Category Archives: OPINION

Critic offers convincing case to House Subcommittee

Red Wolf program a ‘failed experiment,’ claims landowner Jett Ferebee

(Click to enlarge)

(Click to enlarge)

Editor’s note: The following is a verbatim transcript of remarks presented in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, Sept. 21, before a subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Jett Ferebee

Jett Ferebee

Dear Members – Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations:

My name is Jett Ferebee and I am a landowner in Tyrrell County, NC. I also served on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Red Wolf Recovery Team this past year.

I have watched my family farm be destroyed by an arrogant USFWS that refused to obey their very own Federal Rules governing their Non Essential Experimental Population of human engineered and selectively bred “Red Wolves.”

The Endangered Species Act 10j rules that USFWS refused to obey were specifically put in place to provide landowners protection from a Non Essential Experimental Population of an endangered species. In my quest to save my farm from this fraudulent USFWS experiment and to protect the wildlife that remained on my farm from the non-native invasive USFWS “Red Wolf,” I have uncovered the many inconvenient truths surrounding this program. I can verify each below fact/truth using USFWS documents.

It is important to note that a Non Essential Experimental Population is just that. It is not essential to the continued existence of the species. It is an experiment to determine if a species can be successfully reintroduced. After almost 30 years of efforts, continual releases, constant veterinary management, erosion of private property rights, and wasting millions of taxpayer dollars, the USFWS now has fewer red wolf breeding pairs than it originally started with in 1987. They began with 4 breeding pairs and now there are 3 breeding pairs or less.

With this complete and documented failure to create a self sustaining population, no physical evidence that the “Red Wolf “selectively bred in a zoo in Washington State was ever native to North Carolina, and now the third DNA study to conclude the new modern “Red Wolf” is just a hybrid (75% coyote and 25% grey wolf) and thus not protected by the ESA. It is time for USFWS to end this charade.

Instead, USFWS is being held hostage by Non-Governmental Organization “Conservation” groups, lawyers and scientists who have somehow managed to turn the Endangered Species Act into a business plan. Wolves have become their profit centers, end of story. The incestuous relationships between the above four groups has created severe conflicts of interest monetarily, politically and scientifically. It is extremely difficult to imagine that an objective and rational decision could ever be made by USFWS.

I sat in a Federal Court room last week as an army of NGO’s and their attorneys pleaded with a judge to not allow me to remove wolves on my farm as secifically provided by Federal Rule. The irony was that court records showed that the plaintiff’s Executive Director of the Red Wolf Coalition had only seen a “Red Wolf” in the wild on two occasions in her life and it was likely just a coyote.

Below are verifiable facts I would like to submit for the administrative record:

RED WOLF FACTS:

1. USFWS illegally released 64 out of 132 red wolves onto private land while holding public meetings and agreeing to Federal rules stating that wolves would be released and managed on Federal lands only. Section 7 consults only authorized 12 of the 132 releases. The 120 unauthorized releases have now bankrupted the captive breeding program.

2.  USFWS secretly adopted “internal policies” to not remove red wolves from private land as agreed to with the citizens of eastern North Carolina in their 1986 and 1995 Federal rules governing this program.

3.  After 30 years of efforts (many illegal) and millions of taxpayer dollars, there now exist fewer red wolf pairs in NC than when the program began. USFWS started with 4 breeding pairs and now only have 3 breeding pairs 30 years later.  Only one red wolf pair now resides on Federal land.

4. 90% of all red wolves now reside on private land.  Sixty out of 64 suspected illegal gunshot deaths of red wolves occurred on private land, exactly where USFWS promised the citizens of eastern North Carolina the wolves would not be.  514 private landowners have now written to USFWS asking for wolves to be removed from their private land.  NCWRC has passed a resolution demanding that all illegally released wolves be removed from private lands in NC and the Red Wolf program terminated in our State.

5. USFWS has systematically flooded the Pocosin Lakes Wildlife Refuge to the extent that NO red wolves now inhabit this “ideal red wolf habitat.”

6.  The critical success factor of “no coyotes” on the Albemarle Peninsula no longer exists and rampant interbreeding with coyotes has doomed the success of this program.  We are merely seeing a repeat of history, which led USFWS to remove the last remaining red wolves from the wild in Texas over 30 years ago in order to save them from extinction due to “hybrid swarm.”

7.  “Adaptive Management” (sterilization of coyotes) has failed. It was never physically possible to sterilize enough coyotes in eastern NC to make a difference.  Biologists simply cannot sterilize coyotes across 1.7 million acres. Mattamuskeet Ventures farm was used extensively by USFWS to test this hypothesis and was declared “Zone One” for adaptive management. USFWS was granted full access to this private land. This spring, with native wildlife populations falling and coyotes/hybrids increasing, Mattamuskeet Ventures demanded USFWS remove all wolves from their land. Wolves had not kept coyotes away as promised by USFWS biologists. In thirty days of trapping – 2 wolves, 4 hybrids, and 10 coyotes were removed from this unique property, which served as USFWS Zone One for the most intensive USFWS “adaptive management” activities.  87.5% of trapped canids were nonwolf.  Two-thirds of the “wolf like” canids were actually hybrids.

60% of all known wolves are now paired with a coyote. Zone 1 of Adaptive Management – Dare County had 58 of the 132 wolves released there and now only has one breeding pair. Adaptive Management has failed to successfully control hybridization of Red Wolves and coyotes.

8.  NC is not within the historic range of the Red Wolf as required by the Endangered Species Act. Despite countless efforts by many scientists and agencies, USFWS has yet to produce one piece of physical evidence that a red wolf ever existed in our State.

9. In August of 2016, using the most modern and best available science, a Princeton/UCLA (vonHoldt/Wayne) genome wide DNA study concluded the red wolf is not a species, but a hybrid (75% coyote and 25% grey wolf) therefore not protected by ESA.

Sincerely,

Jett Ferebee

jettferebee@aol.com

Greed, not need, main factor in hospital closing

pungo closed
By Beaufortobserver.net Editorial Team | Special to the County Compass

BELHAVEN — Pungo District Hospital closed its doors Tuesday. Whether it will be forever, or whether the community will be successful in saving their hospital, remains to be seen.

University Health System, now Vidant, took over the Pungo Hospital nearly two years ago when the local management was unable to make a go of it. Vidant promised to not only provide continuing health care through Pungo, but also to expand services. Now, two years later Vidant is closing the facility.

Technically, a group of investors in Pantego Creek LLC own the hospital—at least the physical assets including the land and building. That group’s governing board recently decided to not participate with the Town of Belhaven, Beaufort County and interested citizens in taking the operation back from Vidant and continuing to operate the Pungo Hospital. They reportedly propose to tear the building down. The hospital’s doors remain closed.

Vidant, on the other hand, proposes to open a 24/7 clinic that they contend will provide adequate health services. But that facility will not have an emergency room capable of treating emergency cases such as stroke victims, heart attack or trauma patients. Vidant proposes as an alternative to provide some funding to upgrade the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) to have paramedics on ambulances to respond to emergency calls to take patients to Beaufort Vidant in Washington. The hospital’s doors remain closed.

Concerned citizens fear the long ambulance ride to Washington, or even to Greenville, and want to keep an emergency room in Belhaven. Vidant claims it cannot make enough money to do that. The hospital’s doors remain closed.

“Saving our Hospital” has now become the battle cry for many concerned citizens in Hyde and northeastern Beaufort County. Lead by Belhaven Mayor Adam ONeal they have formed a non-profit corporation named Pungo District Hospital Corporation and have been trying to negotiate with Pantego Creek LLC and Vidant to take over the hospital. That’s where the fog rolls in. The hospital’s doors remain closed.

The principals have been “negotiating” for weeks and have not been able to come up with a plan to keep the hospital operating. There is one group, the Pungo District Hospital Corporation, led by Mayor ONeal and community leaders, who want to at least try to operate Pungo to keep its designation as a hospital with an emergency room and thus qualify for Medicare and Medicaid funding. Others, including the LLC and Vidant say it can’t be done. The hospital’s doors remain closed.

So Vidant announced that it would close Pungo July 1, and it has now done just that. Only now the lawyers have ridden into town. Vidant’s got a gaggle of lawyers and the NAACP has now sent in a legal team and the NAACP has filed a formal Title VI complaint with the Justice Department asking the federal agency to intervene under complex Federal regulations and to obtain injunctive relief to enable the hospital to continue to operate. The Department of Justice did get a mediation process going but it has obviously not been successful at this point. The hospital’s doors remain closed.

The NAACP contends that the closing of Pungo will have a disparate impact on minorities and the Federal government must therefore intervene to protect access to health care for the poor people in the region. It remains to be seen if, or when the Department of Justice will act. The hospital’s doors remain closed.

Here’s where the fog gets really bad. It’s not clear why the LLC and Vidant don’t just let the newly formed group have the existing hospital and its resources and see if they can make a go of it. When you listen to the “insiders” at this point it gets terribly complicated and virtually impossible to ferret out the answer to the question: “What’s the problem here?” Meanwhile, the hospital’s doors remain closed.

So, in summary, what you have is two groups saying the hospital can’t make a go of it and a third group saying they want to give it a try. The first two groups won’t let the third group try. While the groups throw rocks at each other—you’ve got it: The hospital’s doors remain closed.

We have been told by a number of people that there really is an explanation for why this mess exists. What we have been told is that Vidant does not want Pungo to continue to operate as a hospital simply because it would be a competitor. They prefer, under this theory, to funnel patients that would be served in Belhaven to their Vidant Beaufort facility in Washington or to their home facility in Greenville. A clinic would do just that. Under this theory, Vidant exerts control over Pantego Creek LLC, although Vidant disavows any link. The hospital’s doors remain closed.

Commentary

We don’t pretend to know anything about all these Federal regulations on health care. But what we do know is that the people of northeast Beaufort County and Hyde County need quality health care. And adding an hour’s additional ambulance ride does not, in our opinion, provide as good health care as an emergency room in Belhaven.

So Vidant can’t make the bottom line work at Pungo. If you accept that Vidant has the right to divide its organization into whatever cost centers it chooses, and if in doing so, Pungo does not breakeven, we accept Vidant has a right to walk away.

But we don’t accept that Vidant can hold Pungo responsible for being financially self-sufficient. Vidant is a huge conglomerate. Its elements, which make millions of dollars, do so because of the region’s support. In fact, we would contend that Vidant sucks millions of health care dollars out of Hyde and Beaufort counties and those dollars show up on the books of Vidant Greenville.

Look at it this way. If Vidant’s bottom line were adjusted for only what it takes in from Pitt County it would certainly be a different picture. So if that is true, why does not Vidant channel some of those dollars that show up on its Greenville financial reports back to the communities from which the money came in the first place?

We know! Much of the actual money comes from Washington, D.C. but that misses the point. The federal revenue Vidant takes in at its Pitt county facilities comes in part because patients in Beaufort and Hyde counties choose to seek health care with Vidant. Thus, Vidant has, we feel, a duty to “give back” what it sucks out of the rural, poor regions.

Secondly, we think the Pantego Creek LLC and Vidant should simply walk away from this mess and let the Pungo District Hospital Corporation see if it can make Pungo work. Forget all the obfuscation and haggling over legal mumbo-jumbo. Either run the place or walk away and let somebody else give it a try. At least the doors would not remain closed.

Pamlico County better than Walmart

By Ed Terry | Special to the County Compass

Ed Terry

Ed Terry

Is Pamlico County better than Walmart? I expect we are. I often travel far from the county. Almost every week I make a trip across the Atlantic to Europe or the UK. When I cross that little bridge into the county I feel I’m home. I love Pamlico County. It’s land, water and people has held my heart for many years.

I honor that respect with a simple gesture. I spend my money in the county. If it can be bought in the county, I buy it in the county. A couple of weeks ago while driving home from Jacksonville, I passed up 10-cents cheaper gas to buy fuel in the county. Just made it too!

There are lots of good small business owners in the county. Some have been family owned and operated for years. Every time someone drives across the county line to save a few dollars at Walmart or some other discount store, it hurts the county. It’s hard for me to justify it as saving money. I know times are tough, but we as a society made it that way. Remember when we could buy products made in America? We wanted cheap stuff and we got it. I look for American made, but it is difficult to find. My daddy would have said, “it’s your own fault.” He would be correct. Those mom and pop stores have served the county honorably for years. They deserve our support.

So what does Walmart have to do with it? I don’t shop at Walmart. There are several reasons that I won’t elaborate on. It would suffice to say I have personal knowledge that gives me reason to question their ever being a good steward of their customers or employees.

Walmart wants into the county for one reason only – beans! Walmart is run by bean counters. They will get more beans — your beans — and they will run back across the county line with them.

They will create jobs, yes. In the long run they may not be new jobs. There is a good possibility jobs will be lost at some other small businesses.

I am a small business owner in the county. I am not in competition with Walmart, unless they decide to start a Saturday night county music show. But I live what I preach. I could probably make some profit if I turned the County Opry into a beer joint, but where would people go for a gathering place they can take their children or grandchildren? Those people support our business by showing up almost every Saturday night. They bring their friends. They sustain our business. There is more to running a business than piling up beans. There is more to being a resident of Pamlico County than simply living in the county.

It is a fact that Walmart’s reputation in not unblemished. I have personal knowledge that supports my attitude. Walmart has every right to come to Pamlico County. I have every right not to shop there. I will continue to spend my money in the county, just not at Walmart.

Editor’s note: Ed Terry is a U.S. Airways pilot and owner of the County Opry in Grantsboro.

Consider this before jumping on Walmart bandwagon

By Rhonda Breed | Special to the County Compass

Where do I begin? Approximately a year ago, I contacted a friend who is also a county official and asked if the rumor about Walmart coming to Pamlico County was true. He said he knew nothing of it and it was just a rumor. Well, that’s one heck of a rumor! One day we are a quaint, little county, the next day, we are the target of the world’s largest retailer — not once but twice. With a population hovering around 13,000, I have to wonder why?

Does Walmart know something we don’t know? Are there secrets in the confines of our courthouse complex, waiting to be divulged sometime in the future, or are we just another area ripe for the exploitation of Wally World?

Whom and why does Walmart exploit? I could write a 500-page book and not answer these questions completely.

I am writing this commentary because I love my neighbors, and I want my actions to declare the truth about Walmart, or at least a small portion of it.

At a Grantsboro Planning Board meeting last Thursday night, I stood up as the daughter, mother, mother-in-law, grandmother, and aunt of Grantsboro residents, and as a citizen of Pamlico County to voice my opinion of Walmart. Granted, it was not the place to do it but since there was no previous mention of the retail giant swooping in, I took the only platform available.

Of course, the representatives from Walmart were there to tell us how much they wanted to help our community. As I recall, the district manager said that Walmart was looking more at building smaller supercenters and express stores in smaller communities, to give people in these areas affordable options for shopping. I almost choked.

In The Daily Beast, journalist Daniel Gross says, “Walmart’s inability to contemplate the prospect of paying higher wages is inhibiting its ability to expand and grow as a business—not just in Washington, D.C., but in New York, Boston, and other large cities.”

Walmart is expanding into rural areas because big cities do not want them anymore.

Let’s look at some numbers to get a better understanding as to why Walmart is losing its appeal. A fact sheet from “Making Change at Walmart” contained some interesting details. In 2010, the company’s revenue was $408.2 billion. The average associate makes $8.81 an hour. However, given the average income levels in Pamlico County, I am sure the pay will be less. Additionally, the company considers 34 hours as full-time. In other words, a full-time employee making average pay at Walmart has annual earnings below the federal poverty level. That means you are working but need food stamps and other assistance to “get by.”

Of course, you do have the benefits, if you can afford them. On the other hand, there are the employees who work 33 hours and do not qualify for benefits. I have a student who falls under this category. Did I mention those working part-time on the clock but full-time off the clock? “Between July 2005 and June 2011, Walmart settled an estimated 70 state and federal class action wage and hour lawsuits and lost one jury trial of a wage and hour case involving a total of over a million current and former employees.” In other words, Walmart ripped off over a million employees, while raking in billions of dollars.

I have much more information but it will have to wait until a future issue. Take time to digest these facts and figures before jumping on the “I’m all for Walmart” bandwagon.

Commercial fishing interests lambaste ‘ game fish ’ proponents . . .

 

How is it the right thing to do?

mercerBy Robbie J. Mercer | Special to the County Compass

EASTERN NORTH CAROLINA – I have been a commercial fisherman for 35 years and there is more Red Drum, Spotted Trout & Striped Bass than I have ever seen in the N.C. waters. Commercial fishing and farming has been a way of life in coastal North Carolina for hundreds of years.

Not everyone has the same opinion as you, Mr. Tim Hergenrader. To a lot of Commercial Fishermen, this has been a way of life for generations. This is not a hobby for them. Working these local waters has been a way for them to provide for their families, purchase homes, pay their bills, and send their children to college.

Recreational fishermen land a hundred times more fish than Commercial Fishermen. The numbers from the National Marine Fisheries will show this, but Mr. Hergenrader, I think you know that already, which makes you an outright liar.

As for the issue you raised that the fish houses will be able to continue to provide the products, what you don’t mention is that these will be imported or farm-raised. Most people in the United States don’t want to eat your farm-raised ‘mud fish.’ The fish houses will no longer be able to provide quality, local, fresh-caught fish and neither will our restaurants. (How good for tourism do you really think that will be?)

As for the $1 million that MAY possibly be provided for the fishermen for their loss of income, tell me how $1 million will help the thousands of commercial fishermen who will be put out of business permanently in today’s economy? You, sir, should be ashamed of yourself for trying to strip them of their way of life, their heritage. This is the way they support their families. They aren’t looking for your handouts. You claim this is to increase tourism, when that isn’t your true agenda. Let’s be honest here. What you really want is to eliminate the competition of the commercial fishermen who are making a living so hobbyists can have their limit either increased or eliminated all together! But, honesty doesn’t seem to be your strong suit.

Furthermore, Commercial Fishermen DO NOT receive subsidies and/or tax breaks from the taxpayers of North Carolina, or from anyone else as you stated in your article – and as you well know. They do, however, pay a lot of taxes just like everyone else in North Carolina. Mr. Hergenrader, that false statement once again makes you a liar – saying whatever it takes to support your hidden agenda.

Robbie J. Mercer,
Third Generation Commercial Fisherman and taxpayer.


Time to correct misinformation

stronBy Sherrill Styron | Special to the County Compass

I would like to address the article written by Tim Hergenrader in the May 9-15 issue of the Compass titled “Gamefish Right Thing to Do”. Also, I have additional comments regarding the letter written by the Coastal Fisheries Reform Group about severely reducing shrimp trawling in Pamlico Sound and other inland waters. Both pieces are full of misinformation and inaccuracies.

While there is no information in the article about Mr. Hergenrader’s qualifications to speak on fisheries management issues, it is obvious that he knows very little about fisheries management, economics, nor the historical and cyclical nature of fish populations in our state waters. He is, however, using the Coastal Conservation Association’s (CCA) talking points, which are easily refutable.

First, those pushing for House Bill 983 fish for fun, while commercial fishermen fish to make a living, provide for their families, and feed citizens of this state and nation. While there is nothing wrong with fishing for fun, there is plenty wrong with taking away all or part of another person’s income so that you could have more fun. What kind of a man would put his recreational pleasure ahead of another man’s ability to make a living? The answer is a man filled with greed and self-interest. Most recreational anglers do not belong to the CCA and even some of those who do don’t share their radical views on fish management, but the leadership of that group is bad news and has been since it was founded in Texas decades ago. The claim that Mr. Hergenrader and his CCA friends do not want a net ban is as disingenuous as it can be when one considers that in the CCA study promoting the bill and handed to members of the General Assembly the specific example of Florida’s gamefish status is discussed as being a model for North Carolina to follow. What is left out of the CCA study is Florida’s gamefish status was achieved by virtue of a net ban. Also, Florida’s gamefish status was argued on the basis of science, while here in North Carolina the science argument has been dropped because Division of Marine Fisheries statistics show that by virtue of sheer numbers of recreational anglers in our waters recreational discard mortality is multiple times more in all three proposed gamefish species than is discard mortality in the commercial sector. Interestingly, the Coastal Fisheries Reform Group’s argument to limit shrimp trawling is based on discard mortality rates in the commercial sector, but, again, no mention of the majority of dead fish coming from the recreational sector.

Regarding farm raised fish and the so-called “future of seafood” as Hergenrader calls it, there is no comparison between the two. The difference in price speaks volumes to the consumer’s preference for wild caught, and, moreover, farm raised is almost exclusively reserved for when wild caught is not available. HB983 would guarantee these three species are not available (wild caught) to the public.

A brief explanation of fisheries cycles is in order. Mr. Garland Fulcher (founder of Garland Fulcher Seafood) was born in 1913 and told me how when he could first remember going fishing with his dad (pound netting) they did not catch many fish of one species but rather a variety of different types. His dad told him that not many years before he believed he could have laid a board on top of the pound and walked across it on top of croakers. When the State was working on the Fisheries Reform Act (current law governing fisheries management) I was on the advisory committee. (The Moratorium Steering Committee) Another committee member, Jule Wheatley, brought a 1918 Beaufort newspaper to a meeting with the headline stating “Feds Come to Town to Look into Shortage of Fish.” Since shrimping began in earnest in the 1930’s it is hard to imagine shrimp boats destroying fisheries in 1918. I was born in 1942 and when I was a boy we had lots of fish, croakers and spots mostly, but in a short time they were gone, disappeared. In the 1970’s we had a lot of croakers, but once again they disappeared from our area. During the winter months there are still a lot of croakers off our coast but in the spring they mover north to the Chesapeake Bay, guided by nature and instinct something neither I nor the Coastal Fisheries Reform Group understand enough to make broad assumptions about the cause. It happens, and it will continue to happen in a cyclical pattern as it always has.

Summer Flounder were once so plentiful off our coast that one year we caught the commercial quota in 9 or 10 days. For the last decade the flounders have stayed further north, but like croakers they will return as they always have. In the 70’s and 80’s we had lots of weakfish (grey trout) in our area. One year Garland Fulcher Seafood froze over 200,000 pounds of trout fillets. We only freeze when supply is more than demand. Not long after trout were scarce and fly netting was banned south of Hatteras because commercial fishing was blamed. The Division and other management bodies told us the weakfish would be back in a few short years now that a certain gear was banned; every year there have been less and less, and the management bodies such as the NC Division of Marine Fisheries, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, and the Mid Atlantic Council all admit the weakfish problem has nothing to do with commercial fishing. Yet, many businesses went belly up as a result of that gear ban south of Hatteras. One theory is striped bass are eating the juvenile weakfish. What does the CCA plan to do about that Mr. Hergenrader? Also, spots come and go, some years are great and others are not, not just in North Carolina but other areas as well.

The economics argument put forward by the CCA and people like Tim Hergenrader is based on an exceptionally flawed study that looks at one aspect of the issue (monetary value of recreational fishing verses commercial fishing) and makes a case that whichever sector is of greater economic value in a fishery gets all the fish. Are Mr. Hergenrader and the CCA arguing that recreational fishing be banned in fisheries where the commercial fishery is infinitely more economically valuable? That would mean no more recreational crabbing, shrimping, or flounder fishing according to that logic. Interestingly, the author of the CCA commissioned study referred to above, Brad Gentner, stated in his own footnotes that “It is important to point out that economic impacts are not the appropriate metric for establishing allocations…” Of course, he is right, no self respecting economist would say otherwise, as there are so many other vital aspects to an appropriate economic analysis for the purpose of fisheries allocations. Facts, however, have never gotten in the way of the CCA or their mouthpieces.

It is readily admitted that bycatch in the shrimp fishery is an issue for the commercial sector, but, once again, the sky is not falling. The Coastal Fisheries Reform Group’s statistics have been thoroughly refuted by the Division of Marine Fisheries on numerous occasions in letters and at public meetings. Shrimp boats do not want to catch fish when they shrimp and have been working with government agencies for years to help find solutions to that problem. In fact, it was shrimpers in the Gulf of Mexico that first developed what we now call TEDs (turtle excluder devices) so that they would limit fish bycatch in their nets. Industry works closely with government agencies to find more innovative solutions to this issue, but destroying another North Carolina fishery is certainly not the answer. With or without shrimp nets in our Sound very few juvenile fish reach maturity compared to how many eggs are actually produced. In the overall picture of juvenile mortality shrimp boats are of minimal impact compared to natural predation from other species like rock fish and red drum and environmental factors affecting water. One or two strong hurricanes or very cold winters can severely damage fisheries populations for years. Cormorants, a large bird family of fisheaters reside in great numbers along our coast, do tremendous damage to juvenile fish populations by eating millions and millions of pounds of fish every year. Shrimp trawl juvenile mortality does not even come close to what nature does year after year.

Finally, I have been in this industry for almost all of my adult life and am totally unaware of any tax breaks or government subsidies to the North Carolina commercial industry that are not also available to other industries such as equipment depreciation and the like. The truth is the recreational sector, by virtue of the Dingell-Johnson Act or Wallop-Breaux Act, is a direct recipient of tax money as that Act provides Federal aid to the States for management and restoration of fish having “material value in connection with sport or recreation in the marine and/or fresh waters of the United States.” Even here, Mr. Hergenrader has the facts entirely backwards.

Commercial fishing has provided well for the people of Eastern North Carolina for generations and can continue to do so if misinformation like the kind the CCA, Coastal Fisheries Reform Group, and Tim Hergenrader put forward is challenged with the facts. Nothing they are proposing will add any value to the state’s economy despite what misused and flawed studies say, but management measures based on those studies such as gamefish or severe restrictions on shrimp trawling will hurt real people, real families and possibly end commercial fishing as we know it in our state.

Editor’s note: Mr. Styron is the owner of Garland Fulcher Seafood in Oriental, a graduate of Emanuel College in Georgia, and has been a commercial fisherman on numerous trawl boats. He is a current Oriental commissioner, and a former long-term Mayor of the town. He has served on the Fisheries Reform Group’s Advisory Committee, and on numerous fisheries advisory committees in the state.  

Dress code fails to close gap

 

Mother offers analysis

Valerie Fieber

Valerie Fieber

By Valerie Fieber | Special to the County Compass

BAYBORO — During my tenure as a student in the Pamlico County school system, we had a dress code that was much more flexible than today’s rigid attire mandate. Uniforms and dress codes are not new to many educational environments, but over the past decade or so, many schools have adopted these ever-increasing strict codes in hopes to deter deviant behavior that comes with inappropriate dress.

Advocates of dress codes state that there will be a reduction in the gap between the “haves” and “have-nots.” However, clothing companies are catching on to the market’s needs and producing pricey school wear that only the “haves” can afford. One company, for example, is Abercrombie & Fitch.

Can a school really be successful at balancing the socio-economic status of its students through a dress code? No.

Should we really let unfortunate and uncommon situations like Columbine and Treyvon Martin dictate what our children should be forced to wear? Are ‘hoodies’ really an indicator of gang-relation? I work at a Correctional Institution with many inmates who are in gangs. Here’s a big shocker – hoodies are not the staple gang attire. If we are really so concerned with gangs, we would have banished any red or blue from our color pallet. There is no doubt that a dress code is needed and students realize this as well. Yet, there should be a fair and balanced approach to the current white-collar centric directive that fails to realistically portray our nation’s diverse and culturally rich population.

This also is counterproductive to our State Board of Education’s Goal No. 1: Produce Globally Competitive Students.

My own third grader has fallen victim to this system. He came home from school this past September to tell me he could no longer wear his jacket at school because it was offensive. His black, hooded jacket has red and yellow flames depicted on the bottom. After wondering what could possibly be offensive, I wrote his teacher a note to please explain the school’s side of the story. The end result was a 30-minute long telephone conversation with Principal Sherry Meador.

Fred A. Anderson’s (FAA) dress code states that no coats are to be worn inside (Provision 6402.3.5 of the Dress Code.) Fair enough. It turns out that FAA allows children to wear coats inside if they are cold, but the coats must meet the same “solid color” standard as a shirt. I explained to Principal Meador that the policy does not state this exception, nor was it conveyed to me through any other means, and that lack of consistency and bending the rules is confusing for all parties involved.

Furthermore, the dress code does not accommodate for overweight or curvy adolescents. It is almost as if the body is being policed and not the clothes. Requiring overweight girls and boys to tuck in their shirt and wear a belt can be dehumanizing and cause more embarrassment to a generation that already is suffering from self-image issues.

Realistically, how many professional women commonly wear belts in the workplace? Also, girls who are more well-nourished than others are singled out because their hips and bust are more prominent. Many curvy and overweight students feel more comfortable behind baggy shirts and would probably perform better scholastically, but that would be in violation of yet another provision of the Dress Code. It seems that schools weren’t enforcing the policy previously, so they made the rules harsher.

NEWS1-Dress-Code-ECU-sweatshirt-pic-2Has the school system surveyed the students for an assessment on the effects of wearing a “uniform?” If so, what do our students think? School should be for learning and not modesty testing. A majority of students know that dressing scantily is not conducive to an effective learning environment. As I have already stated, a dress code is needed, but it is time for an overhaul. We need fewer restrictions. For example, why can’t students wear stripes or plaid? Why can’t they wear hoodies? Why do sweaters have to have a waist-band? Why can’t sweaters be tucked underneath?

This leads me to my main argument: What studies have been done within Pamlico County Schools to assess and analyze trends in violence, gang related activity, school performance, pregnancy rates, and dropout rates since the inception of this stringent dress code?

According to my conversation with Principal Meador — NONE.

The Student/Parent Handbook for 2012-2013 indicates the dress code (Attachment E) was adopted in 2003 and revised six times. The last revision was on Feb. 6, 2012. How can we continuously revise our policies without substantial evidence of its success or failure?

Imagine my surprise when I received a flyer from FAA announcing that “beginning Friday, Oct. 19th, and every Friday thereafter, the elementary school is celebrating education by allowing all students and staff to wear a Pamlico or college (NC only) shirt, but no hoodies.

No hoodies!? Excuse me, FAA, according to your Student/Parent Handbook, 6402.5.8, “Students in Grades K-5 may wear hoodies except in the months of August, September, April, May and June.” The inconsistency and lack of unity in understanding and enforcing the regulations is upsetting many parents. Strangely, if we are trying to reduce the socio-economic gap to decrease teasing and bullying, telling kids they can don a $50 ECU pullover seems to be a poor way to enforce your views.

In 2020, 75 percent of most jobs will require a post-secondary degree. Many of the jobs that will exist when our children graduate do not exist now. They are our future. We are supposed to be giving them tools to prepare for the unknown. According to a semi-anonymous feminist blogger named Jill, “Part of being an adult is moving through a diverse world where distracting and offensive things happen.”

I challenge the Board of Education to survey the students and parents. Ask us what we would like to see changed and why. I challenge school officials to analyze current trends in school violence, drop-out rates, teen pregnancies (in PCMS and PCHS), national surveys, criminal data and other pertinent data to address our student policies and regulations and make the findings transparent to all citizens of Pamlico County.

School staff and faculty make too many on the spot rules that increase the risk for discrimination among our students. We, the parents, will not stand for this inconsistency. We, the parents, will not suffer our students ill-prepared because you, the teacher, are too distracted by enforcing the “no more than six pockets” rule found in another provision of the Dress Code.

I do applaud Principal Meador for taking the time to hear my concerns and assure me that she would convey them to the Board of Education. I know each of our principals do their very best and genuinely care for our children. Do not think my discontent for policy overshadows my appreciation for our faculty and staff.

Let’s recap:

  1. We have a dress code policy that has many good rules and many unclear or irrational rules.
  2. No one has explained why these rules were adopted and revised without proper studies, assessments, or input from parents and students.
  3. Gangs, Bullying, Socio-economic excuses…there are pros and cons. Adopt a risk assessment plan through your School Resource Officer (SRO) and have him focus on prevention and awareness while students focus on learning.
  4. Lack of unity in understanding, interpreting, and communicating the dress code effectively to students, teachers, and parents/guardians.

I may not speak for all, but I do speak for some. I encourage others to join us in voicing our opinion to the Board of Education and our principals.

Editor’s note: Ms. Feiber is a 1995 graduate of Pamlico County High School. She has two children in the Pamlico County School System.