Bigotry is a lousy money-maker

I have written before how coexisting and capitalism are not at odds with each other, in spite of the attempts of some through bumper stickers to show you should pick one or the other. History has shown, it is far more economical to coexist. Why? More customers. And, more customers means more jobs.

In my home state of North Carolina, we have forgotten this equation. In early 2016, our General Assembly rammed through a discriminatory law called HB2 in a special session taking just ten hours. I recognize fully the transgender bathroom portion of the law gets most of the press, but the piece which has caused the most consternation in the eyes of businesses looking at our state and ruling bodies of the NBA, NCAA and ACC, is the elimination of LGBTQ people as a protected class who should not be discriminated against.

The transgender portion was sold on fear without much data to support its issues. So, it is hard to back away from something its supporters made people scared of. But, let’s set that part aside and focus on the LGBTQ part. While there are proponents of HB2 who will argue the bathroom law should remain, the denial of protection to LGBTQ folks is flat out unconstitutional.

The proponents of the law said it is only the cities that are impacted by this law due to larger populations of LGBTQ people. Legislators in rural NC say what does it matter if Charlotte, Raleigh and Greensboro don’t get sporting events or new businesses? The economic dilemma for the rural parts of the state is this concept of revenue sharing. A portion of sales taxes from larger cities are distributed throughout the state to help finance smaller investments and pay for services.

The less money in the big cities means less money for the state. And, our entire state has damaged its reputation not just around the country, but around the world. I have read that some members of the General Assembly say they had no idea there would be such a backlash. The answer to these legislators is you did not take the time to know passing the law in ten hours.

I firmly believe HB2 should be fully repealed. Its treatment of transgender people using a sledgehammer approach to legislation is unjust. There could have been a more surgical answer. So, short of a full repeal, let me offer a compromise.

  • eliminate the LGBTQ discrimination feature in its entirety before you are made to by the courts. This feature is unconstitutional. Period.
  • eliminate the feature on restricting a city from having a higher minimum wage; cities who have larger economic competition and cost of living should have the right to allow a higher minimum wage than the national one. This feature needs to be vetted more than it was by itself.
  • change the transgender portion of the law to do the following; if a person has a formal document indicating a gender different from his or her birth certificate, he or she should legally have the right to use the bathroom he or she identifies with.

Again, I believe the whole law should be repealed. Yet, this compromise should help the state move forward before these business decisions not to move, expand or hold events here are more recognizable in our economic growth. The scary part, as shared by Chamber of Commerce recruiters, is we have no idea how many organizations did not consider North Carolina.

Jesus told us to treat others like he we want to be treated. It is the right thing to do as well as the economical thing to do. Bigotry is not much of a money-maker.


Foolish Friday

After an interesting few weeks of the election season and legislative comments, I feel obligated to note some foolish behavior that we need to highlight and cease.

– I recognize that one of the Presidential candidates is quick with demeaning remarks and labels for people who dare criticize him or are good foils, but that does not mean others should do the same with him. Howard Dean said Trump’s sniffles at the debate may have been caused by his being on Cocaine. We do not need that Mr. Dean. I read an entertaining post where commenters used every bad word to describe Trump. That gets us in the mud with him. Set aside all of his remarks and focus on two things – his history and his economic plan for our country. The former tells you all you need to know about how he will operate. The latter is rated by several groups to place us in a malaise or recession, with Clinton’s being rated as neutral to positive.

– President Obama experienced the first override to a veto when Congress overwhelming decided to do so. The law which is now passed allows 9/11 victims’ families to sue Saudi Arabia, which may or may not had any fault. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and Obama pleaded not to do this, at it will endanger Americans and our military abroad. Now, Senator Mitch McConnell and Speaker Paul Ryan want to amend the new law as they said the President should have told us all of this. He did and vetoed your law. Trying to blame someone else for your failure is highly annoying to me.

– Not to be out done, now that North Carolina has gotten huge push back on its discriminatory HB2 law, with the business lost and the NBA All Star game, NCAA basketball tournament games and ACC tournament games being pulled, Republican legislators continue to blame the City of Charlotte for its transgender bathroom law which the state law changed and went further to take rights away from all LGBT people. But, one state legislator noted that we did not know our law would have such a negative reaction. Please note the law was rushed through in twelve hours in a special session. You did not know as you did not take the time to know.

Accountability and responsibility are important. We must be accountable for our decisions and responsible for their impact. When we name call or label, that means our arguments are lessened. Focus on the issues and acts. And, we need to stop the blame game, especially when the finger pointers have more culpability than the one pointed at.

Truth be told, it would be amazing to see results if we worked together more and discussed our real problems with real information. In this election, we have let one candidate define our country as in pitiful shape, but it is not. Yes, we have problems, but our economy is on its 4th longest economic growth period in its history, we have net new jobs under this President of 11 million, an unemployment rate of under 5% (and not 42% per the candidate) and we have a doubled stock market since the President came in office. And, more cars were sold in the US in 2015 than ever before.

We do have problems, though. Let’s work together and not against each other. Otherwise, Pogo would be correct – I have met the enemy and he is us.

North Carolina’s General Assembly fumbled yet again

Our North Carolina (NC) General Assembly gained global attention by introducing a law called HB2 in reaction to a law passed in its biggest city, Charlotte, to better accommodate transgender people in bathroom choice. The state-wide HB2 law passed earlier this year, in essence, does the following:

  • Overturns the Charlotte law and makes it state-wide that transgender people can only use the bathroom of their birth gender or if they have had an operation to officially change their gender.
  • Strikes the words referenced by LGBT from protection of discrimination. not just transgender folks.
  • Eliminates the ability for anyone to bring suit in state court should they feel discriminated against (the only recourse is in more expensive and elongated federal court).
  • Eliminates the ability of a city to have a minimum wage higher than the minimum wage of the state, in this case the federal minimum.

The push back has been significant and will continue to be so. Two companies have changed plans for moves or expansions in the state. What is not known is how many companies have taken NC off its relocation list. What is known is several performers have canceled tours in NC and the semi-annual Furniture Mart in High Point, which is very lucrative to the state saw a 10% fall-off and will likely see a bigger fall-off in October. And, the NBA has been pressuring the state officials to change the discriminatory aspects of the law, as they will likely move next year’s planned All Star game from Charlotte.

Yesterday, our NC legislature decided to only change a part of the law that impacted the right they took away for anyone to sue in State court. This impacted everyone, but the added back feature reduced the original time limit to one year from the previous three before HB2. So, they left in the two unconstitutional features and added $500,000 for legal fees to fight lawsuits, since our Attorney General decided not to defend an unconstitutional law (the appellate court in VA has already ruled on a VA case, so the AG sees efforts to fight as futile and a waste of money).

On a positive note, three onerous features in a Mississippi law aimed to limit the rights of LGBT folks and others were ruled unconstitutional. This is why party matters, as our conservative friends have used cookie cutter language from a group called ALEC to do a state-by-state assault on the rights of the disenfranchised, whether they be LGBT citizens or Black and student voters. As the GOP leadership and pundits try to distance themselves from the GOP presidential candidate, it should be noted that he is the mirror image of the ugly parts of the party. They have been fairly active in the discrimination business long before their bigoted, racist and xenophobic candidate has made them hide their eyes in shame.

I am a 57-year-old heterosexual white man and this is just not right. We should highlight this organized discrimination effort. We cannot tolerate bigotry in our leaders. We must shine a spotlight on fear mongering as a means to sell poor policy positions. We must look for underlying truths. When leaders cheerlead us in the discrimination efforts, we are truly investing our time in the wrong kind of leaders.

As a NC citizen, I get to see a series of leaders unwind the image of our state which will hurt people and the economy. This is not the first law that will be ruled unconstitutional passed by this and the previous General Assemblies. Call me crazy, but that is not only wrong, it is a waste of money and time.

North Carolina – State of Confusion

I have lived in North Carolina for going on 36 years, mostly in Charlotte, but with a four year stint in Winston-Salem. I moved here after college in Atlanta, which I also love, but was born and raised in Florida. Florida has basically two seasons and is flat, so being in North Carolina with its four seasons, trees, mountains and coast is more my taste. It has been a great place to do business, but the recent years have made things more challenging than they need to be.

Our state used to take pride in being the most progressive state in the south. We were open for business, research and education. About ten years ago, for example, we were hailed by passing a law that obligated our electric utilities to phase-in the use of renewable energy over the next fifteen years. As a result, our state is the fourth most prevalent state in solar energy and is ripe for more wind energy expansion. This was a prescient eye toward the future.

Yet, since the 2010 elections, our state has been governed by a very conservative set of leaders who seized the opportunity of the President’s first mid-term election and a census year to gain a majority and gerrymander the voting districts to favor their candidates going forward. It should be noted the Democrats did this in previous census years, but that does not make it any more correct – it was wrong then and is wrong now. It should be noted, the gerrymandering was overturned as unconstitutionally drawn in two districts two months ago, and all districts have been redrawn.

The dilemma is our legislature has proceeded to pass a series of laws and avoid taking positive actions that have made our state much less progressive and the subject of lampooning by national businesses and media. Some of the actions are still in court, while others have been ruled unconstitutional like the above gerrymandering ruling.

A law which made it harder for women to get access to abortion facilities was overturned as unconstitutional. A law that said the tenure of existing teachers could be overlooked was overturned. A law that said the Jim Crow like and most restrictive Voter ID Law in the country remains in court. It should be noted that the legislature tried to preempt the most recent court case, by changing some of the features last summer, knowing they did a bridge too far.

The latest foray is HB2 which unfairly discriminates against the LGBT community in response to a City of Charlotte ordinance passed last month to permit transgender people to legally use the bathroom they identify with. This law exists in about 200 cities around the country. Using fear tactics that unjustly paint transgender people as sexual predators (without data I might add), the state General Assembly swept in for a special session and passed a law to say the person must use the bathroom based on gender at birth. Plus, it went beyond this restricting formal rights for all LGBT people and preventing other cities to pass similar ordinances or minimum wage laws.

To make it worse, the Governor signed this into law the same day without reading it. I say this because at a news conference to tell others the criticism of the law is overblown, he was asked about a couple of features of the law, which he was unaware were therein. The news conference was hastily called as the backlash has been huge. So, far 120 major companies such as Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Google, Lowe’s, Apple, Facebook, etc. have signed a letter asking for the repeal. Thus far, a specific filming project for a TV comedy has been canceled and one convention reservation has been terminated. Others are reconsidering events, plans and projects in the state.

And, that is just to date. My guess is the mountain of companies will build and pressure the General Assembly to act. Plus, a law suit has been filed against the unconstitutionality of the law. While stranger things have happened, I cannot see this law suit failing as the law is discriminatory. Plus, it is ineffective. First, someone born as a man or woman that looks like, acts like and/ or biologically is the opposite sex, then to force them to use a bathroom opposite their countenance will heighten risk and incidents. Second, setting the legal issue aside, there is very little chance for the law to be policed. So, in practice, the issue is moot. If Aunt Edna is now Uncle Ed, there is very little chance he will be stopped from going to the men’s bathroom.

My state is in confusion. We have tarnished our image and that will hurt both our economy and reputation. And, for what gain, as there is not much that can be done to limit the bathroom of choice? Finally, if the General Assembly fails to act, they will be made to act when the law is ruled unconstitutional. This law needs to be repealed to avoid further embarrassment and negative impact on our economy.