Top 10 North Carolina News Stories in for Last Year
If you, like me, missed seeing a list of the Top 10 North Carolina news stories for 2010, here is one for you to critique.
1. The November elections. The results in North Carolina put Republicans in charge of both houses of the legislature for the first time in more than 100 years. It is easily my top story.
Is this shift to Republican control permanent? Nobody knows for sure. But longtime Democratic political consultant Mac McCorkle told me recently that in other Southern states, when Republicans have won control of other Southern state legislatures, they have generally kept it.
When they redraw election districts this year, Republicans will enhance their chances to retain control. Republican legislators will fill many places on state boards, including the UNC Board of Governors. Board service will give more Republicans the experience and motivation to compete for elective office in the future.
The Republican victory also marks the end of an era. In the era of Marc Basnight, the Senate leader was, arguably, more important in setting policy and allocating resources than anyone except possibly the governor.
2. Former Gov. Mike Easley. The long series of news stories, the state and federal investigations, and the felony plea agreement embarrassed Easley and the entire state. It made for an unwelcome addition to North Carolina's political history and depleted public interest and energy needed to attend to other very serious and more immediate problems facing the state.
3. The Edwards Saga. Elizabeth Edwards's death last month was a sad reminder of how close she and John Edwards came to giving North Carolina its first White House family since the Civil War - and of the inglorious end to their unsuccessful quest.
4. The economy in North Carolina. Every one of us has been touched: a lost job or house or business opportunity or chance for retirement or some other aspiration that will not be achieved. This sad news surrounded us everywhere, every day.
5. State government budget crisis. Although directly related to the economic crisis, the state budget is a separate news story. The gap between revenues and the funds needed to meet requirements to fund ongoing programs required painful cutbacks last year. But the bigger news last year was the developing certainty that the budget cuts this year would cause even greater pain.
6. Wake County schools. Arguably, the complicated struggles of the Wake County School Board make for a local rather than a statewide story. But the conflicts over school assignment policy have resurrected concerns across the state about the links between school assignment policy and resegregation of previously integrated schools.
7. The census. Only preliminary reports from last year's census are available to us now. But it is already clear that the population shift from the rural areas in North Carolina into the urban and suburban regions in the center of the state will be accompanied by a power shift in the General Assembly, more important, perhaps, than the political shift caused by the recent election.
8. Leadership change at UNC. The end of the Erskine Bowles era and his amazing ability to maintain the stability of the system, notwithstanding budget cuts, and the transfer of responsibility to former Davidson College President Tom Ross, who faces even greater challenges.
9. Banking. The state continued its melancholy watch as Wachovia disappeared gradually into Wells Fargo, and fans of Bank of America watched their bank being led by non-locals for the first time. All the state's banks struggled with the realities of new regulations and changed business practices in the post recession United States.
10. New businesses. A few new businesses, like a series of data processing centers locating in Western North Carolina, made news and gave us hope for recovery and growth.
D.G. Martin hosts UNC-TV's "North Carolina Bookwatch," which airs Sundays at 5 p.m. This week's (Sunday, Jan. 16) guest is Nic Brown, author of "Flood Markers," a fictional reminder of how, on Sept. 21, 1989, Hurricane Hugo changed so many of our lives.
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