Tuesday News: Peace out


RALEIGH PROTESTERS DISPERSE AS CURFEW DESCENDS: As the 8 p.m. curfew approached, police began demanding that protesters leave. “You are ordered to disperse immediately and return to your homes,” a police vehicle blared. “Failure to comply will result in your arrest.“ Most of the protesters departed, some on bikes and skateboards. A couple dozen remained at the capitol building, kneeling with their hands up. One man paced in front of officers wearing neon vests and guardsmen in fatigues. But shortly after 9 p.m., even they were gone, leaving only some water bottles behind. The curfew, which applies to the entire city, will run from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. daily until it is rescinded. It requires people to stay home except for medical emergencies and a few other exempt employees.

NC SENATE SET TO DEBATE ELECTION BILL THAT EASES SOME RESTRICTIONS ON ABSENTEE VOTING: The Senate elections committee scheduled debate on Tuesday for legislation prompted by the expectation of increased demand for mail-in ballots this fall due to the new coronavirus. The House version of the measure approved last week expands options for registered voters to receive absentee ballot request forms. People who ultimately fill out mail-in ballots also would only need one witness to sign the ballot envelope this fall, not two. The measure locates money for state and county election boards to pay for security upgrades, as well as for personal protective equipment at in-person voting sites that will still be open. Money can also be used to hire poll workers. A key Republican senator has said his GOP colleagues are largely on board with the House version.

MANDY COHEN STANDS FIRM ON OPPOSING A PACKED CROWD AT RNC: Facing a mid-week deadline, North Carolina’s top health official signaled Monday that the state would reject a request for a Republican convention that would put 19,000 people in Charlotte’s Spectrum Center with no masks or social distancing. On Saturday, GOP national chair Ronna McDaniel and convention CEO Marcia Kelly made the request in a letter to Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat. Their letter came a day after President Donald Trump called Cooper and asked that no social distancing or masks be required. “What we have asked back from the convention organizers is to share with us a plan and that plan should have options in it,” Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen told reporters Monday. McDaniel and Kelly said they need a go-ahead from the state by Wednesday or “we will immediately need to begin making modifications as to how the Convention will proceed.” Convention officials did not respond to emails or texts Monday.

TRUMP'S PET WHITE SUPREMACIST JASON MILLER PUSHED FOR THE ATTACK ON PROTESTERS: Inside the West Wing, aides were torn on the proposed spectacle. One official argued it was necessary, allowing Trump to demonstrate that he was not hunkered down and was out of the White House, as well as standing with evangelical voters by visiting the church. But two others worried it could backfire. “It was just to win the news cycle,” one Trump adviser said. “I’m not sure that things are any better for us tomorrow.” Jason Miller, a former senior adviser on Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, defended the president’s decision. He said Trump was elected in part on law-and-order themes, which he needs to continue to hammer, while simultaneously talking to black supporters about some of his initiatives, such as criminal justice reform. “You’re going to have to go and knock some of the bad guys around a little bit,” Miller said. “Once they get tear gassed or pepper sprayed, they don't want it to happen again.” Members of the National Guard knelt briefly to put on gas masks, before suddenly charging eastward down H street, pushing protesters down toward 17th Street. Authorities shoved protesters down with their shields, fired rubber bullets directly at them, released tear gas and set off flash-bang shells in the middle of the crowd. Protesters began running, many still with their hands up, shouting, “Don’t shoot.” Others were vomiting, coughing and crying. Accompanied by a small cadre of top advisers — including his daughter Ivanka Trump, clad in dark coronavirus mask — the president then made his way over to the church.

PANDEMIC IS THREATENING THE COMPLETION OF CLIMATE MITIGATION PROJECTS: Projects in 13 cities and states, which were part of the Obama administration’s push to protect Americans from climate change after the devastation from Hurricane Sandy, are now in jeopardy because of the coronavirus pandemic, state and local officials warn. And they need Republicans in Congress to save those projects. On Monday, officials told lawmakers that the coronavirus will prevent them from meeting the conditions of a $1 billion Obama-era program for large-scale construction projects that defend cities and states against climate-related disasters. That money must be spent by the fall of 2022. Missing that deadline, which officials say is likely because of delays caused by the coronavirus, would mean forfeiting the remaining money, scuttling the projects. States and cities have been moving swiftly in the design phases and to secure permits since the Obama administration awarded the funds in 2016. Officials will ask Congress to extend the deadline for construction by three years, according to a copy of the letter obtained by The New York Times. “Without an extension, any funds not spent by the deadline will be canceled and projects will remain unfinished,” the letter reads. “These projects are absolutely critical for bolstering our defenses against future disasters,” said Jainey Bavishi, director of the Mayor’s Office of Resiliency in New York City, which got $176 million to build gates along the East Side of Manhattan that would flip up to protect people and buildings during a storm or flood, and be used as recreational space the rest of the time. The projects are the result of the Obama-era program, called the National Disaster Resilience Competition. Its goal was to encourage new ideas for coping with the accelerating consequences of global warming, by funding the best ideas and providing models for other parts of the country.



We had our first in-person meeting

of our Board of Aldermen last night, and it was...strange. Public seating which can usually accommodate 80+ people was taped off and measured, leaving only 8 people seated, with about 6 in the hallway outside (including me). It was the annual budget hearing and usually it's packed, but apparently the Rona and/or the Riots have people skittish.

There was still room for controversy, though. Our budget had been pared down quite a bit over revenue concerns, and this was a balanced budget with no property tax increases. But they had kept a cost of living increase (2%) for Town employees in there, which ticked off a few of the usual suspects. Apparently it was a "slap in the face" to citizens who are suffering economic hardship from the virus lockdown. But their evidence was seven e-mails (out of 7,800 citizens), so the budget passed as it was.

My turn comes up two weeks from now, since I've been warned of an upcoming Planning Board meeting (we haven't had one since December). Yay.