WILSON’S LOCAL PRINT AND DIGITAL COMMUNITY INSTITUTION SINCE 1896
THUMBS UP, THUMBS DOWN

Our Opinion: An ally for schools, Horner will shine in leadership role

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THUMBS UP to North Carolina Senate leader Phil Berger for appointing Sen. Rick Horner a co-chairman of the education committee for the General Assembly’s 2019-20 term.

Horner, R-Nash, is a tireless advocate for public schools and a 14-year veteran of the Nash-Rocky Mount Board of Education.

We can think of no one better to guide lawmakers toward policies that result in higher test scores, more effective, better-compensated teachers and 21st-century curriculum that will prepare students for careers and instill good citizenship.

The Bailey senator called his chairmanship “the opportunity of a lifetime” to have a positive influence on Tar Heel State education policy.

He’s as sincere as they come, and he’ll do a lot of good for funding-starved eastern North Carolina school districts in this influential role.

In his freshman term, Horner made hay out of the N.C. Education Lottery’s mission drift and began work toward increasing the proportion of lottery revenue earmarked for school construction. In an October 2017 Hometown Debate in Rocky Mount, Horner quipped that “there’s nothing more important than running a casino honorably.” The laugh line struck a serious note about the lottery’s original mandate.

As long as our state’s in the gambling business, we urge Horner and his fellow lawmakers to consider legitimizing the video sweepstakes industry and taxing the games to support public schools.

Sweepstakes centers now operate in a legal gray area following years-long court battles. Business is booming right under the legislature’s nose and the state’s losing out on its rightful cut of the action.

Congratulations, Chairman Horner. Our schools, our students and our educators have a dependable ally in Raleigh.

THUMBS DOWN to outgoing University of North Carolina Chancellor Carol Folt, who ordered the removal of Silent Sam’s pedestal at 2:30 a.m. Tuesday and further complicated the quagmire over the Confederate soldier statue’s uncertain future on the Chapel Hill campus.

Vandals toppled Silent Sam last August, but the plinth on which the bronze monument stood had remained in place. Folt said its continued presence had prompted threats, though she declined to share details. The pedestal was removed, Folt said, to maintain public safety on campus.

That echoes city fathers’ justification for removing a Confederate monument in Winston-Salem. Officials have ordered the United Daughters of the Confederacy to take down the statue, citing fears of violent demonstrations over the controversial symbol.

Nebulous safety concerns may be more excuse than reason, but they send the message that government’s job is to mollify and placate would-be rioters rather than to protect public property.

State law prevents the removal of historical monuments, tying campus and city officials’ hands unless they can claim they acted in the interest of public safety. Protesters who feel the statues are racist totems to slavery and segregation demanded they be carted away, and sympathetic officials who also want the monuments mothballed cite the potential for vandalism and riots as license to skirt the law.

We support home rule and feel cities, towns and university campuses should be free to decide whether to display or jettison the statues. We also believe in the rule of law. Those who wish to move Confederate monuments should use their powers of persuasion — not threats of violence and disorder — to get state lawmakers’ blessing.

THUMBS UP to the Wilson Police Athletic League’s new food truck, which will increase community outreach and help raise money for the Wilson Police Department-affiliated nonprofit.

The PAL program recently bought a 30-foot kitchen trailer with asset forfeiture funds. PAL volunteers — most of whom are current or retired police officers — used the trailer to cook and sell food at the N.C. Whirligig Festival, with all proceeds supporting sports programs and activities for Wilson youth.

The mobile kitchen’s also been used for community food giveaways. At the police department’s annual Christmas in the South celebration, PAL volunteers served more than 1,000 free sausage biscuits to children and their parents and grandparents.

“There is something special about breaking bread with somebody in your community whether you know them or not,” Senior Police Officer Daniel Johnson told Times reporter Olivia Neeley. “I don’t think it was a mistake that Jesus chose to have his last meeting with his disciples over a meal.”

Johnson listed grilled steaks and deep-fried Oreos along with sandwiches, hot dogs and biscuits as PAL food truck fare.

That’s a mouthwatering menu, but it’s the PAL program’s success in mentoring Wilson kids and teens that really satisfies.

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