Congressman focuses on students, rebuilding the economy

05 special needs home schoolThe coronavirus pandemic has created many challenges for every part of our daily lives. If you’re a parent like me, you’re probably well aware of the difficulties with remote learning. Unfortunately, these difficulties have impacted some families more than others.

Last month, I heard from parents and school administrators in our community about their concerns that special needs children were not able to access caregiving services during remote learning. This was due to a loophole that restricts families with special needs children from having respite care during the school day. This is an appropriate safeguard during normal times when students are able to attend school. But in a pandemic when children may be kept at home, these safeguards would not allow the program's intended purposes to work to provide care for children and relief for parents.

As soon as I heard about this issue, I got to work. I immediately urged the Trump Administration to take action to rectify this situation and get support for special needs children in our community. After directly appealing to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma, I am thrilled to report that last week, CMS granted a waiver for North Carolina to provide home and community-based services for these at-risk children.

This would not have happened without parents reaching out to my office and is just part of my job to work on behalf of everyone in our community to solve problems. While the COVID-19 pandemic has created many challenges, families with special needs children deserve the peace-of-mind that they can continue to access caregiving services during this time. As we continue to address the coronavirus, I am committed to getting our community the resources we need so that ALL children can succeed.

In addition to supporting students at this time, I also remain focused on rebuilding our economy.

Also last week, I was proud to announce a $13.1 million Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements Grant award from the U.S. Department of Transportation for the Aberdeen Carolina & Western Railway.

I have had the pleasure of touring the ACWR rail operations based in Montgomery County. A lifeline throughout our entire region, the ACWR is critical to transporting goods and supporting jobs across the 8th District and our state.

Last week’s announced grant will enable many growth opportunities, particularly in rural areas, between Moore, Montgomery, Stanly, Cabarrus and Mecklenburg Counties. The funding will greatly improve ACWR's infrastructure and freight operations and will attract new industry and jobs into this service area.

It was a thrill to call ACWR Railway President Julie White to tell her the grant was awarded. Julie told me this grant was a “game changer” that will allow critical improvements to the rail line that will benefit farms and other businesses throughout our region. I am also excited about the impact this will have on bringing new jobs to our community.

As your Congressman, I will continue to fight for common sense solutions to rebuild our economy, renew the American dream for all Americans and restore our way of life. You can count on me to keep coming to work every day on your behalf, staying focused on public health, and doing whatever it takes to emerge from this time stronger than ever.

Picture: A loophole prevented families with special needs students from accessing caregiver services during remote learning. After appealing to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, North Carolina was granted a waiver.

VOTE! Virtual forums an awesome idea

02 Virtual Candidates Forums Quarter RegularFor the first time in my lifetime, I will be a Poll Observer during this election cycle. Why? Because rumors abound about the safety and security of the most cherished right we have as Americans: the right to vote. Voting is our constitutionally protected patriotic duty that defines and reinforces our freedoms as American citizens. This election year, I want to personally witness this freedom and, hopefully, dispel the conception that the process is diabolically being compromised.

This 2020 presidential election may be the most important ever in our history as this country battles inside and outside enemies and political sources whose sole purpose is to transform America into a communist country.

Make no mistake about it, the overly used, benevolently disguised and distilled term "socialism" is nothing more than the initial stepping stone to Marxism and, ultimately, communism. And, as predicted by many scholars decades ago, this socialist/communist threat is coming from within. You only have to look at the changing and catastrophic ideologies of the once-patriotic and honorable Democratic Party. In summation: its integrity has been breached, and its values are compromised. The U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights have been designated insignificant, making it a target of extreme compromise and ultimate obliteration. This is why all citizens who cherish American freedoms, safety and security, regardless of political affiliation, need to VOTE!

Kudos to local Fayetteville businessman Henry Tyson, currently the Chairman of the Legislative Committee of the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce. He has rallied with likeminded people, businesses, and organizations and created a unique forum to introduce local candidates to the community. The online platform is designed to create awareness of voting's importance while informing and educating local citizens on critical regional and statewide issues.

Starting on Oct.13, these organizations will host a series of candidate forums ahead of the general election. The event will be conducted virtually and feature video interviews with local, county, state and federal candidates, who will discuss local, regional and state issues. Moderators will not distribute the questions in advance, and each candidate will answer identical questions as it relates to the timely and essential topics pertinent to their race. The interviews will be streamed online and available on all the websites of the hosts and sponsors.

Residents will be able to tune in throughout the month as new candidate interviews are uploaded and streamed in segments, beginning with the Cumberland County Board of Education, Cumberland County Board of Commissioners, local N.C. legislative races and statewide and federal offices. The schedule will be posted online each morning.

This effort took a lot of work and coordination. According to Tyson, everyone was on board from the very beginning: "We wanted to have a format that allowed for the community to be informed — especially during the time of COVID-19 — provide for a natural and unprepared response from those running for office and give the voters insight on the pressing issues we are faced with here in the greater Fayetteville area."

I want to thank Henry Tyson for his leadership in shepherding this virtual forum and the five hosting organizations that saw value in the project. See the schedule on the flyer. Also, a special thanks to the forums cosponsors: Coldwell Banker Advantage, Tyson Commercial Real Estate, Up & Coming Weekly community newspaper, Bronco iRadio of Fayetteville State University and JerFilm Productions.

Thanks for reading Up & Coming.

College or no college — that is the question

03 teens school table laptopFormer presidential candidate Bernie Sanders got a lot of mileage with his proposal of “free college for all.”

Other political hopefuls have embraced the same idea, at least in part, since at some level all human beings appreciate something for nothing.

The notion is also appealing because higher education costs have exploded in both public and private institutions and lower income students graduate at lower levels than students from more advantaged families for all sorts of reasons, including money. Young Americans, not surprisingly, love this idea.

Free college for all would also be so astronomically expensive it is difficult to contemplate. But should everyone go to college at all? And, if they do, can they, their families and the larger community expect them to graduate?

The everyone to college question has been around for generations, and the answer is clearly no. Some students are not physically or mentally capable. Others are not interested in any way.

That said, technology has greatly lessened the need for semi-skilled or unskilled labor, and jobs that require a high school degree or less are hard to come by and poorly compensated. Students and their families should understand that when the college decision is being made.

Researchers have long known that college degrees are valuable personal assets. College grads earn more than nongrads almost from the outset and certainly over their working careers. Statistics show that they also live longer, are healthier, divorce less frequently and generally report happier lives.

More affluent families with generations of college goers and graduates understand the value of a college degree, and their children are more likely to graduate than the children of middle- and lower-class families with less college going experience.

The New York Times reported recently on a study by professors at Harvard and MIT that affirms the value of a college degree. Some students in the study were awarded significant scholarships while others paid their own ways. Scholarship recipients graduated at a higher rate than nonscholarship students, especially among minority and financially disadvantaged students, and those whose parents were not college grads. All of that seems to support the notion that a free education would help many students.

Here again, one size does not fit all. Students from families with a history of college-going are likely to graduate anyway, since their families expect them to do so. They may also be more college-ready, having attended high-quality, sometimes independent, schools. It makes little sense to provide tax-payer funded higher education for them.

Targeting capable students from other backgrounds for free education may make sense. American workers now compete not only against each other but against people literally on the other side of world, many in nations that do provide free educations. If we want our nation to be competitive in our global economy, our people must be prepared to do that, and education is an important aspect of that preparation. It would be expensive, of course, but not likely as expensive as a stalled economy or the long-term burden of individuals and families unable to support themselves sufficiently.

So, no, not everyone should go to college, but those who do should have the support they need to be successful. And, yes, an educated and productive workforce in a humming economy benefits all of us, not just those who received the education.

More than ever in today’s small world and global economy, we really are all in this together.

How to avoid future regrets

04 Pitt trojan horse objects in mirror are closer than they appearThere are real moments of insight and clarity on late night TV if you will only look. Once upon a time, in a galaxy pretty close to ours, came such a moment of clarity. Heck, it was our very own Milky Way galaxy while I happened to be watching a rerun of “Highway Patrol.”

“Highway Patrol” was a 1950s show featuring Sgt. Dan Matthews. Sgt. Dan seldom took off his hat and usually killed a bad guy in the last five minutes of the program. Right after Dan killed the bad guy, a commercial came on selling gold-plated fake buffalo head nickels for only $9.99 each. Each household was strictly limited to being able to buy five fake nickels. What got me interested was the tag line: “AVOID DISAPPOINTMENTS AND FUTURE REGRETS. You must order now!” The low, low price could only be guaranteed for five days due to the ever-increasing cost of gold plating and unlimited suckers with credit cards.

I certainly wanted to avoid disappointments and future regrets. Who wouldn’t want to avoid disappointments and future regrets? If buying a fake gold-plated nickel is a vaccine against future regrets sign me up. If $50 worth of junk will avoid disappointment in the Year of Our Lord 2020, that is a small price to pay. I began pondering, was there a character in Greek mythology who had encountered disappointments and future regrets? Sure enough, consider the story of Paris, the instigator of the Trojan War. Instead of buying a fake gold-plated drachma, he had snatched Helen of Sparta winding up with the Trojan Horse at the gates of his city.

Paris had a colorful background. His baby daddy was King Priam of Troy and his momma was Hecuba. Right before giving birth to Paris, Hecuba had a bad dream that she was going to give birth to a burning torch. Yikes! The oracle cyphered this meant the new baby would end up destroying Troy. King Priam ordered his Flunky to kill the newborn Paris. The Flunky took Paris up to a hill but couldn’t kill a baby. He just left the baby on the hill hoping Paris would have the good sense to die.

Fortunately for Paris, a lactating Momma Bear lumbered along and nursed him back to health. The Flunky came back about a week later hoping to bring Paris’ body back to show the King. As Gomer would say, “Surprise, surprise, surprise!” Paris was still alive. The Flunky decided to adopt Paris. Then the troubles began. (Trigger warning to PETA fans) To prove to Priam that Paris was dead, the Flunky brought Priam a dog tongue claiming it was from Paris.

The gods decided to have a Miss Olympus Beauty pageant to decide who was the most beautiful goddess of them all. The three finalists were Hera, Aphrodite and Athena. Zeus the King of the gods, was asked by the bevy of beauties to decide who was the best looking. Zeus wasn’t King for nothing. He knew whomever he picked, that the other two would hate him. So he delegated the judging to Paris. Paris was no dummy either. He had each of the goddesses undress so he could decide who was the best looking. Miraculously they were all so beautiful he could not decide. Each goddess then tried to bribe him to choose her as Queen of the Hop. Ultimately Aphrodite’s bribe won when she offered Paris the most beautiful woman on Earth, Helen of Sparta.

Let me tell you, Helen was a doll baby. However, there was a catch. Helen was already married to King Menelaus of Sparta. Paris snuck into Menelaus’ palace and snatched up Helen. Then off he ran with her. Helen became smitten with Paris. They went back to Troy to live happily ever after. But there was another catch. Menelaus wanted her back pronto. He gathered up an army of angry Greeks and hightailed it to Troy. Paris refused to give up Helen, noting possession was 9/10s of the law. Menelaus replied to Paris, quoting Bugs Bunny saying “Of course you know, this means war!” Turned out it was the Trojan War.

A whole bunch of fighting, stabbing, dueling and slaying ensued between the Greek and Trojan armies. Lots of Greek heroes ended up dead including Achilles who got an arrow right slam into his ankle. His ankle was the only place he could be killed. When Achilles was a baby, his Momma dipped him into a magic stream that would protect him from all wounds. She held him by his ankle when she dunked him. Medically, this meant his ankle didn’t get wet resulting in an unprotected spot. As luck would have it, Paris’ arrow hit him right in the wrong ankle resulting in Achilles expiring. That is why you have Achilles tendons in your feet to this very day.

The Greeks hung around Troy for about 10 years doing siege stuff that didn’t work. Finally, the Greeks built a giant wooden horse to trick the Trojans into thinking the Greeks had given up. The Greeks filled up the horse with soldiers, leaving a note saying the horse was a gift and that they were going back to Greece. The Trojans saw the horse, read the note, and believed they had won. Counting their chickens before they were hatched, the Trojans hauled the horse into Troy to celebrate. Once inside the gates, the Greeks popped out of the horse and wiped out the city of Troy. Hence the old saying, beware of Greeks bearing gifts.

So, what have we learned today? Once again, not much. While you should never look a gift horse in the mouth, buying a fake buffalo head nickel might lead you to avoid disappointment and future regrets. Neither Steve Reeves or any dogs were harmed during the writing of this column.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs: voting for safety and security

02 IMG 5971In 1943, Psychological Review published a paper by Abraham Maslow called "A Theory of Human Motivation." Today, this work is better known as "Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs." It uses a pyramid of needs to describe what motivates humans, based on their basic, psychological and self-fulfillment needs.

At the foundation of Maslow's pyramid are physiological needs: food, water, sleep, shelter, clothing and reproduction. Safety needs are the next highter level in the pyramind and include emotional, financial and personal well-being.

Maslow's other needs include belongingness, love and esteem. At the top of the pyramid is self-actualization. Self-actualization is that place in life when a person has reached their full potential. Here is where they find that place in life called "joy."

As a community, we are far from self-actualization. And we are coming up short on many fronts when it comes to belongingness, love and esteem as well. Locally, our preoccupation with the pandemic, civil unrest, unemployment, racial divisions, social justice and criminal justice all play on our collective psyche and create frustration accompanied by fears of a collapsing society. This sows seeds for further misunderstanding and conflict.

I recently took a photo of the Market House in historic downtown Fayetteville. This nationally recognized landmark is now fenced-in — a visual metaphor reflecting our recent turbulent times. I wonder how residents and visitors view and interpret the fence that surrounds it. And the circumstances that led to the fence going up. Does the fence protect the Market House from people who want it destroyed because they view it as a symbol of hatred and suppression? Is it being used to keep people from enjoying it as an iconic backdrop for happy and fun events like family outings, weddings and graduations? Or, does it keep our growing homeless population from using it as an overnight shelter?

With no access to the building, residents wonder what platform the Arts Council will use to celebrate its traditional Dicken's Holiday, which traditionally ushers in the holiday season. Perhaps the fence will stay up for years and become known as the infamous Fayetteville Wall. Maybe the building will become the Fayetteville Market Jail.

No matter how it is defined, it is an uncomplimentary reminder that no one will enjoy the Market House in its current state.

Today, basic human decency seems to be under attack almost everywhere you turn. It is a shame that people call their friends and family names like "fascist" or "communist" based on their political preferences. How are so many willing to sacrifice lifeling relationships on the altar of politics and division?

Meanwhile, our current candidates differ greatly in their views about how to move forward as a nation and as a society. As citizens and constituents, it seems like we do, too. Both political parties/candidates should represent and define those things that are essential to every American — the basics such as food, clean water, shelter, safety and security. These should have the highest priority and should be the issues they address first. Americans should vote for whomever best represents their beliefs of what is best for them, their family, community and country.

This upcoming election would serve everyone much better if all politicians focused on solutions that pursue Maslow's basic needs for their constituents, especially safety and security. This would guarantee a stable, safe and secure American way of life no matter who is elected and would enable us to experience more joy and less fear.

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