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Saturday, February 07, 2015


They're comin' ta git ya

by Tom Sullivan

No, really. I keep saying that what we're seeing nationally is the next phase of Defund the Left. If it feels as if there's a target on your back, dear Reader, it's not your imagination.

On All In Thursday night, Chris Hayes spoke with Lisa Graves of the Center for Media and Democracy in Madison, Wisconsin about Gov. Scott Walker’s plan to strike 13 percent from the budget of the University of Wisconsin. Shocking enough. But there was more, as Jonas Persson and Mary Bottari reported for CMD's PRWatch:

Walker's executive budget (see below) amends Sec. 1111 of the statutes to remove language specifying that the UW system has a public service mission to “extend knowledge and its application beyond the boundaries of its campus" and to "serve and stimulate society." He strikes language ensuring that the mission of the UW is to extend "training and public service designed to educate people and improve the human condition," as well as the language specifying that "the search for truth" is "basic to every purpose of the system."

Walker backtracked, claiming the strikeout of language core to the state's guiding principle since the Progressive Era, the "Wisconsin Idea," was a drafting error. Politifact rated that claim "Pants on Fire."

But this observation about Walker by Chris Hayes jumped out at me (emphasis mine):

There’s something sort of ingenious about this from a political standpoint. It seems to me that one of his M.O.s in office has been to sort of use policy as a mechanism by which to reduce the political power of people that would oppose him — progressives, the left. I mean, go after the unions, right? Which is a huge pillar of progressive power in the state of Wisconsin. And another big pillar of progressive power in the state, frankly, is the university system.

Speaking of M.O.s, this is eerily similar to what is happening in North Carolina, and no accident, is my guess. Like Walker's, the GOP-led legislature here has been looking to weaken any foci of opposition. Three weeks ago and without explanation, UNC Chapel Hill’s president, Tom Ross, was forced from office. A local blogger offered this explanation to the Charlotte Observer:

Without a clear explanation of why Ross, 64, was being forced from his job, political consultant Thomas Mills concluded politics was the reason. Ross is a former executive director of the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, a financial backer of progressive groups, and that may have hurt him, Mills said.

“Maybe what they want is somebody who’s going to kowtow to the legislature, and he has pushed back about some legislative priorities,” said Mills, who has worked for Democrats. “If they want that, what’s the point in having a system president?”

Rumors fly that "third Koch brother" Art Pope wants the job.

Chad Nance at Camel City Dispatch believes much more is being targeted.:

Art Pope’s Civitas has long wanted to close North Carolina’s Historically Black Colleges… now they just may get their chance. In 2014 their hand-picked UNC Board of Governors targeted programs throughout North Carolina’s university system that are geared toward the studies of poverty, economy, climate and other sciences, and diversity studies. Any part of academia that might contradict these right-wing partisans’ anti-science and anti-working people agenda is on the chopping block.

Just this week, Greensboro got blindsided when a GOP state senator from the county introduced a bill to restructure elections for city council. (North Carolina is a Dillon's Rule state.) The News & Record reported:

Senate Bill 36 would shrink the size of the council, fundamentally change the role and powers of the mayor, lengthen council terms, and reduce the number of council members who are elected at-large.

The changes would mean that residents would vote for two council representatives — their district member and the mayor — instead of five.

The legislation also puts four current City Council members in the same newly drawn District 4. Council members Mike Barber, Marikay Abuzuaiter, Zack Matheny and Nancy Hoffmann would have to battle it out for a single seat.

And wouldn't you know? Of the four, three are Democrats, as is the mayor.

Same M.O.

The News & Record reports this is "the third time in recent history that the legislature has sought to rearrange a local government body." That is incorrect.

They did it to Buncombe County (mine) in 2011, going from at-large elections to districts to weaken the influence of the city of Asheville — and increasing the number on the commission by two. Now, you can argue that it's more representative for county voters, and it might be, but this arrived via virtually the same M.O. as Greensboro. No advance warning. No consultation with local officials or referendum of voters. Imposed by fiat from Raleigh by the "small government" people. And hanging in the air is the implied threat to do the same to Asheville city council in retribution for the city not rolling over and submitting to Raleigh's will when they passed legislation to wrest away control of the city's water system — that's still in the courts — as they attempted to with Charlotte's international airport. Remember Detroit's emergency manager, Kevyn Orr? First piece of public infrastructure he targeted for privatizing was water and sewer.

First they came for the labor unions, etc. Are we seeing a pattern here?