Group Asks ECU Board to Change Name of Aycock Residence Hall

GREENVILLE, N.C. — About 100 people attended a two-hour public forum Monday night at Wright Hall on the East Carolina campus.

The vast majority of current students and alumni are asking ECU’s 13-member board to consider changing the name of Aycock Residence Hall.

Charles Aycock served as governor of North Carolina from 1901 to 1905. He is known for supporting segregation while in office.

One ECU alum says, despite the attention this issue has received, many students on campus are still unaware of the controversy surrounding the former governor.

“Then after they look it up, most of the students will come to the consensus that this is what we want. We want this name to be changed because what minority student wants to lay there head down in a building that’s named after a white supremacist,” says ecu alum erin satterwhite.

ECU received a formal request to change the name in July and a committee was formed in November. Since then, the issue has been tabled.

“Some want to move farther then others and that’s fine. We got a lot of research to do still in terms of gathering research,” said ECU board chair Robert Brinkley.

Students say they are asking the board to consider what was said at the public forum and come to a common ground.

“So do it now and be that forefront and positivity for everybody. You see that at Chapel Hill is trying to, you see that Duke is trying to but they haven’t,” said student Sheridan Iroegbu.

Those opposed to changing the name were not available for comment.

Another forum will be held with faculty Tuesday afternoon. The ECU board expects to vote by Feb. 20.

- Dennis Biviano

Big Splashes Unlikely as NC Lawmakers Start 2015 Session

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The General Assembly reconvenes Wednesday following a two-week hiatus from opening day ceremonies to get down to passing legislation for the next two years.

This marks the third session in a row that Republicans have led both the House and Senate. Legislative leaders sound content with measured governing rather than making a splash with legislation as they did in 2011 and 2013

Tax collections will be closely watched as usual. The revenue shortfall was $200 million through the first half of the fiscal year. The question is whether the 2013 tax overhaul law means tax filers will make more payments or receive fewer refunds to close the gap.

Overhauling Medicaid, increasing teacher pay and Gov. Pat McCrory’s request for help economic incentives also are expected to get attention from lawmakers.

Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Capital Tonight Jan. 23: Bow Tie Caucus

On Capital Tonight: The Bow Tie Caucus convenes to wrap up a busy week in politics. Political scientists Scott Huffmon and Michael Bitzer take on the GOP’s abortion debate and its effect on the new Congress. Watch the program here.

Capital Tonight Jan. 22: State Auditor Beth Wood

On Capital Tonight: State Auditor Beth Wood talks about holding state government programs like Medicaid and information technology accountable. Rep. Rodney Moore and Sen. Jeff Tarte talk about their legislative priorities in our Lawmakers segment. Watch the program here.

Capital Tonight Jan. 21: Senate President Pro-Tem Phil Berger

On Capital Tonight: With the new legislative session ramping up next week, we talk with Senate President Pro-Tem Phil Berger about his priorities. Our Advocates Rob Schofield and Donald Bryson explore the big issues the General Assembly is expected to take up this session. Watch the program here.

Judge Sees NC Schools Move as Weakening Learning Standard

RALEIGH—A Superior Court judge is hearing from state school leaders about whether or not North Carolina is providing all students with a sound, basic education, as required in the Constitution.

It stems from the Leandro case, dating back 20 years, to address poor student performance and a lack of educational rigor—particularly in lower income and rural school districts.

On Wednesday, Superior Court Judge Howard Manning Jr. got his annual court update to make sure North Carolina is adequately providing all students a sound, basic education as required by law – and helping students who aren’t performing at grade level, instead of just advancing them through the system.

“It’s about the children who are the beneficiaries of a constitutional right to get this kind of instruction every single day and if it’s not there, their constitutional right is being deprived every single day,” said Manning.

The judge questioned whether the state lowered its standards for students to advance to the next grade level when North Carolina changed from a four-point proficiency scale, where a score of three was performing at grade level, to a five-point scale, with a student still being allowed to advance to the next grade with a score of three.

“When we look at what level three is today, it is a significantly higher standard than level three has been in the past,” said Deputy State Superintendent Rebecca Garland.

A deputy state superintendent testified the state simply built into the five-point proficiency scale what had previously been a universally applied standard of error for the tests.

She explained a student who now performs at a proficiency level of three still isn’t quite performing at grade level, but is close enough to advance to the next grade. However this level three performance is still much higher than the old, level three.

“The standards we have now are more rigorous than the standards in the ABC’s and again, will continue to be. So level three is constantly moving up. I’ve never seen it move backwards,” said Garland.

However school leaders did admit the state still has an achievement gap, where some classifications of students don’t perform as well as others and the state is still struggling to get all students at least at grade level.

The hearing will continue Thursday. Judge Manning is not expected to make an immediate ruling. But after hearing all the testimony, he will decide if the state is meeting it’s constitutional requirement to provide a sound, basic education for all students or if the state needs to do things differently to meet that requirement.

- Heather Moore

Raleigh Mayor Shares Ideas for the City at Washington Conference

Gov. Pat McCrory and Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane

RALEIGH — Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane is one of nearly 300 mayors from across the country who are in Washington this week for the winter meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

It’s a chance for city leaders like McFarlane to discuss their priorities and share ideas.

“You know, one of the great things is talking to other mayors and seeing how they’ve addressed issues that maybe we’re facing,” said McFarlane.

McFarlane says her top priority is maintaining and improving Raleigh’s transportation and transit systems. She says she’s also focused on economic development and improving water quality rules.

This year’s gathering kicks off at a critical time, with a new Republican-controlled Congress under way and just a day after President Obama’s State of the Union address.

The mayor says she sees a few areas of areas of common ground in the president’s speech.

“One thing that jumped out at me was equal pay for the same job. Obviously, as a woman, I think that if you’re doing the same job as a man you should get paid the same thing,” said McFarlane.

She says she also took note of the president’s proposal to make community college free for eligible students.

“We have a great community college system with Wake Tech. Of course, everybody wants to know how are we going to pay for it? That’s the hard part,” said McFarlane.

Mayor McFarlane also says she appreciated the appeal to working families in the president’s State of the Union address.

Later this week, the mayors will head to the White House to meet with Cabinet members and President Obama himself.

- Geoff Bennett

Obama Cites Economy in State of the Union Address to Congress

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama stressed what he calls “middle class economics” in his State of the Union speech Tuesday night.

The president said our economy has made great improvements, but to help the middle class, the president proposed a new childcare tax cut, paid sick leave, an increase to the minimum wage and equal pay for women.

“Middle-class economics means helping working families feel more secure in a world of constant change. That means helping folks afford childcare, college, health care, a home, retirement – and my budget will address each of these issues, lowering the taxes of working families and putting thousands of dollars back into their pockets each year,” said President Obama.

Obama dared Republicans opposed to hiking the $7.25 minimum wage to either boost it or try supporting a family of four or less on $15,000 a year.

Obama said there are policies and proposals that garner bipartisan support. But he warned he’ll veto any efforts to roll back Americans’ health insurance or weaken Wall Street regulations.

The president also talked about American’s involvement in the international fight against ISIL terrorists and encouraged Congress to pass legislation to fight cyber attacks.

 

Capital Tonight Jan. 20: Fmr. State Budget Director Art Pope

On Capital Tonight: Former State Budget Director Art Pope discusses his thoughts on the future of the University of North Carolina system. Perry Woods and Andy Yates discuss the State of the Union address and the next legislative session. Watch the program here.

Duke Energy Speaks Up on EPA Coal Ash Rules

CHARLOTTE—New EPA coal ash rules could cause problems for Duke Energy. In North Carolina, the regulations run into other rules the state’s already putting in place.

Duke Energy officials are coming out weeks after the rules were released with a first look at what it all means for them.

Just before Christmas, utilities across the country had coal on the mind. It wasn’t because coal was going into their stockings, but because the EPA issued long-awaited rules governing how states and companies store and get rid of coal ash.

The document is 745 pages long, and the burdens are just as thick as the rules.

“We’re in the process of assimilating that rule within our company, talking to various folks out at the plant sites. We operate in six states and we have over 60 basins,” said Duke Energy spokesperson Tom Williams on Tuesday.

Williams said they have a team of 200 people working on coal ash, now trying to figure out how to implement the EPA’s timelines for retiring old sites and moving the ash.

“Some of those timelines may or may not be achievable based on other state permits,” he said, “So you really have to marry up the approaches on a site specific basis.”

That’s going to take a closer look at each of their 60 basins—half of which are in North Carolina, one of the few states with its own regulations.

Williams said they have figure out which standards apply to each site.

“We have standards across our fleet,” he said, “But there are still unique site characteristics. The topography may be different. A nearby water body may be different.”

And though the EPA’s now written their opinion on coal, it’s still not written in stone.

“The rule itself has not yet been posted in the Federal Register. It could be slightly adjusted between the time they put the rule out before Christmas and when it’s actually posted in the Federal Register,” said Williams.

The EPA’s new rules leave enforcement up to the state, and they say the rules are just a base-line for how states should treat coal ash. The North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources says they are also figuring out how they’ll apply the regulations.

- Andrew Sorensen