North Carolina editorial roundup

Recent editorials from North Carolina newspapers:

Nov. 11

Rocky Mount (N.C.) Telegram on Gov. Pat McCrory taking on mental health care:

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services has been short on details, but Secretary Aldona Wos’ pledge last week to improve mental health services in North Carolina is a welcome development.

For too long, mental health care in North Carolina has been a wreck. Former Gov. Mike Easley attempted to reduce costs and make mental health services more localized by deinstitutionalizing hundreds of patients.

Unfortunately, the plan had wide, disastrous consequences. With institutional care at state hospitals greatly reduced, people with mental disabilities often turned up at local emergency rooms seeking treatment or on arrest blotters for lack of medication and counseling.

In the meantime, some counseling services took advantage of their new roles as outsource centers by billing the state at higher rates than they were entitled to. In effect, fewer people with mental health issues received the kind of care they desperately needed, and care from private enterprises often proved more expensive than what the state had provided when it offered a larger range of mental services.

Gov. Pat McCrory recognizes the problems that historically have plagued the system. Wos said last week the Department of Health and Human Services would better coordinate efforts to make sure people get the care they need.

All of that sounds fine, and McCrory and his team deserve a chance to succeed where Easley failed. Here’s hoping the governor and his administration are quick to fill in solid details in this area that has been neglected for far too long.



Nov. 11

Winston-Salem (N.C.) Journal on plagiarism:

To some voters, a U.S. Senate campaign’s verbatim reproduction without attribution of material from another website is a serious offense.

To others, it represents an oversight and no big reason for concern.

Both are right.

Dr. Greg Brannon, a Cary physician seeking the 2014 Republican nomination for U.S. Senate, says he approved some statements on his campaign website without knowing his staff had taken them from the website of Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. (who, of course, has had his own problems with plagiarism.) Brannon told The News & Observer of Raleigh that he would update the site to properly credit Paul.

This sounds like an understandable error from a political neophyte, one who probably did not think he had to teach his staff not to plagiarize another politician’s writing. If he keeps the site fixed and does not have a similar occurrence, then the mishap will likely be forgotten.

But that does not diminish the mistake’s significance or relieve Brannon from a burden created by it.

Plagiarism is a serious problem in our society, especially with politicians.

The public must know where politicians stand, their true beliefs, and that’s hard enough to determine when candidates write their own material. It’s nearly impossible when material is just handed to them by outside powerbrokers or, worse, copied from them.

Paul has publicly endorsed Brannon in this campaign and Brannon says he agrees with what was posted on his own website. So informed voters will know that the two share the libertarian philosophy for which Paul and his father, former Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, are so well known.

What voters do not know, however, and what they may find concerning in light of the outright duplication of Rand Paul’s issue statements, is whether Brannon is capable of formulating political positions on his own, whether he can think for himself when it comes to representing North Carolina in the U.S. Senate.

He’ll have to show voters that he has his own mind and won’t just be handing his vote to Sen. Paul.



Nov. 11

News and Observer, Raleigh, N.C., on state should undo its cut in early voting days

During what now feels like a lost golden age, most North Carolina lawmakers once thought it was a good thing if more people voted. North Carolina was among the nation’s leaders in making it easier to register and allowing a generous window of time for early voting.

The effects of fostering better voter turnout showed in 2008 when Barack Obama became the first black president in part because of North Carolina’s surprising support from new voters.

With Obama’s election, the consensus that encouraging maximum participation seemed to evaporate. Republican-controlled state legislatures raised alarms about voter fraud. They began passing laws that make it harder to register and to vote. The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University reports that at least 90 bills restricting voting were introduced in 33 states this year. In an encouraging opposing trend, 10 states passed 13 bills that aimed to make it easier for citizens to register and vote.

North Carolina, reversing its leadership on voting access, this year passed one of the most restrictive voting laws in the United States. One major change was reducing the early voting period from 17 days to 10 starting in 2014. Last week a new Brennan Center report said this is exactly the opposite of what states should be doing. The center recommends early voting periods of at least two weeks. It said early voting reduces lines on Election Day, allows more time to correct problems with registration and voting systems and increases access to voting and voter satisfaction.

Those benefits have not gone unnoticed. The center said at least 20 states considered proposals to start or expand early voting this year. In its next session, the General Assembly ought to join that group by undoing the reduction in early voting. It’s not too late to do the right thing.

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