Editorial Roundup: North Carolina | North Carolina News

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Winston-Salem Journal. March 5, 2022.

Editorial: Ban the book ban

You come after Dolly Parton, you’re coming after all of us.

Political Cartoons

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You’d better buckle your seatbelt, ’cause you’re in for a rough ride.

That’s the advice we’d give to Kentucky State Sen. Stephen Meredith, who last week, while discussing a bill that partners his state with Parton’s Imagination Library program, questioned whether language could be added to ensure the program’s books are “subject-appropriate.”

The Divine Ms. Parton, if we may, is one of the few national treasures left on whom we all still agree. This stellar icon has provided joy and comfort to millions of Americans. She’s accomplished a great deal of good with her fame and fortune, and, as far as we know, never said a bad word about anyone, not even Porter Wagoner. As Senate Minority Floor Leader Morgan McGarvey, a Democrat who sponsored the bill, said, the Imagination Library has long stayed “out of any controversy, and I think that what Dolly Parton and her program have shown is they have age-appropriate and subject matter-appropriate books going to children.”

Incidentally, we’ve benefitted locally from Parton’s Imagination Library, which mails free books to children from birth to age 5.

Meredith was quick to backpedal, claiming that “as we know, players change over the course of time, and things get shifted.”

But we trust Parton and her Imagination Library team a whole lot more than we trust reactionary politicians who are trying to make hay from this recent push to censor literature that makes them uncomfortable.

Among Parton’s defenders were her little sister, Stella, a singer in her own right, who tweeted: “Sen. Meredith chose the phrase ‘indoctrinate our children.’ But that’s the GOP way, to be as sinister and fear-mongering as possible. When you stoop so low as to question the honorable intentions of someone as well intentioned as my big sister, Dolly, then you are stooping low.”

He’s not alone in that downward trajectory, of course; quite a few legislators across the country have been trying to rile up voters by objecting to material that deals with gender or racial issues. Whatever problem may actually exist has been irrevocably overshadowed by the hyperbole.

Maybe the most hyperbolic has been fading country music star John Rich, who has compared teachers and librarians with “a guy in a white van pulling up at the edge of school when school lets out.”

But not everyone in Nashville has gone nuts. Last week, Tennessee Rep. Jeremy Faison, a Republican, called criticism of school librarians unfounded and “very unfair.”

“I have two boys in public school, and the librarian in their school is a wonderful friend of ours,” Faison said. “I know the librarians in all of our district, they’re nothing like that. They’re people I trust my children with.”

We need more of that, especially from Republicans.

The truth is that the vast majority of school and public libraries hire information specialists who know all about childhood development and material selection. They also already have procedures in place that allow individuals or groups to question or challenge the inclusion of materials.

But that process doesn’t bring parents out to yell at school board meetings.

Over the past year, book challenges and bans have reached levels not seen in decades, according to officials at the American Library Association, the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) and other advocates for free expression.

Fortunately, the push has generated pushback, as some parents realize they don’t appreciate conservative reactionaries having the last angry word. They’ve formed groups like the Florida Freedom to Read Project, Red, Wine & Blue and the Round Rock Black Parents Association in Texas to make sure that a wide range of materials will be available to those who want it. Organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union, PEN America and the National Coalition Against Censorship have been working with them.

Some students have also taken action, including the high schoolers who staged protests in Florida last week and eighth-grader Joslyn Diffenbaugh in Kutztown, Pa., who formed a banned-book club in his school. Their first selection: George Orwell’s “Animal Farm.”

“We think education works best when it’s parents and teachers working together,” Katie Paris, the Ohio founder of Red, Wine & Blue and mother of 7- and 3-year-old boys told The Associated Press. “And if you don’t want your child to have access to a book, then opt them out. That’s fine. You just don’t want to just take that opportunity away from my kids.”

We agree. Pitting parents against teachers is not productive — neither is claiming one’s primacy over the other. Children benefit most when parents and teachers work together.

It’s also a lot more productive than making ugly and baseless accusations.

Greensboro News and Record. March 6, 2022.

Editorial: They’ll be watching you

The old ’80s hit song, by the Police, no less, says it well.

The city of Greensboro has placed 10 solar-powered cameras at some high-crime areas to keep closer tabs on lawbreakers.

And already, those eyes in the sky apparently have been another hit for police — this time for the real ones, who wear badges.

As the News & Record’s Kenwyn Caranna recently reported, footage from the cameras, which cost the city $27,500, is paying off in both leads and arrests.

For instance, Greensboro officers used information from the cameras to identify a vehicle used in a spate of convenience store robberies, resulting in two arrests.

“They’ve been extremely successful in identifying vehicles,” Greensboro police spokesman Ron Glenn said of the cameras to the News & Record. “(They) allow us to capture traffic that is moving in and out of that area.”

The cameras have been placed along the rights of way of city streets, including Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, Spring Garden Street, East Market Street and West Gate City Boulevard. On March 1, the City Council approved installing five more, along English Street and East Gate City Boulevard. An additional camera also will be placed on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. Each camera can capture the license plate number of a car traveling at up to 80 miles an hour.

Of course, cameras have been used as law enforcement tools around here before. The city’s short-lived deployment of cameras to identify and fine red-light runners received mixed reviews from local motorists. Then there’s the question of Big Brotherism and what critics see as a creeping lack of privacy.

However, police say the newest cameras, which are leased from an Atlanta-based company, Flock Safety, are not used for blanket surveillance. They are specialized devices called automated license plate reading cameras, or ALPRs.

And they are designed expressly to shoot the rears of passing vehicles, not human beings. The cameras capture the make, model, color, license plate and state that issued the plate on each vehicle, as well as details such as roof racks and bumper stickers. They also provide audio recordings of such evidence as gun shots, screeching tires and breaking glass, the company’s website says.

The company that provide the rental cameras also cross-references its data with the National Crime Information Center to match license plate numbers with outstanding warrants, missing persons cases and stolen vehicles. In one case, this enabled police to trace and arrest a driver with outstanding warrants. In turn, the driver provided leads on two accomplices who were arrested as well.

Three arrests in a shooting case also resulted from camera footage that identified a vehicle linked to the crime.

The early returns for another police department in North Carolina also have been promising.

Within one day of installing ALPRs, Garner police told WRAL, footage from the cameras enabled them to recover two stolen cars. They also used ALPR footage to identify a suspect in a park break-in and obtain warrants for his arrest.

For shorthanded police, the technology extends the reach of law enforcement even where no flesh-and-blood officers are on the scene. What’s more, someone might think twice about committing a crime in an area where the cameras are known to be deployed.

As for privacy concerns, a Flock official told the News & Record that the cameras “have no facial recognition capabilities.” She also said the footage recorded is deleted every 30 days. And third parties have no access to it.

The investment certainly seems reasonable. Data from each camera costs a $2,500-a-year subscription.

But, as with any new technology, there can be unanticipated problems and unintended consequences.

Remember how police officers’ body-worn cameras were supposed to mend community-police relations, encourage both the public and the police to behave better and take police transparency to new heights? While the cameras arguably have increased accountability and in a number of cases cleared police of alleged misconduct, accessibility to the footage is still overly restrictive. And even when footage is made public, it can be inconclusive — or different people can draw different conclusions.

Similarly, as promising as ALPRs appear at first blush, there could be glitches and abuses that no one foresaw.

So, both Greensboro police and the City Council need to be mindful of that. This means keeping a close eye on the cameras, even as they are keeping an eye on us.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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