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INDY Week columnist Bob Geary's Raleigh news & politics blog

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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

McFarlane fundraiser kicks off 2015 Raleigh election year

Posted by on Wed, Jan 28, 2015 at 11:20 AM

It's never NOT an election year in Raleigh given that congressional elections are every even-numbered year and, in between, every odd-numbered year has elections for two-year terms on the Raleigh City Council.

McFarlane on Indy cover
  • McFarlane on Indy cover
Thus, 2015 is a Raleigh election year, and Mayor Nancy McFarlane is running again as evidenced by today's invitation to her fundraiser March 18 at the Southland Ballroom. Yes, you can be a sponsor for $2,000 or a cheapskate sponsor for $250 and still make it into the sponsors' reception. Or, just pay $50 for a ticket and you get to listen to Chatham County Line.

McFarlane has the Dix Park deal with Gov. McCrory in her kit and no opposition in sight as yet. She's a political independent with lots of Democrats supporting her. As for a Republican opponent, the GOP in Raleigh is a damaged brand at best.

Of the other seven members of council, I count five who'd either like to be mayor some day or, in the case of John Ddom, have actually run for mayor. All five will be seeking re-election to their council seats this year as far as I know.

I don't believe Eugene Weeks, the District C incumbent, has any mayoral interest. Weeks, assuming he tries to keep his seat, may have a serious challenger in Corey Branch, a member of the Raleigh Transit Authority who's been talking up a possible candidacy. Branch is very visible in the debates over future bus and/or rail transit in the city.

Kay Crowder, who was appointed last fall to complete her late husband Thomas Crowder's term as the District D member, is likely to run for election but has made no final decision as yet.

  • Pin It
    Mayor Nancy McFarlane goes into the 2015 elections with no opposition as yet. One City Council seat that may be hotly contested: District C.

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Monday, January 12, 2015

Dix Park: The Deal is Done

Posted by on Mon, Jan 12, 2015 at 2:36 PM

Gov. Pat McCrory and Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane were all smiles this afternoon as they announced that the state will sell the 308-acre Dorothea Dix Hospital tract to the city for $52 million. They announced the deal in a packed ballroom at the Governor's Mansion — to great applause.

McCrory said the sale and development of the land as a destination park will help Raleigh become the showcase state capital everyone in North Carolina should want. McFarlane called the deal "truly a win-win" for both sides and said the park will help spur economic development in the city and the region.

Update: Terms of the deal can be seen here.

A quick Q&A:

1) Is this a good deal for the city? Yes. The price tag is up there at $170,000 an acre, and the state reserved the right to keep Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) offices on the Dix campus for 25 years in one area and 10 years in another. But expect the state to move out faster. Meanwhile, the evolution of a park is a multi-generational activity, so the city need be in no great rush to evict DHHS as long as it is assured — as it is — that the state is going to vacate. Earlier offers by the state included what would've been a poison pill, with the state keeping its buildings and the high ground of the park for itself while selling the lower areas to the city. That didn't happen.

2) Is this a good deal for the state? Yes. In fact, it's a great deal for the state, which gets a major park for the capital city at no cost. Using this land for state offices is, first of all, shameful in light of the fact that the state closed the 150-year old Dix Hospital that was the reason for the campus in the first place; and second, it's about the most wasteful use of 308 acres of prime property that you could imagine. The $52 million won't make a big dent in state budget needs. McCrory promised it will be used for mental health programs, but even for that purpose, it's a drop in the bucket. Nonetheless, the state could've given the land away for the park and had a good deal. Getting $52 million is icing on the thing.

3) What happens next? A contract must be written. Then McCrory gets approval from the Council of State, which he controls, and McFarlane gets a sign off by the City Council, which voted 8-0 this morning to approve the deal as outlined. No contract was executed today. What the two leaders signed was a statement of the terms.

4) Where's DHHS going? Not clear. But McCrory emphasized that the Dix buildings it's in are old and expensive to maintain. The state may lease a headquarters building somewhere or build one, or it may lease or build more than one building. But modern office space should be better and cheaper than the moldy old buildings on Dix. As for where new buildings could go, there's room near the Capitol, there's room along New Bern Avenue, there's room on Blue Ridge Road using other state properties, there's room in South Raleigh, the choices are many.

5) What's the city have in mind for the park? Another excellent question. Many ideas have been floated, including carousels, an amphitheater, a botanical garden, open fields, walking trails, a hotel in the original hospital building and so on. Planners hired by the Dix Visionaries, a group of local business leaders, did a general schematic a few years ago. Raleigh has two major "passive' park areas now at the N.C. Museum of Art and at Umstead State Park. Dix is supposed to be an "active" place that's a draw for tourists, a so-called destination park that people come from miles around to see and enjoy. But what's in it? As McFarlane said, the whole community is now tasked with figuring that out.

6) Where's the $52 million coming from? The Raleigh City Council can simply borrow it by issuing notes against the city's credit. Or, it can go to the voters and ask for approval to issue general obligation bonds, on which interest rates would be lower — they'd cost the city a bit less, in other words. If there's a bond referendum, the terms of the deal are that it must pass in 2015 and the city must have its money by December 31.

7) Why is a park on this land a good idea? It is because a park will enhance the downtown area, which lacks open space. A park will enhance the streets immediately adjoining it, which are underused and prime territory for housing and commercial development. The park will be next to N.C. State's Centennial Campus, with many possible synergies, and it also adjoins the State Farmer's Market, which suggests many more cooperative possibilities. In short, this park is perfectly positioned for the long-term growth of Raleigh from small city to mid-sized metro and the hub of a dynamic Triangle region.

Gov. McCrory and Raleigh Mayor McFarlane

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Thomas Crowder, longtime Raleigh Council member, died today

Posted by on Tue, Oct 14, 2014 at 6:38 PM

Thomas Crowder died this afternoon. I believe the funeral will be Saturday at Western Boulevard Presbyterian Church. There's also talk of a public memorial service on Friday, but I don't think it's set yet.

I shared the news with some friends just now. Here's what I wrote:

I'm very sorry to report this. Thomas Crowder, our longtime District D City Councilman and a man who loved his hometown of Raleigh, NC, died this afternoon. A close friend who's been acting as family spokesperson these last few difficult weeks just called with the news. She said some District D residents have a plan to keep their porch lights on all night as a sign of respect for Thomas. I think that's a great idea.

Thomas Crowder
  • Thomas Crowder
I've said before, Thomas Crowder was a gifted architect. He was also that rare public servant who did what he thought was right for his district and his city unfailingly, and who never bowed to pressure from anybody — any interest group, any powerful politician — to do something else. It just didn't occur to him that his job wasn't to use best judgment and let the chips fall where they may. Fittingly, though he bucked many a powerful Democrat in his 11 years on Council, he was overwhelmingly popular with voters from both parties in his district and, I think, throughout the city. He was the best kind of Democrat, the kind who stood with his constituents first, last and always.

I've seen Thomas and Kay several times over the past few weeks, and they were blessed to have many, many friends come by, share old stories, have some laughs and shed tears together. Rachel and Garrett, his daughter and son, were with him, his mother Mary was with him, and Venia, his sister, and Chris and David, his brothers, were with him just about every day.

Thomas was on oxygen, but he was in good spirits, almost his old self except that he knew the tumors were growing in his lungs and the time was coming when he wouldn't be able to breath even with the help of oxygen tanks. That time came today. But I can tell you that he died knowing that his friends loved him, his family loved him and that he'd done himself proud.

Like

Thomas resigned from the Council recently and Kay was appointed to serve out his term, through next year.

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    Cancer ended his life at 58. He was that rare elected official who was a public servant first, last and always.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Breaking: Amendment One is about to fall.

Posted by on Mon, Oct 6, 2014 at 11:00 AM

Because the Supreme Court declined to review it, the Fourth Circuit ruling striking down Virginia's ban on same-sex marriage will also become law in North Carolina.

Paula Womack and Jane Weidig were married in Massachusetts. Soon, their marriage will be recognized in North Carolina.
  • photo by Bob Geary
  • Paula Womack and Jane Weidig were married in Massachusetts. Soon, their marriage will be recognized in North Carolina.
This means Amendment One will be unconstitutional as a matter of federal law. North Carolina will be required to recognize same-sex marriages from other states and, presumably, to allow same-sex couples to be married in our state.

I wrote about the Fourth Circuit decision a few weeks ago. The Supreme Court just opened its term and acted quickly on all the same-sex marriage rulings from circuit courts, declining to hear any of them.

Challenges to Amendment One are pending in a federal district court in Winston-Salem. The judge hearing those cases — who put them on hold waiting to see what the Supreme Court would do — must now apply the Fourth Circuit ruling and will probably do so very quickly.

Conservatives who want Attorney General Roy Cooper to keep fighting this don't seem to get it that it's over and Amendment One cannot be defended in a federal district court — a higher federal court has already decided the issue and the Supreme Court has, in effect, gone along.

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    The Supreme Court declined to review the appeals court decisions which have struck down state bans on same-sex marriages.

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Monday, September 1, 2014

Labor Day: A "Moral Monday" makeover is needed

Posted by on Mon, Sep 1, 2014 at 1:58 PM

AFL-CIOs MaryBe McMillan with NAACP President William Barber (to her right) at Labor Day rally in Raleigh
  • photo by Bob Geary
  • AFL-CIO's MaryBe McMillan with NAACP President William Barber (to her right) at Labor Day rally in Raleigh

Today, Monday, is Labor Day, an excellent day to consider the work of the Forward Together, a.k.a. Moral Monday movement. Because as State AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer MaryBe McMillan said this morning, "If ever a Monday needed a moral makeover, it's Labor Day."

McMillan spoke at a rally in Nash Square, in front of Raleigh City Hall, before getting on a bus with union members and leaders of the state NAACP, including the Rev. William Barber, the state president, and the Rev. Portia Rochelle, Raleigh-Apex branch president. They were headed for Labor Day events in Greensboro and Charlotte.

It should be clear, but isn't, that an economic crisis is unfolding in the United States and around the world. Corporate profits are soaring, executive pay and shareholder returns are beyond defensible and getting more ridiculous by the day. Yet work — the ordinary work which sustains corporations and which is supposed to sustain the rest of humanity — pays less and less.

Worse, there's less and less work to go around. Temp jobs, part-time jobs and high unemployment all serve to keep wages down even as workers' productivity rises and corporations cash in.

All this, McMillan said, is no accident. It is the result of business decisions and government policies which protect investors' profits at the expense of labor and what we used to think of as the social compact.

Nor is the solution "rocket science," she added. Rather, it's to pay workers a living wage—enough money that a full-time worker can support herself or himself.

Raising workers' pay will add to the economy, not hurt it, and more jobs will be created as a result — though billionaires may have to do with somewhat less.

***

The divergence of corporate and political policies from human needs is perhaps our world's greatest moral challenge. Or perhaps our greatest challenge is climate change, which threatens human survival. But the source of the two is the same: It's a systemic failure to share resources — natural, environmental, technological and human — in a way that sustains the planet and the people living on it.

The Rev. Spencer Bradford, head of Durham Congregations in Action, put it this way: "God has given us enough for everyone to have enough."

It really is that simple. Whether you believe in a god or gods or simply survival, if we allow corporations to exploit the earth to the point that it cannot or does not sustain all of us, people will die. They're dying now.

***

Corporations operate on the profit motive and the wealthy rake in the wealth in a capitalist system until checked by human beings organized as workers and as citizens. Such organization can take the form of labor unions. It can take the form of a labor, environmental and social-justice movement. In most advanced societies, though not in the United States, it takes the form of a political party — a Labor Party.

Here, because of our winner-take-all elections (no proportional representation as in parliamentary systems), we have two political parties only. One, the Republican Party, no longer pays any attention to worker or environmental interests. Sorry, but it doesn't. The other, the Democratic Party, pays some attention, but not enough. Not nearly enough. And for the foreseeable future, the Republicans' iron grip on the U.S. House of Representatives as well as a majority of state legislatures, including North Carolina's, means that even the meekest efforts by the Democrats to lift up labor and protect the planet are stymied.

The challenge, in the long run, is to breathe life into one or the other of the two parties, presumably the Democratic Party. It's a challenge made harder by the weakness of labor unions in this country and especially in North Carolina, the least unionized state in the nation.

Fortunately, we have a starting point here with the Forward Together-Moral Monday movement. It is that second form of organization I mentioned, not a union and not a political party, but a force that may be strong enough to revitalize labor and restore the Democrats.

(Although the movement is officially nonpartisan, and the Rev. Barber is emphatic that the Republican Party's roots are in progressive policies, as much as modern-day Republicans have forsaken them.)

And it's more than a starting point. Moral Mondays burst on the scene last year in North Carolina in response to corporatist legislation from the General Assembly, but the groundwork for a labor-environmental movement with a moral foundation was laid starting in 2005—as Barber emphasized this morning — when the NAACP and the AFL-CIO joined forces and began to build alliances with churches, conservation groups and social-justice organizations around the state.

The movement's agenda, Barber noted, the 14-point People's Assembly platform, leads with a call for paying livable wages and for good, desegregated public schools.

Organizing labor unions is made more difficult by the ability of corporations to close an operation here and move it there — to another state or another country — in order to avoid paying workers more. Getting the Democrats to represent labor's interests or the planet's is made difficult by the power of money in politics, money which corporate interests are all too happy to supply and Democrats too happy to take.

But all the money in the world can't out-vote a workers' and citizens' movement that demands that its elected representatives protect humanity first. The Moral Monday movement is growing, spreading to other states, and with it campaigns are springing up to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour immediately — a position supported by almost every Democratic official in the country — and thereafter to livable-wage levels.

Here in North Carolina, the major political battle is for the seat in the U.S. Senate held now by Democrat Kay Hagan, who is challenged by Republican Thom Tillis, speaker of the N.C. House.

Hagan, who proudly proclaims that she is the most moderate senator in Washington, nonetheless is for the $10.10 minimum wage. Tillis has declared the very idea of a minimum wage, no matter how low, "dangerous."

For the movement, the immediate fight is to re-elect Hagan and force the Tillis brand of Republicans to reevaluate their disdain for workers.

Doing so will help to foster, as McMillan said, "a new labor movement not limited by the walls of a workplace" or the ability of a corporation to pick up and move to a different location.

In a new labor movement, founded on moral principles, we can tackle climate change before it's too late. We can lift wages so that everyone who wants to work can earn enough for a decent life. We can honor work and its ability to sustain us, in other words, and stop worshipping money for money's sake.

I believe that's the moral makeover McMillan called for this Labor Day.

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    The failure to share resources threatens people's livelihoods and the planet itself. Something to think about this Labor Day.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Updated: 4th Circuit strikes down Va. same-sex marriage ban; Cooper drops Amendment One defense

Posted by on Mon, Jul 28, 2014 at 2:28 PM

Breaking news 2: Attorney General Roy Cooper just finished a press conference. He said he's dropping his defense of Amendment One in the four N.C. cases brought by LGBT advocates. The 4th Circuit ruling is binding on N.C. judges, he says. So it's his obligation, if and when any of these cases moves forward — three are stayed currently, and the fourth has yet to be heard — to inform the judge as to what the law is now. And the law now, Cooper said, is that Amendment One is unconstitutional according to the binding Circuit Court decision.

"Our lawyers have vigorously defended North Carolina's marriage law, which is their job," Cooper said. Now, he added, "It's time to stop making arguments we will lose."

(I've copied his full statement below.)

The ultimately resolution on same-sex marriage rights will likely come from the United States Supreme Court, Cooper added, either by deciding the issue itself or by refusing to review the 4th Circuit and other federal court rulings that support a 14th Amendment right to equal marriage rights for LGBT persons.

It's likely that no same-sex marriages will be allowed in North Carolina, however, before the Supreme Court acts … or declines to act, Cooper added.

***

Breaking news: The three-judge panel of the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals split 2-1. The decision to strike down Virginia's ban on same-sex unions isn't effective immediately. When it does take effect — in a matter of days — it would seem to apply as well to North Carolina, which is within the 4th Circuit's appeals jurisdiction. The Virginia attorney general has already said he will not defend the state's ban and will instead side, in any further appeals by other parties, with the plaintiffs who challenged the ban.

Here's a link to the ruling: http://www.ca4.uscourts.gov/Opinions/Published/141167.P.pdf

And there's an excellent summary here, from Equality NC: http://equalitync.org/marriage/

Plus: Lyle Denniston, Another circuit rules for same-sex marriage, SCOTUSblog (Jul. 28, 2014, 3:03 PM), http://www.scotusblog.com/2014/07/another-circuit-court-rules-for-same-sex-marriage/

gaycoupleweddingcake.jpg
Also, there's a "Decision Day" celebration tonight at Motorco in Durham:

Equality North Carolina will be holding #DecisionDay at their #DecisionDay Hub at Motorco in Durham, NC, to get engaged with the important work of learning and sharing the Bostic results and impact, next steps, and how you can help build the movement for marriage here at home. 6:30pm, y'all!

North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper has thus far defended Amendment One, our state's ban, though he has said he personally opposes it. He has a decision to make whether to appeal the 4th Circuit's ruling on behalf of the state. Whether he does or he doesn't, Amendment One's Republican sponsors almost certainly will appeal and seek to have the ruling stayed, at least as far as its effect on North Carolina.

That's my quick take.

(Updating this: Someone wrote to question whether Cooper could appeal a case involving a Virginia law. I should've said that he has a decision to make whether to join an appeal if there is one coming from Virginia, as there almost certainly will be. Even if there isn't any appeal, Cooper is defending the North Carolina law (Amendment One and an anti-LGBT marriage statute) in separate cases to which this Circuit Court ruling would apply. A question is whether Cooper will now say that Amendment one is indefensible in light of the 4th Circuit's ruling or, alternatively, continue to defend it if the ruling is appealed and/or stayed. I've sent an email to Cooper's office asking for his reaction to the decision. I'll share any response that comes.)

This is a statement from Freedom to Marry, a pro-LGBT rights group:

4th Circuit Court of Appeals Strikes Down Virginia Marriage Ban

New York — Today the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond ruled in favor of same-sex couples’ freedom to marry, upholding a lower court’s February decision that found Virginia’s marriage ban unconstitutional.

Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry, released the following statement:

"It was in a case out of Virginia that the Supreme Court ended race discrimination in marriage. And today, in another Virginia marriage case, a federal circuit court ruled against discrimination in marriage, affirming the freedom to marry for loving and committed gay couples. The Fourth Circuit’s ruling echoes what over 25 other federal and state courts have held: same-sex couples deserve the dignity of marriage, and anti-marriage laws are indefensible. Every day of denial is a day of injustice and tangible harms. It’s time for the Supreme Court to bring the country to national resolution and secure the freedom to marry for all.”

Same-sex couples can marry in 19 states and the District of Columbia, meaning 44% of Americans live in states where gay couples share in the freedom to marry. Recent polling by the Washington Post/ABC News shows 59% of Americans support marriage, including a majority of young evangelicals and Republicans under 45 in other polls.

In total, 29 federal and state rulings in recent months have struck down state bans on marriage for same-sex couples.

Here's the text of Cooper's opening statement, sent by his office:

Today the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals told us that Virginia’s marriage law is unconstitutional. The 4th Circuit has jurisdiction over the federal courts in North Carolina.

Currently, there are 4 cases in North Carolina challenging our state’s marriage law, which is similar to Virginia’s.

Our attorneys have vigorously defended North Carolina marriage law, which is their job. But today we know our law almost surely will be overturned as well. Simply put, it is time to stop making arguments we will lose and instead move forward, knowing that the ultimate resolution will likely come from the US Supreme Court.

This ruling today doesn’t mean marriages in North Carolina can start right away because no judge has ruled on North Carolina’s law. However, it does predict our law will be struck down.

So here is what we expect will happen next:

• Plaintiffs challenging the North Carolina marriage law in one or more of these 4 pending cases probably will ask federal judges to start proceedings, 3 of which are currently stayed.
• If any of the judges agree to begin proceedings, we believe those judges will be bound by today’s 4th Circuit opinion, and we believe they will be bound to find North Carolina’s marriage law unconstitutional.
• Those rulings themselves will likely not be given immediate affect because of the likelihood that the 4th Circuit’s decision will be stayed and because the judges in North Carolina will likely stay them as well.
• Finally, it is likely that no valid same-sex marriages can occur in North Carolina until the US Supreme Court either turns down the case on appeal or ultimately decides the issue.

Here’s how we got here. Last year the United States Supreme Court in US v. Windsor held that the federal part of the Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional at the federal level. They left the question of state marriage laws unanswered but they did give some guidance.

Since the Windsor case, 14 federal district court judges in addition to the 10th Circuit and now the 4th Circuit Courts of Appeal have answered that question. They all decided that marriage is a fundamental constitutional right and that state laws banning it are unconstitutional. The 10 state high courts that have considered this question have also all found their own state’s marriage laws unconstitutional.

Today’s 4th Circuit decision is similar.

After reviewing the 4th Circuit decision and consulting with attorneys here, I have concluded that the State of North Carolina will not oppose the cases moving forward. In addition, the State of North Carolina will acknowledge the 4th Circuit opinion that marriage is a fundamental right and that our office believes that the judges are bound by this 4th Circuit decision.

In all these cases challenging state marriage laws, our office along with other attorneys general and state attorneys across the country have made about every legal argument imaginable. Since the US Supreme Court ruled in the Windsor case, all the federal courts have rejected these arguments each and every time. So it’s time for the State of North Carolina to stop making them.


Renee Ellmers-Clay Aiken election campaign: Take one down, pass it around

Posted by on Mon, Jul 28, 2014 at 1:46 PM

100, 99 … countdown to Election Day

It's July — still — and no time to be thinking about elections, which aren't until —

Bzzzt. My mailbox is overflowing with reminders that just 100 days remain … no, now it's 99 days … until Nov. 4, Election Day. Y'ouch.

So, let's begin our election season with Renee Ellmers, Republican incumbent, versus Clay Aiken, Democratic challenger, for the U.S. House of Representatives, 2nd District of N.C.

Remember the House? Hasn't done anything in years except try to repeal Obamacare and, now, get ready to sue President Obama. Is this where the term "clown car" came from?

In recent days, Congresswoman Ellmers made some news when she told a Republican audience that her mostly male political colleagues, when discussing policy questions, should "bring it down to a woman's level" if they want to be understood.

Somewhere in there was a point, I think. Although Ellmers delivered it with what I'm afraid is her all-too-common incoherence. More on this below.

Wednesday, 6-8 pm, Southland Ballroom
  • Wednesday, 6-8 pm, Southland Ballroom
Meanwhile, Clay Aiken, for whom I would undoubtedly vote, pollsters, "if the election were held today," is holding his own against Ellmers in terms of fundraising. He may — may — give her a run for her money in November, so to speak, notwithstanding the fact that the 2nd District is heavily gerrymandered in favor of the Republican candidate.

Aiken is putting together three of my favorite things in Raleigh Wednesday night at a fundraiser. One, it's at Southland Ballroom, which has replaced the Berkeley Cafe on my list of best music halls in Raleigh following the latter's decimation. Two, it features the Red Clay Ramblers, who will perform. I definitely :) them. Three, it's Clay Aiken, and as I've already explained, I lost all objectivity re: Clay when he was on "American Idol."

I also think he's acquitted himself well as a candidate thus far.

***

On the fundraising front, Ellmers has raised more than $1.3 million since her last election campaign and, as of the latest report on June 30, retained $412,000 in cash on hand. She spent some money fending off a primary challenge this year.

Aiken, who entered the campaign just six months ago, has raised $686,000 and, as of June 30, had $209,000 cash on hand. The Aiken campaign has made much of the fact that he outraised Ellmers in the April-June period and that most of his money has come from individual contributors as opposed to her reliance on money from special interest and political committees. As The News & Observer reported it:

Aiken, who lives in Cary, has received almost $687,000 since he jumped into the race near the beginning of the year. Ellmers, of Dunn, has another year of fundraising to her advantage and reports receiving $1.3 million between January 2013 and June 2014.

Almost $1 million of Ellmers’ money comes from political committees and $300,000 from individuals during that year-and-a-half span. Aiken has brought in almost $590,000 from individuals — many from other states — this year, and just $21,000 from committees.

As for Ellmers' ill-chosen remarks about women voters, I think what she was trying to say is that politicians too often talk about issues only in terms of numbers in a budget or bars on a graph, and they fail to relate what they're saying to the impact of a political decision on actual people. I think, further, Ellmers was trying to say that male politicians are more guilty of this than female politicians, and that women voters — because they're more likely to be "on the ground" running family budgets and raising children — are especially interested in whether what the politicians intend will address their needs.

I'd say that's not only true, it's an important message for Republicans, who are fixated on the size of the federal debt as if "ooh, $17 trillion" has some intrinsic (scary) importance — instead of being, as it is, a figure that may or may not be too large, or is perhaps not large enough, given the size of the national economy (also about $17 trillion) and our collective need for investments in education, health, infrastructure, etc.

Also true is that campaign advertising is a cesspool of lies and half-truths. If candidates — now I'm talking about Democrats — used their ads to explain issues and the need for such investments, and made the case to voters that money spent on public programs will boost the economy, create jobs and improve lives …

In a mid-term election, half or more of eligible adults will not vote. Given what they hear from candidates, why should they?

If that's what Ellmers meant to say, I'm with her.

But actually, it sounds more like what Aiken is saying.

Here's a thought: Aiken is challenging Ellmers to debate him.

That's an excellent idea — if they debate, she can explain for herself what she means, and so can he.

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    99 days until Nov. 4 Election Day. Important elections ahead, and tomorrow it'll be 98 days.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

State shuts down Sen. Thom ("I call them Moron Mondays") Goolsby's investment biz.

Posted by on Thu, May 22, 2014 at 12:14 PM

In the "Yes, We Did See That Coming" category, Sen. Thom Goolsby, a Wilmington Republican, got whacked today by the N.C. Secretary of State's office for misleading investors. Goolsby and his investment advisory firm in Wilmington were put out of business.

Sen. Thom Goolsby
  • Sen. Thom Goolsby
As part of a Final Consent Order, Goolsby and his partner in the firm were personally stripped of their status as registered investment advisors and told not to try it again for a minimum of 10 years.

For the rest of the year, Goolsby remains in the Senate, though he is not running for re-election in November. He did, however, threaten — er, say — that he'd be seeking "other opportunities to serve in the future." His fellow Republican, Senate President Phil Berger, called Goolsby the epitome of a public servant, which has the unfortunate ring of truth these days for the all-powerful GOP. A lawyer, Goolsby had his eye on being state attorney general, I've heard.

Goolsby is remembered in these parts for his denunciation of Moral Monday participants. He called them "Moron Mondays." He perhaps thought his clients in Wilmington were morons, too, because he lured them in with a classic "can't go wrong" investment strategy worthy of P.T. Barnum.

As described by the Secretary of State:

The order was issued after Secretary of State Division of Securities investigators found that the company and the two investment advisers marketed an investment strategy they termed the “10-20-50 Plan.” This plan supposedly invested clients’ money in a way where investments losing more than 10 percent would be sold to prevent further loss, investments earning more than 20 percent would be sold to capture the gains, and no more than 50 percent of the clients’ accounts would be invested in securities at any one time.

Investigators determined that this plan frequently was not followed, resulting in greater client losses than if failing investments had been sold once they suffered a 10 percent loss. Investigators also found clients were not told their money was being invested in a way that was different than being advertised.

Here's the complete press release from the Secretary of State's office:

consentorder.pdf

***

  • Pin It
    In a consent order, Goolsby and his partner are stripped of their licenses to be investment advisers because they misled clients.

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Thursday, May 8, 2014

Two years later, Amendment One is already overdue for the scrap heap

Posted by on Thu, May 8, 2014 at 2:52 PM

Paula Womack (left) and Jane Weidig of Raleigh were married in Massachusetts in 2012. Their marriage isn't recognized in NC -- but as of today, it is recorded at the Wake County Register of Deeds office.
  • photo by Bob Geary
  • Paula Womack (right) and Jane Weidig were married in Massachusetts. Their marriage isn't recognized in NC — but as of today, it is recorded at the Wake County Register of Deeds office.

Singing "One Step Closer Now, Love Won't Be Denied," same-sex couples who were married in other states marched with supporters to the Wake County Register of Deeds office this morning to have their marital status recorded, if not yet legally recognized by the state of North Carolina.

Nine couples paid the $26 fee, and courteous clerks in the Register of Deeds office duly accepted their marriage licenses to be put on file in Wake. The clerks listened attentively, but without responding, as applicants thanked them and expressed the hope that, before too long, North Carolina will issue, as well as record, licenses for same-sex partners to be married.

The ceremonial filings came on the two-year anniversary date of Amendment One, the anti-LGBT amendment which was approved by the voters of North Carolina on May 8, 2012.

The Price-ONeils: Justine, holding daughter Prestyn, whos almost 2, and Trudy (back to the camera) have their 2010 marriage in Massachusetts recorded by the Wake County Register of Deeds office. Their pastor, the Rev. Douglas Long, watches.
  • The Price-O'Neils: Justine, holding daughter Prestyn, who's almost 2, and Trudy (back to the camera) have their 2010 marriage in Massachusetts recorded by the Wake County Register of Deeds office. The Rev. Douglas Long, their pastor, watches at left.

Which, frankly, seems like ancient history to me, given all that's occurred to move LGBT equality forward in this country in the last two years.

But I know it doesn't feel ancient history to LGBT folks who continue to be discriminated against in North Carolina despite the ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court in the Windsor case and the progress in many other states before and since Windsor.

Amendment One, an add-on to the state constitution, bars same-sex couples from being legally married in North Carolina and, if they were married in another state or DC, having their marriages recognized in North Carolina.

The anniversary date reminds us that the Republican sponsors of Amendment One put it to public referendum during a primary election in 2012, not a general election — and it was a primary election dominated by a concurrent Republican presidential primary that day. So, we lost, those of us who support equality for LGBT folks. But you know what, we've been winning every day since.

***

State bans on same-sex marriage are being struck down by federal courts all over the country, though not North Carolina's as yet. (Here's a summary of the ACLU-NC court case.) These rulings are no doubt heading for a final resolution in the Supreme Court.

Thus, Wake's Register of Deeds Laura Riddick was correct to say, when same-sex couples appeared at her door today, that state law tells her what to do: "Registers of Deeds can record out-of-state marriage licenses on request, as North Carolina law requires," Riddick said in a statement. "We also reject applications for same-sex marriage licenses, as North Carolina law also requires."

Dave Parnell (left) and Jeff Evans of Raleigh were married in Vermont. The Rev. Nancy Petty is their pastor.
  • Dave Parnell (left) and Jeff Evans of Raleigh were married in Vermont. The Rev. Nancy Petty is their pastor.
In Orange County, however, the Democratic nominee for Register of Deeds as of Tuesday night is Mark Chilton, who has pledged, if elected in November — as he doubtless will be in Orange County — to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples who ask for them. Chilton says he will abide by what he considers to be the clear ruling in Windsor that discrimination against same-sex couples violates the U.S. Constitution.

As the Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara pointed out today, there's no county residency requirement in North Carolina. Couples living anywhere in the state can apply for a marriage license from Orange County — or any county.

Beach-Ferrara is executive director of the Campaign for Southern Equality, which organized today's event. "This is how things are changing," she told the marchers today, "because we keep showing up at the counters again and again."

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Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Aiken, Cleary, win Democratic congressional primaries in Districts 2, 13

Posted by on Wed, May 7, 2014 at 1:11 AM

Whoa, the Democratic primary in U.S. House District 2 was a squeaker, mainly because Fayetteville's Toni Morris captured almost 20 percent of the votes — very unexpected. That left Clay Aiken and Keith Crisco with little margin for error as they 1) tried to reach the 40 percent threshold for victory, and 2) tried to beat each other.

With all the precincts in, Aiken finished with 40.8 percent to Crisco's 39.5, making Aiken the outright, if narrow, victor. (Crisco can call for a recount, of course.)

Aiken, if he holds onto his lead, will face Republican Congresswoman Renee Ellmers, who defeated tea-party challenger Frank Roche. Ellmers will be a heavy favorite barring a Democratic tidal wave, but Aiken has come from behind before — in his run for "American Idol" against the heavily favored Ruben Studdard. (Who, in case you missed it, backed Aiken for Congress.)

In U.S. House District 13, Brenda Cleary won the Democratic nomination easily against Viginia Conlon and Ron Sanyal. Cleary is given little chance of unseating Republican Congressman George Holding.

If you're counting at home, that's two-for-two for Indy-endorsed Democrats in districts containing part of Raleigh. For both Aiken and Cleary, however, the fact that these districts are drawn to be Republican strongholds leaves each with a mountain to climb.

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The mayor can and should point to Dix Park as a tangible accomplishment that will have lasting ramifications for Raleigh. …

by Protect Falls on McFarlane fundraiser kicks off 2015 Raleigh election year (Citizen)

As is Chavis Park, Doug. But both are relatively small compared to Umstead, NCMA and, when it happens, Dix Park.

by Bob Geary, INDY Opinion Columnist on Dix Park: The Deal is Done (Citizen)

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