NC JUSTICE NEWS: Tour Sheds Light on Poverty + Sales Tax + Health Care Advocate of the Year

POVERTY TOUR: First leg of state-wide tour travels northeast NC


The Truth and Hope Tour of Poverty in North Carolina concluded its first leg on Friday, after a state-wide tour of northeastern rural counties and inner city neighborhoods where North Carolinians have struggled to find work, decent housing, transportation, and sufficient food for their families.

The bus made stops in Washington, Roper, Elizabeth City, Winton, Scotland Neck, and Rocky Mount. Along the way, the bus full of activists, foundation leaders, scholars and reporters met with community leaders and hundreds of individuals whose lives have been directly affected by poverty. There was clear evidence of chronic underinvestment and long legacies of neglect, as the tour visited towns that have engaged in decade-long fights to get adequate sewer and clean water infrastructure for their communities.

Washington County has seen dozens of teachers lose their jobs, and the lines at the food bank grow longer and longer, often with people waiting outside all night just for the chance to eat in the morning. Elizabeth City has more than 1,000 homeless men, and yet there are fewer than 30 shelter beds across the city. The tour came across other rural communities that were still facing destruction brought on by Hurricane Irene.

"The folk we met are hardworking, resilient, hopeful people," said Rev. Dr. William Barber II, chair of the NC State NAACP, which co-hosted the tour with the NC Justice Center, the UNC Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity, and the Institute For Civic Engagement and Social Change at North Carolina Central University. “It's no sin to be poor. But it is sin to ignore our brothers and sisters who are in poverty, and to make economic decisions that continue to keep them poor."

The multiracial tour group called on state leaders, including both lawmakers and business owners, to act against poverty, defend voting rights and place a strong emphasis on economic justice. The second leg of the Truth and Hope tour will visit southeastern North Carolina, and will begin shortly after the Historic Thousands on Jones St. (HK on J) march on February 11.

A video trailer of the tour, which contains footage from listening sessions, is available online here. Follow @truthandhopenc on Twitter for updates on the tour, and “Like” the tour’s Facebook page for access to photos, video, and articles about the tour.

SALES TAX: Gov. Perdue's proposal would raise crucial revenue

Last week, Gov. Perdue announced that she will submit a budget proposal to include three-quarters of the one-cent sales tax in the next budget – a tax that was cut by lawmakers during last year's session. Such a move would raise an estimated $863 million in additional state revenues next year.

This proposal is a step in the right direction for North Carolina, particularly after a year when the budget placed public investments at the lowest levels in 40 years. These investments are instrumental in supporting the state’s economy and yet since the budget passed last year, classroom sizes have ballooned, early childhood education programs have been slashed, access to health care has decreased, and tuition has skyrocketed. In addition, thousands of teachers and teacher assistant positions were lost.

"Education has always been part of the fabric of who we are as a people in North Carolina and it’s the key to our future,” Gov. Perdue said in a statement, pointing out that North Carolina has fallen to 49th in the nation in per-pupil spending. “Investing in education is central to our ability to attract new jobs and businesses to our state. We owe it to our children and our state to stop these cuts and make education a priority again – a fraction of a penny for progress."

The additional state revenues brought on by this sales tax could help restore hundreds of millions in devastating budget cuts that directly affected education, Medicaid, public safety, and early childhood programs. Increasing state revenue – as well as exploring models for revenue modernization – will allow North Carolina to better invest in its people, institutions, and valuable public structures.

FAMILIES USA: Adam Searing named Health Advocate of the Year

Congratulations to Adam Searing, director of the NC Justice Center’s Health Access Coalition and recipient of Families USA’s Consumer Health Advocate of the Year Award!

Searing was recognized at the annual Families USA Health Action conference in Washington this past weekend for his achievements as a leading health care advocate in North Carolina. Families USA, a national organization for health care consumers, presents the Consumer Health Advocate award each year in recognition of outstanding contributions on behalf of health care consumers from across the country. Families USA honored Searing for his defense of health care consumers in North Carolina as well as his efforts to educate others about the Affordable Care Act and defeat legislation that would have been detrimental to health reform in the state. Searing also helped implement expansions of North Carolina’s Medicaid program and fought against the proposed conversion of Blue Cross/Blue Shield NC into a for-profit.

Ron Pollack, Executive Director of Families USA, honored Adam as a “fierce defender of health care consumers.” Pollack said, “When we work with Adam, we marvel at his innovative and creative use of media and online advocacy, his broad understanding of health care policy, and his ability to bring it all together in coalition building."

HKonJ: Save the Date - February 11, 2012

Five years ago, the North Carolina NAACP began building a multi-racial, multi-issue alliance of progressive organizations in North Carolina to form the Historic Thousands on Jones Street People’s Assembly Coalition (HKonJ-PAC). The movement – made up of over 125 member organizations –will continues its anti-racist, anti-poverty and anti-war agenda with its annual march this February.

The 6th Annual HKonJ march will take place on Saturday, February 11, 2012. Armed with the historic shout, “We the People Shall Not Be Moved: Forward Together Not One Step Back!”, HKonJ aims to unite individuals from all walks of life. Citizens will march in support of voting rights, equitable education, a fair state budget, job creation, health care and community investments, and the protection of the rights of immigrants.

Assembling will begin at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday morning at Shaw University on South Street in Raleigh. The march will begin at 10:30. Visit the HKonJ website for more information and details on the HKonJ 14-point agenda. We’ll see you on Saturday, February 11.

CAMPAIGN FOR BETTER CARE: Lunch for older adults, caregivers

Join the NC Justice Center and AARP NC on Thursday, February 2 in Goldsboro for the next Campaign for Better Care community luncheon and make your voice heard on one of the most important, complex issues in North Carolina today.

The Campaign for Better Care aims to make improvements in the health system for older adults and build a strong, lasting consumer voice for better health care. Come and share your experiences about what you think needs to be changed in our health system and take advantage of the expertise offered from the AARP and the Seniors’ Health Insurance Information Program (SHIIP) and more.

The free event will be held from 11:30 am - 2:00 pm at the Wayne County Services on Aging in Goldsboro. To reserve your seat, contact Services on Aging at 919-731-1591 or Nicole Dozier at nicole@ncjustice.org or 919-856-2146.

CRUCIAL CONVERSATION: What's next for politics in 2012?

It looks like 2012 is going to be a huge year in North Carolina politics and public policy. Between the General Assembly’s “midnight madness” fiasco, other special legislative sessions, a statewide vote on a constitutional amendment to restrict marriage, a presidential primary, a court fight over redistricting, a legislative “short session,” chronic economic and fiscal crises, a presidential/ gubernatorial/ council of state/ legislative election and the most aggressively reactionary state legislature in decades, it’s hard to imagine how things could be much crazier. So what does public opinion tells us is going to happen? What ought to happen?

Don’t miss a chance to gather some answers to these questions from two of the state’s leading experts. Join NC Policy Watch at noon on Thursday, February 2, for a Crucial Conversation lunch featuring Tom Jensen and Chris Fitzsimon. Tom Jensen is the Director of the nationally recognized polling firm, Public Policy Polling and oversees its day to day operations. Chris Fitzsimon is the Director of N.C. Policy Watch and North Carolina's leading progressive media personality. Don’t miss the opportunity to hear from these two experts at this critical time.

The event will be held at the Marbles Kids Museum at 210 E. Hargett St. in downtown Raleigh. Pre-registration is required. For more information contact Rob Schofield at 919-861-2065 or rob@ncpolicywatch.com.

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