Delivered on the same evening, at about the same time, the State of the State and Durham’s State of the County addresses shared some similar themes Monday.
Gov. Roy Cooper, delivering his first State of the State, was preaching to anything but the choir -- the new Democratic incumbent faces often hostile, veto-proof majorities in both the House and the Senate. And as Senate leader Phil Berger pointedly reminded him in the GOP response, he defeated his Republican predecessor Pat McCrory by barely 10,000 votes.
Durham County Commissioners’ Chairwoman Wendy Jacobs faces considerably fewer headwinds -- she leads a board on which all five members are Democrats in a county where their party holds a huge registration edge over Republicans. But she, too, dealt with hostility -- even more pointed than in the legislature. About 20 Inside-Outside Alliance protestors rose to speak, interrupting her address. They ultimately were ejected and five arrested.
Still, both leaders pointed to similar reasons for being upbeat, especially about state and local economies.
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Durham, Jacobs pointed out, is enjoying a population boom that is expected to accelerate. We’ll likely have a glimpse of that acceleration when the U.S. Census Bureau releases its annual population estimates next week.
Jacobs pointed to $875.8 million in investments in new and existing county businesses last year, and 4,256 added jobs.
“The Triangle is on a trajectory to be the most important and vibrant region in North Carolina, with Durham playing a pivotal role in its geographic center,” Jacobs said.
But, she reminded her listeners, not everyone is buoyed by our overall economic performance. “We must also remember that 2,500 Durham residents remain unemployed,” she said. It is important, she said, to ensure prosperity is spread equitably through the community.
A few miles away, Cooper said Monday night that “the state of our state is promising” and added that “by 2025, we will have one million more residents. Many of these people will come to North Carolina because we are a state of promise.”
But there is reason for dismay, dismay that, although he didn’t mention this, undoubtedly contributed to Republican Donald Trump capturing this state in November.
“Too many people feel stuck in the middle -- not worthy by any measure, but doing well enough that the total safety net isn’t there for them,” he said.
Jacobs and Cooper talked about the importance of investing in education to help close those gaps.
Both messages conveyed the challenge that faces this generation of leaders, helping spread the benefits of a changing economy broadly among our residents.