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

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Monday, June 10, 2013

Who's the moron? Sen. Thom Goolsby on the protests he calls "Moron Mondays"

Posted by on Mon, Jun 10, 2013 at 3:07 PM

He's keen to start executing people again in NC, and he sneers at the concept of racial justice. In fact, sneering at black people seems like it's a specialty of state Sen. Thom Goolsby:


Click on the link within the tweet to read it all.

Here's an excerpt:

The circus came to the State Capitol this week, complete with clowns, a carnival barker and a sideshow. The “Reverend” Barber was decked out like a prelate of the Church of Rome (no insult is meant to Catholics), complete with stole and cassock. All he was missing was a miter and the ensemble would have been complete.

Several hundred people — mostly white, angry, aged former hippies — appeared and screeched into microphones, talked about solidarity and chanted diatribes. It was “liberal theater” at its best. Just like having a honey bun and double espresso for breakfast, the impact of it all left the participants jittery and empty in the end.

Never short on audacity, the Loony Left actually named their gathering “Moral Monday.” Between the screaming, foot stomping and disjointed speeches, it appeared more like “Moron Monday.” The gathering was supposed to influence legislators. However, no one thought to bring out any senate or house member from either party.

Goolsby is wrong, of course, to say no other legislators were present for the protest. I recall seeing several, including Mike Woodard, Pricey Harrison and Earline Parmley, and I'm sure there were others.

But why let the facts stand in the way of a uninformed diatribe?

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    Want to know how a typical NC Republican state senator thinks? (Irony alert re: "thinks.")

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Friday, May 24, 2013

Scenes from Moral Monday at the General Assembly: June 3 should be the biggest yet

Posted by on Fri, May 24, 2013 at 11:21 AM

The General Assembly isn't in session on Memorial Day — next Monday — so no "Moral Monday" protest is planned. The next one, on Monday, June 3, is shaping up as the biggest yet. A "Mega-Moral Monday," if you will. As the poisonous policies of the Republican legislature are thrown at us, people are rising up in righteous outrage, using the great tool of nonviolent civil disobedience to call these politicians to account.

Do read Will Huntsberry's account of the protest four days ago. And if you wonder what this all looks like, the NAACP has an excellent videographer helping out. Here's the latest, a 9:00 overview:

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    As the marchers say: "Show me what democracy looks like / This is what democracy looks like."

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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

[Kicking can / Update X 2] House not ready to renege on Dix Park lease just yet

Posted by on Wed, May 22, 2013 at 4:47 PM

[Update x 2, 4 p.m. Wednesday] The House Judiciary Committee approved a substitute bill for Senate Bill 334 and sent it to the House floor. Does it renege on the state's lease with Raleigh? No and yes. It says the lease is invalid, but takes no action to dissolve it for a year. Does it allow Raleigh to proceed with planning for Dix Park? Yes and no. Raleigh is invited to negotiate with the state through April, 2014 — with all issues on the table. Rep. Justin Burr, who spoke for the bill, repeatedly suggested that rather than lease Dix from the state, Raleigh would be better served by acquiring it via an "installment sale." That's certainly true, depending of course on the price.

[I think the important takeaway from what happened today is that Art Pope was in the committee room and speaking for Gov. McCrory. So save Pope a seat on your park planning committee. Raleigh isn't conceding that its lease with the state is invalid — Mayor Nancy McFarlane and City Attorney Tom McCormick were clear that they consider it to be valid, because it is valid — but face it, if the state wants to dissolve/condemn that lease, it can't be stopped from doing so.

[Given that reality, the House version of SB 334 (assuming it passes the House and then — a minor if — the Senate) will give Raleigh/McFarlane and McCrory/Pope a year to see if they can thrash out a mutually acceptable plan to turn Dix into a destination park over time, perhaps with the eventual addition of the Gov. Morehead School for the Blind property. Adding some or all of the Gov. Morehead land — it's 40 acres, I was told — would allow Dix Park to link to Pullen Park via a pedestrian bridge or a trolley over Western Boulevard.

[I don't know that the two sides will be able to reach a deal in a year, frankly. There are a whole lot of moving parts to this negotiation. On the other hand, if both sides are serious — and Pope had his serious "I'm Art Pope" face on today, and you know McFarlane is serious — there's no insurmountable obstacle in their path, just a great many details that must be fitted together. Also, time is on their side ... in the sense that a great park evolves over many, many years, so what's allowed to be on Dix Hill today (i.e., the Department of Health and Human Services) is not necessarily going to be there 20, 50 or 100 years from today. As long as no one insists that something stupid, like leaving DHHS up there, also be permanent, a deal can certainly be envisioned.

[Update, noon Wednesday] WRAL has a story up in advance of the meeting. Sounds like the House leaders have decided to kick the can down the road a year — not tear up the lease just yet, but also not put a deal together with the city just yet. The city "blessed" this? More likely they've taken a vow of silence with a gun to their heads. The real stinker in this story would seem to be any language in the new bill that would lock both sides — i.e., the park proprietors — into leaving DHHS on Dix Hill indefinitely. Hard to have a great park when a state office complex is occupying the high ground — and you have no power to move them, ever. More later.]

A heads-up: Senate Bill 334, condemning the state's lease with Raleigh for the 325-acre Dorothea Dix tract, passed the Senate seven weeks ago but hasn't seen the light of day in the House — until now. The House Judiciary Committee has slated it for consideration tomorrow after the full House adjourns its session.

When that will be is unknown. Today's House session began at 2 p.m. There's no start time yet for the session tomorrow, nor any indication of how long it will go. Tomorrow's session is now set to begin at 1:15 p.m. with what looks like a light agenda. The Judiciary Committee will begin 15 minutes after the House adjourns.

Usually, post-session committee meetings are quickies, designed to move a bill speedily and without much chance for a big public turnout. It's possible the committee intends to amend the bill before sending it on, either to the floor or to another committee. We'll see.

The meeting room for tomorrow is set: 544 in the Legislative Office Building, the one behind the Legislative Building.


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    Did you have Art Pope on your Dix Park planning committee? You do now.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

[Updated x 2: Another 'Moral Monday' next week: AP] Progressives promising Monday protests while General Assembly's in session

Posted by on Thu, May 9, 2013 at 4:32 PM

[Update x 2, Thursday, May 9: The AP is reporting that next Monday will be another "Moral Monday" at the General Assembly, with non-violent civil disobedience again in the offing.]

[Update, Tuesday, May 7: The NAACP called for a candlelight vigil and protest rally tonight outside the Legislative Building. Because of predicted bad weather, they've moved to Martin St. Baptist Church, 1001 E. Martin St., Raleigh. Start time is the same, 7 p.m. Details on the NC NAACP website.]

The original post from Friday is below —

On Monday, 17 protesters were arrested at the General Assembly. On Wednesday, the total rose to 22 as five students were arrested. It's only the beginning.

Rev. William Barber (center with group today at Martin Street Baptist Church
  • photo by Bob Geary
  • Rev. William Barber (center with group today at Martin Street Baptist Church
A progressive coalition headed by state NAACP President William Barber, and which includes students, college faculty, citizen activists and clergy, announced today that they'll conduct Monday pray-ins while the the General Assembly remains in session — a period that is expected to extend through May and June, at least.

"We will not stop," Barber said. "We did not start to stop." He accused legislative leaders of using their power to hurt "the least of these" — the poor and those in need.

Barber called on the public to join these demonstrations and to "explore" whether they want to take the next step and engage in non-violent civil disobedience — in other words, be a part of the mass rallies, and perhaps be among those who are willing to be arrested.

The first such "Moral Monday" event will be May 6 — next Monday — with participants gathering first at 4 p.m. at the Davie Street Presbyterian Church in downtown Raleigh, adjacent to Moore Square on the corner of E. Davie and S. Person streets. One reason for the meeting at the church is to discuss how the General Assembly's police force is responding to the protests and what actions are likely to trigger an arrest.

Barber said state capitals have become the new battleground between progressive forces which have been on the rise for 50 years — the 50th anniversary of the Birmingham, Alabama "Children's Crusade" of 1963 was this week — and reactionary leaders determined to roll back the last half-century's social and civil rights gains.

Two years ago, Madison, Wisconsin was ground zero in this battle for the states. This year, it's Raleigh, North Carolina, where the election of a Republican governor along with veto-proof Republican majorities in both houses of the General Assembly have combined to unleash a torrent of right-wing legislation.

Barber, speaking this morning to supporters and the media at Martin Street Baptist Church in Raleigh, reminded everyone that the NAACP wrote to McCrory in December asking for a chance to work with the governor. Similarly, he said, members have been to the General Assembly trying to meet with House Speaker Thom Tillis, but he had no time for them. Barber accused McCrory, Tillis and Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger of being the "George Wallaces of the 21st century," standing in the schoolhouse door against progress.

"it's got to stop somewhere, and [the public] has to rise up and say something," said the Rev. Anthony Spearman, an NAACP leader from Hickory.

Tim Tyson, a Duke University Divinity School professor-historian, said at least three notable progressive scholars from Duke and UNC-Chapel Hill have told him they'll be at the rally May 6 and are willing to be arrested. Other scholars may join in, Tyson said.

An unknown to me, and to everyone I spoke to in the group this morning, is whether the General Assembly's cops, who take their cues from Tillis and Berger, will allow demonstrators into the building next week — as they did this past Monday — and arrest them only if they step over some line that the cops announce on the spot ... or will they repeat what they did Wednesday, when they arrested student demonstrators for attempting to enter the building?

Barber said that preventing citizens from entering the Legislative Building may well be unconstitutional, especially since those arrested on Monday are only accused, not convicted, of the charges against them. "They may stop us at the door," he conceded. "But that doesn't matter. We're still going."

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    Public asked to join pray-ins, be arrested or support those who are. Next one: Monday, May 13.

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Thursday, May 2, 2013

UNC-CH senior arrested at the General Assembly: "I cannot in good conscience stand idly by"

Posted by on Thu, May 2, 2013 at 11:06 AM

Legislatures cops arresting Zaina Alsous (left, in custody) after she crossed the police line blocking entrance to the General Assembly yesterday. She was one of five students arrested during the NC Student Power Union demonstration.
  • photo by Bob Geary
  • Legislature's cops arresting Zaina Alsous (left, in custody) after she crossed the police line blocking entrance to the General Assembly yesterday. She was one of five students arrested during the NC Student Power Union demonstration.

Five UNC system students, members of the NC Student Power Union, were arrested at the General Assembly yesterday. They were part of a larger demonstration of about 100 students and others in the front of the General Assembly building, the purpose of which is explained in the statement released this morning by NCSPU.

When the protesters arrived on West Jones Street, police formed a line across the front of the building. Since the building is open to the public, it's unclear to me what authority they were invoking to keep selected people out. That said, when five of the protesters crossed through the police line, they were arrested. Others who were not part of the protest simply went around the line and entered the building freely. It suggests to me that the police were barring people from entry based on their political beliefs, which would seem to be a pretty clear First Amendment violation.

One of the students arrested, UNC-Chapel Hill senior Zaina Alsous, made a video prior to the demonstration explaining why she intended to engage in an act of civil disobedience. It's about 2:00 long — worth a look.

***

Here's what the police line looked like before the protesters crossed it —

Part of the police line in front of the General Assembly as the NC Student Power Union protest began. Raleigh police are in the blue uniforms. The General Assembly has its own police force -- theyre in the gray uniforms or in plain clothes.
  • photo by Bob Geary
  • Part of the police line in front of the General Assembly as the NC Student Power Union protest began. Raleigh police are in the blue uniforms. The General Assembly has its own police force — they're in the gray uniforms or in plain clothes.

And the statement from the NCSPU —

Raleigh, NC — Yesterday, on May Day, the NC Student Power Union mobilized over 350 students from 10 colleges from around the state to participate in a demonstration against the legislature's regressive agenda.

Students began their day with a rally at the NCSU Bell Tower and then marched to the Civitas Institute, a far-right think tank funded by multimillionaire and Deputy State Budget Director Art Pope. The demonstration raised opposition to the avalanche of backwards policies being advanced by legislators. They joined a broader coalition of workers, immigrant rights, and many other community organizations for a march from Moore Square Park to the NC legislature.

When the march arrived at Jones Street, students, young people, and others took over the street, and five sat down with a banner that read “We Demand a Future! Stop budget cuts! Stop racist voter laws! Stop attacks on workers!”

During the street occupation that lasted for nearly an hour, leaders of the Congressional Black Caucus, the NC NAACP, the AFL-CIO, and the Southern Workers Assembly, among others, delivered messages of support and solidarity as students spoke out against the attacks.

Demonstrators then attempted to bring their demands for justice into the legislature and five were arrested — Jessica Injejikian (UNC Charlotte), Tristan Munchel and Dhruv Pathak (UNC Greensboro), and Zaina Alsous and Carissa Morrison (UNC Chapel Hill). All 5 were charged with disorderly conduct, and Morrison and Pathak were additionally charged with misdemeanor assault on a government official.

“We stand behind these 5 students who took a bold and powerful action today and put their bodies on the line to stop the attacks on the people of NC,” said Juan Miranda, a student at UNCG. “Our hope is that many others are inspired to join the fight back against these forces from destroying our state and taking us backwards. We will fight these charges to the end. The fact that these students were arrested simply for peacefully trying to enter and bring their demands into the 'People's House' is absurd, and the additional charges that Morrison and Pathak received are entirely baseless.”

In a statement, Pathak explained why he participated in civil disobedience. “Education should be affordable and accessible to all students. The right wing legislature and current budget proposal will make it harder for students to get into school and stay in school. My family struggles with finances everyday and has trouble making ends meet. The last thing I need is a multimillionaire writing the state budget who wants to take away my financial aid...That's why I took this action today.”

Students have vowed that they will be back to continue demonstrations throughout the summer with other organizations, and as long as is needed.

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    Zaina Alsous: I'm the daughter of immigrants and the product of educational opportunities now under siege in the the General Assembly.

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Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Rep. Deborah Ross to TTA, former Rep. Grier Martin on deck

Posted by on Wed, May 1, 2013 at 1:41 PM

It's one good progressive out, another ready to step back in: State Rep. Deborah Ross, D-Wake, is leaving the General Assembly to be general counsel at Triangle Transit. Former Rep. Grier Martin, D-Wake, who was moved ("double-bunked") into the same Wake County district with Ross by the Republicans and stepped aside to let her stay in office, is willing to return — very willing, according to his Twitter account:


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    Musical progressive politicians' legislative chairs: Would you want to be in the General Assembly nowadays?

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Thursday, April 25, 2013

[Updated] Losing Jamie Hahn: Raleigh and the power of passionate people

Posted by on Thu, Apr 25, 2013 at 3:53 PM

Jamie and Nation Hahn (left and center) at an Obama rally last year
  • Photo by Gerda Stein
  • Jamie and Nation Hahn (left and center; the person at right is unidentified their friend David Blair) at an Obama rally last year

[Update, Friday, 11 a.m.: Visitation tonight at Pullen Baptist has been extended to accommodate an expected large turnout. The time is now 5-8 p.m. Also, Jamie was on the board of the Hope Center at Pullen, a ministry aimed at aiding the homeless, and she was helping to organize their annual fundraising dinner Sunday night. The family has established a memorial fund for the Hope Center and asks that, in lieu of flowers, folks contribute money to the fund. Designate the contributions to the "Raising Hope Dinner." Separate from that, friends are raising money to help the Hahn family pay for medical expenses from this tragedy via a YouCaring.com website. Jamie's obituary is here.]

My original post from yesterday follows:

It's a tribute to Jamie Hahn and to Nation Hahn how many people in Raleigh are grieving her death. I just saw, on social media, that some folks are raising money to help pay the medical bills by making RaleighNation t-shirts. (And now they've added JamieNation t-shirts.)

Jamie and Nation are the social media—they epitomize its promise and very best possibilities—so this strikes an exact right note. Another thing: Will Hardison, who signed the t-shirt pitch, knows Nation only slightly and I gather from what he wrote that he didn’t know Jamie; but he clearly was touched by them, and by the fact that so many others in Raleigh were touched by them. That’s how the world’s supposed to work, yes?

As I read his piece, I heard the Joni Mitchell song in my head: Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone?

I say that for myself. Others knew what they had with Jamie and still have with Nation. Gary Pearce, who worked with them, said it well on his blog yesterday:

“Together, Jamie and Nation had a unique quality that people responded to. They liked people. Their home was a familiar gathering place. People had fun.

Jamie liked politics, and she was good at it. She exemplified all that is good in politics.”

Funeral services are Saturday at 11 a.m. at Pullen Memorial Baptist Church, their home church, 1801 Hillsborough St. in Raleigh. There's visitation at the church Friday evening, 6-8.

***

I knew Jamie to say hello and chat about politics. She was always smiling, always welcoming, and not because we were close; it was because—I realize now—that’s the way she was with everyone. I know Nation better, and he’s helped me connect to some stories. We’re friends, but I wouldn’t have said we were close friends before. Only in this tragedy do I register what I knew before, had I been more aware, that Nation makes close friends easily—Jamie was his soul mate in that—and they have many, many of them, young and old. They never met a stranger.

The news that Jamie was attacked and critically injured — and that Nation was injured — just rocked me when I learned of it Tuesday morning. The violence of the attack … against two of the nicest, most positive people you could imagine. Why would anyone … ?

But there’s never a good answer to questions like that. I was grateful for the prayer service at Pullen Baptist Church that evening and for the Rev. Nancy Petty, as I always am. I went to WakeMed later and was one of a hundred or more people who came to the hospital over the course of the night until Jamie died just before 2 a.m. I was grateful to be there, too, and for the fact that Nation welcomed our desire to be part of a community-family supporting him—while he supported us.

Politics can be a nasty business. It can also be an uplifting, wonderful one. At its best, it’s about making connections, building networks, and gathering power, not for power’s sake and certainly not for self-advancement, but for the chance to make the world a better place and help people to find their way in it. Especially people in need.

If this sounds trite, it’s only because ours is a cynical time and we’ve seen so many people grasp for political power only to do the wrong things with it—and so few do right.

Jamie and Nation are two who're in it to do right. Were in it? No, she’s still in it, through him.

And among that too-small group of idealists, Jamie and Nation are two who were blessed with a rare combination of talent, warmth, insight and energy—and blessed with each other.

They’re naturals at connecting to people, and at helping people connect to one another, which is why politics so suited and the tools of the social media fit so well in their hands: Nation, the director of engagement at New Kind, the consulting firm, and Jamie, the fundraiser.

They're helpers. You didn't really even need to ask.

***

And, of course, they’re under 30. Knowing that they’d be on the job helped me—I'm twice their age—believe the future could be better, and that I could look forward in my declining years to watching them in their prime, rising to the challenges my generation is leaving behind.

I know now, I was counting on getting to know them better.

But Jamie's gone.

So I’m grieving for Nation, for myself and, yes, it's a big loss for Raleigh.

Nation will go forward, of that I have no doubt. He’ll draw on Jamie’s memory. He’ll draw on us, and we'll need to be there for him. As the New Kind slogan says, "Nothing is more powerful than a community of passionate people."

A RaleighNation, indeed.

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    What she meant, and means, to our Raleigh Nation.

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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Raleigh cyclists, ho! BikeRaleigh's spring events 4 you

Posted by on Wed, Apr 17, 2013 at 3:36 PM

Nice day to think about fun rides for cyclists — check the link below for a list.


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    Nice day to think about fun rides on your bicycle. A list of upcoming events sponsored by BikeRaleigh.

Breaking: Raleigh City Manager Allen out on 6-2 City Council vote

Posted by on Wed, Apr 17, 2013 at 10:07 AM

The City Council just met in special session and voted to end the tenure of City Manager Russell Allen effective July 1. The vote was 6-2. Mayor Nancy McFarlane said Allen's been a good manager for Raleigh but after more than a decade in that job, someone with fresh ideas and a different approach to the job is needed.

The meeting was over in a minute following the voice vote. Watching this online, I heard Councilor Mary-Ann Baldwin's voice come through as one of the no votes. Not sure who cast the other one. [Update: Councilor Eugene Weeks and Baldwin were the dissenting votes. Voting to dismiss: McFarlane and Councilors Russ Stephenson, Randy Stagner, John Odom and — by phone — Bonner Gaylord and Thomas Crowder.]

The Council majority issued a statement:

Today, the Raleigh City Council voted not to renew City Manager J. Russell Allen’s employment contract.

The Council issued the following statement in making the announcement. “He has been a great service to our city, and we appreciate all he has done to help Raleigh become an award-winning municipality. Just as Raleigh has grown and changed, so have the skills needed to manage and grow the city.

“We are excited and look forward to the new possibilities and insight that a new city manager will bring us, and we are grateful for all the work Russell has done as well. Russell has agreed to stay through July 1 and we appreciate his willingness to work with us on an orderly transition.”

Allen's been in the job 12 years. He issued a short statement, per WRAL:

“I am honored and proud to have been the city manager of Raleigh for the last 12 years. I have always strived to make this a better city and have loved doing so. I have had the opportunity to work with some of the most professional, caring and dedicated City employees. They represent the heart and strength of our City organization. I also appreciate the strong partnerships we have forged with numerous public and private organizations throughout the city, county and region. Raleigh has a very engaged citizenry and I hope they feel that I have been respectful, accessible and responsive. Raleigh is one of the most successful cities in the country and is poised for even greater achievements. As much as I will miss this job, I am thankful for the experiences and confident in the City’s future.

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    After 12 years at the helm of Raleigh city government, Russell Allen will be out of his job at the end of June.

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Friday, April 12, 2013

Why are they converging on Raleigh ... and when?

Posted by on Fri, Apr 12, 2013 at 11:38 AM

Answer: Climate Convergence on Raleigh is coming next weekend, April 20-21. It's a major coming-together of the growing network of people and groups working on climate change and related issues (e.g., fracking) in North Carolina.

If you've been looking for a chance to link up with this movement and with 350.org, the great grassroots organization that is spreading not just across the U.S. but the world, here it is. All the events are free, and you can take in as much or as little as you want.

There's a schedule on the website, but it needs to be fleshed out with the names of all the speakers — and the poets, musicians and other creative folks who are coming for the purpose of making this a memorable and compelling event. It's quite a list. More next week as it's finalized.

***

CCR 2013 — it's planned as a first annual event — is indeed timed to coincide with Earth Day.

Most of the CCR events/discussions will be at the Church of the Good Shepherd, 125 Hillsborough St. in downtown Raleigh ... but with time out on Saturday to take advantage of the Celebrate Earth activities at the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences.

Events on Sunday will feature a "bicycling in" and an outdoor rally on Halifax Mall, behind the Legislative Building in Raleigh, including a planned encircling of the Legislative Building itself.

(Maybe, if enough people come out, we can lift it off the ground and send it — well, you know.)

The mission is to "inspire, educate and issue a big call to action" on the issue of climate change:

The Climate Convergence on Raleigh (CCR) will be a critical mass event of concerned citizens and organizations from across North Carolina that are fed up with inaction. We will rally, march, and meet with our legislators that have the responsibility of charting the course of our future. We must take it upon ourselves to enact the political changes necessary to avert further climate devastation.

I spoke with one of the organizers, Karen Bearden, the other day, and I'll be writing about this next week for the Indy from her perspective as well as my own. My challenge will be to capture her passion for this cause and channel it — because whatever happens in Raleigh this year and next year and in the next decade on all the issues we care about, if our country doesn't get out in front on the climate change issue, we could be facing an existential catastrophe.

And, as progressives well know, our country won't get out in front until the public gets in front and drags our policymakers, corporate chieftains and investment bankers off their rears. Where their wallets are, I mean.

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    Climate Convergence on Raleigh is a major coming-together of the people and groups in North Carolina rising to address the climate change crisis.

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Simply written, yet captures the no nonsense genuine public servant we just lost. Mr. Crowder was a remarkable man, whose …

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