Tuesday, January 7, 2014 —
RALEIGH — For years, the reporters who cover state government, known as the Capitol Press Corps, held annual skits in which we would perform send-ups of the missteps and misdeeds of the state’s politicians.
Most were good-natured jabs, with a only a few crossing the line into real meanness.
Governors, legislators and lobbyists would attend.
Writing my share of skits over the years, the first I can remember writing was a faux TV ad entitled, “Sam Ellis, semi-attorney at law.” (Ellis, then a state representative and construction company owner from the Raleigh suburb of Garner, had a penchant for arguing points of law on House floor.)
For a variety of reasons (difficult to finance, a shrinking press corps, scheduling difficulties, cantankerous reporter burnout), the press skits stopped a few years back.
Still, every once in while, someone in the Legislative Building press room will shout out an idea, based on the follies and failings at the legislature, for a skit.
One idea that kept recurring to me over the course of the past year was centered around a fictitious city council meeting.
This would be no normal city council meeting. It would be big, really big.
In fact, it would begin this way: “The meeting of the city councils of Raleigh, Charlotte, Asheville, Greensboro and Winston-Salem is called to order, co-mayors Rucho and Moffitt presiding.”
Rucho would be state Sen. Bob Rucho, a Republican from Charlotte. Moffitt would be state Rep. Tim Moffitt, a Republican from Asheville.
Spawned by the two men's decisions to enmesh themselves and the legislature in local fights over the Charlotte airport and Asheville water, the skit would go on to have the two, and members of the legislature/mega-City Council, take bizarre actions over the protests of recently deposed (by legislative fiat) local officials.
They would sell off all city parks in Raleigh to a consortium that included the Chinese government, allowing them to be turned into inter-connecting Wild West theme parks; they would pull up Charlotte’s light rail LYNX commuter train line, selling the metal for scrap and putting the money toward the latest shortfall in the state Medicaid budget; and they would vote to change the name of Winston-Salem to Berger-Apodaca, to honor a couple of accomplished North Carolinians.
As with the actual skits that once picked at the political class, these little pokes in the eye wouldn't be funny to political insiders (assuming they actually are) if they were not grounded in a bit of reality.
Some of that reality just made the news recently.
It seems three of the Lee County school board's five Republicans have switched party affiliation, becoming either Democrats or independents, after the legislature meddled in local affairs there to turn local elections from nonpartisan to partisan affairs.
The three were apparently as impressed as I was with the trend of the legislature usurping local prerogative and power.
Unlike me, they apparently aren’t into writing skits.
Scott Mooneyham is a syndicated columnist for Capitol Press Association and covers activities of the N.C. Legislature.