Saturday, February 4, 2023

Podcast March 28 – Oak Island, Pender death investigation, emergency power [Free listen]

We start this week with Oak Island’s state of emergency. The town has amended the declaration multiple times and, in the most recent iteration, added a caveat that the beach closure will not apply to residents.

This raises a host of questions, starting with, ‘is this a violation of the right to equal protection under the law’ ensured by the U.S. and state constitutions? Heady constitutional issues aside, there are other issues — like, how will the town enforce banning some people from the beach access points but not others? (Also, a fun fact, the beach itself belongs to the public, not the town, and while Oak Island can restrict beach access, you can always find another way to get to the beach…)

Then, we’ve got an update from the tragic death of Hannah Faith, the Wilmington teenager who was found dead in Hampstead. We started investigating the story when it was a missing person case but, sadly, in the middle of reporting it out, the story became about the death of a young woman — and possibly, a homicide.

Lastly, a return to Oak Island, and local governments in general, to look at how local officials have been using their emergency powers in the face of Covid-19. While some, like Carolina Beach, appear to have broken open meeting law, others have stayed within the confines of statute while still using far more than usual executive power.

The point here is not that most local governments have done anything wrong — it’s that the extraordinary powers allowed government during a disaster are usually limited to a few days, as with a hurricane. But the Covid-19 pandemic could last months or more. It’s worth keeping an eye on how transparent and democratic the local exercise of power remains.

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