North Carolina Needs Total Recall
Following a series of administrative transgressions by Gov. Bev Perdue, my mind wandered back to 2003, when citizens of California voted to recall their chief executive. At that time, Gray Davis had lost the confidence of his constituents for several reasons. First, he presided over a budget-strapped government. Second he was associated with some questionable fundraising activities. And third, he didn’t prevent, nor did he effectively deal with fraud by energy companies who plagued the state with rolling blackouts (later it was learned that Enron had a hand in manipulating power grids for profit). Davis was recalled and Arnold Schwarzenegger succeeded him by way of a special election. It was the first gubernatorial recall in California history, but not the first in our nation’s history. That dubious honor belonged to North Dakota’s Lynn Frazer in 1921. As we witnessed with the saga of Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, state lawmakers have their own way of ousting a governor who might be guilty of criminal wrongdoing. But a recall is the people’s remedy for replacing a governor anytime they think he (or she) is doing a bad job. Having said that, recalls are rare. Long before Gray Davis was shown the door, Californians attempted to recall Ronald Reagan, Pat and Jerry Brown, and Pete Wilson. None of those efforts were successful, however, proving that voters know how to gauge malfeasance, then act accordingly. The problem is that recalling a governor is only legal in a handful of states, of which North Carolina is not one. It’s too bad, because we deserve that right, and could have exercised it on any number of occasions over the past eight years. Mike Easley would have been particularly vulnerable for any of the following missteps:
• Pushing through the $282 million dollar incentive deal for Dell before lawmakers had time to examine the details, and doing so when our competition (Virginia) only put $37 million dollars on the table. Easley’s irresponsible actions facilitated additional perks from Forsyth County, and Dell ended up with a sweetheart deal worth over $330 million, which included being allowed to lay off up to 40 percent of its workforce without forfeiting a penny of the incentives. • Caving in to Chinese computer maker Lenovo who demanded $14 million in incentives, including a $750,000 grant paid up front. • Denying media access to government e-mails (Easley reversed his policy on his last day in office).
• Failing to act in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina when damage to gas pipelines temporarily affected supply. Easley could have followed the lead of Georgia’s governor and suspended gasoline taxes. He could have also cracked down on price-gougers. In the end, Easley did nothing but fly down to his beach house in Southport for a vacation. • Doing nothing to curb the onslaught of illegal aliens, or deal with the hardships that illegal immigration puts on our police, schools, courts and hospitals. • Naming his political puppet Britt Cobb to step in as commissioner of
agriculture andconsumer services after Meg Scott Phipps went to prison. Easley shouldhave tapped Steve Troxler for the post since it was Troxler who wasrobbed of the office by Phipp’s misdeeds. • Failing to take astand on prosecutorial abuse in the Duke lacrosse case. Easley, himselfa former attorney general,should have been out front early on thisissue instead of allowing DA Dennis Nifong to ruin so many lives andreputations. • Pushing through a gas tax hike of 2.8 cents pergallon, making North Carolina the sixth most expensive state in whichto fill up your tank.
• Spending taxpayer monies extravagantly while on vacation with hiswife in Italy. Easley claimed he was on an economic developmentjunket.And,
• Allowing NC State University to give his wife (a state employee) a $79,000 raise not long before he was to leave office. Easley’smisdeeds and lack of transparency came in dribs and drabs, and, takenindividually, none were as sensational as trying to sell a Senate seat.But, collectively they did great harm to our state and its citizens.Had we the right to recall him, Easley might have been in for an earlyexit. And that brings me to Bev Perdue. At first glance she comes offas a meek, petite, honey talking Southern belle, but behind thatfaÃ§ade, she is as elusive, arrogant, and power hungry as herpredecessor. In less than three months on the job she has distinguishedherself in a number of ways:
•She used Lottery funds to pay for existing school projects when the lawis clear that such monies are to be used for “new” school projects andinitiatives. Then, she robbed the NC Education Lottery piggy bank to help make up a shortfall in the state’s overall budget.
• She has taken no action to curb the practice of industry incentives,nor has she formulated a single plan to deal with the problem ofillegal immigration. She also hasn’t shown any desire to reform abusesby health insurers who keep increasing premiums and then denyingcoverage when it suits them.
•Bev also usurped the authority of a constitutionally elected officer ofthe state when she appointed her own person to oversee the State Boardof Education, even though over 2 million people voted for June Atkinsonto do that job.
•Finally, last week, Perdue seized control of our $787 million Rainy DayFund, something she’s only supposed to do if the legislature is not insession. As such, Perdue is already on track to surpassEasley’s record of strongarm governance. That’s why we need areferendum to amend the State Constitution so that North Carolinianswill have the right to recall her if need be. Without that right, wemust suffer through a full four years before we can make a coursecorrection. Opponents of a recall say it isn’t necessarybecause we should stand by the majority vote and just let our governorsfill out their rightful terms. In other words, “We made our bed, now wehave to lie in it”. The problem is, I just don’t want to lie in bedwith Bev Perdue any longer than I have to. Who knows, maybe a recallisn’t the best solution. Maybe we just need an annulment. JimLongworth is the host of “Triad Today,” airing on Fridays at 6:30 a.m.on ABC 45 (cable channel 7) and Sundays at 10 p.m. on WMYV (cablechannel 15).