. Congress.

Hopefully fairness will be a consideration for whichever party holds power, and we will not have to again lose a decade in litigation over maps. We can hope.

Online: https://www.fayobserver.com/

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Dec. 2

The Charlotte Observer and The News & Observer on an agreement to turn over the “Silent Sam” statue to the North Carolina division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans:

For more than a year, the University of North Carolina’s Board of Governors has tried to resolve a problem that didn’t really exist: What should it do with Silent Sam? The Confederate statue with its racist roots had been topped by protesters on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus in August 2018. Agree with the method or not, Silent Sam no longer was a safety hazard or a source of pain and controversy to the school community.

But instead of merely giving the statue away or keeping it closeted, the board decided last week to pay millions of dollars to a Confederate sympathy group to take the statue off the UNC System’s hands. In a whisper-like announcement the afternoon before Thanksgiving, the UNC system said it had agreed to settle a lawsuit involving Silent Sam by giving $2.5 million to the North Carolina division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

The resolution “does what is best for the university,” said BOG member Jim Holmes. In reality, it’s a resolution that brings new problems and new shame to the UNC system, and it comes with new questions about the money and timing of the agreement.

First, the timing. UNC’s announcement Wednesday began: “This morning a judge entered a consent judgment in a lawsuit involving the Confederate monument known as Silent Sam.“ But documents show that the lawsuit was both filed and settled on Wednesday, the same day as the UNC announcement. The odd timing was discovered by attorney and former BOG member Greg Doucette, who noted that the board met at 10 a.m. Wednesday to approve a settlement that clearly had been agreed to before a lawsuit had even been filed. Although the legality of the agreement was signed off by attorneys in the N.C. Attorney General’s office, the board should explain what was behind that legal timing and maneuvering. The board also should address what legal standing the off-campus Sons of Confederate Veterans had, if any, to bring a lawsuit regarding the statue.

As for the $2.5 million, the university says that it will not come from state money, but from the interest earnings of the UNC system’s privately funded endowment. That’s money, however, that might be used to fund worthy and urgent needs that fit the UNC system’s core mission of educating students. Instead, it will go to an organization that promotes a revisionist history overwhelmingly rejected by serious historians, an organization that hosted a distasteful “secession ball” in South Carolina less than a decade ago and continues to propagate the historical fiction that the Civil War was not fought over slavery.

It’s also a group that chooses to ignore the distress that symbols of the Confederacy bring to many of its fellow Americans. Now, that group will raise Silent Sam and bring the same pain to another North Carolina community, and it will do so with millions of the University of North Carolina system’s dollars. It’s an inadequate and clumsy resolution, a washing of hands that continues to stain our state.

Online: https://www.charlotteobserver.com/ and https://www.newsobserver.com/

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