Art Pope Resigns As State Budget Director

Courtesy of

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North Carolina State Budget Director Art Pope is leaving the position after taking the Legislature through two budget cycles under the leadership of Republican Governor Pat McCrory.

Gov. McCrory made the announcement Wednesday at a press conference naming Raleigh banking executive Lee Roberts as his successor effective sometime in the first week of September.

The Governor told the media that Pope agreed to one year as budget director when he signed on. However, Gov. McCrory asked him to stay through the end of this short session to develop another budget, which the Governor says he will soon sign.

WCHL’s Aaron Keck spoke with NC House Rep. Graig Meyer (NC House District 50) about Pope’s resignation and what it means for state government.

Pope Foundation Gives $1.3 Million To UNC Lineberger Cancer Center

The John William Pope Foundation has made a $1.3 million gift to UNC’s Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center to fund cancer research and treatment, according to a news release from the University.

The bulk of the gift will fund the creation of the John William Pope Distinguished Professorship in Cancer Research, and $300,000 will be used to fund the John William Pope Clinical Fellows Awards Program.

The Pope family, known for its support of conservative initiatives, has given millions of dollars to UNC, both in academics and athletics.

Most recently, a $3 million donation was given by the John William Pope Foundation to open the Student-Athlete Academic Support Center in Kenan Stadium.

The John William Pope Clinical Fellow Awards Program will support annual awards to three outstanding clinical fellows, judged by the faculty on the basis of their achievements in clinical or translational cancer research during their post-graduate clinical training.

Thomas Shea will be nominated as the first recipient of the professorship. He was one of the late John William Pope’s physicians when he was treated for cancer in 2006 and is an international leader in the care of patients with hematologic malignancies.

Shea is also the director of the UNC Bone Marrow and Stem Cell Transplantation Program and UNC Lineberger associate director of clinical outreach.

In March, Art Pope, the state budget director and a 1978 graduate of Carolina, was critical of the UNC System’s budget request, saying it did not align with his charge to keep the state’s budget growth at no more than 2 percent, according to the news release.

Art Pope Slams UNC System’s Budget ‘Needs’ For 2014-15

The push and pull of budget negotiations between Raleigh and Chapel Hill has begun again as 2014-15 budget talks have begun, and the state’s budget director, Art Pope, says the UNC system is asking for too much.

The Board of Governors sent the legislature a budget request 11.3 percent greater than that of the 2013-14 fiscal year. Pope replied saying that “it simply is not (a) realistic” request. He also said the request made by UNC was based on needs when it should have been a true budget. However, President Tom Ross said he and the University had a statutory duty to present the needs.

In December, the Office of State Budget and Management sent out a budget instruction letter asking all state agencies to submit a budget reduction and expansion request. In that, it needed to “equate to a net savings of a minimum of two percent of the agency’s 2014-15 certified appropriation.”

Pope said the Board of Governors should reconsider its request and submit a “more realistic proposal.”

To read the response by Pope to the Board of Governors, click here.

UNC Student Arrested During Protest: “We Felt Like We Had No Other Option”

CHAPEL HILL –Two UNC students were arrested Wednesday in Raleigh during in a protest of more than 350 people. The group rallied against a recent wave of controversial state legislation.

“In this moment, we felt like we had no other option,” said UNC senior Zaina Alsous.

The group, NC Student Power Union, mobilized hundreds of college students from 10 universities across the state on May Day.

Alsous and fellow UNC student Carissa Morrison were both charged with disorderly conduct. Morrison was also charged with misdemeanor assault on a government official. Five students in total were taken into custody.

The rally began at the NC State Bell Tower and ended at the NC State Legislature. Protestors held a banner that read: “We Demand a Future! Stop budget cuts! Stop racist voter laws! Stop attacks on workers!”

This coming just two days after 17 people were arresting during an NAACP demonstration against a House-supported voter ID bill.

“We hope that other community members will see what is going on and express their discontent as well. We know that these policies are incredibly unpopular,” Alsous said.

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory’s proposed budget cuts to the UNC System total more than $140 million.

“I don’t know any college who wants to pay more for tuition, who wants to lose their financial aid, and with these budget cuts, more than 8,000 students would lose financial aid,” Alsous said.

Art Pope is McCrory’s budget director –Alsous believes with the proposed budget cuts, affordable and accessible higher education is being put at risk.

“We’ve had call-in days where hundreds of calls have been made to Pope and well as Governor McCrory urging them to stop attacking public education. And we’ve never gotten a response,” Alsous said.

Leaders of the Congressional Black Caucus, the NAACP, and the Southern Workers Assembly delivered messages of support for the students’ protest.

Alsous said the protests will continue throughout the summer.

On Thanksgiving, giving thanks for Election Day

Earlier this month, I remembered something to add to my list of things to remember on Thanksgiving Day.

It was on Election Day, which was for me this year a day of memories rather than a day of action like it has been before.

Beginning in 2004, when my son was first a candidate for the North Carolina legislature, and then every two years, you could find me at the polls in his Raleigh district, greeting voters, smiling, saying a few words like, “I hope you will be voting for my son, Grier.”

That first election for him was the most exciting. He was a Democrat running in a district that had regularly sent Republicans to represent them, and he was running against a highly regarded moderate Republican incumbent who was so strong that no other Democrat wanted to run against him.

But my son had worked very hard through the spring, summer, and fall, knocking on doors throughout the neighborhoods, and, at the end of the day, after the polls closed, we sat by the radio at his house to hear the reports come in. It was very close, but he won –and that moment was, for this proud dad, unforgettably happy.

Over the next few years, I returned to Raleigh on Election Day every two years, working the same polling places, and, over time, I made more and more friends with the voters who passed through. Lots of folks who did not support my son were still friendly and stopped to gossip. The other poll workers of both parties exchanged stories and experiences. We avoided political arguments.

Two years ago, Art Pope, who had financed an expensive effort that helped elect a large Republican majority, brought his mom to the polling place where I was working. He stopped to say hello, and I told his mom that my son was a candidate and I hoped she would vote for him. She nodded and said she would. Art smiled at me and said, “Don’t get your hopes up D.G. Remember that I am going to be there with her when she votes.”

On the way out, Art stopped by and said, “Your son is a fine person. I didn’t vote for him, but I didn’t send one penny to be used against him this election.

That election turned out to be very close, but Grier won again. However, Art Pope’s money and the Republican tide gave their side a big majority, which they used to create a new set of districts, including one that put Grier in the same one with another popular Democrat. Grier chose not to run against his friend in the primary. As a result, he was not on the ballot this year, and I stayed at home instead of working the polls in Raleigh.

I missed the action. And I missed being a part of the great American day of democracy.

Even when elections do not go our way, Election Day is a time to remember how fortunate we are that the great and divisive differences that have split our country down the middle can be settled on one peaceful day without the bombs, air strikes, and killings that people in places like Syria, must endure to resolve their disputes.

Instead, we come together with our political enemies and stand in line beside them, hoping to defeat them, but knowing that whatever the result we will be alive and safe—and fully able to continue our work for the good as we see it.

For this, we should say a grateful prayer of thanks, whether our candidates won or lost.

A prayer not just for Election Day or Thanksgiving, but every day.