Most N.C. cities don’t lean left or right

By: - August 15, 2005 6:00 am

Raleigh News & Observer


Durham is the most liberal city in North Carolina. Winston-Salem is the most conservative.

That’s according to the findings of a nationwide survey by the Berkeley, Calif.-based Bay Area Center for Voting Research, which ranked the political leanings of 237 American cities with populations of more than 100,000 people based on how they voted in the 2004 presidential elections.

Actually, most North Carolina cities were not very liberal or very conservative. They were somewhere in the middle. Of the 237 cities ranked, with 1 being the most liberal and 237 the most conservative, Durham was ranked the 61st most liberal. The rankings for other North Carolina cities: Greensboro, 72; Raleigh, 88; Charlotte, 125; Fayetteville, 128; and Winston-Salem, 144.

The most liberal cities tended to be those with the largest African-American population or college towns. The most conservative cities tended to be those with large white populations located either in the South or in the interior West.

The most conservative nationally were Provo, Utah; Lubbock, Texas; Abilene, Texas; Hialeah, Fla.; and Plano, Texas.

The most liberal cities nationally were Detroit; Gary, Ind.; Berkeley, Calif.; Washington, D.C.; and Oakland, Calif.

Alas, Chapel Hill — aka "the Berkeley of the South" — was not included in the study. (That would have required a rather liberal definition of "city.")

No sunshine at state agencies

During a legislative committee debate last week about when to make government agencies release their records of tax incentives offered to businesses, a key question went unanswered.

At one point in the House Commerce Committee meeting, Rep. Karen Ray, a Mooresville Republican, asked whether there has been a problem with government agencies failing to turn over public records.

She asked twice but got no direct response.

The answer is: Yes.

Citizens, newspapers and TV stations across the state have had to sue the state or local governments to get public records, usually at their own expense.

Earlier this year, five Whispering Pines residents won a sunshine lawsuit against town officials who had broken access laws repeatedly. It cost the citizens more than $30,000 in legal bills, which the judge wouldn’t make the town pay.

After the state gave computer maker Dell $242 million in tax breaks and other incentives in November, the state Commerce Department withheld details of its negotiations with Dell until news organizations sued in January. That came after the state had delayed releasing records of hundreds of millions of dollars in incentive offers to Boeing, Merck and RJR Tobacco.

The Dell lawsuit, initiated by The John Locke Foundation and joined by the N.C. Press Association, is still pending.

"Something absolutely has to be done," said Richard Wagner, editor of the foundation’s Carolina Journal.

The legislature is considering a bill that would give state and local agencies up to 25 days to disclose records of business-incentive deals — not what the press groups wanted but better than what they’re used to.

"We had to compromise with their constant violation of the law," Wagner said. "So we took what we could get."

By staff writers Rob Christensen and Matthew Eisley. Christensen can be reached at 829-4532 or [email protected].

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Chris Fitzsimon

Chris Fitzsimon, Founder and Executive Director of N.C. Policy Watch, writes the Fitzsimon File, delivers a radio commentary broadcast on WRAL-FM and hosts "News and Views," a weekly radio news magazine that airs on multiple stations across North Carolina. [email protected] 919-861-2066