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Reforming North Carolina Politics: A love letter from the HkonJ movement

by Hanna Mitchell

February 19, 2015

AHMER INAM (704)258-6719

This Valentines Day, while people across the country were exchanging flowers and chocolate, thousands of North Carolinians gathered in the state capital at the HKonJ Peoples Assembly for Peace, Love and Justice. Greenpeace is a proud member of HistoricThousands on Jones Street (HKonJ) Coalition, a broad-based progressive platform led by the NAACP in conjunction with over 160 other social justice organizations. People from all walks of life marched together to deliver a 14 point agenda to the North Carolina legislature in support of a government that serves North Carolinians above special interests. We marched for environmental justice, workers rights, health care reform, racial justice, education, and immigration reformbecause nothing says love like mass mobilization.

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Thousands gather in Raleigh for HKonJ. Photo by Ahmer Inam

HKonJ represents the multi-faceted, vibrant outcry of North Carolinians against the immoral acts of the legislature, and a deep love for the people over corporate interests. These days, North Carolinians have a lot to make noise about.

Here are just a couple of the reasons why peoplearen’tenamored with North Carolina politics:

  1. Duke Energy is in bed with regulators. As an organization that refuses the monetary influence of corporate donors, Greenpeace expects the same of lawmakers, yet the North Carolina legislature, governor, and regulatory agencies maintain a close relationship with Duke Energy. According to a recent report by the Institute for Southern Studies, Duke Energy is the top influencerin the state, in terms of money spent on political campaigns and lobbying. This finding comes as no surprise, considering that Governor Pat McCrory worked for Duke for 28 years and misreported his holdings in Duke stock while serving as governor.

Duke lobbied hard against comprehensive coal ash clean up in the wake of the 2014 Dan River coal ash catastrophewhich resulted in the passage of lax legislation that mirrored the companys own inadequate recommendations for coal ash management. The bill allowed most of Dukes 33 coal ash dumps across the state to remain in place and for the company to charge ratepayers for clean-up costs.

 

 

Coal ash retrieved from the Dan River on July 17, 2014. This is what Duke Energy calls adequate clean up of their coal ash mess. Photo courtesy of Waterkeeper Alliance.

Duke is not only hooked on dirty, expensive energy that is jeopardizing the health of North Carolinians, but the company is also blocking the sun. According to Dukes Integrated Resource Plan, the company only projects to source a paltry 4% of their energy from renewables by 2029. Furthermore, Duke is trying to stem the spread of distributed solar that could save ratepayers critical energy dollars by intervening in regulatory processes and underestimating the value that solar brings to energy grid stability.

  1. ALEC is playing matchmaker between legislators and industry. The American Legislative Exchange Council is a right-wing, bill-mill group that pairs model legislation, favoring specials interests, with compatible law makers that are willing to sign-off on bogus legislation. ALEC is responsible for rolling back Medicaid expansion, voting rights, and funding for womens health care. This means that the same corporate interests that are dumping toxic coal ash in drinking water supplies and polluting the air, are also denying health care access to hundreds of thousands of peopleand making it hard for North Carolinians to vote industry lackeys out of office.

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Photo by Ahmer Inam

As a nationally significant swing state, what happens in NC has implications for democracy across the country. North Carolina is Duke Energy headquarters and ALEC testing ground, but the state also has a colorful political past and is the seat of strong grassroots movements. Through Moral Mondays and HKonJ, people in North Carolina are coming together to curb corporate power. While people are calling on their representatives for changes, they arent waiting on elected officials to deliver them. People across North Carolina are leading by example and making improvements in their communities with grassroots solar programs and local victories.

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Photo by Ahmer Inam

In the spirit of true democracy, Greenpeace volunteers and community members showed up for love and to reclaim the revolutionary past of North Carolina. And it is only because of love and solidarity in the face of adversity that people across the state rallied in Raleigh to demand a more responsive and responsible government. In this season of love, the people are calling for a break-up between legislators and special interests.

 

 

Hanna Mitchell

By Hanna Mitchell

Hanna Mitchell is a Field Organizer for Greenpeace USA based in Charlotte, NC. She works to bring clean, safe, affordable, and renewable energy options to communities in North Carolina.

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