Ten years ago, fresh off his loss to Bush/Cheney as John Kerry’s running mate, John Edwards returned home to open a center on poverty at the University of North Carolina School of Law, his alma mater.
Today, that move looks downright prescient: Ranked better than average in poverty in 2005, North Carolina has since experienced the greatest increase in concentrated poverty in the country. Charlotte has the worst upward mobility of America’s 50 biggest cities. In the east, hundreds of black agricultural towns are neglected and abandoned, and in the west, the Blue Ridge Mountains of Appalachia are suffering from a meth and prescription drug epidemic.
The new bosses:
Then Republicans swept the 2010 midterm and won the governorship in 2012, giving the GOP control of Raleigh for the first time since the Reconstruction. Despite the state’s fifth-highest unemployment rate in the nation, legislators cut unemployment benefits, refused to expand Medicaid, slashed taxes on the rich and raised them on the poor. North Carolina fell to eleventh worst in poverty.
On three occasions in 2013, UNC Law Dean Jack Boger called Nichol into his office to relay threats from the legislature. If Nichol didn’t stop writing articles, they’d close the Poverty Center, move it to UNC-Pembroke, or he’d be fired. Nichol kept writing the articles.
Six of the seven working group members are Republicans—including Steven Long, who previously sat on the board at Civitas—and the other one is unaffiliated. Targeted centers include the Juvenile Justice Institute, Carolina Women’s Center, the UNC Center for Civil Rights, and the Sonja Haynes Center for Black Culture and History. In December, representatives of the 34 centers spoke at a hearing. “I don’t deny we engage in advocacy and that we have an agenda,” Nichol said at the hearing. “We think people at the bottom aren’t getting a fair shake.”
The working group will make recommendations about cuts and closing to a full BOG vote at their February 27 meeting. If the Poverty Center survives, according to Holmes, we should expect a policy requiring center directors to receive training on what they can and can’t say.
I’m very confident that the same conservatives who argued that students who thought it was a bad idea to give Condi Rice a six-figure paycheck to spout platitudes before a captive audience was the death of free speech in America will be equally outraged by this…