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Friday Forward News Roundup

Unaffiliated Candidate Makes Historic Run in North Carolina's 9th Congressional District

Forward-Independent Shelane Etchison has become the first unaffiliated candidate in modern North Carolina history to qualify for a congressional ballot. Representing the 9th District, which includes Fort Liberty and spans several counties, Etchison brings a unique perspective from her military background. Despite a challenging petition process requiring 7,460 verified signatures, she succeeded in less than two months, highlighting the difficulties faced by non-major party candidates. Etchison aims to address political division and restore civility in Congress. (News & Observer)

Low Turnout in NC Republican Runoffs Highlights Need for Ranked Choice Voting

In North Carolina's delayed primary runoffs for Republican nominees, turnout dropped by over 74% compared to the initial primary. Only 14% of first-round voters participated in the lieutenant governor runoff, with similar drops in the state auditor and 13th Congressional District races. Winners received fewer votes in the runoff than in the initial primary, highlighting the inefficiency of the current system. Ranked choice voting (RCV) could have identified majority winners earlier, with higher voter participation and lower costs. (FairVote)

Federal Lawsuits Challenge NC Election Maps with June 2025 Trial Date

Two federal lawsuits, Williams v. Hall and NC NAACP v. Berger, challenging North Carolina's congressional and legislative election maps, will be tried in June 2025 in Winston-Salem. The cases, consolidated for trial, do not affect the 2024 elections. Plaintiffs argue that the current maps diminish the voting power of Black voters and allege racial gerrymandering. If successful, new maps may be mandated for the 2026 elections. The trial, expected to last ten days, will be overseen by a three-judge panel appointed by Republican presidents. (Carolina Journal)

NC Republicans Push Constitutional Amendment on Voting Rights Amid National Debate

A group of North Carolina Republicans is pushing to amend the state constitution to explicitly state that only U.S. citizens can vote, despite this already being law. The bill, cosponsored by Representatives Julia Howard, Neal Jackson, Larry Potts, and Dennis Riddel, aims to replace “every person born in the United States and every person who has been naturalized” with “only a citizen of the United States” in Section 1 of Article VI. Representative Potts cited concerns over birthright citizenship as a motivation, while UNCG political science professor Thom Little suggested the amendment could drive voter turnout and benefit Republican gubernatorial candidate Mark Robinson. Similar legislation is being considered in 16 other states. (WCNC)

Right Women PAC to Close and Pay Fine for Election Law Violations

Right Women PAC, led by Debra Meadows, wife of former President Donald Trump’s last chief of staff, Mark Meadows, will shut down and pay a $9,500 fine for violating federal election laws. The settlement with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) resolves accusations of failing to file a timely 48-hour report on a $191,871 ad expenditure supporting former Rep. Stella Yvette Herrell. The PAC missed the deadline for the September 2022 report, which was filed only after the November election. The PAC will certify its closure by July 27 and must continue filing required reports until the FEC finalizes the closure. (Charlotte Observer)

Asheville Nears Settlement in Lawsuit Over Park Bans for Activists

A federal lawsuit challenging Asheville's policy banning local activists from city parks is close to a settlement, prompting the cancellation of a scheduled hearing. The case, brought by 15 plaintiffs represented by the ACLU, argues that the park ban violates their free speech, free association, and due process rights. In March, US District Judge Martin Reidinger issued an injunction allowing plaintiffs to use the parks while the case proceeded. The settlement is expected to be finalized within 30 days. The lawsuit arose from December 2021 protests advocating for homeless rights. (Carolina Journal)

Mixed Reactions to Trump's Historic Conviction in North Carolina

On May 30, former President Donald Trump was found guilty of 34 counts of falsifying business records in a New York hush money trial, marking the first time a former U.S. president has been convicted of felony crimes. In Asheville, many residents felt justice was served, expressing feelings of gratitude and relief. Conversely, in Hendersonville, locals displayed skepticism about the fairness of the verdict, with some maintaining Trump's innocence and vowing to support him even more fervently in future elections. (ABC 13)

Audit Uncovers Misuse of Credit Cards at Fayetteville State University

A state audit revealed that employees in Fayetteville State University's Office of Strategic Communication misused school-issued credit cards or inadequately documented transactions amounting to over $692,000. The audit, conducted by State Auditor Jessica Holmes' agency, found unallowable purchases and travel expenses, including payments for computer hardware, lodging close to the university, and early travel for conferences. Additionally, $165,570 was paid to businesses owned by former office employees, raising conflict-of-interest concerns. The university agreed with the findings, and Chancellor Darrell Allison stated measures are being taken to prevent future violations and to seek repayment for the unallowable expenses. (WRAL)

NC Legislators Address State Hiring Challenges with New Bill

The North Carolina Senate's State and Local Government Committee advanced House Bill 223 to improve the state hiring process amid double-digit vacancy rates in state agencies. The bill allows conditional job offers post-interview, removes a 21-day waiting period for hiring, and permits applications to be considered for future job postings. A new pilot program in the NC Department of Health and Human Services would prioritize temporary employees for full-time positions. The bill aims to streamline hiring without addressing salary increases, despite reports of significant staffing shortages and calls for higher starting salaries. HB 223 now proceeds to the Senate Rules Committee. (NC Newsline)

UNC System Board Repeals DEI Policies Amid Protests and Legal Questions

The UNC System Board of Governors voted 21-2 to repeal and replace diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) policies across its 17 campuses, emphasizing equality and nondiscrimination instead. The new policy prohibits promoting non-neutral ideas and requires reporting of job cuts or spending reductions, with funds redirected to student success initiatives. UNC Chapel Hill's Board of Trustees attempted to divert $2.3 million from DEI to campus safety, but UNC System President Peter Hans clarified that the funds would support student success programs. Protests erupted during the board meeting, resulting in the arrest of two students. The policy change follows a national trend against DEI practices in higher education. (North State Journal)

CMS Updates on $2.5 Billion Bond Projects for School Construction and Renovation

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) officials outlined the next phase of projects funded by the $2.5 billion bonds approved in 2023. Four new projects scheduled for completion by August 2028 include a new middle school in Huntersville, replacements for Huntersville Elementary and Beverly Woods Elementary, and a new site for Berryhill K-8 School. Updates were also provided on 12 ongoing projects, such as a new middle school in south Charlotte and renovations at South Mecklenburg High and Northwest School of the Arts. CMS plans to expedite future projects to mitigate inflation impacts, with ongoing considerations for future needs, particularly in southwest Charlotte. (WFAE)

New Hanover Community Endowment Launches $19.1 Million Affordable Housing Strategy

The New Hanover Community Endowment (NHCE) has unveiled a $19.1 million Affordable Housing Investment Strategy to address the affordable housing crisis in New Hanover County. With 35% of households being cost-burdened, the strategy focuses on stabilization, production, and capital investment. It allocates $8.1 million to support nonprofit housing providers and $11.5 million for the production and rehabilitation of affordable units. Additionally, NHCE plans to explore creating a fund for low-cost development capital. This comprehensive strategy aims to meet the projected need for over 29,000 new housing units by 2032, emphasizing collaboration with community partners and experts. (NC Newsline)

Cape Hatteras National Seashore Reopens Following House Collapse Cleanup

Cape Hatteras National Seashore has reopened approximately 0.7 miles of beach in front of Rodanthe Village after a two-day cleanup following a house collapse. The current beach closure now spans a quarter of a mile, from S. Holiday Boulevard to the north end of Ocean Drive. The unoccupied house collapsed early Tuesday, prompting a rapid response from employees, volunteers, and debris removal contractors to clear debris over several miles of beach. Visitors are advised to wear hard-sole shoes and exercise caution as debris continues to wash ashore. Heavy equipment will be used Thursday to remove smaller debris near the collapse site. (CBS 17)

Guilford County Sees Rise in Homelessness

The recent Point-In-Time Count in Guilford County revealed an increase in homelessness, with 641 individuals experiencing homelessness, up from 452 last year. Shereá Burnett, Executive Director of Partners Ending Homelessness, and Liz Alverson, Supportive Housing Analyst with the City of Greensboro, attribute the rise to an overall increase in homelessness and improved counting methods. Key issues include rising housing costs and a shortage of housing and shelter spaces. The City of Greensboro is investing in emergency shelter, rapid rehousing, and support services to address the crisis. Burnett emphasizes the need for community-wide efforts to make a significant impact. (ABC 45)

RDU International Airport Plans $3 Billion Expansion to Meet Growing Demand

Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU) has announced a $3 billion construction project over the next decade to accommodate regional growth, as outlined in its Vision 2040 master plan. Key projects include building a new 10,639-foot main runway, tripling the size of Park Economy 3 parking lot, and expanding both passenger terminals. The new runway will support fully loaded cargo and passenger planes, replacing the current 1986 runway. Terminal 2 will see expansions in ticket counters, baggage carousels, security checkpoints, and more gates, while Terminal 1 will potentially add 15 gates. Plans also include a consolidated rental car facility, a new ground transportation center, and improved traffic flow. Construction will proceed while the airport remains operational, making the process complex and lengthy. (News & Observer)

Ross Dress For Less to Build $450 Million Distribution Center in North Carolina

Ross Stores Inc. announced plans to invest $450 million in a new distribution center in Randolph County, North Carolina, creating 850 jobs by 2031. The 330-acre facility, located about 20 miles south of Greensboro, will handle warehousing, fulfillment, and packing operations. The average wage for the new positions will be around $45,800 annually. The state of North Carolina and local governments will provide over $52 million in incentives, including up to $7.6 million in cash payments over 12 years if Ross meets job and investment targets. The project is set for completion by the end of 2026. (WRAL)

Struggles and Solutions with New Weight-Loss Drugs Amid Supply Shortages

Jonathan Meyers, who has battled weight fluctuations for years, lost 35 pounds on the new GLP-1 agonist drug, Zepbound, feeling free from constant hunger. However, the drug's supply shortage has left him and others scrambling for alternatives. Many, like Meyers, face the anxiety of regaining weight without the medication. Clinical data support their fears, showing significant weight regain after stopping these drugs. Experts emphasize the need for long-term treatment for chronic conditions like obesity. Amid shortages, patients are turning to compounded drugs, despite uncertainties and side effects, as they seek to maintain their weight loss and health improvements. (WFAE)

Duke Energy's New Control Center Ready for Hurricane Season

As hurricane season approaches, Duke Energy has unveiled its new distribution control center in Wake County, designed to enhance power-outage response. This high-tech facility monitors North Carolina's cities and towns 24/7 for power disruptions and threats, dispatching repair crews quickly during emergencies. Duke Energy spokesman Jeff Brooks emphasized the center's role in improving response times, ensuring rapid restoration of power during storm-related outages. The facility's advanced capabilities aim to provide timely updates and efficient management of repairs, crucial as the hurricane season begins. (ABC 11)

Pottery's Cultural and Economic Impact on North Carolina

Pottery plays a significant role in North Carolina's history and economy, contributing billions to the state's arts sector. The state is home to the largest hub of potters in the U.S., particularly in Seagrove. Janet Gaddy, co-owner of Celtic Pottery in Browns Summit, has dedicated nearly 50 years to the craft, highlighting its therapeutic and meditative benefits. Festivals like the Piedmont Pottery Festival are crucial for supporting local artists and attracting visitors. In 2022, North Carolina's nonprofit arts and culture sector, including pottery, generated a $2.23 billion economic impact. (Spectrum News 1)

AI Voice Cloning Poses Rising Threat to Voter Misinformation, Study Warns

Artificial intelligence programs are increasingly able to create convincing mimic voices of politicians like President Biden and former President Trump, raising concerns about voter misinformation. A study by the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) found that AI tools created false statements using mimic voices about 80% of the time. Incidents like the New Hampshire Democratic primary robocalls using a fake Biden voice highlight the dangers. The FCC has banned AI voices in phone calls and is pushing for AI disclosure in political ads. Only one out of six tested AI tools had safeguards against political disinformation, prompting calls for stronger regulatory measures. (FOX 8)

Cary Middle School Student Shines in Scripps National Spelling Bee

Seventh-grader Ananya Rao Prassanna from Davis Drive Middle School achieved a remarkable third place in the Scripps National Spelling Bee finals. Competing for the third time, she improved from tying for 49th place in 2022 and 74th place in 2023. Prassanna was one of 245 students in the Elite 8 finals, which also included participants from Durham, Fayetteville, and Smithfield. She was eliminated in Round 14 after misspelling "murrina" as "marina." The Wake County Public School System celebrated her achievement on social media. (CBS 17)

NC State Alum Abby Lampe Wins Cooper's Hill Cheese Rolling Competition Again

NC State alum Abby Lampe has reclaimed her title as the women's division champion of the Cooper's Hill Cheese Rolling competition in Gloucester, England, winning the event for the second time after her 2022 victory. Lampe, who holds a degree in industrial systems engineering, dominated this year's race, finishing far ahead of her competitors. Reflecting on her win, she emphasized the temporary nature of the pain involved in the intense race. Whether she will compete again next year remains to be seen. (ABC 11)


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