Just a few days after he announced he was stepping down as minority leader in the North Carolina Senate and a day after he returned via ambulance to his Swannanoa home, Senator Martin Nesbitt, Jr. died Thursday night of stomach cancer. He was 67.
Tributes flowed in as news broke and they continue this morning. Nesbitt served in the General Assembly for all but two years since stepping in to complete the term of his mother, former Rep. Mary Cordell Nesbitt, who died in 1979.
Here’s a roundup of remembrances about the man, one of the state’s true populists.
Jack Betts — Mountain man Martin Nesbitt, gone too fast
Martin and I were the same age, and as a teacher’s son, I recognized some familiar things, particularly the pressure he felt to live up to expectations and do right. He could be unpredictable, but he was always focused on helping folks. He had populist sensibilities, often raised hard, sometimes irritating questions about what otherwise good-soundling legislation might do to old folks or jobless folks or retired folks or folks who just wanted their government to leave them alone. He sometimes made life hellish for legislative leaders with his probing questions and his warnings to think twice before rushing into something and his constant goading of the leadership to do more for schools, for mental health programs, more for people who needed help, more for rural areas that were never going to have the kind of amenities you would find in Charlotte or Raleigh.
Seven Moral Monday protesters arrested at the state legislature in June were found not guilty on charges of second-degree trespassing, failure to disperse, and violating Legislative Building rules Wednesday morning.
John McWilliam, an attorney representing demonstrators arrested at a “Witness Wednesday” protest, argued in court that the property owner is a key factor in considering trespassing charges.
“In this case, Judge, you have to be told this is the property of another,” McWilliam said. “This is not the property of another. This is the very property of the very people who were on the property that day.”
A lawyer from the office of N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper blocked McWilliam’s attempt to subpoena House Speaker and U.S. Senate candidate Thom Tillis and Senate President Phil Berger to ask questions about the enforcement of Legislative Building rules.
Via the News & Observer:
The decision left an air of uncertainty in the Wake County courtroom about when, if ever, Berger or Tillis had asked for the suspension or enforcement of a rule that states visitors may enter the “Legislative Complex” at any time the buildings are open to the public and may move about freely “with the exceptions limiting visits on the second floor of the State Legislative Building … so long as they do not disturb the General Assembly, one of its houses, or its committees, members, or staff in the performance of their duties.” (more…)
Protesters upset by the Feb. 2 Dan River coal ash spill are hoping to make their voices heard by reducing power usage in a “Coal Ash Wednesday” protest.
Via the Greensboro News & Record:
“Unplug your appliances while you are at work. Cut your heat off – or cut it down to 60 degrees. Read by candlelight. Take a break from television and home computers,” Clark wrote in an email to the News & Record, listing some of the ways people can participate.
“Do this in remembrance of all the wildlife lost in and along the Dan River. Do this as a gesture of mourning or one of outrage. But do this with the intention of hitting Duke Energy where it lives: its profit margin.”
News & Record – ‘Coal Ash Wednesday’ adherents to protest Dan River spill
A number of environmental groups are also organizing a rally in front of the Governor’s Mansion Wednesday evening. You can watch a livestream of the event beginning at 4:45 p.m. here.
A February Public Policy Polling survey shows bipartisan support among North Carolina voters for strong action on coal ash. According to the poll, 81% of voters think state lawmakers should address the problem immediately, 83% think legislators should force Duke Energy to move coal ash away from water sources, and 77% are more likely to vote for a lawmaker tough on corporate polluters.
For ‘Coal Ash Wednesday,’ here’s a roundup of ash-related news stories you might have missed:
The New York Times – Ash spill shows how watchdog was defanged
“They want to have a hammer to come down on anybody who hinders developers by enforcing regulations,” said a supervisor whose department is supposed to regulate businesses under laws devised to protect water quality. “We’re scared to death to say no to anyone anymore.”
“These coal ash ponds are unlined, and people don’t realize that,” said Dean Naujoks, the Yadkin Riverkeeper who has been monitoring the Dan River spill. “They are continuously leaching arsenic, chromium, cadmium, mercury, all kinds of toxic heavy metals, into the ground and eventually into groundwater. Duke Energy has 32 of these ponds on 14 sites around the state, and every one of them is unlined. Every one of them is a threat to groundwater.” (more…)
A Wake County Judge ruled Thursday that Duke Energy must take immediate action to eliminate the sources of groundwater contamination that are currently violating water quality standards at its coal ash dumps. (more…)
Michigan authorities have charged two major natural gas companies, including one that’s supported fracking in North Carolina, with colluding to keep leasing prices low as the two bid for properties in the state’s Collingwood shale belt.
Chesapeake Energy, the subject of a lengthy investigation by Reuters, hosted a 2011 trip by North Carolina legislators and top administration officials as the legislature contemplated opening up the state to hydraulic fracturing for natural gas extraction.
Landowner rights and concerns about the purchasing and trading of mineral rights in Lee and Chatham counties have been a growing concern as the state grows closer to a 2015 deadline to start gas exploration through fracking in the region. (more…)
The Durham school board voted unanimously Wednesday to join Guilford County in challenging the constitutionality of a law that repeals teacher tenure completely by 2018.
As part of the tenure phase-out plan, the law requires school districts to offer four-year contracts and bonuses to the “top 25 percent” of teachers in exchange for those teachers giving up tenure status. School officials have until June 30 to determine which teachers make the cut. (more…)
The Carolina Public Press reports that child poverty levels in all 18 westernmost North Carolina counties increased between 2007 and 2012, with some counties seeing a jump of more than 50% over the five year period.
Eight counties — Avery, Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Macon, McDowell, Swain, and Yancey — saw child poverty rates increase to more than 30% in 2012. (more…)
DENR inspected coal ash dams at Duke Energy’s Cliffside plant Tuesday, where a corroded metal pipe is discharging groundwater at a rate of approximately .8 gallons per minute. (more…)
The Watauga County Board of Education voted 3-2 Thursday evening to keep “The House of the Spirits” by Isabel Allende as part of Watauga High School’s sophomore honors English curriculum. The decision is the final ruling in a series of appeals to remove the book filed by parent Chastity Lesesne. (more…)
The Federal Transit Administration gave initial approval Tuesday to Triangle Transit’s proposal to develop a 17-mile light rail system connecting Durham and Orange counties.
The light rail line would run from Chapel Hill to East Durham with proposed stops at UNC Hospitals, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Mason Farm Road, Friday Center, Hillmont, Leigh Village, Patterson Place, South Square, Duke University, Duke University Medical Center, VA Medical Center, downtown Durham and Alston Avenue/NC Central University.
Video “fly-through” of the proposed route, via Our Transit Future:
The Durham Herald-Sun warns not to start making plans for rail passes just yet — the project is likely to take a number of years to complete. (more…)
The Triangle and Charlotte are among nine metropolitan areas chosen by Google as possible locations for the expansion of its high speed internet and TV service, Google Fiber. The fiber-optic network offers internet speeds of 1 gigabit per second, about 100 times faster than basic broadband.
Via the Google Blog:
We aim to provide updates by the end of the year about which cities will be getting Google Fiber. Between now and then, we’ll work closely with each city’s leaders on a joint planning process that will not only map out a Google Fiber network in detail, but also assess what unique local challenges we might face. These are such big jobs that advance planning goes a long way toward helping us stick to schedules and minimize disruption for residents.
We’re going to work on a detailed study of local factors that could affect construction, like topography (e.g., hills, flood zones), housing density and the condition of local infrastructure. Meanwhile, cities will complete a checklist of items that will help them get ready for a project of this scale and speed. For example, they’ll provide us with maps of existing conduit, water, gas and electricity lines so that we can plan where to place fiber. They’ll also help us find ways to access existing infrastructure—like utility poles—so we don’t unnecessarily dig up streets or have to put up a new pole next to an existing one.
Google Blog – Exploring new cities for Google Fiber
Google says it hopes to bring Fiber to all 34 targeted cities. (more…)
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