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It’s time to end divides and move us forward

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The year that’s ending wasn’t an especially good one.

As the curtain prepares to close on 2019, our country’s leaders remain deeply divided over President Trump and whether to remove him from office. Similarly, their constituents back home are split over the president, and even worse, on Trump and other matters, many American refuse to listen to opposing views, or they shout them down when they hear them.

North Carolina, the state, is divided too. The Republican-controlled General Assembly passed a budget this summer, but Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, vetoed the spending plan, in part because it did not include an expansion of Medicaid, the government health insurance program for the poor. State government is operating but at last year’s spending level, meaning, for one, that Johnston County’s public schools aren’t getting the dollars needed to support enrollment growth.

That likely explains part of the Johnston County Public Schools’ budget hole, but the school board is also divided. Board member Ronald Johnson says he has evidence of criminal wrongdoing in the schools and will present that evidence to authorities later this week. Johnson’s fellow board members, sensitive to his allegations, want him to disclose his evidence or shut up.

Even our county commissioners are divided, though certainly not to the extent of our national, state and school leaders. They just can’t agree on whether every Johnstonian should pay for the county’s landfill and solid waste convenience or whether that financial burden should fall just on the people who use them.

The new year will bring elections at most levels of our government, which is not to say we’re choosing sides between incumbents and their challengers. But it does mean we’re hoping for competitive primary and general election races that produce winners with the willingness to move this nation, state and county forward.

Because while our elected leaders give us divisiveness, what Johnstonians want are solutions to their problems.

Impeachment proceedings, warranted or not, don’t make health care more affordable, they don’t protect Americans and their private information from hackers and big tech companies, they don’t balance the interests of free trade against the jobs of Americans, they don’t help protect freedom-loving people everywhere from the sinister forces that would enslave them.

In North Carolina, the budget standoff, even if principled as opposed to political, isn’t moving the state forward. It’s not making public schools better, for example, and it’s not helping rural communities that are drying up as young people and jobs migrate to the state’s growing cities.

In Johnston County, the school board’s divide isn’t closing a budget hole that threatens to cost school system employees their jobs. More important, the board’s inertia isn’t helping failing schools become successful ones that prepare our young people for jobs in a modern economy.

And even our county commissioners, whose civility is both rare and reassuring, need to answer the convenience site question, preferably freeing Johnstonians from having to purchase the decals they so clearly despise. This is no small matter, because as Commissioner Ted Godwin rightly notes, some Johnstonians would rather dump their trash along the road than buy access to a convenience site.

We’re not big on New Year’s resolutions, which often have a short shelf life. But we’re OK with soul-searching, which our many elected leaders might want to try if they truly want to meet our many challenges.