by Bob Geary
The Wake County legislative delegation is meeting Monday at 4 pm in the General Assembly building on the first floor. It's an open forum and a chance to take a stand — with the county's Republican and Democratic legislators listening — on the inflamed issues surrounding the Wake school system and Dix Park.
Both the Great Schools in Wake coalition and Friends of Dorothea Dix Park have issued alerts asking their members and supporters to show up en masse — and, for the Dix Park crowd, wearing green.
Word of advice: The meeting room at the General Assembly is small-ish and a large crowd is likely. I.e., get there early if you want a seat.
However, a big crowd spilling into the hallways will send a message.
If you want to speak, here's the brief from GSIW:
Speakers must register by email to email@example.com or telephone to 919 715-6400 no later than 11:00 am, Monday, March 25, 2013. Please provide the name of the presenter and the topic to be discussed.
Remarks will be limited to 2 to 3 minutes, with the time being dependent upon the number of speakers registered. If you plan to bring handouts, please bring at least 25 copies.
QUESTIONS? Call Candy Finley, Legislative Assistant (919 715-6400) with any questions.
On the schools front, the Wake school board is the target of multiple Republican attacks. The Republican majority on the Wake Commissioners board is trying to strip the school board of authority over school buildings — yes, that's not a typo. They can't do it by themselves, but the Republicans who control the General Assembly can do it, and that's just what they propose in Senate Bill 236.
Not only that, Republican legislators are threatening to redistrict the school board (again) in an effort to seize control of the school system in the 2014 primary elections. Senate Bill 325 contains their new gerrymandering plan, with the added insult that board members elected in 2011 for four-year terms would be tossed out of office 17 months early ... while the two Republican school members who remain from the 2009 elections would be spared the need to run again this year and would have their terms extended for six months.
All nine school board seats would be elected in the 2014 primaries, when the Republicans just happen to be expecting a big turnout as they choose a GOP U.S. Senate candidate. Will Huntsberry's story this week explains it all.
The Dix Park issue is equally outrageous. Gov. Bev Perdue, acting with the approval of the Council of State, signed a longterm lease with the City of Raleigh for the 325-acre Dorothea Dix Hospital tract. The state continues to own the land. The city intends to create a destination park there over the next 75 years as a major regional and statewide asset.
However, some Republicans in the legislature opposed Perdue's action. Now that she's out of office and the compliant Pat McCrory is in, they've filed bills intended to tear up the lease. The bills are Senate Bill 334 and House Bill 319.
Can they do that? Isn't a contract a contract? According to the Republicans, no contract with the state is safe if the General Assembly decides to change it. According to the U.S. Constitution, Article I, Section 10:
"No State shall ... pass any Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts or grant any Title of Nobility."
In other words, the General Assembly isn't the King of Anything and it's supposed to enforce contracts, not dissolve them.
Or so the Friends of Dorothea Dix Park and the City of Raleigh argue.
By the way, Senate Bill 334 is slated to be taken up by a Senate committee this morning. Notwithstanding its dubious constitutionality, it's expected to be approved and sent to the Senate floor for a vote — possibly next week.