With the COVID-19 pandemic becoming the overarching factor in virtually every event in 2020 starting in mid-March, finding good moments for the year is a little tough. Here goes with some observations of the three best…
- State Auditor Seeks Transparency
We noted in an early June blog how State Auditor Beth Wood exposed the NC Department of Transportation in a report she gave to a North Carolina Senate committee hearing on May 20 about mismanagement of the NCDOT budget – to the tune of $742 million in overspending.
Auditor Wood’s observations on the NCDOT’s management style were jaw-dropping as she described: “The lack of oversight, the lack of slowing spending, the lack of monitoring spend plans. There is no oversight. There is nobody to ensure that once there’s a spending plan in place, there’s no one overseeing them or holding them accountable to stay in line with that spending plan.”
In the same blog, we noted how Auditor Wood also shed light on her office’s investigative report on local government shenanigans in Rocky Mount after her office received 200 complaints on a hotline to the State Auditor’s office.
Her report examined how apparently several city officials kept the city’s utility payment office from collecting more than $47,000 in past-due utility bills owed by Mayor Pro-Tem Andre Knight – a City Council veteran since 2003. According to the report, when the utility payment staff was prevented from collecting on the bills from Knight, they began to write off the unpaid bills.
As investigative journalism has declined as newspapers and other sources have cut staff, it is good to know transparency and watchfulness is happening on behalf of taxpayers.
- AAA Bond Rating AGAIN In Spite Of Pandemic
We were astounded that even with the economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic shutdown by Governor Cooper, State Treasurer Dale Folwell announced in late September that all three national bond rating agencies had given North Carolina the top AAA rating for sound fiscal management, “noting the state’s strong economic growth and diversification, conservative fiscal management, rainy day fund and other reserves, as well as low liabilities.”
Business shutdowns, unemployment and shifting business protocols seemed to month after month suck the life out of the state’s economy. But the NCGA’s Reform Majority efforts to build up the state’s Rainy Day Fund over the past 10 years provided enough security for the rating agencies to make North Carolina one of only 13 states to gain the AAA rating among major national bond rating agencies according to Treasurer Folwell.
- Return of the Jedi
Over the last few years, liberals had grown their control of North Carolina’s judicial system. Going in to the 2020 election, the left’s advantage on the NC Supreme Court was 6-1. After the dust settled only weeks ago, in spite of liberal megamillions spent nationwide in judicial races, three new conservative judges prevailed in elections to the Supreme Court, leaving the liberal advantage only 4-3. And conservative Justice Paul Newby, won the race for Chief Justice.
Growing liberal control meant the court had tended to be more activist and creative, seeking to make law and legislate from the bench. Conservative judges believe they should stick to interpreting the Constitution and stand by the Rule of Law – so hopefully we’ll see more decisions from that approach.
This dramatic shift will be interesting to watch as the Court deals with constitutional matters as well as setting the tone for our entire criminal justice system. After this year’s social and civic unrest, it will be fascinating to see if this shift in the court makes a difference in blunting the efforts of those who seek to tear down our system of law and order.
We are glad the NC Supreme Court will hopefully now get a fair shot at taking a constitutional approach to justice with a more balanced court and a new Chief Justice.
So that’s it. The best moments of 2020 and warmest wishes for a better 2021. Happy New Year!