03ABCChanges and fragmentation in traditional news media operations have brought many changes, including less coverage of state government news in areas outside state capitals. Two important events occurred earlier this month, though, that should register with all of us. First, North Carolina’s five living former governors, three Democrats and two Republicans, got together in the old capitol and urged voters to reject proposed constitutional amendments that will appear on our November ballots.
The governors say the amendments would redistribute the balance of power between the legislative and executive branches of government. The five, Jim Hunt, Jim Martin, Mike Easley, Bev Perdue and Pat McCrory, who collectively logged 40 years in North Carolina’s Governor’s Mansion, know whereof they speak, and I, for one, will be taking their advice. Our Constitution is not broken and does not need fixing, thanks just the same.

North Carolina’s elected state auditor, Beth Wood, also released scathing findings of a yearlong audit of our state-run Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission. The audit reported the ABC Commission wasted about $11 million in tax revenue through mismanagement and lazy oversight. Not surprisingly, the report triggered cries of “not me” and political finger-pointing, along with calls for privately owned and operated liquor stores.

Infuriating as the audit findings are, let’s not overreact.
Our state’s ABC Commission has been around since 1937 and has historically been a vehicle for political patronage under both parties. That said, as a state-controlled monopoly, it returns millions of dollars to state and local governments and provides hundreds of jobs. No one knows what exactly would happen if the system shifted to a market-based private system, but it is a safe bet to say ABC revenues to governments would have to be made up with tax hikes, some on people who never patronize state ABC stores.
In addition, while alcoholic beverages are legally sold and enjoyed in 98 of our 100 counties, it is also true that alcohol addicts some of its users, causing pain and distress to them and those who love them. State oversight originated as a protection of sorts.
Perhaps our state-controlled ABC system should include some private entrepreneurs or change altogether, but that is a decision to be made after much study of other private systems and with great deliberation. It has potential ramifications far beyond reacting to a critical audit report.
“Spare the rod, spoil the child” is an oft-quoted modern justification for corporal punishment of children. Many believe the saying may be a corruption of a biblical verse found in the book of Proverbs, but whatever its origins, it is a virtual artifact in North Carolina’s public schools. With the Robeson County School Board’s vote of 6 to 5 earlier this month to ban the practice, only Graham of our 100 counties continues to sanction the “intentional infliction of physical pain upon the body of a student as a disciplinary measure.” Nineteen states continue schoolhouse corporal punishment, most of them in the South.
Several Up & Coming Weekly readers took me to task for a recent column entitled “Mysterious Melania,” in which I talked about other first ladies, quoted humorist Celia Rivenbark, and opined, “It cannot be easy being Mrs. Donald Trump.”

My take was particularly unpopular with one reader who emailed, “what a hit piece on our first lady ... as a wife, mother, grandmother, nurse ... I cannot believe Margaret Dickson would right (sic) such an appalling piece on a woman, much less the first lady of the United States.”

I thanked the reader for her response, and we agreed that we are all blessed to live in a nation where we can share our opinions freely and openly, whether we agree or not.

In that vein, a recent New York Times piece on our first lady entitled “Melania Trump, a Mysterious first lady, Weathers a Chaotic White House” provides a longer, more detailed look. Here is a link: www.ny-times.com/2018/08/17/us/politics/melania-trump-first-lady.html

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