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Archive for the ‘Rebel’s Blog’ Category

Our new state song

Late last month Oklahoma did something totally unexpected in what is arguably the most conservative state in the country. Its legislature and governor proclaimed “Do You Realize” by The Flaming Lips as Oklahoma’s official rock song.

That the state would officially do something so whimsical is outstanding, and brings to mind the idea that perhaps North Carolina’s leaders should consider a brief break from downers such as the budget shortfall.

Wouldn’t it be great to replace the sleep-inducing official state song, “The Old North State,” (opening lyrics: “Carolina! Carolina! Heaven’s blessings attend her!”), with something a tad more contemporary?

But before we do, consider what some states other than Oklahoma have done, or tried to do.

In 1980 New Jersey attempted to honor its native son, Bruce Springsteen, and in particular his anthem, Born to Run.” A resolution in the legislature would have officially named the song the “unofficial theme of our state’s youth.” Uh, say what?

The resolution got sidetracked, however, when one state senator pointed out that the song’s lyrics included the line, “It’s a death trap, it’s a suicide rap,” and that the protagonists’ goal was to get out of New Jersey.

Five years later the Washington state legislature took up the issue of “Louie, Louie” by The Kingsmen, recorded in a Seattle garage, replacing “Washington, My Home” as the state song.

Despite considerable publicity and support, the effort ran out of steam, though Seattle has had “Louie, Louie Day” officially proclaimed.

One effort that had plenty of steam was that same year in Ohio.

Perhaps inspired by their Washington compatriots, the Ohio legislature approved “Hang On, Sloopy” by The McCoys as the official state rock song.

The McCoys were from Dayton and Sloopy was written about Dorothy Sloop, a singer from Steubenville.

So, back to North Carolina. What would be an appropriate, modern song for us?

Locally there could be considerable support for the theme song from The Andy Griffith Show or for Donna Fargo’s “Happiest Girl in the Whole U.S.A.”

Beach music fans probably would be thrilled with The Embers’ “Carolina Girls,” and hip-hop enthusiasts would be sure to back Greenville’s Petey Pablo and his “Raise Up (North Carolina).”

But perhaps the most alluring somewhat recent tune is James Taylor’s “Carolina In My Mind.” Taylor was raised in Carrboro — his father was the med school dean at UNC-Chapel Hill — and in the late ’60s and ’70s no one was hotter on the folk rock circuit.

Although “Carolina In My Mind” never rose higher than number 67 on the national charts, there’s no doubt it holds special meaning for many Tarheels.

What do you think? We’re going to post this on our blog, which you can access at surrymessenger.com, so you can support one of these, or propose your own new North Carolina state song. Log in now and let’s get this movement going.


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“Project X” is fast going to turn into Project U.

Dean Brown may have given his pursuit of a state prison a mysterious sounding title. But now that’s it’s out in the open, it really comes down to what You think. This has all the ingredients of a classic economic recruitment project (search for a site, offering incentives, competing with other counties, determining the worth of the new jobs) but with a huge new twist — public support is critical. Unlike recruitment of private industry, pursuit of a prison will be out in the open, and the state politicians that will have to sign off on the final site don’t want to deal with backlash from picking an unpopular location. They don’t have to, as there’s plenty of locations to choose from.

This came up repeatedly in a presentation Thursday Department of Corrections officials gave to representatives from local government. Without public backing, the project is a no go. So the first question on everyone’s mind is, “what’s a fair and comprehensive way of determining public support, or lack thereof?”

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The Surry Early College High School of Design has a problem with a name — and it’s not the mouthful that it goes by.

In the broad scheme of things, this problem ranks somewhere at the bottom of the priority scale, but it’s still kind of fun to ponder solutions.

Here’s the trouble: this year, the third year for the school, the highest level students are juniors, just as they would be at any other high school. Things are going to get tricky for them next year, though.

The Early College (as we’ll call it to save both space and ink) is a novel concept in which its students attend for five years at the Dobson campus, at the end of which they will graduate with both a high school diploma and an associate’s degree. In essence, these students will be cramming six years worth of education into five.

Back to this year’s current  juniors. What will they be called next year? The natural thing would be “seniors.” But this isn’t a “natural” school.

If they are to be called seniors in their fourth year, what’s that make them in the fifth? They certainly aren’t freshmen (or “freshwomen,” if there even is such a word), because freshmen don’t graduate from community college. And they couldn’t be sophomores without having undergone all the pain and ridicule that the upper classes heap upon the frosh.

So if they’re not seniors, are they “sub-seniors”? Or maybe they are seniors in the fourth year and then become “super-seniors” in the fifth.

Think this is a tough one? We aren’t even addressing the issue of whether or not these students should go through a graduation exercise after their fourth year.

So do you have a suggestion for a name for the fourth- and fifth-year students at the Early College? Post a response to our blog here.

The ones we’ve suggested so far are all we can come up with. Perhaps because we’re having a senior moment.

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From a policy standpoint, Tom Bagnal’s real farewell from the Mount Airy City Council was his call for more detailed study on the project to move the N. Main Street Fire Station, a topic that will merit several other blog postings and plenty of newspaper ink of its own.

But the six-year veteran of the council, who resigns this month for health reasons, also had some rhetoric mixed into his farewell, fitting for a man always quick to connect modern day concerns with historical or literary references. Beal quoted the late Gen. Douglas MacCarthur Thursday in his last comments.

“Old soldiers never die, they just fade away,” Bagnal said. “I say that old commissioners never die. They just evade away.”

Yet Bagnal also pledged not to go totally invisible, saying he’d stay up to date on city council issues.

“Don’t be surprised if I end up sitting back there,” he said while motioning to the crowd, “so I can keep an eye on this bunch.”

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An open letter to the Honorable Sarah Parker, chief justice, North Carolina Supreme Court.

Dear Justice Parker:

The people of Surry and Stokes counties need your help. Now. 

Without immediate action by you we will continue to have inflicted upon us a quality of justice that not only is an embarrassment to the local legal community, but raises doubts among all concerned that the standard of fairness that those coming into the courtroom deserve will indeed be upheld.

The issue is the continued assignment of District Court Judge Mark Badgett to preside over civil court in Surry County and both civil and criminal courts in Stokes County.

As you are well aware, Judge Badgett was suspended for two months by decision of your court after, among other things, having been found to have lied under oath to the Judicial Standards Commission. Why this simply merited a suspension and not outright removal, disbarment and an indictment for perjury remains a mystery.

During his suspension Judge Badgett was everything but contrite, stating that the actions of both the Judicial Standards Commission and the Supreme Court were unwarranted. He used his free time to campaign for re-election.

And during his suspension the Judicial Standards Commission, acting upon a separate complaint, handed down yet another recommendation for censure, finding, among other things, that he had lied again, and that his judicial temperament displayed ethnic bias.

Despite this recommendation, he was returned to the bench when his suspension expired. Consequently, he can continue to administer his form of perverse jurisprudence until your court acts again, which apparently would come no sooner than your September term.

Unless that is, you were to advise your appointee, Chief District Judge Chuck Neaves, that it would be in the best interests of the district — and justice — that Judge Badgett not preside over any court until yours has the opportunity to rule on the Judicial Standards Commission’s latest findings. That would simply be akin to remanding a repeat offender pending trial.

Apparently at this time you are the last resort for the people of District 17B. You have it in your power to restore the moral, ethical and legal respect necessary for our local court system.

We humbly ask that you use it.

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Barring something happening quickly, Surry County will be in the unenviable position next week of having a known liar presiding over a courtroom in Dobson.

The two-month suspension of District Court Judge Mark Badgett expires Tuesday. At that point he can be reassigned to hold criminal, civil or juvenile courts in Surry and Stokes counties.

And that would be a travesty.

To briefly recap: Badgett was suspended by the state’s Supreme Court after it found that a recommendation of censure by the Judicial Standards Commission wasn’t sufficient punishment for a litany of offenses. Among its findings were that Badgett had engaged in “willful misconduct and persistent failure to perform his duties,” and that his testimony before the Judicial Standards Commission “was not credible,” and “especially troubling because [Badgett] was under oath and sworn to tell the truth.”

Badgett displayed not the merest scintilla of chagrin at his punishment, vowing to use his time off to campaign for re-election.

A week ago the Judicial Standards Commission, acting upon yet another complaint, again recommended a further censure of Badgett. This time it said his actions were “prejudicial to the administration of justice, which brings the judicial office into disrepute.”

And the commission said Badgett lied yet again, making “untruthful, deceptive and inconsistent statements” during the investigation that constitute “willful misconduct in office.”

And still the judge is vowing to soldier on, even proclaiming that he tries “to stand up for law and order.”

Someone needs to put a stop to this immediately. The state Supreme Court should rule before the suspension expires that he be removed from the bench. Or the N.C. State Bar should disbar him, making him ineligible to serve as a judge.

And if neither of those bodies acts in time, there is one final resort. Chief District Court Judge Chuck Neaves could simply decide not to assign Badgett to any court until the Supreme Court rules. Judge Neaves has no reason to put Badgett back into his judicial robes, and a multitude of reasons not to. Think of the message it sends when a liar presides over a court of law.

If it comes down to his call, Judge Neaves’ obligation should be to the people of Surry and Stokes counties, not to a rogue judge.

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The most recent budget request from the Mount Airy school system is asking for more local funds, and part of the reason is having to pay for a 10 percent salary increase Gov. Mike Easley is expected to include in his budget proposal. Most teacher positions are funded by the state, but districts typically supplement those positions by hiring additional teachers from local dollars. When the teacher salaries go up across the state, the county has to foot the bill for its locally funded positions.This brings up the interesting issue of teacher compensation. Easley has already pushed through several pay hikes, part of a goal he announced several years ago to put North Carolina’s teacher salaries above the national average. No one would argue against the importance of strong education, and few would dispute that teachers play the most influential role in the learning process, whether for good or bad. But how do you encourage the good teachers to stay in the profession without giving the poor ones undeserved benefits? The debate is summarized very well in this Time Magazine cover story from a couple of months ago.We’ve all had our share of good and bad teachers growing up. Deciding on the fairest compensation system isn’t just a matter of good public policy, it’s a matter of fairness for those who turn down more lucrative careers in favor of the chance to better the next generation.

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