You'll recall that the idea of building a new 17-story Clarence E. Lightner Public Safety Center on the site of the current police headquarters (on the north side of Nash Square) ran into a 4-4 City Council deadlock. Questions were raised about the wisdom of putting all of the city's public safety functions into a single high-rise building; the cost of making such a building ultra-secure; the additional security costs associated with putting public spaces — a cafe, e.g. — on the first floor; and whether there might not be a better place for such a facility than on less than 1-acre fronting Nash Square.
Not to mention the $200 million-plus pricetag and the associated tax increase. Ouch.
So now, let's try to crowd-source this new idea: What about taking approximately 2 acres of the 8-acre site that the Raleigh Rescue Mission has for sale on New Bern Avenue, a few blocks from downtown, and building the Lightner Center there — in phases? Without a tax increase. And in all likelihood, at a much lower overall cost.
Some City Council members are discussing ....
The picture above of the LA public safety center came to me from Councilor Russ Stephenson, who says the entire complex is built on roughly two acres of land; rather than a single high-rise, it breaks up the various functions so that the public space — that's a cafe in front — can be accessed without bringing people into the secured spaces of the police and emergency operations units.
Stephenson's thought is that if the Lightner Center were located on New Bern, it could serve as a focal point for redevelopment there, including mixed-use development of the other 6 acres. That would be a boon to Southeast Raleigh and a fitting legacy for Clarence Lightner, Raleigh's first and so-far only African-American mayor.
One big advantage of having 8 acres instead of less than one:The Lightner Center could be built in stages, and financed on a pay-as-you-go basis, in contrast to the initial Lightner scheme, which called for an estimated $205 million up-front.
Another advantage: A campus approach would allow the emergency operations parts of the facility to be separate and "ultra-hardened" without having to go the expense of ultra-hardening an entire 17-story building.
Finally, it's the emergency operations parts that are most needed now (the police have been moved into two other, renovated buildings). The E-ops parts are the smallest; they're also the ones that need to be the most secure from attack. Best to put them in a separate building anyway, no?
Here's a street view of the 8 acres — on the southeast corner of New Bern and South Swain Avenue:
At least one other candidate has emerged: The Rev. Sheila Jones, who's a member of the city's Human Relations Commission and director of the J.T. Locke Resource Center, a community center in the historically black Method Community in West Raleigh. Weeks is a retired school teacher who's been active in the Democratic party for years as well as a leader in Southeast Raleigh neighborhood groups. He's currently chair of the city's Parks, Recreation and Greenway Advisory Board.
Some other female names are being floated as well.
And here's an interesting development: Danny Coleman, head of the Raleigh Wake Citizens Association (RWCA), has scheduled a forum for prospective candidates for the District C seat on Saturday morning at 10 a.m. in the New Science Building auditorium at Shaw University.
Also scheduled for Saturday morning, at 9 a.m.: The big NAACP event at Christian Faith Baptist Church at which state NAACP President the Rev. William Barber and national NAACP President Ben Jealous are expected to reveal their plans for a lawsuit against the Wake County school board and its five-member Republican majority.
Coleman, who seems to be aligned with the Republican school board, is obviously not interested in helping boost the turnout for the NAACP meeting. Nor interested in a big turnout for his own forum, apparently.
The issue arises from Wake Commissioner Harold Webb's resignation and his replacement by James West, who held the District C seat on Council for 10 years. (Webb, elected once in his own right, was originally a mid-term replacement for the late Vernon Malone, who'd been elected to the state Senate).
So now, who should replace West? And should it be another man — in a seat formerly held by Brad Thompson, Charles Francis, and Ralph Campbell?
A few African-American women have been elected to office in Wake County, including current Wake Commissioner Lindy Brown and former state Rep. Linda Coleman, a past commissioner as well. But Brown lives in Garner and Coleman in Knightdale.
. [I was mistaken: Southeast Raleigh has elected women to the Wake school board, and one, state Rep. Rosa Gil, was subsequently appointed to fill a vacancy in the General Assembly. She's up for election this year.] Unless I'm mistaken, I don't believe any woman has ever come out Southeast Raleigh or the RWCA to hold elected office
The RWCA forum on Saturday is also sponsored by the Wake County African American Caucus, headed by Marshall Harvey. Anyone interested in being a candidate for West's old seat is asked to contact Anthony Blalock — email@example.com, 919-832-2918 — and if possible, supply him with a bio and photo.
The City Council will choose West's replacement. West left office officially on Monday. On Tuesday, Mayor Charles Meeker set a schedule for replacing him by October 5. Candidates should apply to the City Clerk's office by October 4 under Meeker's timetable. At the Council meeting the next day, any candidates who want to speak will be given 4-5 minutes. The Council would vote a few hours later at the evening session.
"What's the rush?" one Southeast Raleigh woman complained privately. She hopes Meeker will allow more time for candidates to emerge and political discussions to occur in District C.
And on the record, one Southeast Raleigh leader, Lonnette Williams, has gone after Weeks in an email sent to Meeker and the City Council. Williams, chair of the Central Citizens Advisory Council (CAC), complained that Weeks "failed to show leadership" on parks issues important to her community, including improvements to Chavis Park.
[2nd Update, later on Tuesday afternoon: ThinkProgress has an excellent summary of the Republican smackdown, including Sen. Susan Collins' tortured logic.]
[Update, Tuesday afternoon: 43 senators, including all 41 Republicans, voted to filibuster the bill as long as it contains the anti-DADT provision. The 56 senators who wanted to debate the bill with the anti-DADT provision were thus outvoted. In U.S. Senate math, 43 in the negative is more than 56 in the affirmative. So the bill is stopped for time being, meaning no money to pay the troops.
[h/t to The Progressive Pulse: Sen. Kay Hagan, D-NC, was one of the 56 votes for taking up the bill. Sen. Richard Burr, R-NC, was on the other side, obviously. Two Democrats voted with the Republicans — Mark Pryor and Blanche Lincoln, both from Arkansas. Also voting with them was Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV, but that's a technicality — his "pro-filibuster" vote allows him to move for cloture at some future point. The real vote, in other words, was 42-57. But again, 57 votes isn't a majority in the Senate.]
According to the indispensable Pam's House Blend, advocates of repealing DADT need at least two Republican votes to go along with 58 Democrats — it takes a supermajority of 60 votes to get stuff done in the antediluvian Senate.
So far, the advocates have just one: Sen. Susan Collins of Maine is the one Republican who's pledged to vote for the repeal of DADT — that is, with the Democrats for breaking the filibuster. They were hoping the other Maine Republican, Olympia Snowe, would join Collins, but today she announced that she probably won't.
If the filibuster is broken, the next order of business will be a vote on whether to include the pro-immigration reform DREAM Act in the Defense bill. It's a winnable fight, according to Chris Bowers of DailyKos — six Republicans have either sponsored this bill or voted for it previously. Bowers says: Call your senator.
Here's an update from the SEIU on which senators stand where on the DREAM Act. Both of North Carolina's senators, Hagan (D) and Burr (R), are listed as undecided. It's pretty clear to other advocates, though, that Burr is a definite no. Hagan? She's expressed support for the concept, but not for the amendment — she would prefer a DREAM-like bill to be part of a comprehensive immigration reform package.
Yes, but there is no comprehensive package in sight. It'll be interesting to see what Hagan does if the DREAM act comes up. It may or may not — the DADT measure is said to be 50-50 as wavering Democrats do what they do, which is waver, and Republicans do what they do, which is obstruct.
Adam Searing of the N.C. Justice Center calls it historic, and indeed it is: Blue Cross Blue Shield of NC is reaching into its well-stuffed coffers and refunding $155.8 million to 215,000 policyholders. Why? The short answer is federal health care reform. Under the new law, N.C. Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin is empowered to vet what health insurers charge in North Carolina (up to now, the Insurance Department has merely "received" insurers' rates). And, of course, Goodwin started with BCBSNC, which controls more than half of the health insurance market in North Carolina and remains — against its wishes — nonprofit. Oh, and BCBS is under new management, namely CEO Brad Wilson, which doubtless has something to do with it.
Searing says, following a press conference this morning:
... this signals because of the recently-passed health care law a new aggressiveness on the part of NC Dept of Insurance Cmmsr Goodwin to review health insurance rates and a significant turnabout for NC Blue Cross to look toward its nonprofit obiligations. Not to mention a huge political boost for supporters of the health law — not only are rate increases moderating this year, but hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians are getting refunds. Details:
—Goes to individual policyholders in Blue Advantage and Blue Options (215,000 policies, over 300,000 people)
—Total is $155.8 million from reserves
—Refund will be about 1.5 months worth of premiums
Brad Wilson, chief executive of Blue Cross, the state's largest insurer, said the refunds would be issued to people who had individual Blue Advantage or Blue Options HSA policies on March 23, when President Barack Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act into law.
"It's simply the right thing to do," Wilson said. "A new law was enacted, new rules are in force, change is in the air.":
If you're in the mood to call your U.S. senators — they'd be Kay Hagan and Richard Burr, respectively — and urge them to cast a vote or three for progress in the world, the N.C. Council of Churches' David LaMotte issued a urgent call this morning [it's copied below] on behalf of three bills: The new START treaty, a criminal justice measure to curb prison abuses, and a favorite of ours, the DREAM Act.
Not coincidentally, The Center for American Progress has an excellent summary out today of the DREAM ACT itself and the politics surrounding it. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is maneuvering the legislation for a vote as part of a defense spending bill — which is just about the only way anything that isn't cool with the right-wing will ever get a vote in the Senate these days. (A measure to begin the process of repealing the miliary's anti-gay Don't Ask Don't Tell policy is also part of the legislation, the CAP report says.]
On the DREAM Act, you're doubtless wasting your breath on Sen. Burr, though that's no reason not to call his office and register your opinion. But Sen. Hagan is another story — advocates have worked hard to get her support, but so far, she hasn't offered it except as part of comprehensive reform" that, of course, has no chance in this Senate. But read the CAP report: The "comprehensive reform" crowd is starting to sign on. Maybe Hagan will too?
The START treaty could also use a little N.C. love, according to the Council of Churches, which asks that you call:
Senator Burr (202) 224-3154
Senator Hagan (202) 224-6342
Fyi, to get on LaMottes' (the N.C. Council of Churches) mailing list, write him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here's the note he sent today:
Dear friends and colleagues in the work of peacemaking,
I'm writing with some urgent calls to action and a couple of opportunities. First, three reasons to call our NC senators:
— Yesterday the New START treaty left the Senate Foreign Relations Committee with 14-4 support. It will likely come up for a vote very soon, and neither of the NC senators has committed to how they will vote. This is a common sense measure to reduce the nuclear arsenals of the United States and Russia. For all the reasons outlined in the article below, and several others, this is the right thing to do. The benefits are clear and the costs of failure high. Please take a moment to call our North Carolina senators and spread the word to encourage others to do the same:
A thorough examination and strong argument for the treaty (and links to the full text, etc., if you're feeling *really* wonky):
— The National Criminal Justice Commission Act (H.R. 5143/S. 714) has passed the house and has been approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee. The act would provide for a national review of our criminal justice system for the first time in 40 years. Importantly, this panel would have the authority to review the conditions of confinement for all prisoners in our criminal justice system. As such, the panel could issue recommendations for preventing the abuse of prisoners. Justice and peace are fundamentally intertwined, and finding ways to heal perpetrators rather than abusing them is part of the work of peace.
— The DREAM Act - Some might consider this outside the purview of peace work, but it is clear that immigration issues are one of the biggest areas of conflict in the US today, and real peace is inextricably bound up with justice. The DREAM act will provide a path toward citizenship for the children of undocumented immigrants. Though the issue is complicated (there are concerns about military recruitment among undocumented youth, for instance), the Council is in support of the Dream Act, and I am too. While you're calling about New START, feel free to weigh in on the DREAM act as well. ;-)
More on immigration reform from the Council's Chris Liu-Beers:
Senator Burr (202) 224-3154
Senator Hagan (202) 224-6342
State NAACP President the Rev. William Barber and national NAACP President Ben Jealous will participate along with the leaders of the UNC Center for Civil Rights, the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, NC Advocates for Children, and the NC Justice Center.
Christian Faith Baptist is, notably, the home parish of the Rev. David Forbes, hero of the civil rights movement in his student days in Raleigh 50 years ago. Forbes is featured in the Cash Michaels film, "Obama in NC: The Path to History," which was on the Indy cover Aug. 25.
Forbes invites "every person of good will" to attend the event, according to the announcement sent by the state NAACP's office in Durham:
Major Announcement Planned by NAACP and Advocates: First Legal Action Towards Stopping Resegregation in Wake County and Across North Carolina.
On Saturday, September 25, 2010, at 9 a.m., The North Carolina NAACP along with the UNC Center for Civil Rights, the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, NC Advocates for Children, NC Justice Center and other advocate organizations will unveil the first legal strategies challenging resegregation. The NAACP is also announcing plans for National NAACP President/CEO, Ben Jealous along with North Carolina NAACP President, Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II to join together in announcing this major new action and make a special mobilization plea for the One Nation March on Washington 10-2-10. Rev. David Forbes, founding member of SNCC and pastor of Christian Faith Baptist Church, will host the event and has welcomed every other person of good will to gather at Christian Faith Baptist Church (509 Hilltop Drive, Raleigh, NC 27610, 919-833-5834) to participate in the Hour-Long Announcement.
President Jealous is the co-convenor of the One Nation March in Washington, DC on the following Saturday, October 2nd, about Jobs, Justice and Education. Several bus loads of North Carolinians have already committed to participate with tens of thousands of Black, Brown, and White Americans to affirm their allegiance to One Nation with liberty and justice for all.
BACKGROUND: The N. C. NAACP filed a major civil rights complaint with the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education against the School Board of Wayne County, 45 miles east of Raleigh, on December 1, 2009. That same day Wake County School Board Chair, Ron Margiotta, joined by four new members, swore to uphold the constitutions of the United States and North Carolina. For the next nine months, while Margiotta and his anti-diversity caucus began dismantling the nationally recognized diverse schools in Wake County, Federal officials visited Wayne County several times, checking on how the tax payers' money was spent by the School Board there.
The North Carolina NAACP helped convene a team of lawyers from the N.C. Justice Center, the NAACP, the UNC Center for Civil Rights, the Southern Coalition for Social Justice and Legal Aid of North Carolina to analyze the statements, actions and plans of Margiotta and his anti-diversity caucus. Rev. Dr. Barber said, "Resegregation plans have resulted and are resulting in similar high-poverty high schools across the state-in Winston-Salem, Charlotte, Wilmington, Halifax county, and other areas. Our NAACP local branches have watched this trend with great anguish and deep concern."
Speaking from Washington DC, today, where he is a lead panelist at the Faith in Action National Briefing on Education Barber said, "The whole nation is watching what we do in Raleigh." "Will we save the nationally-recognized Wake County diversity/student achievement model"? "Or will we allow the resegregationists to go back to unconstitutional, racially identifiable high-poverty schools, that deprive minority and poor children of equal opportunity to excellent teachers, resources, and social networks"? "The NAACP will never turn back."
Both are good news.
[Update: By popular demand, I will attempt to answer briefly the question: What did Goldman say?
She said: She's "thrilled" the Chamber and WEP are bringing Alves back. Student assignment issues are complicated, and it's "vitally important" that student achievement be added to the mix of factors the board will use to draw assignment zones. She doesn't think the board majority will ever again adopt a "number" for diversity — e.g., the old goal of no more than 40 percent of students in any school eligible for the F&R (free and reduced) lunch program — but she'll be pleased if Alves can find a way to "encompass" diversity while also fulfilling the board majority's goals of proximity, choice and stability.
She supports the work of the Student Assignment Committee, she said, but just as she's been saying about hiring a new superintendent, it's never wrong to hire "a professional to do a professional job." (John Tedesco can make of that what he will.)
Goldman said she talked with Alves at length when he was here, and while she didn't agree with everything he said, she liked what she heard overall. "I believe that bringing some different views will help come up with a compromise," she said. At another point, she seemed to agree with Alves that the fewer zones, the better: "I believe that the less we divide up the county, the better off we will be," she said.
"I want to be very clear," Goldman said. "I do not support creating more high-poverty schools. I do not support segregation of any shape or form. I do not support crowded classrooms of students who are not getting the support they deserve."
Goldman emphasized that she was speaking only for herself, not the board majority. She raised one big question about the scheme that Tedesco's committee seemed to like, which has no base schools for anyone, only a "menu" idea under which parents would list the schools they want and get one of them — probably.
"When I look at this, quite frankly, from a birds-eye view, I wonder," Goldman said, "why do we need to completely reinvent the [student assignment] plan? Why can't we stick with what's good, make it better, make those improvements [meaning more stability] and solve some problems and issues and get back to focusing on student achievement ...?
"If I had my dream come true for this plan, every child would have a base assignment, a true calendar option, opportunities to apply to a magnet system as it exists or as closely as possible to the way it exists now, and perhaps we look more closely at a transfer policy" — allowing easier transfers to schools with empty seats.]
Alves, you'll recall, is the guru of "controlled choice" plans who visited in July, courtesy of the Chamber and WEP. He told us that assignment zones of the kind sought by the new Wake school board majority could be drawn up to achieve greater stability in student assignments without necessarily resulting in "have" and "have-not" zones — but not unless the board majority pays close attention to the critical issues of fairness, balance and diversity across zones.
Board Chair Ron Margiotta quicky dismissed Alves' point, saying the majority would focus on its desire for neighborhood schools and just trust that the outcome will be fair — it'll be fair to his suburban constituents, anyway, is what he might as well have said. And shortly, John Tedesco, who chairs the student assignment committee, rolled out a scheme — it doesn't rise to the level of an actual plan — that appeared on its face to be anything but fair.
But Tedesco called for community input, and the Chamber and WEP are seizing on that opening by paying Alves to draft a controlled-choice plan for Wake over the next 6-8 weeks. Alves is being asked to base his plan on proximity, choice and stability — the school board majority's big-three values — and one more: student achievement.
There's a strong body of opinion, of course, that says diversity in assignments across zones is crucial to achievement for all students — and Goldman was emphatic that she wants to be fair to A-L-L (she spellled it out) students. Alves made it clear when he visited that he shares that view about diversity.
Goldman was the only school board member to attend today's press conference. She said she'll welcome Alves' input, which — not to belabor or overstate the obvious — could force Margiotta and the rest of the Majority Five (Tedesco, Chris Malone, Deborah Prickett) to pay attention. Because without Goldman, they aren't the majority on the deeply divided, 5-4 school board.
Goldman fielded questions afterward and had a good deal to say. I want to listen to her comments again before going on with this so, so — more later; or (since I have other obligations) it may be tomorrow. But for now, I'll say there was a ray of sunshine for diversity supporters who are thrilled to see Alves back in the fray.
That's the [outstanding] list of winners of the HRC-NC's International Human Rights Award since 1996. The group will recognize the 2010 award recipient at a dinner in December. Nominations are open through September 21 — next Tuesday — so your assignment between now and then is:
Who's missing from that list?
That's part 1.
Part 2 is a written nomination citing your nominee's work and activities; their impact; biographical information including any past awards; your relationship to the nominee; 1-3 supporting letters or other documentation; the address, phone number and email address of the nominee, and the same for you.
Nominations and any questions should go to: HRC-NC, c/o Joyce Scapicchio, 5400 Neuse Forest Rd., Raleigh 27616; email@example.com; 919-876-0501 (ph/fax).
I remember little SPARKcon when it was just a gleam in the eyes of Aly & Beth Khalifa and the rest of the Designbox gang. Goodness, gracious, now it's 5 years old and it's grown so much! It really is "igniting the creative hub of the South" — this part of the South, anyway — from the arts to music to fashion and design and, this year, a new CircusSPARK.
[A note: SPARKcon 2010 is the 5th annual. Upon consuming my fifth cup of coffee, I realize that the first one was in 2006, which would make 2010 its fourth birthday ... unless you count the year of planning that preceded the inaugural. In other words, 5th annual, and 4th or 5th birthday depending on your perspective.]
The SPARKcon website features an iPhone app and QR codes (if you have to ask ...) to help you navigate the literally hundreds of events in dozens of venues covering all of Fayetteville Street and some other downtown environs. It all unfolds this Thursday-to-Sunday, September 16-19. Here's a commercial to get you started, courtesy (to SPARKcon) of an N.C. State grad student named Chelsea Hedrick:
Webb's term doesn't expire for two more years. His replacement will be chosen by a committee of the Wake County Democratic Party, which was already scheduled to meet next week — on Tuesday, Sept. 14 — to select a successor for ex-Chair Jack Nichols. Nichols resigned after becoming a candidate for Wake Commissioner in the 2010 elections in November. He's taking on Republican incumbent Paul Coble.