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.
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.
Jule Shanklin, Peggy Misch and Christina Cowger (in the picture below, from right to left) were part of the anti-Gitmo protest contingent at the federal building on New Bern Avenue in Raleigh today. Did you know that 80-some prisoners at Guantanamo have been "cleared for release" — i.e., they've never been charged with anything, because there's no evidence they were ever more than in the wrong place at the wrong time in the "War on Terror" — yet they continue to be held more than a decade later.
Forgotten and desperate, they're on a hunger strike which is now in its 6th week.
Today, in 20 cities including Raleigh, protesters sought to bring this outrage to public attention.
Jule Shanklin @ anti-Gitmo protest in Raleigh today. U.S. holds prisoners for years w/o charges.#closeGitmo @theccr twitter.com/rjgeary/status…
— Bob Geary (@rjgeary) April 11, 2013
Here's a note about the actions underway from the Center for Constitutional Rights:
Join CCR and our partners TOMORROW, April 11th, for an Emergency Day of Action to Close Guantánamo & End Indefinite Detention! Most of the men detained have been on a hunger strike for more than two months and some are in critical condition. After 11 years of indefinite detention, these men are protesting in the only method available to them. We need YOU to protest too! One of CCR’s legal workers just returned from visiting our clients in Guantánamo, and he reports that the situation is the worst he’s ever seen it. The time is now to raise your voice and demand that the Obama administration immediately address the causes of the hunger strike and fulfill its promise to close Guantánamo.
1. Join our events in 20 cities across the US:
New York, NY
Saratoga Springs, NY
San Francisco, CA
New Haven, CT
Los Angeles, CA
South Bend, IA
2. Call the White House at 202.456.1111 and tell President Obama to keep his promise to close Guantánamo.
3. Twitter Storm: President @BarackObama @WhiteHouse Keep your promise: #closegitmo #GitmoHungerStrike
4. If you have a Twitter account, take a picture of your action and tweet it using the hashtag #closeGitmo. Include @theCCR in your tweet and we’ll re-tweet you! Or email us your photo at closegitmo@CCRjustice.org
5. Watch and share this video of CCR Attorney Pardiss Kebriaei on All In with Chris Hayes: http://video.msnbc.msn.com/all-in-/51473726#51447813
6. See more actions beyond April 11th at CCR’s Guantánamo Hunger Strike page http://ccrjustice.org/get-involved/action/GTMOHungerStrike2013
7. Want to support this work further? Make a gift at www.CCRjustice.org/donate.
The time is now to raise your voice and help us build political pressure to end the immense suffering at Guantánamo and to shut the prison down. On behalf of our clients, who have suffered for too long, we thank you.
Center for Constitutional Rights
[Update, 10:30 a.m. Dix Park supporters are gathering on the site this afternoon at 5. See below for more.]
Wow, if there was any question about whether the Wake County Board of Commissioners — the Republican-led board of commissioners — were representing their constituents or their political party by coming out against the Dix Park plan, it's answered in the poll released today by Public Policy Polling.
They're sure not representing their constituents:
Republican state senators have passed a bill to invalidate the City of Raleigh’s lease for the former Dorothea Dix campus, but at least in Wake County, the main beneficiary of the proposed park, voters are strongly opposed to this bill.
PPP's statement goes on:
By roughly 2:1 margins, Wake voters want the park (52% support, 27% oppose), think the state should honor the lease (57-27), want the governor to veto the bill if it reaches his desk (54-27), and are less inclined to support the re-election of a legislator who votes for the bill (23% more inclined, 49% less inclined). By a smaller but still double-digit margin (50-38), voters also think throwing the lease out will harm the state’s business reputation.
Almost two-thirds (63%) of the county’s voters say they are very aware of the plan to replace the former hospital site with a destination park. Among these voters, the margins are even stronger, with 63% supporting the park, 65% saying the state should honor the contract, 62% saying Gov. McCrory should veto the bill, 54% saying the General Assembly’s action will hurt the business climate, and 56% less inclined to vote for an anti-park legislator.
Further, Republican lawmakers are out of step with their own voters. As political as they have made this issue, there is far less polarization on the park than on most issues on which PPP polls. Rank-and-file GOP voters in Wake County support the park by a six-point margin, think the state should honor the contract by 11 points, think their governor should veto the bill by 16, and are less inclined to support an anti-park candidate by five. 39% of them think it will be a detriment to our ability to attract business to the area.
The poll was paid for by Dix306, an advocacy group for the park. But the questions are straightforward. Are Wake County voters aware of the plan? Yes, they are — overwhelmingly so. Do they support it? Yes, 2-to-1. Should the state honor its lease with Raleigh or tear it up? Honor it.
Here's the full poll, with the questions and breakdowns of voters by party etc. along with a press release from Dix306 and Friends of Dorothea Dix Park.
It's a "flash" gathering today on Dix Hill, so says Bill Padgett of Dix306. Here's the location:
"We will be on the great hill overlooking the city. The hospital (McBride building) will be to our South and Western Blvd just below us to the North."
From Lake Wheeler Drive enter at Umstead Drive and about 300 yards on the right, we will be gathering.
From Western Boulevard turn onto Boylan Avenue and immediately as you are going up the hill on the Dix property, you can park at the lower parking (greenway/gazebo) by turning left immediately on Tate. If that is full you can drive up the hill, turn left at the stop sign at Umstead Drive and at the next intersection parking will be off to your right.
Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane began today's budget preview session with news about District D Councilor Thomas Crowder: He's been diagnosed with testicular cancer and will be enduring chemotherapy treatments over the next few weeks. His prognosis is good for a full recovery. He's out of action today and for tomorrow's regular Council meeting.
I spoke with Crowder earlier. He said he was hospitalized during the first round of chemo but the rest will be on an outpatient basis. His doctors told him he'll need to dial back his work through June, but he can expect to be back at full strength July 1. He's up for re-election this fall with the rest of the Council. He will be running again for a sixth two-year term, he said. First elected in 2003, Crowder is the Council's senior member and its most outspoken proponent of neighborhood-friendly development and public transportation.
First up, there's a strategy meeting set for 6 p.m. next Tuesday, April 2 at Pullen Memorial Baptist Church in Raleigh — 1801 Hillsborough St. If you are among those outraged by what's going on in the General Assembly these days, and especially with the new voter-suppression legislation — this will be the NAACP and allied social justice groups and individuals coming together to make some plans.
Then, the following Tuesday, April 9, is a day for mass lobbying at the General Assembly. The same people and groups will gather at 9 a.m. at First Baptist Church, 101 S. Wilmington St., before walking to the Legislative Building 30-45 minutes later.
Now for that Good Friday note.
I was at Duke yesterday for the "Save Our State" meeting hosted by Scholars for a Progressive North Carolina. I'll be touching on what was said there in some form next week in the Indy; for now, I'm recalling two things.
One, the Republican meme that everything in North Carolina was/is "broken" and must therefore be fixed by the GOP is wrong, but is a very smart effort by the other side to dismiss a half-century of progress in our state catalyzed by liberal and moderate Democratic policies.
So, things look pretty hopeless for the progressive side right now. But one message from "Save Our State" was, this is a long fight that is never going to be over, but it's one in which we need to engage believing that we must, can and will win.
The second key from "Save Our State" was offered by Dr. Willie Jennings, a Baptist minister and associate professor at Duke Divinity School. Jennings observed that the other side frames its reactionary messages in Biblical language and cadences that too many on the progressive side, because we don't read the Bible or go to church, don't recognize when we hear them.
Jennings urged progressives to understand how deeply rooted religious beliefs are in our state. Learn about religion, he urged. Learn to speak in terms that touch a spiritual chord with people of faith. Above all, learn to take people's faith, even if you don't share it, "with the utmost respect and seriousness."
This morning, the NAACP, Democracy NC and other groups gathered folks at Pullen Baptist for a press conference to denounce the voter-suppression legislation introduced in the General Assembly this week by Republican leaders. (If you're not familiar with it, my post yesterday can serve as a starting point.)
The Rev. William Barber, the state NAACP president, and other speakers denounced this legislation as corrupt, undemocratic and unconstitutional. It's all of that.
Caesar, he said, was sure that he'd won the battle with the Christians when Jesus was crucified and buried. Things looked pretty hopeless for the Christian side that day. Two days later, their cause was victorious.
The voting rights won by Americans who bled in the '60s are once again being crucified, Barber said. But history shows — he went on with that great smile of his — "that the more you push people down, the more they rise up."
Bloody Sunday in Selma, Alabama showed that. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 followed swiftly after its champions were given a horrible beating.
Soo, too, the Christian story of Easter, Barber said. It shows, "if you push justice down, it gets up and resurrects itself!"
The death of the progressive movement in North Carolina is widely reported. Its resurrection, as it comes, will strike that spiritual chord.
The bill Chris Fitzsimon is talking about in the tweet below is House Bill 451, introduced yesterday by Rep. Edgar Starnes, a Republican from Hickory. (Democracy NC calls it the "Screw the Voter Act of 2013" — like!) As brazen as so much of what the Republicans have been doing is, this legislation is quite possibly the worst example of their partisan hackery yet. That is, unlike their Voter ID stuff, they can't even pretend that this bill has any public benefit. Its purpose is to reduce the number of Democratic voters — who've flocked to the early-voting sites and Sunday voting — while making it easier to vote by absentee ballot, a method more Republicans use.
Chris nails it:
Why would we want to shorten the length of time people have to vote or not allow people to cast their ballots on Sunday, unless we prefer fewer people show up at the polls?
When did that become a legitimate policy position, that we want fewer people to decide elections? The same question applies to Starnes’ plan to abolish straight-ticket voting. Some people prefer to support all the candidates of one party. Why should we make it more difficult for them to do that?
Couldn't have said it better — so I suggest you read his full piece:
The Fitzsimon File: The most conspicuous partisan power play - ow.ly/jxMYw #ncga #ncpol #vote #ncgov
— NC Policy Watch (@NCPolicyWatch) March 28, 2013
And from Democracy NC:
This is actually a bill to Promote Voter Fraud! House Bill 451 creates new barriers to Early Voting, which will put more pressure on Election Day and cause longer lines, more hassles, and more mistakes. But it makes it easier to vote using mail-in absentee ballots, which is actually the way most voter fraud is committed! Republicans are ready to manipulate the election process in this sick way because they think they gain an advantage with more mail-in voting and less Early Voting.
This same bill also eliminates the public financing program for judges and makes all judicial elections partisan rather than nonpartisan. It repeals Same Day Registration, slices a week off Early Voting, bans Sunday voting during Early Voting, and eliminates straight-party voting. Sick, very sick.
As expected, Senate Republicans this morning started the wheels in motion to tear up the state's lease with the City of Raleigh for the Dorothea Dix tract because, the GOP legislators said, former Gov. Perdue shouldn't have signed it. Perdue, as is required for contracts involving state land, won the approval of the Council of State before finalizing the lease.
By voice vote, the Republicans on the Senate Appropriations Committee approved Senate Bill 334 and sent it to the full Senate, out-shouting the opposition Democrats. The bill is a condemnation measure to terminate the lease and recapture the land.
The idea that a valid state contract can be discarded by the General Assembly because legislators don't like its terms — or the governor who negotiated them — struck Senate Minority Leader Martin Nesbitt as "insane."
Yet the Republicans think anything done before they took over is fair game, Nesbitt said, from taking land away from municipalities to yanking Charlotte's airport away from Charlotte. "The people of this state," he said, "have a right to a little continuity of government."
Sarcastically, Nesbitt put the room on notice that any deals signed by Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican, will be considered "bogus and void" by the Democrats when they regain control of the legislature.
Sen. Tommy Tucker, R-Union, assured one and all that the Republicans will be happy to renegotiate with Raleigh, though for only part of the 325-acre Dix tract, not all of it, and for a much higher price.
"You should hear yourselves saying that," Capitol Broadcasting Co. CEO Jim Goodmon told them moments later. "There’s no business person in the state who would agree with what you’re doing."
Goodmon, a member of the Dix Visionaries, one of the groups supporting Raleigh's effort to create a destination park on the Dix tract, was the only member of the public given a chance to speak prior to the committee vote. He ripped the Republicans for trying to back out of a negotiated lease.
"What lease are we going to not do next?" Goodmon wondered. "This doesn't make sense, and it's not honorable."
If the General Assembly can unilaterally void the current lease with Raleigh, Goodmon asked, what assurance would Raleigh have that, if it did renegotiate, a new deal wouldn't also be tossed by a future legislature?
Someone should tell MetLife, Goodmon argued, that its deal with the state could be in jeopardy. MetLife is moving some 2,500 jobs to Charlotte and Cary in return for promised tax incentives of more than $90 million — money Gov. McCrory has promised will be paid in future years as the jobs materialize.
"Nobody will trust doing business with the state," Goodmon said, if the General Assembly passes SB-334.
Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane was in the committee room along with other city officials trying to protect their lease. McFarlane and a unanimous City Council appear to be prepared to go to court should the bill be enacted, either to argue that the contract must be honored or, if it isn't, to claim damages.
Goodmon, whose company is a major economic developer in Durham, said the Dix tract "is extremely valuable" to Raleigh and a jury will decide what the city is owed if the state's condemnation power is upheld.
But the major damage will be to the state, he argued. Raleigh will pay rent on the land, and over time will invest — his guess — $100 million to $125 million developing the state's property as a destination park and a major economic development draw for the city, the region and all of North Carolina.
"You've got to understand how we feel on the other side of this lease," Goodmon concluded. "What I've said is perfectly legitimate ... and it's a matter of honor, we don't break leases."
The committee meeting ended on a combative note as Sen. Tommy Apodaca, a Republican from Buncombe County, objected to being "intimidated by the press."
He meant Goodmon, whose company owns WRAL and other media properties.
"I will not be threatened," Apodaca warned. "That is wrong."
"What?" Goodmon shot back. "I can't speak because of where I work?"
"I felt threatened by you, sir," Apodaca answered. His microphone wasn't on, however, and the chair quickly cut him off and gaveled the meeting to a close.
The Wake County legislative delegation is meeting Monday at 4 pm in the General Assembly building on the first floor. It's an open forum and a chance to take a stand — with the county's Republican and Democratic legislators listening — on the inflamed issues surrounding the Wake school system and Dix Park.
Both the Great Schools in Wake coalition and Friends of Dorothea Dix Park have issued alerts asking their members and supporters to show up en masse — and, for the Dix Park crowd, wearing green.
Word of advice: The meeting room at the General Assembly is small-ish and a large crowd is likely. I.e., get there early if you want a seat.
However, a big crowd spilling into the hallways will send a message.
If you want to speak, here's the brief from GSIW:
Speakers must register by email to email@example.com or telephone to 919 715-6400 no later than 11:00 am, Monday, March 25, 2013. Please provide the name of the presenter and the topic to be discussed.
Remarks will be limited to 2 to 3 minutes, with the time being dependent upon the number of speakers registered. If you plan to bring handouts, please bring at least 25 copies.
QUESTIONS? Call Candy Finley, Legislative Assistant (919 715-6400) with any questions.
On the schools front, the Wake school board is the target of multiple Republican attacks. The Republican majority on the Wake Commissioners board is trying to strip the school board of authority over school buildings — yes, that's not a typo. They can't do it by themselves, but the Republicans who control the General Assembly can do it, and that's just what they propose in Senate Bill 236.
Not only that, Republican legislators are threatening to redistrict the school board (again) in an effort to seize control of the school system in the 2014 primary elections. Senate Bill 325 contains their new gerrymandering plan, with the added insult that board members elected in 2011 for four-year terms would be tossed out of office 17 months early ... while the two Republican school members who remain from the 2009 elections would be spared the need to run again this year and would have their terms extended for six months.
All nine school board seats would be elected in the 2014 primaries, when the Republicans just happen to be expecting a big turnout as they choose a GOP U.S. Senate candidate. Will Huntsberry's story this week explains it all.
The Dix Park issue is equally outrageous. Gov. Bev Perdue, acting with the approval of the Council of State, signed a longterm lease with the City of Raleigh for the 325-acre Dorothea Dix Hospital tract. The state continues to own the land. The city intends to create a destination park there over the next 75 years as a major regional and statewide asset.
However, some Republicans in the legislature opposed Perdue's action. Now that she's out of office and the compliant Pat McCrory is in, they've filed bills intended to tear up the lease. The bills are Senate Bill 334 and House Bill 319.
Can they do that? Isn't a contract a contract? According to the Republicans, no contract with the state is safe if the General Assembly decides to change it. According to the U.S. Constitution, Article I, Section 10:
"No State shall ... pass any Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts or grant any Title of Nobility."
In other words, the General Assembly isn't the King of Anything and it's supposed to enforce contracts, not dissolve them.
Or so the Friends of Dorothea Dix Park and the City of Raleigh argue.
By the way, Senate Bill 334 is slated to be taken up by a Senate committee this morning. Notwithstanding its dubious constitutionality, it's expected to be approved and sent to the Senate floor for a vote — possibly next week.
The middle-class. The American Dream. It's not a matter of "under siege" — it's the greedy looting our country, and they've been getting away with it for years.
This excellent data visualization — not new, but all over the social media for the last week — might even make you angry enough to get involved: